Reaching diverse communities through music and song

26 July 2021

There’s so much more happening at Welsh National Opera – beyond the stage the Company is reaching tens of thousands of people in diverse communities through music and song, with support from a leading foundation. WNO has an extensive community engagement programme of youth opera, training opportunities for young people, choirs for people with dementia and their carers and story-telling activities for refugees and asylum seekers. The projects, which are based in South Wales, North Wales, the West Midlands and the South Coast of England, have been supported by a £300,000 grant from Garfield Weston Foundation.

In 2019/2020, pre COVID-19, more than 55,000 people took part in WNO engagement activities and the teams have successfully maintained many programmes during lockdowns by moving them online.

Director of Programmes and Engagement Emma Flatley said: ‘Engagement is about creating accessible opportunities for everyone to engage in the art form. We are reaching large groups of different people with different backgrounds particularly those with access issues or who may be socially excluded. It is about finding ways so that everyone has the opportunity to either take part in our work or experience us.’

Launched in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-based grant-making body which supports hundreds of organisations across the country. In the last year, the foundation has given grants worth more than £90 million to groups working in the arts, education, health, wellbeing and social inclusion.

Director Philippa Charles said: ‘WNO are doing a lot of community work with under-represented and marginalized groups. Their work is so valuable, it’s about engagement, it’s about bringing joy and beauty into people’s lives, it’s about engaging people who perhaps wouldn’t naturally find themselves going to one of their shows.’

One of the projects supported by Garfield Weston is WNO’s Cradle Choir which has been based in Milford Haven since autumn 2019. Working with Torch Theatre, Havenhurst Day Centre, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services and Pembrokeshire County Council, the group was initially meeting in person weekly, bringing more than 40 people to sing together and now meets online. It has also held dementia friendly training with local schoolchildren.

The company’s Youth Opera for young people aged 7-18 and Youth Opera Young Company for those aged 18-25, has also benefited from the funding