Category Archives: Art

Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger, Age Cymru

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Capturing the Learning

These Zoom meetings will explore how we capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. We’ll explore what methods are working well, what are we learning through this experience, and how we are adapting our working practices.

Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger
Age Cymru hosted the first Zoom participation meeting. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kelly gives an overview of the work Age Cymru has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support the public and her service users in the current climate.

Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your organisation?

Hi, I’m Kelly Barr, and I am the Arts and Creativity Programme Manager at Age Cymru, who are the national charity for older people in Wales. I have been working on participatory arts projects with all sorts of organisations for 6 years, including NDCWales, Earthfall and the Sherman.

The two main arts projects here at Age Cymru are Gwanwyn Festival, an annual celebration of creative ageing which happens in May each year, and cARTrefu, the largest arts in care homes project in Europe.

We also run other projects throughout the year that might try to tackle isolation and loneliness (like our Gwanwyn Clubs), stereotypes of ageing or representation of older people.

Your organisation is hosting one of the free Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning / Beyond the Lockdown meetings. Why do you agree to support these events?

I am in a very fortunate position to still be working at this time, and I felt like I had a responsibility to support conversations within the participatory sector. I saw many people reacting wonderfully quickly and adapting their practice, but I also recognised that that isn’t always an option, particularly with the groups of people that I work with. I have always believed that we have much to learn from each other so it was an ideal opportunity to do my bit to support some good practice sharing.

What challenges has lockdown present to the delivery of your service?

Gwanwyn Festival has often been about bringing people together, many of whom are in the high-risk category at the moment, so we made the decision fairly swiftly to postpone the festival.

We had a duty of care to protect the people that might attend the festival events, and those that are running them.The creative ageing sector is very supportive so I have been lucky enough to have regular chats with colleagues across the UK and Ireland (Gwanwyn Festival was inspired by Bealtaine Festival), so that we can support each other to think about how festivals like ours might work moving forwards.

We also knew early on that it was going to be difficult to continue to deliver the cARTrefu project, as care homes were starting to close their doors in early March. We’re lucky to have supportive funders who we will be able to work closely with as things progress. We have multiple scenario plans but are very much being led by what care homes want and need right now.

What issues have your service users/participants faced?

I’m really proud to be part of Age Cymru, as they have been able to adapt really quickly during the pandemic to ensure that older people in Wales are supported. We run an Information and Advice line, which received a 200% increase in calls at the start of the pandemic; people needed advice on whether they should be self-isolating or shielding, where they could get support with food shopping and collecting prescriptions. People have also struggled to access their money, and needed support to find new ways to stay in touch with family members. I’m pleased to say that we have been able to help, in partnership with our local Age Cymru partners, Age Connects and other voluntary services across Wales.

What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

Many of us are well-used to working from home, but it’s been really important to find moments to connect with colleagues. Many of us are spending most of our day making calls to older people through our Check In and Chat service, so it’s not always easy to have online ‘meetings’ as often as we used to have physical meetings. So we’ve set up Whatsapp groups, we send voice-notes, have catch-up phone calls, send pet pictures (in my case, plants!) as well as whole team Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. It’s ever changing and adapting!

With my specific work, it’s about being available to our partners and being flexible and open about the realities. We’ve been taking time as a team to think further ahead, and problem solve, and take any opportunities we can. We’re also keen to use Gwanwyn and cARTrefu Facebook, Gwanwyn Twitter and cARTrefu Instagram to promote creative opportunities for older people as far as we can.

Did you have any particular challenges or success that you would like to share?

Back in April, I, like many people who are in a position to, wanted to offer out informal chats to anyone interested in running creative ageing projects, or having to adapt current projects. I had no expectations of what would come from this, only that it felt like the right thing to do, but it’s introduced me to new practitioners and individuals, which has helped to build up my understanding of what’s happening in Wales. Many people I might have struggled to physically meet pre-lockdown, due to being based in Cardiff, I have been able to connect with over the phone. I hope to continue to offer this out and to meet more people – digitally!

What are your plans for future delivery?

We’re exploring a range of options at the moment, but we’ll be working closely with our Gwanwyn Festival event organisers to look at how this might be possible. There may be ways to replicate events online, or using social distance rules. I have no doubt that our event organisers are already coming up with innovative and interesting ways to continue to connect to people and I’m looking forward to working together to adapt and learn!

With cARTrefu, we are ensuring that we are listening to care homes, and being led by their needs right now. We have developed a fortnightly e-newsletter that gives care homes low-resource activities to try, and links to lots of online performances and activities from Age Cymru (like Tai Chi classes, now on our website) and other organisations.

I’m aware that we’re now regularly speaking to people that are more isolated, some of whom who aren’t connected to the internet, so a lot of my thinking has been about how to stay connected to them and to provide interactive creative opportunities that are offline.

I’d like to highlight Age Cymru’s Friend in Need service that has launched this week, and direct anyone to it if they’ve been supporting someone who is self-isolating or shielding through lockdown. There’s lots of useful guides and resources, as well as details of our new Befriending scheme – Friend in Need

A range of organisations have worked to continue delivery of their art form during lockdown are there any that you would like to mention that you found either professionally or personally useful?

I’d love to highlight the wonderful speakers from our first Participatory Arts Capturing the Learning Event:

Artis Community, Re-Live and Welsh National Opera.

And I’d love to shout out to all of the cARTrefu artists whose work has suddenly come to a grinding halt with us, but have been helping us to provide creative activities for care homes remotely.

Thanks for your time  Kelly


Creativity Rocks the Arts Factory, MaDCaff 2020 By Ann Davies

Take me back to the days when we were never alone – well, let’s see, it was the month of March when creativity rocked the Arts Factory in Ferndale and we were altogether. The scene had been set in 2019 when the forward looking company Avant Cymru introduced a MaDCaff evening event to The Factory in Porth as part of the FestYPorth celebrations. It sparked an idea for such an event to be held in the Rhondda Fach. Proposals for a venue were put forward and the nucleus began to evolve as the Arts Factory (the Trerhondda Chapel Arts Centre in Ferndale) took up the baton for it to be staged as a Community activity to raise funds for Mental Health.

A MaDCaff event is an experience which is encompassed in its very title

Music Dance and a Café

It is an open mic where people can perform or be entertained, pressure free with a quiet place to talk if required. With DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) and the Arts Factory volunteers, the evening became a cornucopia of colour as musicians assembled their electrical equipment and sound tested their instruments, dancers waited in anticipation of opening the event, whilst people bought Raffle Tickets on their arrival, sourced the Refreshment stand and marvelled at the artwork that had been kindly donated by local artist Carole Kratzke for the Art Auction.

The young dancers of Avant Cymru, coming from their recent performance at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff, blew caution to the wind with their energetic and exhilarating movements, incredibly intricate and jaw dropping showing the skills that they had been taught by Jamie Berry, a company Director of Avant Cymru, who, in January 2020 won the deserved accolade of Wales Creative Tutor of the Year bringing his distinctive talent to develop the health and wellbeing, through dance, to the Valleys.

Gaudy Orde announced their arrival with their usual toe tapping eclectic music with Jeff Japers (aka Andrew Powell) on the ukulele, keyboard and main vocals; Tall Joy (aka Joy Garfitt), Helen Spoons (aka Helen Probyn-Williams); James Parr – Superstar; Barry Sidings (aka Alex Coxhead) and Romany Bob (aka Andy Roberts) providing a surreal and distinctive experience of music, song and humour into an intoxicating mix as the evening progressed.

In turn Jeff Japers, as the evening’s Master of Ceremony, introduced the Nutz ‘n’ Bolts duo which normally consists of husband and wife team Dawn and Dave Hoban, but on this night we were invited to meet Jowan who sang with Dawn. It was an experience of emotions entwined harmonies and excellent guitar playing.

Les Allen, Linda Michele, Ann Davies and Anne Lord, who are members of the RCT Creative Writers Group, read selections from their 10th Anniversary publication “Handle with Care” ably supported by Members Jess Morgan, Gerhard Kress, Helen Probyn-Williams and Rachel Williams.  Jakey (12), our favourite therapy dog was present to ensure that everyone was feeling safe and well.

The interlude that followed included the results of the Raffle, closely followed by the Art Auction which had bids bouncing from every direction in the audience. The Open mic participation was offered to the audience as one of the young Avant Cymru dancers stepped forward to sing, closely followed by singer guitarist Lee Harvey from Aberdare. Talent can be found in quiet places as Josh and his “companion” dummy took up the Ventriloquist mantle for the night in a comedic conversation. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought the house down with their jazz performance provided by Ann and Paul Hughes, Jim Barrett, Helen Probyn-Williams and Sally Churchill.

TimeLine a trio of local singers and musicians namely Nigel, Gary and Keith, opened the second half of the evening’s entertainment. Their songs were rich and melodious and the audience were soon joining in with the verses of the songs that brought back so many treasured memories.

Tricycle, comprising of Gerhard Kress, Paul Rosser and Michael Morton brought the event to a close with the atmospheric musical sounds of a fiddle combined with guitars alongside their passionate lyrics.

Louise Gaw, Project Coordinator for Changing People Changing Lives at the Arts Factory Ferndale introduced Sara Beer, South Wales Regional Officer of DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) to bring the evening to a close. Thanking all within the Arts Factory and DAC for their hard work in organising the event.  Goody Bags were given to people as they left including items from DAC. Gifts were kindly donated by Francesca Kay the noted WordArt, Poet and Letter Press professional from Hay on Wye, who is a friend of RCT Creative Writers Group

I would like to personally extend my appreciation to all who responded to the request for participants and to RCT Creative Group Members who supported me in arranging this event giving their time and energy freely to provide a true Noson Llawen Merry Night to remember for those who attended. 

We were all left with the memories of songs, music, dance, poetry and stories echoing the creative talent that is within the community.

Times have changed and we are now finding ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

WE are all the waves on the same sea, and at this moment we send each other a virtual hug with the message to stay safe and well.

MaDCaff maintains the talent of RCT.

With thanks and appreciation to
Sara Beer and Volunteers of Disability Arts Cymru
Louise Gaw and Volunteers of Arts Factory Ferndale
RCT Creative Writers Group Members especially Anne Jess Les Gerhard Helen and Rachel not forgetting Jakey
Carole Kratze
Francesca Kay
To photographers for their kind permission

Sara Mayo Gerhard Kress Anne Lord Jess Morgan
Open Mic performers 

Jamie Berry of Avant Cymru and dancers Jeff Japers for his Master of Ceremonies Gaudy OrdeNutz ‘n’ BoltzTimeLine Tricycle
and for all who gave their support for this event to raise funds for Mental Health

Diolch yn fawr iawn

Artistic EVOLUTIONS, a new Arts Podcast

Wales based writer Neil Bebber has recently launched a new arts Podcast.

EVOLUTIONS. Is an arts-based show, finding out about how artists started out, where they are and where they’re going. For the first episode, Neil has been lucky to be able to talk to Harry Holland, who was pretty inspiring and a lot of fun.

Its available at Apple podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/evolutions/id1510572110
It’s also available on Buzzsprout:
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1044886/3521839?fbclid=IwAR2udKx9pEDrOyOPRG37wa6vKoX-09kCI_Anwd0OMFzU6EXiFVo64ciKj1Y
and on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/show/0ASjUleKphNcUaLgOpr8Y5

Graduate Showcase Heidi Murtagh- Smith

Hi Heidi great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I am a textile surface pattern designer and have studied at Cardiff Met for the past 3 years. Whilst studying for my degree I have also completed a variety of work experiences in relation to my practice which have helped me to grow as a professional and shape the career path I want to take.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

I have always had a natural talent for creativity. The process of creativity is so enjoyable it becomes motivating in it self which is useful when it comes to gaining qualifications. I experience a high amount of flow when it comes to being creative meaning I have just been drawn to it from a very early age.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

Whilst at University my creative process has grown exceptionally and I have developed many much needed skills a designer needs. My creative process generally follows the path of creating work by hand before digitally manipulating it. As well as this I am very comfortable working completely digitally, using my Wacom tablet to create imagery on screen. Over my time at university I have experimented with a range of mediums and styles in order to develop and diversify my portfolio.

As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

Finding a graduate job in the world of design is not recognised as easy within the best of times and im not sure there is anything much that can be done. Graduates are in need of jobs; however, the same could be said for people across the field who have also lost their jobs at this time. I think design graduates just need to support each other at this time, reminding each other to not give up and keep pursuing our dreams.

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

Myself and others within my class have been participating in compititions running on Instagram from a variety of accounts. This is a great way to fill some of the time we have in isolation and also get our work noticed. You can checkour Heidi’s Instagram account here Or her profile on Zealous here

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I think it would be great to have a museum or art gallery in Cardiff which relates directly to the field of textiles. Coming from London I am use to being able to immerse myself in a great variety of exhibitions and shows in relation to my practice; however, I feel Cardiff lacks this. Not only would this be of use to current artists and designers but also inspire children to follow this career path.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Whilst studying an art and design corse it is great to immerse yourself in a new place as you are never sure where inspiration will come from. Whilst in Cardiff I have been very fortunate to participate in a variety of work experiences which I am really grateful for.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Last summer I got the opportunity to participate in an international internship to Colombia for six weeks where I worked with a sustainable fashion brand. Whilst there I learnt to live and work in a different culture as well as develop my skills and knowledge in relation to my career path. Although having completed work experiences prior to this, this was a whole new adventure and was a great way to spend my summer, whilst preparing for my future career.

Thanks for your time

Graduate Showcase Rhiannon Blythe

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

Hi Rhiannon, great to meet you. Can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi! I’m a bilingual illustrator from South Wales, currently finishing my degree with Swansea College of Art. I’m hoping to do a Masters degree in Illustration next year.

The main thing I like to draw is portraits, I love drawing people and I always have, they’re fascinating and allow for so much detail. I’m also very interested in illustrating novels, though specifically books geared towards more mature readers – my current project is illustrating the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

So, what got you interested in the arts?        

It sounds cliché, but I’ve always been drawing ever since I can remember! When I was young, I used to get home from school and sit in front of the telly with a pile of paper and just doodle all evening until dinner! I’d copy characters from cartoons I was watching, and I loved the show Art Attack. I could get through at least 20 sheets of paper at a time! My love for drawing has carried me through my entire life thus far, I’ve always loved just sitting down and making something.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

My creative process usually consists of sketching out a drawing on paper before scanning the sketch and colouring it digitally using a drawing app on my mobile phone called Autodesk Sketchbook. Although digital drawing has been a forefront in my practice at the moment, when I do draw traditionally I use a mixture of mediums – mainly marker pens, watercolour paint, and coloured pencils. I tend to start with a wash of watercolour and then build up layers of colour with the markers and coloured pencils. I love using bold colour schemes in my work, especially when drawing digitally, I like my portraits to look clean and sharp. I post a majority of my work on my Instagram – @doughnutkingdom.

As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period, what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

Graduating at the moment seems very unreal, and I’ve almost put it to the back of my mind! However, I still feel as though having a degree show would be very beneficial to all arts students whose shows were cancelled. Being able to run these shows once things are looking up would be amazing, and would allow us to have the same opportunities as the students who came before us. Understandably, this might not be possible for some time, so I’ve been concentrating on working on my portfolio as preparation for when we can return back to some kind of normality.

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

I’ve seen a lot of artists on Instagram giving each other helping hands, mainly through sharing other artists’ work on their stories, and promoting artists who may need help with commissions and so on. A lot of art pages have been posting challenges, prompts and tasks to help people keep busy too, which I think is a really great idea.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales, what would this be and why?

I think I’d definitely want to focus on giving art education in primary schools and comprehensive schools a lot more love and care. I honestly believe art is so important for primary school children, as it’s an outlet for their feelings, and a way for them to show their interests. Art clubs were something I really enjoyed going to when I was in primary school, and I feel like it’s very important for children to have some time in the day to be creative. I also believe that comprehensive schools could focus more on this element too, and continue to nurture this creativity in young people. It would be wonderful to be able to provide comprehensive schools with more art materials, resources, and a curriculum that focused on art history and the more technical aspects of art.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

It makes me very proud to see the art community in Wales growing as much as it is. Wales has always been known as a creative country and I can’t wait to see how far we’re going to go in the future. I’ve noticed our galleries and museums getting some more attention lately too, especially Cardiff Museum. With the diplodocus living there for a little while, their Leonardo DaVinci exhibition, and housing a Botticelli painting, the museum has gained a lot of publicity!

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I think the fact that our communities are stronger than ever right now is something great in itself. We’re all living in a very bizarre world, and everyone’s readiness to help each other and be there for each other is amazing. Although it might feel like all this will never end, the fact that we’re all in this together is a great comfort and it’s shown that despite our differences, we can all work together.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you for the opportunity! Diolch yn fawr!

Graduate Showcase Grace Hubbard-Smith

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

Hi Grace great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I have always been interested in the arts since I can remember, mostly due to my mum being an artist herself and my dad a theatre director and film enthusiast! It’s in the blood, you could say. 

Can you tell us about your creative process?

I’m focusing mainly on painting, but I work with illustration and film as well. In my painting I am centred around creating light and space, I do this by lightly building up the image with transparent layers of paint. You can see Grace’s work at her website here

As a young Welsh artists graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

Graduating right now from the Fine Arts BA at Aberystwyth and entering the ‘real world’, is a daunting prospect. In terms of my art practise it is very unlikely I’ll be able to continue with it as I do in uni, studio spaces are expensive and coming straight out of university with no money makes getting one very unlikely. Funding and support groups that encourage the growth of communities would be the best at helping those coming straight out of uni so we don’t feel as isolated.

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

I have joined a project titled ‘The Quarantine’ that has encouraged art students to continue creating art by responding to our current situation. It has been really amazing to be a part of this, it has helped encourage me in my practise and doesn’t make me feel as separated from my peers. It’s an exciting response to our situation – as artists we cope and express our situation through art, and it’s an incredibly unique and unusual time which needs expressing! 

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?


There doesn’t seem to be a lot of funding for individual practise or for those coming straight from education. And as far as I’m aware community and group fundings are also being cut. I think all of these areas are important not only to us personally but to society as a whole. If I was to be selfish I would say more funding for those coming from education!

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I’m Welsh and seeing the art scene grow and develop in Wales is wonderful. I would like to stay here and enjoy the prospects of Welsh art – I believe that art is integral to Welsh identity, we pride ourselves on being a nation of bards, creatives with everyone having a right to express. 

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I’ve had a really fortunate experience of living in America for three months, I was surrounded by a new culture and beyond beautiful natural scenery with gorgeous mountains and expansive forests, however, above all those months reminded me of how Wales was my home. 

Thanks for your time 

Thank you, for this opportunity.



Graduate Showcase Holly Tamara

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

Hi Holly great to meet you.

Hello, I’m Holly Tamara, a bilingual illustrator finishing up her degree at UWTSD in Swansea. I’m originally from Cardiff and will be moving back there after my final year at university. My illustration work is based around mindfulness, self- care and happiness; I use bright colours in my designs to try and make people happy when they look at my work. Currently I am working on developing my portfolio ready to enter out into the real world and developing my online presence during this lockdown.

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

I’ve always been interested in the arts from a young age, my Nan is also an artist and I get a lot of my inspiration from her. I’ve been developing my work since primary school but have only recently found “my style” that I am completely happy with.

 Can you tell us about your creative process?

My creative process really depends on what I’m doing, usually most of my work is digital. I usually start my work with inspiration, I then start sketching out my idea on my iPad with my apple pencil. I then colour in my design with bright and bold colours. I finish by adding my logo. My best work usually includes pattern designs although I do enjoy doing editorial work too.

 As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

As a young Welsh artist, I think we should be supported by having our graduate exhibition to showcase our work to people in the industry once this pandemic is over. As well as this some sort of financial help that people with businesses get in order to keep them afloat. I have been looking at industry jobs and because of the pandemic there isn’t anything available right now. I am very proactive in trying to find work but recently I have been focusing on developing my portfolio so I am ready when we will have the chance to work when this is all over.

 A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

Ones that particularly stood out to me were our class’s Instagram that features an artist in the class every week. In order to push each artists promotion beyond their own self-promotion.

As well as this I find daily prompts really helpful during this uncertain time to keep busy. I myself have taken to writing a blog about the adventures I had before the pandemic.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

If I was able to fund an area of the arts in Wales, it would probably be helping/ encouraging art with special needs or vulnerable children. My youngest brother suffers with autism, as do I; and I feel that art really helped me. These schools do try their best to encourage creativity, but the lack of funding really restricts them on what their able to do. I would love to help them to give the children to express them self creatively. I use my own creativity to make my little brother hand painted flash cards to help with his speech therapy.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The arts in Wales excited me because of the opportunities there are with the welsh language. Other than Patagonia and Ohio we have the advantage of the Welsh Language. Although some people do not see the beauty in the welsh language, I do. I try to include it in everything I do. One of my favourite things to do with my creativity in wales is so compete in the National Eisteddfod with the Urdd; which I did this year. There are other opportunities with the welsh book council too that involve the welsh language.

 What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

In September I spent two weeks on a Welsh internship to Ohio in the US to learn about the welsh community out there. I spent the two weeks researching, meeting new people and creating a project based off my research and sight-seeing. It was refreshing to meet people as excited about the Welsh language as me outside of wales. There are more details about this on my blog where you can also see more examples of my work.

Thank you for your time.

Graduate Showcase Gabriella Wilde

Hi Gabriella great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi, thanks for having me. I am currently completing my Illustration Degree at Swansea College of Art.

In the last three years, humour and satire, in response to the world around me, have become key components of my work. For me, illustration is all about storytelling, and sharing information and experiences. Although my love of illustration has stemmed from narrative and character-based projects, I am keen to develop my skills further in other areas, such as typography, so that I can work more holistically.

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

Books. I was constantly reading books growing up; Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite, and, looking back, I can see how imitating Nick Sharratt’s work in school has led to my pursuit of an illustration career. I definitely don’t think the impact would have been as profound, if my family and teachers hadn’t supported and encouraged my creativity- I think this was the most important aspect.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

Usually I begin by imagining a visual scenario that I think is funny. For example, Cinderella walking around the Prince’s Ball covered in pumpkin gunk because the carriage hadn’t been scooped out properly. This initial idea could often work well as a single illustration; however, I like to explore how I could apply this narrative voice to the entire story or scenario. If I am reimagining a traditional story, such as Cinderella, I try to create accompanying rhyming text. The use of rhyme helps to create a consistent flow and helps me to keep the text concise. When producing my illustrations, I try to maintain the same livelihood as my sketches; if the lines are too precise I find that the personality of my characters gets lost.

 As a young Welsh artists graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

I believe having the chance to showcase our work, in the same way as years before have, is very important. It is an unusual situation, and I support that our exhibitions could not go ahead as planned. However, as we have put the same time, energy, and funds into our degrees, it would be a shame to miss out on this crucial aspect of the course, which we have been working towards for at least the last year. I hope that there will be support for all students to be able to host exhibitions and shows as soon as it is safe to do so.

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

I have loved seeing people creating and sharing free colouring pages. My old school art department have also been hosting weekly art challenges for students, staff, and family to take part in. This definitely enforces the sense of community that we need right now, and I am eager to have a go at some myself.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

Following on from the work that I produced for my dissertation, I think it would be great for Wales to explore art as therapy further. Now more than ever, it is clear that producing art can be beneficial for our mental health. There currently aren’t many course options in Wales for those that wish to pursue art therapy as a career pathway, and I think that more options would encourage applications.

There is also a gap in the market for Wales-based illustration agencies. I’m sure that the growing Welsh publishing and film industries would love a place to easily select home-grown talent.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The arts industry in Wales is continuing to grow. Wales has already become well established within the Film and TV industry, and this recognition is beginning to expand into other areas. It’s amazing to see people travel to Wales to pursue their creative careers! With the accessibility of the internet, creatives are no longer required to uproot their lives to larger cities, like Bristol or London. Despite this, developing more opportunities for creatives within Wales will definitely help to maintain the arts in Wales.

 What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I recently illustrated a poem as part of an Instagram competition. After the writer liked, commented on, and shared the post (having forced myself to tag her), it has become one of my most successful posts. In this lockdown era, smaller actions have greater results, and this shows just how easy it is to support creatives, even in isolation!

You can find out more about Gabriellas work at her website here

Thanks for your time Gabriella

Thank you for the opportunity!

An Interview with Wales based Dance Artist Becky Johnson

Hi Becky great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi, thank you for meeting with me. Well, I’m currently a freelance dancer/ choreographer/ teacher based in Cardiff. I’m originally from Huddersfield (Yorkshire) and moved to Cardiff to train in Contemporary Dance at USW. I graduated in June 2019 but have stayed in Cardiff since. Since then, I have really found myself invested in the arts scene here in Wales. 

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

I’d like to say I’ve always been creative but that would be a lie. I started dancing quite young at my local dance school and loved the competitions and team dances that we’d do together. It wasn’t until I was much older and was exposed to more of the arts scene, that I started to see the beauty within the arts sector and understand how collaborative it can be.

Can you tell us about your dance process? Where do your ideas come from?

My creation process with making dance varies. I take great influence from the things around me. Being that, things that inspire and intrigue me or something I want to understand further. Either that or I use my personal experiences of my interactions with the world; things that I believe should be highlighted to others or need to be understood more widely.

You were recently involved in curating, House of Rhythm presents… A night of Hip Hop which took place at Kongs Cardiff on Thursday, March 5, 2020. The event is described as “A celebration and discovery of all that is Hip hop and is in partnership with Kellys Records and Grassroots Cardiff” How did you get into Hip Hop and Streetdance. How supported is the scene in Cardiff?

One of the dance schools I was involved with as a teenager, “Fidget Feet”, prioritised teaching the true foundations and principles of HipHop. This touched upon all five pillars of Hip-Hop as well as the various styles of dance within Street Dance culture.

That, alongside growing up with two brothers who thought they were destined to be the next Notorious B.I.G, meant I was immersed within the culture and that it’s been a pivotal part of my upbringing and even in my attitude and approach to movement (and life in general) now.

This series of events is an opportunity to provide a gateway into HipHop culture and not just the music form. I feel this sense of community within HipHop, especially in Cardiff, is lacking and hence why we have decided to partner with Grassroots.

By doing so, we are working with up and coming artists and providing them with opportunities to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise. Also, with the inclusion of workshops within different pillars of HipHop, we are combining the culture as a whole and not just focussing on one part.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based dancers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a dance artist in Wales and if not what would help?

I’ve been extremely fortunate in the fact that as soon as I graduated, I found work that was within my field of practise. This has kept me financially stable and allowed me time to fulfil my own projects outside of my teaching work. I believe Cardiff and Wales has an extremely supportive network of artists, all willing to share their own knowledge and craft. Throughout my degree, I worked extremely hard to network and to meet the right people with the suiting opportunities to help me develop within my career. If it wasn’t for me outsourcing my own network of people (from all fields of the arts sector), I would’ve struggled to get to the place I am now, never mind the place I want to be by the end of the year.

I do feel there is an absence of ongoing opportunities, especially for recent graduates that are new to the sector. However, if we are willing to make our own work and source our own opportunities, making our own projects, yes, there is work but we must be prepared to pave this path for ourselves. This isn’t disregarding help and assistance from other creatives/ professionals, but the help is more to kickstart our own ideas rather than to flourish with other people’s.

 If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

Wow, tricky question. I’d probably have to say spacing. Providing space for artists to develop their own practise and ideas, whether that be, musicians, dancers or visual artists. As not only is there a lack of creative and accessible space in Wales, there’s a huge lacking of funded space. If there were more funded residencies around Wales, we would see a lot more new work being developed and a much more diverse community engagement from artists in the area.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I feel like this is such an exciting time for collaboration within Wales. There are more opportunities coming to bridge the divide, whether that between artistic practises or between bodies of dancers. There are some exciting opportunities in the works for disabled dancers which I can’t wait to be involved in as well as new pools of artists moving to Wales from areas such as London bringing new skills and assets.

 What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Well there’s nothing like a little bit of shameless self promo but this is honest and genuine. It would be The House of Rhythm event which we had on the 5th March. There were people from lots of different communities and backgrounds all coming together to support the artists performing. We had people involved in the workshops that would never normally be in those sorts of social experiences. I also had talks with participants on how we can make our events more autism friendly and accessible for those suffering with social anxiety etc. It was this coming together of people which was really beautiful to witness as all of the participants were supportive of each other, regardless of background and experience.

Thanks for your time

Thank you very much for getting in touch!

Rooting Hip-Hop Theatre in Wales

Hip-Hop was created out of struggle in New York during the 1970s as poverty and discrimination hit the African American and Caribbean communities. It has since grown into arguably the largest arts-movement in the world.

Generally, British society knows hip-hop as a music genre which is often put to one side. However, the reality is the fingerprints of hip-hop are everywhere. From music, to fashion, to dance, to graffiti, film and theatre. Spanning the globe from New York, to LA, Tokyo, Cape Town, Seoul, Moscow and London. Hip-hop is everywhere.

In Wales, Avant Cymru are pioneering the Welsh hip-hop theatre movement following in the footsteps of the likes of Jonzi D and ZooNation. Taking stories from where the company is based in Rhondda and around Wales to platform them locally, nationally and internationally.

I’ve seen Avant Cymru’s work for myself at the Cardiff and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals and company director Jamie Berry’s solo dance in People, Power, Perception is still one of my personal favourite pieces of art I’ve seen on the stage. It proved to me that you could tell a compelling story full of emotion using only dance. Which beforehand, despite having seen a variety of different dance-based theatre, I’d never felt for myself.

It’s hard to ignore the sense of impending doom brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic. Work doesn’t stop for Avant Cymru though. Krump workshops with Duwane Taylor are available on their YouTube channel and next month they will be releasing a video where world renowned popper Shawn Ailey will be teaching the foundations for popping.

They will be running workshops through to July, either online or around Wales when safe, including sessions with beatboxing, rapping, graffiti and DJing teachers to introduce learners to all elements of hip-hop outside of dance.

As a disabled-led company, with a variety of health and mental health conditions, Avant Cymru really is open to any and everyone. With the help of the British Council they are travelling to Canada in October for the No Limit Jam to connect with fellow disabled artists and explore opportunities and encourage those with disabilities, mental or physical, to pick up hip-hop.

The passion to do this comes from personal experience:

“For us Hip-Hop has had a positive influence on our lives.” For Jamie, “suffering with depression, breakin’ was the one thing that gave me drive and ambition… The theatre aspect allows me to express these thoughts. We have noticed other Hip-Hop artists, rappers, graffiti writers and dancers do the same. We want to make sure others have hip-hop as a tool to improve their health and well-being.”

For artistic director Rachel Pedley she found a home in Hip-Hop culture. “As a working-class artist, I struggled to afford the lifestyle of ballet dancers and other theatre makers. In Hip-Hop the training and social side was more affordable and the other artists were easier to relate to. It helped build the confidence I needed to go and create and understand my value didn’t come from the cash in my pocket. Working in the Rhondda Valleys, we want to make sure that our young people have the confidence needed to walk into other aspects of life, we believe confidence comes from celebrating our differences and that hip hop even encourages this.”

As well as offering workshops and encouraging people into forms of hip-hop, Avant Cymru also produce their own work. Working with artists from all pillars of hip-hop, from beatboxers, emcees, graffiti artists, dancers and DJs. As well as with artists from outside hip-hop such as theatre writers or musicians from outside hip-hop.

Hip-Hop is often stereotyped as ‘gangster rap’, but it is so much more than that. Avant Cymru aim to change this view as they “would like to share our knowledge with different audiences to show how varied and creative Hip Hop can be and how positive it can be when you get involved.”

Hip-Hop is arguably the largest artistic movement in the world today. But maybe the most misunderstood also. So, if you’re interested, check out an upcoming show from Avant Cymru or another hip-hop company. Or even give it a go yourself.