I care passionately about the town and valley that I was born and brought up in. Through my working life I have had first hand experience of how local and national government have tried and failed to lift the status and outlook for our community. I have seen great people enter the ‘system’ and become jaded, tired then do the minimum until retirement. I have experienced lack of vision, drive, determination or desire to change things in the organisations that have been tasked with doing the opposite.
This is why I (along with Graham Marsh) set the Cynon Valley Party up. It was a chance to try and make a difference to our area. To try something new. To improve our lot.
I was born in Aberdare in 1971 to Dennis and Linda. Both grandfathers were coal miners. My mum worked as home help and a cleaner, my father as a painter and decorator. I had a sister, Lorraine, who sadly passed away in my arms at the age of 11 (I was 13). We lived in Penrhys, Fernhill, Trecynon and finally moved to my great grandfathers home in Oxford Street on the Gadlys when I was 5 years old. I lived in there until 2015. I now live on Bwllfa Road in Cwmdare.
I attended Comin infants and junior school and the Aberdare boys comprehensive. I left at 15 with 4 O’levels and some CSEs. I was not interested in sport at school, but developed a fixation with SCUBA diving and joined the local Sub Aqua Club at the age of 13. It was the year of the miners strike and I spent my formative years in the company of striking colliers, learning to swim, swear and shouting out ‘Scabs’ without really understanding what it was all about.
My working life started on £28.50 per week as a YTS painter & decorator, following in my fathers footsteps. Two years later I knew it was not for me. Finding a job was hard at 18 and I spent about a year ‘on the dole’ before taking a ‘commission only’ role at Legal & General. It was at L & G that I first considered my future, a career or training? I decided to try and chase a dream and work in TV or Radio. The careers service were no help and I took it upon myself to attend college and study electronics.
Two years studying Electronics at Aberdare ‘College of Knowledge’ opened my eyes to what I was capable of achieving. I was awarded student of the year and encouraged to further my education. I applied to Salford University for an Applied Acoustics course, but could not afford the transport, so did not attend the interviews. I ended up joining the Electronics Engineering course at the University of Glamorgan. At the end of the first year I was selected to undertake 2 degrees at the same time (BENG / MENG) and extend the course to 5 years. It meant a stint volunteering with groundwork RCT plus a year work placement at British Steel.
British Steel was the worst working environment I had encountered up to this point. In stark contrast to the volunteering at Groundwork, which changed my perception of the world for the better.
I returned to University but dropped out in my fourth year.
Through groundwork I started volunteering in the UK and abroad. It has continued through the rest of my life. I participated in Princes’ Trust Volunteers at Groundwork and was introduced to UNA Exchange. I was the first Welsh person to undertake EVS (European Voluntary Service) in France. I lived with other young people and undertook community work, learnt to speak French and developed as an individual. I spent time in Nepal putting solar panels on a village and monastery and in China planting saplings to curtail the encroaching Gobi dessert. I worked with UNA and Groundwork bringing hundreds of volunteers to our area each year to work on all kinds of meaningful projects.
I have an uninterrupted track record of volunteering with ‘Our Aberdare’, Town Twinning, and more recently as a school governor.
MY OWN BUSINESSES
While volunteering I really considered my future. In France I wrote my first business plan and returned to Wales where I applied for a Princes Trust grant and was refused (in favour of two guys who wanted to set up a burger van). I persisted and set up ‘Reaction’, an AV rental business, without any money or experience. It was difficult. Grants were being thrown around by the local authority and government, but I never had the ability or means to access them. I learned a lot with Reaction. I financed the business by working as a DJ in Aberdare Con Club. I was there for 12 years. From 1991 to 2003.
In July 2000, along with three others, I set up Tantrwm. Over 3 years the others left and Tantrwm became my sole responsibility. I quit being a DJ in 2003 and Tantrwm received the attention i needed to give it. That is when the business started developing into what it is today.
Since 2005 I have constantly employed people in the Cynon Valley. Reversing the ‘brain drain’ and not only creating interesting work for local people, but bringing in talent from outside the area. People travel in to the valley to work and not out of it.
Tantrwm has brilliant staff and is something that I am very proud of. We are privileged to work with some of the most recognisable organisations in the world and with the most fantastic minds at universities. The business has enabled me to meet and talk with visionary people that have implemented remarkable solutions to problems, or to make films about those who have overcome adversity and hardship.
I never really wanted kids. But then in 2014 I started a fantastic relationship with Dawn, who happened to have a 5 year old daughter. This was a transformational moment and gave me a new perspective on my life and the area I live.
We are a musical bunch and spend our time around the piano, guitar and clarinet, singing and enjoying all varieties of music together. From opera and musicals, to hip hop, grime, house, country and anything else that has a good melody or beat.
THE PROSPEROUS FUTURE
I see a bright future for the Cynon Valley. The CVP want to see the daily southerly exodus in cars and public transport reversed. Many public and private sector jobs can be accomplished from home or in town centre offices. 21st century businesses need to be encouraged and developed at new hubs throughout our valley. Town centres need re-focussing to really become the heart of our communities. Local authority ‘factory offices’ need to be closed and the employees re-housed in the towns.
It is wrong that there are no manned Police Stations in our valley or that there is no adequate youth provision for our young people.
These are things I am passionate about. I have national concerns as well about security, wealth, health, the environment and much more. But our area has gone too long being governed by a Party first approach. 100 year + of one party domination is a bad thing. If you do what you have always done you will get what you have always been given. And this is so true.
Please stand with me and make a change. Get involved. Help me create the future that we deserve.
Our area had riches in natural resources. That coal and iron was extracted from the valley and made other people and areas rich and prosperous. Today, our natural resources are our people. The residents, young people with dreams, older people with experience, and new people to the area with ambition. Do not let this new natural resource be exploited and dragged away as the coal and riches were in the past.
When coal is crushed for long and hard enough it becomes a diamond. I believe that today, we have been pressured for too long and too hard by too many external forces. It is time to break free from the manacles of a Labour legacy and set ourselves free. Create our own destiny and lead others in changing this valley for the better. It starts at home and it starts now! It is time for this valley to become that hardened diamond. Resilient, strong, valued, desired, our future.