A leading care organisation is in the running for an award  for spearheading a major campaign to help an opera company reach out to communities across North Wales.

Pendine Park, which has care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon, has been shortlisted in the Arts and Business Cymru Awards after signing up to be Welsh National Opera’s (WNO) first Community Champion in North Wales.

According to Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE, WNO needs to attract private-sector funding to continue developing its dedicated community programme working with theatres and other local partners in schools, with community choirs and with people of all ages across the region.

The arts-loving entrepreneur hosted a special event at Venue Cymru in Llandudno last year to showcase the talented singers aged from seven to 14 who are involved in WNO’s Youth Opera in North Wales.

As result of their long-standing support, Pendine have been nominated in the Arts, Business and Community category and the winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on Friday, October 9.

Pendine Park, which employs more than 800 people in eight care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon, has won numerous awards for the way in which it uses the arts to enhance the life of its residents and staff.

They became the first care organisation in Wales, and possibly the UK, to appoint an artist in residence when Sarah Edwards was engaged as a consultant in 1995.

Since then they have also employed a musician-in-residence, Nia Davies Williams, and all members of staff receive enrichment training so they can enhance the lives of residents through the arts.

Mario and his wife, Gill, also support around 30 arts organisations as well as community activities via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust.

He said: “We were pleased to hear that Pendine has been shortlisted for this award which means a great deal to us as a community-based organisation.

“I am proud to have become Welsh National Opera’s first Community Champion because my wife, Gill, and I have always embraced the arts and understood the importance music and performance when it comes to the general well-being of our residents and staff.

“Social care and the arts go hand in hand in enriching lives across the generations and promoting well-being.

“We are passionate about using the arts, whether visual or musical, to enrich the lives of our residents and staff alike.

“Given the coronavirus crisis, there has never been a more important time to cherish the arts for what they do to lift spirits and make us feel better. It has a real value

“That’s why we set up the Pendine Arts and Community Trust to support cultural pursuits and community activities so we can spread the message about the value of the arts.”

“It’s fair to say the arts provide a golden thread running through everything we do and, for a number of years now, we have been involved with Welsh National Opera who have worked with residents and staff in delivering performances across our homes.

“We particularly value the work Welsh National Opera does in the community, especially with children and young people and we want to encourage other like-minded business to get involved.

“It’s vital we offer young people the opportunity to get involved with the arts. It’s not just about the genre of opera but also about giving young people opportunities so to widen their horizons.”

“Welsh National Opera is world-class in terms of the performances they deliver but there is so much more important work going on in communities across North Wales that we perhaps don’t know enough about.”

Among those who attended the launch were Youth Opera members Millie Coppell, 11, of Bangor and Millie Roberts, 13, of Abergele.

Millie , a pupil of Ysgol Cae Top, said: “It’s brilliant and a lot of fun. I’ve learnt how to sing better and how to perform as well as making a lot of new friends.”

Millie Roberts added: “It’s been fantastic to come and learn opera and how to sing and perform. We have watched an opera and I loved Tosca. Opera and the chance to learn opera needs to be available to everyone.”

Welsh National Opera’s Director of Development, Communications and Strategy, Alison Dunnett, praised Mario and Gill for their passionate commitment to the arts.

She said: “We are delighted that WNO’s partnership with Pendine Park has been shortlisted for the Arts, Business & the Community Award.

“Gill and Mario Kreft are long-standing supporters of WNO and we are grateful to them and to Pendine Park for their support as founder members of our Community Champions programme in North Wales.

“We would also like to thank Arts & Business Cymru who provided a matched-funding grant to encourage local business support for this work.

“Welsh National Opera has a long-standing history of performing and working in communities across North Wales.

“In 2016 we engaged a Youth & Community Producer to be permanently based in the region working with venues, artists, schools and community groups to create a year-round programme that nurtures talent and confidence in young people and connects communities through the tradition of choral singing. In the past year 5,500 people have taken part in this programme.

“In 2019 WNO launched WNO Community Champions as a way for local businesses to support this work and ensure we could keep the programme going.

“Mario and Gill saw the potential for business and the arts to come together to inspire and benefit communities and have used their support to advocate for the work and to encourage the business community to support it.

“Our plans to bring singing into care homes this year have been delayed by Covid-19 but we were able to send a special thank you musical message to the Pendine Park staff from the WNO Chorus with a remote performance of the Welsh hymn, Gwahoddiad.”