News report in Evening Post January 2011

Efforts to improve village give group lot to brag about

LOSS of community spirit is a common thread these days, but residents from one village outside Port Talbot are not prepared to let things lie.
They go by the name of Brag, and their boast is that their efforts have helped to re-energies their home patch. Bryn Residents' Action Group has been going for just over a year and great strides have been made in that time.
Chairman Graham Rowland said: "The group was set up to try and improve our village, capture as much history as we can and try and bring back the community spirit that has been lost for whatever reason."We provide entertainment and financial donations to our local school and senior citizens without the help of Communities First and other organizations."
There is a willingness to go it alone to try and make the village a better place.
"We have held Christmas events, St David's Day celebrations, historical talks and a Second World War event for the senior citizens last June," said Mr Rowland. Christmas carols have just been sung in the community center and thoughts are already turning to next summer.
"On June 18 the group will be involved in organizing a distance run through our village, running along Margam mountain and Afan Argoed," he said. "We have received sponsorship from Tata Steel but our small group of individuals will be working hard to make this and other events a success. The main charity which will benefit from this event is Cystic Fibrosis.
"We also have a number of new events planned over the next year, such as the Bryn Beast. This is an endurance marathon, similar to the Snowdon Marathon, but we aim for our marathon to be even more popular than Snowdon over future years as we feel our course has more to offer. This is also aimed at raising lots of money for charity."
It may be a relatively new organization, but word is spreading far and wide about the exploits of Brag.
"Our events are always open to the public and, although the majority of people are from the village, people have been traveling from further afield to each of our events," said Mr Rowland.
"We are starting to get significant interest from further afield via our internet site. We have had feedback on the site from New Zealand, and inquiries about photographs from all round the country with people helping us identify people in the old photographs.
"We have just had an order for the village calendar from Sussex just one day after advertising on the internet."
Some of the projects are aimed at improving and increasing access to the countryside around Bryn.
"The Historical Society, a part of Brag, has uncovered many new historical findings in the Bryn area and shared these with the public at large via presentations and the website," said Mr Rowland.
"The public helps in these events simply by taking part, enjoying themselves and parting with a little cash on raffle tickets and refreshments to help fund future events." The group backs up its website by distributing a bi-monthly newsletter to every house in the village and the surrounding area.
Culture is part of the Brag brief, and last March's St David's Day celebration was a case in point.
It was attended by 220 people and featured a local history display and an enactment of events of yesteryear from pupils at Bryn School, and songs and poetry.
A tea dance was enjoyed by senior citizens and some a bit younger, including pupils. Second World War memorabilia was on display, including a jeep used in the D-Day landings. Songs of the day were sung and some got in the mood by wearing clothes from that era.
The Historical Society gave a number of presentations, Alan Thomas talking about the "the village as it was", Dafydd Bowen speaking on the farms of Bryn 1814 and farming practices of the time and Harriet Eaton presenting Voices from the South Wales Coalfield.
Brag gives feedback to local Councillors about what is wanted in the village and improvements over the past year have included grass cutting, the repair and servicing of drains, the addition of a village notice board, speed checks and road signs.
Projects started include fencing, developing picnic areas, land management and a fishing lake.
"We plan to repeat the events of the past year over the next 12 months, but of course hoping to better every event where we can," said Mr Rowland.