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Michael Sheen’s suits raise funds for heart research

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A selection of clothes once owned by Hollywood legend Michael Sheen have raised hundreds of pounds for the British Heart Foundation after the Welsh actor’s parents donated them to their local charity shop.

Anne Evans has managed the BHF shop in Sheen’s hometown of Port Talbot for 24 years and says the Sheens are regular visitors, “We know Michaels’ parents, Meyrick and Irene, and were thrilled when they turned up with their donation. The family are very well thought of in Port Talbot, and our volunteers are always on the look-out for special items or anything that’s out of the ordinary, so we wanted to make the most of their generosity by raising as much money as possible with the clothes.”

Three suits and a jacket were sent to the charity’s eBay site, where they attracted bids from Sheen fans all over the world, raising a total of £876 which will fund the charity’s research into heart and circulatory diseases. The sale offered bidders the chance to own a piece of Hollywood history, purchasing an item worn by the film and TV star.

The Sheens have supported the BHF for over 20 years, after Michael’s father Meyrick, 82, had heart surgery. 

Irene Sheen told BBC Radio Wales how the donations of her son’s suits to their local charity shop came about, “Michael bought a house just outside Pontardawe a couple of years ago and has been sorting it out, and it got to the point where he’d moved in, with Anna and the baby and I said, ‘What am I going to do with these suits, Michael?’ – there were quite a few of them. I said, ’Do you want them?’ and he said, ‘No mum, you give them to whatever charity you want to.’

My husband had a quadruple heart bypass in 1999, so we owe a big debt to the British Heart Foundation for their research into heart conditions which has enabled Meyrick to survive the operation and 22 years later he’s still going strong.

“We have donated to the BHF in Port Talbot for the last 20 years, so we decided to donate the suits there, and if they could make any money out of them that would be lovely.”

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Michael’s father Meyrick added, “It was very nice to pay a visit to the shop. I go there fairly regularly to try and keep things down in the house anyway, so when we sorted Michael’s suits out and asked him, and he said, yes go ahead and do it, and that’s where we’ve ended up.”

Irene continued, “The suits, some of them, he would have only worn once or twice, so I think they’re in very good condition.”

Meyrick said, “I think the way he used to do it, if he was coming home from London for some evening performance or show or whatever, he’d make sure he had a good suit on and then he’d leave it with us. That’s what happened.” 

The highest selling item in the eBay sale was a Banana Republic suit which raised £510 for the BHF, and the most affordable item was a jacket from high street retailer Zara, which sold for £86. Fans paid £170 and £111 for suits from Club Monaco and Peter Werth.

A video featuring the Sheens donating the items to the Port Talbot shop received over 75,000 views after Michael Sheen retweeted it, with the light-hearted comment, “I am, however, still alive though. #StayOutOfMyRoomMum”

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Delighted Sheen supporters responded immediately. Adele K Thomas asked, “Are they finally turning your childhood bedroom into a home office too?”, with Michael replying, “Long gone!”

Michael Sheen recently charmed viewers with his TV film Last Train to Christmas premiering on Sky Cinema on 18th December. He’s set to entertain radio audiences on Christmas Day, presenting his own show with special guests including Good Omens co-star David Tennant from 2pm on BBC Radio Wales.

Head of BHF Cymru, Adam Fletcher said, “We rely on the generosity of the public to fund our life saving research, and this goes to show that everyone can do their bit for the BHF. Whether it’s donating your preloved items, or even those Christmas gifts which may not be quite the right size, or not exactly what you wanted to find under the tree; our elves are experts in uncovering treasure and turning donations into the money which powers our scientific breakthroughs which have kept families together for over 60 years.”

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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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Grants support groups tackling food poverty

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Charities, volunteer and community groups tackling food poverty in Swansea were directly supported with almost £200k by the council last year.

More organisations than ever applied for help from Swansea Council’s Food Poverty Fund.

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Among those to make successful bids were foodbanks, community food growing projects, crisis support such as Matthew’s House and schemes to help residents increase their cookery skills and nutrition knowledge.

Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Better Communities Alyson Pugh said: “In Swansea we are very fortunate to have some amazing charitable, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations working hard to help people facing food poverty.

“There is a network of foodbanks whose services during the last two years have sadly been needed more than ever and there are also some wonderful schemes strengthening community food initiatives and working to address the root causes of food poverty.

“I am very pleased that thanks to funding from the Welsh Government, Swansea Council has been able to support the vital work that these groups do.”

Cllr Alyson Pugh and Alfred Oyekoya of BMHS (Image: Swansea Council)

The council awarded £105k to 22 groups in the first round of grants earlier last year and a further £88,500 was awarded to 17 groups following a second round of applications.

Applications were invited for capital and revenue funding.

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Organisations that were successful in round two included the BMHS charity, HOP Foodbank, Exousia Trust, Pontarddulais Partnership, Race Council Cymru, Swansea Community Farm and Swansea Women’s Aid.

Alfred Oyekoya of BMHS said: “Our charity is very grateful to Swansea Council for its support and some of our beneficiaries met with Cllr Pugh to express their gratitude directly.

“We know some of our hard to reach community members would have been left behind without the Food Poverty Funding.”

(Lead image: Matthew’s House / Swansea Council)

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