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Bringing people together through art



Celtic knots: Teaching generations young and old about art


THE VC GALLERY held a Celtic Knot workshop yesterday (Feb 1) funded by leader project PLANED, so people of all generations could come to socialise for the afternoon and express themselves through art.

With a friendly atmosphere and a smile to greet you at the door, the VC Gallery, which stands for Veterans and the Community, is a drop in centre on High Street in Haverfordwest for veterans, but also helps various groups of people within the community through art engagement.

The Gallery is a huge part of the community, and helps people with mental health problems such as depression and veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also helps new mothers, people with learning disabilities, autism, and the socially excluded who have nowhere else to go.

Founder of the organisation, Barry John MBE, served in the armed forces for 24 years, and set up the organisation by himself when he left. Since then, Barry has helped thousands of people.

Barry John MBE and Steve Portwood: Showcasing dramatic symbolic paintings

Mr John said: “Every Wednesday we have a community art group that’s cross-generational, which involves lonely and socially isolated people.

“We try to create a hub where we can socialise and be creative, which is part of our pathway to inspire. We want to bring a wide range of Welsh art to the projects, and to be diverse.

“We’ve talked about historical Welsh artists and Welsh landscapes, and we want to be emotive with our art, which is why today we are looking at celtic and trial knots, as they have strong, intricate lines and patterns.

“We also can deliver some of the subject history along with its artistic intent.”

People of all ages and abilities attended the workshop, along with 93-year-old Irene and her neighbour, Carol.

Workshop regulars: 93-year-old Irene and her neighbour, Carol

Irene said: “The workshops give me company and gives me a chance to learn new things. It’s lovely!”

She added: “If it weren’t for Carol, I wouldn’t go anywhere or see anyone.”

Next week, the gallery will be hosting a show called ‘Compulsion to Paint’ on February 8, which showcases the fantastic work of Steve Portwood. This is to coincide with Bi-Polar Awareness Month, occurring this February, and demonstrates the struggle he has been through with his mental health.

Speaking to The Herald, Mr Portwood said: “I suffer with bi-polar and have done since I left the army. My work is a way of expressing how I feel and how I see bi-polar, and I’ve tried to incorporate other people’s feelings and how they see it in their mind.”

Some of Steve’s work will also be going on display at a show at Bro Cerwen later this month in aid of bi-polar awareness, and Steve hopes that his work will resonate with people who feel like same way.

“I hope it will help people with the emotions they are having,” he said.

Speaking about the gallery itself, Steve said: “You can come in here in any mood and speak to Barry. The gallery has picked me up when I’m thinking I’m worthless and can’t achieve anything, and when I use my art to express myself, it highlights the things that I can achieve.I feel like I’ve accomplished something and done something productive rather than go with the negaivity.”

The next workshop on February 8 will be held at the VC Gallery in Haverfordwest, from 12.30pm-2.30pm. For more information, you can visit their website or Facebook page at

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Haverfordwest: Fresh artist on the block ready for exhibition



AN EXHIBITION showcasing the work of an extremely talented local artist will open on Monday, August 1 at The VC Gallery in High Street, Haverfordwest.

Maxine Bunston from Haverfordwest, who has only had one year of experience in the art industry, has managed to create a huge range of fantastic art work, that she will be proudly presenting next week.

The Herald caught up with Maxine, to talk about the art that she will be exhibiting, and what it means to her. She said: “It’s escapism from mental health. It keeps me distracted from low self esteem, especially when people have commented on my appearance. But, mainly, it’s a distraction from mental health and self harm.”

Many of Maxine’s beautiful paintings depict delicate fairies, and The Herald asked Maxine why she decided to feature these in her work. She said: “They’re mystical and magical, and it’s escapism in the way of feeling like a child: Everything is innocent, and it’s the light-heartedness of life, really.”

Maxine has long struggled with mental health, and her art has reflected her emotions and what she was going through at the time.

Everything is innocent: Maxine paints to escape from mental health

Friend of Maxine and regular at The VC Gallery, Mia Gillies, said: “I’ve known Maxine for 10 years, and she started doing art at Bro Cerwen. I’ve seen her evolve from celtic style into really detailed fairy work, with dots and lots of action going on.

“She has really streamlined her work and now, you recognise it as Maxine’s work. It’s also not messy and more, it’s really clean and very intricate.”

All of the paintings at Maxine’s exhibition, which runs from August 1 until August 31, are for sale with prints available on request.

When asked if she classes herself as an artist, Maxine said: “No, I don’t like to call myself an artist. If someone asks me what I do, I don’t say that I’m an artist.”

If you would like to visit The VC Gallery to see Maxine’s wonderful work on display, you can do so from 10am until 5pm, Monday to Friday. To view Maxine’s work online, you can also visit

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Teacher recruits family and friends for Tenby 10k run



Declan Lynch (kneeling, right): With a selection of the runners he has recruited

AN YSGOL BRO GWAUN teacher has recruited nearly two dozen friends and family members to participate in a 10km run in Tenby on Sunday (Jul 30) in memory of his mother.

The annual Tenby 10k starts at 11am and follows a scenic route in and around Tenby.

Declan Lynch, an IT teacher, is raising money for Paul Satori following the death of his mother, Ellen, last year.

On his JustGiving page, Declan said: “Early last year my Mum, Ellen, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After a long battle, she passed away peacefully on November 7th 2016.

“One promise I made to her was that I would get fit and raise money for the charities that gave us as a family invaluable support and equipment to make Mum as comfortable as possible; one of these being the Paul Sartori Foundation.

“Money can’t bring Mum back, nor can show our appreciation to all the charities that helped us at these hard times, however by doing whatever little I can to help will enable anyone going through tough times to have the same support that we received.”

So far, Declan has raised £1501, exceeding his initial goal, but he hopes to raise more in one final push for donations before the run.

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Charity Bike Ride returns next month



HAVERFORDWEST HORNETS will be running the Pembrokeshire Charity Bike Ride on August 6 from the Haverfordwest Rugby Club at 8am.

All money raised is going to Paul Sartotri, Prostate Cymru and Pembrokeshire Special Needs Gymnastics Group.

There are three routes to choose from:

Family ride to Neyland Marina (17 miles) along cycle path from Haverfordwest – Children go free but must be accompanied by a paying adult. Children who fund raise £20 will get a free entry into Folly Farm.

28 Mile route (Middle Distance)- taking in some views and a few hills to stretch the legs. (Under 16 must be accompanied)

50 Mile route out to St Davids and back. (Under 16 must be accompanied)

All routes will be on open roads/paths but marshals will be situated throughout the rides. Bike maintenance will be on hand from Mikes Bikes.

The event will conclude with a refreshments and entertainment.

In 2001, Phil and Tim Hughes got together with Mark Rendell of Mike’s Bikes and some other cycling friends set up the Pembrokeshire Charity Bike Rode and raised £1080.

Due to this small event being such a success they decided to stage the event again and it grew with the participation of a larger number of cyclists in 2002 and the event raised over £3000 and has continued to grow in popularity every year.

From this, the event has become a firm date in the Pembrokeshire calendar and to date the Pembrokeshire Charity Bike Ride has raised over £145,000 for local charities including Paul Sartori, Ward 10, Pembrokeshire Puffins, SNAP, HOPE, Shalom House, Pembrokeshire Guide Dogs, FRAME and many more.

In 2009, Pembrokeshire Charity Bike Ride became registered a charity.

The bike ride is now run by a small committee of volunteers from the Haverfordwest Hornets. They receive excellent financial sponsorship from local companies which means that 100% of the funds raised go to Pembrokeshire Charities.


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