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WISE Celebration of Talented Women in Wales 2017 - Sessions and Speakers

Sessions and Speakers at the WISE Celebration of Talented Women in Wales 2017

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Julie James AM

Welsh Minister for Skills and Science

Until she was elected as Assembly Member for Swansea West, Julie was a leading environmental and constitutional lawyer. Prior to this, she was assistant chief executive at Swansea Council. She spent most of her legal career in local government, working as a policy lawyer with the London Borough of Camden before returning to Swansea to work for West Glamorgan County Council and then the City and County of Swansea.

Since being elected Julie sat on the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Enterprise and Business Committee and Environment and Sustainability Committee. Julie published the ‘Influencing the Modernisation of EU Procurement Policy’ Report as Chair of the Enterprise and Business Committee’s Procurement Task and Finish Group. Julie also sat as Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee’s Common Fisheries Policy Task and Finished Group.

Julie James was appointed Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology in September 2014. In May 2016 Julie was appointed as Minister for Skills and Science.

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Helen Wollaston

WISE Chief Executive

Helen joined WISE in June 2012, combining the legacy of a publicly funded UK Resource Centre for women in science, engineering and technology with the WISE brand to form a unified campaign, promoting female talent in STEM from classroom to boardroom. Along with campaigning expertise, Helen brings experience of leadership across public, business and not-for-profit sectors. Prior to WISE, she ran her own consultancy company, Equal to the Occasion, was Director of Campaigns for the Equal Opportunities Commission and ran the Yorkshire region for the National Lottery Charities Board. An alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10k small business programme, she now sits on the Advisory Board for the Management Division of Leeds University Business School. Former Non-Executive roles include Senior Independent Director and Deputy Chair of South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of YWCA England and Wales (now the Young Women's Trust).

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Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor responsible for Research and Innovation and Strategic Development at Swansea University

WISE Hero Award 2016 winner, Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott is the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor responsible for Research and Innovation and Strategic Development at Swansea University.

Professor Lappin-Scott is a Trustee of the Daphne Jackson Trust and Alacrity Foundation and Vice President of the Federation of European Microbiology Society (FEMS). She is former President of the Microbiology Society and the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME). Hilary is also Swansea University’s lead for both Equality and Diversity and Athena SWAN and an elected Board member of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

Her recent work on promoting girls in Science and retaining women in STEM careers include her TedTalk and she advises Australian Universities and Research institutes on best practice on supporting women in STEM. Professor Lappin-Scott is also an advisor to the Canadian Science Minister.

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Professor Karen Holford

Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences and Engineering Cardiff University

A long-time supporter of WISE since the early days of the campaign, Professor Holford FREng is the Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, at Cardiff University.

Her career started at Rolls-Royce in Bristol where she completed an undergraduate apprenticeship, reading Mechanical Engineering at UWIST followed by a PhD at UCC, sponsored by HSE. She then worked as a senior design engineer at AB Electronic Products Ltd.

Karen joined Cardiff University’s School of Engineering as a lecturer in 1990 and was appointed Director of the School in 2010. Her research interest is acoustic emission (AE) applied to damage assessment across a range of industrial applications.

Karen is a member of the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Network and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2016. Karen is a member of the Board of the Compound Semiconductor Centre and is an UpRising Ambassador.

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Professor Julie Williams CBE - Panel Moderator

Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales

Prof Julie Williams CBE became Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales in September 2013. She was born in Merthyr and studied psychology at Cardiff University. She is a senior figure in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research. As Head of the Neurodegeneration section of the Medical Research Council Centre on Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics in Cardiff University, she continues her research while working in the Welsh Government.

Her research focuses upon identifying and understanding genes which increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Early in her career she recognized the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease genetics and began focusing her research on developing larger, more powerful studies. Julie Williams is one of the four leaders of the IGAP genetics consortium. This incorporates over 150 scientists from Europe and the USA and has access to over 30,000 AD cases and 60,000 controls. Her work was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the top ten medical breakthroughs of 2009.

Julie Williams has served on the Medical Research Council Neuroscience and Mental Health Board and is a former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Her contribution to Alzheimer’s disease research was recognized nationally when she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours list 2012.

For Welsh Government, Julie leads on the Ser Cymru programme which aims to increase research capacity in Wales by funding research Chairs, Networks, Fellowships with up to £100 million of investment in research in Wales.

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La-Chun Lindsay

Managing Director/Site Leader of GE Aviation Wales

La-Chun was born and raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She attended Clemson University and graduated in 1995 with a B.S. degree in Ceramic Engineering.

She then joined SELEE Corporation in Hendersonville, North Carolina and held a variety of roles including Cast House Manager, leading their largest product line. La-Chun joined GE Quartz in October 1997, where she held roles as Process Engineer, Tubing Green Belt, Supplier Quality Black Belt and Manager of the Sand Processing Plant. She joined Corporate Audit Staff (CAS) in September 2000, performing and leading financial, regulatory, compliance, acquisition and/or commercial audits. Her last role on CAS was Executive Audit Manager of Global Compliance, Latin America and Commercial Excellence. She was also a member of GE’s Commercial Council.

In May 2007, La-Chun joined GE Capital as the Vice President of Commercial Distribution Finance’s Field Services Group, leading a team of over 300 remote employees. In January 2014, La-Chun joined GE

Aviation as Plant Leader of Lynn Assembly, Test and Overhaul, where she led a team of over 400 employees in producing and developing engines for GE Aviation’s military and commercial customers.

La-Chun is currently the Managing Director/Site Leader of GE Aviation Wales, a world renowned engine overhaul and component repair site. GE Aviation Wales is the largest industrial company in Wales and is also the third largest company in Wales, posting over $2.9B in annual revenues and employing over 1,200 employees.

La-Chun is very active in GE’s affinity groups and volunteerism. She enjoys traveling internationally and attending sporting events.

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Chris Jones

Chief Executive of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

Having previously served as Finance Director of the not-for-profit water and wastewater company Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water from May 2001, and of Glas Cymru since April 2000, Chris Jones became the company’s Chief Executive in September 2013.

Together with Nigel Annett, Chris led Glas Cymru’s acquisition of Welsh Water and the formation of the only not-for-profit utility company in Wales and England, with the sole focus of serving its customers. This remains the case today.

Chris also previously served as Director of Regulation of Welsh Water and South Wales Electricity Plc. Before joining Welsh Water in 1995, he was a Director at National Economic Research Associates and, prior to that, worked for HM Treasury. He is Deputy Chairman of the Council of Prince’s Trust – Cymru. He has previously served as a Non-Executive Director of the Principality Building Society, and a Trustee of the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

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Sharon James

Senior Vice President, Global Head of R&D

Sharon is a high performing executive with over 20 years’ experience in leading and transforming large R&D teams in the Pharma and FMCG sectors. She is passionate about promoting the role of women in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and fascinated by the enormous potential that personalised genomics and big data have to improve the daily lives of people around the world.

She has been Senior Vice President, Global Head of R&D at RB since 2012 where she leads the global R&D organisation that focuses on consumer driven discovery. Prior to this, Sharon was Vice President of R&D at RB, leading teams that developed a range of innovative products across all RB categories of Health, Hygiene and Home.

Through the use of innovation, consumer-centred technology and product development, Sharon strives to make a difference by providing people with innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes.

Earlier in her career, she worked for GSK, where she was involved in the development of medicines across gastrointestinal and central nervous system-related disease areas.

Sharon has a BSc in Medical Biochemistry from Royal Holloway, and a PhD in Neurobiology from University College London.
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Helen Samuels

Engineering Director at Network Rail

Having been persuaded to pursue a career in engineering by her Physics teacher, Helen never looked back. With a technical background primarily in water engineering and flood risk management, she decided to change ‘track’ and join the rail industry in January 2017.

Her diverse career has included roles in technical, commercial and people leadership, project and programme management, and business change. During her time in consultancy, she worked all over UK and Europe, and held a number of international roles, including a year living in Melbourne, Australia with her family.

Prior to joining NR, she led the design and implementation of a new technical authority for United Utilities, spanning the asset lifecycle from investment planning, through design and construction, operations and maintenance, to decommissioning.

Since graduating, Helen has retained close links with education and academia, having held a number of Industry Advisory roles, served as a school governor, and given a number of guest lectures.

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Trudy Norris-Grey

Chair of WISE

Trudy Norris-Grey, Chair of WISE and Microsoft’s managing director of worldwide business development for the public sector, currently based in Seattle, is making the trip to her home town in Wales to be a part of this special event. She will share her personal experiences from being an ordinary girl in Swansea to one of the most senior women in technology globally and why she passionately campaigns to encourage girls to get excited about technology.

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Averil Macdonald OBE - WISE Board member

Professor Emerita, University of Reading

Averil Macdonald is Professor Emerita at University of Reading and leads Diversity and Impact strategies for the South East Physics network (SEPnet). Alongside membership of the Board of WISE, she also sits on the Boards of the Science Museum Group, the Cheltenham Festival and AgeUK Winchester. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her work popularising Physics and supporting women and girls in STEM.

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Wendy Sadler - People Like Me Role Model

Director - science made simple ltd

Wendy Sadler is a physicist and the founding Director of science made simple – an award-winning social enterprise that offers science shows to schools and families across the UK and internationally. Since 2002 they have reached over half a million people with their engaging STEM presentations. The company has a serious mission to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers and to raise the profile of STEM within popular culture. Wendy is a former Chair of WISE in Wales (Women into Science and Engineering) and one of the UKRC’s Women of outstanding achievement. She was Welsh Woman of the year for Science and Technology in 2004,

Wendy is also employed as a lecturer for Cardiff University and is a member of the Science Advisory Council for Wales. She is a partner of ‘The Training Group’ that specialises in public engagement training for researchers.

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Dr Hayley Wyatt - People Like Me Role Model

Research Associate, Cardiff School of Mathematics, Cardiff University

Since September 2015 I have been working as a Research Associate in the School of Mathematics on an EPSRC funded research project on the behaviour of cellular materials. Prior to this I worked in Cardiff School of Engineering on a European funded project called ASTUTE, where my research involved investigating the tribological performance of novel hip implant materials. In 2014 I gained a PhD from Cardiff University on experimental work and numerical modelling of the electrosurgical vessel sealing process.

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Leah Milson - People Like Me Role Model

Production Technician, Welsh Water

Leah joined on our trainee programme in 2014. Leah wanted an opportunity to be learning new skills and putting current skills to use her role. As a fluent welsh speaker Leah was looking for an opportunity to use Welsh language in the workplace

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Julia Skiba - People Like Me Role Model

Aerospace Engineering Student, University of Surrey

Hi I’m Julia! I’m 22 and from London. I grew up very close to the RAF Museum and flight has always been an interest of mine. I remember being 8 years old and trying to send ants into space with a helium balloon. I studied Physics, Maths and Further Maths at A Level and when I was choosing what to study at university it made sense to choose something that had always been part of my life. I now study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Surrey and am currently on my placement year working at GE Aviation in Cardiff. I spend most of my day getting my hands (and dustcoat!) dirty looking for cracks and other signs of wear on the CFM56 engine. I collect data which is used to find trends to decide if parts need to be modified. I look forward to seeing where my career takes me when I graduate in July 2018 and encourage anyone to study what they have a genuine interest in.

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Laura Parissi - People Like Me Role Model

Aircraft Engineering Apprentice, GE Aviation Wales

Laura is a 19 year old, Italian National, born and raised in South Brazil. moved to Wales at age 13, with 3 languages behind her, but not english.

She gained confidence and multiple skills through her 3 year long career with the ATC (Air Training Corps) where she was exposed to electrical engineering in radio coms courses, and mechanical engineering in Flying/Gliding scholarships, and hand motor skills in WPC (Weapons Handling Courses). She then left the ATC with a Senior Adult Sargent rank, to focus on her Extended Aircraft Engineering Level 3 course in hopes to join the RAF pilot scheme.

During this 2 year long course, she received 2 Engineering Student of the Year Coleg Y Cymoedd awards, and met numerous people from the Aircraft engineering World. One of these contacts being GE Aviation Wales, where she discovered new opportunities, and decided to apply for the Aircraft Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme.

Now she is a 2nd year apprentice, living on her own in Cardiff city, doing the work she loves, earning and learning at the same time, feeling the huge gratification to be able to physically see the fruits of her labour in Nantgarw everyday, as she takes engines apart and puts them back together herself.
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Olivia Devan - People Like Me Role Model

Assistant Asset Engineer for Off-Track and Drainage, Network Rail

My name is Olivia Devan, I’m 23 years old and am from Watford, Hertfordshire. I studied Geology at Cardiff University from 2012-2015. The reason I initially chose to study Geology was because I had an interest in Volcanology. However, after three years of study I found an interest in the engineering side of geology and continued my studies by undertaking a Masters in Applied Environmental Geology, this included modules such as Geotechnical Engineering and Soil Mechanics, as well as Environmental Law and Contaminated Land, to name a few. I then undertook a 6 month work placement with Network Rail as the second half of my Masters year. The project I chose for my dissertation was the effect of scour and associated failures on railway embankments. Once I had completed my dissertation, I went on to get a full time job in the Off-track and Drainage team with Network Rail.

I am now the Assistant Asset Engineer for Off-Track and Drainage, Wales Route, within the Asset Management team. My favourite aspect of the role is the amount of time I am out of the office on site visits, usually 2-3 days a week. I am also a fellow of the Geological Society and am working towards Chartership in work.

In the future I am looking to progress my career within Network Rail and at some point in the future would like to take the knowledge and experience I gain from working in the UK and apply it to different Engineering problems that other countries experience.

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Hannah Kennedy - People Like Me Role Model

Civil Engineer in the rail industry in Wales, Network Rail

Designing a giraffe house for a zoo in Spitsbergen as a work experience project sparked my interest in Civil Engineering. I had discovered a subject that was in equal parts creative, technically stimulating and tangible.

Taking sciences and maths at A’ Level led me to study Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol as an ICE QUEST Scholar partnered with Network Rail. Highlights included research into biomimetic self-healing materials and a design project investigating ways to increase the capacity of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

Since graduating in 2015, I have been working as a Civil Engineer in the rail industry in Wales, including roles in Asset Management and The Greater West Programme. On the side, I have enjoyed volunteering for the Institution of Civil Engineers, in particular as Challenge Co-ordinator for the Wales Engineering Team Challenge 2016.

Outside work, I enjoy playing the saxophone and cycling in the Brecon Beacons.

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Faye Ward - People Like Me Role Model

Assistant Process Scientist, Waste Water Science and Support Team, Welsh Water

Faye graduated in 2009 with a BSc in Marine Geography from Cardiff University. She took a position in a Health and Fitness centre and progressed up to General Manager Role within a year of joining the company. After developing skills in leadership, teamwork and communication she decided to go back into education and gained an MSc in River Environmental Management from Birmingham University. Her dissertation was based on the effects of a Waste Water Treatment Works on the biology and chemistry of the receiving water course, and in particular, investigating the cause of the deterioration of fish populations. This work was funded by Thames Water and The Canal & Rivers Trust, sparking her interest in water companies and her desire to contribute to the protection of the environment.

Following graduation, Faye joined the Welsh Water Graduate Scheme in 2013, and now works in the Waste Water Science and Support team as an Assistant Process Scientist, where she is supporting the implementation of the Biosolids Assurance Certification at Welsh Waters Sludge Treatment Centres through onsite process analysis and installing management procedures. Her previous projects involved investigating phosphorous reduction schemes, monitoring an innovative project on electro-coagulants and reviewing the Trade Effluent side of the business.

Faye has been shortlisted for two Innovation Awards from the annual Institute of Water ceremony, and eventually hopes to win one!

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Louise Bungay - People Like Me Role Model

Structures Asset Engineer in the Wales Route of Network Rail

I am a Structures Asset Engineer in the Wales Route of Network Rail, looking after bridges, viaducts, walls, tunnels, culverts, and sea defences on both main and local lines in to and through Wales. I look after structures built by the pioneering Victorian railway engineers all the way through to modern structures built only a few months ago.

I knew I wanted to be an engineer from an early age, I have always been in to problem solving and as my grandma told me only a few months ago, I always preferred to build Lego houses for my dolls rather than play with them when I was little. I was also encouraged in to this career by my dad – he was a civil engineer, and I remember us driving down roads when I was a child with him telling me the ones he had designed. That stuck with me; the idea that I could have ownership of something which is used by people every day and have a positive impact on people’s lives.

As I was making my GCSE and A-Level choices, I made sure to keep maths and sciences in my options - this allowed me to study Civil Engineering at Cardiff University. Before going to university, I completed a Year in Industry with a consultancy company. This confirmed to me that engineering was what I wanted to, it allowed me to earn some money before university, and I was also sponsored by the company throughout my time at Cardiff. After graduating, I went back to the consultancy company for a couple of years, and then moved to my current role in Network Rail. Working in Network Rail is great. Every day is different and there are so many opportunities within the company to further my interest and career in engineering.

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Emily Shepard - People Like Me Role Model

Associate Professor at Swansea University

Emily Shepard is an Associate Professor at Swansea University. She studied at Oxford and Plymouth, before moving to Swansea in 2006 to do a PhD on the foraging behaviour of diving birds, using animal tracking loggers. She then transferred her loyalties from the sea to the air, working on Andean condors through a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. Emily now has a foot in both camps, with projects examining the flight behaviour of vultures and seabirds, and how the movements and ecology of birds are influenced by airflows. She is about to start a large project, which will involve training birds to fly in a specially constructed wind tunnel at Swansea University, in order to investigate the energetic costs of flight.

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Dr Laura Thompson - People Like Me Role Model

SQC Remediation Manager Health, RB

Laura joined RB in 2012 on the graduate scheme and has worked in a number of roles across Category R&D, Maintenance and Regulatory.

She currently leads the remediation activities in healthcare and has responsibility for integration of acquisitions and ensuring the safety and compliance of the current product portfolio. Day to day activities include leading the cross functional team and reviewing documentation relating to safety, quality and compliance and of products for integration.

Laura obtained her Ph.D in crystallography from the University of Birmingham, UK in 2012.

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Rebecca Ford - People Like Me Role Model

R&D Project Manager, RB

Rebecca joined RB in 2011 on the R&D Graduate scheme and has worked across several roles in Category Development within Healthcare, Hygiene and Home.

She currently project manages all activities within Aircare relating to new fragrances, devices and candles. A typical day involves managing project timings, budget and milestones to guarantee efficient delivery, reviewing technical and consumer data, and coordinating between key stakeholders to ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible.

Rebecca obtained her MChem in Chemistry from the University of Sheffield in 2011.

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Ffion Rees - People Like Me Role Model

Video editor, Telesgop

Ffion Rees is a video editor at Telesgop, a media company company in Swansea. Whilst at Aberystwyth University, where she studied Film and Television, she worked in the summer months at The Look in London, a post production and finishing house. After graduation she worked briefly at the Gorilla post production company before joining Telesgop as trainee editor. She now is one of a team of three full time editors at Telesgop, working on rural current affairs series Ffermio and a climate change series Her yr Hinsawdd. She has just been awarded her first commission by BBC Radio Cymru and is producing a four part rock series. In her spare time Ffion plays clarinet in Llandeilo Wind Band and is a keen photographer. She has a passion for coffee!

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Stacey Tonkin

Administrative and Laboratory Assistant, Ocean Ecology

Hello, my name is Stacey Tonkin. I have always had a passion for all things aquatic and knew I wanted a career in the science industry from a young age. I went to Swansea University and graduated with a BSc Marine Biology. After graduating I saved up and spent 6 months travelling Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, which was an adventure! On my return I began a part-time front of house role at Bristol Aquarium as well as volunteering for a marine consultancy firm, Ocean Ecology Limited. I loved volunteering at Ocean and so was delighted when I was offered a part-time paid internship, I worked hard at the Internship and I was offered a full time role with the company as Administrative and Laboratory Assistant. I have a very varied role undertaking day to day admin, assisting in various lab based projects and am the lead Particle Size Distribution Analyst.

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Hattie Jane Taylor


Hattie is 15 years old and is currently a Year 10 pupil at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, in Cardiff where she is studying towards her GCSEs.

Hattie decided she wanted to play the harp at the age of 2, after seeing one played at St David's Hall in Cardiff. She eventually started lessons in primary school at the age of 7. Hattie has been taught for the last 6 years by Valerie Aldrich Smith, principal harpist of BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Hattie gained distinction in ABRSM Grade 7 in summer 2016 and is currently working towards Grade 8.

Hattie has been successful in a number of competitions. In 2015 she was awarded the trophy for Best Harp Performance at the South Glamorgan Festival for Young Musicians, and she also won the Pilgrim Prize for most Promising Player at the Bristol Eisteddfod. In 2014 she was awarded second prize in the Solo Harp under 16 category at National Eisteddfod of Wales.

She has been a soloist at several charity events across Cardiff and performed at Pontypridd's Annual Festival of Remembrance last November. She has also performed at St George's Brandon Hill in Bristol. Hattie plays every week in the Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Youth Orchestra.

Hattie also studies piano and is a member of her school choir. Hattie's favourite subjects at school are Music, Languages, Science and Geography. She hopes to pursue a career in one of these subjects in the future.

When she is not studying or playing her harp, Hattie enjoys sewing, reading and playing with her dog.

Tŷ Cerdd’s mission is to promote and celebrate the creation, performance and recording of the contemporary classical music of Wales, engaging with communities and audiences nationally and internationally.

Based at the Wales Millennium Centre,Tŷ Cerdd is a central hub designed to support, develop and celebrate the creation, performance and empowering experience of music - both in and of Wales. It works closely with both the professional and non-professional sectors to promote excellence through vision, participation and training.

In addition, Tŷ Cerdd offers life-changing musical experiences to the young people of Wales through its 5 national youth music ensembles which include the National Youth Choir and National Youth Brass Band of Wales. Under the direction of high profile conductors and tutors, the ensembles perform at major venues throughout the country and at important festivals such as the BBC Proms.

Tŷ Cerdd is home to a highly respected recording studio which predominately collaborates with Welsh composers, song-writers and musicians. It has worked with an impressive roster of artists, including Bryn Terfel, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Cerys Matthews, Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Welsh National Opera, Llŷr Williams, Jem and Only Men Aloud.

2014 saw the launch of Tŷ Cerdd Records, a new label designed specifically for the global promotion of Welsh music. Its releases, including John Metcalf’s Under Milk Wood - An Opera, have received critical acclaim and its most recent disc, Morfydd Owen - Portrait of a Lost Icon, was given a 5 star review from the BBC Music Magazine.

More recently, Tŷ Cerdd created a sheet music publishing arm whose catalogue now lists more than 200 works by Welsh composers. In collaboration with the National Library of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd Publishing is working hard to ensure the continued legacy of Wales’s great musical heritage.

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