ALTHOUGH I knew there had been a lot of interest in advance of the ‘Funding Advice Day’ I held at the Congress Theatre in Cwmbran earlier this month, it was still quite a shock to see people queuing down the stairs to the venue when I arrived.

In fact, more than 100 individuals from over 80 different local groups and organisations attended on the day, and we even had to make use of the theatre seating at one point simply to squeeze everyone in for the opening presentations.

With ten different funding providers on hand, including the Big Lottery Fund, Sport Wales, the Arts Council, and the Torfaen Voluntary Alliance, I witnessed lots of really positive discussions taking place about a wide range of potentially very exciting local projects.

A relative lack of support for communities like Torfaen is a criticism that’s been levelled at organisations like the Arts Council and the various lottery funding providers, so it was really refreshing to see them reaching out in this way and discussing the bidding process and the various pots of money that can be tapped into to support community projects and grassroots initiatives.

This is clearly more important than ever, given the cuts to local government funding we’ve seen as a result of Westminster imposed austerity, and for me it also demonstrated the range of really innovative and interesting ideas that stem from the clubs, societies and organisations, that can often be the lifeblood of local communities.

A number of constituents have contacted me since the event, requesting copies of a booklet my office produced in advance of the day, that has information and contact details for the funding providers who attended. If you’d like to request one, please contact my assistant Carys on or by calling my office in Pontypool on 01495 740022.

I’d also like to pay tribute to the fantastic team of staff and volunteers at the Congress Theatre, who were incredibly accommodating and helpful, both in advance, and in terms of ensuring things ran smoothly on the day, despite the high turnout.

The Congress Theatre are in the midst of a major fundraising drive themselves as they seek to embark on a much needed programme of refurbishment, and I would encourage local residents to pop in and find out more about the various ways in which they can support their local theatre.