27th May 2021
Thank You Day began with just 13 individual members of the public proposing the day. Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to them all, but first up is Aled!
Port Talbot, where I live, is a Welsh town best known for two things: the large steelworks and the brilliant actors who have come from here, like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Michael Sheen and Richard Burton. It’s a strange mix of heavy industry and the arts. I work at the steelworks, so was already engaged in that side, but my increasing involvement in community projects, which went up another level over the past year, has meant that the arts are now very important to me too.
My journey into community volunteering began through my local rugby club, Taibach RFC. The club is famous for its annual pantomime, which has been running for over fifty years. The panto is still popular today and raises money for local charities. The lockdowns didn’t stop us from putting it on last year. We filmed the whole thing virtually over two and a half months. Even though we couldn’t get on stage, we didn’t want to miss a performance.
The panto has not only sparked my love of theatre, but also of helping my community. Over lockdown, the streets and alleyways where I live were getting strewn with litter, as people were struggling and less able to pay for rubbish to be removed. So we started a community group with other locals which went out litter picking every week.
The panto boys helped out too. There’s a small green patch which had become a dumping ground and we set to work cleaning it up. It’s now being turned into a welcome garden for the area, and local businesses are sponsoring its upkeep. The space will provide somewhere to sit and reflect while looking out over the sunset. It shows that you can take pride in your locality for very little time and effort.
Also during lockdown, five of us from Port Talbot started the 505 Collective to help people in the area who were turning to the arts for something new to occupy their minds. Our ethos is that if anybody in Port Talbot wants to do something in any form of the arts, we will use our knowledge and experience to support them on that journey and connect them with like-minded individuals.
For Thank You Day, I’ll be giving my personal thanks to the other boys in the Collective: Dean, Phil, Nick and Glyn. The challenge now is to keep the Collective going into the future and I hope by thanking the other boys I can help maintain our momentum.
One of the reasons I keep engaging in community projects is because of that feeling you get when people pat you on the back. It’s like when I come off stage at the panto and go to see all my friends and family with a huge amount of pride. You know everybody will be complimenting you, thanking you, patting you on the back and saying please keep this going.
We’ve also had the pleasure of working with Michael Sheen on a few local projects over the years and when I saw that he had named me in his thank you video on Twitter, it was a fantastic, motivational surprise. Thank You Day is exactly that: about giving people that same feeling and encouraging them to keep going.
Everyone can do something to celebrate Thank You Day. My wife owns a local café which never normally opens on a Sunday, but we’re planning to open to thank our customers for continuing to support us through what has been a tough year for small businesses. We will say come join us and have some free cake. Everybody loves free cake!
Meet all the Thank You Day proposers.