In July you may remember reading about Swansea City Opera asking you to get in touch and tell us your stories, so that we could create a pilot piece for the opera we are writing about Men’s Sheds Cymru and the great work it is doing.
Well, we’ve completed the pilot and we are really pleased with it! The opera is called ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ and Brendan Wheatley who has written the libretto, and Caradog Williams the composer have done a great job. You can find out more and hear the two extracts we have completed on the Swansea City Opera website, www.swanseacityopera.com. On the home page just press the ‘ find out more’ link at the side of the lovely artwork that Sean Slater has created. The excerpts are very different in character, one is a duet between a daughter and her father before he joins a Shed, and the other is a rap between three men working in the Shed – great fun!
To write the libretto, we have interviewed many ‘shedders’ and heard some humourous, and some heart breaking, stories from people who have had ups and downs, but all of them have found strength and friendship from their pals in the Shed communities. Our aim is to spread the word about Men’s Sheds and encourage more people to join, so please help us!
Our next step is to find funding for the whole work and we have already had a grant from the Community Lottery Fund for visits to different Sheds to source more stories. Obviously live visits are difficult at the moment because of Covid, but we are very happy to receive emails or letters (our contact details are at the end of this article) or have a Zoom/Skype or telephone conversation. We realise some of your stories may be deeply personal and we will guarantee strict anonymity, with any of our conversations being treated in complete confidence should you wish to share them with us. However we will also need many positive stories as we want the performance to be an uplifting experience for both the audience and participants alike! We are sure you have many humourous anecdotes to tell us about your time at Men’s Sheds and the new friends you have made.
Over the years SCO has involved the community in many of our operas. We have rehearsed and coached amateur choirs some of whose members cannot read music and had no previous experience of opera or being on stage. Our final goal is to create an easily accessible opera involving amateur chorus along with professional singers and musicians. These community performances will tour to several venues including village halls across Wales. Anyone wishing to take part in the performance will be welcomed with open arms, either in the chorus (which we promise will not be hard to learn!) or as an extra on stage or even helping behind the scenes.
We are a very friendly company and hope those of you that love music will consider helping us. Please do get in touch and let us know, it will be fun to create something together and we look forward very much to working with you!
Brendan Wheatley & Bridgett Gill – SCO Artistic Directors
For more information go to
Tl: 01874 690254
Address: Rhydyberi Cottages, Merthyr Cynog, Brecon, Powys LD3 9SA
Cultural Heritage Project in Lebanon funded by The British Council
The British Council’s £30m Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is set up to protect cultural heritage at risk due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.
Swansea City Opera was very fortunate to receive a grant from the Cultural Heritage fund of the British Council, the first Welsh company ever to do so! It was to work in Lebanon with three organisations to capture and record the intangible heritage of the occupants of two refugee camps, Shatila in Beirut and Rashedieh camp in the south of Lebanon. Our partners are SHIELD an NGO that works with refugees in the south, Dreams of a Refugee, an NGO that works with refugees in Shatila, and The American University of Beirut which hosts the website and records of the heritage.
We aimed to capture and share three distinct areas of heritage:
1. That of Palestinian refugees
2. That of Syrian refugees – who now make up 45% of the population of some camps
3. Heritage of the camps themselves – camps such as Shatila have been established for more than 70 years and have developed traditions of themselves (festival, music and oral history)
We trained the refugees themselves to collate and research their own heritage and we hope that by recording memories and stories, it will help the refugees preserve a sense of cultural identity within their displaced communities. We searched for any intangible heritage eg. memories of music, dancing, festivals/ ceremonies, singing crafts – including embroidery and costumes, falconry and oral history.
The project ran until the end of December 2019, it was a privilege to undertake it. Here are a few photos of our first trip taken in Shatila camp. The large key in the fourth photo is a powerful symbol of hope to the refugees that one day they will be allowed to return to their homes. You can see larger images at the bottom of this page, and please do look click the link to the Facebook page, we had two wonderful events on the camps organised by the young project officers and the videos of these events are on the Facebook page.
Keep an eye on the website for future updates!
Funded by the Heritage Lottery
In 2017 SCO worked with 5 community groups in Swansea, Chinese Community Centre, Unity in Diversity, YMCA, Sisters in Sanctuary and the African Community Centre and 4 schools, Bishop Gore Secondary School, Blaen y Maes Primary School, Cefn Hengoed Community Secondary School and Parkland Primary School on a project funded by The Heritage Lottery and ACW. Each of the community groups chose a different theme in which to show their cultural heritage and what it has brought to Swansea, these included dance, cooking, drumming, song, music and story telling and the schools told the story of refugees from war torn countries through their own version of Dido and Aeneas by Purcell. It was a hugely enjoyable project and great fun.
We held a mini festival day at the Waterfront Museum in May where everyone performed and exhibited, and there was a 6 month exhibition in the old Swansea Museum. Here is a link
SCO’s education aims have always been simple:
From creating and staging new work with schools and community groups, to arranging participatory workshops and pre-performance talks for audiences, all of SCO’s outreach work has a clear remit – for as diverse a group of people as possible to connect with opera.
SCO toured the length and breadth of the UK often to Community First and Objective 1 areas. Every tour featured free pre show talks at almost every venue. Suitable for both experienced opera goers as well as opera ‘virgins’, these popular talks by Artistic Director Brendan Wheatley explored the story and music, developing people’s enjoyment and understanding of opera.
The tour of Don Pasquale in 2013 featured workshops developing soft skills by exploring opera and developing vocal skills. It reached over 120 people – drawn from single parent groups, young people at risk of school exclusion, health and well being projects and older people.
The 2014 Marriage of Figaro tour features Exploring Opera workshops in community venues. Working with Arts Education Officers, Communities First Partnerships and other stakeholders, fun and enjoyable workshops introduce people to opera and there is the opportunity to see opera in their local theatre at a concessionary rate.
The ‘Tower’ opera project in 2000 connected 17 schools and five choirs with a specially commissioned opera written by Alun Hoddinott. His opera about the last deep pit in Wales – Tower Colliery in Hirwaun – was written specifically to include community participation with choruses for Children and Male Voice Choir. The project spanned school workshops, performance participation, teacher inset days and community workshops across Wales.
Swansea City Opera delivered Wales’ first Street Opera – ‘From Cars to Mars’ – a specially devised community opera, in partnership with Dragon Arts in Swansea. The project developed the skills of homeless and disadvantaged people culminating in performances at The National Waterfront Museum in Swansea and again later at Y Senydd – The National Assembly for Wales.
A project in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, commissioned by Eden Arts, saw schools, youth groups and the University of the Third Age working to develop a community opera with local storytellers on the subject of ‘Time’. The project included four mini-performances in hospitals and residential care centres.
Brendan and Bridget opened the group to a fantastic opportunity and a real flavour of opera. Their approach and pace was perfect. Tights and toupee’s is a drama group for people with disabilities. The group gained so much from Brendan and Bridget and their intro to Opera. A valuable workshop for all people. 5 Stars! Thank you!
The scope of Swansea City Opera’s work in education ranges from in-depth, intensive residencies in schools leading to short performances to one-off workshops – all designed to develop and enrich an understanding of Opera. With wide networks of expert, high quality education specialists across the UK, Swansea City Opera can work with you to devise projects specific to your school and cohort. If you are interested in talking to us please ring Bridgett Gill on 01874 690254 or email firstname.lastname@example.org