I’m off to Scotland tomorrow and so, as Thursday sees the AGM of the Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust aka the Gang of Four + One, I have decided to put up a few of the many and varied documents that have come my way from all manner of sources (some very surprising!). They might help you better understand how this secretive and subversive grouping operates. A little light reading while I’m away, as it were.
As I possess neither smart phone nor iPad I am almost cut off from the world of the internet when I’m away from home, and my old steam-powered computer, unless, that is, I can get to a library or an internet cafe. So please bear with me if I’m slow to approve comments. (Though I might be able to persuade someone to do it for me).
However, I have arranged for someone to post news here if anything of note happens before, during or after the AGM. As I explained it to my stand-in, “I’m thinking now of some dramatic development like Dame Tucker eloping with Gareth Gregory or Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis announcing that she’s joined the FWA.” (I wonder how the Cambrian News would report that?) That’s enough light-hearted banter.
The obvious document with which to start is the Articles of Incorporation. There’s not a lot here to excite any suspicion, apart perhaps, from the following:
3 Reminds us of my long-standing question as to why the Trust’s remit covers any building in and around the town of Cardigan. I could understand if it said ‘in and around the castle’, but the way it’s worded suggests that the trustees could take on other projects. A cheering thought!
5.3 Goods and Services. Has any trustee benefited from this? I see no mention of a tendering process.
More generally, I am concerned that the document has been amended. By which I mean, the document is ‘topped’ and ‘tailed’ by the date 21st of March 2000 yet the body of the document has clearly seen changes because there are references to the Charities Act 2011. (Unless of course the trustees were employing a seer back in 2000. And if so, then I hope the vacancy was better advertised than was the job created for Sue Lewis.)
If the document is being updated, as it clearly is, then surely we are entitled to know when, why, and on whose authority those changes were made. As things stand we can see that some changes have been made, but we may be unaware of others.
It would have been clearer if the original document had been kept pristine, and another, working version maintained for updates, with all updates and changes highlighted and explained. This hybrid version we now see is both unsatisfactory and misleading as it is no longer the document that was signed in March 2000 and is, therefore, of questionable status.
Next up is the Collaboration Agreement between the trustees and Ceredigion County Council dated October 30th 2014. This substantiates the rumours saying that by the autumn of 2014, with the project falling behind schedule and needing to go to the Heritage Lottery Fund for an extra £1.5m, the local councils – both county and town – were becoming a tad concerned with the running of the whole thing. As the owner of the Castle the county council seems to have insisted on greater involvement.
This ‘collaboration’ is made manifest in the minutes of the meeting of the Joint Project Management Board held on on Wednesday 26th of November 2014 . (Despite this co-operation coming about at the insistence of Ceredigion County Council three of the council’s representatives couldn’t be bothered to turn up). What caught my eye:
6.01.14 Note reference to “staff restructuring”. This is said to have been planned a long time before, but I have yet to see evidence for this. Which raises the suspicion that the ‘restructuring’ was part and parcel of the ploy to create a job for Sue Lewis.
That said, doing away with the post of Education Officer and creating the post of Facilities Officer gives us a clear indication of how the project has now been subverted into something purely and crassly commercial.
6.05.2 “Equinox has been appointed as the marketing company”. There was, presumably, a transparent tendering process before the contract was won by a company run by a friend of Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the job.
The next document is the minutes of the December 2014 trustee meeting. I found these interesting for the following reasons:
12.03” . . . the meeting prior to the Full Trustee Meeting . . . “. There have been persistent rumours of the Gang of Four (+ One) holding secret and unminuted meetings, often conducted with Timms on the telephone from Kent. Is this a reference to such a meeting?
20.02 Under Any Other Business, almost as an afterthought, we find reference to the new post of Facilities Officer. This is the job referred to above, created for Sue Lewis by her friends Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones and Sandra Davies once she ceased working for the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Which probably explains why the three I’ve just named avoid being mentioned in 20.02.
The job was advertised, online only between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
Other documents that might interest you are the Minutes of the 2014 AGM. Note 5.01, this links with the aforementioned squeaky bum time in local council chambers regarding over-runs and appeals for more funding.
A little light is shone on this by a letter from the town council. No doubt the town council was happy to put money into a project employing local people, but the council clearly believes the trustees have a cheek coming back asking for more money after sacking five locals. Note in paragraph three the reference to the change from “project to operational phase” which the trustees use, in part, to justify the sacking. The final paragraph is a clear reference to the devious and secretive way in which Lady Tucker and her gang operate.
Here are some figures to get your teeth into from the Project Completion Programme dated December 17th 2014. And some more recent accounts where you will see, under ‘Generated Income’, ‘Car Raffle’. This refers to a car donated by B V Rees of Llandudoch, to be raffled off with all proceeds going to the project. A few weeks ago, totally out of the blue, and from a source I would not have expected, I was told that the Castle had made only very feeble attempts to sell those raffle tickets. The figure shown on this sheet is just £1007 – for a brand new car! What was the final figure?
This project has not gone well. It has taken longer to complete than forecast. It has cost more than predicted. It has failed to provide either contracts for local companies or jobs for local people. There are questions as to whether contracts were properly put out to tender, and whether vacancies were properly advertised. And as if that wasn’t enough, the project has deviated wildly from its original promise of celebrating Welsh history and culture to degenerate into little more than a glorified B & B that holds ‘functions’ . . . at a cost to the public purse of twelve million pounds, and counting.
All this has been achieved by a small clique acting secretively, and by behaving in this manner they have alienated too many within the local population. A small, self-electing and self-serving clique that seems guaranteed to continue due to, among other measures, demanding that anyone wanting to join the Trust, and vote at the AGM, must swear undying loyalty to the clique before being accepted!
As ‘Joff’ Timms of Kent, the clique’s front man, put it to one recent applicant: “In the light of your well publicised criticisms of the trust, the trustees have asked Cllr —— —– and me to try to arrange to meet you to discuss ways in which you would be willing to support the trust in realising its objects. Following this meeting, Cllr —– and I would make a recommendation to the trustees about whether your application should be approved.” What next – brainwashing?
They defend this dictatorial behaviour by arguing that those who criticise the trustees want to wreck the project, when the opposite is true. For it’s quite obvious that the members of the clique are not up to the job, it is they who are wrecking the project. Those who want them removed have only the best interests of the Castle and the town at heart.
It is unlikely that the Gang of Four + One can be removed at a rigged AGM; that being so, then other routes must be pursued to save this project, and return it to its original promise.
The ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson due to “online harassment” and “virtual persecution” continues to reverberate, here’s an update. (Though what is virtual persecution? Is it something less than real persecution?)
To begin with, it’s worth remembering that the press release announcing the resignation was issued by Equinox, the Castle’s PR company. Given how these things are done, with the Castle paying the bills, it’s reasonable to assume that the press release was sent to Equinox ready-written, with instructions for the agency to merely issue it to its media contacts.
One of those contacts was of course the Cambrian News . . . or maybe the Cambrian News got the resignation story directly from the Castle . . . or maybe the Cambrian News didn’t need to be informed at all . . .
Seeing as both my blog and I were mentioned in the Cambrian News report I wrote to managing editor Beverly Davies making it clear that the only references to Glen Johnson on my blog were positive, and so I should not have been mentioned in a way that obviously tried to implicate me in the alleged ‘harassment’. I was refused an apology but given a few hours to make a comment to a follow-up story . . . without being given any details of that follow-up!
Even so, I did give her a statement, though I doubt if it will be published. Here it is. ‘I want nothing to do with the Cambrian News because it cannot be trusted to report honestly on any issue where its over-riding political, ethno-cultural and constitutional prejudices come into play’.
In my exchange of e-mails with Beverly Davies I made the point that, “The Facilities Officer at Cardigan Castle is Sue Lewis, who was, prior to that job being created for her, a trustee. She is one of those I have criticised in my blog. She is also a freelance reporter for your newspaper, and her husband Mike is your South Ceredigion reporter. What a cosy arrangement!”
Beverly Davies responded with, “While Sue Lewis does do some freelance work for our paper, she only covers Aberporth Town (sic) Council and Cardigan Town Council meetings. She has had no involvement in our Cardigan castle stories.” My incredulity becomes clear in my response, “Do you seriously expect me, or any other sentient being, to believe that Sue Lewis has no input to articles written by her husband (or even his colleagues) about the place she works!”
But what if it’s true! Picture the scene chez Lewis, gentle reader, He: ‘I’m working on a story about the place where you work, Sweetie Pie, but you mustn’t tell me anything, or try to influence the article in any way – is that clear?‘ She (eyelashes fluttering): ‘Of course not, Big Boy, you know I wouldn’t do that, I’m an obedient lickle wifey‘. Yes, that must be how things are done in the Lewis household, or maybe not . . .
For there must, regrettably, be the possibility that that image of connubial bliss exists nowhere but in my imagination, and that in the real world the press release and the Cambrian News article were both written by Sue Lewis. In which case, is Glen Johnson just a willing dupe in the machinations of others? If not, if he is the author of the resignation statement, how does he feel about the trustees and the Cambrian News using his resignation to attack me, a man who has done him no wrong, and said nothing about him that was hurtful or even critical?
Let’s have some straight answers, Glen. Are you accusing me of harassing you? If not, how about correcting the impression your resignation has allowed others to create – people you recently worked with – that I am some kind of ogre stalking the internet terrorising women and children. The time for vague allegations and innuendo is past. Things are coming to a head. Let’s have some straight answers, Glen.
Elsewhere, an old comrade, completely unprompted, complained to the BBC about its treatment of the Johnson resignation. His point about cut and paste journalism, and treating press releases as news items, are worrying reminders of the state of the Welsh media. Read it here.
Time now to turn to a recurring theme in the saga of Cardigan Castle, money being squandered.
WEBSITE? THAT’LL BE FORTY-FOUR GRAND, LOVE.
One of the complaints levelled again and again against the project is that there is little to see for the £12m expenditure. People go there and wonder what that vast sum was spent on. One specific complaint made more than once is that the display cabinets are of a similar standard – and cost – to those housing the English crown jewels in London, even though Cardigan Castle has little if anything of value to display. This complaint puzzled me, but recent information may throw some some light on this issue.
A former trustee has sent me a quote, from September 2012, to set up a website for the Castle. The quote comes from a firm called Haley Sharpe Design of Leicester, in England. The quotation – just for a website, remember! – is £44,000. Read it here for yourself; read it through, item by item, and you’ll realise what a rip-off it would have been. Of course, this was three years ago, no doubt HSD would now charge £50,000.
This is what happens when public money is involved and there is no adequate oversight from the funders’ representatives, as is the case with Cardigan Castle. The customer thinks, ‘What the hell, it’s not our money!’ and the supplier rubs his sweaty hands thinking, ‘They’re getting millions in grants, let’s get our snouts in the trough’. Incidentally, I’m told that all the other quotes for a website came in under £5,000.
One obvious question is, why did the trustees ever go to a firm like this, so far away, so expensive, to get a quote for something that could have been provided by Dai Jones down the road for one tenth of the price? Does someone connected with the Castle know someone involved with HSD?
Thankfully, HSD did not get the website contract. An outlay like that would have been difficult to explain, even with the cosy relationship between Lady Tucker and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Gareth ‘Yes, Ma’am’ Gregory. The website now running appears to the creation of Sugar Creative of Cardiff, though there are many firms much nearer to Cardigan that could – and should – have been given the work.
Let us conclude this section by returning to Haley Sharpe Design, for despite losing out on the website rip-off contract the company was asked to fit out the Castle with display cabinets and similar equipment, and also to hold exhibitions. (See left sidebar when page opens.) Knowing how much HSD wanted to charge for a website we can be fairly sure that Cardigan Castle has paid over the odds for its display cases and much else. But then, it’s only public money.
I ask again, who is the link between Cardigan Castle and HSD?
Alas, problems rarely come singly, do they, boys and girls? and poor old Jac has also been assailed by that master of the vituperative, that Woodward and Bernstein of the Welsh blogosphere, Phil Parry of Wales Eye.
IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE ME?
Every so often, when the bile rises, or I have criticised his belovéd Labour Party too effectively, Phil Parry girds his loins and sallies forth to engage with the evil dragon of nationalism – me! These attacks invariably take the form of Parry telling his vast readership that I am about to be banged up because someone has reported me to the police. This ‘someone’ is usually Jacques Protic, a Serbian gent living on Ynys Môn, a man who manages to be a Labour Party member while simultaneously believing that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! (No, I did not make that up, as the panel below testifies. It is a comment Protic made to a BBC blog.)
Parry’s latest assault on the dragon can be found here. I recommend that you be sitting down when you read it, and without a hot drink in your hand. (I should also warn you that in this latest piece Parry offers links to earlier works of fiction in which I star – apparently forgetting that these are behind a paywall!) Now, where to start?
Well, Parry begins with some bizarre story about an investigation by GogPlod into comments on my blog. He writes, “An investigation was launched by North Wales Police after a complaint from a member of the public about the website ‘Jac o’ the North’, and the Editor, Royston Jones, was officially warned to remove abusive comments or it may be closed down, according to sources.” I have received no such warning. North Wales Police has not contacted me.
Other than that, almost everything in the article is a re-hash of what he’s written before. Protic predictably appears, there is yet another mention of the Cayo Evans photograph, the social housing petition is regurgitated, and then he flaunts his powers of investigation with, “Mr Jones is currently embroiled in a controversy which centres on Cardigan castle”. Wow!
The thing about Parry is that he is consistent . . . consistent in attacking me for things I have not done. Let’s start with Protic. The basis for this story is that Protic alleges he was threatened over the telephone and had his car’s tyres slashed, and all because of something I’d written about him on my blog. As if Protic doesn’t draw enough attention to himself by expressing his odious views on every forum he can find.
The Cayo Evans photograph. I don’t know who took it, I don’t appear in it, but putting it up on my blog makes me guilty of . . . well, something. The social housing petition was launched by Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndŵr. I put it on my sidebar because I’m unreasonable enough to believe that local people should enjoy priority in the allocation of social housing. And of course the ‘hook’ for the latest Parry article is that someone – but not me – wrote something some arsehole somewhere considers ‘racist’.
If online racism really concerns Phil Parry then let him visit MailOnline or Guido Fawkes or a host of other ‘mainstream’ sites, where he will find all the racist comments a man in search of them could desire, made against the Welsh and just about every nation other than the English. But of course Parry won’t do that, because he’s not really interested in racism per se; he is, just like the Cambrian News, and politicians in Wales and elsewhere, simply interested in using the slur of racism to silence people whose views he doesn’t like.
Though let us not be too harsh on Phil Parry for I fear he may be losing it, or maybe someone is playing jokes on him. In what I assume to have been a desperate attempt to say something new about me Parry wrote, “He retired as director of a Barmouth air conditioning firm . . . “ Who? Me! Accusing me of being a gun-toting, ethnic-cleansing, bodice-ripping, baby-eating nationalist I can live with, but you go too far when you accuse me of being a director of an air conditioning firm in – of all places – Barmouth!
I don’t know who, or what, you’re talking about, Parry . . . and neither, I suspect, do you.
IT WAS THE CAMBRIAN NEWS WOT WON IT!
Apart from learning that Beverly Davies has a sense of humour, something else I learnt yesterday was that Elin Jones AM has been asked for a comment on the Johnson resignation, and it will appear in this week’s issue of the rag. No doubt it will be in with the comments from the Pope and the mayor of Wagga Wagga, both outraged by my criticisms of certain Cardigan Castle trustees.
This, I’m told, is what she will say: “Glen Johnson has been a long-time champion of the castle and its history. He is one of the local experts and was influential in convincing me and others of the merits of the need to invest and restore the castle. I am sure he has spent years of voluntary effort in researching and supporting the castle. It is a travesty that he now feels pressured by social media to withdraw as a trustee. We need to thank him for all he has done and hopefully he can continue to contribute in other ways to the project.” So the local AM appears to have swallowed the Cambrian News story hook line and sinker . . . or maybe not, because here’s my interpretation.
Elin Jones will be standing for re-election next May which, let me remind you, is just over eight months away. She is very mindful of how the Cambrian News may have destroyed her colleague Mike Parker’s chances of becoming Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru MP just three months ago, in the May General Election. For anyone who has perhaps forgotten, check out my post, Mike Parker and Huw ‘Tipp-Ex’ Thomas in Full Agreement.
What the Cambrian News did with that piece of gutter journalism was deliberately misrepresent something Parker had written many years earlier. For soon after moving to Wales he wrote a piece for Planet magazine telling of his shock at realising many English people move to rural Wales to escape the multiracial towns and cities of England. (But he never used the word ‘Nazi’.) He also told us that many of the English who move to Wales look down on their Welsh neighbours with contempt. Read the original 2001 article here. Compare it with what the Cambrian News wrote and you’ll realise what a squalid distortion the latter was.
Remarkably, it was left to the Western Mail to put this story into its correct perspective, with Martin Shipton writing, “The purpose of this attack on Mr Parker, of course, is to dissuade people from voting for him.” In other words, it was an attempt by the Cambrian News to influence the outcome of the General Election in Ceredigion by telling lies about the candidate the ‘paper did not want to win. And it may have worked.
THREAT TO DEMOCRACY?
Its victory over Mike Parker, and the muted response from Plaid Cymru, has emboldened the Cambrian News, making it believe that it can control the political debate, certainly in Ceredigion, and perhaps beyond. Given who owns the ‘paper there is nothing surprising here.
The Cambrian News is part of the Tindle Group, still run by the eponymous, and 88-year-old Sir Ray Tindle. Sir Ray is a patriot of the old school, the man who told his editors, once Bush and Blair began their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war”. (Read full article here.)
When it comes to Wales, we can be sure that Sir Ray’s views are unequivocally Unionist, which means doing everything possible to portray nationalists as a dangerous and evil enemy . . . especially when they look like winning. The only way dissenting voices can hope to avoid the Tindle treatment is to dissent as little as possible . . . the course Elin Jones has so clearly adopted. With the result that debate is stifled, truth takes a kicking, and democracy in Wales is further weakened.
This assault on truth and democracy in the service of English interests becomes increasingly more obvious as Tindle and other owners ship in journalists recruited in England, journalists who don’t know their patch, and thus make a mockery of ‘local journalism’. The pretence can only be maintained with the assistance of a ‘Welsh’ veneer provided by the likes of Beverly Davies.
The Cambrian News and many other ‘local’ newspapers are now a threat to the democratic process. They promote a viewpoint that is hostile to Welsh interests, they try to intimidate those who dare challenge them and their viewpoint, and they have lost that fundamental connection with local communities that should justify their existence.
The Elin Jones approach is nothing less than surrendering to the diktats of a warped old man who cares nothing for Wales. How does a Plaid Cymru politician justify such a stance, even to herself? The way forward must be to challenge the Cambrian News and all the other BritNat propaganda rags. If Plaid Cymru isn’t prepared to stand up to this bullying, then it does not deserve to survive.
UPDATE 27.08.2015: Yesterday, some 30 people, including ex-volunteers, gathered outside the Castle to make a presentation to sacked Director Cris Tomos. There were young and old there, Welsh and English, to present him with gifts, including a blooming apple tree, showing the gratitude of the townspeople for all the work he has done for Cardigan. Inside, the remaining trustees plotted at their monthly meeting.
UPDATE II 27.08.2015: In this week’s online South Ceredigion edition of the Cambrian News Glen Johnson seems to saying something different regarding his family. Last week it was, “The main reason for my resignation is to protect my family from the virtual persecution being dealt out . . . “. This week, the writer of the article says, ” . . . with his family bearing the brunt of ‘overheard conversations'”.
The implication is inescapable – nothing was said directly to his family. That his family overheard unflattering conversations around the town only proves what a hot topic the running of the Castle has become. Even then, I guarantee that if ‘them trustees’ were getting a slagging, it wasn’t Glen Johnson the critics had in mind. I’m beginning to worry that the saintly Glen Johnson may be developing a martyr complex.
Curiously, although the article is headed ‘AM steps into Cardigan Castle row’ there is no quote from Elin Jones. Perhaps you have to pay for the full edition to read what Elin Jones said. Which I’m sure you’re prepared to do, especially after seeing the subscription page.
The reason I’m returning to the subject now is that it’s all getting a bit naughty. Those I’ve written about, and others behind them, are pulling out the stops in order, not to answer the many questions being asked, but to silence those doing the asking. I suppose things came to a head yesterday with the resignation of Glen Johnson, one of the trustees. Mr Johnson cited as his reason for stepping down the need to protect his family from “online persecution”.
This is the report from the BBC Wales website. Here’s the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Finally, the Cambrian News report talks of “online harassment” and mentions my blog, even gives my name, thereby inviting readers to make the erroneous connection. But then, this is the Cambrian News, and this is the nature of the beast. No one should be surprised to learn that Mike Lewis, husband of trustee Sue Lewis, is a staff reporter, possibly deputy editor, on this rag. Perhaps more pertinent may be the fact that Sue Lewis herself freelances for the CN, as these minutes from Aberporth Community Council make clear. Could it be that Sue Lewis herself wrote the Cambrian News report on Johnson’s resignation?
The first thing to understand about Glen Johnson is that for months he’s been telling anyone who’d listen that he’d had enough, and was stepping down at the September AGM of trustees . . . and these declarations of intent pre-date anything I’ve written about Cardigan Castle. His Facebook page carries a few of these statements. Here’s a couple from July. (Click to enlarge.)
After reading the media accounts I went to my blog to check what I had written about him . . . as opposed to what people what you to believe I’ve written. I could only find two references to Glen Johnson in my blog posts and both were positive. The first in my post of July 7th and the second in the guest post of July 30th. Read both extracts below.
JULY 7:“So this place (Cardigan Castle) has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise (in history).”
JULY 30:“A glimpse of what might have been is provided by A History of Cardigan Castle written by local historian Glen Johnson. Johnson is currently a trustee who has signalled his intention of stepping down from the role next year, but for years he was a persona non grata to the Aberporth clique running the show because of his awkward insistence on uncovering the archaeology and history of the site.
Bringing his story up to date, Johnson notes that, “in September 2007 Cadwgan B. P. T. revealed their plans to convert the front range of Castle Green House into a Welsh Language Learning Centre and the remainder of the building and all of the outbuildings into holiday accommodation”.
This is harassment! This is “online persecution”!
So if I haven’t been attacking him, what exactly is going on with this ‘resignation’? I am convinced that this whole episode can be explained by the press release issued to the media. Enquiries are referred to a Cardiff telephone number belonging to Equinox, Cardigan Castle’s PR agency. This resignation is nothing but a publicity stunt, one staged to depict critics of the Castle’s trustees as the sort of bastards who threaten the trustees’ wives and children. Remember! this man was resigning anyway, before I put out a word on Cardigan Castle, but someone, somewhere, saw the chance to capitalise on a long-planned resignation by twisting it into the sudden decision of a persecuted man forced out by internet bullies – i.e. me! And all designed to deflect criticism from the ruling trustees, and even allow them to shelter under the umbrella of victimhood.
Here’s my message to Glen Johnson. If your family really is being intimidated then you should have reported it to the police, not a PR agency. And if, as I suspect, you haven’t yet reported it to the police, get in touch with me and I’ll accompany you to the police station. Yes, I’ll hold your hand. But my best advice for you is, don’t allow yourself to be used by people much cleverer and more ruthless than you.
Glen Johnson’s stage-managed resignation is only the latest in a list of incidents which have been attempts to either frighten me off or have my blog closed down. Here’s an example worth recounting.
On August 12th a comment was made to my post, Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? of July 7th. The first comment to that post in a fortnight, and it came from ‘Charity Solicitor’. I responded and he / she came back the following day with a longer comment that contained, “It is, therefore, entirely ludicrous to claim, as you and your friends often do, that the trustees have their hands in the till.” I had never accused the trustees of that, and I made that fact clear; I also asked ‘Charity Solicitor’ to direct me to where, as he alleged, I had accused the trustees of theft.
Of course ‘Charity Solicitor’ could not find anything like this on my blog, for the simple reason that I had never written it. Others joined in the debate and eventually ‘Charity Solicitor’, realising he’d been sussed, admitted he was Dr (Charles) Robert Anthony. On August 14th he made what, for a lawyer, was an extraordinary statement, done in a pathetic attempt to laugh off the very serious allegation he had made against me only a few days earlier. He wrote, “‘Hands in the till’ is a figure of speech or metaphor. It’s not meant to be taken literally.” Sorry, pal , ‘hands in the till’ most definitely means stealing, there is no other interpretation. And for what, exactly, could ‘hands in the till’ be a metaphor?
Throughout this exchange with me and others Dr Anthony wasn’t clear whether he was speaking officially for the trustees or merely on their behalf, unofficially. Make your own guesses.
But yet again we have someone riding to the rescue but refusing to address the questions raised, and instead trying to steer the debate onto more promising ground by making me defend myself against things I never said. Very similar to what is happening with this ludicrously contrived resignation. I’m confronted with evasion, innuendo, non-sequiturs, smears, misrepresentation, and downright lies. So let me make my position clear.
I retract nothing I have written about Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. To see them hoping to hide behind poor, manipulated Glen Johnson is despicable, and it will not succeed. The questions are still awaiting answers.
Who is Jonathan Timms of Kent, and how did he get involved? Is he perhaps related to a trustee, or does he own a holiday home in Aberporth? Possibly both?
Why have so many trustees and staff walked away from this project (before I ever got involved)?
How often does Jann Tucker crack open a bottle or twa with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s supposedly impartial representative, Gareth Gregory?
Was Hedydd Jones reprimanded for saying ‘Over my dead body” at the prospect of the Gorsedd visiting the Castle?
Why did the project – as Glen Johnson himself bemoaned – change from a historical and cultural icon into a tacky tourist venture that is financially unworkable?
What did Sandra Davies mean by saying, “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”? Was she asked to explain that insulting remark?
What did Jonathan Timms, the trustees’ contact point and secretary, mean when he described Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons as “savages”?
Can you provide satisfactory evidence of contracts being properly advertised and put out to tender? Evidence that would satisfy someone other than Jann Tucker’s drinking buddy.
The same applies to appointments, or were they all advertised – online only – from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, as was the case with the post created for trustee Sue Lewis almost immediately after she lost her job at the Tivy-Side Advertiser?
And yet, despite the slanders, I am greatly heartened that the Gang of Four’s defenders feel they need to resort to these tactics. I say ‘defenders’ because I am convinced that what we see now, with Johnson’s resignation especially, is intervention by persons who have come to realise that the Gang of Four are a liability, but to remove them would be an admission of defeat, so they have to be defended at all costs. It’s a difficult situation for them; and so desperate are they that someone must have thought this resignation stunt was worth a try.
Just stand back and consider the absurdity of the news coverage given. Here we have a nobody, in a small town, who resigns from a trust few will have heard of – but it makes the BBC News! This of course is the BBC we have come to know, this is the BBC of the Scottish independence referendum, the BBC of ‘British’ this and ‘Great British’ that, the defender of the British establishment. So in conclusion, let me reiterate . . .
Despite what has been alleged by the Cambrian News and others, nothing mildly derogatory, let alone threatening, has appeared on this blog in relation to Glen Johnson. Anyone persisting with these groundless accusations – or making fresh accusations – should be very careful what they say or write.
Despite all that’s been written and said about the goings-on at Castell Aberteifi there always seems to be fresh information coming to light. This truly is the gift that keeps on giving, the sort of thing a humble blogger like me dreams of stumbling upon as he lies tossing and turning in his windy garret. As this saga lurches between farce and tragedy more and more ‘coincidences’ and ‘connections’ come to light; and as if that wasn’t enough, there are also the ironies the saga exposes that raise a chuckle.
Such as the fact that while Lady Tucker and her gang were adamant there should be as little archaeological work as possible carried out at ‘their’ castle, there is now a small army digging away and investigating them! And gems are coming to light. Well, laff.
For latecomers, let me explain that those who imposed their tyrannical grip on the running of the Cardigan Castle renovation project, and silenced or excluded dissenting voices, were totally opposed to any serious investigation into what might lie beneath the surface – in case they found something! That ‘something’ being anything of historical significance that could interfere with the Gang of Four’s ambition to turn Castell Aberteifi into a commercial ‘venue’, with little more than a nod to its fascinating past.
Yet remember! this rejection of history and heritage in favour of crass and very unimaginative commercialism is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Or to be more exact, the Fund’s man on the job, wine-lover Gareth Owain Gregory. The word in the coffee-houses and taverns of old Aberteifi is that when he comes down to Cardigan for trustee meetings he stays at Tucker Towers in Aberporth, where Lady Tucker’s butler keeps his glass filled.
Call me old-fashioned, but I would have expected the representative of the major funder to maintain a discreet and professional distance from the recipients of his organisation’s funding.
Before leaving Mr Gregory, one of his friends up in Cardiff, and a colleague through the Menter Iaith movement, is Eryl Wyn Jones, managing director of Equinox Public Relations Ltd, the Castle’s PR company. I suggest no irregularity or impropriety, I merely observe yet another in a long list of ‘connections’.
Another little mystery that has presented itself is the Castle’s IT contract. For a few years it has been known that ‘Clive’ from Cliand Computers in Chancery Lane has been doing the IT work at the Castle, so some assumed he’d been passed over when the contract was awarded to Dyfed IT Solutions Ltd.
Not so, for Clive Morris, is one of the three directors of Dyfed IT. The other two being Gareth William Robinson and Dean Houghton. The company seems to be registered at Houghton’s “nondescript detached house” in Aberarad, Castell Newydd Emlyn. The company was Incorporated on April 20th, 2013, and doesn’t appear to have done much since, unless of course Clive Morris has been running the Castle’s IT on behalf of Dyfed IT rather than Cliand.
Note that Louise Cowan’s tweet (below) is dated July 22nd, and she seems keen to stress that Dyfed IT Solutions is a local company. It may be worth remembering that by July 22nd I had already posted three articles about Cardigan Castle, and one of the major complaints locally was that little of the work at the Castle was going to local companies. For anyone wondering who Louise Cowan is, she’s the secretary at Cliand Computers.
There’s more information on Dyfed It Solutions here. As for it being a local company, well, read on and make up your own mind. We know it’s registered office is in CNE, we know Clive Morris already had a computer business near to the Castle, and Dean Houghton may even have gone to school locally. But what of Robinson, who I suspect is the main man and driving force behind this enterprise?
Gareth William Robinson has over thirty companies to his name, most of which are now dissolved or no longer trading. He specialises in online businesses. The address normally given for Robinson is on a trading estate in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. In most of his business ventures he has had the same two partners, Andrew John Stevens and Douglas Stuart Scott. Stevens and Scott have been involved in over fifty companies each, though invariably in partnership.
Now by one of those quirks we have come to expect in this saga, Robinson, Stevens and Scott have come together again, this time in the Cardigan area, at Morfa Green, Llangrannog. This being the registered address for Broody Media Ltd., Company No 05889172. This company was Incorporated on July 27th 2006 but is dormant. Why would these three dotcom whizzkids turn up in Ceredigion? And why, when and how did Clive Morris link up with them?
One answer would be that Robinson has property in the area; to be precise, Bryn Berwyn at Tresaith. Here it is advertised in English Country Cottages. (He is also rumoured to have a place for himself at Aberporth.) Though of course, people like Robinson rarely own property in their own name, so Bryn Berwyn is owned by a company named Oakley Consultants Ltd, Incorporated March 16th 2005, Company No 05394028. Bryn Berwyn is almost certainly Oakley Consultants Ltd‘s only asset. The two directors of Oakley are Robinson and, I assume, his wife.
Why is the IT contract important? some may ask. Because, I would argue, here we see more evidence of a pattern I have previously commented on when it comes to how Cardigan Castle awards contracts and makes appointments. It’s a system in which who you know is everything. And if you know the Gang of Four then you’re in the money.
First, let us ask if the IT contract was it properly advertised? I don’t know, but some tell me it was never advertised. If anyone has evidence of this contract being advertised then please send me a link. Another reason concerns are being raised is that, yet again, we see a contract going to someone, Gareth Robinson, who has no obvious connection with the town or the area but, yet again, this person has holiday accommodation up the coast and is almost certainly known to the Gang of Four.
And that might not be all. If we look at Gareth Robinson’s Linkedin profile we see that he did his A Levels at Ashford College. Ashford is a town in Kent, England . . . now who else do we know from Ashford? Why! Jonathan Timms, the mysterious contact for the Cadwgan Trust lives in Ashford . . . and he too has a holiday home just up the coast, and him being known to, and approved of, by Jann Tucker almost certainly explains his appointment.
This investigation into the goings-on at Cardigan Castle started out trying to figure out what was going on, then trying to make the connections between A and B. As those linkages have been established it begins to look more and more as if we are dealing with a network of well-heeled and well-connected persons who have taken over the Cardigan Castle project for the benefit of themselves and their friends.
To achieve this outcome they have, of necessity, excluded the uncouth locals, with their unreasonable demands that Cardigan Castle should have something to do with their town, and them; with its history, and with their identity. How unreasonable can you get!
Let us end on a more cultural plane (well this is Eisteddfod week!) I have been sent rhymes that are currently being declaimed in the aforementioned coffee-houses and taverns. The limerick below refers to the response of trustee Hedydd Jones when it was suggested the Gorsedd should be allowed in to the accepted birthplace of the Eisteddfod. “Over my dead body”, she shrieked.
(Translation: ‘Only “Over my dead body / Will the Gorsedd come to Aberteifi, / Cadwgan has the reins; / We know the signs, / And it’s clear who reigns’.)
Now if I was a trustee I’d be getting worried at this development, because any student of Welsh history and culture could tell them that, when dealing with people, poetry is rarely neutral. Poems are not written about those who fail to excite the muse. Generally speaking, poetry either lauds, eulogises or ridicules. What I’ve been sent most definitely falls into the third category.
The other work will be accessible to those without the language. It is entitled The Ballad of Castell Aberteifi, penned by A. W. Minstrel (Ms), a promising young rhymester.
Footnote: As you can see in the sidebar, this blog is hosted by www.sccambria.com, a contract that of course went out to tender (seeing as this blog receives official funding). On Saturday night Systemau Cyfrifiadurol Cambria got a curious complaint that my blog was racist towards “English citizens living in Wales”. Obviously an attempt to get this blog closed down.
When I checked out the e-mail address from which the silly message came Pipl suggested it had come from an arty individual – previously unknown to me – living in Aberporth. (Where else!) Obviously this man would be known to Lady Tucker and her underlings from living in the same village, and via other routes, such as Oriel Mwldan in Aberteifi.
UPDATE: It has now been confirmed beyond peradventure that the sender of the silly e-mail was indeed the Aberporth ‘artist’. The only question now is, did he do it of his own volition, or was he put up to it by the Gang of Four? Is the fight getting dirty?
As I said in an earlier post, it really is a small world . . . especially in Cardigan and the villages to the north of the town. And the world seems to contract dramatically once you start asking who knows who in the Cardigan Castle saga.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on the women running and wrecking the Cardigan Castle project (nor would I want anyone to think I plan on ignoring them!) but I couldn’t write this post without a mention of developments since my previous post. Here’s a selection.
Someone informed me that at one meeting Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms opined that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons were “nothing but savages”. Which again raises the question: Who the hell is Jonathan Timms and who invited a man living in Kent, England, to get involved?
Another informant sent me a copy of a letter sent to the Carmarthen Journal about three or four years ago, which served to revive an earlier suspicion that the Castle project may be disguising an even more self-serving undertaking involving property grabbing, and that this explains the two trusts. (I would appreciate a good photograph of the Green Street properties.) Elin Jones’ remarks are worth noting.
I am indebted to a third informant for this link which suggests that the Facilities Officer vacancy – the post now filled by Sue “ENGLISH” Lewis – was advertised from December 23rd 2014 to midday on January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. How the hell were they allowed to get away with this?
Rumours persist that non-Gang of Four trustees are ready to jump ship, leaving mesdames Tucker, Lewis, Davies and Jones even more exposed. Moves are also afoot to call an Emergency General Meeting.
Equinox, the Cardiff PR firm working for the Gang of Four, has requested an urgent meeting with local critics. This panic move may have been instigated by the project’s funders becoming worried by the amount of shit now hitting the fan.
Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the case, is known to be in the pockets of the Gang of Four. Or should that be ‘handbags’? Or would that be sexist? Who cares?
Here’s the ‘Rhys ap Gruffydd’ Proclamation read out at 7pm on Saturday outside the Castle main entrance, which I understand will also be read out at the Meifod Eisteddfod.
Elsewhere, the Pembrokeshire Herald and its Carmarthenshire sister-paper ran full-page pieces using much of the information I’d supplied on my blog. I only have a photo of the article as I couldn’t get a copy of the newspaper to scan for you, but I was sent a transcript, which you can read here.
Saturday night saw the Bellowhead concert at the Castle. To judge by the photograph I was sent the audience was in the age group 55 – telegram from Beti.
However successful the Gang of Four may want us to believe the Bellowhead concert was I can’t help thinking that a performance of Wagner would have been more appropriate given the situation they’re in, for Götterdämmerung is surely approaching. I’d just love to see the lot of them in horned helmets, wielding spears and shrieking, as a local mob storms the castle. Well, laff!
STOP PRESS: I am now told that during the interval, and at her insistence, Vicky Moller, Plaid Cymru list candidate in Mid and West Wales, was led to the mic by compère, Brychan Llyr (Dic Jones’ son, of Jess fame). She gave a rousing speech, saying that without the diligence and hard work of Cris Tomos (now given the elbow) the renovation would not have been possible. Brychan expressed similar sentiments. Then the control freak Gang of Four tried to prevent Brychan from introducing Bellowhead, but after much heated discussion he did, before leaving the castle grounds.
Finally, the Aberporth connection has been strengthened with information about the bizarre, oversized ‘bardic’ chair to be found at the Castle. Here’s a photo I took on my visit a couple of weeks ago of my wife sitting in it. (No, she hasn’t got a round, flat, black head,) This chair is said to have cost £12,000 but no one seems to recall any tendering process. The artist responsible is a Paul Clarke of . . . Aberporth! He has done work in Aberporth, paid for by the community council, on which body we of course find Jann Tucker. I suggest you read the comments by ‘Rhodri’ to my previous post. He also suggests that the escutcheons and armorials employed are not authentic, having little or nothing to do with Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys.
THIS WEEK’S COMPETITION: Find someone living in Aberporth – or just having a holiday home there – who has not gained financially from the largesse of Lady Tucker of Cardigan Castle.
Not a subject I’d normally write about but friends of mine in Llanelli got to thinking about the ‘Welsh’ Government’s proposal to assume that if you don’t expressly say No then you agree to have your organs whipped out and re-used ASAP after your encounter with the Grim Reaper. The leaflet they were reading gave a phone number, and this took them to a call centre in Bristol, and a helpful young Bristolian. This, remember, was for enquiries into a ‘Welsh’ Government initiative.
The big question they asked was, ‘If I agree to donate my organs, or don’t opt out of any new scheme of assumed donation, will my organs stay in Wales (cos they’ll only get homesick otherwise)?’ ‘Er, no, they can end up anywhere in Englandandwales’. ‘Hang on, you’re saying there’ll be an opt-out system in Wales running parallel with an opt-in system in England?’ ‘Um, yes’. ‘Which will mean that the vast majority of the organs taken from Welsh stiffs will end up giving new life to our English neighbours?’ ‘Yup, that’s about the size of it’.
At this point my friends thought they’d be clever and demand the Welsh language service, as the leaflet said they could. ‘I’ll get someone to ring you back’, said the HYB. After half an hour or so the call came, again from Bristol. The Welshman they spoke with said he enjoyed working in Bristol because he and the other Welsh speakers get paid more than their English colleagues because they also answer calls in English. (Which must do wonders for workplace harmony and Welsh-English relationships!)
So there you are, if you agree to donate your organs, or don’t opt out of presumed consent, your kidneys could end up keeping alive a frothing-at-the-mouth Kipper, your liver in some Daily Mail journo. This is the kind of insane situation that can only arise when certain powers are devolved within an overarching Englandandwales framework. This is the sham devolution we have in Wales, and in this instance it appears that Wales is being used by England for organ harvesting – with the co-operation of the ‘Welsh’ Government!
OVERSEAS AID PROGRAMME
I bet that heading surprised you! It certainly surprised me when I discovered that the poorest part of Europe, a country that has received billions in EU aid, is sending money to Africa. Let me explain.
On June 18th I posted ‘Welsh Poverty and “Welsh” Labour’s Third Sector Money Pit‘ and in that post I looked at the careers of husband and wife team Travers Merrill and Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill. Travers was at the helm when the good ship Rhondda Life hit the rocks, while Rose’s Third Sector racket is BAWSO. Together they also run a private endeavour called ABESU, which, to quote the company’s website, is “a UK charity working in partnership with the ABESU Women’s Housing Co-operative in Zambia to self-build houses and establish sustainable livelihoods”. Nothing surprising there, seeing as Mrs Merrill is from Zambia.
Curiosity drove me to flick through the ABESU accounts, where I found that in the year ended March 31st 2014 ABESU had received £2,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Not a great amount, but why is our puppet regime down Cardiff docks giving anything to an organisation that doesn’t even operate in Wales? As is my wont, I submitted an FoI on June 22nd. On July 1st I received an acknowledgement that promised an answer by July 16th. When that hadn’t arrived by July 23rd I wrote again, and my answer came the following day. You can read that letter by clicking here.
I asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to:
1. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gave Abesu £2,000.
2. If confirmed, please explain the reason for the Welsh Government giving £2,000 to Abesu, and from which funding ‘pot’ the money came.
3. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gives funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales.
4. If confirmed, please supply a list of such organisations together with the amounts given, and from which ‘pots’ the funding is secured.
The response I got, from ‘the Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office’ (‘Cabinet Office’ FFS!) said:
“I can confirm that a grant of £2000 was given to Abesu. This was by way of a grant from the Wales Africa Community Links project which was run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and funded by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme.
I can confirm the Welsh Government does provide funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales. However, with regard to the list of organisations and the amounts given, I have estimated that it will cost more than the appropriate limit established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 to consider your request and because of this the regulations allow me to refuse to deal with it.”
The letter went on to explain why I would not have a full response, ‘over the £600 limit’, etc. A couple of sentences in this explanation caught my eye, and you may also find them interesting. They said: “The Welsh Government’s finance system contains over 14,500 companies and organisations whose address is outside of Wales. During financial year 2014/15 there was (sic) 2,331 transactions made against these companies”. Suggesting that far too much of the money spent by the ‘Welsh’ Government is leaving Wales.
Anyway, returning to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Wales for Africa programme. With the best will in the world, it’s difficult not to see this as yet another excuse to give money to Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector. This time by sending them on African jollies to “enhance their leadership skills” and have their photographs taken with ever-so-grateful Africans. For more information just follow the link I’ve supplied, and use the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the page.
This kind of lunacy is almost bound to happen in the system of sham devolution we know in Wales. We have a bunch of pseudo socialists (many just pseuds) behaving as if they’re running a real government. And of course, the civil servants who really run Wales, and their masters in London, are more than happy to let these self-deluding buffoons waste our money.
Message to Carwyn and the gang: Stop playing stupid games; you are not a real government, Wales is poor, so we do not have money to spare for Polly and Dominic to go showboating in Africa.
When it comes to events and functions, weddings and conferences Cardigan Castle may not be seeing many paying customers, but one organisation that has been there a couple of times is Cantref, the housing association and white trash importer. A comment to my post The Colonisation of Wales: Help Needed tells us that things got a bit out of hand at Cantref’s AGM when, for some reason, the tenants were bused in for a hog roast and all the booze they could drink! Read the comment for yourself.
This munificence is surprising given that Cantref may be entering Shit Creek. (Regularly laying out a few grand on hog roasts and piss-ups don’t help!) For the comment tells us that some of the commitments Cantref has taken on, such as the student accommodation in Aberystwyth, may not be turning out as planned. Hardly surprising when we see Aberystwyth Uni slipping down the league table faster than Cardiff City. Boom! boom! (Couldn’t resist it!)
‘Insider’ also tells us that, “There is something else going on but the sleepy local rags haven’t got a clue yet . . . more news on that later as it’s too dangerous to mention that yet – no wonder three top directors left all of a sudden before year end accounts, local housing consultant David Hedges of Cyngor Da being one of them”. David Hedges is the son of the former Glamorgan cricketer Bernard Hedges, who died in February 2014. (Many is the time I saw Bernard Hedges play at St. Helen’s.) His website, particularly the bullet point ”Cyngor Da’s approach’ is unmitigated Third Sector bollocks-speak. And although the stars favoured him with a Swansea birth Dai seems to have headed into the sunset and relocated to Cardigan.
Naturally I tried to make enquiries into Cantref’s financial health, but unless you’re prepared to pay through the nose for them there’s no way of getting the figures. The problem is the status of housing associations. If they were charities then it would be a simple matter to visit the Charity Commission website and get the latest accounts gratis. If they were companies then it would be easy to get a financial picture from any number of sites, and pay for specific documents. These would also be available – and usually cheaper – on the Companies House website.
No doubt defenders of housing associations will tell us that there is usually an annual report available on their websites. Rubbish, just look at the Cantref Annual Report, it’s just flim-flam and photographs, no better than propaganda, and nothing like the audited accounts available for charities and private companies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, unlike your local council’s housing department . . . assuming your local council’s housing stock hasn’t been taken over by a secretive and acquisitive housing association.
I don’t believe that housing associations should be regarded as anything other than the private companies they are. Put quite simply, housing associations do not meet the criterion used by the FSA for Industrial & Provident Societies: “An industrial and provident society is an organisation conducting an industry, business or trade, either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community“.
It is now anomalous that they are treated the same as community organisations and private members clubs. They are – in all but name – private companies, consequently there should be no more funding from the public purse.
LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Another subject you may be surprised to find me writing about. And while I can’t deny deriving a great deal of pleasure from seeing the bruvvers and sissters poking each other in the eyes this is, I assure you, an attempt to make a more profound observation.
Last Wednesday I watched a debate on Newsnight between three Labour MPs, Mary Creagh, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott. It seems that Creagh and Thornberry nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, but had no intention of voting for him, and were now worried that this ‘oppositional’ candidate might win! Abbott was there, presumably, to speak up for Corbyn.
We were also treated to a film of an increasingly wild-eyed and delusional Tony Blair telling his party’s members that if their heart said Corbyn then they should get a transplant! His former ‘advisor’, John McTernan, called those MPs who nominated Corbyn “morons”. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the most recent entry on McTernan’s CV is Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour in May. The political equivalent of being Custer’s chief scout at the Little Big Horn.
Anyway, the issue seems to be that the great majority of Labour MPs think Corbyn is too Left wing, but at the time of the Newsnight broadcast polls had him as the most popular choice, certainly with trade unionists and ordinary branch members. Which has left Creagh, Thornberry, Margaret Beckett (who’s admitted to being a ‘moron’!) and others suffering from Dr Frankenstein syndrome. It was one of the most enjoyable Newsnights I’ve seen for some time.
To justify rejecting Corbyn Creagh and Thornberry used the argument that Labour would be unelectable with Corbyn in charge, and unless the party wins the next election then Labour will be unable to help the people. Persuasive . . . until they expanded on that and you realised that for them winning elections is an end in itself, and this, they believe, can only be achieved through Labour being indistinguishable from the Conservatives.
The name Emily Thornberry rang a bell with me, but I had to check before I realised that she it was who had insulted the flag of England and those who proudly wave it. She was condemned as a snob for that episode, and watching her on Newsnight I could see why. It was an almost unique experience: she spoke well, her arguments were well marshalled, and yet . . . rarely have I heard anyone be simultaneously eloquent and repulsive.
She is clearly arrogant, to the extent that she kept cutting across Kirsty Wark! (Isn’t that a hanging offence?) But it was her patronising and condescending attitude towards Diane Abbott that really clinched it. She was, and in a way one rarely sees outside of the theatre or television, looking down her nose at the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
The Labour Party has a massive problem on its hands with this election, for it has exposed the chasm between the unworldly professional politicians in the Westminster bubble and those ordinary party members who oppose starving the poor, who believe in pursuing tax dodgers, and who are clearly unhappy with a Labour Party that is little more than the Conservative Party by another name.
A revealing piece on the Daily Wales website tells of the escalating controversy at Cardigan Castle where public funding is creating a tacky entertainment centre / wedding venue, with references to the site’s rich history and cultural importance being downplayed if not totally excluded. I urge you to read the DW piece before going any further with my contribution.
From the Daily Wales piece (and indeed other sources) it seems there has also been a worryingly high turnover in both trustees and staff that should cause concern to any body funding, or in any other way supporting, this project. Though despite the comings and goings there appear to be two constants, both trustees. These are Elizabeth Jann Tucker who – and this should not surprise you – is involved in tourism, at Aberporth, a few miles up the coast from Cardigan. The other is Richard Thomas, a veterinary surgeon, and the local James Herriot, having written the autobiographical Dic y Fet, and in English, the equally autobiographical, Taking Stock.
Seeing as we are dealing with a charity, the obvious place to start making enquiries was the Charity Commission website. I soon found the page for Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi (Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust), (Number 1122015), which tells us that the contact is Jann Tucker . . . but according to the Daily Wales piece, the contact should be a Jonathan Timms of Ashford, Kent. Clearly, there was something wrong. The answer came when I saw that ‘Dick Thomas’ is also a trustee of another charity named Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Charity (Number 1080667), which makes no mention of Cardigan castle in its name. and it’s here that we find Mr Timms given as the contact. (He may also go, or at one time have gone, by the name ‘Joff’,) So why are there two charities? (Click to enlarge panels.)
Especially as they claim to be doing exactly the same thing. For the Charity Commission website, under ‘Activities’ says for both charities, “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Read it and tell me if you also think it says the same thing twice, or am I missing something? Also note that neither of these charities is confined in their activities to the castle. And which ‘nation’ is referred to?
For those curious about what the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 says, here it is: ‘“building” includes any structure or erection, and any part of a building, as so defined, but does not include plant or machinery comprised in a building;’. Er, in other words, a building.
To complicate the picture further, in addition to the two charities there is a company (limited by guarantee), Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd (Company No 07285463), which appears to be a trading arm for the charity / charities. The current directors appear to be Mr Cristoffer Wyn Tomos, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis and the mysterious Mr Jonathan Timms. Mrs Lewis is also a director of Small World Theatre Ltd (Company No 03294035), also based in Cardigan. The company involves itself in ‘Artistic and Literary Creation and Interpretation’. (Which may link with the reference below to the Mwldan Theatre and Bellowhead.) She is the former editor of the Tivyside Advertiser, which most people think has improved considerably since her departure. Her husband is Mike Lewis, who was editor of the South Wales Guardian before moving to the Cambrian News, which readers may remember for its scurrilous and unprincipled attack on the local Plaid Cymru candidate before May’s election. Both husband and wife are staunch and blinkered Britlanders.
Though if the Daily Wales piece is correct, and Cris Tomos has been suspended by the trustees from his post at the castle, then he is unlikely to be still serving as a director of the trading arm, especially as Lewis is one of the other directors.
I keep talking about ‘the castle’, so I think it’s time to remind ourselves of the history we are dealing with here. Cardigan castle was the home of Rhys ap Gruffydd, ‘the Lord Rhys’, who ruled Deheubarth from 1155 to 1197; an ally of Owain Gwynedd and, following the northern prince’s death in 1170, the most powerful of the Welsh rulers. In 1176 he organised at Cardigan castle what is generally agreed to have been the first national eisteddfod. So this place has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise. In fact, there seem to be more of the trustees involved with bed and breakfasts than with anything else.
This might explain why, it is rumoured, the Heritage Lottery Fund has now appointed (imposed?) a trustee who might know something about Welsh heritage, and also how to manage a project of this size. Though cynics might argue that it’s a bit late in the day, seeing as £12m has already been poured in. The name being mentioned is Gareth Gregory, who would appear to fit the bill. Whether this appointment will be welcomed by some of the other trustees, and some interested observers, remains to be seem. But I can understand why the Heritage Lottery Fund felt it needed to be done.
Locals have been dismayed at the slow pace of the project, often due to contractor’s cock-ups and work having to be re-done. No clear chain of command is another allegation levelled – “too many bosses”. Few in the town can understand, let alone see, where twelve million pounds has been spent. And many in Cardigan wonder why Jann Tucker, a woman of eighty, with business interests of her own, is still knocking herself out in this thankless work. Perhaps she gets help from her family.
For about ten years ago Jann’s daughter Siân came home from London with her property developer husband James Lynch and their four sons. Since arriving in Cardigan the two have bought Fforest farm, set up a glamping business, opened an upmarket pizza joint on the river, and also run a wedding service, with hubby keeping his hand in in the property racket with Granary Lofts, across the Teifi from the castle. Basically catering for middle class poseurs of the, “I may be a computer programmer with two kids and a crippling mortgage but I’m a free spirit, me, oh yes”. A man untroubled by modesty, our Jim. For as he says on his Linkedin profile, he is “currently working on re-inventing the Cardigan riverside”. And if this site is to be believed then his ambition extends to taking over a wider area! Note that the map for ‘the Republic of Fforest’ covers the town of Cardigan, including of course the castle.
There is a link on his Linkedin profile to the Do lectures site, as Lynch has given a lecture. Here it is, it lasts twenty minutes (but I bet you won’t!). As a contact described them to me, “The Do Lectures are phenomenally expensive. This annual event pulls in minor celebrities who teach well-heeled 30-somethings from London how to knit yoghurt”. (Nice one, R.) Though looking at it another way, the people connected with Do lectures strike me as just the kind of people who listen to folk-rock bands like Bellowhead. Because I guarantee that until the name was suggested to them Jann Tucker and Dic y Fet had never heard of the group. Then again, other sources implicate the luvvies at the Mwldan theatre where, it is suggested, can be found someone with connections to Bellowhead. Either way, I hope to God that this Do Lecture shower has not received any funding from the Welsh public purse.
Before leaving lovely Aberteifi it’s only right to tell you that within the castle walls is Castle Green House (see panel, click to enlarge), completely renovated with public funds. It would be difficult to visualise a better location for weddings . . . or tourist accommodation . . . almost guaranteed to appeal to the kind of ludicrous poseurs attracted to the area by the burgeoning Lynch empire and the yoghurt-knitters up at Do Lectures. Such a pity there seems to be little or nothing in the renovated castle for Welsh people.
Which explains why so many locals are angry over a project that could have served as a beacon for Welsh culture being subverted into yet another tacky tourist trap or subsidised stage for third-rate provincial luvvies that nobody’d pay to watch. So here are some questions for Huw Lewis, who is, I’m told, the minister in the ‘Welsh’ Government responsible for this project.
Who owns Cardigan Castle?
Given that the purpose of the charity (or two charities) is solely to oversee the renovation of Cardigan castle, why does its (their) remit extend to any building of interest “in and around Cardigan”. Are other projects lined up, and if so, will these be funded from the public purse, and who will appoint the trustees?
Are you satisfied with the oversight of this project by ever-changing combinations of trustees?
Seeing as Jonathan Timms, the secretary to the trustees (or one set of them), and also a director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises, is based so far from Cardigan can you explain how he became involved? Was he appointed by the trustees? Was he appointed by you or some other funder?
The last accounts filed by the ‘Cadwgan’ trustees with the Charity Commission (Y/E 31.03.2014) show that the project received that year £1,838,894 from the European Regional Development Fund and a further £289,911 from CADW. Seeing as ERDF funding is allocated to Wales for “economic regeneration projects promoted primarily by the public sector” do you believe that this project falls within that expressed purpose? And do you believe that the small number of jobs created justifies this generous funding, over two million pounds in one year from your government? Seeing as there are so few jobs being offered by this project can you assure us that the administration you represent will insist these jobs are allocated to genuinely local people?
In the most recent accounts of the ‘Cadwgan’ trustees ‘fixed assets’ are shown to be valued at £5.4m. This, presumably, is the value of the castle and its grounds, including Castle Green House. Whose valuation is this?