(Image Porthkerry Park Storytelling Project, Theatr Iolo)
For this years Theatre Critics of Wales Awards the Young Critics were keen to support educators who they feel make a real difference in supporting the link between the formal education sector and the performing arts. The creation of this new category was also a result of the new WAG Arts in Education review which was written by the Chair of Arts Council Wales Dai Smith.
The review recommends
‘There is also a need for recognition and awards schemes to encourage more and better quality arts activity in schools. To address this need,the Welsh Government should support the creation of an award, for individual teachers, to recognise excellence in creative teaching.’
The Young Critics agreed with Dai Smith recommendations so rather than wait for adults to create this award the Young Critics and the TCWA panel did it themselves.The Young Critics and the panel contacted a range of arts organisations and venues to request that they nominate an individual who they felt Inspired young people in the arts .
The nominations are shown below and in some cases links to the work that inspired the nomination.
• Raina Malik: School of Basic Islamic Studies – Sherman Cymru
Raina supported her students to work on the Fresh Ink project with the Creative Learning Department at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.
• Ioan Hefin: You Should Ask Wallace – Theatr na nÓg
Ioan was nominated for his role in the You Should Ask Wallace production the show, celebrates the life of one of the 19th century’s most remarkable Welsh intellectuals – Alfred Russel Wallace a Victorian Scientist from South Wales.The production took Ioan to Wales, England, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.
• Aled Jones Williams – Theatr Bara Caws
Aled Jones Williams is an author and dramatist who has worked with Bara Caws on numerous occasions. Though his work for the company in the past was mainly writing commissioned works, more recently he has been working in conjunction with Bara Caws holding writing workshops both in schools and for the general public. At the moment Bara Caws are working on an ensemble piece which will be staged in Spring 2014 which will be scripted by the cast members themselves, and they have invited Aled to mentor the writing aspect of the project, which has already been put in motion. He has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to all involved in his workshops.
• Amanda Gould – Foundation Phase, S.E.W. Education Achievement Service
In her role as Associate Advisor for Early Years, Vale of Glamorgan School Improvement Service and now as Foundation Phase Officer for the Central South Consortium, Amanda works tirelessly with teachers to raise awareness of the importance of the relationship between the arts and education sectors.
She was the catalyst for two major projects with Theatr Iolo – “Words in the Woods” and “Tales of Driftwood”. These projects which encouraged story-making by children aged 3-7 imaginatively used a theatrical intervention in the beauty and excitement of an outdoor setting to engage the children’s creativity, stimulate their imaginations, and develop their literacy skills.
Amanda developed the germ of the idea for both projects, brought Theatr Iolo together with the Vale of Glamorgan Forest Education Initiative Cluster Group, and inspired teachers about the way in which, through engagement with these projects, they could work not only develop their children’s literacy skills (the primary aim of each project) but also explore each of the 7 Areas of Learning which form the Foundation Phase “curriculum”.
“Words in the Woods” was deemed to be such a successful model of good practice that it was embraced by the Welsh (Assembly) Government Foundation Phase Team and used as the main focus for a series of pan-Wales Foundation Phase Teachers’ conferences which were attended by the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, and four other cabinet ministers.
• Elen Bowman – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru
Over the last few months, over the last few years to be more precise, Elen has influenced a great many performers, directors, industry practitioners, students and pupils. She has mentored prospective directors, and has offered training for prospective actors.
Over the past few months Elen has been actively running workshops in schools and colleges throughout the country, and led on the New Directors’ Training Course, held in partnership between Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Sherman Cymru and Living Pictures.
This scheme offered training for inexperienced directors. Elen led the course which gave the attendees an opportunity to develop skills in text analysis, and to obtain a better understanding of the development of story and character. She gave the prospective directors an opportunity to work with an experienced creative team and with experienced writers, giving them the opportunity to research various methods of staging and designing for multi-platform, as well as an opportunity to learn marketing skills.
This September the course reached its peak with a special production in Sherman Cymru, Rhwng Dau Fyd (Between Two Worlds), which was directed by three of the directors who attended the course. This project formed part of the work presented in the World Stage Design Festival.
Elen commented: “Making the time to train as a director is valuable, not only in order to learn trenchant skills chosen from world-wide theatre techniques, but it is also an opportunity to ask creative questions in order to try to understand the sort of work which ignites the passions. I’m hopeful that we have five different and unique voices about to cross the threshold of the Welsh theatrical industry, and I look forward to following their development over the next few years.”
Others who have worked with Elen express their admiration and appreciation of her work:
“Elen is a mentor who will not only teach you ‘educationally’, but will also develop you as an individual. The patience and perseverance she possesses to develop others is extremely influential, and makes you want to help others as well. She is an educator who really listens to your requirements as a student, she maintains discipline and presents challenges along the way. Though I have been working with Elen over the last year on the directing course run by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Living Pictures and Sherman Cymru, I believe that she will always be there for me as a mentor who will offer assistance and as a friend. She has been responsible for my development as a theatre director and as an artist and lecturer. Under her leadership she creates a sense that anything is possible. She inspires, challenges and questions constantly. For her, there is no end to the creative process. To develop is a way of life, and Elen’s way of life is to develop others.” Ffion Haf Jones
Here is Wyn Mason’s testimonial. Wyn has collaborated with Elen during the last few months:
“Elen is a fantastic tutor and mentor. There are many factors which contribute towards her effectiveness as a teacher, and in my opinion these are the main reasons:
Her exceptional enthusiasm for the subject. Theatre means a lot to Elen, for her theatre is not merely about entertainment but an attempt to discover the truth – the truth about humanity.
Her ability to treat everyone as an individual, and her desire to understand what is unique about each person under her care. Elen attempts to understand the whole person, and aims at reaching to the heart of one’s beliefs in order to find the best way to help that person grow and develop, not only in his or her career, but also as a person. She has a holistic attitude towards training.
Her readiness to be honest about her experiences. Throughout her teaching Elen has been very giving about her unique journey as a director, and by being honest about her failures she succeeds in inspiring others.
And lastly, her wonderful energy and general positivity.”
Apart from teaching those on the directing course, over the last few months Elen has also been tutoring in schools and colleges.
During the Autumn she held workshops for school pupils in Y Llwyfan, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s base, and the feedback was very positive, many stating that they has been inspired by her:
“Thank you for the welcome and the fantastic and worthwhile workshops. Pupils were very enthusiastic on the way home…” – Heiddwen Tomos, Dyffryn Teifi School.
Elen is a former associate director with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru where she produced:
‘Deffro’r Gwanwyn’ – an adaptation of the musical ‘Spring Awakening’
Many young people were cast in this production. Elen taught many of them how to run their own workshops. Some of the actors continue to hold workshops and to develop their own work under Elen’s leadership.
Y Storm – an adaptation of ‘The Tempest’ which was part of the World Shakespeare Festival
Elen held workshops alongside the show throughout the country in order to introduce students to Shakespeare’s work.
Dyled Eileen – a production based on the life of protester Eileen Beasley.
Elen held workshops and talks for pupils and the general public.
During the last few months Elen has visited a great many organisations, such as Merched y Wawr, in order to teach the members about theatre, and to promote the work of Welsh language theatre. Her energy as a teacher and mentor knows no bounds.
Mared Swain Associate Director, Sherman Cymru commented:
“Since meeting Elen back in 2003/4 on a writing course for ‘Script Cymru’, she has been a very important figure in my development as an artist. I have attended many of ‘Living Pictures’ workshops, and whilst on her Directing course in 2010, honed the art of directing which has been totally invaluable.
She is an extremely inspiring person, full of energy and very supportive as she helps artists to develop their craft. Without her work and devotion our community of Welsh artists would be a great deal poorer.”
Arwel Gruffydd, Artistic Director of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is equally eloquent in his praise:
“Over the years Elen Bowman has been an inspiration to a generation of theatre directors and actors in Wales because of her exceptional work as one of our most talented and ambitious directors. But she has also worked tirelessly specifically sharing her knowledge and craft with others. She has worked as a freelance director with a great many groups in Wales and beyond, including two national theatre companies in Wales, and as a director and tutor with many colleges such as the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s. In her role as Co-Artistic Director of Living Pictures, and her work as Director and Associate Director with Sgript Cymru, Sherman Cymru and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, she has also organised, co-ordinated and led on training schemes, especially in acting and directing for the stage. Elen is one of the most generous persons I have known; generous with her time and with her heart. Elen’s commitment to the theatre, and especially in offering leadership to new directors, is second to none, often working without recognition – financial or otherwise. As a theatre director, Wales would be a great deal poorer without her influence and commitment. Many of us theatre directors who work professionally in the theatre in Wales today, myself among them, owe a huge thank you to Elen Bowman.”
She is an inspiring person, tutor, and mentor. In our opinion, she fully deserves to win this important award as an acknowledgement for her tireless work promoting the world of the theatre amongst people of all ages.
The Arts in Education review
An independent report for the Welsh Government
into Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales