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In a heartfelt initiative to bring joy and creativity to Cardiff’s Ely and Caerau districts, the Welsh National Opera (WNO) has launched an ambitious community engagement project named Ely Bridge. Coinciding with the anniversary of the public unrest in the area last year, this project is poised to strengthen community connections through the transformative power of music and art, with the esteemed BAFTA award-winning actress Rakie Ayola as its ambassador.

Rakie Ayola, a proud Ely native, is thrilled to give back to her roots. ‘I’m delighted to be teaming up with Welsh National Opera on this project which will give me the opportunity to give something back to the community I grew up in,’ she says. ‘I’m thrilled at the prospect of working alongside people of Ely and Caerau whilst engaging in creative activities that can bring real joy and positivity to an area which is often unfairly represented.’

Ely Bridge aims to not only enhance the lives of those in one of Wales’ most deprived areas but also to shift perceptions and showcase the vibrant community spirit that thrives there. Collaborating with ongoing efforts by the Welsh Government and local organisations like Action in Caerau and Ely, WNO’s initiative will offer new avenues for communication, creativity, and connection.

Central to this initiative are workshops in Ely and Caerau primary schools, specifically targeting children aged 10-11. This age is critical as students transition from primary to secondary school, a period fraught with potential disengagement from education. By encouraging these young minds to take part in music education, WNO hopes to provide a creative outlet that nurtures curiosity and imagination – qualities that are increasingly sidelined in today’s financially constrained educational environment.

Selected schools, including St Francis Roman Catholic Primary School and Herbert Thompson Primary School, will see the first wave of these workshops, with a later extension planned for secondary education at Cardiff West Community High School. The project’s aim is to combat issues arising during these key educational transitions, such as the risk of exploitation by criminal gangs – a troubling reality in the area.

Sandra Taylor, the WNO producer leading the project, emphasises the importance of this initiative: ‘WNO is able to offer unique opportunities for children and young people to work with highly skilled professionals, who can inspire and help raise aspirations. At a time when the arts are being squeezed from the curriculum, this project offers opportunities for creativity, an important part of learning that helps develop curiosity, imagination, choice making and, ultimately, those all-important problem-solving skills needed for future careers.”

The first phase of Ely Bridge will shape the future trajectory of the project, with WNO practitioners adapting the program based on the children’s aspirations. The subsequent phase will involve intergenerational activities, fostering connections among children, parents, teachers, and key community figures such as social workers, council members, and South Wales Police officers.For further details on this inspiring initiative, visit

Author WCS

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