A year or so after we started running the Porthcawl Elvis Festival in 2004 we were contacted by Tŷ Hafan. They had a young man there called Ben who regularly stayed there for respite care and was a massive Elvis fan.
As it was his birthday, I was asked if we could find an Elvis tribute artist to visit him. I contacted Juan Lozano who was delighted to help. Ben really enjoyed Juan singing to him and it was obvious he was a genuine Elvis fan.
We asked Ben if he would like to come to the Elvis Festival in Porthcawl, but there were logistical challenges because he needs a stretcher. However, access was possible into the Grand Pavilion.
Over the next few years, Ben got to know a lot of the Elvis artists. One Christmas – I think it was 2012 – we arranged for a giant birthday card to be signed by ten of the Elvis tribute artists. Problem was that I missed the last posting day, so arranged to visit Ben and his family. His room was amazing - full of Elvis memorabilia. By now Ben was over 18 so was unable to stay at Tŷ Hafan. I was sad to hear that Ben’s only real trip out each year was to the Porthcawl Elvis Festival.
We run lots of other Elvis events so Juan and I organised access at these venues for Ben. It was not always easy. I remember once we had to get his stretcher into an equipment lift and then onto the stage before taking it by hydraulics into an area where we had removed some seats.
After a while, Ben got to know how these events are run and asked us to help him put on an Elvis night in a hotel near to where he lived and in aid of Tŷ Hafan. Being honest, we had very little to do. Ben organised everything and has gone on to run several other events. I love it when one good thing seamlessly leads to another and another.
Since Ben originally put me in touch with Tŷ Hafan I have kept in touch. One of our team at the Elvis Festival has a granddaughter who spends time there. This year we decided to set up a Family Zone on the Porthcawl Esplanade during the Festival. Sara from Tŷ Hafan contacted me and asked if they could get involved. Not a difficult decision to make!
So we are all looking forward to this weekend. Elvis and Tŷ Hafan are a great fit. I think the man himself would like the partnership!
Peter Phillips, Elvis Festival Director