An innovative three-year Trac Cymru project which involves schools and communities in Rhondda Cynon Tâf and Neath Port Talbot has been awarded a whopping £206,000 by The National Heritage Lottery Fund. ‘Cân y Cymoedd: When Valleys Sing’ aims to connect villagers in the Cynon Valley and the Amman Valley area with their local history and heritage while finding out about the rich traditions of Welsh folk music as well, sparking new songs that tell stories about contemporary life.
Trac Cymru is the all-Wales folk development organisation and works to promote and enhance the music and dance traditions of Wales, both within the Welsh nation and beyond. ‘Cân y Cymoedd: When Valleys Sing’ was based upon the highly successful ‘When Lancashire Sings’ project, led by Lancashire County Council’s heritage learning team. Seren Ni Owain, Trac Cymru’s marketing and communications officer, said: “We intend to create a similarly inspirational experience for schools and community groups in South Wales.”
The villages of Ynysboeth and Cwmgors have been chosen to take part in the project, which will embark on an in-depth research journey. Each of the groups will visit local heritage sites, and historians from local museums will help them uncover captivating tales and songs that are fascinating and important to their local history. Working closely with talented traditional Welsh musicians, the groups will write and perform new folk songs inspired by their research. These songs will be expertly recorded, culminating in a downloadable album and online resource which will be released for everybody to hear. The upshot means that the project’s impact will extend far beyond the participating schools and communities, making Welsh folk music more accessible to a broader range of audiences.
In Ynysboeth in the Cynon Valley, Trac Cymru will be working with both the local primary school and older residents based at the Feel Good Factory community centre. Nina Finnigan, administrator of the centre’s Listening Project programme, said: “We are delighted to be involved in ‘When Valleys Sing’, which will bring to life the past and present folk music of our area. The Cynon Valley has a strong history of tradition and culture, and we are looking forward to using music to connect our communities across the generations.”
Another part of the project will be held in the village of Cwmgors in Neath Port Talbot; Trac Cymru will work with the local community at the new Hwb y Gors Arts Centre, which is being developed in the former primary school building by the community energy charity, Awel Aman Tawe. Louise Griffiths, Awel Aman Tawe’s engagement officer, said: “Being able to offer our community the opportunity to be involved with Trac Cymru project is so exciting. We live in an area of not only financial deprivation but also deprivation of opportunities. People either have to travel or miss out on so many cultural activities – yet the desire and talent is abundant. This community has a rich heritage of traditional Welsh music and song, and it would be wonderful to see this thrive again with a new lease of modern life with all ages and abilities working together.”
Seren said: “Trac Cymru is grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Players for the generous support being given to this visionary project. Through ‘Cân y Cymoedd’, Trac Cymru and its partners aim to nurture a deeper appreciation for local history, heritage, and Welsh folk music traditions, rekindling a sense of cultural pride and belonging within the communities of Rhondda Cynon Tâf and Neath Port Talbot.”