I never thought I would welcome so many people into my front room!

From Board meetings, weekly team meetings to virtual coffees and chats with a whole host of people — I never thought I would welcome so many people into my front room! 

We have all lived through a time of profound and significant change which will have lasting implications, not only to the cultural sector, but to every aspect of our lives.

So why is it that despite all of this turmoil, I have been more inspired than ever before? 

Well…because of the secret (or not so) ingredient that lies behind the success of every charity — its community of supporters. Throughout the past year, I have been lucky enough to witness first hand the passion and power of YCAT’s incredibly committed supporters, who care about making a difference in the lives of the young musicians we support. 

As a fundraiser, there is nothing I enjoy more than meeting with people. I love connecting with people, hearing their stories and have the privilege of sharing the impact of YCAT’s work of giving young artists the best start to their career.

A central pillar of YCAT’s work is its distinguished lunchtime concert series at Wigmore Hall. It is the highlight of my month. Why? Because I get to catch up with regular faces, meet new faces and most of all be just as amazed as everyone by the exquisite music making of YCAT artists as we shuffle out of the Hall. 

For a fundraiser, and musician, I cannot think of a better fusion: a recital and hearing how much the audience/donors enjoyed it. After all, it’s the donor who is giving the performers that opportunity. But the familiar scene of meeting and greeting people in the foyer of concert halls and catching up with them, has, of course, become a distant memory. 

It is no secret how devastating Covid-19 has been in the cultural sector, especially young musicians at a precarious stage in their careers. We have all lived through a time of profound and significant change which will have lasting implications, not only on the cultural sector, but in every aspect of our lives. The one thing in which musicians, donors and I thrive off was taken away from us. No more music, no more meeting people and enthusing them about YCAT’s amazing work. 

23 March 2020. A date that is etched in my memory. After spending the morning preparing for what we thought would be weeks of working from home — I remember sitting with Alasdair at YCAT HQ and calculating that the artists had lost over £60,000 of income through cancelled concerts…in one weekend. 

Our hearts sank then we took a deep breath. 

My instinct was to launch some sort of appeal to make a contribution towards this loss but looking at the hurricane of bad news around the world — was it really appropriate to ask for money in such uncertainty? 

YCAT had never done anything like it before, so it felt a rather risky thing to do but in the words of Brené Brown — we chose courage over comfort because we knew it was the right thing to do. With an initial target of £5,000 which I thought might be a little ambitious, I sat in an eerie Somerset House and drafted an email to our supporters. Nervous as ever when sending a mass email…“Will the links work?”, “Is the spelling right?”, “Did I miss anything?”…I finally pressed send. YCAT’s COVID-19 Hardship Fund was live. 

What happened next can only be described as a tsunami of emotions. 

The once ambitious target of £5,000 turned into a whirlwind 3 weeks raising over £120,000. The compassion and determination of each and every donor to make a difference is something I will never forget. 

Everyone who supported the appeal shone a bright light into the lives of our artists during a very dark time — but also in mine. 

"Twelve months on, three lockdowns later and still no gatherings in concert hall foyers — YCAT’s family of supporters haven’t just supported our artists, they have helped me survive what could have been a tragic year and I feel closer than ever to them as a result. "

It is my job to thank donors for their support and show them the difference they are making to the young artists we support. But I wanted to take this opportunity too, to thank them from me. 

"While I miss being out representing YCAT and meeting people all over the country, the early commitment our supporters showed to our mission and work has been truly inspiring and has made my ‘fundraising through covid-19’ unforgettable — but for the right reasons."

It has both reinforced my passion for fundraising and demonstrated the central role YCAT’s community of supporters play in making each artist a success.

So thank you. To all YCAT donors, Board members and team for your caring understanding and commitment to giving young musicians the best start in their careers. I cannot wait until we are able to, once again, see in person the awesome talents of YCAT artists on the stage and the relief of not having to keep my front room so tidy incase of guests will be most welcome!

Kieran Jones, Development Manager, YCAT

Kieran has much experience within the arts through various roles as Conductor, Singer and Fundraiser. Since graduating from Cardiff University School of Music, Kieran has held development and engagement roles at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music, London. Kieran is responsible for directing the delivery of all aspects of fundraising. When not at work, Kieran is an avid concert goer, performs, teaches and enjoys exercise. He also seizes the opportunity to socialise with friends and visit his home and family in Mold, North Wales.