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Port Talbot mum’s book helps children shake off their fear of hospital

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A Port Talbot mum whose child imagined the Covid virus was “like a giant, scary T-Rex” has written a picture book designed to help youngsters overcome their fear of going into hospital.

Bethan Jones, a school nurse with Swansea Bay UHB, has teamed up with Martin Baines, a feted illustrator whose work has been used by the Doctor Who, Beano, Thunderbirds and Wallace and Gromit brands, to create the book called Monster A&E.

Bethan, a mum of three, and a former district nurse, explains: “My son has severe global delay and additional learning needs.

“Throughout the pandemic I have been watching the news and he was always passing comment about what goes on in the hospital and what the virus is.

“Once he learns about something his imagination runs away with him, so he thought the virus was like a big scary T-Rex and if you went outside this T-Rex could get you.

“This worried me so I decided to write the book in lockdown, putting things in a way that he could understand, about what happens in a hospital and why people might need to go there and how doctors and nurses help to make people feel better.

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“He has really enjoyed reading it and having the book has helped him a lot. Going into hospital is not fun and games but you don’t want to scare children about going into hospital when it is needed.

“My work with children in schools has shown me that children can be scared of doctors and nurses even if you are just there for a chat with them or to do immunisations.

“Prior to my job as a school nurse my only interaction with children and health professionals came from my own experience as a mother.

“Every hospital and GP appointment would fill me with dread as my children all had a horrendous ‘white coat syndrome’.”

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The book, which can be found in public libraries throughout Neath Port Talbot, sees a host of monster characters – mummies, witches, Dracula, zombies and ghouls – going to A&E when they need medical help.

The story sees a mummy who has slipped in the loo, a vampire bat with a broken wing and a yeti who has hurt his leg while learning to ski, showing a softer, vulnerable side to scary monsters – all needing doctors and nurses to help them get better.

Bethan says: “I wanted to show my son, in a fun simple way that he would understand, what goes on in the hospital environment, and what all the different people who work there do to help us.

“It has really helped my son to see hospital as a place he doesn’t need to be scared of – people there just want to make children feel better.

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“I think we can teach children from a young age not to fear health professionals, as they grow up they will feel more confident and reassured about accessing services and the care in which they provide.

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“It’s great that the book has been picked up by Neath Port Talbot libraries and by one in Canada, too. I am also working with Pobl’s wellbeing facilitator who is keen to promote it into schools.

“My son loves telling people that his mammy wrote a book for him. I love my job as a school nurse and I hope the book helps lots of children feel better about getting medical care.”

Monster A&E is published by Jelly Bean Books in Cardiff and online at etsy.


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Comedy

Welsh legend Max Boyce is coming to Swansea Arena

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Following a sell-out tour in 2022, Welsh legend Max Boyce is coming to Swansea Arena with a special 50th anniversary concert.

The iconic Welsh comedian, singer and entertainer is due to play Swansea’s newest concert venue on Saturday 4 March 2023.

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Glynneath-born Max rose to fame in the 1970s with a musical comedy act rooted in his passion for Welsh rugby.

His very first recordings were made at the Valley Folk Club in Pontardawe in 1971 and featured several tracks that became his signature tunes including including Hymns and Arias, Duw it’s Hard and Slow – Men at Work.

At his brand new Swansea Arena show he will be performing a musical version of his lockdown poem When Just the Tide Went Out for the first time. Since its release in 2020 it has been something of an internet sensation and been viewed nearly 8 million times. It was titled ‘Pick of the Week’ on Radio 4 and features in his number 1 best-selling book, Hymns and Arias.

Max will also be performing some of his other famous songs which have endeared him to both young and old alike. Don’t miss the chance to see this inspired, and inspiring entertainer, whose songs and stories have become part of Welsh Legend.

The one-off show is hard to miss, and definitely one that for years to come you’ll be able to say: “I was there!”

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Max Boyce performs at Swansea Arena on Saturday, March 4th 2023. Tickets go on pre-sale Monday 15 August at 10am with general sale online from 12pm.

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Arts and Entertainment

New report says Cultural Recovery Fund provided lifeline to the sector in Wales

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The Welsh Government’s £108m Cultural Recovery Fund was fundamental to the survival of many cultural organisations in Wales during the Covid pandemic which helped safeguarded 2,700 FTE jobs, a new report has said.

During the Covid pandemic in 2020-2021 the Welsh Government launched the Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), which provided financial support to the cultural, creative and events sectors across Wales.

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94% of the organisations surveyed for a Welsh Government-commissioned evaluation report said the Fund had played a part in their survival – with 57% saying it had been fundamental to their survival to a great extent.

With the funding received, over half of creative and cultural organisations developed new activities or services in response to the pandemic, meaning that the Fund has enabled innovation as well as supporting organisations to develop new areas of business and diversify their revenue streams. This has the potential to improve the sector’s resilience to manage future disruption and operational restriction associated with the pandemic.

Just under half of organisations would have had to draw on their reserves which may have placed many in a precarious operating position, vulnerable to failure or closure because of future economic influences.

Many freelancers reported that the funding has provided them with breathing space to reflect on their creative practice and identify future opportunities. For some, the Fund allowed them to purchase new equipment or update their facilities.

Around a third of freelancers surveyed said they would have left the sector completely in the absence of funding, with a similar proportion indicating that they would have temporarily secured other employment outside of the sector.  Only one in seven secured another job, showing that the funding has helped to stem a flight away from the sector.

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Angharad Jenkins from Swansea is a freelance musician and member of the Welsh folk group Calan. She lost all her live work over-night and has used the funding to adapt her practice and to develop new skills which she will continue to use in the future.

Anghard said: “During the pandemic I focused on growing and moved my private teaching practice online and I delivered 1:1 participatory music sessions for children with special learning needs through Live Music Now. 

“The biggest learning curve for me was learning to record remotely. I was able to work with musicians in north Wales, Scotland, Oxford and as far away as Melbourne, Australia. I was also able to offer my skills as a session musician, as well as taking on private composition commission, without needing to leave the house.

“I also started singing and writing songs during this time. The slower pace of life enabled me to think more creatively about my work. I was truly grateful for this lifeline, at such a worrying time, which kept me working in the creative sector and I’m now enjoying the return to live events!”.

The funding also enabled organisations to maintain contact with their volunteer base.  It is estimated that around 77,000 volunteer roles have been protected through the Fund, ranging from one off volunteering opportunities such as at large scale participation events to longer-term volunteers.

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The Fund has had a direct contribution in supporting efforts to increase volunteering across Wales, delivering a range of positive outcomes both for the volunteers themselves and the communities they support.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden said: “The Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund was launched as part of efforts to ensure we did everything possible to ensure our arts, culture, heritage, events and creative sectors survived the Covid pandemic. 

“The £108m funding from the Cultural Recovery Fund went well beyond the consequential funding we received from the UK Government. This highlights the significant value we put on the sector’s contribution to Welsh life and the wider economy. 

“We also launched the first Freelancer Fund in the UK. The decision to include freelancers as a key part of the Cultural Recovery Fund was in recognition of the essential role they play in our economy and in creating and delivering cultural experience.

“We recognised we’ll need the professionalism, experience, enthusiasm and vison of these professionals in the creative and cultural sector to help us come together and rebuild after the public health crisis abated. I’m delighted to see that people are now having the opportunity to work in these sectors once more – and helping us on the journey to recovery.”

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot panto princess search over as Princess Royal Theatre make ‘royal announcement’

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The search for a princess has come to an end, as MTAZ Productions announces a princess for the forthcoming Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime at Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre has been found.

MTAZ productions has welcomed Briony Harris to the cast of the eagerly awaited show which goes ahead in December 2022 at The Princess Royal Theatre.

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Briony is currently in her second year of a three-year course at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts, Epsom, Surrey, where she is studying Musical Theatre and Dance, having been awarded a full scholarship.

Briony previously trained at Bridgend College, in Musical Theatre and Dance as well as attending TDM Stage School in Port Talbot, and Caroline Brown Ballet School in Bridgend. She is also vocally trained by Porthcawl singing teacher, Patricia O’Neill-Wheatley.

Anthony Argyle, the artistic director of MTAZ Productions, said: “I believe we have found a star of the future and I’m proud to see that she will be beginning her career locally at The Princess Royal Theatre.”

MTAZ Productions are looking forward to bringing the traditional family pantomime to Port Talbot from the 1st until 10th December. Jack and the Beanstalk will tell the classic story of poor Jack, who is sent to market by his mother to sell the family’s treasured cow.

Little does he know that swapping his dear cow for a bag of magic beans will lead to an adventure he will never forget. From fighting to save the beautiful Princess, outwitting the evil giant and winning riches beyond his wildest dreams.

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And does he gain the hand of the girl he loves?

Applications are now open for the children’s chorus. MTAZ Productions is now offering the opportunity for children aged 7-16 to take part in Jack and The Beanstalk. The show producers are looking for three teams of 10 children to take part.

An audition day will be held on September 18th from 10am – 2pm at The Princess Royal Theatre. The audition will require applicants to dance, sing and take part in acting workshops. An online booking form is in place for people wanting to book a place at the audition.

Cllr Jeremy Hurley, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Wellbeing said: “I’m delighted the princess has been found and also very pleased that Jack and the Beanstalk is building up to be a great production this year for our residents to enjoy.”

Jack and the Beanstalk is at The Princess Royal Theatre from 1 to 10 December 2022.

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