World Aids Day takes place on 1 December every year. Founded in 1988, this day is dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS and for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV. With over 105,000 people currently living with HIV in the UK, figures in Wales have been dropping steadily since 2018. As part of Welsh National Opera’s continued support of Cardiff’s journey towards achieving zero HIV transmissions by 2030, we have composed a brand-new song as part of our Three Letters project. We caught up with Mercy Shibemba, an advocate for children and young people living with HIV and one of the composers behind the song.
‘I first worked with Welsh National Opera last year when they launched their Three Letters project in collaboration with Fast Track Cardiff. Working alongside Nathaniel Hall (actor and activist), Michael Betteridge (composer and animateur), and Sian Cameron (singer and facilitator), we delivered a variety of workshops at Cardiff West Community High School. The students reaction to these sessions created the lyrics to the first song in the song-book, We learn, we know, we understand. This was a fun way to engage the students, raise awareness and help break the stigma around HIV - which is a key barrier to testing and prevention across communities in the UK.
This year, we’ve written a brand-new song, which I composed with Welsh singer songwriter Eädyth Crawford and WNO Vocal Intern Aliyah Wiggins. As we were all new to each other, it was easy to be vulnerable and objective. Art and life are mirrors to each other, and I think it's inevitable that art will reflect what happens in real life.
All these dreams is based on my own experiences. The main message is about finding your voice and discovering yourself. I want listeners to remember that living out your dreams and giving your dreams space to evolve is something we should all do. A range of languages including Welsh and Spanish feature, alongside different musical interests, inspirations, and cultural elements. During the process of producing the song, we spent quite a lot of time listening to music, which had elements of things that we liked, and it was incredibly important to me to have those elements in there.
One of the lyrics that sticks in my mind is ‘who are you racing?’ which was a reminder to ourselves and hopefully to those listening that everyone is on their own timeline and journey and that you don’t have to race anyone.’
All these dreams received its first public performance during an event at Senedd, Cardiff Bay on Wednesday 30 November and is now available to listen on Soundcloud.
To access resources, including information about HIV, free home test kits and downloadable content, please visit the Fast Track Cardiff website.