The Duke of Westminster and Miss Olivia Henson visit Chester charities - Chester Cathedral

The Duke of Westminster and Miss Olivia Henson visit Chester charities

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The Duke of Westminster and Miss Olivia Henson visited three charities in Chester City Centre this week that are funded by the Westminster Foundation.

One of the visits was to a parent-toddler music programme at Chester Cathedral, where the couple will marry in one month, on 7th June.

Throughout the morning, the Duke and Olivia met children, young people and their families involved in Cheshire Dance, Storyhouse and the Cathedral Music Trust. The visit gave them the chance to see and hear directly about the positive impact the charitable programmes have had on the young people who are supported by them.

As Chair of both Grosvenor and the Westminster Foundation, the Duke takes an active interest in investing in the development of Chester City Centre, including investing in opportunities for children and young people.

At the Cathedral, the Duke and Olivia joined a pilot session of a new parent-toddler programme called Small Sounds that provides free, weekly music groups for 0 to 5-year-olds. Delivered by national charity The Cathedral Music Trust, the programme also trains music staff to develop their skills and experience in early years practice. The session that the Duke and Miss Henson joined was run by the Cathedral Music Trust who will later train the Cathedral’s own music team to enable them to run subsequent Small Sounds sessions. While at the Cathedral, the Duke and Olivia met members of the Cathedral Music team, who will play an important role in their wedding.

The Duke, through the Westminster Foundation, has recently donated to the Chester Cathedral Project Discovery initiative, supporting the Cathedral’s vision to expand its cultural offer and help connect further with city communities, benefitting Chester as a whole.

It’s so important to me to support young people in Chester. Hearing directly from them and seeing these charitable programmes first hand is the only way we’ll learn about the real issues that need addressing and how best to direct our support.

The Duke of Westminster

Earlier in the morning, they visited Storyhouse where they met children taking part in a dance session run by the charity Cheshire Dance for those who learn outside of mainstream education across Chester, Ellesmere Port and the surrounding villages. The creative session saw the children learning new movement skills through Capoeria, a Brazilian artform that mixes marital arts with dance, acrobatics and music. Cheshire Dance has been supporting young people across the region since it was founded by Cheshire’s Local Education Authority almost 50 years ago (1976).

The Duke and Miss Henson also visited the recently-opened Studio by Storyhouse and met participants from Storyhouse’s Young Leaders programme. The initiative supports those between 14 to 25 years old, who have limited opportunities to connect with others. For example, the programme works with young people with EHC plans, those who are young carers, looked after young people, are neurodiverse, have learning disabilities or poor mental health. The programme is structured to help participants develop both their work skills as well as their confidence, teamwork and relationship building. They receive mentoring, training and are given practical opportunities to develop and grow both professionally and personally.

While there, they also spoke to young adults involved in The Agency programme, which works with young people from underserved areas in the UK to generate social change projects based on the needs of their own communities. Created by Brazilian theatre maker and activist Marcus Faustini in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro, The Agency influences the way arts organisations do business, diversifying boards, programming, and staffing. During the programme, young people are supported to recognise their power to make change within their lives, within their community, and in their cities.

In Chester, The Agency is working in Lache with young people on a workshop that gives women a safe space to express their anger and a social group that supports neurodiverse young people to find friendships combatting social isolation and loneliness.

Young Leaders has helped me a lot wit my personal skills and my confidence. It’s helped me learn how to problem-solve and to speak to people, especially in more of a professional sense. For any young people thinking about joining, I’d just say, go for it and keep an open mind about how it can help you!

Kera-Leigh Gilmartin, participant in Storyhouse’s Young Leaders programme

We understand fully the transformative potential of dance in young people’s lives and our work with the Westminster Foundation will enable us to extend our programme across the local area. The physical confidence that young people develop through dancing isn’t just about looking more confident but feeling more confident. Creativity doesn’t just underpin the arts and creative industries, it’s a fundamental life skill for learning and employment where innovation and problem-solving are critical skills in the workplace and as part of our changing national economy.

Adam Holloway, Director at Cheshire Dance

The Small Sounds initiative will help us to introduce the joy of singing to today’s children, encouraging them on a life-long journey of musical discovery, and helping Chester Cathedral to play a part in maintaining the heritage skill of choral music.

Canon Rosie Woodall, Canon for Spirituality and Worship at Chester Cathedral

Cathedral Music Trust is passionate about choral music and its power to connect people at all stages of life. Our Small Sounds programme is the beginning of that journey and we are launching the project here in Chester in September. Small Sounds will provide free weekly music groups for little ones aged 0-5 years and their families in six cathedrals – including Chester Cathedral – in the project’s first year.

Cathy Dew, Programme Director, Cathedral Music Trust

Photographys copyright: Victoria Tetley, Grosvenor 2024

Kevin Baxter

Communications Director

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