SONGS AT THE STUTE: Wednesday, March 12 saw the opening evening show at Llanhilleth Institute since the renovation.

It featured singer/songwriter Cheryl Beer, who has just completed a 10-day residency within the area at St Illtyd's Community First Ward.

Cheryl worked with several community groups, as well as schoolchildren, after school clubs, youth clubs and individuals, to create new songs based on their experiences and loves.

The event was held in intimate surroundings, subtly lit, which enhanced the feeling of the occasion. Altogether there were 97 participants, ages ranging from five years of age to 80 plus and the audience also consisted of youngsters from around five years old up to and including senior citizens'.

The show kicked off with The Heartbeat of the Village', a song about the Institute clock which has long since stopped working, but which at one time played a part in everyone's lives.

This was followed by the rousing Slow Worm Train', which was inspired by the slow worms which have delayed the opening of the train service to Cardiff.

Mummy Says' was written by two five-year-olds from the After School Club, and Cheryl was accompanied by two young ladies - one playing the piano (who had never played piano until the previous evening) from the After School Club, and the other who sang vocals during the chorus who was from the Youth Club - they thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as did the rest of us.

Love From Across the Valley' told the story of lasting love, experienced by ladies at the coffee morning at St Mark's.

Play Hard in the Play Yard' was written with the help of Year 4 pupils at St Illtyd's School - sadly only one young lady from the class turned up to accompany Cheryl on stage - but she was great.

The second half started with Friends' a funky campaign song written with the help of The Friends of Christchurch, who do such sterling work fund-raising for Christchurch.

Two songs were inspired by the Ladies Group, who meet in Aberbeeg Community Flat, where Cheryl was based.

The songs were varied, ranging from The Phantom Chap' - our local ghost on Cwm Road - and Internet Dating'. The River Care Group helped create The River Rangers' song which was written at a cheese and wine party the previous evening - it certainly sounded as if they'd all had a great time, and was a real toe-tapper.

The chorus of No More Broken Promises' was written by the Home Start Project, with each verse being inspired by different individuals, two of whom were Bill and Linda Koncowoj, and Linda sang the chorus with Cheryl.

The evening came to a close with The Play Bus, where members of the audience were given a variety of percussion instruments to bang, shake and rattle along with.

Cheryl also sang a hymn, which features on Allan Yn Y Fan's new album Belonging, which was written with the help of The Friends of Christchurch.

The whole evening included, a lot of humour and a fair amount of singing for those of us in the audience, as we joined in many of the choruses.

Interspersed with the community songs were numbers from Cheryl's new album, entitled Skinny Muffin', yet to be released - look out for it.

The project was funded by Communities First Music Trust Fund and the ACW's Night Out scheme together with BGCBC.

Not only was it an enjoyable evening, but the thrill for those taking part hearing their own experiences sung about on stage, and knowing that they had contributed some of the lyrics, let alone performing, made it a night of memories that will last a lifetime.

MUSIC FUNDING: The Communities First Music Trust Fund has been created specifically to support any group with an interest in music.

So if your group needs helps purchasing new instruments, or would even like to attend a performance, they may be eligible for one of the grants available.

Contact your local Communities First officers to find out more.

GOODBYE GREEN GYM: The BTCV Blaenau Gwent Green Gym and Healthy Living Project Bows out: The Members of the Green Gym who have been actively volunteering and working with partner organisations were guests of honour last week at Roseheyworth Millennium School.

Volunteers were invited to a special school assembly and reception, as the school community and Green Gymers celebrated the success over three years of setting up an allotment and healthy living programme in the grounds of the school.

Old and young have worked alongside each other, as in the beginning pupils did some of the heavy work that the Green Gymers would have found difficult, while the latter shared their knowledge of horticulture with the pupils and maintained the allotment.

In some ways it was a sad day, because as the National Lottery Funding has finished, the BTCV Green Gym will no longer meet . . . but this project was just one example of the many diverse ways the Green Gym has contributed and worked with local communities, from our work with the Owl Sanctuary at Festival Park - which has included building owl cages to maintaining the willow snake, and on occasion the group even fed the birds! - to our litter picking on the Turkey Trot at Six Bells and our involvement in community summer arts projects with Communities First . . . to providing Smoothies to the residents of Crawshay House in Brynmawr . . . to our nature walks and "Easter Bunny Trail" with Roseheyworth Community Woodlands.

Our programme has been diverse and imaginative over the years and this was depicted in our "Community Canvass", that was created from work entered by six communities as part of our third birthday celebrations.

So the visit to the school and the special assembly was a celebration of so many of these projects, many of which the school community had had some involvement with over the years.

It was also a special day, as it marked the handing over the project to the school, so they could continue developing the project that the Green Gym had initiated and developed.

Following the assembly, commemorative gifts were given on both sides.

The Green Gym were given a special reception by the year three class, which included a commemorative cake and entertainment from pupils with card tricks.

It was a very special day for all those concerned.

The Green Gym and its members would like to take this opportunity to thank all those have contributed and worked with the project over the years.

STRUT YOUR STUFF!: Street dancing classes are being held at Ebenezer Chapel every Monday from 5.30pm-6.30pm.

The classes are open to anyone aged between four and 12 years of age. The sessions cost 50p for half an hour and £1 for the full hour. The first half hour tends to be easier than the second.

Places are limited so you will need to book your place. Call Abbie or Liama, on (01495) 321771, or speak to Rachel in the Communities First Office.

FREE CLUB: Abertillery and District Museum, with the support of Communities First, have started running a free monthly Saturday club. The club is open to those between the ages of 8-11.

There are fun activities, such as dressing up as an evacuee for the day, cooking and much more. Snacks are provided.

The next few dates are: 29 March, 26 April, 31 May and 28 June However, places are limited, so children must be pre-booked.

Please contact Don Bearcroft on (01495) 211140 for information.

EASTER DISCO: There's a disco for under 12s at the Lymes Club, on Sunday, 30 March, 2pm-4pm. Entry is £1.25 per child and under 8s must be accompanied by an adult.

There will be an Easter Hat competition and an Easter Bunny Hunt, as well as the usual raffle.