A scheme which aims to get teenage boys singing instead of sinning is being financed by cash seized from local criminals.
Only Boys Aloud, which runs four choirs across North Wales and will open this year’s National Eisteddfod, has won a grant of £5,000.
The choir, with 68 members based in some of the region’s most deprived areas in Rhyl, Caernarfon, Holyhead and Wrexham, will receive the money from the Your Community, Your Choice initiative.
It is paid for with cash confiscated from the area’s crooks which is distributed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, North Wales Police and North Wales Police and PACT (the Police and Community Trust).
Much of the money was recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s own funds.
It is one of 15 grants totalling over £40,000 given to support schemes by community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants and almost 10,000 votes cast.
Eleri Watkins, Project Manager of Only Boys Aloud in North Wales – the scheme runs throughout Wales in nine of the ten most deprived areas of the country – said the money would be used to pay for the weekly rehearsals where the boys, aged 13 to 19, could develop their singing
She said: “This will help them develop their singing and it mixes boys from deprived areas with those from more privileged backgrounds and it gives them a chance to perform in different paces when some of these boys have never left their own communities before.”
Louisa Turner, North Wales Development Officer, said: “We don’t receive public funding so we have to raise money ourselves and this grant will be invaluable to help the choirs meet and travel to performances. It’s really important to us.”
“The Only Boys Aloud choirs are free to join and there are no auditions to take part, so the scheme is fully inclusive and accessible.
“This means that each rehearsal is a ‘melting pot’ of boys from completely different social and economic backgrounds who mix together and form new friendships.”
The other North Wales projects to be awarded grants were a series of crime prevention workshops for people with hearing loss by the North Wales Deaf Association, which received £5,075, and an Environment and Raised Beds scheme by the Maesgeirchen Partnership in Bangor which was awarded £1,270.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, said: “I was delighted when I took office this year that I was able to continue the good work of the Your Community, Your Choice fund and support community projects across North Wales.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support, and I would like to thank all of this year applicants who submitted innovative and interesting projects, and for the public for taking part in the decision-making through our on-line voting system.
“This year 29 projects went forward to the public vote and almost 10,000 votes were cast and that response demonstrated to me that communities can work together to make our public places safer.
“Community groups such as yours are vital to the citizens of north Wales and in helping to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.”
Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard said: “The funding which you have received has been made available by the Police and Crime Commissioner and through assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“This is a particularly vital message as, through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“Operation Scorpion aims to target all types of serious crime and to date it has recovered £1.3m worth of cash and assets and almost £300,000 worth of illegal drugs and ensured that 87 criminals are spending over 350 years behind bars.
“Money confiscated from these criminals is now helping to support communities such as yours.
“Every day our work involves working closely with communities and organisations across the whole of north Wales, and it is vital that these strong ties and links continue so that we can continue to make North Wales a safer place.”
PACT chairman David Williams added: “We are delighted that we can assist in the administration of this fund.
“I think the breadth of our grant giving right across North Wales, from the tip of the west to the furthest part of the east, really sends a strong message to communities to access this money, it’s there for them.
“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way.
“The aims Your Community, Your Choice scheme also coincide with the objectives of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan so it creates a virtuous circle.”