Trac Cymru is aiming to ensure that the Welsh folk traditions are felt as the beating heart of contemporary Welsh life, making an important contribution to the wellbeing of the nation. We want our traditional music to play an active role in helping people to improve their quality of life and health.
Strong research evidence has been growing in recent years about the powerful effects that arts projects can have on health and wellbeing for individuals and communities. Music initiatives have been notably successful in enhancing the quality of life of people with dementia, for example, and the Welsh NHS Confederation and the Arts Council of Wales renewed their own formal partnership at the end of 2020.
Trac Cymru is passionate about the unique contribution that folk music in particular can offer for personal and community development. As part of the renewal of our participatory programme following the coronavirus pandemic, the charity is now actively planning a series of projects within local communities that are responsive to individual need.
The first of these new projects recently launched in Rhondda Cynon Taf, where inspiring folk musicians are working with young mothers at risk of social isolation, aiming to make a positive impact on the participants’ quality of life, boosting their sense of inclusion in wider Welsh culture and developing their creative skills. The project is funded by Anthem Music, Tŷ Cerdd, and the Rhondda Cynon Taf Neighbourhood Network Fund.
Many young mothers experience mental health difficulties and are often isolated from beneficial intergenerational exchange – an exchange of knowledge and culture that is inherent in traditional music. Trac Cymru is aiming to support these disadvantaged young people to articulate their own personal experiences using the folk traditions of expressive storytelling and collective community.
The session delivery is being led by the highly experienced harpist, Bethan Nia, who is also passionate about wellbeing, and Trac Cymru is working in partnership with the dynamic and inspirational organisation, Mothers Matter, who recently opened their own new centre in Tonypandy. The assistant in this project is Meg Cox, a very versatile and multi-talented young musician who has progressed through Trac Cymru’s development programme over several years, including being a member of Avanc, the National Youth Folk Ensemble of Wales.
Meg is helping to support the project participants and also plays an invaluable role in recording evidence about the positive personal benefits that they are gaining from their involvement. She commented: “Music is a very powerful force. It has an innate ability to invoke memory and feeling, from on top and beneath the surface of our understanding of emotion. Because music is so deeply rooted in our core, it offers a multitude of mental and physical health benefits.”
Meg reflected that because folk music is quite literally defined as ‘music of the people’, it has the power to extend its benefits further through society: “Being able to use music as a form of expression is something that people have always done, by reminding us through storytelling of what is important and valuable in shared and individual experiences. Music is a global language that generates common feelings which centre our belonging, inclusion, and pride in our world.”
Our plans to celebrate the milestone 21st anniversary of Trac Cymru in 2021 were put on hold thanks to the coronavirus, but we have continued with our mission to support even more people to benefit from our amazing national music. Please support us by sharing these stories with your friends and colleagues, and join us in posting your own happy memories about Welsh folk music on social media #TRAC21, and you can help us fund our work by making a donation today.