Category Archives: Literature

The Invisible Ones Are The Influencers For Those Who Are Always Visible. An Interview with Ffion Campbell-Davies

I had the pleasure of interviewing Multi-disciplinary artist Ffion Campbell-Davies recently. In this interview we will be talking all things arts, creativity, Identity and Wales.

Credit Vikki Marie Page

Hi Ffion, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?

I was born and raised in Wales and moved to study at London School Of Contemporary Dance, graduating in 2013. I have since worked in various avenues within the industry as performer, teacher and choreographer. Over the last 5 years I have been developing my own artistic practice and creating my own work as well as collaborating with other artists.


I term myself as a multidisciplinary artist as a few of my disciplines other than dance are at the core of my work. My self produced work cross pollinates with music production, text, voice, expressionism, exhibitionsim, dramaturgical principles and [more recently] visual & digital art.

Credit Celine Fortenbaucher


I am a co-founding member of all female company collective House Of Absolute; we are a diverse group of multidisciplinary females creating boundary crossing, politically active theatre, sight specific and digital movement, sound & visual works collectively and independently.


My work explores themes and subjects around psychoanalysis, gender, race and spirituality, working with experimental devices and the influence of ritual to dismantle conditions around definition, power and politics.

So moving to London from Wales to gain better opportunities in the arts seems like a common trend among young people. Why do you think that is and what can we do here in Wales to change that?

I believe Wales has a lot of resources within its artistic demographic, with multiple communities of various levels and spheres of skill and knowledge. I recognise that infrastructures have excluded and disabled social mobility for many communities in being able to exercise and contribute to the collective central culture of arts in Wales.


There are many conditions which are similar in all cities here in the UK, but I believe London has an effective fluency in generating micro economies for artists to exercise and contribute to the collective culture. There seems to generally be more structures in place for diverse sources of funding to support varying different artistic communities, where sub cultures are actually at the core of reinforcing and empowering the collective. Because of this naturally people of any socio economic background have more of an access point to engage in the artistic climate, with more spread for opportunity and information to be easily accessed.

It is difficult for communities/artists outside of the capital culture [in regards to Wales; the traditional welsh cultural agenda] to be part of the solution of development and empowerment when many organisations of funding, or spaces of information and power are gated for exclusive representatives.


I see diversity as a fertiliser for soil, just the same way varying different types of stimuli rapidly develop the neural connectors in our brain, we need constant interaction with varying different human beings of different traditions, sciences, arts and practices to fuel innovation. This is something London taps into very well, in which I believe people from all over the world are drawn to.


Traditions are never lost and I believe Wales has a wonderful opportunity to find synergy with its ancient history and the fertility of its vastly diverse origins to energise and activate all representatives in wales of all different cultural backgrounds to cross pollinate.

As you have mentioned whilst in London, you’ve been a member of the company ‘House of Absolute’ which combines various street styles alongside other styles of movement. How has Hip-Hop culture helped to develop you as a Contemporary artist?

Hip-Hop has been at the axis of my growth and development. It is one of the most iconic symbols for the term ‘contemporary’ quite literally it is with the times. Hip-Hop is not only a ‘style’ but also a culture and even a philosophy with which most people involved would say it is a way of life. Hip-Hop is a mode of resistance, a political instrument for reconstruction. It is one of the most influential cultures on the planet, because of its wealth of knowledge and teachings through trans-generational art, it is legacy.


It is a cultural library archive of the preservation of people of the diaspora, which houses many different languages of the body, many trans-migrational stories of the intersectionality between races and cultures, and serves as a global home for people of any origin to communicate through mind body and spirit.

Of recent years Hip-Hop ‘theatre’ has emerged as another form of innovation to supplement indoctrinated Eurocentric modalities of black box performative culture. The marriage of visual art, story telling, acting, poetry, immersive engagement, grime music and the genius of Hip-Hop movement language and musicality. This has had a great impact on transforming my perception of using theatre space as ritual, broadcasting cultural and ancestral presence.

Overall my support and mentorship has come from;
Dance communities and peers in the underground Hip-Hop scene,
Artist4Artist an organisation run by artists for artists 
Founding members and representatives of Sadler’s Wells Breaking Convention festival. 

Growing up in Cardiff, do you think there is a significant Hip-Hop scene here and what do you think can be done to help it evolve?

There is definitely a Hip-Hop scene in Cardiff, however maybe lacking a cohesive integration of the multiple layers and dimensions of inclusivity. It is important for artists of all practices, sectors, class and culture to be in dialogue.


For examples different Hip-Hop music and visual artists, writers, poets, event organisers, venues and dancers could have more consistent relations with each other. If there aren’t visible invites and hubs/centres for representation, cultural information remains fragmented, and the overall culture cannot develop infrastructures for impact. Funding is also at the core of this.

Credit Vikki Marie Page

I understand that a lot of your work uses Identity as a concept. When in WHO (2017), you said “#TheSystem and #Society do not provide space for authentic self”, what did you mean by that and do you still find it relevant today?

I do believe society has had a long term relationship with resistance to change, and the notion that homogeny is safe, difference is threat. I recognise the culture of duality that has been at play for a long while, and that at present we may be realising as a collective society in our need for each other, dependence and preservation as a whole, which is the acknowledgement of polarity and the active inclusion for unity.


We still seem to have many protected and guarded infrastructures which dictate our attention towards fundamentalism, with which any organically evolving contemporary innovations outside of societally validated constructs are met with fear, discomfort and rejection, unless it is something recognised and originated within elitist culture.

So to draw from these concepts and bring it into the personal sphere, I believe we as individuals have the capacity to re invent ourselves any way we choose, but at the cost of being questioned and challenged constantly by those who are still existing within societal constructs.


On the one side, anything foreign to those constructs causes great discomfort, essentially the unknown, an anomaly to which we feel out of depth with our relatability. On the other side there is fatigue; being misunderstood, misrepresented, displaced, excluded, silenced, ignored, isolated and questioned. For many that is a lived experience that is still happening today. I think these polarities exist everywhere because it is essentially to do with consciousness and perception.

I feel lots of things have become cataclysmic in our society of recent. People are really fighting for spaces to empower authenticity and difference. Actually pioneering companies and representatives look to bespoke and eclectic minority individuals for inspiration and influence. The invisible ones are the influencers for those who are always visible. For example if we’re talking about fashion and media, it’s everyday people who inspire and influence those making decisions on top about what gets modelled and represented.  

I still believe there are conditions we are pressured to obtain in the broader mainstream culture which restrict us, only validating and respecting things we are a custom too, things we are told and taught have value, anything outside of that does not posess the same power.   Things we do not understand, we do not like or we do not feel comfortable with we disregard. But authenticity, originality and honesty is so powerful, in the overall context of polarity, we as a society now are recognising we need these attributes, and we are seeing willingness for difficult and uncomfortable conversations in the wider culture.

In my perspective for the majority there’s still a lot of shame, fear and taboo around self expression, and this is what makes art so evocative. When many people feel the fear of judgment, they look to artists who do and say all the things most people are terrified to do, there is this sacred unspoken empathic emancipation shared between artist and audience.  

You also spoke about the concept of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit coming together at a meeting point’ in an interview with Catch the Vibes last year. How does this psycho analysis come into the process of your making? Be that your movement or your other creative outlets?

It is particularly through the lens of dramaturgy that I get the opportunity through my work to investigate psychology. I often find that for performative works to have concrete coherence in how the work is experienced, there needs to be psychological integrity, either between the relationship of the performance and audience, or also the chronology of the work, and what the work is doing, what role it serves as an experience.

Quite often I have a focal drive to want to evoke and impact the audience in some kind of interpersonal way. In order to do that safely I really do need to understand the effect on myself of what I’m experiencing. The effect of the process, what psychological journey am I undergoing just to create the work, and then from that process constructing an infrastructure that allows me to guide the viewer into the areas of enquiry that exist in the work.


I work with all layers; the visual, the audible, the sensory, the intellectual, to find different ways of inviting my audience into the non verbal conversation between spectating, listening and actively responding. Regardless of how big or small those social queues are, we all feel it when an audience collectively holds their breath at a certain point, sometimes its the silence that communicates consent, or the twitch or cough coming from the upper left auditorium, we know that particular person just non verbally objected ‘subconsciously’.


If it’s an immersive work, there are other dimensions at play, with proximity being a massive psychological conversation. There is our body language and our power dynamics; whether an audience member sits on the floor cross legged, or stands right behind me, we have varying different capacities of what access points we have to a psychological dialogue. And then I wonder which way can I communicate this performance. Of course eye contact and touch being the most dynamic contributions. 


All of these elements play a vital role in my process, and its why ritual is such a pivotal instrument for creation in my work. Ritual allows the mental/psychological space to be more transient, meaning I can access the collective mental space with the openness and safety of a held experience set by intentions. This naturally propels the willingness of an audience to be vulnerable with me in the conversation, allowing for suppleness and great changes to occur in perception.

Performance work is always a conversation for me, it’s not about interrogating my own psychology to create work, it is about really understanding psychology to execute distinct forms of communication between my work and the audience. To do that effectively I need to understand a great deal of my own psychology. I feel that’s where the freedom to shift perception and rewrite history comes from, the game changers who change the world through art.      

Credit Vikki Marie Page

How has lockdown affected you as an artist? And also what long term effects, do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?

Covid has given me the opportunity to redefine my priorities, values, boundaries and reinforce my principles. I have had to question my purpose beyond the industry, and become aware of areas that I have not developed and the areas which I have neglected in myself.


This time has also allowed me to rediscover a new way of living, a new way of working and a new way of communicating. I have had many moments of exhaustion, overwhelming bewilderment and uncertainty, but none of these feelings are new to me, in fact the last two years have been so groundbreaking’ly challenging that lockdown was like a breeze. The political and economic climate however has had a great impact on my perception of reality and my stability within that. But it’s the sense of community that has become more evident during this time for me, with a beautiful anchoring in the various relationships I have with people that have grown deeper and stronger during this time.  

Following on from that actually, how has lockdown affected you personally? I recognise that we often separate performers from people and that needs to be raised.

Lockdown has allowed me to journey inwards with a great deal of introspection and time to reconstruct myself from the core. These are elements I do practice, however there is never usually time to really uncover the uncomfortable subconscious patterns that need redefining, when I am moving from one project to another with usually no recovery time.

Although challenging, I have been able to sit with myself and confront difficult things and rewrite those narratives.
I have also been able to connect with people I would have never usually connected with prior to Covid, simply because online networking is far more direct and immediate. Fundamentally I have been able to slow down and have moments of stillness and solitude, amongst the chaos.

I’m a big fan of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?”
So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?

I would want to change the ‘perceived’ division between economy, finance and the arts. I believe so many fundamental movements within history and society sit on a large library of knowledge in strategy, financial infrastructures, economic preservation, assimilation as well as generational business modes that support successful agendas in all industries.

Often even the simplest areas for accessing training in these fields are seen so far removed from the arts. Educational models are often attuned to industries regarded superior, operating purely from strategic principles within business sectors.

We as artists have major blind spots because of the lack of accessibility to especially tailored training schemes, courses, workshops that provide tools within understanding the financial politics of the arts and its economy. We are unhealthily dependant and unempowered to a degree with previous models such as Arts Council funding applications being the main and only doorway for many. Yet this cannot guarantee long term support and struggles to give artists/companies/organisations stabilised independent agency over their future careers. I’m sure at some point in time we have all witnessed the impact of funding cuts for companies/artists, resulting in the immediate amputation of their capacity. Funding has already been challenging particularly for individuals outside of certain socioeconomic class groups and artists who haven’t had the opportunity to generate credibility with sponsors or funding audiences. Many artists with an excellent capacity are unable to generate work at the rate of their potential. This is debilitating and capping our capacity for genius as an overall industry, only select few names get to exercise their worth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say a great deal of artists do not get the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding on modes of financial strategy in relation to the artistic climate.

I’m not saying we all as artists need to study business and finance, because often all of that knowledge is difficult to contextualise in specific relations to the neurodiversity of an artist and the unprecedented lifestyle that an artist might live. But what I am aware of is the benefit of having specialists within business, economy and finance working with artistic representatives to establish an access point hub for freelance artists/organisations and younger generations educated to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to create financial and economic engagement, allowing agency and fluidity within their artistic career.

We as artists promote ourself like business products, we sell ourselves through business models, but if we are to now look at the future of the arts industry, the greater economy an it’s impact on the rest of the world we need to be equipped with the tools to know how to adapt, preserve and not only survive but thrive as artists. I do feel such aspects should be addressed and mandatory within the training of an artist, not just be trained on how to become an artist.

In order to create powerful art that actually has long lasting impacts on humanity and society in the evolution and rewiring of the human conscious, we need money, and we should be educated about how we can generate that independently.
We see the value in funding science, it shouldn’t be any different for the arts.

So to conclude, Is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?

I’ve been refining and redefining the development of my personal practice, which has felt like a monster to tackle as I exist in multiple sphere’s of discipline. Looking at the intersectionality of where a process begins and ends and where meeting points bridge between one discipline to another within the practice. How voice informs the body and vice versa, and also how multiple forms of conditioning/training practices converse/overlap or contradict within the body. What technique do I hold onto and what do I let go of.


In the productivity of what I’m currently working on is a body of work that holds both my music identity and my visual art and movement identity. I’m generating a portfolio which involves self produced songs with the layers and the depth that I would usually engage with in my conceptual theatre work. Looking at how I can make my approach to music production more performative, and have my body as equally a visible voice as my lyrics and my singing. I’m wanting to use the medium of music and song composition to speak on behalf of things I would usually devise and create dance theatre. I want to present narratives both through live art and digital where the boundaries and cultures blur between music gig and dance theatre. I will be supported by Kaunstrum Gallery to create and present an exert in the autumn.


Aside from that I am collaborating with musician Soweto Kinch for a conceptual music video, and composing/producing/researching with Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Tyrone Isaac Stuart for a production called the Oreo Complex.

Thank you ever so much for your time Ffion, it’s truly been a pleasure talking to you.

‘Black Lives Matter Essentials: A Book Club on Race’ An Interview with Artist, Andrew Ogun

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

My name is Andrew Ogun and I’m 22 years old. I moved to Wales from Italy when I was 5 years old. My mother is Nigerian and my father is Togolese. I’ve just finished my bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Birmingham and I’m doing my masters in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Arts London in October. I’ve spent most of my life in Wales aside from university and I also lived in Berlin for a year because I did a year abroad. I’m an artist first and foremost; I’m a writer, musician and fashion designer. 

You have set up up a new group called ‘Black Lives Matter Essentials: A Book Club on Race’ Why did you set up this new group?

One of the major talking points of the BLM movement has been the necessity of proper, nuanced education in relation to race, identity and intersectionality here in Britain. BLM Gwent believe that a book club is the ideal environment to begin the often difficult but necessary conversations that we must have about race in order to improve the situation for BAME citizens in the UK. A lot of the books that we have chosen for this initiative will be incredibly illuminating texts that we hope will begin to open people’s minds. 

Your first book is the now seminal ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Why did you choose this as your first book?

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s text is a perfect first text because it manages to break the taboo of not talking to white people about race. Many white people are uncomfortable talking about race but Eddo-Lodge’s approach is one that is fairly digestible and accessible to all. Furthermore, the book has rose through the ranks and reached number 1 on the nonfiction charts, making her the first Black British woman to top the charts; this is bittersweet to me because although it’s well deserved, more black voices in literature should have been amplified. The text also covers many of the pertinent themes that have arose during the BLM movement; history, the system and white privilege, amongst other things.

During Lockdown the murder of George Floyd and worldwide public demonstrations under the Black Live Matter movement have highlighted institutional racism, inequalities and discussion around Privilege. Do you feel The Book Club will discuss the link between  literature and the potential for change in society?

I think a lot of great literature is always a reflection or commentary on wider society. The arts have always been integral to changing our society for the better. I hope the book club will show people that literature can always be used as a positive driving force for change.

Who are your favourite authors and why?   

There are not many authors that I have read multiple of their novels but there’s a few authors I love; Katherine Mansfield, James Baldwin, Oscar Wilde, Bret Easton Ellis, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Frantz Fanon. Some of my favourite poets are Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Frank O’Hara and Maya Angelou.

Get the Chance supports the public to access and respond to arts activity, if you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

To be honest I think we all know that the entire arts sector is grossly underfunded. The lasting financial impact of COVID on the arts will be devastating, at least in the short term. My choice would be the music industry being a musician myself. It’s expensive to be an up-and-coming musician. Equipment, studio time, music videos, sound engineering, beats, distribution. All these things cost a lot of money and there are so many great musicians in Wales that just need the freedom and finances to truly realise their artistry.

 During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations 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 that you would like to highlight?

I’ve said it in a few protests that I have attended and spoken out; COVID has ensured that our old ‘reality’ is pretty much obsolete. It is now up to us to create our new reality. The move towards a more virtual society has its downsides but is still very beneficial in some aspects. I think it’s a good move for artists to be more online based. It gives you a broader audience and allows you to not be rooted to a particular physical location. I can’t think of any particular examples but this is just my general view.

Thanks for your time

Mymuna Soleman and The Privilege Café

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

Hi Guy thank you for this opportunity, my name is Mymuna, I’m of Somali origin and was born and bred in Cardiff, Wales. I have a huge passion for equality and diversity but most importantly equal representation for Muslim women of colour like myself. I studied Health and Social Care at undergraduate level and my Master’s in Public Health; both obtained from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

I set up The Privilege Café as soon as we got into Lockdown as I was frustrated with the lack of diversity and couldn’t express myself as a woman of colour in spaces filled with privilege.

To date, I’ve facilitated 10 sessions on Zoom covering various themes including mental health, ‘unconscious’ bias and privilege in the recruitment process. The level of engagement has been incredible and the speaker’s insight knowledge and expertise have brought nothing but positivity to all those who have attended the sessions. I’m truly greatful to everyone who has been part of this learning and growing journey with me; Diolch o galon.

The Café is an open to all, its a safe space for all to engage, learn and to use their privilege for good.

 As you have mentioned you run The Privilege Café, the Café is advertised as a place to discuss all things privilege. For those who have not yet attended how would you best describe the Café and its work?

I would describe the virtual Café as a safe, open forum whereas you say we discuss privilege among other topics which to date since starting on April 20th this year have included mental health and privilege, language and linguistics, ‘unconscious’ bias and various others. I created the Café as I was frustrated with this whole ‘systems’ approach which is very formal, agenda-based and wanted the Café to be the opposite of that. Once I decide on a theme and a title for discussion, I put out a call out on social media for anyone interested to speak for a 10-15 mins or so and then open it out for open questions and discussions. Like I said it’s a very informal space so anyone is welcome to come, learn and discuss ‘difficult’ topics but most importantly how people can use their privilege for good.

To discuss specifics White Privilege is an overarching topic in every Café. Why is this such an important area of discussion in the Café?

I think the words white privilege hold a very strong and weighty meaning for so many people not just people who are non-white. White privilege is a difficult concept to take on board and is not something you can pinpoint onto one individual. The unearned privilege or superiority white skin gives people is wider and deeper than something a lot of people deem to be ‘individual finger pointing’, you know the whole ‘I’m not racist’ sentence which usually takes up the space where more meaningful conversations could be had. This is why I have the mindset that white privilege will not be tackled in one session or ten sessions, but that it is the foundation and base of all conversations had at the Café. Positive mindset change takes time and it would be disingenuous and frankly hypocritical if I expected people to come one session and then I ‘ticked off’ the white privilege element. White privilege is a deep thread embedded in society and the same goes for the café. That thread will be untied, hopefully, through various discussions, themes, conversations and questions as the café evolves.

The Café is a space where contributors can share real points or lived experiences that many people find difficult. The Cafe is a safe space for these conversations. As the meeting host you frequently state it’s OK to ask questions. How did you decide how to format the Café and the conversations that take place there?

Its always OK to ask a question in my view, the Privilege Café being on Zoom doesn’t make that approach any different for me. As I said above, I didn’t want to have a ‘format’ so to speak, it’s much more of a safe, open forum which naturally involves asking questions to learn and engage more. I feel that the more I reinforce that it is OK to ask a question, the less intimidated people feel and if that’s what it takes for me to help educate people then that’s what I’ll do. Learning is always a two process and open questions, for me, give that relaxed, open atmosphere which is part of the DNA of my Café.

Has this changed as the number of Café’s have increased and the number of your guests?

No this approach hasn’t changed nor has it impacted the number of guests. I guess the more guests there are as in speakers the less time to answer questions but again I try to answer as many questions as I can though the chat as well as the open forum discussions with the help of my incredible speakers. The number of panel members really does depend on the interest after I put the call out and so again this reinforces my approach for my Café to be very informal, space and open to all.

During Lockdown the murder of George Floyd and worldwide public demonstrations under the Black Live Matter movement have highlighted institutional racism, inequalities and discussion around Privilege. Do you feel The Café has a role to play in tackling some of the areas above?

Yes, I feel the Privilege Cafe does have a role to play in terms of raising awareness of the issues you raised in the question and it is the exact reason why I created the Café in the first place. I felt that these topics were always seen as ‘add-ons’ in every space I went to and they were always on the ‘menu’ until I as the only person of colour the  majority of the time brought them up during discussions and so with The Privilege Café I hope these issues are on the table and open for debate, discussion and hopefully positive change.  

I first became aware of your work in The Privilege Café on social media. I found the Café and format to be a revelation in terms of the conversations in which you could actively participate. You bring together a broad range of people, providing new perspectives and the opportunity to learn.  There has been a great deal of discussion during the Lockdown of a rejection of the “Old Normal” and embracing the “New Normal” For me personally discovering and attending the Cafes has been one of the most positive outcomes of Lockdown. Your attendance’s can be as high as 300 people, which is staggering. It’s evident your work is hugely important, what would you like to happen next?

Thank you for your comments and an excellent question. Ideally, I would like to take the virtual Privilege Café I have created online and take it offline, in the ‘real world’. I’d love to have a ‘Centre for Women’ where the Privilege Café takes up the main holding space. I’d love the Café to have separate rooms just like it does online where each room has a different speakers or panel members tackling a different theme each week. These rooms would cover topics similar to the ones I’ve covered on zoom which include mental health and wellbeing, education and employment.

Get the Chance supports the public to access and respond to arts activity, if you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I would fund Somali folk dance classes as this is a huge passion of mine as a Somali-Welsh female living in Cardiff; a city with a huge Somali population, one of the oldest minority ethnic group in the UK. Somali folk dance is exciting, fun and most of all its an amazing way to keep fit and healthy; yet this is not included in the ‘arts’ in Wales and this needs to change.

During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations 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 that you would like to highlight?

I don’t think there’s a particular way to engage or work with people, it’s about your network and how you use them wisely, transparently and honestly without trying to better yourself or achieve personal goals. I think what some organisations have found difficult is that they haven’t engaged as they should have prior to Lockdown and so now adapting to the new way of working has meant that those challenges will be that much harder. Advice I would give to these organisations is to be as honest as possible and openly admit that this is not tokenistic and that they haven’t done as well as they should have but this is the long term sustainable goal we want to achieve, oh and we will pay you for your time as we value your input.

Thanks for your time

Connor Allen, Opportunity (Two Years On…)

This article is a follow on from “On Opportunity” Written by Connor Allen in 2017, which can be found below

“We need to ask ourselves how do we encourage the next generation of artists and creatives to strive and aim for the stars? A big factor in encouragement is inspiration. If they never see role models they can relate to win awards how are they ever encouraged to become the next Octavia Spencer or the next Steve McQueen.”

2 years ago I wrote that above quote

On Friday 28th June 2019 … Thousands of young boys and girls sat at home from their “cheap seats” and watched history play out.

They watched a 24 year old Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. headline The biggest music festival in the world. Or as many and most people know him by the name of Stormzy.

The reason I start this article with that is because 2 years ago I wrote about Oprah being sat at home as a little girl in 1964 and watching history play out with Sidney Poitier winning an award and found herself inspired.

Now fast forward over 50 years and the exact same thing has happened.

There are little boys and girls who were either there like I was lucky enough to be, or at home watching, but either way were inspired to see a young Black British man on the biggest stage in the world and his talent and hard work got him to that position.

That inspiration is priceless. And that’s how we encourage the next generation to strive for bigger and better things.

By showing them what they can achieve.

Like I said 2 years ago “If opportunity is not given to people then how are we ever going to be in a position where we can showcase our talents?, be nominated for awards? and inspire our peers and the next generation?”

Stormzy, for example, got the opportunity to headline and smashed it out of Worthy Farm. His talent got him there, not the colour of his skin and that’s inspirational to everyone that can relate. Thats inspirational to all our peers and to the next generation who can watch that and believe that they can headline Glastonbury, Or perform or direct at the National Theatre or on Broadway, Or be on the front cover of GQ, Or play football for a premiership team, or be in the next avengers movie. Or be the next Stormzy or Oprah.

During Stormzy’s set he bought on Dave and Fredo to perform ‘Funky Friday’

He used his platform and his moment to give an opportunity to Dave and Fredo to perform on the pyramid stage and to experience that thrill and allow them to share in the moment.

Thats huge!

I say it all the time in conversations with friends, when running workshops or giving talks – If I’m winning then we’re all winning because I’m going to learn some new skills, new knowledge and make new networks etc which I can then relay back to others to allow them to bask in the new found knowledge and glory I have gained and vice versa.

If YOU are winning then we are all winning because you’re going to learn things that can only help benefit others journeys and careers.

To quote Denzel (as I always do) – “I’m not in this to compete, I’m in this to get better”

That night in June at Glasto, Stormzy was winning but he gave an opportunity for others to win as well.

That for me is on the Macro Level in Stormzy and Oprah and I’m going to bring it to the Micro Level of myself and Wales.

Back home in Wales the last 2 years have been a whirlwind (for me personally)

I’ve been given so many opportunities that have led to me:

  • I’ve had organisations like Literature Wales believe in me and my talent to help develop further works of mine.
  • I’ve been on TV (which for a kid from Hammond Drive is huge – Check out changing the narrative from 27 for more clarity)
  • I’ve been a part of a sold out show by the incredible Tin Shed Theatre again in my hometown.. bringing top class theatre to my doorstep (something I never had when I was growing up)
  • Ive been made Associate Artist of The Riverfront in my hometown of Newport.

And so much more

And when I think of all that and more, I’m so blessed to have had the opportunities to get me to this position in my life and career 2 years later.

Ive had so many people like Julia Thomas, Branwen Davies, Gary Owen, Helen Perry, Justin Cliffe, Louise Richards, Olivia Harris, Bryony Kimmings and more, all give me an opportunity and help nurture my talent and craft so I can be in a position where I can help and inspire the younger generation. I can open doors for them (potentially) that were never opened for me.

But again as I echoed 2 years ago the key word in ALL of that is opportunity.

They’ve given me the opportunity so i’m on the same page as other creatives and artists.

They gave me that opportunity to either sink or swim but it’s that chance that is so greatly needed. Without that chance, very few people can reach the potential that they have the ability to reach.

Without opportunity all that remains is an imbalanced and under-represented system where inspiration can’t flourish.

And without Inspiration many journeys won’t even start and many potentials never realised.

I can’t write this and act like opportunity hasn’t been present for me because it has but hard work and determination has been right along side it as I’ve built a career for the past 6 years.

The more I reflect on the past 2 years since writing that article the more I realise that it has been a good starting point in Wales where more of my peers and community are getting given opportunities and they’re smashing it outta the park everytime.

Alex Riley is breaking down barriers with her Mixed documentary and being a member on the above writing groups alongside myself and starring in smash hit TV like The Tuckers and End of the F***ing World

Mali-Ann Rees is killing it in the Tourist Trap alongside Leroy Brito.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06mf8kn

Kyle Lima, like myself with The Riverfront has been made associate artist of HIS hometown theatre at The Sherman.

The reason I list these Kings and Queens is simply because like myself, 2 years ago they weren’t in the position that they are now.

Through hard work they’ve been given opportunities which they have consistently smashed.

So many young Welsh black and mixed race girls can turn on the tele and see Alex and Mali on their screens. Thats huge! because that’s inspirational. Thats showing them that it can be done and they can one day be in the same position as them.

Like Oprah did when she turned on the TV back five decades ago.

Youth who see Kyle and myself in Associate roles at their hometown theatres again can start to think that they too can achieve the same success. That those local buildings are for them as much as anyone else. They can start to aim for similar aspirations.

Once opportunity is given then all you’re judged on is your talent. It’s a level playing field where all it comes down to is you. BUT opportunity has to be given for the talent to shine.

So carry on giving opportunities to the talented individuals that warrant them and if you can’t find those talented individuals then seek them out. Because trust me theres plenty of them!

Talent comes in all shapes and sizes and we simply HAVE to find that and represent that.

We can’t afford to be lazy.

I guess what am I trying to say with all of this ….

Well simply put, I recently asked a close friend of mine to list White Welsh Published Playwrights and without hesitation they were able to list many amazing playwrights, many of whom I look up to myself and have helped paved the way for me BUT then I said now name me Black Welsh Published Playwrights and there was a pause as we both tried to think.

That pause is what has to change!

And that’s why I list the amazing individuals and there are so many more but in future when little welsh boys and girls of colour are talking about playwrights and writing that represents them and inspires them, they can think of Connor Allen, Alex Riley, Kyle Lima, Darragh Mortell, Taylor Edmonds, Durre Shahwar and so many more

There won’t be a pause.

Thats how we change the system and keep that encouragement for the next generation to follow in the footsteps that we lay before them. We must become the change that we seek. We must become the role models that we never had growing up.

Mentorship and role models are huge and so vital to development. It’s the work of them that lays solid foundations and blueprints down for the next generation to follow and build upon, so they can make a more equal and justified system and industry.

Opportunity is now being given and its a great and much needed starting point.

But we have to develop that starting point.

There is still more that can be done to make equality and inclusivity a more normalised thing within the arts.

Create more gate keepers, role models and mentors that relate to and represent the communities that make up Wales’ rich diverse culture and history.

According to Welsh Government Data only 6% of Wales is made up of “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic” (not sure how much I believe that) but my point is that in a country that is predominantly white we need to make systems and industries that represent ALL walks of life. Even the 6%.

We are experiencing a real positive shift at the moment and this can only be fully realised through education and sacrifice of power and privilege.

I realise that the more I am improving and the more success I gain, the more power and privilege I am given. BUT with that power and privilege I am given, I can make a choice to share that.

Take my recent Literature Wales commission 27, I chose to give some of my commission to other artists to allow them the opportunity to have paid artistic work where one of the artists is still in high school, one is yet to graduate and another has only recently graduated. Now I don’t say that to be like “oh look at me” I say it simply because if I can do that then people in far bigger and more important positions than me can do that as well.

I know how important opportunity has been in getting me to the position I am in today so i’ll never shy away from offering opportunity to those coming up

J Cole says it brilliantly in Middle Child – “I’m dead in the middle of two generations I’m little bro and big bro all at once”

It was only 5/6 years back that I myself was one of those artists looking for a chance and if it wasn’t for people taking a chance on me and believing in me well, I wouldn’t be where I am today, so its only fair that I give back where and when I can.

And if I can do that so can other organisations and institutions. I’m just one man with a modicum of influence. Imagine the potential if others with far more influence and power made the same approach that I have done.

Its about being courageous and then we will see some positive changes. Changes that are generational. That can have an impact for future generations.

Every single role model/person that we look up to, started off exactly like us. As people learning and working to get better.

Yes, many of my community are angry, upset, confused and more at the moment. And its the likes of role models on a global and local level that will maintain the inspiration and development of the next generation. If we don’t see ourselves and our representation then how are we meant to be engaged and inspired to be the next generation of role models and trend setters.

It’s cyclical.

In these dark times we must never forget our own power, our own talent, our own strength.

It’s only in the darkest of times that we can see the light.

And even though opportunities are becoming more and hopefully more of the younger generation are finding hope and inspiration in looking at the current generation of us achieving success we have to strive for more.

Opportunity is just the planting of the seeds, For real fruition we have to see representation in all forms, from all walks of lives showcased throughout the arts and throughout all sectors.

We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world where all forms of race, gender, sexuality, disability and more are ripe and without positive and sustained change then we run the risk of an industry not embracing that and not showcasing every form of the human condition.

Art is a reflection of life, in ALL its forms.

Real collective change can only be made when representation is across all levels of infrastructure.

PERIOD

So as always

Much Love

Keep dreaming

Keep striving

Con x

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

Review Live a Little, Howard Jacobson By Barbara Michaels

Published by Jonathan Cape ISBN 978-1-787-33143-3

Price: £ 7.37 paperback, £9.99 Kindle (Amazon)

Perceptive, erudite prose honed to perfection with a dry acerbic humour is what we have come to expect from Howard Jacobson.  His latest novel, Live a Little, more than justifies those expectations. Jacobson reaches – and maintains throughout – a degree of empathy (not to be mistaken for sympathy) with the two central protagonists -both of them reaching their twilight years.

A colourful yet totally believable character, at the age of ninety-something Beryl Dusinbery is forgetting everything – including her own children.  Nevertheless, with plenty of dosh and worldly goods to cushion her final years, plus two devoted carers, she is still one sparky lady.  Shimi Carmelli, on the other hand, is best described as a nebbish, full of doubts about himself and harbouring a guilty secret.  Despite this, he is still presentable enough to be considered by the Widows of North London (as formidable a bunch of predatory blue-rinsed females as you could find anywhere) a Catch.  

When Beryl and Shimi meet up, there is a rapport between them as each reaches back among tangled memories of the past – some real, others cloaked in cloud.  Memories both fond and painful rise to the surface, with some surprising results.  Jacobson both intrigues and at times irritates; dense italics over several pages can, and do, slow down the narrative.  Nevertheless, as the text delves in and out of the past into the present and back again, the reader is driven onwards, compelled by the insight into the foibles of old age dealt out mercilessly by the author in a combination of empathy and wit, both in the sharpest of spot-on prose that holds the reader in thrall through to the end.

Defined by its brilliance of language and complexity of reach, this, the latest novel of an award-winning author, including the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question, can only be described as a tour de force.  Powerful, unflinching in its approach yet at times hilarious, with an amazingly intelligent yet readable prose, Live A Little was described by John Burnside of The Guardian as being worthy of being seen as “The dystopian British novel of its times.”

 A journey both backwards and forwards in two lives, warts and all.  Pulling all the punches, and bitterly observant of the foibles of advancing years, yet acknowledging that sexual desire can take many forms – and that love can lurk beneath the most unlikely surfaces.

                                                                                                              Barbara Michaels

Graduate Showcase Anna Billes

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

Hello Guy, of course! I have just graduated from my BA Hons Degree Course in Creative and Therapeutic Arts at The University of South Wales.

I have a background in Support Work, Drum Circle Facilitation and Therapeutic Work with the Touch Trust in Cardiff Bay, supporting participants who have a variety of needs to explore the Arts during sensory sessions. I am now going on to develop my business called ‘Young at HeArt’; supporting people of all ages and stages to explore the Arts in intuitive and creative ways. You can find out more about me at my website. Facebook or Instagram.

As part of my graduate, online art exhibition for the final year of my Creative and Therapeutic Arts Degree Course, I will be hosting an ‘Online Parade,’ based on the old folklore tale of Pontypridd’s River Taff. The ‘Online Parade’ will take place on May the 16th (2020) (arriving for 1:45pm) starting at 2pm.


So what got you interested in the arts?

I always enjoyed art in school. In fact, I went to a Steiner School from 14-18 years old. My education at the Steiner School in Edinburgh encouraged me to pursue art as my passion as everything we learned was taught in an arty and holistic way. 

Can you tell us about your creative process?

During my last three years at University, I have discovered that Community is my ‘Art’; my Arts practice revolves around the participants that I work with and their needs. I enjoy exploring the Arts in an intuitive sense, supporting my participants to shape our Arts sessions together in ways which suit them and their creative process. 

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?

Interestingly, I’m actually from Scotland in Edinburgh, although I studied my course in South Wales. At the moment my biggest question is “Where would I like to live next?” In a sense, the world feels like my oyster. I’m happy to go where the work leads me at this point. If someone was to offer me a Community Arts job, working with participants of all ages and stages in a holistic environment, I would be very happy with that! 

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?

At the moment I am working on an online Arts project with Artis Community, exploring the mask making along the theme of ‘Your Inner Warrior.’ At the end of this project, once I have made a series of videos detailing how to make and what you can do with your ‘Warrior Mask,’ I will facilitate a ‘Masquerade Hour’ on Zoom. I’m really looking forward to this! 

I’ve also really enjoyed engaging with some of my drummer friends online. For example my friend Jane Bentley, Doctor of Music, has been working with ‘Luminate’ to show people at home how they can turn their living rooms into an orchestra made out of every day household items. 

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

I think I would fund more intergenerational projects; encouraging older adults and children to explore the Arts together and teach each other their own artistic skills. I am very passionate about working with intergenerational groups, as I think mixing the age groups can really encourage participants to try out new artistic mediums and most importantly, build positive friendships with each other. 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

There seems to be so much going on in the South Wales creative scene! Through my University course I have connected with many amazing Arts professionals who are doing some very exciting and valuable work in hospitals, schools and communities. There seems to be lots of creative opportunities popping up all the time which is wonderful. 


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

Over the last year I have been working on a project called ‘The Heartbeat Project’ with Studio Response at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport; supporting children in hospital to create musical and artistic responses to their heartbeats which they heard through a stethoscope. While my participants played their responses to their heartbeats on djembe drums, bells, chimes and other percussion instruments, I recorded the them on my phone and then we listened back to the recorded sounds and painted what we heard onto a sheet of paper. I am currently in the process of also making a soundscape out of the sounds which I explored with each group of participants. This soundscape will be played in the Multifaith room in the new Grange Hospital in Cwmbran once it has been fully built.  

 Thanks for your time, Anna.

Review Normal People, BBC Three By Vic Mills

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Normal People, written by Sally Rooney, Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe and directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald is based on the novel by Sally Rooney and stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal.

I came to this with no knowledge of the book and for that I am grateful; some of the finest qualities of this drama are in the screenplay, direction and, above all, in the acting, and, whatever the qualities of the novel, this is a piece of art in its own right and should be judged as such.

The characters played by Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal are Connell and Marianne.  The story begins with them in their last year of High School in County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland and follows them in twelve short episodes through the end of Sixth Form and on through their undergraduate years at Trinity, Dublin.

Psychologists and our own experience teaches us that what we go through at this time in our lives identifies us for ourselves – we always see ourselves, in some sense, as what we were then, as our life is at its most intense for us.  The music, the art, the sport and above all the relationships experienced at this time, we come to think of as ‘our time’, ‘our era’.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08b6f9p

It is this quality which drives not the narrative but the emotional landscape of this superb drama.  There is an unerring touch with the writing, editing and the resulting atmosphere of this piece which makes us feel intensely for Connell and Marianne as they stumble into and through their love.

There are a number of likeable and quite well-drawn characters in this piece; Connell’s mother, played beautifully and with real restraint by the gorgeous Sarah Greene is the most notable of the supporting cast – but support is all they ever really are.  You can draw each figure with a sentence as they never matter for themselves, only for the way in which they impact upon Marianne and Connell.  Marianne’s mother and brother clearly impact her life horribly, but it is the impact on her only which is allowed to interest us.  They cannot be allowed to take our eye off the ball by mattering in and of themselves.  The awful death of Connell’s school friend is a central trope which is explored in depth, but we don’t know the boy or care for him, we know Connell and watch him experience his grief.  Similarly, the ghastly boyfriend of Marianne’s is little more than a cipher to show us more of Marianne herself and of Connell.  There is great discipline in the screen writing which never allows us to shift our focus or interest away from our real subject.

The work is intensely claustrophobic; we are almost suffocated by the script and the camerawork; we feel voyeuristic and deeply uncomfortable at being present for such private moments, which are handled beautifully and with the surest of touches throughout.  There’s an awful lot of sex.  Thankfully, it is almost always between Connell and Marianne – Edgar-Jones and Mescal got to know one another very well, without a doubt.  In a world were sex for young people can become so commoditised and influenced by pornography, the simple, tender, naïve couplings of these two youngsters is quite lovely.

There are funny moments, deeply touching moments and an awful lot of dreadfully sad moments.  It was a fine decision to keep episodes so short – we could let ourselves breath after half an hour and feel some measure of relief that it was over, then long for the next episode to begin.

In watching Connell and Marianne we watch ourselves.  That, I think, is the most wonderful thing about this drama – the way in which it takes us to that time in our own lives.   The quality of the work delivers emotions which are raw in the extreme and our late teenage and early twenties lives come roaring back at us like the Sligo waves.

Film and television acting is, by necessity, a very technical thing; making something so convincing, so visceral, so raw and so real then is a huge achievement.  This is work of the very highest order and for those of us who shared Marianne and Connell’s journey, it will stay with us for some time.

Graduate Showcase Lauren Ellis-Stretch

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

Hi! My name is Lauren Ellis-Stretch, am originally from Porthcawl in Bridgend. I am a playwright, theatre maker and some-time critic. I am currently in the midst of, rather abruptly, finishing my studies at the University of Manchester. Approximately, I am only a ‘mere’ 14,000 words away from completing a BA in Drama and English Literature!

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

Well, in highsight I think I’ve always had a penchant for story-telling. I wouldn’t say I lied, but as a child my stories were perhaps always well-embellished… I lied a lot. Then, in secondary school I found Drama and I was seduced by its transformative potential, its collaborative nature, and the magic theatre possesed which I have been chasing ever since. I developed a love for play scripts reading The Tempest, and A View From the Bridge, and other old-exam board favourites. But the seminal moment which transformed my encroaching fascination into true obsession came when we were taken to see A Doll’s House at the Sherman Theatre, in 2015. It was one of the first professional plays I had ever seen, and I just knew that I wanted to make things that made people feel as electrified as that production had me.

A Dolls House, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Credit Nick Allsop

Can you tell us about your creative process?

A lot of reading, seeing things, talking to people, quite often it involves ill-timed epiphanies which send me scrambling to find loose paper or the notes app on my phone. I haven’t yet had the pleasure, and perhaps, equally, the horror of working over a long stretch of time on one project. Mostly, the plays that I have written have been churned out in the pressure-cooker of student theatre in which everything is created within a max of ten days, mid-essay deadlines. It has been, on the whole, an exhilarating way to work, and always an intensely visceral process. However, I do look forward to seeing how I can approach writing over an extended period of time in the hope that I will expand, develop, and interrogate the work more thoroughly than ever before.

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?

I think what is required is guidance. There is going to be a lot of time, which I identified above as something which could be incredibly beneficial in an artists’ process. However, this runs the risk of resulting in a stagnated period of learning about our chosen crafts. If the pace at which you’re working, and trying things out is particularly rapid you will learn what mistakes not to make again, and what is good practice very quickly. To see more mature and experienced artists reaching out to younger artists  (not only in age but in experience) and offering their support and guidance would be particularly beneficial for the individuals; also, on a wider scale, this could assure the emergence of a thriving and innovative, post-lockdown, industry.

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?

There is so much incredible content being put online at the moment! I have been thoroughly enjoying watching NT Live productions, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical screenings. I also, recently, enjoyed a very sweaty Frantic Assembly warm-up with Simon Pittman, which was inspired by their show Beautiful Burnout. And, I loved listening to Ashes to Ashes Funk to Funky by Martha Reed on Chippy Lane’s Podcast.

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

I think, biasly (as my passion is for playwriting) that more needs to be done by established theatres to engage with new, fresh and diverse voices in Wales. I think the Welsh industry, in comparison to other theatre ecologies in the UK, is really lacking in a scripted theatre/playwriting culture. I think recent steps towards readdressing this by the Sherman Theatre, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, the Other Room, and Chippy Lane Productions has been a step in the right direction but this has to continue. Particularly, there needs to be more effort in engaging with BAME, working-class and womxn writers.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Having a theatre scene that is effectively much smaller, and less established than in cities such as London and Manchester means that there is a real sense that anything is possible! Also, there is access to certain resources that in a larger cultural hub would be hard to access. The community, for example, in the Welsh arts scene is particularly inspiring for young artists, I feel. More experienced artists often seem very willing to share their experience and time with you which can be so rewarding when you’re just starting out.

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

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats at HOME, in Manchester! It’s not the last great thing I saw, however, it is really really great, and I’d like to put a spotlight on a smaller theatre company. (However, Three Sisters at the National Theatre, and the Royal Exchange’s Wuthering Heights have been other cultural highlights for me, in the past couple of months!) But, Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats was a piece of theatre that I found so incredibly joyous, thought-provoking, and devastating all at the same time.

It was political, and silly, and they gave out a lot of booze. It was an wholly-encompassing and arresting theatrical experience. I don’t want to say too much about it because hopefully, at some point in the future, they will continue with their tour, and you will get to see it! The reason I think it’s so notable as a great piece of theatre, though, is because for younger theatre-makers it is the perfect example of being anarchistic, daring, and completely unique in your rebellion; and I think that is what will be needed of us in an artistic landscape, post-lockdown, creative rebellion. 

Many thanks for your time Lauren.