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Poplars Forge, Wales, burning ambition for Welsh dragons

Submitted by on 12/05/2011 – 13:31

By Ceidiog Hughes

A shopping centre is helping the Welsh dragon to breathe fire. Poplars Forge, which makes dramatic metal dragon sculptures, was one of nine creative businesses given a showcase at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham. Proprietor Steve Gillard hopes his dragons will literally breathe fire one day. His ambition is for them to be used as vents to burn off excess gas at landfill sites across Wales. The companies took over a unit at the centre for a day in an event organised as part of the Wrexham Year of Culture. Also among them were jewellers, artists, a photographer and a company that makes garden products.

According to Wrexham County Borough Council’s business development officer, Liz Wallens, the event was a huge success. She said: “We are very grateful to the management of Eagles Meadow for sponsoring the event and allowing us the free use of the unit. It has allowed smaller enterprises to showcase some of their work, all of which is produced locally, and raise awareness of some of the fantastic products they have on offer. Wrexham is a place is known for its industrial and business achievements over more than two centuries and this was a chance to highlight a very different aspect of modern life here in the town. Wrexham’s Year of Culture aims to raise the profile of the area and is demonstrating what a great place town is in which to live and work.”

Poplars Forge, based on the Pinfold Industrial Estate at Buckley, used the event as an opportunity to showcase some of their bespoke metal iron work designs. Proprietor Steve Gillard said “We will, tackle any iron work from railings, balustrades and ornate ironwork. However, we do specialise in our trademark iron dragon designs. One of the larger dragons can take up to a week to make using traditional iron working skills. I first saw an iron dragon about four years ago at a show in Burnley and thought I could do a better job. I have ambition to see a one of our dragons used on refuse tips right across Wales as vents. That way we can have our dragons’ actually breathing fire and, as the vented gas goes to the atmosphere anyway, there is no difference to the environment.”

Steve says he is looking to expand the company and is installing a dragon at Deeside College after agreeing to take students on a work experience programme. He said: “We do have a good amount of work coming in. For instance in the last twelve months we have renovated the gates to the Duke’s Drive in Chester as well as completing new railings and other iron works at Chester Cathedral. I am pleased with how the business is steadily growing, and I have also accepted commissions from Liverpool One and Mold’s Theatr Cymru. We have also designed and built an iron learning tree for a Broughton school. We have seen a great deal of interest in our designs here at Eagles Meadow and the event has been an excellent way of promoting our work.”

Portrait and wedding photographer Ian Williams was also thrilled with the public’s response to the Eagles Meadow event. Ian gave up a 30 year career in banking and finance to follow his dream of becoming a portrait and wedding photographer. He said: “I began my business two years ago. Having left the bank I took qualifications through the Royal Photographic Society and have never looked back. I always had a keen interest in photography, especially photographing people and wanted to turn my hobby into a business. I have to say I love working for myself and am pleased with how the business is growing. This event at Eagles Meadow has been a great opportunity to promote our services to a wider audience. The reaction from shoppers has been excellent and I have had a number of positive enquires which is fantastic.”

Bridges, part of Wrexham County Borough Council’s day and employment opportunities service, showcased some of their wide range of concrete garden products at the Eagles Meadow event. Support workers Kirsty Goodwin, 22, and Ann Sheridan, 27, of Bridges, which is based Puleston Industrial Estate, in Wrexham, explained that all their ornamental products are made by people with disabilities. Kirsty said: “It’s been great having the chance to show off our work here at Eagles Meadow. Bridges provides proper training and support and helps people make and decorate top quality ornamental concrete products. Bridges was actually started some 25 years ago as a means of giving adults with disabilities employment opportunities. We are still part of Wrexham County Borough Council’s Adult Social Care Department and are a like a halfway house preparing people for open employment opportunities. We take any adult from aged 16 up until they want to stop. That includes people with learning difficulties, brain injuries, physical injuries and mental health issues.”

Ann Sheridan added: “We do have contracts with a couple of garden centres who sell our work for us but are always looking for new outlets.”

According to Kevin Critchley, the Manager of Eagles Meadow, he was only too pleased to be able to help. Mr Critchley said: “Eagles Meadow is now very much an integral part of the commercial and business life of the Wrexham area so we were delighted we had the opportunity to provide a shop window for these creative companies. They had some wonderful products and works of art on display so I really hope that they continue to thrive and prosper.”

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