HAPPY NEW YEAR: As this is my first news column of 2008, may I start this week by wishing all the Grassroots readers a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

I really don't know where 2007 went, I hope the pace of 2008 is a little slower - or is that just a sign of getting older?

Already there are major changes ahead for the Valley towns of Blaenau Gwent.

Over the Christmas period in Blaina, a 200-year-old church was demolished to make way for the possibility of building two houses on the land where it stood for all those years.

The Congregational United Reform Church was opened in the June of 1886 as a successor to the old church on River Row.

We have the promise of the renewal of the train service from the Heads of the Valleys enabling the neighbouring residents to travel to the cities of Newport and Cardiff.

Blaenau Gwent now has its very own Community Radio Station - BRfm on 97.3fm - helping to bring the communities of Brynmawr and the surrounding areas together.

We no longer have the 'Works' in Ebbw Vale. I am, of course, referring to the demolished site of the steel works that gave so many jobs over the years to the Valley inhabitants.

Instead we are promised the new hospital and learning campus, bringing more job prospects to Blaenau Gwent.

We look forward to seeingthese projects come to fruition in this coming year.

We have looked back into the pages of history for long enough, let us now look forward to what we can achieve by working in partnership with each other.

CRIME PREVENTION: Brynmawr, Nantyglo and Blaina Crime Prevention Panel is appealing for volunteers to join the existing panel members to work in partnership with the local police and help make our communities safer and better places in which to live and work.

If you care about what happens in your community, or maybe you are unhappy about certain issues, then why not come along to the regular meetings held locally and join your local crime prevention panel.

Many community events are planned with lots of advice on keeping your homes, property and your families safe.

Maybe you were not aware that Brynmawr, Nantyglo and Blaina had a Crime Prevention Panel - wellyou are now.

Many other Valley towns also have crime prevention panels. So why not give your local Crime And Disorder Reduction Officer (Cadro) a call now and come along to the next meeting. Brynmawr has a new Cadro and he is PC 560 Wayne Roberts, based at Brynmawr Police Station, his direct number is 01495 232384.

It's no good sitting at home grumbling about issues of concern, you have an opportunity to get involved and work together to solve some of those issues.

So give PC Roberts a ring and come along to our next panel meeting - I'll see you there.

WELSH PROMS: Have you got a voice that will give Kathryn Jenkins a run for her money? Or do you have the musical talent that could put the BBC National Orchestra to shame? If so here is your opportunity to further your musical career.

Budding Welsh musicians are being sought in Blaenau Gwent to perform in the Welsh Proms.

Lloyds TSB has launched its latest search for aspiring young musicians and singers throughout Wales.

The winning prize will include a performance at this year's Welsh Proms being held in Cardiff.

Secondary schools are being invited to submit a short instrumental or choral musical recording performed by pupils and as well as performing in the Welsh Proms, you could also have the chance of winning £1,000 for your school and 50 complimentary tickets for the performance.

If your schools interested in getting involved, then you will have to register your interest by Friday, February 1, and then submit a musical recording by Thursday, March 20.

Shortlisted entries will be asked to perform at St David's Hall in May, when the winning artists will be selected.

To find out more information please contact Lydia Spooner or Alex Love on 02920 545370 or e-mail lspooner@freshwater-uk.com.

LOCAL ARTISTS' EXHIBITION: The launch of an exhibition of the work of local artists took place on Friday, January 11, at Pontypool Museum and will be open to the public until March 31 from 10am until 4pm weekdays and from 2pm until 5pm at weekends.

Admission costs £2 with free admission on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

The exhibition addresses subjects such as social, political and theological conditioning, as well as wider global issues and current affairs in new and innovative ways to provoke food for thought.

The collection is entitled Heretik and will be on show at the Oriel Gallery in Pontypool Museum.

This exhibition brings together three Blaenau Gwent artists namely, Debbie Lear; Jason Hoffman and Kevin Rowlands.

For further information please contact Pontypool Museum on 01495 752036 or e-mail pontypoolmuseum@hotmail.com CONGRATULATIONS: Brynmawr Comprehensive School was recently described as a very successful school by Estyn inspectors.

The report recognised the school's exceptional exam results over the past two years.

The results are above average for schools of a similar type in Wales and are well above average locally.Well done Brynmawr.

TIME TO SHAPE UP: Ok, it's time to put away those chocolates and think about those extra pounds you put on over the holiday period.

Orchard Street Community Centre, Brynmawr, can help you get back into shape with their fitness classes on Monday evenings starting at 6.30pm with aerobics and conditioning.

This is followed by water aerobics (if you've got any breath left) at 8pm in Nantyglo Leisure Centre.

This is great for arthritic problems and rehab therapy. Every Wednesday at 6.30pm is body equation step aerobics, arm and stomach conditioning (this is at Orchard Street Centre and not in the pool at Nantyglo though).

Call Andrea Smith on 01495 290222 for further details.

IT'S PANTO TIME: Nantyglo and Blaina Town Council is once again bringing a traditional fun packed pantomime for all the family, and this year it is Jack and the Beanstalk.

The venue is Nantyglo Leisure Centre and it takes place on Saturday, January 19, at 2pm.

Entrance fee is £3.50 and tickets are available from the town council offices, the Communities First Shop in Nantyglo and at Nantyglo Leisure Centre.

WELSH CLASSES: Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd! Or Happy New Year to you all if you do not happen to converse in Welsh!

Now is your chance to learn with the family as Cymraeg i'r Teulu (Welsh for the Family) takes place at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynmawr.

This is a ten-week course and it began on Tuesday, January 8, from 9.30am until 11am.

You can book your place by calling Brynmawr Learning Action Centre on 01495 355595.

If this all seems a bit much for you and you would like just a taster session then you can go along to Llanhilleth Institute for their ten-week course starting on Wednesday, January 23, between 1pm and 3pm.Just call 01495 354674.Pob Lwc.

CRIME PREVENTION QUIZ: The annual All-Wales Police School Liaison Crime Prevention Quiz organised by Gwent Police is well under way.

The local round took place in five venues around Gwent and involved 27 secondary school Year 8 pupils, all competing for a place in the regional round and representing not only their school but also their local authority.

The five winning schools from the local round will be competing against each other on Thursday, January 31, at West Mon School.

These schools are: Tredegar Comprehensive School, from Blaenau Gwent; King Henry VIII, Abergavenny; Newbridge Comprehensive School, Caerphilly; St Julian's School, Newport, and Fairwater High School Cwmbran.

The pupils have had to learn about all aspects of crime prevention, keeping safe, ages in law, the highway code and general knowledge.

This quiz reinforces the work already being undertaken in the classrooms by the school liaison police officers who deliver the core programme to all schools in Gwent.

The heat is really on for the regional round and it is expected to be very tight competition, as the winning team will not only take back the winners' trophy, plaque and certificates but will go on to represent Gwent in the all-Wales national final in Cardiff over Wednesday, February 27, and Thursday, February 28.I'll keep you informed on the results.

Have a good week.