Here we are on the shortest day of the year after what has been for me one of the longest weeks of the year. It’s always busy leading up to Christmas, and this year has been no exception, but I have to say it’s been brilliant.
The week got off to a terrific start on Tuesday with the Swansea City DSA Party at the Liberty. The Swansea City Football Club Disabled Supporters Association launched back in 2013. As well as being an elected board member of the Swansea City Supporters Trust, Cath Dyer also helps with the running of the DSA. When I arrived on Tuesday, she had a party hat on, was covered in tinsel and was just about to play carols on the piano.
The DSA brings together a special band of Swansea City fans and their families who love the club. They work with the Swans to ensure that everyone has a chance to enjoy our team and that there are the right facilities for that to happen. There are the obvious things like having enough wheel chair spaces and lift facilities but then there are also other essential elements like accessible toilets and audio commentary which have all now been put in place.
Lots of the players turned up for the party, captain Matt Grimes, Connor Roberts, as well as legends Leon Britton and Lee Trundle. I was only supposed to pop in and help out a bit, but it wasn’t long before I was up on the microphone singing ‘Away in a Manger’ with Lee Ellery with Cath on piano.
As I left, I bumped into Wyndham Evans. We chatted for a moment about how we were both surprised by the number of people in the party. Then we reminisced about the Vetch Field. Wyndham reminded me about how there was a space just outside the tunnel for a couple of wheel chairs, with absolutely no cover or protection from the weather. Wyndham told me he often used to have a chat with some of those fans as he was preparing for a throw in. I know we miss the old Vetch Field but the facilities we have these are days are pretty spectacular when you think about it.
Carolyn Harris MP – A force of nature
On Wednesday evening I got a text from Carolyn Harris, Swansea East MP, to remind me about packing hampers on Thursday morning. Just pop in she said, lend a hand for 10 minutes. When I got to the Liberty there were plenty of volunteers there already. From their uniforms I noticed some from Coastal Housing, BT, Low Cost Vans and from the Ospreys and Swans. With that many people I thought I’ll be home in half an hour.
Then the stuff started arriving, Chickens, Hams, crackers, spuds, carrots, biscuits. Before long the room we had been allocated at the Liberty was overflowing with produce and good will. Someone found some Christmas music and bit by bit we got organised. One table had laid out on it exactly what each hamper should contain.
As more and more things arrived I kept on thinking it was like the final scene form the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ where the whole town rallies round to help George Bailey (If you haven’t seen this film try your best this week).
Rod Lloyd – Low Cost Vans, Julie James AM and volunteers including Coastal Housing
There were so many emotions going around in my head. Firstly, what a great job Carolyn had done including bringing in help from fellow labour party friends AMs Julie James, Mike Hedges. But there were no party division at this event as Conservative AM Suzy Davies also rolled up her sleeves to get involved. Then there was the generosity of firms like Morrisons. Low Cost Vans and the Coop (I’m sure others donated as well…) as well as individuals who had either given or were there to help. 200 hampers were prepared for delivery and Leon Britton and Swans Chairman Trevor Birch both lent a hand to spread Christmas cheer around Swansea.
I hadn’t expected the event to feel so Christmassy as we all pulled together. Then I stopped and thought about what we were doing. These hampers were for people in Swansea who might not be able to enjoy a typical Christmas otherwise. As we start a new decade in the 5th richest country in the world it made me think what has happened to us this decade. When I used to watch Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ it seemed like a story from a forgotten world. Nowadays it seems like history is repeating itself. As we look forward to the 2020’s I hope we can put these problems right.
This week also saw the launch of another project I’ve been working on. With people living longer many of us will find ourselves having to care for a family member or loved one. Carer’s can often find themselves exhausted and isolated. A project based in Bridgend aims to give carers some ‘me time’ by bringing them together to sing. The ‘Off Duty’ choir was formed last January, and they have just recorded a single ‘Strong’. It sounded pretty good to me but when Andre Van Wyk, from Awen Cultural Trust asked if Steve Balsamo and I would lend our voices to a new recording we both said yes. He also brought a camera along to the recording session and the single and video was released yesterday. You can watch it here.
Finally, my friend Kev Johns. Over the years I’ve called him Kevin, or Kev or ‘Johnso’…but not anymore. At the Swans they always refer to Alan Curtis as ‘The Legend’. From now on I suggest we all refer to Kev as ‘The Icon’. As we come to the climax of our celebration of Swansea being a city for 50 years I can think of no better person to be honoured with the title Swansea’s Greatest Icon. He’s always out supporting one charity or another. He’s either on the field at the Liberty or on stage at the Grand. I text him on Thursday night when I found out the news. In a field that included Alun Wyn Jones, Dylan Thomas Joe’s Ice Cream and Rhossilli Bay Kev garnered the most votes and I don’t think any of them, including Rhossilli Bay, would argue with the result.
As Lee Trundle said on twitter. Kev is ‘The Heartbeat of our City’. This city has a big heart. People like Kev and Lee Trundle and Carolyn Harris prove that. As we say goodbye to another decade let’s stick together Swansea, we need each other now more than ever.