Support our Nation today - please donate here

Welsh National Opera launch new community engagement project with Rakie Ayola

23 May 2024 4 minute read
Rakie Ayola

On the anniversary of the public unrest that occurred in Ely and Caerau in 2023, Welsh National Opera has launched a new community engagement project with the help of BAFTA award-winning actress Rakie Ayola.

Rakie, who grew up in Ely, will be an ambassador for the project which aims to utilise the transformative power of music and creativity to strengthen community connections in the Ely and Caerau districts of Cardiff.

The project, titled Ely Bridge, will contribute to the wider work that is currently being carried out by Welsh Government and organisations such as Action in Caerau and Ely, to change perceptions and enhance the lives of people living in the area – which is considered to be within the top 10% most deprived areas in Wales. 

This new programme of work from WNO will aim to create new and meaningful ways to break down communication barriers and build a bridge to help all in the community to live and work together.

It will also facilitate a shared space where different types of people from all walks of life can interact and create art which celebrates the community.

“Unfairly represented”

Rakie Ayola said:  ‘I’m delighted to be teaming up with Welsh National Opera, on this project which will give me the opportunity to give something back to the community I grew up in.

“I’m thrilled at the prospect of working alongside people of Ely and Caerau whilst engaging in creative activities that can bring real joy and positivity to an area which is often unfairly represented.’

‘This is a chance to utilise the extraordinary talents of people of all ages, as we create a new body of work which will reflect the rich community spirit that is still alive and well in Ely and Caerau.’ 

WNO workshops will be running in Ely and Caerau primary schools with an initial goal of engaging children aged 10-11 in music education, which is particularly impactful at a time when arts subjects are being side-lined by many schools in Wales due to financial constraints.

It is also significant because the targeted age group of the children has been identified as a pivotal age of transition. It is during this stage of development that pupils change from primary to secondary school, and they can often disengage with education as a result.

There are numerous cases of children from the area being exploited at this age by organised criminal gangs who coerce them into drug trafficking through the practise of county lines.


Schools selected for this preliminary stage of the project include St Francis Roman Catholic Primary School and Herbert Thompson Primary School.

This will later extend to secondary schools with associated work being carried out in Cardiff West Community High School. The hope is that this additional engagement will help to combat the complications associated with the transition between these key stages of education. 

WNO Producer Sandra Taylor is leading on the project. She said: ‘WNO is able to offer unique opportunities for children and young people to work with highly skilled professionals, who can inspire and help raise aspirations.

At a time when the arts are being squeezed from the curriculum, this project offers opportunities for creativity, an important part of learning that helps develop curiosity, imagination, choice making and, ultimately, those all-important problem-solving skills needed for future careers.’

This first phase will inform how the Ely Bridge project will progress, with WNO practitioners tailoring the next steps of the programme around the children’s own aspirations for the project. 

WNO will then proceed to the next stage which will involve intergenerational activities which aim to bring the children together with parents, teachers and pillars of the community such as social workers, council members, first-responders and officers of the South Wales Police.

For further information, visit 

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.