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Youth visit to Italy

Merched Plastaf visit Rome, Italy

A large group posing for a photo. They are all wearing similar outfits and appear to be in some sort of gallery/museum.

Merched Plastaf is a Welsh speaking community choir for young people based in Cardiff.

After successfully securing Taith Pathway 1 funding, 3 leaders and 28 singers – a combination of girls from Welsh medium secondary schools in Cardiff: Plasmawr, Glantaf and Bro Edern – travelled to Rome in Italy.

Caryl Ebenezer Thomas, Merched Plastaf Music Coordinator, shares the group’s experiences as a small voluntary organisation, and the lasting impact it has had on the young participants.

What was the purpose of the trip?

We were keen as leaders after the pandemic period to instil renewed confidence and enthusiasm in the group and inspire them to share their experiences and good practice with others. Many of the participants suffer from mental health conditions that affect their confidence, and the positive experience in Rome gave them renewed confidence as individuals to continue performing. Our hope is that the experience will encourage them to go on and develop new ideas that will help them develop into good, outward-looking leaders in their own communities in the future.

A large group posing for a photo and holding a Welsh flag. They are all wearing similar outfits and appear to be in some sort of gallery/museum.
Tell us about some of the activities the group took part in:

We found an impressive venue for the concert, which is Basilica di San Vitale on Via Nazionale in Rome, one of Rome’s oldest churches dating back to the 4th century, with incredible acoustics. We set out with permission from the Church of Rome to organise a special concert there with our partners from Rome on Palm Sunday 2023.  The concert was very successful, and the special experience was unforgettable and emotional for the girls and for us as leaders.   There was an opportunity during the evening to present the audience with the background and programme of Merched Plastaf, and to talk about Welsh music and culture and the Welsh language.

It was an indelible opportunity for the choirs to get to know each other, share ideas and share each other’s cultures while establishing a friendship that will last forever.  A member of Merched Plastaf as a result is planning to spend a period studying the harp in Rome and the girls are already discussing re-visiting their new friends in Italy.

A few months before the tour, we applied to sing in the Pantheon, one of the oldest surviving Roman buildings in the world.  Following the concert at the Pantheon, members of ‘Coro Giovanile With Us’ had organised an excellent historical tour for Merched Plastaf through the heart of ancient Rome.

Wandering the city over the 4 days with the Welsh flag, Merched Plastaf informally sang Welsh songs in several distinguished squares and took every opportunity possible to promote Wales and the Welsh language.

A large group posing for a photo standing on steps. They are wearing a hoodie which say "Rhufain Merched Plastaf 2023"
Did you achieve your aims and objectives? Has there been an impact on the individuals / group / organisation / wider community as a result of your experiences?

We feel that we have achieved the goals we set out to achieve, and much more! The tour provided the opportunity to broaden the horizons of the choir and support young singers to give them a platform to perform, to share their talent and to build international links to share our work and share good practice with other countries.

The choir deals with the challenge of trying to ensure that our young women feel confident enough to perform, and for them to spontaneously be ambassadors for Wales and the Welsh language, by sharing information about our culture, and our music. There are no linguistic boundaries in music. One of the fundamental aims of this project was to sing new music from Wales and beyond, in other languages, to demonstrate the importance of identity, and how sharing cultural experiences can create strong, lifelong partnerships. We were able to create a special relationship with the choir in Rome, which will continue in the future. We hope to welcome the associate choir back to Wales one day. The trip has resurrected the importance of multilingualism and learning and understanding the richness of other cultures. To be part of this concert was a privilege and an unparalleled experience.

A large group photo where some are standing and others are kneeling. Those in the front are holding a Welsh flag and there is a column in the photo.
What was it like applying for Taith funding, and succeeding?

There was quite a bit of work involved in applying for the grant. Many thanks must go to the constant and thorough support from Taith throughout the whole process. Without that guidance, it would have been quite a bit harder for us as a small voluntary organisation to apply for the money.

How did you hear about Taith initially?

As leaders we are outward-looking people who are always looking at how we can enrich our experiences internationally. I was made aware through the internet and the Urdd movement in particular that there were great opportunities available through Taith for our young people.

A large group posing for a photo and holding a Welsh flag. They are all wearing similar outfits and appear to be in some sort of gallery/museum.
Would you apply for funding with us again?

I’d like to apply again in a few years to take the choir abroad again.  It was an unforgettable journey and it would be good to either return to Rome in a few years or visit another country to share our music, language and culture

Would you encourage other organisations to apply for Taith funding? What one piece of advice would you give them?

I would certainly encourage other organisations to apply.  For others applying I would like to note from our experience as a small voluntary organisation, that having an accountant to help us with the financial matters was key.

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