WALES’S top tenor Rhys Meirion has joined forces with other leading performers to combat child abuse.
They will be starring at a concert in aid of a confidential children’s hotline in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal and the new issues around the North Wales Child Abuse Inquiry.
The prestigious event at St Asaph Cathedral, on the evening of Friday, February 15, will raise funds for the Prestatyn-based ChildLine Cymru Helpline.
Along with Rhys Meirion, the concert will feature international opera star Leah-Marian Jones, along with classical pianist Annette Bryn Parri, the Beaumaris Youth Brass Band and the choir from Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph.
Run by the NSPCC, the helpline provides a free confidential 24-hour listening ear for children and young people with worries and concerns about their life.
According to Lloyd Fitzhugh OBE, a former High Sheriff of Clwyd who has organised the concert, financial support for the helpline is now more vital than ever.
He revealed the number of calls it has handled has soared by more than 30% as a direct result of publicity surrounding the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal and the new investigation into allegations of child abuse at care homes in North Wales.
Revelations in a TV documentary late last year that Savile, who died aged 84 in 2011, was a serial child abuser led to allegations against him from hundreds of alleged victims across the United Kingdom.
Following a joint investigation known as Operation Yewtree, a new report by the NSPCC and Metropolitan Police outlines a shocking catalogue of offences dating back 50 years and including 13 hospitals, among which are Great Ormond Street in London and Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds.
Last November, a separate investigation was launched into allegations of historical child abuse at north Wales care homes and has so far has received information from more than 100 victims.
Operation Pallial is led by the head of the National Crime Agency and centres on care homes in the former counties of Clwyd and Gwynedd and includes the now-defunct Bryn Estyn home in Wrexham.
Mr Fitzhugh, who was High Sheriff in 2011/2012, said: “Child protection is a hot topic at the moment and over the past few months the helpline has seen the volume of calls it takes rise by one third.
“It now finds itself in need of more trained volunteers to cope with these calls. However, it costs around £1,600 to train each volunteer to the required level, so that is where the money we raise from the concert at St Asaph Cathedral will be going.”
Both Mr Fitzhugh, who is a landowner in Wrexham, and his wife Pauline have been closely involved with the NSPCC for a number of years.
In October 2011, Mr Fitzhugh organised his first concert in aid of ChildLine at St Asaph Cathedral which again starred Rhys Meiron.
It attracted a capacity audience of 350 and raised £3,700 for the helpline.
Mr Fitzhugh added: “Given the huge success of the last concert we thought we would organise something very similar this year.
“Again it will feature the very best in classical music from some of Wales’s finest performers.
“Although it will be an eclectic mix of styles, it will deliberately have a strong youth element to it with the youth band and the school choir as we are aiming to benefit a charity for young people.
“The concert will have as its two main sponsors the Pendine Park care organisation and children’s care organisation, the Wrexham-based Prospects Care.
“We are extremely grateful to both our main sponsors because without them we would not have been able to put on the event.
“I am sure it will once again be a memorable evening of music and I am hoping as many people as possible will come along to support us.”
Rhys Meirion said: “I am delighted to support anything to do with the NSPCC because the protection of children is absolutely basic. As a former headmaster I know how vitally important this is.
“St Asaph Cathedral is a fantastic venue and has the perfect acoustics for classical music.
“I hope as many people as possible come along to support us because this is a really worthwhile cause.”
Steve Elliott, director of Prospects Care, which is one of the main sponsors, said: “We have been in the business of providing residential care and education for young people aged 11 to 18 for the past 19 years and are obviously very keen on issues related to children and young people.
“We are therefore delighted to give our backing to a concert which is supporting a helpline for young people experiencing difficulties.
“It is a certainly a cause very close to our heart.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE.
He said: “The abuse of children is an abomination and recent events have brought the issue into sharp focus.
“If there is a positive to be drawn, it is that more children are calling this vital helpline but that help comes at a cost which makes fundraising events like this so important.”
The concert at St Asaph Cathedral begins at 7.30pm on Friday, February 15, and tickets, £12.50, are available on the door on the night. Those wanting to buy tickets beforehand should ring 07714 156060.