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Bistro at former sailing loft in the running for Welsh language award

08 Jun 2024 7 minute read
Bwrlwm ARFOR award ; Pictured Sioned Jones and Dylan Huws at Llofft Bistro in Felinheli. Picture Mandy Jones

A £500,000 investment by an ex-TV company boss and his opera singing wife has breathed new life into an historic 19th century seafront building in north Wales.

The transformation of the old sailing loft in Felinheli in Gwynedd into a bistro and bar brimming with industrial chic has created 10 jobs – and put wind under the wings of the Welsh language.

Called Llofft (Welsh for loft), it was originally where the canvas sails were made and mended when the village was a bustling port with ships carrying iconic Welsh slate all over the world when the industry was in its heyday.

At various times since then, it’s been a bakery and a café but the building had fallen into serious disrepair before it was rescued by local couple Dylan Huws and Elen ap Robert.

From the outset they decided that the Welsh language was going to be central to their offering so the menus and the marketing are mainly bilingual with the Welsh version first, though some of the signage is just in Welsh.

Shortlisted

Now Llofft has been shortlisted for an award at the Gwobrau Mwyaf Cymraeg yn y Byd (Most Welsh in the World Awards) organised as part of the Bwrlwm ARFOR scheme that’s run by Anglesey-based consultancy firm Lafan.

The aim of the competition is to celebrate all things Welsh in business across the four counties with the highest percentage of Welsh speakers, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Aberystwyth and Dylan and Elen are thrilled to have been shortlisted in the category for the Most Welsh Space.

The venture is a labour of love for Dylan, the former owner and managing director of the Caernarfon-based television production company, Cwmni Da, where he masterminded its transition into an employee-owned trust.

Seafarers

Dylan, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were both seafarers, said: “We felt there was an opportunity to create something special with a building that’s been at the heart of the community for centuries.

“We’ve been open for less than a year and we have unbelievable support from the community and the wider area.

“The Welsh language is very important to us here in Felinheli because it remains a bastion of the language so we’re continuing the tradition of the natural use of the Welsh language within these four walls

“The Welsh language is part of our business plan as much as anything else because we want to see the Welsh language being used and it’s integral to all that we do.

“We hope that it’s a place where the local community can come and feel that there’s a Welsh welcome but also anyone else who’d want to hear the Welsh language being used or who want to try out their Welsh or maybe read a menu that’s bilingual.

“We have some things that are in Welsh only and people can work things out for themselves – for example, there’s no need to translate words like caffi and toiled.

“The word Llofft can be challenging with both the ‘ll’ and the ‘ff’ but it gives people something to talk about and is actually quite easy to understand in English.

Pontio

Wife Elen, who sang professionally as an opera singer and was the first artistic director of the Pontio centre in Bangor, added: “The Welsh language is holding its own in Felinheli and we want to use it in a confident and natural way.

“We’ve also tried to get all our IT through the medium of Welsh and the dockets come up from the front of house to the kitchen all in Welsh, so the chef and kitchen staff see the meals required all in Welsh.

“We use local suppliers for our ingredients including our meat and we have our own blend of coffee, Coffi Llofft, that’s made for us by Coffi Eryri in Conwy.

“But it’s important to us that we do all of this in a non-preachy way that is fun and inclusive. The staff are friendly, chatty and cheerful.

“We’re very proud to have been shortlisted for the award and proud to have co-operated with ARFOR to finance some of this project.”

Equally delighted is chef Josh Arrindell, originally from Bristol, who travelled the world cooking in countries as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, before meeting and falling in love with his Welsh-speaking partner, Lily McDonald, from Bethesda.

The couple now have a seven-week-old daughter and Josh said: “I am loving it here.

It’s really important for me to understand the culture of Wales and learn the language.

“The best way to learn Welsh is to immerse yourself in it and that what I get here.

“There is a strong sense of community in Felinheli and it’s a stronghold of the Welsh language.

“Llofft has a very enlightened and inclusive approach to the Welsh language and they have made me feel very welcome and very eager to show me the ropes.

“I’m passionate about learning and I want to be fluent – it’s not as scary as you might think.

“On top of that, I work in an open kitchen with an idyllic view looking across the Menai Strait towards Anglesey. It really is amazing and I pinch myself every day.”

The purpose of the competition is to encourage businesses to use Welsh to boost their bottom line – and put a smile on people’s faces at the same time.

It certainly seems to have succeeded with dozens of entries finally whittled down to 30 finalists in seven different categories.

Buzz

A spokesperson for ARFOR said: “Our aim is to create a buzz around the use of Welsh in a business or commercial environment and how it can help businesses thrive and provide careers for our young people so they don’t feel they have to move away.

“We have received dozens of nominations from a variety of businesses across the four counties of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and those shortlisted for an award are those the judges feel are doing their utmost to use and promote the Welsh language on their premises, their marketing and their social media channels.

“We have 30 finalists and we are conducting a public vote on social media.

“We wish all of them the very best of luck at the forthcoming award ceremony and hope the other nominees continue their good work in using and promoting our language.”

The Bwrlwm ARFOR campaign is part of the ARFOR Two scheme that was launched in 2022 in succession to the 2019 ARFOR programme to continue to strengthen and promote the economic resilience of the Welsh language in the four counties.

ARFOR Two is intended to provide economic support to communities that are strongholds of the Welsh language, increase opportunities to see and use the Welsh language on a daily basis and help young people under the age of 35 to stay in or return to their communities.

For more information about Bwrlwm ARFOR and the support that’s available for the use of Welsh in business contact Lafan by emailing [email protected]


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Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
16 minutes ago

Many more businesses are needed that take this approach. Too often I search the internet for Welsh products, find them and see that there is no place or prominence for y Gymraeg, even where it’s pretty clear that those behind the business are Gymry Gymraeg. We could (and probably will) wait around for aeons before there is any legislation passed that will properly address the needs of Cymraeg and those of us who speak it, but policy is a different matter; what if, for example, going forward that grants to businesses at are at least partially predicated on a requirement… Read more »

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