In 2019 Montgomery received a plaque as a gift from Hungary, in celebration of János Arany being conferred with the posthumous Honorary Freemanship of Montgomery, acknowledging the connection of the Hungarian National Poet with the town. In 1857 Arany was asked to write a poem of praise for the visit of Franz Josef I of the repressive Austro-Hungarian regime. Instead, he wrote an allegorical poem detailing the imagined slaughter of 500 Bards at a banquet at Montgomery Castle for refusing to sing the praises of the tyrannical Edward I of England. The poem is still learnt by every Hungarian school child so the tiny rural town of Montgomery is probably better known there than Cardiff. The planned mounting and unveiling of the plaque was a victim of the 2020 lockdown and the Town Council is now hoping for a Hungarian Day celebration in May 2022. In the meantime, Montgomery has made such strong links with the Magyar Cymru group, through the Building Bridges initiative, that many more people are aware of the vibrant Hungarian connection and ‘The Bards of Wales’. The town has also developed an affinity with the ‘Welshest village’ in Hungary, Kunágota. Given the interest, the Town Council determined to erect the plaque as soon as possible, in advance of a future official unveiling. The Arany plaque is now mounted in its beautiful oak frame made by Powis Sawmills. The community garden at the foot of a path to the Castle is the ideal location and the plaque is already attracting and intriguing many visitors. A short greeting to the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association and good wishes for the upcoming Hungarian concert in Cardiff has been filmed with the plaque as the perfect backdrop, by Lydia Bassett and Jill Kibble (members of the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association) and Sue Blower, Montgomery Town Crier. Photo (L-R): Lydia Bassett, Executive Director of Mid Wales Opera; Cllr Jill Kibble, Mayor of Montgomery; Sue Blower, Montgomery Town Crier, photographed during filming of the greeting.
As there was no Show on 21st August 2021, a small group was formed to organise a community picnic on the recreation field on the same date. Along with food and drink vendors James Peake, Dairy Dreams, Montys Brewery and Old Monty Cider, the community were invited to bring their own picnic and gazebo as required. Looking ahead at the weather forecast it was at one point looking pretty doubtful whether the event would go ahead, but as the afternoon came closer the forecast improved, the rain kept off and some 160 members of the Montgomery community turned out to enjoy some long-awaited catching up, good food and drink, and good company. Friends of Montgomery Play Park displayed information about the proposals and fundraising for the new play park and the event included a grand raffle, entertainment and games for the children. Well over £275 was raised towards the playpark and The DPJ Foundation, one of the Mayor's charities for this year. Three resourceful younger community members, Finlay, Woody and Toby, organised their own football goal game and raised nearly £40 for the playpark. Mayor Jill Kibble, who was part of the group who organised the event, said, "After all these long months of cancelled events this really felt like a fresh beginning and a return to community life. It was good to see Montgomery friends and families relaxing and enjoying themselves together. Next year will hopefully see the return of Montgomery Show and, if the Friends of the Playpark are successful in their funding bid, the recreation ground may well have a unique new playpark for the town." The Montgomery Energy Group bicycle recycling scheme brought a selection of free bikes to the recreation field, and 13 proud youngsters selected and took away a new bike from the picnic. The Montgomery Show committee and other organisers would like to thank all those that helped in making the afternoon a success and all those vendors that braved the weather and provided some good quality local produce. Show information here: Montgomery Show
Cllr Haydn Andrew has presented a cheque to Wales Air Ambulance, one of his two chosen Mayor’s charities, after stepping down from the role at this year’s Annual Meeting, and will donate an equal amount to Cancer Research UK. Cllr Haydn Andrew’s two years as Montgomery Mayor encompassed unprecedented circumstances and many challenges. Regrettably, due to Covid, he was not able to host any fund raising activities for his chosen charities. Therefore, he decided to donate funds from his Mayor's allowance. Along with partner Jane Lloyd, he presented a cheque for £260 to Wales Air Ambulance at Mid Wales Airport last week, and a cheque of the same value has been sent to Cancer Research UK. Jane said, “While it’s not as much as we would have liked, as unfortunately we were not able to hold any fundraising events, we were pleased to be able to donate some funds to the two charities and support their vital work in some way when it’s been a difficult time for them too.” New Mayor Jill Kibble has selected The DPJ Foundation, a Welsh mental health charity to support those in agriculture and rural communities, as one of her chosen charities. Her other chosen cause is the Montgomery Medical Practice Patients Association, of which she is secretary. She hopes that some events and fundraising will be able to take place during her term in office.
The Friends of Montgomery Play Park were excited to share the proposed play park designs by Earth Wrights with local families, young people and the wider community through online designs, videos and public meetings as well as posters around town. They hope to have reached the majority of the community. The survey has now closed and the nearly 90 responses were very positive regarding the design of a unique playpark for Montgomery that reflected the location and heritage as well as providing exciting play opportunities for a wide range of ages of children. Some good suggestions and comments were made and the Playpark group will be discussing these with Earth Wrights. The major task now facing the project is Fundraising: the Friends hope that a successful lottery bid will cover the majority of the estimated costs, but additional funds will also be needed. If you think you could help and become involved in fundraising initiatives please contact email@example.com The first two 100 Square Club’ draws took place in May and June. May’s numbers were 1st – 76, 2nd – 6 and 3rd – 42 and June’s were 1st - 84, 2nd - 31 and 3rd - 39. Some winners very generously donated their prizes back to the Friends of Montgomery Play Park fundraising pot. The draw is held live on the first of each month on the Montgomery Play Park Facebook page @montgomeryplaypark with the next one in July.
Montgomery Town Council has a new mayor, after Cllr Haydn Andrew stood down at the Annual Meeting following two years in the role. Cllr Andrew addressed the council, thanking the clerk and his partner Jane as Mayoress for their support during the two years, and wishing good luck to the new Mayor and Deputy. He told the council, “This has been a stressful time for all of us, in many ways, and it has been disappointing not to be able to carry out many of the activities, including fundraising events, that the Mayoress and I had planned.” Despite this, Cllr Andrew will still be able to make a donation to his chosen charities, Wales Air Ambulance and Cancer Research. New Mayor Cllr Jill Kibble thanked Cllr Andrew for his service in this very difficult period, during which she had served as his deputy, and said that he had shown his mettle as an ambassador of the town. She told the meeting she was delighted to have Wendy Beaven as Deputy Mayor and Deputy Chair and looked forward to working together to move the Council forward as a team to serve Montgomery. Cllr Kibble said, “Montgomery has a splendid community, as has really been shown over the past 16 months. As Town Council we are here to support that.” She wishes to focus on a town plan, involving the town’s residents and businesses, and supporting the town during recovery from the covid period. She is keen to see community activities re-established, including groups and events in the town hall, with people having the confidence to be out and about again and assisting the town economy. Cllr Kibble announced that her chosen charities would be the DPJ charity, and the Montgomery Medical Practice Patients Association, of which she is secretary. While there won’t be a Mayor Making event this year, the new Mayor hopes that some events and fundraising will be able to take place during her term in office. County Cllr Stephen Hayes, also in attendance, expressed his admiration and thanks to Cllr Andrew for the dignified manner in which he had carried out the role over the past two years. Photo: Cllr Jill Kibble (centre) pictured at the Whitegates Wildlife Area with Cllr Lionel Weaver and Tammy Stretton of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust.
The Friends of Montgomery Play Park have thanked all those who have filled in their survey regarding the proposed designs, saying, “We’ve had some really thoughtful, insightful and useful feedback.” However the group has received fewer than half the number of survey responses their initial survey garnered last year, and would like to have more input from members of the community and potential users of the park before they prepare for the next steps in raising the funds. The designs from Earth Wrights will be reviewed on the basis of the community consultation, and engagement from members of the public will provide vital support towards subsequent funding applications. The group are keen to have local involvement in helping to evaluate the proposal and prioritise aspects of the scheme that are deemed to be of most value and best serve the community. All the plans and background information can be found at the Friends’ online page http://play.montgomery.cloud including a fantastic fly through video, and video discussions with Earth Wrights. Physical plans are also available on the back of the Town Hall for those who don’t have access to the internet. It takes under 5 minutes to complete the survey at https://play.montgomery.cloud/survey and the deadline has been extended to 16th May. If you would like to get in touch directly with the Friends you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message via Facebook @montgomeryplaypark
Earlier in March, Friends of Montgomery Play Park announced that Earth Wrights were selected as the company to develop the play park project for the town. Since then the group have been working closely with them to get plans ready to share with a wider community. The design of the park and the amount of space available in the new location, next to the football ground on the recreation field, will lend itself to a development which could be completed in a staged process depending on the level of funding achieved. Therefore, during April the Friends are inviting local involvement to help evaluate the proposal and prioritise aspects of the scheme that are deemed to be of most value and best serve the community. All the plans and background information can be found at the Friends new online page http://play.montgomery.cloud including a fantastic fly through video and an evaluation survey which will close midnight 25 April. Physical plans and copies of the survey will be up at the Town Hall and at the Institute for those who don’t have access to the internet. We encourage people to complete this community survey, as the feedback will help inform the final designs in preparation for a planning application. Crucially, the Friends are working with Montgomery Church in Wales Primary School to gain the opinion and feedback from pupils. As potential direct users of the park, their considerations will be key to the final design. Earth Wrights will be available for an online public discussion during the second half of April (date yet to be confirmed and announced on the Friends Facebook Page @montgomeryplaypark), where members of the Earth Wrights Team will be on hand to answer questions. If you would like to get in touch directly with the Friends you can email email@example.com or send a message via Facebook @montgomeryplaypark
It is with mixed feelings that this is my last Mayor’s Notes before I hand over to my successor. I would like to thank those of you that have given me your support and encouragement; it has been very much appreciated. It has been a very troubled two years between everything but thankfully we have got through it. The Covid pandemic has been a very trying time for all of us but things are easing slowly and getting back to what is being called a new normal. It would be great to see the Town Hall being used again for events and the return of the Saturday Coffee Mornings. Jane and I wish you all a pleasant summer and send our good wishes to Montgomery’s residents. Haydn Andrew - Mayor
Julie Davies, a former Montgomery Town Councillor, who was the very first lady to sign the historic record as a Freeman of Montgomery, following a change in the law which allowed women to hold this historic, inherited honour, had a strong and abiding love for her home town. Julie sadly died in early 2020 but her spirit very much lives on thanks to a number of generous bequests to community groups in the town; and now to her specially grown oak. Passionate about nature and wildlife, some ten years ago Julie grew a number of trees from seed and as the oak grew strongly she hoped that it would eventually find a place in the town. Cllr Lionel Weaver, also a Freeman of the town, and who looks after the town’s Whitegate Pool area, identified a spot for the tree, and Julie's partner, Ian Ward, assisted Lionel to plant the oak. Lionel said “I was pleased to be able to find a special place for this oak, and to plant it as a tribute to Julie where it will, in time, grace the area as a majestic tree providing a home for a range of wildlife.” Julie grew a number of trees and bushes and Ian has also planted a hazel at the Whitegate Pool area. Both will be a splendid memorial to Julie and a tribute to her service to Montgomery and the community. Photo: Julie with her father Colin, who was the keeper of the Freemen archive, wearing the Freemen of Montgomery tartan
As Montgomery celebrated St David’s Day, both the day and Wales Week were also being celebrated much further afield in South Eastern Hungary. The Welsh flag was projected onto Bréda Castle in Lőkösháza accompanied by Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, and in nearby Kunágota, from the school and playground to the library and mayor’s office, everyone was learning about Wales for Wales Week Hungary - with some of the posters featuring Montgomery and a familiar face, Town Crier Sue Blower. Montgomery Mayor, Cllr Haydn Andrew, received a splendid illustrated book of Kunágota history along with a presentation pack and message from dignitaries of the town. Haydn commented, “We were delighted to receive this very special book on St David's Day. It will hopefully be placed in our Old Bell museum to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. We hope a good many of those visitors will be from Hungary in better times. The citizens of Kunágota expressed their wish to strengthen relations over the coming years and we are certainly looking forward to continuing to build bridges between our two cultures and extend the warm hand of Montgomery friendship over the 2,300kms to Kunágota.” Many members of the Montgomery community offered greetings to Hungary and Kunágota as they celebrated their National Day on March 15th, which commemorates the Revolution and the War of Independence against Austrian-Hapsburg rule in 1848–1849. The greetings included a variety of displays in red, white and green - the shared colours of the Hungarian and Welsh flags. The Eaves & Lord bookshop window display featured a beautifully executed rendition of traditional Hungarian designs by Montgomery artist Jo Gresty. Helen Hayes baked some delicious authentic pogácsa, and the Montgomery Rangers came up trumps with their original red, white and green craft creations including origami flowers, painted rocks and drawings. Mayor Haydn displayed his Kunágota book and presentation album alongside a red, white and green floral display and said, “I have responded to the gift from Kunágota with a letter which has been translated into Hungarian, and was delighted to participate in sending greetings for the Hungarian National Day on March 15th.” Rising to a challenge from opera singer and founder member and Chair of the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association, Elizabeth Sillo, Montgomery’s community folk band Monty Folk created their own recording of a favourite Hungarian spring folk song, ‘Tavaszi szél vizet áraszt’. (Available on the YouTube channel via tinyurl.com/MontyCCC.) Because of lockdown rules in Wales, each band member recorded themselves on their phones and laptops at home, and then edited them together. Elizabeth sent voice recordings to Lydia Bassett so she could sing the track in Hungarian. Lydia said, “I was very nervous singing in Hungarian, but I am glad we accepted the challenge and we really enjoyed learning and playing the song. When we saw the lovely messages the people of Hungary sent to Wales for St David’s Day we wanted to reply with a message marking their national day. Tavaszi szél is a very special song to the people of Hungary, very much about the coming of Spring, and it felt a lovely way to send a message from Montgomery to help with their celebrations.” More stories about Welsh-Hungarian relations and the Montgomery-Hungary connection can be found on the Magyar Cymru page run by Balint Brunner, co-founder of the WHCA, at https://www.facebook.com/MagyarCymru