Our project coordinator recently spoke to Bridgend based artist Ruby Walker. Ruby discussed the Strictly Cinema project in Maesteg Town Hall, Bridgend, community access to cultural provision and fancy dress!
Hi Ruby great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I studied illustration in Wrexham and by fate ended in Cardiff, after being excepted on the Welsh development agency’s program, I was successful in obtaining a grant from the Princes Youth Business Trust to set up as a freelance illustrator. Through my work other opportunities became present. Art direction, set painting and other visual mediums in television, film, theatre and the arts changed my direction. I became involved in project’s with HTV drama workshops, S4C, Cardiff council and the Welsh National Opera. In 2000 I went abroad to Australia, Thailand and Greece and returned in 2005. Since my return my day job is Art Materials Specialist/Visual merchandising for the Pen and Paper Stationery Company in Royal Arcade. I have been a volunteer for Strictly Cinema since last November, and became a member of the board this year. Film is my guilty pleasure as those who know me I’m obsessed with film history that includes Welsh history in this equation.
So what got you interested in the arts?
Drawing started when I was six, people joked I had paint for blood. But my other passion was Cinema I saw The Red Shoes at a very early age I was transfixed by this incredible visual feast of colour and movement. I never really wanted any other job as I was lucky I knew some form of art was for me. So I guess I’ve been involved all my life, and will carry on creating, learning and developing.
Strictly Cinema is described a “unique ‘social cinema’ event combining Cinema, Dance/Bingo and Food and takes place last Wed of every month at Maesteg Town Hall.” It sounds great can you tell us more?
I had been looking to be involved in a cinema project since I moved to Bridgend two years ago. Ceri Evans manager with Awen the local cultural trust directed me to Strictly Cinema. It is unique. A day time event offering film, buffet, special features, bingo and raffle. What’s important is the social experience for our customer’s. Making new friendships, seeing new films in such a beautiful building as the town hall. We involve the customers with the film choices, and add there thoughts and ideas to inspire future programs. Our last event featured the silent movie ‘Maid of Cefn Ydfa’ by silent filmmaker William Haggar based on the true story of local girl Ann Thomas with live harp, plus locally made ‘Very Annie Mary’ director Sara Sugarman. Most of our audience either knew someone in the film, or have great memories of the places featured in the film. Great talking points for the day.
The project seems very community focused, I believe you have shown community made films prior to the main feature, do you think involving local communities is important?
If any thing if its locally made it’s of great interest to our customers. Our main facilitator on such features is Andre Van Wyk who works as an Arts development Officer for Bridgend Council, a role which he is extremely passionate about. Usually on the day we collate new stories of interest though talking with our customer’s, and discuss the details in our committee meetings. There are always gems in the mix that’s what makes it so inspired. It’s of great importance to voice local stories, it keeps local history alive.
Ruby with volunteers in fancy dress at a showing of Casablanca
In your personal opinion what sort of support networks are there for projects of this nature in Wales? Can more be done?
There can always be more done! Cuts to the Arts are the norm. We recently received a grant through Film Hub Wales and the Audience Development Fund. Thinking creatively is a complex maze and if you think your idea is inspired with research, advice and knowledge it’s achievable.
Finally bringing us up to date, what have you got coming up next?
Our next feature is ‘The Proud Valley ‘ on the 29th March. The film starts 11am and the event finishes around 2.30pm. Booking is essential via http://www.maestegtownhall.com
We will also have some very special activity for this performance we will be screening a pre-film interview with the family descendants of Welsh actress Rachel Thomas.
“Rachel Thomas, film and television actress, best remembered for her role as a miner’s wife in the film ‘Proud Valley’. In 1968 she starred in the television version of How Green Was My Valley and in 1971 appeared in the film version of Under Milk Wood, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She was also a mainstay of Pobl y Cwm, the BBC Wales television soap opera.”
We have also just confirmed that Tony Mullins (Maesteg Operatic Society) will be performing some Paul Robeson spirituals as well!
Thanks Ruby, sounds great, see you there!