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Participatory Arts – Thinking Beyond The Lockdown. A Response From Kathryn Williams, Director Rubicon Dance and Tracey Brown, Mentoring, Training, Development Leader, Rubicon Dance.

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.

Thinking Beyond the Lockdown

These Zoom meetings will explore how we think beyond the lockdown. We’ll explore what the future might hold, what we might keep from our online experiences, and how we live with an uncertain future.

Tracey Brown, Mentoring, Training, Development Leader and Kathryn Williams, Director, Rubicon Dance Dance are presenting at the Dance focused Zoom meeting on Wednesday the 10th of June 3-5pm. 

Kathryn Williams, Director, Rubicon Dance is presenting at the Community Arts meeting organised by Tanio on Thu, 11 June, 2-3.30pm

The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kathryn and Tracey share their biographies below and some information on of areas they will discuss at the meetings below.

Kathryn Williams


Rubicon’s Director since 2014, I studied Dance at Roehampton. My career has spanned IT, Finance as well as the Third Sector and the Arts. I have an MSc in Entrepreneurship, I’m a Lead Wales graduate and I’m also Wales’ first Pilotlighter.

I think that access to the arts is a democratic right and this very much spaces my approach to what I do. I’m also a School Governor, childcare campaigner, advocate for the arts and committed martial artist. I live in the former mining community of the Rhondda in South Wales with my husband and teenage sons.


Tracey Brown


Tracey has worked at Rubicon since September 1996 and her very first role was Dance Development Worker, leading dance sessions for a wide range of ages, abilities and backgrounds and contexts whilst setting up Rubicon’s development programme across Cardiff which initially targeted five key areas of the city.


Tracey now manages Rubicon CPD programmes, an annual summer programme for community dance practitioners from across Wales, an individual learning programme for Rubicon’s dance practitioners, the community dance apprentice training programme, mentor development as well as the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP).

Highlight’s for Tracey’s time at Rubicon includes the success and reach of the development programme, the Rubicon to Romania programme working with deaf children in Craiova, the community dance apprentice programme and the Wales Wide Training Programme! In 2017 Tracey won a Creative and Cultural Skills Council UK Award for her work with community dance apprentices.


Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP)


At the Dance meeting Tracey will talk about the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP) which is an initiative that exists to support the development of community dance practice and provision across Wales. WWTP was established in 2013 with seven partners, all of whom were community dance/arts organisations. There are now seventeen partners from across Wales and these include venues and theatres, universities, national companies, colleges as well as the initial community dance and arts organisations. WWTP is steered by the partners who work together to design and organise training and professional development programmes that respond to sector-need.


The database is currently at 250 (it started with 40 in 2013) and includes a range of people from practitioners, apprentices, venue managers, health boards, arts organisations, freelancers and directors.


Challenges and solutions


WWTP is a programme that enables people who work in the dance sector to come together regularly and this takes place across Wales. There are currently twelve strands to WWTP and it was important to keep all of this work happening, especially as many of these strands take place more than once eg CPD days three per year across Wales. Initially when COVID-19 and lockdown began we were coming out of one year of funding and into another so the challenge was how the whole programme would be adapted in the new climate especially as both programmes overlapped. However we have adapted well and have re ordered the programme (May 2020-April 2021) and have met with partners and also practitioners from the database regularly via Zoom.


An Evaluation Forum that was scheduled for March 2020 (pre lockdown) and due to be led by Dr Susanne Burns was initially open to twelve people as this training is very tailored.

We have adapted this to have three Evaluation Forums on Zoom and they are open to eight people per session so our reach is higher, albeit online. The first two forums have already sold very quickly.


Another big challenge was thinking about the work force and that people will have less money than ever so it was important to offer a “pay what you can” approach. People have great trust and loyalty to WWTP and we feel that being fair to all is really important right now. WWTP is a training programme and no one should not sign up for events and CPD due to lack of finance or these people could de skill or lose confidence in a professional capacity quickly.


Further links

Wales Wide Training Programme Facebook Page
kathryn@rubicondance.co.uk
tracey@rubicondance.co.uk
www.rubicondance.co.uk

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


Hyfforddiant Hanner Diwrnod Am Ddim Ar Waith Grŵp Creadigol Ar Zoom

“It’s been a life saver. It’s like I’ve got a blanket of friends around my shoulders” Cyfranogwr ar Zoom 

Ydych chi’n ymarferwr Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd sydd eisiau trosglwyddo eich gwaith ar-lein?

Mewn ymateb i Covid-19, mae Re-Live wedi datblygu ymarfer cynhwysfawr ar Zoom gydag oedolion hŷn, pobl sy’n byw gyda dementia, cyn-filwyr sy’n byw gydag anhwylder straen ôl-drawmatig a phobl sy’n byw gyda gorbryder ac iselder.

Ymhlith y sesiynau roedd: Bywyd Stori Gwaith, Drama/Gwaith Byrfyfyr, Cerddoriaeth a Chanu

Mae Re-Live yn edrych am 12 ymarferwr Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd i fod y cyntaf i gymryd rhan yn yr hyfforddiant newydd sbon hwn. Bydd yr hyfforddiant yn cyflwyno’r cyfranogwyr i sgiliau, offer ac egwyddorion hanfodol sydd eu hangen i gynnal sesiynau arloesol a moesegol y Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd ar Zoom. Bydd yr hyfforddiant yn:

●  eich gwahodd i gael profiad o sesiwn Zoom fel cyfranogwr ac adlewyrchu ar y profiad

●  rhannu ymarferion creadigol sy’n gweithio Zoom, gan gynnwys Bywyd Stori Gwaith, drama, canu,

cerddoriaeth

●  adeiladu sgiliau a hyder i arwain sesiwn Zoom, gan gynnwys rheoli ystafelloedd ymneilltuo

●  trafod cyfrinachedd a chysyniad wrth weithio gyda grwpiau agored i niwed ar-lein

●  darparu cyfle unigryw i artistiaid ddarganfod ffyrdd newydd o archwilio ac ehangu eu hymarfer

Cyfarwyddwr Artistig Re-Live, Karin Diamond, fydd yn arwain y sesiynau hyfforddiant. Cynhelir yr hyfforddiant yn Saesneg ond rydym yn croesawu ymarferwyr celf cyfrwng Cymraeg gan fod Karin yn ddwyieithog.

Os oes gennych ddiddordeb, anfonwch e-bost at karin@re-live.org.uk yn nodi eich profiad o’r Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd ac yn esbonio pam fod yr hyfforddiant penodol hwn o ddiddordeb i chi.

Gan fod yr hyfforddiant am ddim, byddwn yn gofyn i chi adlewyrchu ar yr hyfforddiant trwy ddarparu adborth ysgrifenedig neu ar lafar ar 3 cham: ar ôl yr hyfforddiant, cyn eich sesiwn cyntaf ar Zoom ac ar ôl eich sesiwn cyntaf ar Zoom. Bydd y broses gwerthuso yn cymryd tua 3 awr a bydd yn hysbysu sut mae Re- Live yn datblygu’r hyfforddiant hwn ar gyfer grwpiau eraill yn y dyfodol.

Hyd yr hyfforddiant: 3.5 awr (9.30am – 1pm) Ble: Zoom Pryd: 18 Mehefin 2020

Mae Re-Live yn fudiad Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd sydd wedi ennill sawl gwobr sy’n darparu rhaglen ddeinamig, ysbrydoledig o ymarfer Bywyd Stori Gwaith trwy theatr, symudiad, cerddoriaeth a chân. www.re-live.org.uk

Free Half Day Training In Creative Group Work On Zoom

“It’s been a life saver. It’s like I’ve got a blanket of friends around my shoulders” Zoom participant 

Are you an Arts in Health practitioner looking to transfer your work online?

In response to Covid-19, Re-Live have developed an extensive creative Zoom practice with older adults, people living with dementia, veterans living with PTSD and people living with anxiety and depression.

Sessions have included: Life Story Work, Drama/Improvisation, Music & Singing

Re-Live are looking for 12 Arts in Health practitioners to be the first cohort of this brand new training. The training will introduce practitioners to essential skills, tools and principles needed to carry out innovative and ethical Arts in Health sessions via Zoom. 

The training will:

●  Invite you to experience a creative Zoom session as a participant and reflect on the experience

●  Share creative exercises that work in the Zoom Room, including Life Story Work, drama, singing, music

●  Build skills and confidence in leading a Zoom session, including managing breakout rooms

●  Discuss confidentiality and consent when working with vulnerable groups online

The training will provide a unique opportunity for artists to find new ways of exploring and widening their practice

Re-Live Artistic Director, Karin Diamond, will lead the training session. The training will be in English, but we welcome Welsh language arts practitioners as Karin is bilingual.

If you are interested, please send an email to karin@re-live.org.uk outlining your experience of Arts in Health practice and what has drawn you to this particular training.

As the training is free, we will be asking you to reflect on the training by providing written or oral feedback at 3 separate stages: post-training, before your first Zoom session and post-Zoom session. The evaluation process will take 3 hours approx and will inform how Re-Live develops this training for future cohorts.

Training time: 3.5 hours (9.30am – 1pm) Where: Zoom When: 18th June 2020

Re-Live is an award-winning Arts in Health organisation providing a dynamic, inspirational programme of Life Story Work practice through theatre, movement, music and song. www.re-live.org.uk

Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning, A Response from Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns Manager, National Dance Compny Wales

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.

Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns, National Dance Company Wales is presenting at the first Zoom Dance meeting on Wednesday 3rd June 3-5pm The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Megan gives an overview of the work NDCWales has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support professional and participatory dance delivery in the current climate.

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

Hi I’m the Marketing Campaigns Manager for National Dance Company Wales: under usual circumstances that means I lead on connecting with our audiences and communities with a focus on the national touring work that we do. I work closely with the Participation department who are a fundamental part of how we connect with and stay connected with our audiences.


At the moment that work is much the same – but with a hugely digital focus, and a wealth of new ways to share dance with people. From early on in the lockdown we’ve seen a huge rise in people dancing across media from TicTok to daily community dance parties in the street.

I’ve been with the Company for just under nine years so for me that’s really exciting to see, the heart of my role is sharing this thing that I love with the world- I truly believe that dance is a universal language that is available for everyone from shuffling along to the radio in your kitchen right through to sitting in an Opera House watching a contemporary ballet.

NDCWales has as real ethos that dance is a wide spectrum and we try touch people with dance at all levels. I’m here to reassure those unsure about watching dance or bringing physicality into their bodies – to take away that fear of the unknown.

What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice and what systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

Our biggest challenge was not unique – how could we digitally re-create work that relies on physicality and connection; how could we do it with reduced resource, and what should the focus be?

We were just two venues into our twelve venue mid-scale touring – our largest annual tour, one that we rely on not just for income but for connecting with people.


As a Company we already had plans to create a digital programme over the next year, but in response to COVID 19 we needed to do this more urgently. We were not in a position to move everything that we usually do online, there wasn’t the money or capacity – but as a Company we value all aspects of our work equally. To help focus our resources, we asked our audiences and looked inwards,

“National Dance Company Wales makes brilliant dance with and for all kinds of people in all kinds of places. With innovation and imagination, we widen the spectrum of what dance can be so that more people can make, watch, participate in and learn about dance in Wales and across the world.”

So we put our energy on repurposing what we already had and building on what we do well-  creating spaces to learn about, and participate in dance at a range of levels.

It was important too that content was as accessible as possible – using captions and BSL interpreters wherever we could. This meant that things such as live classes were not a solution for us at the outset because they could not easily be captioned in real time.


To make things as streamlined as possible we used simple ideas and simple programmes, that could be used quickly and taught quickly to people who might be working in new ways.

We used Zoom, YouTube and Facebook live and explored new ways of manipulating these programmes in ways that they may not usually be used. We also used simple editing and captioning programmes – and taught anyone in the Company with a free hour how to use them.


To ensure a polished feel despite content being created in different spaces, on different cameras and in different styles, we created simple branding and guidelines that were easy to follow and carefully spent money on animations to tie the content together.

The creation of #KiN:Connected was hard work, but that hard work was met with innovative ideas and rewarding content – and I’m really proud of how quickly all of the team pulled together to create a virtual version of our work – right through from the performance streaming and post-show-talks to the . bilingual classes for children about rugby and dance.

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

I’m really proud of all of the work that we’ve pulled together to get done during this time – but some stand outs for me are:
 

The live performance of 2067: Time and Time and Time (a reimagining of a repertoire piece from our cancelled tour, performance from the dancers home and directed in real time by the choreographer).

Our Rygbi learning pack and everything that surrounds it (including bilingual classes for parents of welsh speaking children who may not speak welsh themselves, and of course the full length stream of the piece itself).

Our dance classes for adults with mobility issues – we’ve had a lot of mums of NDCWales team members use them in their daily routines, which has been really directly rewarding.

I think the biggest challenge for us moving forwards is maintaining meaningful relationships with our amazing participants and continuing to imagine new ways to bring dance to them – especially those who may not be digitally proficient. 

What are your plans for future delivery?

We are just moving into the second phase of our digital delivery – taking our learning from the first phase and building on it with more real-time live performances and exciting collaborations with other Welsh companies. We’re also launching some things that took a little longer for us to perfect for our participants such as our Dance for Parkinson’s classes.

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?

It’s been really inspiring to see how resilient the sector is as a whole and how vitally important the arts are for people’s health and wellbeing at this time (possibly more than ever). Arts companies have been at the forefront of providing accessible and free content for home-schooling, fun classes to keep us fit when we are unable to leave our homes, and beautiful digital distractions in the forms of films, play readings, dance, get togethers, streamed performances and more.

Below is a guide to streaming a live performance from NDCWales, Stage Manager, Perla Ponce. (Please note this information is in a draft format and will be updated.)

Participatory Arts – Thinking Beyond the Lockdown, A Response from Catherine Young, Director Dawns i Bawb.

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.

Thinking Beyond the Lockdown

These Zoom meetings will explore how we think beyond the lockdown. We’ll explore what the future might hold, what we might keep from our online experiences, and how we live with an uncertain future.

Director of Dawns i Bawb, Catherine Young is presenting at the second Zoom meeting on Wednesday the 10th of June 3-5pm. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Catherine gives a personal response below to the challenges and solutions she has created to support participatory dance delivery in the current climate.

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


Hi my name is Catherine Young and I am Artistic Director for Dawns i Bawb – the Community Dance Organisation for North West Wales.

I have worked in the Community Dance sector for over 20 years. I graduated with a BA Contemporary Dance from De Montfort University, did a 2 year Community Dance apprenticeship before working as a Community Dance Practitioner in Ceredigion for 18 years before coming to Dawns i Bawb 4 years ago. I have also worked as an independent choreographer, creating professional work within community contexts. The values connected to Community Dance have always been a passion of mine and I love creating work with people of all walks of life. I am also very passionate about the Welsh language and this is always reflected in every creative thing I do. I believe that Dawns i Bawb is the only Welsh language dance organisation in Wales and I am very proud of this fact.


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

This has been the biggest challenge that we as a Community Dance organisation and the sector as a whole, has ever faced. Community Dance is about a connected and shared experience – bringing people and communities together through dance. These important factors have not disappeared and in fact, are more important than ever. But our old way of working has gone. Our challenge now is to maintain our purpose but find a new way of doing so. We have to respond and adapt to our current way of life. For me personally, the lockdown has caused me to question a lot of our current way of working – from how accessible we really are to how our relationships with freelance dance artists. I’ve been having many of these conversations with Arts Council Wales recently and I think that this situation is going to raise many conversations. We need to be brave and have these conversations. I think our future dance sector might look very different after this. And perhaps it should.


What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

It took about 6 weeks in lockdown before we started focussing on delivery. In less than a week we lost our entire dance programme, had to leave our office and were then placed in lockdown and like with everyone, it was a huge shock. Myself and my staff needed time to come to terms with everything so we took small steps at the start. I then began looking at what our short term future might look like and worked with my Board and Arts Council Wales Officer to put a 6 month Contingency Plan in place. I thought at the start that it would just be a matter of waiting for the storm to pass but after a few weeks began to change my attitude to our situation.

I’ve always felt it important that we as artists, respond to the world around us and really, this situation is no different. There is nothing in the arts that is impossible and I have always believed this. Once I changed my way of thinking, the creative juices started to flow! I looked carefully at our programme and all our different participants and began to put plans into place of how we can keep connected to them. Our programme is very varied and we work with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. We are now about to dive into the world of online working starting with our after school clubs for children and young people. We almost have a different plan for each one of our groups as they all have very different needs.


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


As we venture into online working, the most important thing for me is that our ethos remains as strong as ever. It is crucial that we hold on to our values. I know some find out odd when I say this as a Director of a dance organisation, but dance is not the main focus of what we do. Our focus is on people, on communties, on connection, relationships and the shared experience. Dance is the medium through which we enable this to happen. I want to ensure that even though our way of working has changed, that all these important elements remain.

This will be the biggest challenge that we face, not just Dawns i Bawb but the sector as a whole. Being able to carry on with our programme has certainly challenged me to think outside the box! As we take work on line, one of the challenges has been how we keep connected to the most vulnerable people that we work with. One example is our Care Home Programme. We were working regularly with around 20 care homes before lockdown, mostly with people who are living with Dementia. We contacted staff to discuss whether online sessions might work to be told that the majority were ‘shielding’ and unable to leave their rooms or be in contact with other residents. We therefore needed another way to be able to communicate with the residents.

I successfully applied for a small grant from Community Foundation Wales and received permission to adapt a grant that we had received previously from Peoples Health Lottery to enable us to buy around 25 electronic tablets to loan to care homes that would enable people to receive 1:1 dance activity in their rooms – either live or already pre-recorded into the tablet. Tackling social isolation is a big part of our work and this is more crucial than ever. Therefore, I want to ensure that the tablets can be used for more than DiB activity – they can be used for people to keep in contact with loved ones and to receive creative activity from our partner organisations. For example, I have been talking with Conwy Culture Centre about the idea that people can access their archives through our tablets.


What are your plans for future delivery?


I think we have to face the reality that we will be working like this for a while and that online working might not just be a temporary measure. Even if we can start back some kind of activity in September, strict social distancing will still be in place so our sessions are going to look very different for quite a while. Everything is still so uncertain so every plan I make has about 3 back up plans attached to it! Dawns i Bawb does an annual Christmas production every year. It is our highlight with 100+ performers and 500+ audience. I am currently planning 3 different scenarios to enable the performance to happen in December. It might have to be a whole different experience, but it will happen.


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?


The way that the Arts sector in Wales has responded to all of this is amazing. I would like to mention ACW for the way that they have supported and taken leadership of the situation and for the way they have supported me and Dawns i Bawb. They have tons of useful resources on their website. Also People Dancing for the support they have offered the Community Dance sector and the useful resources they have put together which are on their website.

Thanks for your time Catherine.

Series Review, 35 Diwrnod: Parti Plu, S4c, by Gareth Williams

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

There is nothing like a dining table to expose a series of lies and untold truths. Many would point to Mike Bartlett’s terrific 2015 drama Doctor Foster as the epitome of that. Yet there is a scene in the latest series of 35 Diwrnod that comes close. After four episodes cranking up the tension, this moment represents the point at which the bomb, slowly ticking away since the opening scene, truly starts to go off. It is an extraordinarily gripping scene, full of revelation, as the incalculable web of mystery and intrigue that writer Fflur Dafydd has spun begins to quickly unravel. True to her style however, she leaves enough enigmatic plot points to keep the viewer on tenterhooks to the final moment of the final episode.

What I love most about the writing of Fflur Dafydd is her attention to detail. The series may set up Beth (Gwenllian Higginson) as the main character, whose impending marriage to Dylan (Geraint Todd) provides the focal point, but the interlocking narratives of every single character and the gradual exposure of their secret links to one another means that, in the end, it becomes an ensemble drama. We as viewers become invested in every single person because Dafydd herself has gone to great lengths to make each of them complete and fully rounded characters in their own right. It means that there is no let up; no subplot that exists simply to give the viewer a break from the main focus of the drama. Instead, it is a constant stream of deliberate action, in which every interaction, however mundane on the surface, becomes a point of information that feeds into the wider narrative. The viewer gets drip fed little details, sometimes through dialogue, sometimes via a cleverly crafted camera shot, which act as tantalising threads that keep us hooked. It is a visual guessing game that springs surprises and often plays with our expectations. Dafydd is without doubt one of Britain’s best screenwriters.

This latest series of 35 Diwrnod also features some of Wales’ best acting talent, with Sion Ifan (Efan) and Rhodri Meilir (Bill) starring alongside some inspiring new faces, none more so than Emmy Stonelake (Angharad). Indeed, Meilir and Stonelake are excellent as a married couple whose relationship becomes increasingly fractious due to the former’s controlling behaviour. The calm and calculated persona that Meilir adopts in Bill’s attempts to isolate Angharad from her friends helps achieve a verisimilitude that offers a welcome contrast to some of the more outlandish content in this drama. Stonelake portrays the emotional effects of Bill’s behaviour on Angharad with such obvious subtlety that though it may not grab you by the scruff of the neck like in series two of Bang, this domestic abuse storyline still resonates with a quiet power. Dafydd handles it with great sensitivity, just as she seems to with transgenderism. The inclusion of a character in the process of transitioning may be used as a plot twist, but the emotional impact on them and their family strikes me as sympathetic and considerate in its portrayal. Dafydd balances high-octane scenes with delicate moments really well. 35 Diwrnod: Parti Plu is an emotional rollercoaster for the viewer as much as it is for its characters.

I am always fascinated by the exploration of memory and perception that is a feature of all Fflur Dafydd dramas. In this series of 35 Diwrnod we witness the mental traumas that some characters carry, the mental anguish that others feel, as well as the mind games that a few play. Viewers are frequently challenged in their perception of what is happening onscreen, the many surprises and twists throughout providing plenty of mental stimulation that causes us to think twice about our own theories and assumptions as we engage with this incredibly intricate world of Dafydd’s own imagination. I did think that I had her writing figured out. But as my early expectations failed to match with the outcomes onscreen, I realised that it was facetious to even entertain the notion that I could second guess her every move. 35 Diwrnod has deservedly returned for another series with critical acclaim. It further cements Fflur Dafydd’s reputation as a master storyteller.

Watch the series on S4C’s Clic here.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

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

Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning, A Response from Sara Sirati, Ardour Academy.

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.

Director of Ardour Academy, Sara Sirati is presenting at the first Zoom Dance meeting on Wednesday 3rd June 3-5pm The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Sara gives a personal response below to the challenges and solutions she has created to support participatory dance delivery in the current climate.

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

Hi I’m Sara… a therapist, dancer and choreographer. I’m also the director of a Cardiff-based dance and well-being, not for profit organisation called ‘Ardour Academy’.

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

I think mainly wrapping our heads around the sudden change and making decisions that would benefit all our staff and participants, were emotional and practical challenges for us. We wanted to ensure we continued to run our services, when people need it the most and find effective ways of moving our services online. The Arts can struggle regardless of the COVID-19 crisis, and of course even more so recently, due to the crisis.

 What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

We made sure that we piloted a few workshops, using a variety of systems such as Ζoom, Microsoft Τeams and Facebook Live. We collected data from our participants regarding clarity of picture, sound, genres and duration of classes. Following government guidelines, we set up our studio with required equipment to ensure smooth and professional delivery of sessions, whilst keeping our instructors safe during lone working.We were very lucky to have local artists and practitioners that could walk to the studio and deliver sessions, whilst strictly following government guidelines.  

We also moved all our therapeutic practices to telephone and videocall services.

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

I guess funding was a major challenge for us. We were shocked to realise that all the small business funds released by the Welsh Government did not include not-for-profit organisation. We noticed a lot of “loopholes” in the information released, which discriminated against businesses like ours.  Although at the time feeling incredibly disappointed and defeated, we have instead made the decision to focus on Third Sector and Arts Sector funding. Politically this was a tough decision to wrap our heads around and accept that community projects would suffer, due to the nature of funding schemes passed by the Welsh Government.

On a more positive note, I would recommend connecting with others that are doing similar projects. I was positively surprised by the number of people that offered to help when I put a post out or sent an email. I would also recommend taking into consideration the fatigue caused by virtual learning and delivery. It’s important to manage your expectations and accept that it is not the same as what we may have been used to and our experience as result may feel different. Piloting projects and going in with an open mind has been very helpful for us.

What are your plans for future delivery?

We aim to have a virtual and varied timetable of dance, mindfulness and fitness by the end of June. It has been important to us to take our time with this, and try things out whilst holding a curious stance. Going forward, we see ourselves offering online classes for a minimum of six months. Our studio offers a lot of partner dances, including Salsa, Swing Dance and Tango which are intimate in nature, and contact based. We are not prepared to deliver those classes, even if government guidelines relax as we want to ensure our practice is as safe as possible. Hence, getting our online timetable right, and utilising the expertise of our instructors is key to us. We will also continue to run our therapeutic services online for the upcoming months. I would like to add here that we offer affordable counselling, and currently have the capacity to offer free counselling to a small number of individuals experiencing financial difficulties. We also issue hardship passes for our classes, which would allow a number of individuals to engage with weekly classes, they otherwise may not be able to afford.

Thanks for your time Sara

Jade Fox’s Marvellous Mini Galleries at National Museum Wales

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

My name is Jade Fox and I am a 25 Year old Museum Assistant at National Museum Wales.

I am originally from Cheshire Warrington in England and I first moved to  Cardiff 10 years ago at the age of 15. I still remember the first time a walked through the doors of National Museum Wales, Cardiff. I was blown away by its size and beauty and I would have never imaged I would work in a place like that. I started my career at the Museum around 9 years ago when I first applied for a position as a catering assistant for Elior at St Fagans. I was successful but was told my personality suited the Cardiff Museum. I’m still not sure whether or not that was a compliment or not! Although I would describe myself as someone who is full of terrible dad jokes, I am definitely one of a kind. So this is where my journey began. I worked for around 5 to 6 years occasionally looking into a position as a Museum Assistant when I was finally approached and very gladly accepted. Now 4 years later and I’m still enjoying the wonders that the Museum has to offer.

 So, what got you interested in the Arts, Museums and Heritage?

I’ve always loved art and photography but I would be lying if I said I knew much about the Welsh Heritage or the arts collection that the Museum had to offer when I first moved to Cardiff but after some exploring that soon changed. My interest truly begun though when I started my role as a Museum Assistant. I was immediately  blown away by the collection and I knew I wanted to learn more, not just for myself but so I could offer the visitors of the Museum the best experience I could.  I used to spend my time reading up on the collections and listening to the tours. Everyday I learnt something new and everyday my love for the art and heritage grew. From the Davies Sisters collection to William Wynn Watkins there is just so much to explore and learn and I’m still learning today.

During Lockdown you are creating miniature galleries based on the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. Your photographs of your work are incredible! How did inspiration strike?

My inspiration actually came from a good friend of mine Laura. I’ve always been a crafty person but due to life and work I no longer have the time to explore that side of me. So what better time than now. I had recently posted a few images of some paintings I had worked on during the lock down. After seeing this Laura shared a post with me about someone who had created a small gallery for their pet Gerbil’s and suggested I give it a go.

Immediately my imagination went wild with all the things I could build and create in the Museum and how I was going to build it.

Can you describe your creative process with your miniature marvels?

Firstly I needed image’s from the gallery to build a plan on how I was going to achieve this. Unfortunately at this time the Museum is closed so I got access to the images through the National Museum of Wales website and the general internet. Now also due to being in lock down materials aren’t easy to come by at the moment so I used what I had to hand, A pizza box some masking tape and some old paints that had been hiding at the back of my wardrobe since the dawn of time. I firstly built the William Wynn Watkins organ to use as a size scale and bit by bit I built the reaming objects and paintings from a bit of cardboard, masking tape, paints and superglue in which there was many incidents.

Do you have a favourite gallery space and artwork at National Museum Wales?

It’s hard to choose a favourite gallery as I love them all. But I would say one of my favourites would be the landscape gallery which was the second model I created. Now in the landscape gallery you will find a painting by Manfred Uhlman called Welsh Mountains I would say this is one of my personal favourites. This piece stands out for me, The use of colours is incredible and it fills me with such warmth and joy as it reminds me of home.

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

This is a very difficult question as there are so many areas of the arts and heritage sector that need funding and support, some of which I’m not aware of but the one that stands out for me though would be the learning sector with in the National Museum Wales. Its not just a museum but a place of learning for all. It would be amazing if we could only offer more to the general public and find ways of making it more accessible for all.

What excites you about Culture in Wales?

Wales is such a proud and passionate nation. I remember when I first experienced Saint Davids Day in Cardiff the streets were full of proud Welsh men, women and children they lit up the whole of Wales. I could feel the passion and even I felt proud. There is such a rich culture and history that surrounds Wales. This shown in the National Museums of Wales from St Fagan’s, National Museum of History, National Waterfront Museum, Big Pit National Coal Museum, National Slate Museum, National Wool Museum and the National Roman Legion Museum.

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

The last exciting thing I did? Well at the moment it’s getting up to make another cup of tea. On a serious note though, I would say the last exciting thing I did was when I visited my family back home in Cheshire. Myself and my dad dad took a trip to the Trafford Center to play mini golf. We missed several busses and totally got on the wrong train at one point but the laughs we had will always stay with me. I also won at mini golf twice which was defiantly a bonus!

Thanks for your time Jade.