WE'RE lucky in Newport to be surrounded by hundreds of inspirational people, all from varied walks of life.

Now that we've said goodbye to 2021, we’ve put together a collection of people from our city whose work and stories this year continue to impact us as we look ahead to what 2022 has in store.

Louise Baston

South Wales Argus: Louise Baston (Picture: Gwent Police)Louise Baston (Picture: Gwent Police)

Louise Baston, from Bassaleg, suffered years of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-partner. Christopher Jones took control of almost every aspect of Louise’s life – at one point she had to jump over a wall when he attempted to drive his car at her – it’s an experience she’ll never forget.

Louise bravely told her story in early December in the hope of encouraging other women suffering similar abuse in Newport and Gwent to come forward to the police and get help.

Louise is now working alongside Gwent Police to help shape how the force continues to support domestic abuse victims in the future.

Juls Benson

South Wales Argus: Juls Benson of Reality Theatre Newport.Juls Benson of Reality Theatre Newport.

Many will have been happy to see things like theatre performances finally return this year. No more so than the members of theatre groups themselves. Reality Theatre, run by Juls Benson, has an added focus on using performance to help overcome social isolation problems in adults.

Juls and the team worked tirelessly through the pandemic – hosting Zoom rehearsals to ensure members were still able to do what they loved, albeit from their living rooms instead of the stage. They recently staged their Christmas panto, ‘Christmas at Cardboard City’ – written by Juls – at Barnabas Arts House to a sold out audience.

Ieuan Berry

South Wales Argus: Ron McCormick and Ieuan Berry. (Picture: Ffoto Newport)Ron McCormick and Ieuan Berry. (Picture: Ffoto Newport)

It’s been a big year for the young Newport photographer who is on a mission to recapture and rebuild Newport as a top destination for camera lovers everywhere.

Ieuan is passionate about Newport’s photographic history and his new project hopes to kickstart a new generation of snappers in the city.

The 2014 NATO summit snapper has piled his efforts into creating a new photo gallery – the first of its kind for the city – which opened back in November in the revamped Market Arcade.

Abigail Chase

South Wales Argus: English teacher Abigail Chase.English teacher Abigail Chase.

Teachers up and down the country have remained tirelessly committed to giving children the best education possible, despite the challenging circumstances the pandemic has thrown at them.

Abigail – an English teacher at Bassaleg Secondary School – won a Gold Award in the Pearson National Teaching Awards for The Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School. Announced on BBC’s The One Show, Abigail was given the award for being an inspiration to the school community through her passion for learning and genuine care for pupils’ wellbeing.

She was also praised as a teacher who “makes a difference” every day to the pupils she teaches and the staff she works with, as well as someone who “will never give up on anyone or anything.” 

Abigail Chamberlain

South Wales Argus: Abigail Chamberlain with one of her luxury hampers.Abigail Chamberlain with one of her luxury hampers.

Abigail might not be from Newport, but her achievements are certainly worth a mention. Aged just 21, she is now the successful owner of the 'Welsh Luxury Hamper Company'.

Abigail, who is based in Chepstow, decided to leave university after suffering with her mental health. She set up the business in 2019, with help from the Prince’s Trust, and says it saved her life. Despite the lockdowns, Abigail was able to keep business booming and now he’s using her position to support other local traders like herself.

She hopes that her success will help inspire more young women to consider starting up their own businesses. 

Sam Dabb

South Wales Argus: Le Pub manager Sam Dabb. (Picture; Gorwelion Horizons)Le Pub manager Sam Dabb. (Picture; Gorwelion Horizons)

It’s been a tough year once again for gig venues and independent music businesses across Wales. And although concert goers were finally able to reunite with their love of live music this year – getting there has been far from easy.

Sam Dabb, manager of Newport’s iconic Le Pub and Wales’s representative for Music Venue’s Trust has been steadfast in her commitment to ensuring the voices of music venues across Wales were heard during the pandemic.

Le Pub has hosted numerous virtual gigs during the lockdowns to help artists and venues to continue to do what they love. 

Michelle Gabica

South Wales Argus: Michelle Gabica was also a keen darts player. (Picture: Sarah Smale)Michelle Gabica was also a keen darts player. (Picture: Sarah Smale)

We can’t underestimate how much effort community workers in Newport have put in over the past 20 months to help those most in need. This year, we lost one of our city’s longest serving community workers, Michelle.

She was a long-standing volunteer and employee for the Gaer Community Network – which was set up in 2001 to support residents and improve the quality of living on the estate.

Her enthusiasm, commitment and dedication to the centre and the community of Gaer and Maesglas was second to none. Amongst many other things Michelle volunteered and headed up food hampers for those who needed them.

Her team described as, quite simply, “the best.”

Stacey Hale & Leanne Andrews

South Wales Argus: From left to right: Stacey Hale, June Thomas, Christine Jackson, Gareth Rees and Leanne Andrews. (Picture: Leanne Andrews)From left to right: Stacey Hale, June Thomas, Christine Jackson, Gareth Rees and Leanne Andrews. (Picture: Leanne Andrews)

One of the most striking moments of 2021 was when Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed suddenly during a match at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.

The horrifying scenes had a profound effect on Newport mums Leanne and Stacey. So much so, they started a campaign in June to get defibrillators installed at popular locations in the city after spotting a shortage of the life saving equipment.

Backed by a huge amount of support, they’ve been able to deliver two new defibrillators for Newport – one at the Ridgeway café and another outside Glasllwch school.

The pair say they’ll keep up the effort in 2022 to ensure Newport has a healthy supply of defibrillators. 

Mark James

South Wales Argus: Mark James (Picture: Somerton Boxing Club)Mark James (Picture: Somerton Boxing Club)

Ten years ago, Somerton Amateur Boxing Club didn’t even exist. This year, it produced three Welsh boxing champions and is now a hit with the community.

That’s all thanks to Mark James – who started up the club seven years ago after a few kids in the area expressed an interest in Boxing. Mark says he gets people coming from all over the valleys, Cardiff and even as far as Swindon to box at the club.

It’s a great success story and we’ll be paying the club a visit in the new year to find out more about its rise. 

Tariq Khan

South Wales Argus: Tariq Khan (Picture: Feed Newport CIC)Tariq Khan (Picture: Feed Newport CIC)

Tariq and the team at Feed Newport have had another busy year, dedicating their time to helping some of the most vulnerable in the city cope with the pandemic.

He has spent the last four and a half years devoted to helping the city’s vulnerable people, who often find themselves homeless – as he did in his young adult years.

Tariq revealed to us earlier this year that despite the crucial work his team do supporting Newport citizens, they’re abused regularly. Inspired to counter prejudice and make meaningful changes to the city, Tariq entered politics for the first time this year – running as a candidate in the Victoria ward by-election in May.

Allan Ley

South Wales Argus: Allan Ley back in his boxing days. (Picture: Allan Ley)Allan Ley back in his boxing days. (Picture: Allan Ley)

When Newport Bus driver Allan Ley was struck down with covid-19 in December 2020, little did he know he’d still be suffering almost a year later.

A former boxer and keen runner, Allan was in hospital fighting for his life at the beginning of 2021, and his road to recovery has bit hit with a series of problems.

Allan shared his struggles with us as he continues to battle with long-covid. He says the virus has completely changed his life and he’s now unable to move his arms, exercise, and has constant back ache.

Allan is now a vocal supporter of the Long Covid Wales campaign – which is working to raise awareness of the life changing after affects of covid-19 and to help support those suffering.

Jan Martin

South Wales Argus: Jan Martin (Picture: Chris Tinsley)Jan Martin (Picture: Chris Tinsley)

At a time when arts and creative spaces have remained largely off limits to us, places like Barnabas Arts House in Pill have had to dig deep to get through it.

Jan Martin, a trained Nurse, bought the building 12 years ago and has since transformed it into one of Newport’s most popular art hubs. Barnabas is not just a gallery; it also hosts creative classes and is the city’s only independent arts house.

Despite the difficulties this year, Jan made sure there was plenty of creativity inside the doors of the Barnabas once things were allowed to reopen.

Paul Murphy

South Wales Argus: Paul Murphy out and about on the job. Paul Murphy out and about on the job.

Founding Pride in Pill back in 2014, Paul Murphy’s aim was to make the community a better place for all.

What started off as a litter picking get together has expanded into one of the most active Newport community groups. Paul and the team are now running a foodbank and donate warm clothes for people homeless in the city. Its volunteers work tirelessly to help make Newport streets a cleaner, and safer place.

The gang has also given out thousands of meals and snacks to homeless people this year and received a grant from the Ashley Family Foundation to help go towards their mission for next year.

Andy O’Rourke

South Wales Argus: Andy O'Rourke in his workshop and the Maindee mural.Andy O'Rourke in his workshop and the Maindee mural.

If you’ve walked through Maindee recently, the chances are you’ll have seen this beautiful piece of artwork on the side of a house on Corporation Road.

The vibrant display, celebrating Newport’s urban wildlife, was painted by Shaftesbury based artist Andy O’Rourke. He’s been working alongside the Maindee Unlimited group that’s done some brilliant work in helping to green the area in recent years.

Andy’s work can be spotted at numerous locations across Gwent, but he’s on a mission to turn Newport into a city full of bright and colourful murals like this one.

He’s already got his eye on a few other locations with mural potential so expect Andy to be making a splash in an area near you in 2022. 

Laiah Palmer

South Wales Argus: Laiah Palmer is undergoing treatment for leukaemia.Laiah Palmer is undergoing treatment for leukaemia.

Laiah’s father has described his daughter as “a fighter” after their family was rocked by the four-year-old’s leukaemia diagnosis in September.

Thankfully, doctors at the Grange hospital made the diagnosis early and Laiah began treatment immediately – all in good spirits and with a smile on her face.

Her story struck a chord with the wider community who have held fundraisers for Laiah and her family and say the four-year-old is a continued source of inspiration to them – as she is to us.

Jack Perrett

South Wales Argus: Jack Perrett (middle) (Picture: Focus Shot Films)Jack Perrett (middle) (Picture: Focus Shot Films)

The Newport-born singer songwriter first caught our ears back in 2017. Since then, Britpop inspired Jack has built up a loyal following in the city and further afield.

“Portlife”, Perrett’s crafty take on Blur’s 1994 “Parklife”, was released in 2018 and takes us on a tour of the city and is now the unofficial anthem of his beloved Newport County.

This year he’s taking his music in a new direction – by forming a new band, Eurekas, with fellow indie rocker Dan Burridge, after the began writing songs during lockdown.

They’re now hard at work on their debut album – something for 2022? Let’s hope so.

Carla Pewtner

South Wales Argus: Carla Pewtner.Carla Pewtner.

Carla is a district nurse from Newport who has been going above and beyond in her care efforts.

Like many nurses, she’s been working long hours during the pandemic but hasn’t let her standards of care fall one bit. It’s a difficult and challenging role but Carla exudes positivity and refuses to leave any patient that continues to need her help.

She won an Excellence in Nursing award at our recent Health and Care awards ceremony. Congratulations Carla and keep up the good work in 2022.

Alexandria Riley

South Wales Argus: Alexandria Riley, pictured in the BBC short film Mixed.Alexandria Riley, pictured in the BBC short film Mixed.

It’s been a big year for Newport actor Alexandria. At the beginning of 2021 she was starring alongside Hollywood actor Luke Evans, as DI Ella Richards in The Pembrokeshire Murders – one of the most talked about series of the year.

Viewers will also know Alexandria from BBC Wales comedy The Tuckers – whom she stars alongside creator Steve Spiers.

She featured in the BBC Wales series ‘Black and Welsh’ in which she talked about the struggles she faced as a black actor and how her first few acting jobs, she was being asked to do her own hair and make-up, when others were having it done for them.

Now as the leading lady in The Tuckers, she continues to be a source of inspiration and talented entertainment for all aspiring actors.

We look forward to seeing what she gets up to in 2022.

Mark Seymour

South Wales Argus: Mark Seymour with the keys to his community bike hub.Mark Seymour with the keys to his community bike hub.

Mark is passionate about helping refugees settle in Newport.

After witnessing the sudden and drastic fall of Kabul to the Taliban back in August – together with his charity, The Sanctuary, he was keen to offer Newport as a safe place for Afghans and other refugees to resettle.

One of the things he’s been doing is gifting bikes to help refugees get around the city. He’s now in the process of opening a community bike hub in the city centre which will offer a safe place to store bikes and encourage more climate conscious transport around the city.

We look forward to it opening early next year. 

Jenna Shier

South Wales Argus: Jenna Shier.Jenna Shier.

Carers have been a lifeline for so many during the pandemic and all have had to deal with another challenging year of changing circumstances.

Jenna Shier is one of many carers whose commitment to her work sees her go above and beyond expectations for her patients. She’s our second Health and Care awards winner of this year to make the list – having won the Domiciliary Care Worker award.

Jenna says she absolutely loves her job and it doesn’t feel like she’s going to work – it just feels like she’s going to visit family every day. 

The South Wales Argus is running a series of articles celebrating Newport but also looking in depth at its challenges and opportunities.