Gary’s back…without Tina Turner this time!

Photo credit | Heledd Roberts

I’ve known Gary for a few years now.  He has been cutting my hair for years and not only did the Bridal Party hair at my sister’s wedding last year, but also did the same at my wedding nearly ten years ago!

For those of you who read this and don’t know Gary {that’ll be two of you then! ;) }, last year he took part in a welsh programme called ‘Y Plas’, where he was taken back to 1910 and lived like a servant.  I asked him to share a little bit about himself and his experiences following his time on the programme.

Growing up, Gary tells me he was a bit of a rebel child. If he could get out of going to school, he simply wouldn’t go! At that age he didn’t know what he wanted to do.   It was during 6th Form at Ysgol y Berwyn, where he did 3 days in school and 2 days in Coleg Meirionydd, Dolgellau, where he realised where his interests lay. At this college they would have “taster days” on all sorts of different subjects i.e. business, cooking etc. The College wasn’t far from a salon that his sister was doing a course at. She would come home at evenings with all of this kit that Gary thought looked really interesting.  And that’s where it all started. He quickly called the salon and offered to work there 3 days a week for free, just to give him a taster of what the work was like. And that’s what he did for a while until they offered him to work every Saturday.  For the next 2 years, Gary would be found working at this salon.  And since then has gone on to work in salons in Liverpool, Wrexham and Bala. After 15 years he decided to go self employed.

Fast forward 6 years and here we are.

Gary, how did ‘Y Plas’ come about?  

I had been watching Coal House etc. on telly and always wondered what it would be like to do something like that.  Whilst watching telly one night I saw an advert on S4C looking for people to take part and thought it looked very interesting. I filled in an application form and sent it off and didn’t tell anyone, thinking I wouldn’t get chosen anyway. One evening I received a call which turned out to be an interview over the phone. A week later I got invited to go to an open day in Gregynog. It was a full on day of meeting the production crew and others who had been chosen to take part before the final number were selected.  We also had a go at all sorts of other activities, such as making baskets, skinning rabbits, making shelters etc.

Uchafi!  Skinning rabbits!  How did you cope with THAT?!

I decided to just get stuck in and just got on with it!  At the end of that day, I went home thinking I definitely won’t hear anything now. No one still knew that I had applied yet, either. Following this, I received a phone call asking if I would like to take part, obviously I said yes, and I was sworn to secrecy and not allowed to say anything to anyone and was only allowed to tell close family because s4c wanted to announce it all.  And then in September 2013 we started filming and filmed for 3 weeks in total.


Would you recommend it to anybody reading this in doing something similar?

Definitely yes! It’s a once in a lifetime experience. It’s an experience I can’t explain, really.  And that is what I enjoyed about it the most, the uniqueness of it all.

Did you learn anything from your experience? 

One thing I did learn is that we fill our heads with too much stimulation and online stuff i.e. our iphones, facebook, twitter etc. When I’m home it takes me ages to get to sleep, but during my time at ‘Y Plas’ I slept so much better as I wasn’t ‘online’ or on my ipad etc during the evening. Even though I played the part of a servant, it seemed like a much easier life.

And has this stayed with you?  Do you switch from it all now?

*Laughs*…No! When I got home, the first thing I did was switch the kettle on and I realised just how easy it was to simply heat up some water, whereas there, it took ages to boil some water!

Are you still in touch with those you were there with?

Yes.  As soon as we finished filming we were in touch a lot, but not so much now.  I’m still in touch with them, we just don’t talk as often as we did at first.

Doing ‘Y Plas’ has given you other opportunities as well hasn’t it?

When I arrived home I was like, that’s it!  I did that, back to normal now.  Let’s cut some hair!  I just did it for the experience and to be myself throughout it all.  Then one evening, I got a call from BBC Radio Cymru offering me a slot on the radio where people call in with their hair problems or queries and I would give them advice.  One slot turned into a monthly slot and I did 3 in total. I’m still on the radio too, in a way. Every Thursday morning you can listen to ‘Becca Bingo’, which is a comedy series about ‘Becca’ and her friends and there is a character called ‘Gary Gwallt’ on there, based on myself.

I’ve also been on ‘Prynhawn Da’ where I discussed my experience on ‘Y Plas’.    I also write a column for ‘Y Cyfnod’, which is a new field to me.  I’m enjoying the chance to write about things that interest me and could be of interest to others.

And you’ve just been filming in Cardiff too, haven’t you?  Tell us about that.

I have!  I’ve been working on a programme for Stwnsh called ‘Sbyty Hospital’.  A hilarious programme, it’s not acting as such, just a load of actors having a laugh and putting together a sketch show. It was very surreal meeting all these actors who have been on the telly for ages and I’m there with them working on this show!

And this is all from doing ‘Y Plas’?

Yes! Everything out of this has just snowballed and has been so positive. Sometimes, you’ve just got to say yes to all of these opportunities that come your way. For me, ‘Y Plas’ was a way to get away from it all, the rushing around etc. It sounds really cliché, but I did just want to get away, do something different…and time to just to get to know myself, I suppose. And that may be it now, nothing else might not come my way. But at least I can say I’ve done and had a go at what was offered to me. Life is too short to sit back and think about these opportunities, you’ve just got to grab them and go with the ride…and what a ride it has been!

Plus, if it wasn’t for all of this, I wouldn’t have found myself in Vivienne Westwood’s shop, buying myself a great big belt! Now that was an experience I definitely plan on repeating!

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