Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 10:21 UK
Dragon Bands blaze talent trail
Young musicians at Dragon Bands
Dragon Bands has encouraged local youngsters in their musical ambitions

An industrial park near Pontypool is rocking to the sound of music with Welsh Assembly Government support.

Dragon Bands offers people of all ages a chance to develop their musical talents with a range of rehearsal rooms and an internet radio station.

Angela Byrne launched the project in her own home in 2001, but it ran into difficulties due to lack of space.

However a £175,000 Assembly grant has helped secured Dragon Bands' future in expanded premises at Pontnewynydd.

Angela said: "The power of music to bring some good into people's lives should never be underestimated.

"It's wonderful to see how the new facilities we are developing here are helping to bring people to together," she added.

"Our youngest member is eight years old and gets up early on a Sunday morning to grab his space and practice his drumming.

"Our oldest member is 62 and it's great to see young and old enjoying their music and mixing together."

The centre has been used by around 3,600 people over the last year and even launched a record label to enable local band Evolvers to release a single.

Kelly Tucker and Angela Byrne at Dragon Bands
Kelly Tucker and Angela Byrne relax in the foyer of Dragon Bands HQ

The Dragon Bands project has come a long way since it began life in 2001 in a couple of rooms in Mrs Byrne's house in Abersychan.

"The project outgrew that venue very quickly," she laughed.

"We were lucky that an unit became available on the industrial park and we have now expanded into another unit we call our annexe development."

Dragon Bands has received funding from a number of different sources, but it received a major boost with a grant of £175,185 from CFAP - the Welsh Assembly Government's Community Facilities and Activities Programme.

The grant has helped fund refurbishment of the annexe of its premises on the North Pontypool Industrial Park which includes soundproof rehearsal rooms, a healthy eating cafe and a lift for the disabled.

The project received the royal seal of approval in 2007 when the premises were visited by the Princess Royal.

Angela said she was proud of the way the community of Torfaen had embraced the project.

"It is no secret that this area has had its problems. We used to get terrible trouble with everything from drug problems, car thefts and graffiti. I am delighted to say we have banished those problems from the area around Dragon Bands.

Kris Wheatstone on Flame Radio
Kris Wheatstone gives some exposure to local bands on Flame Radio

"Part of that is down to the way the community has responded to the Dragon Bands project. They have taken ownership of the whole idea. All the new things we have added to the project came from the ideas of the people who use the centre.

"Because they feel they have ownership of the project, they take a great pride in what goes on here and look after the facilities we offer."

The Dragon Bands project also includes Flame, a 24-hour internet radio station.

Head presenter Kelly Tucker said: "The Flame project is very exciting and we are looking to develop it further.

"Once we have enough people trained in how to operate the equipment, we are looking to get a community radio licence from the broadcasting authorities."

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