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The Open University champions COP26 with ‘Green Zone’ event exploring culture, citizens and climate

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worms eyeview of green trees

The Open University is hosting a unique event at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) as one of several initiatives to mark its commitment to responding to the climate crisis.  

COP26 will bring together parties from across the world to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

The Open University will host a 90-minute series of short reflections on ‘Ancient Knowledge and Modern Thinking: Climate Perspectives in Folk Art’ held in partnership with Glasgow Life. Taking place on 7 November, these reflections will feature indigenous artists and experts from the OU and Glasgow Life, exploring connections between culture, citizens and climate by examining three contrasting works of art from Glasgow Museums’ World Cultures collection.

The Open University has official observer status at COP26 and will learn from the conference to inform the university’s wider sustainability mission and inspire students and staff to take action. 

The Open University is committed to being ‘net zero’ by 2050 and will achieve net zero for what are known as scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, investing millions of pounds to achieve this. The University has also committed to divestment from fossil fuels, on which work has started and will complete by 2023. 

Lynette Thomas

Deputy Director of the OU in Wales and Chair of Universities Wales Civic Mission Network, Lynnette Thomas said: “Universities in Wales and across the world are fortunate to be in a position to promote responsible practices, foster greater public understanding, and reduce our environmental impact. Collectively, universities employ tens of thousands of people and have a massive presence in our communities and across our country, so we have a responsibility to think carefully about how we’re using energy and resources, and how we can reduce our impact on the world around us. We also have a responsibility to share our research and knowledge so that communities in Wales and future generations can address this century’s major environmental challenges.”

“At the OU in Wales’ our mission is to be “open to people, places, methods and ideas”. We are committed to inspiring action via our role as an educator and to ensuring that everything we do is sustainable.  The Universities Wales civic mission framework is a blueprint for how universities can support our communities, as well and tackle regional and global problems. Our observer activity at COP26 gives us an opportunity to enhance our future work on sustainability and make a meaningful contribution to reducing the impact of climate change in Wales.”

Cerith Rhys Jones

Cerith Rhys Jones, who now works as External Affairs Manager at the OU in Wales but previously served as a Welsh Government Climate Change Champion and a member of the Welsh Government’s delegation to COP15 – the 15th Conference of the Parties, held in Copenhagen in 2009 – argues that universities in Wales have many opportunities to contribute to well-being and sustainable development.

Writing on the OU in Wales’ website, he explained that the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 provides a framework for universities to design our activities to maximise our contribution to a better future, through the way we run our businesses, what we give back to our communities, and in what we teach our learners.

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Charity

Mal Pope and Steve Balsamo lead star-studded music video for ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ campaign

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Star-studded music video of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ released for latest ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ campaign

This reimagining of the classic Christmas Carol features a duet between, Mal Pope and Steve Balsamo, with support from Harry’s Youth Theatre Choir Swansea and the Morriston Salvation Army Band.

The video starts with a spine chilling opening monologue from BAFTA winner Michael Sheen and ends with a special message from OSCAR Winner Catherine Zeta Jones. The video also features appearances from Davina McCallMax BoyceElis James, Penny Lancaster and Bonnie Tyler.

The video was Art Directed by BAFTA Award winning Production Designer Edward Thomas, recently returned to Swansea following a year in Malta designing a new Steven Spielberg Film.

The single is taken from the album ‘Christmas with the Pope’ and is available to stream and download from all streaming sites including Spotify, iTunes and Amazon Music. The physical CD will be available from select shops or via mail order.

As well as inviting everyone to download and stream the single the video is available free of charge to groups to use over the festive period and asking for donations to be made to the group’s Just Giving page

Everyone Deserves a Christmas

The annual ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ campaign provides festive cheer for people who need a helping hand in the local community.

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Individuals and businesses from across Swansea and beyond work together to raise funds that are used to purchase food for hampers and Christmas dinners. These are then delivered to families across the city to ensure that nobody goes without at Christmas-time. 

“When everyone else was pushing the boat out I was worried about just feeding my family, so didn’t feel like I was part of Christmas”, said Leanne. The campaign says that at Christmas, no-one should be worried like Leanne.

This year, with community help, the campaign aim to create over 700 food hampers full of staples like cheese, meat, and vegetables, and added goodies like pudding, chocolate and crackers. A large team of volunteers will purchase, pack and deliver the hampers in the days before Christmas. There will also be cooked dinners delivered on Christmas Eve to people across the city who are on their own or vulnerable, as well treats for local children.

Swansea City AFC Foundation and the Ospreys in the Community are working with Carolyn Harris MP, Julie James MS, South Wales Evening Post, Swansea Council, Bay Studios, Amazon and very many local businesses, to make this happen.

The campaign say that Christmas should be a time of joy and of giving. By working together, we can ensure that everyone has the joyful Christmas they deserve.

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What started a few years ago with a few friends packing hampers on Carolyn Harris’ kitchen table has now developed into a city wide celebration of Christmas spirit and this year it is hoped that up to 1000 households will benefit from the campaign.

Carolyn Harris MP was recently named Campaigner of the Year at the Spectator Parliamentarian of The Year Awards.

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Art

Sandfields Library receives new lease of life with mural artwork

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A new mural has been unveiled at the recently re-opened Sandfields Library, with the aim of welcoming the local community back to the building following the COVID-19 shutdown.

The artwork was painted by a local teacher and funded by J.G. Hale Construction as part of the community benefits associated with Tai Tarian’s nearby County Flats scheme – a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes, and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.

The mural’s artist, Adam John, teaches art at the nearby comprehensive school, Ysgol Bae Baglan. John completed the mural volunteering in his spare time, after school and on weekends, over a total of 30 hours.

The idea for the mural was suggested to the County Flats scheme developer – social housing provider, Tai Tarian – by library staff. It covers one external wall of the library and showcases some of the activities and services available within the building.

The spectacular artwork depicts a meadow scene and a portrayal of the Aberavon seafront, with a rainbow over it to represent the heroic commitment of the NHS throughout the pandemic. The wildflowers and butterflies painted in the mural represent a wider initiative between Tai Tarian, local councillor, Sean Pursey, and Buglife Cymru, around transforming open spaces with wildflowers.

The picture also includes three sheep, which represent the innovative use of Welsh Sheep’s wool being utilised to insulate the properties in the Sandfields development.

The County Flats scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon-neutral homes, delivered across three phases, over three years – with phase one nearing completion. It will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives.

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Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.

The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.

David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, said: “We are delighted to have been able to fund this mural as part of the County Flats development’s community benefits in collaboration with Tai Tarian. The painting really brightens the area up and should be a welcoming sight to those returning to the library following the coronavirus shutdown.”

Adam John, Art Teacher at Ysgol Bae Baglan who painted the mural, said: “The opportunity to create a mural in the heart of the estate was difficult to turn down. Having taught in the community for nearly 20 years, I knew I had to say yes.

“I always feel proud that I can inspire our children to be more creative, and I knew it would be well received. Our pupils love seeing artwork and truly appreciate skills which go into an outcome. I’ve painted many sets over the years, which are always enjoyed by our pupils and visitors, but they are replaced every year, so it was great to leave my efforts on a wall for many years to come. The mural allowed me to give something back to the community; a little reminder to current and ex-pupils that they too can make a difference in their own community.”

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Rebecca Thomas, Tai Tarian’s Social and Economic Regeneration Manager said: “At Tai Tarian, we pride ourselves on being part of the community and with our major re-development of the County Flats site getting underway, we were keen to do something that would leave a lasting legacy for the people of Sandfields.

“Our partners, J.G. Hale Construction, shared this vision and were keen to get involved, working with the library and Adam John to create the mural as part of our community benefits programme.

“Libraries play an important part in communities, giving people access to all sorts of valuable resources and if the mural helps attract more visitors to the facility, then we will be pleased to have played a part in this.”

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Books & Literature

Nurse turns to verse to express pandemic woes

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An emergency department nurse has combined his passion for nursing and writing by creating heartfelt poems inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Jenkins has always been enthusiastic about poetry but never focused on writing until the start of the pandemic.

He felt this was the perfect opportunity to capture the emotions of not only the nursing staff but everyone involved in the NHS.

Writing poetry also acted as a coping mechanism for Michael to get through what has been one of the toughest times in the history of the NHS.

His first poem, Give me a Break!, was shared on his Facebook page, as well as a Covid support group, where he received rave reviews and an unprecedented amount of appreciation which came as a surprise to him.

“The more poems I started to write, the more attention and shares on social media I was receiving,” Michael said.

Rebecca Price, Emergency Department matron at Morriston Hospital, in Swansea, added: “Michael really does know how to dig deep into NHS staff’s hearts and reveal their true emotions in such a pressurised environment in what has been the toughest couple of years in the history of the NHS.”

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After 18 months of concentrating on the pandemic, Michael turned his attention to other subjects within nursing, in particular by writing a poem about living with dementia.

He added: “We have so many patients coming through the ED doors with dementia but with other conditions to treat.

“It can be very difficult for trained nurses to deal with patients who unfortunately suffer with the terrible illness of dementia.”

Michael’s poem about living with dementia was shared so widely on social media that it even caught the attention of the national charity Dementia UK.

The charity was so impressed it asked Michael if it could rebrand and share the poem on its social media platforms. It has since received a huge amount of praise and shares.

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Dementia UK said: “Michael’s poem has really resonated with all people involved with dementia and has been enjoyed so much.

“We are very appreciative he has taken the time to write such a beautiful poem.”

Several of the poems have since been displayed in ED to be read and enjoyed by members of staff, as well as patients.

Michael hopes the poems can provide a boost where needed and spread some positivity.

Below are two of the poems for your enjoyment.

Give Me A Break!

Patients laugh and patients cry
Patients live, some patients die
Staff will help, Staff will care
Staff with yelp, Staff will ware

Taking its toll on every single person
Reliving the day that’s for certain
Locked down, feeling trapped with no location
Nowhere to go but work and save the population

I never signed up for this’ I read
But we can’t say that or else they’d be dead
But please just give me some space
I’m also a part of this human race

I’ll moan, I’ll cry, I’ll scream and shout
But I know I’ll carry on without a doubt
Do we want some gratitude?
Or do we need a better attitude?

I don’t know I just want some time
Is that to be such a crime?
I’ve paid my fee to work my vocation
What’s that all about?

I’ll still head off without any hesitation
But please I pray to God for goodness sake
All I’m asking for….is give me a break!

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Living with Dementia

I got told I had dementia today,
But that’s fine I’m still me!
The same old person that you sit with
To drink a hot cup of tea.

I may not remember every last detail,
Or recognise your face.
But I will sure try to imagine,
Taking me back to my favourite place.

I may get confused and anxious,
And wander round my house.
I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past,
But I really miss my spouse.

Sometimes my mind is somewhere else,
Like on holidays from years ago.
Or dreaming of better times I’ve had,
Now I must learn to go with the flow.

I am still the same human being,
With a brain inside my head
It just takes a while to think of things,
Like when should I go to bed?

Please don’t judge my shouting,
Or if I somehow make you scared
It’s just my mind playing tricks on me,
Maybe I just need to be fed!

Some company is all I need
To play my favourite game,
Then maybe next time I see you,
I will remember your lovely name.

Now I will always cherish the memories,
Of all the times we share,
Please don’t stop coming to visit,
As I know you will always care.

I am still the same old person,
Just get a little jumbled up,
Now go get me that hot cuppa,
So I can sip from my favourite cup.

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