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John Owen-Jones announces a special Christmas Concert in Llanelli.

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John Owen-Jones

AWARD winning John Owen-Jones (Les Miz/Phantom) will be performing at a special Christmas concert at Theatre Ffwrnes in his hometown of Llanelli to support the release of his new Christmas album. 

The recording has some traditional Christmas tracks, some personal favourites and two brand new Christmas songs.  One co-written with Steve Balsamo (Jesus Christ Superstar/The Storys) and a previously unheard song from the vaults of the legendary Les Reed (It’s Not Unusual/Delilah) and Bill Martin (Puppet On A String/Congratulations). 

The album also includes a duet with West End and Broadway star Kerry Ellis (Wicked/Cats) and will surely be the must have Christmas cd for fans of John’s unique voice!

John says: “I have wanted to record an album of Christmas songs for a very long time and finally found the opportunity to do it this year. I have put together an album full of classic Christmas songs that I love to listen to (and sing!) during the festive season, alongside a couple of not-so-well-known festive tunes that I adore. I also had the opportunity to co-write some new songs for this album which is something I am really excited about. I can’t wait for people to hear this album and I hope that they love the songs, both old and new, as much as I do – and that after listening, they have a very merry Christmas!”

John Owen-Jones celebrated his 50th birthday this year and to mark the occasion he performed two sold out special concerts at Cadogan Hall that were also live-streamed internationally. 

Fans all over the world watched online the West End’s youngest ever ‘Jean Valjean’ and longest-running ‘Phantom’ perform some of his favourite tunes, with a live band. This summer John performed around the UK in a series of outdoor concerts with Only Men Aloud and Katherine Jenkins.

John is currently developing his own theatre-based podcast with fellow Broadway and West End star Alistair Brammer called ‘The Last Show on Earth’ that asks the important question: What show would you see if you had one night left on Earth?

At just 26, John became the youngest actor ever to play the role of ‘Jean Valjean’ in the West End and was the first British actor to play the role both in the West End and on Broadway. John Owen-Jones has also played the role of ‘The Phantom’ in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ nearly 2000 times – more than any other actor in the history of the West End production. 

John has so far released five albums, ‘John Owen-Jones’ (2009), ‘Unmasked’ (2012), ‘Rise’ (2015), ‘Bring Him Home’ (2016) and ‘Spotlight’ (2019).

https://s.disco.ac/qhggeseuywhg – ‘Now More Than Ever’ – lead track

https://s.disco.ac/mzmmzuzrbtza – ‘That Holiday Feeling’ (duet with Kerry Ellis) – Xmas track

Tickets for this very special Christmas concert are available from Theatr Ffwrnes Box Office from Midday on Wednesday 3rd November via Calling the Box office on 0345 226 3510 or online at  https://www.theatrausirgar.co.uk/en and www.gigantic.com

The Christmas Album – Tracklisting:

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season

That Holiday Feeling (Featuring Kerry Ellis)

Holly Jolly Christmas

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Let It Snow/Winter Wonderland

Lullaby For Christmas Eve

A Child’s Christmas in Wales

On Christmas Eve

Please Come Home for Christmas Day

Now More Than Ever

Bonus Tracks:

River

May Each Day

O Holy Night

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Entertainment

UK’s first Wellness Festival designed for queer, questioning and curious women

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THIS June sees the launch of Out & Wild, the UK’s first Wellness Festival designed for queer, questioning and curious women and those who are non-binary. This new and innovative event, celebrating an often-under-represented part of the LGBTQIA community, is being launched to mark the 50th year of Pride.

Out & Wild has been designed to be an inclusive, safe and supportive space to explore new activities and experiences and embrace nature. While the primary focus is on queer, questioning and curious women, the event actively welcomes supportive allies.

Out & Wild features a range of wellness and experience -themed activities including:

● Entertainment, food and drink (music, comedy, DJs, food, bars and stalls)

● Wellness and workouts (including yoga, tai chi, pilates, dance, breath-work, ice baths, massages, meditation and mindfulness)

● Sport (including 5 aside football, guided hikes and runs)

● Out in the water (including wild swimming, paddle boarding)

● Spoken Word and Interactive workshops (including book readings, poetry, foraging, outdoor pursuits, nature, sustainability, crafts)

Polly Shute, co-founder of Out and About LGBTQ, who will be hosting the festival explained: “We are delighted to host the first ever Out & Wild Festival in a stunning location in Wales overlooking the River Cleddau. Our three-day event is packed with experiences, and has been designed specifically to facilitate shared connections, something which our community is crying out for in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

“The response we have had to date has been incredible! From the quality of the sponsors and partners coming on board to the range of experiences taking place, and the talent that will be performing – not to mention the support we have had from the Welsh Government, which has awarded us a three-year grant as part of its commitment to being the most LGBTQ friendly nation in Europe. We are also proud to have Pink News Group on board as our media partner, the world’s most read and watched LGBTQ publication.

“We are excited to be able to offer three days packed with amazing experiences, all designed by and for queer, questioning and curious women and those that are non-binary.”

The event will be taking place across the three days and nights in Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, from 10-13th June 2022. First release of early bird tickets have sold out. Second release of early bird tickets are now available to purchase from £120 (excluding booking fee), for three nights from the Out and Wild website.

Key acts and experiences

Wellness and Workouts

Out & Wild is delighted to welcome Luisa Bradshaw White, ex Bad Girls, Holby City, This Life and EastEnders actress who runs LuluOm. Luisa, who trained as a Breathworker in 2002 who will be delivering sessions focused around Soul Breathing.

She explained: “Since my early 20’s I have been on a path of self-discovery taking me all over the world. Breathing at festivals alongside hundreds of other heart-led people in Australia, in waterfalls in Bali and ice baths in the UK!

“I have studied with pioneers of Breathwork including Christabel Zamor, Sondra Ray, Foster Perry and Diana Roberts. As well as leading Breathwork retreats and workshops in the UK and Morocco and working with private clients. I am so excited to be sharing Soul breathing with you. It is hugely transformational, and the breath is powerful medicine”

Music and Comedy

Out & Wild are committed to supporting new and existing female and non-binary talent and are delighted to be partnering with The F-List Directory of UK Female+ Musicians.

We are also keen to promote Welsh talent. We will be announcing acts in the next few weeks.

Vick Bain, Founder of the F List explained: “We are super excited to be working with Polly and the team at Out and Wild, which is a festival set up with exactly the same values we hold; equality, inclusion, respect, and fun! With most festival stages women are in the extreme minority, if present at all, Out and Wild is such a fantastic idea – women rocking on the stages and women rocking in the fields; brilliant!”

Every night DJs will lead silent sets so attendees can dance in the moonlight, overlooking the Cleddau River. Out & Wild is also collaborating with the legendary Club Kali and Mint Events.

Spoken word and Workshops

Zaina Arafat – Award winning LGBTQ Arab- American fiction and non-fiction writer. Author of novel, You Exist Too Much, which won a 2021 Lambda Literary Award.

Annie Garthwaite – Acclaimed historical writer, her book, Cecily, was lauded by Waterstones as best book of 2021.

Workshops will be focused around the core festival areas and also include sessions on sexual health and sexual empowerment.

Sport

Our sport area will be curated by the Director of Pride Sports, Lou Englefield and will include a 5 aside football pitch and tasters of different sports for attendees to sample. There will also be guided walks, runs and hikes.

Lou Englefield explained: “I’m delighted to be an Ambassador for the Out & Wild Festival. During my time as Chair of Pride Cymru one of our pillars of ambition was to showcase Wales to the world. Promoting our creative talents and highlighting our amazing Welsh products, whilst supporting local businesses and the economy to thrive. I am thrilled to see Polly and her team adopt the same ethos and enthusiasm for Wales and join us all in our ambition to make Wales the safest and most inclusive country in Europe for our Queer communities.”

Out in the Water

Laura Owen Sanderson is a cold water swimmer and the founder and director of WE SWIM WILD who, with the support of a grant from HydroFlask’s Park for All Campaign, will be delivering water safety sessions, wild swims, candle lit starry night swims and environmental talks at Out & Wild. Laura is a firm believer in using adventure activism to highlight issues in the environment.

This year Laura is swimming just under 1000km back to back across all of the U.K National Parks to test for micro plastic pollution. Laura recently won Wales Business Woman of the year for her work at We Swim Wild.

Bars and Foods

Out & Wild will be working with local drinks and food brands to make sure festival goers experience a real taste of Wales. We will have a full bar and pop-up food stalls.

Out & Wild are also delighted to be supported by Club Soda, who will be manning an alcohol-free bar and delivering mindful drinking sessions – to ensure we cater to all tastes.

The venue

Out & Wild will be hosted at Lawrenny in Pembrokeshire, situated at the edge of Pembrokeshire National Park on the site of a former Guardian newspaper’s top 5 Adventure and Wellbeing Festival, The Big Retreat. The main site, which once featured a 19th century castle, overlooks the River Cleddau and was the birthplace of the ‘National Parks’ concept.

Our ethos

Out & Wild has been designed for queer, questioning and curious women and those who are non-binary. It is a festival of experiences, with dozens of activities taking place across the three days and nights covering music, comedy, wellness, sport, wild swimming, spoken word, poetry, and interactive workshops.

Out & Wild is proud to support both existing and new female and non-binary artists and acts from across the UK who are often under-represented at festivals. We are working with The F-List Directory of UK Female+ Musicians to ensure we secure only the very best talent.

Key messages

● Out & Wild is the UK’s first Wellness Festival designed by and for queer, questioning and curious women and those who are non-binary.

● While the primary focus is on queer, questioning and curious women, we actively welcome supportive allies.

● Out & Wild is a festival of experiences designed to facilitate the creation of meaningful connections among an often-under-represented part of the LGBTQIA community.

● Out & Wild is proud to be able to provide a platform to queer female and non-binary talent – as well as welcoming local Welsh performers.

● Out & Wild is proud to have been awarded a three-year grant by the Welsh Government as part of its commitment to being the most LGBTQ friendly nation in Europe.

Spokespeople

Co-Founder – Polly Shute

Polly has spent the last 10 years working on LGBTQI events, including being on the Board of Pride in London up until 2018. A former Marketing and Fundraising Director, working within the commercial and not for profit sector, Polly is a Partnership and Inclusion Consultant and has worked with clients such as The Royal Society of Medicine, Women in Sport, Brentford FC and is part of the EW Group – Full-Service Diversity and Inclusion Consultancy (theewgroup.com).

Polly is a Chartered Institute of Fundraising award winner and was recognised as a leader in Profit for Purpose at the 2019 UK Sponsorship Awards. As part of her D&I focus, Polly was recognised in top 20 LGBT+ leaders list by Outstanding and The FT in 2018 and was on the Pride Power List in association with the Guardian in 2019 and 2020. Polly sits on a number of inclusion committees and is a Director of Trans in the City.

Co-Founder – Becky French

Becky is a veteran of the Royal Air Force, serving abroad on numerous occasions. Upon leaving the service she transitioned into the private security sector where she specialised in operational and event security. Becky’s work involved planning the security architecture for teams in international high-risk countries as well as planning the security for internationally recognised sporting events. Becky is a keen sports woman, having played golf for both the Royal Air Force and Combined Services teams. She also played a lot of squash and rugby during her time in the RAF.

Wellness Curators – Rachael Capper and Isabella Beni

Wellbeing gurus Rach and Issy are behind LGBT FIT, a judgement-free, safe space where people can log on, work out and be part of a like-minded community. Both have been on their own separate journeys of self-acceptance, self-discovery and healing. Together, they have over 16 years’ experience in helping people with all thing’s fitness, nutrition and mindset.

Music and Comedy Curator – Sarah Maslen

Sarah lives on the beach in Llanelli, Southwest Wales. She is part of the Senior Leadership Team of YMCA Swansea and the Deputy CEO of LGBT+ Cymru Helpline. She is a solo Mum to three young children, and they spend as much of their time outside – and wild – as possible, with their ponies exploring and having adventures. She is also a director of Trans in the City. Sarah is passionate about inclusion and empowering others.

Taster of Sport Curator – Lou Englefield

Lou is a founding Director of Pride Sports, a UK LGBTIQ+ sports development and inclusion organisation. Lou has been a leading voice on LGBTIQ+ inclusion in sport & physical activity for more than 10 years. She has directed the international Football v Homophobia campaign since 2012, is Vice Chair of the FARE Network and is Co-Chair of Pride House International. Lou presents and speaks on issues of LGBTIQ+ inclusion in sport and physical activity globally and has ensured that Pride Sports has become a leading authority in the field, at the forefront of insight, policy, and practice.

Spoken Word Curators – Zoë Berryman and Nicola Cottington

Zoë is passionate about all things literary. She works for a charity providing supported learning and activities for vulnerable adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues, something she is very passionate about. She is also the co-chair of the DIVA Book Club together with Nicola Cottington. Nicola is a Chief Operating Officer at an NHS Trust in the East of England.

She also runs the Cancer Survivors Book Club.

Ambassadors

● Bobbi Pickard – CEO of Trans in the City

● Lu Thomas – Ex Chair of Pride Cymru

● Rachel Ashe – Founder Mental Health Swims

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Entertainment

Llanelli choir in fine voice with £6,677 fundraiser for lifesaving charity

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A SUCCESSFUL Llanelli choir has presented the Wales Air Ambulance with a cheque of £6,677 after nominating them for their charity of the year.

Côr Curiad Choir are no strangers to raising funds for charity – since their musical director Alex Esney took over in 1996/97 the ladies have raised over £105,000 for charity. Some of the good causes that have benefitted from the kind fundraising events include Teenage Cancer Trust, Marie Curie, Ty Bryngwyn Hospice, and the breast cancer unit at Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli.

The choir, which consists of 46 females and a solitary male – accompanist Craig Oldham and musical director Alex, welcomes people of all ages. The youngest member is in her twenties and the eldest is 91. This includes mothers, daughters and sisters who all sing for Côr Curiad. They even have members who live outside of Wales.

Spokesperson for the choir Pat Hogson, said: “Now that Covid rules have started to relax a little we have been able to return to more outdoor events, but it will be so good to get back to the ‘new’ normal and do what we love most – to sing and entertain people and to start to raise money for charity again.

“We are able to do as much as we do for charity with the wonderful support of our families and friends and a solid group of supporters who come along to all our events.”

The choir’s music has been described by Pat ‘as varied as their age range’, they sing traditional Welsh and English pieces to Bohemian Rhapsody and songs from Disney, Lord of the Rings, Snow Patrol, Abba and Adele.

Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’.

Wales Air Ambulance’s Jane Griffiths with members of Côr Curiad choir

The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.

Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

Last year saw the ladies held their first-ever virtual Christmas concert, which was a huge success in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance.

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Thank you to everyone at Côr Curiad Choir who despite the challenges that Covid presented to them, they found ways to raise funds for our lifesaving charity. Your support is much appreciated, and every donation is vital and goes towards keeping our helicopters in the air – for the people of Wales, when they need us most. Thank you to the choir’s supporter, friends and family who continue to support and enjoy their charity events.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com. 

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

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Entertainment

Llanelli’s big night is back with a bang

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LLANELLI’S annual Christmas carnival is back, with a weekend of festive celebrations.

This year the town’s Christmas carnival capers will be a two-day event which will launch on Friday, November 19.

The carnival procession will leave Festival Fields, Pwll, at 6.15pm, taking its usual route and will arrive in town shortly after the Christmas lights switch-on at 6.45pm.

There will be a fun fair in Spring Gardens with a fireworks display marking the finale at 7.40pm.

This year the council has purchased a mixture of fireworks – traditional and low noise as part of its commitment to firework safety and to reduce the noise they can bring.

The road closure of Station Road and Church Street, Llanelli, from its junction with Murray Street to its junction with Gelli Onn, will start at 5.45pm until 8pm.

Gelli Onn will be closed to westbound traffic only, from its junction with Thomas Street.

The festivities will continue into Saturday, with a Christmas themed food and drinks market.

There will be street entertainment (outside Boots) from 10am with guest artists including a Tom Jones tribute, Ysgol Y Strade choir and Burry Port’s Cor Meibion. Drag artist Ruby Slippers will be making an appearance along with local singer Hayley Paultyn and others.

The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table. 

The popular reindeer parade organised by Ymlaen Llanelli will be held on December 4 in the town centre.

Last year the carnival went virtual for the first time in its 43-year history due to the Covid pandemic and in line with national regulations.

Keep an eye on our social media channels for more info nearer the time.

Carmarthenshire County Council Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “We are delighted that the carnival is able to return this year and locals and visitors who travel to see this event deserve to have an occasion they can enjoy, however, we must remember that Coronavirus hasn’t gone away. We need to continue to remain vigilant and enjoy responsibly and by taking some simple steps such as wearing a mask will help protect ourselves as well as others around. And if you do have any symptoms then please stay at home.”

Anyone interested in entering a float in the carnival should contact Roger Bowen at Llanelli Round Table on 01554 750008.

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