Andy Taurins will never forget Jaunpiebalga, the little Latvian community where he was born. He was christened Andris Taurins in the Lutheran church of the village, 100 miles to the east of Riga, Latvia’s capital.
When Andy was not quite three years old, his father got a job as general manager of a sawmill, and the family moved to Jelgava in western Latvia. However, the Second World War intervened, the Soviet Army invaded his country and Andy’s family fled Latvia. He graduated from Imperial College, London, with an honours degree in civil engineering, and now owns six companies based in Abergavenny, Walsall, London and Denmark.
He is Latvia’s Honorary Consul in Wales, and has chaired the Wales Baltic
Society since 2000.
Andy and his wife Ann have always supported activities in Jaunpiebalga, such as funding renovation of the church organ and church heating, facilitating Jaunpiebalga secondary school’s visits to Tredegar Comprehensive, sponsoring their pupils to represent Latvia at Senedd mock debates and currently organising links with Llanishen High School in Cardiff. The 28th Tredegar House Folk Festival is happening on the weekend of May 12-14, and the festival invites spectacular dance groups
from Eastern Europe to come and perform; now Piebaldzeni, the team
composed of the Jaunpiebalga secondary school pupils, will be flying
from Riga to Stansted Airport, Essex, to take part in the celebrations.
Andy will fund the cost of the coach, which will used to transport 12 boys, 12 girls and four female teachers from the airport to the festival and back. He has also extended an invitation to the Latvian ambassador, Her Excellency Baiba Braze, to attend the festival, which is based in the
beautiful grounds of the historic 17th century Tredegar House, west of Newport, approximately half a mile from the M4’s Junction 28. The website is tredegarhousefestival.org.uk.
Apart from Piebaldzeni, the festival is looking forward to the Matenik dancers from Prague, the Czech Republic capital, and Balaton, the London-based company who display Hungarian dances. Matenik was founded in 1991 by leader and choreographer Peter Tužilová, and the group follows the tradition of classical folk dance – watch out for the
Balaton, named after the lake in Hungary, was founded in 1968 by Peter McLean, a professional dancer who became interested in Eastern European dances, Hungarian dance in particular.
One Hungarian dancer started the London equivalent of a Hungarian dancehouse (táncház), and when he returned to Hungary, other Balaton dancers continued the tradition for 20 years.
The festival attracts musicians and dancers from all over Wales and England, displaying Welsh social dance, Appalachian stepping, Middle East belly dancing, clogging and English and Welsh Morris. The Gwent branch of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, will be holding a Welsh beer and cider exhibition once again, and will be dispensing beers from Castles, Mad Dog, Tiny Rebel, Kingstone, Tudor, Untapped, Celt, Purple Moose, Waen, Grey Trees, Cwrw Ial, Brecon and Mantel, and ciders from Palmers, Halletts, Raglan Cider Mill, Troggi, Springfield, Penallt, Watkins and Gwynt-y-Ddraig.
Dance displays are free, but you have to pay to see the concerts! Newport Folk Club are sponsoring York-based singer-songwriters Union Jill on the Friday night; South Wales favourites Jamie Smith’s Mabon, Gwent-based Allan Yn Y Fan, bluegrass-pop quartet Cardboard Fox (with Laura and Charlotte Carrivick) and young Welsh musicians Morfa are
playing on the Saturday evening; and the Sunday afternoon concert goes out with a bang with The Hut People (accordionist Sam Pirt and percussionist Gary Hammond), The Mile Roses (songwriters Edwina
Hayes, Kate Bramley and Simon Howarth), lovely music from The Foxglove Trio, and stupendous songwriters Steve Tilston and Jez