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VC Gallery learn ‘Realities of War’



The VC Gallery with Pembrokeshire College: At The Military Cemetery

MEMBERS of The VC Gallery attended Pembroke Dock’s Military Cemetery along with students from Pembrokeshire College on Wednesday (May 17), to learn more about the soldiers buried there as part of a project called ‘Realities of War’.

The group were given names on a piece of paper, and then had to find the graves of the people listed. A photography competition was also held, in order to create something beautiful and peaceful.

The Herald spoke to the founder of The VC Gallery, Barry John MBE, who said that the project encompasses photography and art, to be able to get a ‘flavour’ of the loss that pembrokeshire felt during the war.

He said: “We’ve got a huge mix of both veterans of all different ages, as well as young students who are going off to start their careers, and everyone’s got tasks to be able to find and allocate a male or female soldier, or a navy personnel who has died in the firsty or second world war.”

The Herald asked Mr John if he felt it is important that people understand the history of the First and Second World Wars. He said: “It’s so important. Every year we do an art remembrance exhibition and it’s because we want to keep memories alive, and help people understand sacrifice, selflessness, as well as what we have done as a country to provide to war effort.”

The Herald also spoke to Michael Warley from Pembrokeshire College. He said: “We’re working alongside The VC Gallery to help us understand the realities of war, alongside learning about the military history of the area.

“It’s mainly to aid us for our military training. We have exercises in Normandy and Belgium to help us come to terms with the realities fo the job we will eventually be going into, and the realties of conflict itself.

“This project with The VC Gallery is very important and beneficial to the students it supports.”

When asked if he thought people don’t fully understand what happens when people join the army, he said: “To an extent, but with projects like this – visiting memorials and graves – people who may not understand why people join the army or not understand the risks, can come to terms and understand what happens with the job we will do, the sacrifices, the benefits, and the opportunities that open up alongisde the risks.”

Mr John added: “I feel that understanding history before you join gives you a really good balance before you actually take on that job role. The retention of young people going into different job roles within the armed forces, understanding about where they’ve come from, what they’re going to do, and having an understanding about conflict and history and what they’re going to do is really beneficial to them and their families.”

After the students and veterans had a photography competition among themselves, the group were given a tour around the cemetery, and informed of what each person died of. And, interestingly, not everybody there had died whilst in conflict.

Mr John said: “There were so many war casualties that got discharged from the army because of gas attacks, it went into their lungs and they suffered with severe chest injuries. They came home and came back to the local hospitals or went home to their parents or their wives, and they died and were put into unmarked graves or family plots.”

He explained that this represents that they did in fact contributed to the war effort and they suffer terribly, but didn’t die during conflict and instead came back home.

He said: “All of Great Britain has a massive percentage of unregistered war heroes. There were lot of bombs and casualties, and they couldn’t identify people, but in some cases they didn’t know. But, if they did, they would write it in a diary and make a note of it, but unfortunately the people making the notes sometimes died as well, so the information never made it back home.”

The information about the people who had died had come from a relative of Mr John’s, who had received an intriguing family heirloom, that inspired him to start a project that looked into the lives of those who had died.

Mr John said: “A lot of our reference material that we use is derived from a project called the West Wales Memorial Project, set up many years ago by a relative of mine. He got the inspiration because he was given a family heriloom, which was a Bible with a hole in it.

“It was given to keep a soldier safe during the war. This young man went off to Mamets Wood, where 3,000 Welshmen died taking their position, and this young Haverfordwest soldier put the family Bible across his heart.

“But, the snipers were very good at shooting directly into the heart, so as he approached Mamets, he got shot straight through the Bible and straight into his heart. When my relative was given the Bible, he found out a lot about this story, and it sent him on a path to find information about every single soldier or navel personnel that had died within west Wales – he’s covered every single site!”

If you would like to keep up to date with The VC Gallery, you can do so by visiting

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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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