As the National Assembly for Wales got ready to rise for the summer recess I sponsored ‘A Celebration of Welsh musical performance culture’ in the Senedd. It was an opportunity for world class Welsh performers such as Catrin Finch to be joined by a wealth of young Welsh musical talent to showcase the value of music education and performance in Wales. The sight and sound of Catrin Finch, the former harpist to the Prince of Wales, playing with young star Eluned Hollyman, the 2014 Caerphilly Young Musician of the year, was a wonderful thing.
As a former music teacher, and now Assembly Member for Islwyn, I am passionate that the Welsh Government implement a comprehensive music education plan delivering an offer of consistent tuition and orchestral access.
Wales requires a national music strategy for Welsh children. A strategy that provides equivalent access to musical education for children living in every corner of our nation. Austerity must not be an excuse to deprive children of the opportunity to learn and perform music.
Earlier this year the Welsh Government announced £1 million to establish a National Endowment for Music, which will enable more young people to access musical opportunities. This builds on the £20m Creative Learning through the Arts plan to support creative teaching and learning in schools and the Musical Instrument Amnesty. However, we know that the continual shrinking of local councils’ budgets means there are increasingly fewer instrumental teaching and learning opportunities for Welsh youngsters and local authority music support services are dropping off.
I am grateful for the fantastic support my event, in association with Arts Council for Wales, generated – including the support of Sir Bryn Terfel. Our Assembly was alive with the sound of young Welsh musical talent flooding the space with beautiful music. We must ensure that we sustain our precious love of musical performance as a nation.
Work to build a new £350m hospital in Cwmbran, which will also treat patients who need complex and acute emergency care in the Gwent region has begun. The new hospital is to be called the Grange University Hospital. As the building of one important public space begins I attended another, Islwyn High, on its first week in operation. It was amazing to be given a guided tour by Head Tim Williams as the students were going about their education. The space and facilities are truly impressive. As a former Cabinet Member for Education on Caerphilly Borough Council I gave the school’s creation the green light so to follow Islwyn High’s progress from inception to opening has been humbling.
So now it’s time for the summer. Let’s hope for some sunshine as we make memories with our children and grand children.