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Battle rages to save Swansea Sound

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SWANSEA SOUND, the independent local radio station which serves communities around Swansea and South West Wales, faces extinction.

The station’s owners, Bauer Media, plan to close the station’s Gowerton studios and transfer production to Manchester. Under the plan, programming would be centred in Manchester and the station’s local identity would be lost.


When it opened, in 1974, Swansea Sound was the first bilingual independent radio station in the UK. Its loss as a truly local broadcaster will add to the increased flight of local media to the control of distant corporations with no ties to the localities they are supposed to serve.
Swansea Sound is one of the oldest local commercial radio stations in the UK and the first and the last still broadcasting in Wales under its original name


Seventh on-air and almost 46 years old (start date September 30th 1974), it was part of the Independent Local Radio network under the watchful eye of the IBA (Independent Broadcast Authority)


It was created by a group of local business people, some from newspaper backgrounds.


It’s been a vital lifeline for community/local information especially during times of crisis and been a source of fun and community support through its roadshows (and their bus!) and charity work.


Programmes are still made by local staff who live in Swansea who know the makeup of the people.


It’s won many broadcasting awards for its innovative documentary programmes notably a Sony Award for “Aberfan -An Unknown Spring” in 1987 and a special award at the New York International Radio Festival for “Hooray for the Last Grand Adventure’” documenting Amelia Earhart’s 1928 flight to West Wales.


And now, cards on the table. This is a deeply personal story.
My late father, Lloyd Coles, joined Swansea Sound in early 1975 only a few months after it opened. Originally presenting the folk programme, for a time he presented separate folk and country music programmes, before becoming one of the UK’s foremost country music broadcasters and the winner of the International Country Music Broadcaster of the Year Award, presented as part of the annual CMA Awards.


The pay from Swansea Sound barely covered his expenses for making the journey from Pembrokeshire to Victoria Road, Gowerton. In the time before bypasses, road improvements and dual carriageways, the lights of his car illuminated the bends in the roads all-too-well for nervous front seat passengers. Those concerns weren’t eased by his habit of eating piping hot fish and chips from a precariously balanced wrapper perched in front of the steering wheel.


In the late 1970s, he walked from Pembroke Dock to Haverfordwest through snowdrifts which had paralysed the whole of south and west Wales to catch the milk train to Swansea and broadcast live and non-stop while the region was knee-deep in snow.


Back then, Swansea Sound was a lonely local voice, the echoes of which could barely be caught in South Pembrokeshire on a calm and still night. It was rooted in the area it served and the businesses advertising on it were cheerfully local and mundane. The presenters and freelancers (of which my father was one) didn’t get much for the efforts but they were all identifiably local voices, many of whom remain in the area long after they retired from the airwaves.


My father remained at Swansea Sound for over forty years. He didn’t retire and he wasn’t given the chance to say goodbye to his loyal listeners on air. Ill health overcame him. In those last years, he would struggle into a car – usually driven by a friend, my brother-in-law, and occasionally by me – and take his carefully handwritten scripts and CDs into the studio and broadcast live without giving a hint that his health was failing.


On one occasion, he turned over his car on the bends near Llanddowror. A fire crew cut him out and helped him through the car’s back window. The ambulance took him home, he then called my brother-in-law to make sure he got to the studio on time to make his broadcast live.


Local radio, local independent radio, commands that sort of loyalty from its presenters and its listeners. A lot of the voices aren’t as smooth and practised as the schmooze merchants on national radio – as the late Terry Wogan called them once ‘the anyhow brigade’.


‘That was Chaka Khan singing ‘I Feel for You’, which was written for her by Prince. Anyhow, here’s Simply Red…’


Local radio, the good stuff, is earthy and sometimes a little rough around the edges.


And now that is being lost in a sea of bland, one-size-fits-none, central programming.


Bizarrely, some of Bauer’s other stations in England will retain their local base. They offer – allegedly – more distinctive programming than the only independent radio station in Wales which remains true to its roots.
After almost half a century that would be disastrous for listeners, advertisers, local charities and decision-makers in area.


There’s a petition calling for the Welsh Government to step in – and it’s certainly something it should express a view upon – and another calling for Bauer Media to reverse its decision.


Both can be found online, at the Facebook page SAVE Swansea Sound and on change.org.

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Outdoor hospitality given go-ahead and rules on mixing outdoors relaxed in Wales

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SIX people will be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday 24 April while outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26 April as cases of new COVID-19 infections continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed today.

The current rule provides for up to six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) from a maximum of two households to meet outdoors.

The new rules from Saturday will allow six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) to meet outdoors.

People should observe social distancing from people from outside their household or support bubble when meeting others outside.

The rules for meeting indoors remain unchanged.

The First Minister has also confirmed outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April 2021.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “The public health context in Wales remains favourable, with cases falling and our vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength. Because meeting outdoors continues to be lower risk than meeting indoors, we are able to bring forward changes to allow any six people to meet outdoors.

“This will provide more opportunities for people, especially young people, to meet outdoors with their friends. This will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing.

“I’m also pleased to confirm outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April.

“These changes will help the hospitality sector recover after a difficult twelve months.

“It is thanks to the continuing efforts of people across Wales we are able to introduce this change. Together, we will continue to keep Wales safe.”

On Friday (23rd April 2021), the First Minister will confirm further relaxations to the covid rules that will come into force on Monday 26 April 2021.

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Scientists issue urgent appeal for help on ground-breaking Covid genetic study

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SCIENTISTS involved in a ground-breaking COVID-19 genetic research study are urgently asking people across Wales who caught the virus to donate a small amount of blood to their project.

To help encourage as many people as possible to join the study, volunteers are now able to quickly and easily book an appointment for a nurse to visit their home and donate a sample.

The unique GenOMICC COVID-19 Study, which is being delivered in Wales through Health and Care Research Wales, analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced mild or no symptoms while others became extremely ill. The study is already contributing to the fight again COVID, with preliminary results helping identify possible new treatments.

study open to anyone who caught COVID but didn’t need hospital treatment

However, for the study to continue to make progress, the scientists urgently need to recruit 2,500 more people from all backgrounds. Along with seeking the help of members of Asian and Black communities, they’re also keen for more men to volunteer.

The home appointment system has already proved popular when the scheme was launched in Scotland and Bradford earlier this year – and with lockdown restrictions beginning to be eased in Wales, organisers are hoping for a similar response from people across the country.

“This study has one key objective – to help us understand why COVID-19 has impacted different groups in different ways,” said Dr Matt Morgan, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales and Specialty Lead for Critical Care at Health and Care Research Wales.

“Across the UK, a disproportionate number of people who ended up in hospital have been male as well as people with Asian and Black heritage – that’s why we need people from these groups in particular to join the study as soon as possible.”

“If you are eligible, please register and join the project. You’ll be making a direct contribution to helping improve our knowledge of the virus and discovering new ways of beating it.”

scientists issue urgent appeal for assistance to help them identify new treatments

Dr Kenneth Baillie, the study’s Chief Investigator, said: “We’re appealing for more volunteers from all walks of life to come forward and register. We need to find people who tested positive for COVID but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment. To maximise the study’s potential, it’s important these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.”

Professor Sir Mark Caulfied, Chief Scientist at Genomics England added: “The quicker this research can be completed, the faster we can solve the COVID-19 puzzle and protect vulnerable people.

Genetic research into COVID-19 is now playing an increasingly important role in our fight against the virus, enabling us to identify new forms of the virus and develop treatments.

“The findings from the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study will improve the treatment, care and outcome for those most at risk and lower the number of deaths.”

Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, said: “It’s vital we learn as much as possible about COVID-19 and to do that we need people to volunteer to take part in research. By introducing an appointment booking system, the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study is giving people the opportunity to contribute to potentially life-saving research from their own homes. These contributions can help provide the evidence we need to give all patients the best possible outcome.”

The research project is open to anyone who tested positive to COVID-19 but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment – volunteers can register online here.

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A Llanelli household is hospitalised following reports of an “unknown substance”

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REPORTS of an “unknown substance” at a Llanelli property led to a multi-agency operation.

Police, ambulance and the fire service descended on a property in a village, just outside of Five Roads, Llanelli,  following reports of members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an “unknown substance”.

Three members of the household in Five Roads, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire were taken to hospital as a precaution.

Emergency services were alerted to members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an ‘unknown substance’ on Sunday, April 11 at 7.30am.

The ambulance service were first on the scene with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and the Hazardous Area Response Team and were supported by police and the fire service.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We were called to a residential property in the village of Five Roads, Llanelli at 7.30am on Sunday, April 11 to reports of three people needing medical attention.

“We responded with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and our Hazardous Area Response Team.

“Three patients were taken to Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen, for further treatment.”

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) assisted the police and ambulance service, deploying a specialist officer and an Environmental Protection Unit to the property.

The service ventilated the property and remained on the scene until 5.29pm.

A MAWWFRS spokesperson said: “At 7:44am, crews from Llanelli were called to assist the ambulance service and police at an incident in a property in Five Roads, Llanelli.

“An unknown substance was found at the property and its occupants reported feeling unwell.

“The occupants were taken to hospital by the ambulance service.”

“The incident was contained to one property and there were no concerns for the wider community of Five Roads.”

A Dyfed-Powys Police Spokesperson confirmed the force assisted in the multi-operation incident.

A spokesperson said:: “Members of one household in the village were feeling unwell, and were taken to hospital for assessment.

“They were found to have no medical concerns.

“Following examination of the scene by a number of agencies, there was no cause for further investigation into the incident.”

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