The ‘Rhondda Arts Festival‘ opened this weekend and our Editor-in-Chief ‘Brett Salway’ caught up with MP Chris Bryant, who is the chair person, of the RAFT committee, to discuss the festival and it’s importance within the Rhondda.

How did you become involved with RAFT?

Mr Bryant stated, that he was sitting next to Mr Rhys Jones, who is the headteacher, of the Treorchy comprehensive school, at a Pendyrus male choir concert, during the 2017 general elections and discussed the vision of RAFT with him. The school’s 50th anniversary was fast approaching and Mr Jones also expressed a similar vision, to do something like this, to showcase the wonderful Welsh talent, we have.

Further discussions were held with local school governors, who were also keen to engage in this vision. Mr Bryant, had previously been the chair person of the ‘Rhondda Trust’ and the trust had a small amount of money, left over from the closure, of the iconic Burberry factory, which was used to employ Mr Craig Roberts, as a part-time director of RAFT, who brought the vision together further and the first ever RAFT was born, in June 2018.

RAFT 2018 was a great success and showcased some of the nations, much loved talent. Including legendary musician ‘Jools Holland’, the incredible soprano singer ‘Lesley Garrett’, singing sensations ‘Only Men Aloud’, our wonderful ‘Welsh National Opera Company‘, along with legions, of local talent, from the Rhondda’s arts and culture scene.

The ‘Lion’s Den Comedy Club Treorchy‘, was also born during RAFT 2018 and has been hugely successful. The comedy club is situated within Treorchy, Rhondda, at the famous ‘Lion bar and kitchen‘ and holds regular comedy nights at the venue and of course will be holding these nights, throughout the 2019 RAFT.

Why do you think events like this are so important in the Rhondda valleys?

Mr Bryant stated that, many of the people in the Rhondda can’t always find it financially viable, to travel to big cities, outside of the Rhondda, to attend similar events. So myself and the RAFT committee, wanted to bring some of the nations best talent, to the people of RCT. It has also brought welcoming employment to the people of RCT, as there are lots of talented arts and culture sector workers, like photographers, artists, actors and musicians. This is giving them a much welcomed platform, to work with.

Mr Bryant, further went on to state, that by having events like the RAFT, it ensures that the Rhondda valleys, are seen in a more positive light and as a welcoming place, as unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Who else would you like to become involved with RAFT?

Mr Bryant stated, that himself and the RAFT committee, along with the employees and existing supporters of RAFT, are very open to any other organisations and artistes becoming involved and would welcome any interaction from them.

Which RAFT event, are you personally looking forward to?

Mr Bryant stated that he is personally looking forward to seeing ‘Omid Djalili’, who will perform at the Park and Dare theatre, on Saturday 29th of June. Artistes similar to ‘Omid Djalili’ would usually only perform, at big cities like Cardiff, so it’s a great honour, to have him perform at our iconic Park and Dare theatre, in Treorchy.

What do you envision for RAFT in the future?

Mr Bryant stated, that he would like to attract people from outside of the RCT area and know that the ‘Cardiff Arms Bistro‘, located in Treorchy, is hopefully going to be opening 13 hotel rooms, above the venue, for the general public to book at their convienance. I will also be addressing further accommodations concerns in due course, with the relevant third party organisations.

The RAFT runs until Mid July, with a fantastic line up of events, including an outdoor cinema experience, showing some of this decades most popular films. You can see the full exciting schedule for yourself, over at https://www.raft.cymru.

ARTICLE/INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY BRETT SALWAY

Published by VALLEY TIMES

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