Caernarfon musician sets a hot tempo to raise awareness of dementia

Bryn Seiont Newydd in Caernarfon. resident musician, Nia Davies Williams, who is running the 10k event, one of the three Hwyl y Bont races in Bontnewydd.

The resident musician at a dementia care centre aims to set a hot tempo of a different kind when she runs in a race to promote greater awareness of the condition.

Nia Davies Williams, who uses music to enhance the lives of residents at the flagship Bryn Seiont Newydd care home, in Caernarfon, will be swapping her concert gown for running kit to stride out in one of three fun races arranged by the local community committee as part of its campaign to make the nearby village of Bontnewydd officially dementia friendly.

The 10-strong Hwyl y Bont group of volunteers was set up in 2011 to help bring the community together and organises a programme of regular events, including the annual races around the village.

This year the six 5k, 10k and junior events, for males and females, are aimed specifically at helping to make Bontnewydd a dementia friendly area and have the official support of Bryn Seiont Newydd and its proprietor Mario Kreft of the Pendine Park care organisation which already support the Purple Angels campaign to raise awareness about dementia.

The bilingual centre, which recently won the Stirling University backed Pinders Award as the best new care home in the UK, provides specialist care for 71 dementia sufferers on the site of the former Ysbyty Bryn Seiont community hospital in the town’s Pant Road and has created more than 100 jobs.

As part of its commitment to support the community, it has agreed to become sole sponsor for the races, providing trophies for the winners in each of the six events.

And when the area’s new AM, Sian Gwenllian, gets them under starter’s orders at 1pm on Saturday July 9, 44-year-old Nia will be lining up for the 10k race.

She has been resident musician at Bryn Seiont Newydd for the past year, bringing to the job years of experience in using music in the care of people with dementia.

Nia is also a renowned musician and has been a runner-up in the annual Song For Wales competition on S4C and composed music for well-known Welsh language bands.

When work allows Nia is also a keen runner and since 2010 has competed in a number of half marathons like Reading and Anglesey.

She also has a number of 10k events to her credit, including Llandudno, Abersoch and Caernarfon.

“I like to run two or three times a week and have worked out a nice route which is a loop around where I live,” she said.

“I did the Abersoch 10k recently and, despite it being baking hot on the day, I managed quite a decent time.

“I usually finish the 10k races in about 48 minutes and the half marathons I’ve been doing in 105 or 106 minutes.

“When I heard about Bryn Seiont Newydd sponsoring the Hwyl y Bont races this year I knew I had to be involved and put my name down for the 10k.

“Anything that helps raise awareness of dementia has to be a good thing, especially making a village or town dementia friendly, so I’m really looking forward to taking part.

“Running is good for the mind as well as the body and it’s important to have a goal in mind like the 10k.”

Nia, who graduated in music from Bangor University and plays piano and harp, added: “I’ve been working professionally as a musician for over 10 years now, going round care homes and playing music for residents.

“It is amazing to see the effect it can have. Many dementia patients have lost so much of their memories and can’t remember their words when they try to speak but you start playing a tune they know and they’ll sing along and remember every word from a tune they heard 50 years ago.”

The mother of three lives with her partner, a professor of music at the University of Bangor, in Caernarfon having been brought up on the Llyn Peninsula.

The hotly anticipated Hwyl y Bont races are part of a week of special activities organised by the village committee to help create a strong sense of community in Bontnewydd, according to one of its members Catrin Roberts.

She said: “Starting on the previous Monday, we have events such as a treasure hunt, children’s cinema session, bingo a curry and quiz night and a golf tournament, and on the same day of the races, which take a circular route around the village, we have things like a bouncy castle, a tug-of-war and local bands playing.

“The races started a couple of years ago and are growing in popularity. Last year we had 100 people taking part and we’re hoping to have even more this time.

“They’re designed specifically to raise awareness of dementia which can be a hidden condition as it’s not visible like when someone is in a wheelchair or has broken an arm.

“As part of our aim of making the village dementia friendly we’re hoping to arrange special training for local businesses and get volunteers going into schools in the area giving talks to the children on what it’s like to get older.”

Catrin added: “We are very grateful to Mario Kreft and Bryn Seiont Newydd for agreeing to sponsor the races and provide the trophies.

“It’s an excellent show of support for the local community and we’re very grateful.”

Mr Kreft, who runs the Pendine Park care organisation with his wife Gill, is also the Chair of Care Forum Wales and was awarded an MBE for his contribution to social care in Wales.

He said: “We’re delighted to be sponsoring the races as part of our commitment to supporting the communities in which our care homes are based and particularly pleased to helping to promote the campaign for Bontnewydd to become officially dementia friendly.

“This offers us the opportunity to support an innovative and valuable community project that fits with our clear purpose and vision while at the same time raising our profile locally.

“It’s also good to see Nia getting personally involved by donning her running shoes to take part in the 10k event and we wish her every success on the day.”