St Mary’s Priory Church was packed to the rafters on Saturday for Chepstow Male Voice Choir’s summer concert. After a hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the choir was back to its brilliant best and performing to audiences once again. From the traditional hymns we all know and love to a more modern take on Beatles songs, the choir produced a fantastic show alongside international jazz singer Becki Biggins. It was also a great pleasure to present a life membership certificate to long-standing chorister Anthony (Tony) Duffett, who has been with the choir for some 34 years. What a genuinely wonderful evening! The arts, cultural and entertainment sectors were hit particularly hard during the pandemic, so I very much hope people will want to come out and support the return of live events.
In a similar vein, Monmouth Carnival was back up and running this weekend. Despite unforeseen circumstances presenting a few challenges, it went ahead and even the odd rain shower failed to dampen spirits. Everyone I saw and spoke to certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. Congratulations to the carnival committee and all those who took part.
I had an interesting meeting on Friday with local parents Nicky Williams and Victoria Hughes. They are part of a team running a south Wales charity called 21 Plus, which supports children and young people with Down syndrome and their families in Monmouthshire, the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas. One of the big things they want to see in Wales is a Down Syndrome Bill – similar to the legislation recently introduced in England – to give people with Down syndrome the provisions they have long campaigned for. I was disappointed to hear there are very limited options for young people with Down syndrome who have been through mainstream school. With the right college placement and learning, I am told it is absolutely achievable for people with Down syndrome to get a job and live independently. However, these specialist residential placements are few and far between and do not exist in Wales. There is also the age-old argument over Wales providing funding for such courses in England. We seem to be lacking a joined-up approach here. Borders should not be a barrier to inclusion because of bureaucratic rules and regulations. My colleague Peter Fox MS is working hard on taking this forward in the Senedd and hopefully it will be the beginning of better opportunities in Wales for young people with Down syndrome.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 29 June 2022 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 30 June 2022*