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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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Tesco brings £300k New Year cheer for South Wales community groups

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Tesco is bringing a positive start to the year for communities in South Wales by launching a campaign to give good causes part of a £300,000 boost.

From 17 January to 6 February, listeners to Heart and Smooth radio stations in South Wales who work with charities or not-for-profit organisations will be encouraged to apply for a £5,000 cash grant.

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Presenters including Jamie Theakston and Jenni Falconer will be telling listeners how to nominate their favourite groups on air, and priority will be given to projects that provide food and support to young people, such as school breakfast clubs, food banks, or charities supporting young people to manage mental health.

The campaign is running in addition to Tesco Community Grants, the in-store scheme where customers vote with blue tokens for community projects and groups, which has been helping local people since 2016.

Among the groups in South Wales to receive funding for recent projects was Twyn Community Hub in Twynyrodyn, Merthyr Tydfil, which was given £1,000 towards its Yum Yum This Is Scrum campaign which sought to aid food exploration and educate on making healthy choices.

Another was Theatr Iolo in Cardiff, which received £1,000 towards the creation of free creative play packs for families in need in order to spread a little kindness and joy.

Claire de Silva, Head of Community at Tesco, said: “We know the start of the year can be tough for many families financially, so we wanted to find a way to give something extra to the communities our stores support across the nation.

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“We hope that Heart and Smooth listeners will help us celebrate all the community groups who make such a difference to young people and families, not just in January but year round too. We’re really proud to be launching this new campaign, which is an extra boost to our Tesco Community Grants scheme that already helps thousands of people every year.”

Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive at Groundwork, the charity that works with Tesco on community initiatives, said: “For many people the combination of money worries and the ongoing impact of the pandemic is making the start of 2022 a challenging time.  

“That’s why it’s so important that we continue to support the local charities and community groups who work tirelessly to provide essential services and bring people together in neighbourhoods across the nation. Money is tight for many of these groups too, so we’re delighted to be working with Tesco to make extra funds available so that they can expand their activities and help more people.”

To nominate your chosen charity or community group and to find out more about Tesco Community Grants go to www.tescocommunitygrants.org.uk 

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Look out for a loved one this Blue Monday say Samaritans Cymru

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Today marks Blue Monday, supposedly the most difficult day of the year, but the leading suicide prevention charity says feeling low can happen on any day of the year and that we need to be aware of how the pandemic is increasing those feelings amongst many of us.

As pandemic uncertainties continue, Samaritans Cymru is encouraging people to get their mugs out and share a drink with a friend, neighbour or colleague who may be struggling to cope. 

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Although winter is thought to be one of the harder seasons with dark days and frosty nights, Samaritans volunteers hear similar concerns all year round from those that contact the charity. The main concerns include mental health and illness (46%), family (34%) and loneliness (28%)*. 

National treasure Dame Julie Walters joins faces from TV and comedy, including James Acaster and Keith Lemon, and talented artists across the UK to encourage people to have a cuppa and a chat with someone they care about for Samaritans Brew Monday. 

Samaritans Ambassador Dame Julie Walters thinks people can really make a difference to someone’s day just by asking if they are OK. She said: “People go through a range of emotions throughout the year so the idea of feeling blue on one day is a load of rubbish. I’ve had my fair share of blue days and have found solace in speaking to loved ones over a glass of something or two. 

“It is a simple action that can go a long way, particularly now when so many people continue to feel isolated and lonely. It doesn’t have to be Monday, or a cuppa, connecting with someone at any time during the year shows them you are there and ready to listen.” 

Talented artists who have experience of mental health struggles, including Cardiff-based Nathan Wyburn of Britain’s Got Talent fame,  have also lent their paintbrushes and pencils by creating uplifting illustrations that share a message of connection with others over a cup of something and a catch up. 

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Nathan Wyburn has had his own mental health struggles and anxiety which at times stalled his creativity, but he credits the power of talking in his recovery. Nathan is known for creating art with food, including portraits of Mariah Carey and Tim Peake, so for Brew Monday Nathan created an uplifting portrait showing two people connecting, made with coffee and biscuits. Nathan said: 

“Having suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of depression for many years, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to do anything in those moments, let alone talk – but take it from me, once you open up about how you’re feeling, it can be life-changing. I’m so proud to be supporting Brew Monday and really hope my coffee art catches someone’s eye and makes them think to pick up the phone to a friend. You never know just how much a simple conversation could help someone.”  

Samaritans Cymru continues to highlight how the pandemic has widened inequalities in Wales in order to tackle the prevalence of suicide. Living in poverty, job insecurity and loneliness and isolation are all social issues which have risen during the pandemic but it is important to recognize these are all risk factors for suicide. Reaching out to those around us and asking how they are over a cup of tea or coffee, could actually be a lifesaver, 

With support from Network Rail, Transport for Wales and the wider rail industry, Samaritans will have a presence at train stations across Wales throughout January, supporting key workers and those who are travelling, providing tea bags and tips on how to be a better listener, along with their helpline details.

Bethan Jelfs, People & Change Director at Transport for Wales said: “We’re proud to once again be supporting Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign at stations across Wales to help spread the message that it is important everyone reaches out to check on family and friends and also takes time to look after their own mental health.  With almost two years of Covid-related restrictions, which has impacted on some people more than others, this vital awareness campaign is needed more than ever.”

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Krista Sexton, Head of Operational Risk at Network Rail added: “We’re proud to support Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign as it provides a simple but effective way for us to reach out to our railway colleagues and loved ones who might be needing a little extra support. The past two years, during the pandemic, have been difficult on many people’s mental health but, we know, not everybody always wants to share their concerns. 

This poignant campaign reminds us to stop and listen and encourage those struggling to open up and have a chat over a cup of tea.” 

Lead image: Samaritans volunteer has a virtual catch up for Brew Monday. (Image: Abbie Trayler-Smith)

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Council launches new funding round to help communities thrive

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Swansea Council has launched a new round of funding for ideas that can bring new vibrancy to local communities.

The opportunity is part of Crowdfund Swansea, a scheme that helps deliver innovative community-led ideas to improve the city.

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Eligible projects could receive a council pledge of up to £5,000 towards their crowdfunding target.

To be in with a chance of securing the support, local groups should post their ideas on the Crowdfund Swansea web page by March 23.

Those who have succeeded in previous funding rounds have included the Swansea Hygiene Bank.

Project coordinator Lesley Lloyd said: “The funding will allow us to move into our own storage unit sooner than planned, enabling us to accept larger donations that we can pass on to more of those experiencing hygiene poverty in Swansea.”

Council cabinet member Andrew Stevens said: “We’re ready to support projects that put local people at the heart of the efforts to help Swansea kick on.

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“I’m also calling on companies and foundations to join us in offering support to ideas people post on Crowdfund Swansea. This could be in funding or in-kind – anything that can help make projects a real success.”

Crowdfund Swansea is run by the council with the UK’s leading civic crowdfunding platform Spacehive. It aims to fund and deliver ideas from and for the local community.

So far, more than 800 residents, businesses and other organisations have joined the council to get behind 18 ideas; more than £157,000 has been raised, boosting projects ranging from beach cleans to e-bike schemes and from harvesting fruit to providing sporting equipment.

Those interested in taking part in the next funding round of Crowdfund Swansea, as a funder or to fund your own project, can email info@spacehive.com.

Spacehive plan a free online workshop – from noon on February 8 – for anyone interested in learning more. To reserve a place go to www.bit.ly/CSworkshop0802.

Lead image: The Swansea Hygiene Bank in action. (Image: Swansea Hygiene Bank)

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