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From shelf stacker to top radio DJ

COLEG HARLECH.  music technology course success story. Pictured is Craig Kennealey live on air during his show with Point FM Radio, Rhyl.

 After eight years stacking supermarket shelves, Craig Kennealey knew there had to be more to life.

There was…and now he presents what is billed as the biggest afternoon radio show on the North Wales coast.

His break came after a second chance educational course at Coleg Harlech Workers Educational Association.

The organisation offers adults without formal qualifications the chance to study either at their college in the historic castle town or at the courses they run right across North Wales.

They provided the confidence lifeline for Craig, 28, who lives in Maes Llewellyn, Rhyl.

Craig had been interested in making music for years, both as a performer and at his home-made studio.

But when he left school and, after completion of a computer course, he drifted into working at a supermarket.

“I worked at a supermarket in Rhyl for eight years, just stacking shelves and as a general assistant.

“I got fed up because I wanted to do things in the world of music and then I saw an advert in a local newspaper for a music technology course at Coleg Harlech, which I started in the autumn of 2008.

“I had recorded music as a hobby but I thought why not take it to the next level and learn how to do things properly. I produced my own stuff at the college and worked with a local band,” said Craig.

Although a self-taught guitarist, Craig realised he was more comfortable behind the scenes than as a performer.

The college course enabled Craig to learn valuable recording studio techniques from his tutor Charlie Goodall and gave him the opportunity to work with other students and artists. It also gave him the chance to work on the college’s own radio station, Radio Branwen.

“I stayed at Harlech on a residential course for nine months and it was an amazing time. It was a new experience living away from home and mixing with people I would never have mixed with had I stayed at home. It was a good experience and gave me a great deal of confidence,” he said.

After Coleg Harlech, Craig was accepted into Glamorgan University as a mature student, to study for a BSc in sound technology. Although he did well on the course he quit after a year because he was not enjoying it and decided he had “rushed” into things.

Craig, who writes and produces music for bands, solo artistes and for advertising, as well as designing  websites, returned to Rhyl, got in touch with the manager of Point FM community radio, had an interview and was offered a three hour Saturday programme of his own.

That was such as success that Craig now has his own three hour afternoon show, between 1-4pm every weekday.

His fans can follow him on Facebook and Twitter and through his own website

“Coleg Harlech gave me a lot of confidence and changed my life,” said Craig.

Lecturer on the Coleg Harlech music technology course, Trevor Andrews said: “We take people who have enthusiasm rather than formal qualifications, either as musicians or on the technical side recording music. We teach them both sides.

“We teach them the craft of recording people in the studio, we teach them about musical theory and composition and creating music through computers.

“There are also other elements to the course involving various aspects of creating video productions and the college has its own radio station where we can teach them to create radio programmes.

 “We also teach them how to promote themselves and produce business materials and that all happens over nine months. At the end they get a qualification which is recognised by universities around the world.

“We set up the music technology course in 2003 and we had a lot of applicants, which is still the case.

“I have worked here for 20 years and see people coming out of here having changed their lives. They come from really diverse backgrounds and this has been a fresh start. It’s often the case that more mature students will be really keen to embrace a second chance.”

“Craig was working in a supermarket in Rhyl and got fed up and came to us. He’s a very talented young man who always pushed himself forward in every aspect of the course.

He tried to go to university because we knew he was university material, unfortunately he went to Glamorgan and decided it was not for him. But  now he’s got a job on Point FM radio.

“It’s very interesting, radio seems to bring out things in people. Listening to Craig on the radio he sounds nothing like he does in real life!”

For more information about the courses offered by Coleg Harlech contact the Student Admissions Officer, Julie Roberts, by ringing 01766 781900 or emailing You can also log on

It’s pirates in the cathedral

St Asaph Cathedral....North Wales music festival... Pirates at the Cathedral in St Asaph. Pictured are ten year olds Ben and Libby Morgan with Dolly the Dog at St Asaph Cathedral.

What’s this me hearties, pirates in St Asaph Cathedral?

For two days the adventures of Captain Exmark and dog Spot and nephew Luke Ovarthar and puppy Patch will be played out at the Cathedral.

They will feature in a colourful premiere of a specially commissioned musical work for North Wales International Music Festival that’s being held between September 24 and October 1.

Welsh composer Gareth Wood has created a 25 minute score to accompany a story written by children’s poet and writer Francesca Kay, from Hay on Wye.

The cathedral setting in St Asaph is much more appropriate than people might think – thanks to a couple of real-life 18th century pirates.

New research claims that Long John Silver was based on a Welsh adventurer who came from Denbighshire

Following a nine-year investigation, author John Amrhein is adamant that Robert Louis Stevenson modelled his classic novel Treasure Island on the lives of Owen and John Lloyd, brothers born in nearby Rhuddlan.

Owen is believed to have sailed to the West Indies and went on to bury 52 chests of Spanish silver pieces of eight on the deserted Norman Island, part of the British Virgin Islands.

And John had a wooden leg – just like the book’s famous character.

Tŷ Cerdd Music Centre Wales based at Cardiff has commissioned the new work inspired by the Welsh pirates.

It will be performed by the Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Youth Symphony Brass Ensemble.

Gareth, who has worked with the world’s greatest conductors and was a member of the Royal Philharmonic for 33 years, said his commission was one of the “most enjoyable” of his career.

“Sea Dogs – A Pirate’s Tail (corr)” is part of Ty Cerdd and the Festival’s drive to encourage musical appreciation, story-telling and composition in the community, involving dozens of primary schools in Denbighshire and Flintshire.

The project is part of the North Wales International Music Festival’s education programme, working in conjunction with the festival’s resident ensemble, Ensemble Cymru. This project has been supported by the rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd and funded through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union.

Artistic Director Ann Atkinson said: “This is a really exciting and colourful new work which is going to be huge amount of fun for the children involved and the audience.

“When we embarked on this project, we weren’t aware of the area’s connections with the world of piracy and the literary classic it is said to have inspired.

“I’m sure it will fire up the imagination of the audience and bring the whole experience to life.”

The Owen brothers aren’t Wales’s only claim to fame in relation to piracy.

Black Bart who gets a mention in the St Asaph premiere was born John Roberts in Carmarthenshire and regarded as one of the most successful pirates in the Golden Age of Piracy having captured over 470 ships.

Welsh pirate Robert Edwards was given 77 acres of unsettled land – on which Manhattan was built – by a grateful crown for interrupting Spanish trade. His ancestors have tried ever since to get their share of an inheritance valued at $650 billion.

Tŷ Cerdd Director Keith Griffin said: “The project includes step-by-step lesson plans and resources with support from the Ty Cerdd education staff. This includes lesson plans for classroom composition and learning sea shanties; workshops on graphic scores and elements of music; live concert performances and a children’s short biography of Gareth Wood.

“During the project, pupils study the story of ‘Sea Dogs – A Pirate Tail’, exploring how basic compositional techniques can be used to portray emotion, action and description, and how this relates to, and enhances, the content of a story. They then retell the story in their own words and compose their own version of the soundtrack.

“Based on the works of a living Welsh composer and a Welsh author, this project is strongly rooted in the Curriculum Cymreig, and will help to deliver the three areas of study for National Curriculum Music. In terms of Curriculum 2008, it has strong links with literacy, art, dance, drama and the completed composition can be performed in a school assembly, for other classes in the school and at school concerts.”

Francesca will narrate the story, which includes a ghostly cameo from legendary Welsh pirate Black Bart – Barti Ddu, at the Cathedral on September 27 and 28 – dressed as Captain Exmark’s grandmother.

“A couple of years ago we came up with First Dragon for the festival and it was hugely successful. Ty Cerdd wanted another fun piece for the St Asaph festival. I thought kids love dinosaurs and pirates and Ty Cerdd said let’s go with pirates.

“So I’ve included a foolish adult with a sensible child, Luke, who saves the day. I’m very pleased with the results, it’s full of puns and jokes,” said Francesca who runs writing workshops.

“I’m delighted to be part of the festival, it’s a fantastic event,” she said.

Gareth Wood, 61, who lives and works in London but still visits family living near his home village of Cilfynydd, is planning to visit the festival for the performance on September 27.

The former Pontypridd grammar school boy, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and became a member of the Royal Philharmonic, has had a stellar musical career.

“This is a jolly piece and I hope funny, it is quite tricky just working with brass, I had to be particularly inventive. I thoroughly enjoyed working on it, it was quite exciting and one of the most enjoyable experiences,” he said

And if you need to get into the mood for pirate stories, remember that September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Other highlights at the festival include the world premiere of a new work by the royal composer, Paul Mealor, who shot to global fame thanks to the sensational Royal wedding anthem he wrote for Prince William and Kate Middleton, and a concert by piano virtuoso Llyr Williams.

 The festival’s Artistic Director, Ann Atkinson, is a talented mezzo soprano in her own right and will again be among the singing stars this year. In addition, Mid-Wales Opera are going to be performing the Puccini favourite, Madam Butterfly.

North Wales International Music Festival, September 24-October 1, or ring 01745 584508 for tickets and information.

Street entertainers are big news

The World's tallest Town Cryer Martin Wood officially announces the start of Wrexham's Year of Culture Street Entertainment Festival Competition at  Eagles Meadow in Wrexham. Pictured: Martin Wood attracts the attention of a group of youngsters on their way to a party

Oyez, Oyez, competitors in a new street entertainers’ festival in North Wales are getting a big build up – from the world’s tallest town crier.

Their performances are being heralded by Shrewsbury town crier, or bellman, Martin Wood, who stands over 7ft 4ins tall and wears size 16 shoes.

He towered over shoppers at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre which is the main sponsor of Wrexham Year of Culture.

The prize for the entertainer who secures the most votes from the public will be to perform at the switch on of Wrexham’s Christmas lights in December 2011 and at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in July 2012.

According to Nicola Millar, a member of Wrexham County Borough Council’s Year of Culture team, the three day competition is proving a big hit with shoppers and visitors.

She said: “Eagles Meadow shopping centre is the principal Wrexham Year of Culture sponsor and we are delighted to be able to hold part of the Street Entertainers’ Festival within the shopping centre.

“The event is proving very popular and I would encourage shoppers to go along and see some of the performances.

“People can vote for their favourite act and the winners will be invited to perform at the Wrexham Christmas lights switch-on as well as earning a spot at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.”

Town Crier Martin Wood said: “Eagles Meadow is fabulous and the acoustics are amazing.  I would love to organise a town crier competition here as it would be a perfect venue. It’s a lovely setting and everyone is so very friendly.

“I really do like it a lot and rest assured I will be back. I am always thrilled to be asked to cry messages in different towns and cities and always enjoy coming to Wrexham.”

And Martin took time out to delight one young Chirk girl by crying out to shoppers that it was Yasmin Parkinson’s seventh birthday and getting the crowd to join in with a special rendition of Happy Birthday.

Yasmin’s mum, Keeley Parkinson, was delighted and said it had made her daughter’s birthday even more special.

She said: “I came to Eagles Meadow to take Yasmin and her friends to the Odeon Cinema to see The Smurfs. I was really surprised to see the town crier and thought he was brilliant.

“It’s lovely having something different on but to be fair there always seems to be something happening whenever I come to Eagles Meadow.”

Ellesmere Port duo, Out by Sunday, had the pleasure of being the street entertainers who got the festival underway.

Keyboard player and vocalist Luke Cusato, 16, and guitarist and vocalist Cal Thomson, 16, soon drew a crowd as they performed Beatles, Oasis and a number of mainstream songs.

Luke said: “We normally busk in Chester and play at the Queens Hotel Chester every Sunday morning so to get out to somewhere different like Eagles Meadow has been a real pleasure.

“It’s been brilliant and the shoppers have been fantastic. There is a really nice atmosphere and people have even stopped and applauded which is wonderful.”

Call added: “It has been stunning and every one has been so nice. We have been amazed how many people have stopped and took the time to fill out a voting form. It would be great to win but we have really enjoyed the experience whether we win or not.”

Rossett student Rachel Aspinall, 17, was one of those taking time out to fill out a voting form in favour of Out by Sunday.

She said: “It’s brilliant to see something different here at Eagles Meadow. I have spent a good half-an-hour just listening and enjoying the music of Out by Sunday. They are really good.

“I just think it’s nice to have something different that everyone can enjoy. There has been a great chilled-out atmosphere and I have really enjoyed it.”