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Residents of Ely ‘stand together’ in hard times, says priest

02 June 2023

Riots were sparked in the Cardiff community by the deaths of two teenagers

Jan Gould

Canon Jan Gould during a vigil on the streets of Ely, last week

Canon Jan Gould during a vigil on the streets of Ely, last week

A PRIEST in Wales has been ministering to the grieving community of Ely, in west Cardiff, after riots were sparked last week by the deaths of two teenagers.

Canon Jan Gould has been Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Resurrection, Ely, since 2006. She found herself not only responding to shocked and hurting parishioners, but also talking about the community with the national and international media.

Kyrees Sullivan, 16, and his friend Harvey Evans, 15, died in a crash in Ely, on Monday of last week. Allegations that the pair were being chased by a police van spread on social media, and rioting followed.

The morning after the riots, Canon Gould was out on the streets alongside the recently appointed Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd Mary Stallard. They walked around the estate together, and Canon Gould urged the young people to stay calm.

“Ely is the kind of community that when something bad happens they stand together and support one another,” she said this week. “So, the community decided to have a vigil in support of the two boys’ parents and families.”

About 1000 people attended the vigil last Friday evening.

“Everyone was asked to wear blue and bring a blue balloon,” Canon Gould said. “At six o’clock, the balloons were released, followed by a minute’s silence for the boys and a round of applause, and then there were some fireworks. It was completely peaceful.”

The next day, she opened the church for four hours, so that people could light candles and spend time in reflection.

“A good number of young people came in during the day, and I had some quiet music playing. That was the first time they had seriously stopped to reflect. They were very, very tearful and I suppose it was the first time they had really wept since it had happened.”

In the days after the vigil, Canon Gould was asked to accompany the MP for the constituency on a walk around the streets. She continued to find herself at the hub of the media focus, giving 37 interviews during those first few days.

“It’s been a massive privilege to be in that position this week to speak on behalf of the community,” she said. “It’s important, because so often Ely’s had a really bad press and it’s been stigmatised in the past. It is a poor area, but it is a community with a most amazing heart and people that haven’t got anything will give you their last penny. It is very caring, and they really do stand shoulder to shoulder when people are up against it.

“That side of community life quite often gets lost in the wider perception of the area. So, it’s been really important for me this week to use the media opportunity to actually tell the whole story of what Ely is like as a community.”

She also said that many of the rioters were not from Ely, but had come from further afield, because they had heard that there was a riot.

Canon Gould is hopeful that recent meetings between politicians will help to channel more funding into Ely, which, she says, had been forgotten.

Her husband, Canon Peter Sedgwick, formerly Principal of St Michael’s College, Llandaff and now retired, said that the loss of manual jobs in the area was partly to blame for Ely’s troubles.

In an article published on the Church Times website, on Tuesday, he wrote: “Forty years ago, there were manual jobs that gave young people a sense of pride and skill: in the brewery, the paper mill, and local factories. All of these have gone, swept away by globalisation and automation. There were also many youth clubs, and they have all gone, too, closed by spending cuts.”

He continued: “The task of the Church, the Government, and the police is now to heal the disorder, so that the community can again be a place of well-being and flourishing.”

Canon Gould will officiate at the funeral for the teenagers at the Church of the Resurrection. “Our challenge going forward is how can we make even tiny, tiny steps in rebuilding the trust in the police,” she said.

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