During an extraordinary year of challenges that has brought the livelihoods of artists worldwide to a standstill, the arts in Wales is experiencing a digital explosion of creative content responding and contributing to well-being, attracting international interest.
A year since confirming to Only Boys Aloud (OBA) that their tour to Japan for St David’s Day 2020 was postponed indefinitely, a virtual project has been launched to keep the connection alive with youth choirs in three cities in Japan, thanks to investment by the Japanese Government’s Cultural Agency. The anticipated tour, and now the collaboration, is with Kitakyushu, Kumamoto and Oita, cities that hosted the Welsh Rugby team and so warmly welcomed Wales during the World Cup in 2019.
The OBA tour cancelled in February 2020 became the first of thousands of international dates wiped from the diaries of artists in Wales as plans continue to be suspended.
OBA Acting Music Director Craig Yates said:
“We are thrilled in Aloud to be working with the three choirs in Japan. Each choir is being led by a pair of our talented Aloud choir leaders in Wales, and we are holding the rehearsals online, live, some 6000 miles away.
We were gutted that we were unable to visit Japan last year to continue the relationship that was established between the two countries during the Rugby World Cup in 2019. We have been delighted that the use of technology has enabled us to continue this project and to build an artistic and cultural exchange between the two countries.
We are teaching the choirs a specially arranged version of our Calon Lân, and our boys, choir leaders and everyone in Wales can’t wait to hear these three choirs singing this iconic song. We hope that this is the very first step in an exciting cultural exchange between the two countries.
Only Boys Aloud’s weekly virtual rehearsal has been of benefit to the mental health of all of their members, and over 100 boys from all over Wales take part in live rehearsals each week. For them, being able to sing and express themselves in this way has been hugely beneficial to their mental health and well-being.
For St David’s Day, OBA are launching a project called “Everyone Aloud” which invited anyone from anywhere in the World to join us in song to create an enormous virtual choir.”
Phil George, Chair, Arts Council of Wales said:
‘’Since St David’s Day 2020, millions across the globe have suffered the painful loss of lives and livelihoods, of connection and shared activity. In particular, children and young people have had their worlds turned inwards - locked down, uncertain and anxious.
That’s why it’s a special pleasure to announce a collaboration between young singers in Wales and Japan. This St David’s week, voices will be raised and our shared lives as citizens of the planet will be affirmed.
Only Boys Aloud is an inspiring and joy-giving choir, celebrated for developing musical talents and offering life-changing opportunities for many of the young singers, some who have grown up in challenging situations.
A virtual tour does not take away the disappointment of the cancelled Japan visit last year but it stands as a statement of hope and solidarity.’’
The Wales Arts International led Pethau Bychain – Small things digital campaign will be launched on AM on Monday 1st March, National Day of Wales and will showcase artistic content created mainly during lockdown in Wales by many diverse artists and organisations raising to the challenge of Wales’ Well-Being Goals, our local contribution to the UN Global Goals.
The campaign starts with calls for small acts of kindness and fairness for all by artists including Kelly Lee Owens, Rhys Ifans, Rakie Ayola, Catrin Finch, Gareth Bonello and others, responding to St David’s mantra Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain – Do The Small Things.
Eluned Hâf, Head of Wales Arts International, said:
“It’s extraordinary how, in parts of Wales hit hard by this pandemic, artists have taken their work off stage, and into different theatre spaces – whether in hospitals and the open air or in virtual worlds and digital platforms.
The arts have a change-making role to play in enabling communities to maximise their contribution towards local and global well-being goals and, importantly, in creating a different story for us all to pass on to future generations.”
Taking place over 1-8 March, Wales Arts International is highlighting how doing the small things (y pethau bychain) can make a real difference to our community, to our planet and to our own well-being, and how the arts is central to this. #SmallThings #PethauBychain will continue throughout the year.
Working in partnership with Welsh Government, Wales Arts International will continue the St David’s Day celebrations over the week, bridging two weekends of virtual festivals Gŵyl Dewi (international) and Gŵyl 2021 (UK and Ireland) the following weekend, finishing on International Women’s Day on 8 March.
Each day will feature artistic work that bring joy or release focusing on small acts of care and kindness. Each connect to the seven Well-being Goals of Wales’ - Wales’ contribution to the UN Global Goals.
The main content for each day will be shown on AM, which is a democratic new platform which showcases, celebrates and shares Wales’ cultural creativity.