The last few weeks have seen Parliament take a break for its summer recess. This is a time where rather than spending half the week in London, MPs get to spend time in their constituencies. These few weeks are a precious time, where instead of commuting up and down the M4, I am able to spend time being out and about in the community meeting people and listening to their issues, their concerns and their hopes for the future.
When meeting young people, I am often inspired by their bold confidence and dreams for their lives ahead. They are a generation who have sacrificed so much to keep older generations safe. That’s why I was absolutely delighted to be invited to visit GlamCamp, a subsidised Music and Arts Summer Camp that runs in the Summer holidays at Ysgol Garth Olwg.
Every year, the Glam Organisation arranges a Summer Performing Arts Camp for children of all ages and abilities. They are a non-profit organisation who rely on funding from grants and through fundraising events such as concerts and workshop days.
Getting to meet the young people on the programme, to hear about their experiences over the last 18 months and the positive impact that taking part in GlamCamp has had on their wellbeing and mental health was genuinely brilliant. It clarified what I’d already known from my own experiences to be true: that all young people deserve access to arts and cultural activities regardless of their background. The arts are an essential part of a rounded education and provide young people with unique skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
My passion for arts and culture stems from the enriching experiences that were open to me when I was young.
The Glam used to consist of three separate groups and I was lucky enough to be part of all three in times gone by. In the Glamorgan Youth Choir, I remember winning the talent competition with two of my friends at Ogmore, in what I can only describe as a truly exceptional rendition of the musical/karaoke classic “Whole Again” by Atomic Kitten. Not content to just belt our hearts out, our performance highlighted our dance abilities with a routine oddly involving just chairs. I also played first violin in the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra, but my personal favourite was The Glamorgan Youth Theatre. Some of my best memories growing up were the shows I did there, and a special highlight was when I had the chance to play the older Cosette in our production of Les Misérables. Whilst I may have sadly done some permanent damage to the o-zone with the amount of hairspray I used at the time, I made friends that I am still close with to this day.
I had the time of my life through the performing arts growing up, but the skills and lessons I learnt whilst having fun, dressing up and telling stories are instrumental in getting me to where I am today.
I leant to work as part of a team; using the strengths of those around me because only when our individual parts were joined together did the music sound as it was supposed to.
I learnt how to make sure I was always prepared; learning lines was fantastic preparation for giving speeches in Parliament.
I learnt how to be confident enough to speak up; to perform the solo or to put myself forward to represent our wonderful community in Westminster.
The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for all of us. But watching the young people perform the Circle of Life reminded me of an important lesson, that “it moves us all, through despair and hope”. The hope that these young people have for the future is inspiring, but it is also a challenge for adults and decision makers to rise to. We must make sure that we provide these young people with everything they need to be able to achieve the future they hope for.