Creative Spaces

‘Straeon’ means ‘tale’ in Welsh. This is the tale of a girl who loses her grandfather’s keys, and her quest to find it and return it to him.

 

The story was created by year 4-5 pupils at St Aloysius Primary School in Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil. The class worked with storyteller and performer Michael Harvey for six weeks, and then with illustrator Sarah Edmunds on a one-week residency. The inspiration for the story came from a visit from one of the pupils’ grandfathers. He told the group about some of the places and things he used to do as a child, and brought in some photographs and miniature trains for the pupils to look at.

After hearing Michael tell some stories, the class got to work on creating their own. They recapped some of the key characters, objects and places they had heard from the pupil’s grandfather’s visit, and then decided together what their story would be about. Once it was written, the class split into groups and each wrote out a section of the story.

Over the following weeks, these sections of writing were developed and edited until the story was complete. A week of illustration workshops followed, and pupils worked with a range of media to bring their story to life.

From our perspective, Straeon generates representions of young people which counter those often associated with a stigmatised and negatively perceived area within Merthyr Tydfil.Branded as failing, lacking and even hopeless, Gurnos has struggled with negative media portrayals and headlines such as “Male and living on the Gurnos? You’d be better off in Haiti”. In 2010, Sky News filmed a documentary in which the presenter described Gurnos as having a “stench of decay,” ignoring the abundance of excellent community based activity and choosing not to speak to the many proud, strong and creative people who live there.

Although examples of genuine creative talent have emerged in recent years, for example through the work of Forsythia Youth, these are rarely disseminated to an audience with the authority to make decisions about the area’s future.  The aim of the Representing Communities project is to explore how the arts and humanities can enable communities to develop, with artists, representations of themselves and their communities, speaking to policy and other decision-making audiences. We believe that Straeon is one example of how young people can flourish creatively and produce a high-quality example of children’s fiction.

The project was devised by Jên Angharad, project manager for POSSIB, which is part of the Lottery-funded MAGNET project led by Voluntary Action Merthyr Tydfil.

key trouble

 

A Town Like Merthyr

These films are two parts of a Sky News documentary aired in 2010, focusing on Merthyr and in particular Gurnos in North Merthyr. The film focuses on employment and benefits, and includes some interviews with local residents. When we started the North Merthyr case study, we were struck by the anger and hurt this programme caused local people to feel, several years after it had been aired.

Message from Merthyr

This film was made by Engine House Productions, in particular two sisters Gemma and Donna Griffiths, about proposed benefit cuts in 2011. In the film the sisters explore the context and challenges of benefit reform, including Iain Duncan Smith’s suggestion that people from Merthyr should travel to Cardiff to work. It is an example of a community-generated representation.

Silver Hoodies

Two-part film

Silver Hoodies documents a literacy project involving young people from Forsythia Youth and residents in a residential home in North Merthyr. The groups worked with a poet (Mike Church) and rapper (Rufus Musafa) to create a series of poems and raps about their lives and community. The project was funded by Merthyr Valleys Homes.

 

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