The important of arts in the Welsh Valleys

Words and images by Kelsey Roberts

Shaun Keddy, Club Leader of Maesteg Ukulele Club (above) enjoys a pint of lager while teaching the group their set list in time for their Concert in January.

We live in a society where the arts are all around us and the Llynfi Valley is no different. Situated in the South Wales Valleys, Maesteg, has for years used the arts as a way of showcasing the talent that it has to offer. Producing world champion dancers, promising actors and many musical talents that have shown that the town is more than its history.

The Llynfi Valley’s history has always been about the mining and iron industry which sometimes overshadows things that are happening in the present day. The arts have been used in the valley as a way of bringing people with common interests together. The arts community within Maesteg has brought many achievements to the town. The importance of groups like these in a community gives people a sense of belonging.

Maesteg Ukulele Group, which is run by Shaun Keddy (above), is a group made up of all genders and ages who share the unusual interest of playing the ukulele. The ukulele is most known as being played in Hawaii, 7,300 miles away from Maesteg. The four stringed instrument creates harmonious sounds in which the group uses to make their music to play for fun and concerts around the town and further around South Wales.

Ukuleles are not something that is found in a small town like Maesteg, but Shaun has created a group that has grown over time and keeps going from strength to strength pulling people in from all over the borough. Shaun says, “being a part of a group like this has faced its challenges due to it being one of the lesser known things to happen in the town, but we try and get as many people involved as possible.” He goes on to say that, “coming to a pub to practice allows us to spend time with each other and talk about the things going on in our lives while also having a pint, which is the best part.”

UDC Dance is a dance crew in Caerau where they teach from 2 years old up to adults including parents who want to learn how to dance. UDC has been running for 10 years. The group was started by Carl Tidball, who only in 2021 hung up his dancing shoes and passed the role down to Tracey Newman, who now alongside many other coaches teaches the kids of Caerau to dance. The group has achieved so much in the 10 years it has been running, bringing home trophies from not only Wales but from around the world. The group has allowed children from all around the valley to boost their confidence and take part in a healthy living by being active. According to Courtney Richards (pictured above) entertaining the kids of UDC, “having a dance group as close as this one it gives us the opportunity to build relationships with the kids and it’s the best feeling in the world when they’re learning and get excited when it has finally clicked.”

Curtain Up Youth Theatre group is a group that provides a space for young people aged 7-21 to express themselves through drama and music. The group has put on shows like Grease and Hairspray. Later this year, the group will be putting on the show of Legally Blonde, the 2007 musical with music and lyrics from Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin. The group has been the place for the musically inclined young people for over 10 years. Started by Ruth Whelan, Curtain Up Youth Theatre has brought joy and happiness to the children of Maesteg and continues to do so for many years to come.

Côr Meibion Maesteg a’r Cylch is an all male choir based in the lower end of Maesteg pulling in men from all over the Valley. The choir, run by Talfyn Harries has been all around the Valley as well as South Wales putting on concerts and singing at weddings. The group provides a space for men from all over the Valley a space where they can sing and get together. When asked, Terry Cardiff (above) spoke about how “the group provides a space for us all to get together and talk about life as well as take part in singing around the area.”

These art groups all provide a safe space for each member to go to for community and fun. These groups are important to small villages like Maesteg where they’ve built a bad reputation due to the minority, but with groups like these it can bring back that light that was missing.

Categories: Feature, Uncategorized

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