Double.LL Managing Editor, Jools Payne, warns that Davena Davies has a very particular set of skills; skills she has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make her a nightmare (for loneliness). She will look for it, she will find it… and she will kill it.
If the statement above sounds somewhat sinister – and familiar – that’s because it’s a parody paraphrase of one of the most famous quotes in cinematic history, uttered menacingly by the actor, Liam Neeson in the film Taken. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about the steely determination of the lead character, a former CIA operative, to hunt down the kidnapper of his daughter. And if you’re equally unfamiliar with Davena Davies, it encapsulates her own resolute tenacity in hunting down and eliminating that pernicious enemy of the people… loneliness. Isolation, especially in older and more vulnerable members of our rural community, is public enemy number one for this very special agent… Glyntraian’s Community Agent.
Indeed, the local communities of Chirk and the Ceiriog Valley, as well as Llangollen Rural, are blessed by having four fantastic Community Agents whose role is to support the wellbeing of those in their respective communities aged over 50 years. It’s all part of the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing strategy to provide an accessible one point of contact to link into a range of other services designed to combat rural isolation and loneliness, and to help older people remain at home, independent and well supported for as long as possible.
Davena Davies from Llwynmawr, was appointed the Glyntraian Community Agent last year. She has taken on her important role with great gusto and enthusiasm and made an immediate impact in the small community that includes the villages and hamlets of Castle Mill, Bronygarth, Pontfadog, Dolywern and Llwynmawr in the Ceiriog Valley.
The post of Community Agent is funded by Wrexham Council but the local agents’ activities and overall performance in post are managed by their respective community councils. Davena works closely with her fellow Community Agents, Dilys Bates who covers Glyn Ceiriog and the upper parts of the Ceiriog Valley, Yvonne Bernett at Chirk and Lynda Broe in Llangollen Rural. The women have built strong and successful links with the local GP surgeries and provide a strictly confidential service that includes home visits to assist with anything from managing finances (Davena can provide foodbank vouchers) to form filling to online shopping to signposting into other key health and welfare services.
Lunch & Supper Clubs
Since being in post, Davena has launched a range of regular social and community dining events designed to bring people together. She has also been instrumental in the refurbishment of the kitchen facilities at the Oliver Jones Memorial Hall in Dolywern – her de facto HQ.
The community dining initiatives began with a successful Christmas Lunch and a ‘Hamper & Hug’ scheme created by Davena who, along with local volunteers, delivered food and gifts for needy families over the festive period. Her fortnightly Lunch Club meets every other Thursday and provides a two course meal for just £4 and a hugely popular fortnightly Fish & Chip Supper Club, which serves the whole community on a Friday evening in the week when there is no lunch club, is helping to fund subsidised day trips and outings for the over 50s. “It’s been wonderful to see people enjoying eating and socialising together, especially over the winter months when many older people can feel really isolated,” said Davena, who can also organise a door-to-door lift service for those without access to transport.
Ceiriog Connect Dances
A year-long dance programme, promoted by Glyntraian Council and supported by a Wrexham Council Inclusion Grant is well underway. So far, 106 people have attended the Ceiriog Connect dance classes after which Davena provides a delicious home-made soup & roll supper for attendees.
Glyntraian Councillor, Robin Boston, who is leading the Ceiriog Connect project said: “Dancing is good for you. Various scientific studies have shown that it increases physical strength, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, improves mental awareness, helps with balance and spatial awareness, reduces stress and increases confidence. It’s also good fun and a great way to meet friends new and old.”
Cllr Boston revealed the overall aim of the programme is more than just getting healthier. “The Welsh Government set out a series of objectives in its Wellbeing Statement which includes ‘creating united and connected communities which are inclusive and cohesive.’ We hope that by making our dance classes and our dances more of a social occasion we will go some way towards achieving the Welsh Government’s objective. We want, through this programme, to contribute to a happy, united and above all inclusive community.”
Strictly for All
The dances and classes are open to everyone so no-one in the Chirk and Ceiriog Valley communities need feel alone or isolated. The classes and dances are all held at the Oliver Jones Memorial Hall (OJMH) in Dolywern, which boasts an excellent large dance floor.
A dance class, led by professional dance tutor Denise Sides of Den’s Dance Academy, is scheduled for Wednesday 24th April. On Saturday 4th May, there is a Ceilidh, with licensed bar, with another dance planned on Saturday 20th July. The final event of the 12-month programme is a Harvest Festival dance on Saturday 5th October. Dance classes cost £3 per lesson (includes soup & roll supper). They are very relaxed and enormous fun.
Oliver Jones Film Club
Another great success in bringing residents of the Ceiriog Valley together in the winter months came in the form of a community film screening project. The pilot project, co-financed by the Glyntraian Community Council and OJMH management committee in partnership with Arts Alive/Flicks in the Sticks, saw over 160 people aged from 11-90 years enjoy three big screen movies between December – March.
Thanks to the support of Glyntraian Community Councillors and with Double.LL editor, Holly Payne, playing the role of chief organiser and promoter of the project I’m thrilled with its success.
My hope is that the excellent feedback from those who came, the attendance figures and the number of volunteers who supported the bar, set up, and catering will evidence a clear appetite for a sustainable film club and a bid can be made to Arts Council Wales for digital screening and projection equipment.
Profits from the affordable screenings, which ranged from just £3-£5 per ticket, amounted to over £700 and was donated to the OJMH with the hope it will be used to match fund the bid to Arts Council Wales.
After years as a somewhat moribund white elephant, the Oliver Jones Memorial Hall is rapidly becoming a ‘hall for all’, thanks in no small way to a hard-working, very special agent, Davena Davies, supported by several fantastic volunteers like Rowena Lewis, Anne and Ted Johnston and a visionary and energetic Glyntraian Community Council.
How to contact Davena
T: 07496 597894