Welsh TV choir charity facing closure in dire need of support  

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BGT finalists Only Boys Aloud offers safe spaces for young men and is the only free choir provision in Wales.

A Welsh choir charity that reached the Britain’s Got Talent finals is facing an uncertain future and is now calling on people to help support their cause.

Only Boys Aloud, which has supported more than 6,500 boys since they launched in 2010, needs to raise £150,000 to save both the Aloud Charity and its famous Only Boys Aloud choir. 

It’s the only free choir provision for young men in the country, and without funding, this provision will be lost. Not only is it a free resource for boys in Wales, but it provides a safe space for them, to find friends and grow into brilliant young men. Only Boys Aloud is made up of over 150 boys attending 11 choirs across Wales each week and there are no auditions. The Aloud charity can clearly evidence that they build confidence, self-esteem, skills for future, open career pathways, and enhance mental wellness in young men. 

Former members – such as Callum Scott Howells and Tom Hier – have gone on to tread the boards on stage and have appeared in numerous big-name films and TV shows.  Callum’s recent work includes It’s a Sin, The Way and the upcoming Madfabulous, while Tom has had leading roles in West End productions of Miss Saigon, Joseph and Footloose. 

Tom, who was one of the founding members of the Only Boys Aloud, said: “The choir’s future is uncertain. For the first time ever, we need to ask for public donations – we need your help. I don’t think people understand Only Boys Aloud is run as a charity.  Every rehearsal, every concert, every trip costs nothing – which for the boys involved is incredible.”

He added: “I joined OBS as it launched. For me, Only Boys Aloud is so much more than a choir. A brotherhood, it offered friendship, purpose and opportunities that changed my life. I now perform professionally for a living. And honestly, I don’t think I’d be doing what I do today if it wasn’t for the confidence and skills I gained in Only Boys Aloud.” 

“Despite the choir’s incredible success, today we find ourselves needing your help. Like so many of you, rising costs mean we’re struggling financially. If we’re to keep the choir going, we need to raise £150,000. With this money, we’ll be able to keep rehearsals going and ensure that boys in Wales keep singing for another generation to come.”

Alongside the opportunity and safe spaces these choirs provide, the Aloud Charity helps keep Welsh traditions alive, by actively contributing to the development of Welsh language in our communities through song.  

‘Bonds for life’ 

Brynley, who lives in Pontypridd is currently in year 10 studying for his GCSEs at Ysgol Garth Olwg. His older brother was a member, and memories of sneaking into the end of practices to watch his brother perform was the key reason he joined. 

He summed up Only Boys Aloud, saying: “It brings all these different boys from different backgrounds, with different dreams, hopes and ideas, together to make one beautiful big noise doing something they enjoy.” On a personal level, he’s seen himself grow in confidence since being part of the group. He said: “It’s given me a lot more confidence in myself and it’s given me the chance to really push what I enjoy – music. It’s given me a confidence boost and a lot more social skills. Without Only Boys Aloud I wouldn’t have such strong connections, friends, and support and encouragement to be confident in myself and what I love doing.” 

He added: “The bonds you make in OBA, are bonds for life.” 

Craig Yates, Aloud’s creative director, said: “I’ve worked with Aloud since the beginning and have seen the difference our work makes to so many young people across Wales. We provide inspirational and aspirational opportunities for young people that they would not otherwise have, and we do it in a fun way, in safe spaces that support our young people to be who they are. I know that members of Aloud become friends for life and that is as important as the music we sing.” 

‘It’s like a family’ 

Someone else who has benefited from the charity is Iestyn from Tir-Phil in New Tredegar. He’s currently in London studying music at the Academy of Contemporary Music and recently began his journey as a solo performer as a live singer and drag queen. Iestyn said: “I have been with OBA for a long time now; just last year, I celebrated 8 years with them, and I hope to continue with them for many more years. The impact that OBA had on me was significant. Through my time with them, I learned a wide variety of music from different genres and countries, and they provided me with the ability to understand the fundamentals of music in a way that was accessible to me. 

“Only Boys Aloud, for me, has been like a small family, that I can go to if I need help. They’re always there to help. It brings a lot of different people together. There are people who do rugby and football, and people who do musical theatre – it really brings people together and you make new friends and meet new people.”

He added: “They also taught me the importance of treating people with kindness and never putting someone down for singing the wrong note.” 

 

‘It’s opened so many doors’ 

Another member, Morgan, from Chepstow, is currently studying for his A-levels. He said: “My journey with Aloud actually started when I joined Only Kids Aloud at 9 years old, and after a short break, I joined OBA and have loved every minute of it. It’s opened so many doors for me and gave me opportunities most adults won’t have in their lifetime. Some of these experiences include singing at the King’s Coronation Concert, an amazing residential week in North Wales, full of performing, learning about and practicing music theory, making new mates and ending with a series of concerts. We even had the amazing opportunity to have a masterclass with Callum Scott Howells.

“Being a member of Aloud has opened other doors for me including being part of the chorus performing with Bryn Terfel for his 50th birthday in WNO’s Tosca and touring in Dubai with WNO. The training I have had gave me the confidence to audition for and become a member of the National Youth Choir of Wales. These have all been amazing but never would’ve been possible without OBA. It is such an amazing place to start and nurture a passion for performing no matter who you are, and I can attribute so many amazing experiences to my days with OBA.” 

He added: “Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without OBA. My life would be so boring. There’s been music sung in this country for centuries. We can’t let it die. We need to ensure it remains.” 

‘Heartbreaking’ 

One of OBA’s community leaders, Pat Ashman, has been there since the beginning. She’s been described as “one of the most loyal supporters Aloud has had since the beginning until today”. She said: “Quite simply, for me it’s the best project I have ever been associated with. My association with Aloud has enriched my life and they know that they can always count on my support as a volunteer.” If OBA were to close, she says it would be “heart-breaking”.

Pat added: “To have achieved so much and to have to stop now doesn’t bear thinking about.” 

Carys Wynne-Morgan, Aloud’s Chief Executive, said: “We, like so many other arts charities, are struggling. The changing economic and funding climate has hit us hard. Despite the best efforts of a committed and knowledgeable team, we’ve been unable to raise the necessary funds this year for our vital work in communities across Wales. As a result, we’ve had to make the heartbreaking decision to pause all our regular free activity for young people of secondary school age and reduce our dedicated team to half its size. In this pause, we are determined to regroup, refocus and remodel Aloud for long term sustainability. But we can’t do it alone – we need your support. To restart any activity in the autumn, we need to be sure we have the money in the bank to realise our ambitions and honour any commitments we make.” 

For more information, and to donate, go to http://www.justgiving.com/campaign/savethealoudcharity  

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Only Boys Aloud, which has supported more than 6,500 boys since they launched in 2010, needs to raise £150,000 to save both the Aloud Charity and its famous Only Boys Aloud choir.

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