Category Archives: Art

Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Naz Syed Freelance Creative Practitioner, Visual Artist and Travelling Teacher

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.

Naz Syed a freelance creative practitioner, visual artist and travelling teacher with over twenty years’ experience in community engagement and education. She will be speaking at the meeting organised by Youth Arts Network Cymru 5pm – 6pm Tuesday 9th June. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. At the meeting Naseem will outline some of the challenges and solutions she has created to support the public to access the arts in the current climate.

Photography by Women of Newport

In the photograph above I was featured in the Women of Newport exhibition in my home, my mother’s art work on the wall and the textile banner I created with the community for charity Baby Bundles. 100 women’s hands created by different groups and individuals, including Go Girls, Public Theatre, The Riverfront and Llantarnam Grange. The banner was featured on BBC news and was part of the Processions to mark 100 years of women getting the vote.

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

Hi, I am a freelance creative practitioner, visual artist and travelling teacher with over twenty years’ experience in community engagement and education. Working in community and education settings across a range of visual art disciplines, specialising in fashion, textiles, mixed media and applied arts.

My type of work is in the heart of the community with The Night Out Project ACW, I am a freelance facilitator, I work with school groups from Primary to Secondary and community groups with children, young people and older adults in South East Wales, Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys and more. Supporting schools and community groups to promote, market and deliver an event with a selection of touring theatre groups in unique settings. Sessions include; PR, design, promotion, print, fundraising, budgeting and health & safety. Each event is organised with a leading theatre company for the public after 6 weeks of event planning. I have worked on the Night Out Project for over 6 years. Working with each group for 6 weeks with creative tasks, enterprise, building resilience, collaboration and confidence. building up to a final show with a touring theatre, including PuppetSoup and Circo Rum Ba Ba.

One of my favourite pieces of theatre to be involved with was Dirty Protest Theatre, ‘How to be Brave,’ I worked on audience development in Newport and supported the promoters with Coffee and Laughs at Community House, Maindee to create a community event. A really powerful and moving on woman show and totally captivating and even better that it was about Newport!

http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/now-on-how-to-be-brave

Credit Fez Miah, Night Out Project
Description: A large crowd of people in a room

Description automatically generated
Credit Fez Miah, Night Out Project

Women of Newport

I work as a freelance art tutor in different venues including the Riverfront, Llantarnam Grange and local community spaces and organisations. Delivering arts classes, holiday workshops, family sessions, school visits, Criw Celf.

Description: A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated
Description: A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

I have developed and delivered creative projects in education including an eco fashion project called Ringland Runway, with KS2, year 2 class and year 4. Eco Fashion project I developed and delivered with support from Newport Fusion at Ringland Primary School. Creating outfits with a Year 2 class and year 4 eco team, in recycled and reclaimed paper, plastic and upcycling donated clothing. The children won the enterprise troopers foundation award with the enterprise and sustainability project and featured in the Big Splash festival.   

Photos Ringland Runway – Gareth Croft Films, Newport Fusion.

With Arts & Education and the innovation seed grant, I worked with Blackwood Primary School to develop new ways to create, respond and reflect, making their own sketchbooks, collages and using mixed media. Using the exhibition in a box, a portable multi-sensory resource that explores the theme of silence in connection to the First World War by Head4Arts. The children’s poems and artwork were published in a book by Burst Publishing

I am an Arts Award Advisor and I deliver and support accredited courses. I am Lead Creative practitioner trained. I have delivered creative CPD workshops to teachers, and arts organisations as part of the Arts & Education Network, South East Wales and created learning resources.

I enjoy working with others and building their confidence to develop creative skills. I am currently delivering Art Clwb workshops voluntarily in my home each week on facebook live, Sofa Share Wales. Where people engage live, ask questions and create work along with me. I also run a featured artist each week where people send in their artwork created with the theme, inspired by the workshop and one artist chosen by the public wins an art bag. I have found this a way to support families and teachers with workshops and ideas for children at home.

Description: A picture containing little, child, small, girl

Description automatically generated

My passion lies in the power of the arts to connect, empower individuals, communities and cultures, bringing a sense of belonging. How art can transform the perception of yourself and others, promoting wellbeing and mindfulness.

What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice?

Lockdown has affected my freelance work in projects and venues which I have worked for years. My work is based in the community and in education – creative practitioner visiting schools and Night Out Facilitator, ACW. The schools I was working with at the time had created such wonderful work and unfortunately the week it all changed was their theatre events with PuppetSoup, Land of the Dragon. I was absolutely gutted to not be able to host these wonderful shows with the children, but they were all understanding, and I plan to go back and do a creative workshop once things have settled. It all just went silent and the main part I love about what I do had just stopped suddenly, I found it quite isolating at first and I was worried about the groups and individuals I worked with. A wonderful group I connect with called Coffee and Laughs set up a zoom and then I started to reach out and have conversations with others to see how we could adapt and move forward.

I also deliver creative workshops within heritage, cultural sites and communities, theatre and arts centres, in the holidays, at events and some weekends. Until further notice, all of it just stopped, due to outside visitors in schools stopped and then all the venues and schools closed down. It is a people facing job and due to the venues being closed, other staff furloughed, schools shut and community spaces my current freelance work was cancelled.

Once projects and communities are back, there will still be restrictions and possibly they could not accept visitors and some of the groups I work with are more vulnerable, so they may not want to attend events and projects afterwards. Future work is uncertain and difficult to determine. Creativity and the arts, now more than even is key to wellbeing and to connect us all.

What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

I had conversations with other artists, practitioners and organisations to discuss and share best practise, safeguarding and digital delivery through zoom and calls. I spoke to community groups I work with and some parents, teachers about ideas and ways to adapt things.

The sharing of our learning process aswell as others, is key to moving forward and navigating our way through.

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

I am currently delivering Art Clwb – #CreatewithNaz each Saturday on Sofa Share Wales, with live workshops, community art gallery and featured artists each week, who win a creative bag. Promoting creativity and being resourceful in your home, using recycled and reclaimed materials.

The current times have made us feel isolated and arts is a ways of bringing people together. Creating in their homes and making us be more resourceful with the items around us. The community gallery shows work from families, children, artists collectively. A featured artist is chosen each week to feature on the page and I have been putting together bags of creativity for them to use. The connections with artists helping donate bags, Newport museum supporting some of the materials going forward and the conversations I have had each week have meant so much. It has helped me greatly too, when all my work is focused on others being creative and that spark and energy, also moments of calm and concentration are so important. To see videos, creative pictures and happy faces and videos of others sharing their work..there are just no words to describe it! I have had to adapt and look at new ways of bringing people together and getting my workshops out to them. As I don’t have many set groups, I am a travelling teacher and artist at different events, community spaces and schools. So this static creativity has to move and adapt in a different way.

A creative learning in the arts project was cancelled, so I had to find new ways of working with the teacher, to keep creative ideas alive for the children in Year 6, Blackwood Primary School. So I have been sharing the resources and online workshops with the teacher. To have videos and images of the creative tasks each week sent to me, has kept me connected to the group and one of the group has even been making his own videos as a presenter, which as wonderful.

‘One of the best aspects of distance learning during lockdown was the impact of Naz Syed’s Art Clwb activities. As a teacher at Blackwood Primary School I reached out to Naz for some inspiration on what creative tasks I could set my Year 6 pupils as part of their home learning. They have absolutely loved watching the videos and creating their sketchbooks, birds of peace and sockipillars. Parents responded by saying how much fun their children had in making the crafts and the results are amazing! A huge thank you to Naz and Art Clwb for supporting us during this difficult time.’ – Mrs Phillips, Year 6 Teacher, Blackwood Primary School.

The challenges are digital access, safeguarding, access to materials at home, a different space and way of learning and so much more. Online tools can feel overwhelming for some and difficult to navigate. How to create a more personal touch when communicating through a screen. To create authentic connections, projects and outcomes.

I am thankful to all who have connected, shared their thoughts, ideas and creativity and artwork.

Art Clwb community gallery snapshots
Description: A picture containing photo, different, group, standing

Description automatically generated
Blackwood Primary Twitter

Description: A screenshot of a social media post

Description automatically generated
Blackwood Primary Twitter

What are your plans for future delivery?

I want to share as much as possible, so it is looking at how to make it sustainable moving forward. To keep sharing creativity, ideas and workshops for others to access. Looking into what Funding is available to continue this and to work with other organisations to deliver and develop this effectively for digital learning at home.

I am taking part in the ICE 5 to 9 Club virtually each week with ICE and Business Wales. I am developing a creative business idea that has been on my mind for a long time.

To keep Art Clwb going and delivering creative packs and workshops. I have to adapt and be resourceful. Going forward I would like to develop more sustainable projects and use of materials in the community and education.

Description: A picture containing table, wooden, sitting, food

Description automatically generated

In my own practise, I am currently developing work and sketchbook ideas at the moment, Lockdown stories..using collage and mixed media to portray thoughts and feeling of this time. 

Description: A picture containing sitting, wearing, water, beach

Description automatically generated
Description: A picture containing text

Description automatically generated

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 have been keeping in contact with the organisations I work with, as collaboration is key and keeping those conversations and ideas alive is really important. As I am a travelling artist/teacher and it can feel lonely at times. I have found these organisations have been adapting to the needs of the community and freelancers to support.

Weekly Art workshops Art Clwb on Sofa Share Wales: https://www.facebook.com/sofasharewales/ 

#CreatewithNaz every Saturday on Facebook live. 6pm (May be subject to time change 3pm or 6pm)

Each week has a different theme and Naz will create ideas and mini workshops for you to make along with or after the live workshop, using materials around your home. You can share and send in your work. One artist is chosen to feature on Sofa Share and wins a creative bag. All work sent in, is featured in a live gallery.

I been creating workshops online for Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, holiday club workshops on their facebook page and Criw Celf. The Grange are also running a sketchbook community gallery, linked with Art Clwb.

Free holiday workshops with Naz #CreatewithNaz

You can access these workshops at the Facebook Page at the link here

I currently work as a Co-ordinator for Newport Fusion, part time. Developing ways to support cultural and community organisations and network partners. Supporting projects currently including; Sofa Share Wales, Beat Technique, Tinshed Theatre in new ways to develop and deliver their programmes and workshops to their groups and the community, also Operasonic with wellbeing.

Newport fusion, Sharing and posting local creative projects, heritage sites, arts and cultural organisations. https://www.facebook.com/NewportFusion/  

Get in touch with Naz if you have any projects, ideas, events etc running in Newport.

More about Fusion here: https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-11/fusion-programme-report-2019-to-2020.pdf

Arts Council of Wales have continued to support artists and open up new funding strands. The Noson Allan/Night Out project has supported and kept in contact. With the Creative Learning in the Arts I delivered an expressive arts masterclass – online workshop and resources, using materials and equipment at home, My creativity book – creating concertina books and collage, which will be available on Hwb.  https://hwb.gov.wales/

Arts & Education Network they have been releasing all their educational resources for free by artists on their site and facebook page – #StudioAdref. My resource – Digital visual journeys through collage, is available to download, as part of the Make it digital project. Cultural and Arts Organisations. https://artsed.wales/en/digital-collage/?fbclid=IwAR19Yewj3-SpD7PuATsCKB8wx2Efv1XLo6HaalJDMSflvgkU4VrQJRfA4tU

Arts & Education Network South East Wales– educational resources #StwdioAdref https://artsed.wales/en/ 

Head4Arts have supported by practise and development of ideas, as events I had booked were cancelled. I have produced creative packs for families in the community and designed printed bilingual resources. #DoorstepCraft

Newport Museum & Art Gallery have kindly donated materials towards the Art Clwb bags I have been creating.

The Riverfront theatre are still supporting and advising creatives moving forward.

Contact Naz to collaborate, for workshops, creative packs and resources.

naz.syed@outlook.com 07860 660870

Instagram: @nazeeba22

Twitter: @nazeeba

Facebook: Naseem Syed

Thank you for sharing the stories of others and letting me be a part of this.

Thanks for your time Naz  .

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

The meeting notes from Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning – Older Peoples Zoom Meeting that Kelly hosted hosted on Thursday 28 May, can be found at the link


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!