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Monday, March 20, 2023

Music service back in tune after devastating flood

* Llyr Gruffydd MS at North Wales Music Co-operative with Head of Service Heather Powell and Chair, Cllr Mark Young. 

A pioneering music service that teaches children in Wrexham and Denbighshire has bounced back after a devasting flood.

The award-winning North Wales Music Co-operative – which has branches in both counties – was up and running again just 28 days after a frozen pipe burst, inundating the building and causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to instruments and equipment.

According to Head of Service Heather Powell, the disaster was heartbreaking because it happened not long after they had completed a major makeover to upgrade the building.

She said: “The water from the burst pipe cascaded through the ceiling and on to all the technology which was a shattering blow.

“There was a good few inches of water and it was pretty much the whole of the main room of the building as well as the new offices because it had been leaking over the weekend when nobody was here.

“The damage was all the more awful because we’d just got the office how we wanted it and the whole team were incredibly upset.

“It was hard to know where to start but everybody pulled together and the support we’ve had from our tutors, from Cllr Mark Young, our Chairman, the two local authorities that we work with, Denbighshire and Wrexham, and from neighbouring businesses has been just fantastic.”

Thanks to a “superhuman effort” the organisation is now back on track with plans to expand the service so that even more children can benefit from the “magic of music”.

Among the co-operative’s fans is Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd, the North Wales Senedd member, who paid a visit to their premises in Denbigh.

He said: “Music is in our DNA in Wales and it  is extremely important for children because it opens up the imagination, it’s a door to all sorts of feelings and emotions and aspirations.

“My visit has been a real eye opener and I think this is so much more than I thought it would be because it’s not just a music service for schools but also a service which offers benefits in terms of wellbeing. 

“There are thousands of children who benefit from this service and there would be a substantial void if it wasn’t available.

“As a governor who remembers when budgets were cut and suddenly schools themselves had to find people to come in and so on, that gap was filled by this group.

“The new Curriculum for Wales offers the use of different methods in order to teach, so this could be a key opportunity for music to reach audiences of children in a way that it hasn’t in the past.

“The co-operative is also making a very important contribution in the fact that it is providing a livelihood for the musicians.

“I have heard how the offering of this service and getting a fee for teaching in schools gives a basis for musicians to have the flexibility to be able to perform and to do other things, rather than having to find another day job.”

Heather Powell also paid tribute to the Welsh Government for developing a “fantastic” National Music Plan.

She added: “The support of the Welsh Government has enabled us to upskill the tutors, to have better equipment and to deliver more to the children.

“We’re going from strength to strength, with lots of new tutors and an ever expanding service. 

“We’ve got a music therapist who does fantastic work in Denbighshire and we’ve got lots of new ensembles happening in both authorities and lots of extra-curricular courses to look forward to.

“There’s been lots of studies done about how music impacts children’s literacy and numeracy skills but I think, since the pandemic we’ve seen a massive rise in discussion about how music improves mental health and wellbeing which is more important with more people suffering than ever.

“Our plan is to continue to expand the service with  more concerts, more events for the pupils, more opportunities to perform.

“As well as Denbighshire and Wrexham, we’re supporting other authorities across Wales with our virtual ’Make Some Noise’ tour because it’ doesn’t matter where the school is, whether it’s in the south, in the middle or in the north, they can access our tour which is helping other authorities to deliver the live music element of the National Music Plan.

At a time when education budgets are tight, the co-operative’s chair, Cllr Mark Young believes the not-for-profit co-operative model is the way forward to ensure that the children of Wales benefit from the “multi-layered benefits” of music.

He said: “The music co-operative has been a big success in Denbighshire and Wrexham.

“The amount of pupils accessing music because of the high quality lessons, is going up.  And every level of talent gets looked after.  We don’t leave anyone behind – it’s totally inclusive.

“We’re reaching more and more pupils and I’m pretty sure more and more local authorities will take up the model and we’re here, willing and able to help with that and I’m very proud to be the Chair.”

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