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Blog: Blaenau Gwent's heritage and the OU

BG REACH Exhibition Launch

Julia David
Julia David

I attended the BG REACH exhibition launch during my second week at The Open University in Wales. I quickly realised that this was a project which perfectly summed up how the OU uses learning to empower people and communities. Sitting in St Fagan’s Museum, I failed to fight back tears as I listened to Pat speak on behalf of Aberbeeg Community Group. Having grown up 15 minutes from Aberbeeg I was struck by what it meant for local people to see their artistic creations on display – to feel their community was not only represented but celebrated in a national heritage centre. I needn’t have worried about crying during my second week in the job as I wasn’t the only one!

Celebrating an award

This summer, the BG REACH project won the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) Cymru Judges Special Recognition Award. We were already very proud of the project and this award shows how it positively impacted on everyone involved, from people to relationships between partner organisations. The community held an event to celebrate the project in Ebbw Vale this Monday, as part of Adult Learners' Week.

From Blaina to Bangor

Many of the people I’ve spoken to about BG REACH over the last six months have asked if we’ll be doing a similar project again. We’d absolutely love to. We’re working with several partners and have submitted a funding bid for a new project called Wales REACH. If all goes to plan, five new communities across Wales will start co-producing the project sometime in 2023.

I worked with several BG REACH participants to make this video, which explains more about the project:

Some of the people in the video spoke about how the project has given them confidence to try new things. On the day we recorded the video, this was clear. They all blossomed on film, having initially needed some gentle encouragement. One woman went from clinging on to my hand as the camera started rolling to barely letting the interviewer get a word in! The film crew and I were so moved I found myself once again searching for a tissue – which shows the power learning has when it’s made accessible.

Partnership with Linc Cymru housing association

Alongside celebrating the TPAS award, the OU in Wales has signed a memorandum of understanding with Linc Cymru, one of its partners on the BG REACH project. The agreement sets out how both organisations will work together in future, which includes

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