'What does a Welsh person look like?’ Politics, privilege and the pandemic discussed in The New Normal podcast

ITV Wales photo
Prof Keshav Singhal leads a Covid-19 risk assessment group Credit: ITV News

The coronavirus pandemic has brought differences in our society into stark relief, according to a leading Welsh hospital consultant.

But in the latest edition of the New Normal podcast Professor Keshav Singhal says the conversations about inequality which have begun over the last few months could lead to a turning point. 

He is joined on the podcast by someone who has also been ensuring those conversations are being held. 

Mymuna Soleman founded the Privilege Cafe, a virtual forum where people of all backgrounds are invited to talk.

She says she has been able to use the Cafe meetings to look at what it means to be Welsh in the 21st Century. 

“People say you don’t look Welsh,” she tells podcast host Adrian Masters.

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Professor Singhal has been heavily involved in the work for the Welsh Government identifying why people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more likely than others to be affected by Covid-19 and in drawing up a risk assessment for those on the frontline of the pandemic. 

“We’re all Welsh, even if we have different skin colours but there’s huge differences in lived experiences,” he says. “Unless we tease out those lived experiences we won’t come to the conclusion of why there’s so much disparity.”

Mymuna runs weekly online sessions discussing privilege Credit: Mymuna Soleman

Mymuna reveals that not only has the success of the Privilege Cafe surprised her, with hundreds joining the online meetings every week, but also that she hadn’t planned to do it at all. 

In fact, she says, she started it “out of boredom” because she was out of work when lockdown began.

“I’m very much a people’s person, I love having conversations with people. Obviously because I couldn’t do this in lockdown, I was in the house, I thought ‘why don’t I take this online?’ And this whole thing about lack of representation wasn’t offline it was now online what I dubbed white Zooms and I thought. I’m on all these Zooms, I’m out of place."

For Keshav, the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on certain communities was more than just an important issue. It was personal.

Working in hospitals he found he was asking himself, “Have I got something predisposing me to getting severe Covid and maybe falling victim to it? So there was that anxiety and also both my sons are in London and one of them was working in the Covid ITU 24/7… So there were anxieties personally, professionally and in the community as well.”

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