Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Coopers Cafe - Trevethin

Opening Cooper's Cafe in Trevethin

On July 5th we went up to Trevethin to open a new cafe! :)

From the council press release:

A brand new cafĂ© enterprise has established in Trevethin. Luan Haynes from Cwmbran has opened Coopers in the Bron Afon enterprise premises and has already built up a strong local following. Serving teas, coffees and breakfasts, Luan’s business should prove to be a great addition to the already established businesses in Trevethin shopping centre. Supported by Torfaen Country Borough Council Economy and Enterprise and Communities First Luan is looking to embed the business within the local community there.

Richard Murphy Communities First Business Development officer “Luan’s whole focus has been to get to know the local community and people in Trevethin and to provide a service there. This is a venture which is very much community based and the local people and shopkeepers have welcomed Luan to the area and this is a business which hopefully will thrive in the coming months and years. Once again, great to be involved with a person with so much drive, enthusiasm and passion to succeed”

Executive member for communities, housing and anti-poverty, Councillor David Daniels said: “It is great to see yet another business launch in the enterprise suites in Trevethin, working in partnership with the council. Torfaen Economy and Enterprise and Communities First teams both do a fantastic job in supporting those enterprising residents, looking to turn an idea into reality."

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15 Seconds of Fame - find me in the press

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. 

Here is a masterlist of my contributions for the week:

Day #1 - Words of Validation.

Day #2 - The Muses.

 Day #3 - Small But Mighty.

☆ Day #4 - The Devil's in the Details.

☆ Day #5 - Verbatim.

☆ Day #6 - Unsung Heroes.

☆ Day #7 - Spread the Word.

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Monday, 24 July 2017

Fic Writers Week Day #7

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. Find out more at my masterpost.

The task for day seven is...

Spread the Word! Today’s task for @ficwritersweek is to self-rec some of your favourite things you’ve written. 

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Henllys Village Nursery Graduation Ceremony

Henllys Village Nursery Graduation Ceremony - image from south wales argus

On Monday I went to the cutest event ever - a graduation ceremony at Henllys Village Nursery. They even wore tiny little caps and gowns! There was another ceremony on Tuesday, so I took Marianna to that one as she didn't have playgroup. She was absolutely transfixed by it. :)

The South Wales Argus covered Monday's ceremony:

MINIATURE mortarboards were thrown into the air by the departing pupils of a Torfaen nursery school at their graduation ceremony. Now in its eighth year, Henllys Village Nursery honours its outgoing pupils by holding a university-style celebration, even if the children are preparing for the next step of their educational adventure. 

Dressed in purple gowns and matching caps, the first of three ceremonies was held at the nursery on this morning, with parents and other relatives in attendance. It was the first of the three ceremonies of graduating pre-schoolers at Henllys Village Nursery. 

Stacey Russell, the head of pre-school, said: “It is a proud day for all of us at the nursery, as well as for the children and their relatives. Many of the children have been here with us since they were babies and have grown up right before our eyes. It has been a great experience working with them.” 

Each of the 36 children leaving the nursery took part in the graduation ceremony, and the pupils sang a farewell song before throwing their caps aloft.

“It is just a great way for the nursery to show off the children’s achievements with the graduation ceremony before they move onto big school,” added Mrs Russell. “They are moving onto their next steps in their school lives, as we’ve seen them grow from infants into the little darlings which they are. We were fortunate with the weather this year and the first of the three ceremonies has been lovely.” 

The children received their certificates from the Mayor of Torfaen, Cllr Jessica Powell, who praised the children on their achievements and labelled the ceremony as one of the most adorable things she has ever seen.

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15 Seconds of Fame - find me in the press

Friday, 21 July 2017

Fic Writers Week Day #5

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. Find out more at my masterpost.

The task for day five is...

Verbatim. Writers: Share your favourite quotes from your fics - There’s always those passages that you’re the most proud of writing. This prompt is so you can proudly showcase them to your readers!

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Fic Writers Week Day #4

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. Find out more at my masterpost.

The task for day four is...

The devil's in the details. Writers: Highlight details you put into your work - Foreshadowing? External reference? Show off some subtle details you’ve included in your fics that readers might have missed!

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fic Writers Week Day #3

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. Find out more at my masterpost.

The task for day three is...

Writers: Highlight your new/underrated fics - Have a story you’re proud of but that you wish had gotten more attention? Just published a fic and want people to see it? This day is the perfect chance to talk about them!

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Fic Writers Week Day #2

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. Find out more at my masterpost.

The task for day two is...

The Muses. Create some extra content based on one of your fics.

Rather than inflict my terrible attempts at art on the world, I figured I’d do something a little different. My favourite of all the fics I’ve written this year was a WW2 AU. Here’s some of the background history to explain how it all worked…

Overpaid, Oversexed, [Overfed] and Over Here! 

I loosely set the fic in my own area of the country, which was one of two initial reception points for US troops. Those guys became the 8th Air Force and like the RAF (Royal Air Force) and other air units were well regarded. The problems began when the trickle of Americans became a flood of untrained GIs in 1942, stationed in camps around the city and private billets across the South Wales Valleys. They then proceeded to do not a lot of anything but clash with locals until they shipped out in June ‘44 on the ill fated D-Day Landings in Normandy. (About 10,000 allied troops lost their lives.)

The issue was mostly culture clash. Britain was boring and dowdy, and here were tens of thousands of young men with too much time on their hands and too much money in their pockets. US wages were way higher than British, and GIs were earning three times as much as their British counterparts. Most of it went on drink and womanising, what with there not being a whole lot else to do in a country that had been at ‘total war’ since 1939, and many a miserable Tommy came home on leave to find his girl had been stepping out with a yank who could shower her with imported chocolate and nylon stockings - all but impossible to get on the legitimate British market. It didn’t really help that the school leaving age in the UK at the time was 14 - young girls’ heads were easily turned by smart US uniforms and their seemingly endless supply of ready cash, and irate parents were incensed when it transpired they had been meeting up with GIs who invariably thought them years older.

Careless Talk Costs Lives

To cater for GIs local dance halls and recreation centres began segregating for the first time. Most of the troops stationed locally were from the small town south and the long arm of Jim Crow meant white GIs outright refused to socialise with black soldiers. Girls who danced with African American servicemen would be shunned or even turned away from white dance nights, and the ‘vulgar’ love of jitterbugging aside, as a result African American troops were generally regarded as politer and better behaved than their white counterparts. (In 1943 an American Red Cross report claimed that if GIs behaved the way they did in the UK back home, most of them would be in gaol. Officially they committed 26 murders, 31 manslaughters and 126 rapes - for which 18 GIs were hanged at the US Military Prison in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.) All the same, at the end of the war thousands of mixed-race babies were sent to orphanages in the US because fathers were either unwilling or unable to marry the girls they had got iton trouble. Because although c. 70,000 British girls married GIs, the US army made it as difficult as possible. Eventually around 30,000 went to the US as War Brides and one can only imagine how many more women were a little vague about the conception dates of babies who didn’t quite resemble their fathers!

With their easy access to food and lack of familiarity with £sd GIs also became the targets of the less scrupulous. Everywhere they went off base gangs of schoolkids trailed after them, thwarting their attempts to get girls alone and asking for pennies and sweets (‘any gum, chum?’); the latter were strictly on the ration and would remain so until 1953. In fact just about everything was on the ration - meat, eggs, dairy, clothing, petrol, furniture - my granddad always used to tell us stories about how he and his schoolfriends would break into the stores on one of the camps to nick food and cigarettes. Another favourite trick was offering to go to the shops for GIs, then confusing them as to how much change they were actually due because 20 shillings or 240 pence to a pound meant little to guys brought up on the decimal system. After they left overnight in ‘44 the camps were looted by kids and spivs (black marketeers). My great nan was using US army cutlery and whatnots into the 1960s. :) 

Cardiff Blitz
An Anderson shelter remains standing after a direct hit to a residential street during the Cardiff Blitz.

Overall there was an uneasy relationship with the ‘friendly invaders’. The Brits knew they couldn’t win the war without intervention, were grateful for the troops who were willing to do their bit, but at the same time it rankled awfully that GIs were apparently sitting about twiddling their thumbs when the bulk of the eligible local population was off overseas fighting. The shadow of WW1 loomed over it all - a war the US had been seen to grudgingly give its support to, but which 1/6 of the British population fought in and 1/40 died in. From the troops point of view, they had been promised action and adventure. Instead they spent two years in the dreary rain, waiting for something to happen… 

Policing in War Time 

On the outbreak of war in ‘39 the police lost the core of their manpower to the enlistment drive. To plug the gap more women were accepted onto the Force, along with the reinstatement of retired officers and the swearing in of some 17,000 WRCs - War Reserve Constables - the most famous of which was the serial killer John Christie who would go on to be hanged for his crimes in 1953. There were also volunteer special constables made up of men in reserved occupations.

Alongside regular duties, police were expected to assist the Civil Defence Service to enforce the nightly blackout, oversee evacuations and help ARP (Air Raid Precautions) wardens to get the public off the streets when the siren sounded. (About 3.5 million households had Anderson shelters in their gardens, and there were a further 500,000 Morrison shelters - reinforced cages you could sleep in - in use in private homes, but many relied on communal public shelters.) Everyone was volunteering somewhere for the war effort on top of their day jobs: in the fic I specifically talk about the Home Guard (‘dad’s army’, a volunteer fighting force consisting primarily of men too young, old or infirm to join the forces) and the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service, largely made up of housewives) who organized the evacuation of children out of the big cities, ran mobile canteens, and distributed clothing parcels shipped over by the American Red Cross to people who had been bombed out of their houses.

Policing in War Time

Crime rose sharply during the war. Looting was a major problem in areas hit by bombing, and black market profiteering took up a great deal of police time. Juvenile delinquency was on the increase, no doubt assisted by parents who were away at war or out at work / volunteering, and gangs of boys roamed the streets creating mischief. (Naturally the same granddad I mentioned earlier was well known to local constables. My great nan would give them a spiel every time he was brought home about how he was an angel who was being unfairly persecuted, then give him a good hiding as soon as they were gone for being a disobedient little blighter!) Ration fraud was also widespread, in spite of heavy fines for those who were caught.

The blackout created the perfect atmosphere for assault and sexual offences - as well as public indecency, meaning police spent a lot of cold miserable nights shining torches into unused air raid shelters and moving on would be lovers. Other tasks included capturing deserters and keeping tabs on would be conspirators. A local woman was sentenced to six weeks hard labour for the ‘abominable’ action of exchanging love letters with an Italian POW (prisoner of war) working on a nearby farm in 1943. Crimes involving GI perpetrators were dealt with by the military police, and the US army tried offenders under US law - for example 6 GIs were executed for rape between 1943 and 1945 even though it wasn’t a capital offence in the UK.

Demobilisation of military personnel was painfully slow and the police force continued to rely on WRCs until the end of 1948, while crime inevitably surged and lurid murders filled the headlines. Food rationing continued until 1954, meaning the black market remained a huge timesink, and derelict bombsites provided handy dumping grounds. In the mid-1950s the economy finally began to pick up and by 1957 Prime Minister Macmillan could tell the country: you ‘have never had it so good’…

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Monday, 17 July 2017

Fic Writers Week Day #1

Fic Writers Week 2017

Fic Writers Week is an initiative over on Tumblr to celebrate fandom - the writers who create all that free content, and the readers who consume it. Find out more at my masterpost.

The task for day one is...

Writers: favourite comments - There’s always those comments that stick, the ones that help you push through a story or personal favourites that you just have to reread from time to time. Writers, this is the day to share some of those!

Comments mean so much because they inspire you to keep writing, to carry on pouring time and effort into this hobby over others, and they help create a sense of community within fandom. I got back into fandom last year after about 2 years away and there is no doubt that it had changed. But the squee and the encouragement I got through comments made me still feel a part of it, even though I’m not the type to be on discord or chat.

So far this year I’ve written about 500,000 words of fic and it’s been amazing stress relief from the most hectic year I’ve ever lived through, workwise. Much of that has been the result of interacting in comments, getting prompts, or fandom exchanges - something kind of based around comment culture.

I’ve also made it my mission to comment on the stuff I consume, rather than just hitting the kudos / like button. I know how it can brighten my day to get a comment, even if it’s just a little line to say ‘I liked this’.

Still, the task is to pick a favourite, so I’ll go with the email I received about 7 years ago now. I was mostly writing teen fiction at the time, coming out and coming of age, etc, and a young lad wrote to me to say it had given him the courage to come out to his parents. I’ve still got a copy of it somewhere, and it still makes me smile even now. I’ve always viewed my fic as disposable - like the 'sting in the tale’ in a magazine, something you read once and then throw away - but somewhere out there is someone who read and re-read and made a huge decision based on something I wrote.

That’s pretty amazing!

You can find a mirror of this post on Tumblr.

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Trolley Free

this is a trolley free zone

We went out this morning with Bron Afon's neighbourhood caretaker team to deliver a new poster to help tackle abandoned trolleys. It has been a longstanding problem in Cwmbran - we're sadly renowned as one of the worst areas in the UK for it - and Northville is a particular hotspot. In one day alone 229 abandoned trolleys were counted around the estate.

Everyone knows why it happens: a high concentration of supermarkets in a small area, easy pedestrian access, and the low car ownership among residents. What is more difficult is coming up with a workable solution to the problem.

Trolleywise collection service work with a number of the stores, and have just signed a contract with Morrisons which will hopefully have a big impact over the coming weeks. The Bron Afon leaflet lists contact information for Cwmbran stores, or you can also use the Trolleywise app to report trolleys for Asda and Morrisons.

We had a pretty good response on the doorstep, and walking back we saw that a few people had already put the poster up in their windows. Fingers crossed it will have a positive impact!

Bron Afon trolley poster

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Out and About in Torfaen

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pontypool Town Educational Digital Resource

Pontypool Town Educational Digital Resource

I was up at Pontypool Museum this morning for the launch of the Pontypool Town Educational Digital Resource - otherwise known as the Townscape Heritage Initiative Educational Resource. That's a bit of a mouthful but, basically, it's a new online tool for schools, students, and anybody else interested in the history of Pontypool.

The base of activity is the website - - which has a page for each module or topic. These include Pontypool Town Centre, Pontypool Park and The Hanbury Family, Pontypool and Japanware, Pontypool Market, Pontypool Townscape Heritage Initiative, and 21st Century Pontypool. Each module is supported with worksheets, downloadable resources, digital heritage trails (which have their own app), and online games. I particularly like the town jigsaw and the Georgian or Victorian? architecture games! :)

Georgian or Victorian architectural Features Game

The other great feature is that alongside the teaching guides and suggested activities are a wealth of copyright free primary sources available to download, ranging from maps to historical photographs. Obviously these will support learning, but can also serve as the basis for arts and crafts projects both in and out of school.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Canadian Cops in Miniature

RCMP in Miniature

The bulk of Canadian policing is provided by RCMP - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - who are known the world over for their distinctive dress uniform. This post looks at the available miniatures in 1/6 scale.

Action Man Canadian Mounted Police

Action Man never could resist a dashing uniform! Introduced as part of the star reward scheme in 1968, the uniform was also available as a regular uniform set until the early 1980s before being re-released as part of Action Man's 40th Anniversary collection. For more info and lots of pictures, check out the Action Man HQ page. Geyper Man, Spain's answer to the man of action, also had a RCMP uniform of his own in 1975.

GI Joe Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Meanwhile GI Joe, Action Man's transatlantic cousin, was also getting in on the Mountie action. In 1966 Simpsons-Sears started stocking the figure above as a Canadian exclusive. (This version was sold concurrently with the Action Men of the World window box version, presumably depending on packaging availability.) There's an awesome article at Collectorville detailing the full history of this figure.

Mountie GI Joe rode again in 1976 as both a dressed figure and via a carded uniform set (also available as Action Team releases - figureuniform).

Barbie as a Canadian Mountie

Barbie has had two stints as a Mountie, first in 1987 as part of the Dolls of the World collection, then again in 2012 - as pictured above. If you're looking for a Ken to partner up with her, Ninimomo offer a fabulous OOAK version.

Dragon John Steele RCMP Figure

Dragon releases a RCMP figure - 'John Steele' - in May 2003.

RCMP Country 13 inch Porcelain Doll

This souvenir porcelain doll is not quite strictly 1/6 scale, but at 13" tall he's close enough for inclusion. Mascot Custom Character Products Inc also produced a 'RCMP Elite' 18" female porcelain doll. As you might expect with such an iconic look, there are numerous vintage porcelain, cloth, and plastic costume dolls (and teddies!) of various sizes depicting Mounties - some may even have hats or accessories worth nicking for 1/6 scale figures.

Breyer RCMP Horse

Another 'honourable mention' for this officially RCMP licensed Breyer horse in 1/9 scale. It's musical and everything.

The 1/10 scale Madelman had a Mountie release (regular box and picture box), and when Palitoy reinvented him as 'Little Big Man' for the UK market in the mid 1970s he got his own pony to go on Mountie Patrol.

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Policing in Miniature

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Blogger Q&A

Blogger Q and A Tag

☆ When was the last time you cried? 

The other day when I was feeling ill. :(

☆ If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?

I like to think so, but we might just be too similar!

☆ Do you use sarcasm a lot?

It may be the lowest form of wit but yes. Yes, I do.

☆ What's the first thing you notice about people?

Their eyebrows. Seriously!

☆ Scary Movie or Happy Ending?

Why not both?

☆ Favourite smells?

Creosote. Mmmm...

☆ What's the furthest you've ever been from home?

Turkey. So about 2,000 miles.

☆ Do you have any special talents?

Does sleeping count?

☆ Where were you born?

County Hospital in Griffithstown, back in the days when it still had its maternity wards.

☆ What are your hobbies?

Blogging, comping, short story writing, and collecting doll house miniatures.

☆ What did you want to be when you grew up?

Rich. Or, failing that, a famous author. There's still time...

☆ How many countries have you been to?

Not many. I've never had the two necessary elements - money and time - in the same window of opportunity! So it's about 6 or 7.

☆ What was your favourite / worst subject at school?

My favourite was History or German, depending on the year, while my least favourite could have been about ten different subjects. I was probably worst at games / P.E. though. I had absolutely no interest in anything that wasn't classroom based.

☆ What is your favourite drink?

Strawberry milkshake, always and forever.

☆ What would you (or have you) named your children?

I named my daughter Marianna because it's pretty, and Iris after my nan. If I'd had a boy I liked the name Robin.

☆ Who are some of your favourite Youtubers?

I don't really know any to be honest. I just search for things as and when, rather than follow particular vlogs.

☆ How many boyfriends have you had?

I dunno, not that many. 5 or 6 that were serious-ish, then lots of guys I just hooked up with.

☆ Favourite memory from childhood?

Playing on the beach in Cornwall.

☆ How would you describe your fashion sense?

It used to be really quirky, but these days it's just dowdy. Hopefully when I'm feeling a little fitter and healthier I'll be more into it again.

☆ Tell us one of your bad habits.

Letting clutter build up on my desk until I can't even see the surface...

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blog tags, memes and challenges

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Torfaen Family Information Service

Torfaen Family Information Service

Torfaen Family Information Service is something you might not have heard of before, but once you've checked them out you'll wish you had known about them sooner! They provide free and impartial information on childcare (providers, careers, and tax credits / vouchers), services and activities for children, young people and families (including parents-to-be) in Torfaen.

The website - - is crammed with useful information about local childcare providers, explanations of the early years curriculum and its delivery, as well as things for kids to do in Torfaen from a listing of sports clubs to support groups for children with additional needs. If you have children it's well worth following FIS on social media as they post regular information on what's going on in the area - especially the free and the inclusive.

Probably the best thing about the FIS however is that they can tailor their information to your inquiry. If you send them an email at they can send you an info pack back to you via email or post, or you can give them a ring on the freephone number 0800 0196 330 - the phones are staffed during office hours, and there is a 24 hour answer machine service.

Alternatively, you can speak to someone face to face at the Cwmbran Integrated Children's Centre, based on the Nant Celyn school site on Ton Road.

Find out more at or connect with them on social media via:

Link to Torfaen FIS Facebook page. Link to Torfaen FIS Twitter account

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Out and About in Torfaen

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Unique Boutique Salon - Beauty at Furley's

Beauty at Furley's Open Evening

Since becoming Mayor I've been invited to all kinds of different events, but one of the more glam was definitely an open evening for Beauty at Furley's! (There was even a topless waiter who you can kind of see in shot there. Definitely a change of pace from the usual Mayoral engagement!)

Leanne Furley is a hair and make-up artist, beauty therapist and nail technician - she even managed to work my own nails into a condition that has had people complimenting them. I literally cannot remember the last time that happened. It was before Marianna came along, I know that much.

Beauty at Furley's

The open evening was to celebrate Leanne making Unique Boutique Salon her new operating base, offering everything from prom and bridal hair / make-up through to tanning treatments and acting as a rep for Timeless Truth face masks. Check out the full range:

Beauty at Furley's price list

A huge thank you to Leanne for inviting me - and raising some funds for my Mayoral charities with a raffle! It was super appreciated and I had a great time. I hope the business only continues to go from strength to strength. :)

See more of Leanne's work over on her blog - - or connect with her on social media via: 
link to Beauty at Furley's instagram profile Link to Beauty at Furley's Twitter account

Unique Boutique Salons

The salon itself is also a recent venture, located on Llantarnam Industrial Estate in Cwmbran. The idea behind it is simple yet kind of genius - although they have some staff based full time in the salon, the space is available to be rented out by the hour to mobile hairdressers, beauticians and nail technicians. This might mean having a regular slot to see particular clients, or a more one-off arrangement enabling them to work with a larger number of people than they would otherwise be able to.

It's a gorgeous salon, and the location means there is plenty of parking and scope for early and late opening too. Read more about the details of how it works HERE, or find out more via Facebook and Twitter.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Torfaen People's Panel

Torfaen People's Panel

The Torfaen People's Panel is all about having your say on the issues which matter to you.

It's a consultative panel of people living in Torfaen and aims to give local people a chance to have their say about public services and life in the Borough. The idea is for it to be broadly typical of Torfaen's population in terms of gender, ethnicity and geography - so we need people of all ages from all across the borough to sign up if we want it to be truly representative!

Panel members will have the chance to take part in:

  • Surveys: members will be invited to respond to postal questionnaires, telephone or internet surveys.
  • Workshops: members will be invited to participate in community workshops.
  • Scrutiny: members will be able to examine local issues in detail by listening to information from public officers and then discussing their views in light of what they have heard in order to advise how local public/voluntary bodies should deliver their services.
  • Focus groups: smaller groups of members will be able to get together to explore a specific issue in depth.
  • As well as taking part in 'observational studies' or working with Public Service Officers on specific projects. 

You can pick and choose what you want to take part in - over time there will be a range and choice of activities and topics to suit different members of the Panel. Your contribution will then help inform the decisions made by the council, the police, voluntary organisations and the local health sector.

If that was all a bit TL;DR, TCBC has even put together this nifty video to explain it better:

If you're interested in having your say and making a difference, you can register online or email for more information. If you would like a form to be posted to you, you can again email or ring 01495 766475.

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Out and About in Torfaen

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