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Have Your Say – Online Consultation for Public Art Commission

Have Your Say - online consultation Public Art Commission

Ancient Connections is commissioning an ambitious public art project that will culminate in two artworks, one in St Davids and one in Ferns. The artworks will be linked to each other in some way, encouraging visitors to go to both regions to truly appreciate the artwork as a whole.

Back in November 2019, the project team undertook community consultation in Ferns and St Davids to understand better people’s hopes and expectations for the public art. There was common agreement among those who participated that accessible and interactive artworks made from environmentally sustainable materials and methods were desired.

Five artists, or artistic collaborations have been shortlisted and have submitted design proposals. Ancient Connections really wants to hear what you think about each design. You can view the proposals and take part in an online consultation by visiting www.haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk  Averaged scores of all participants will contribute to 20% of the artists score. A specialist panel will take this into consideration and make the final decision in June 2021.

The selected artwork will be constructed during 2021 and completed in 2022. 

Pembrokeshire based Studio Melyn comprising of the collaborative team of architectural glass artist Rachel Phillips and visual artist Linda Norris made the shortlist as did Holger C. Lonze, an artist based in Northern Ireland who works primarily in recycled bronze using traditional mediaeval casting methods. A cross-border collaboration between Cardiff based artist Mark Gubb and Dublin based artist Alan Phelan has also been shortlisted, as well as Simon Watkinson, a versatile artist working in a range of mediums based in the north of England. The fifth artist is Bedwyr Williams – who represented Wales in the Venice Biennale in 2013, and will be collaborating with Contemporary Art Studio.

 

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Arts

Fern Thomas Artist in Residence Pembrokeshire

Artist in Residence

Fern Thomas – Artist in Residence Pembrokeshire

YNYS: “…and as the relics, stones, bones and stories from both places washed out to sea, a new island was formed right in the middle. A shared place for culture, history, dreams, poetry and song from all time to live alongside each other. And from this place, a radio station was formed and began to transmit…”

“For this project I am creating a radio station that ‘transmits’ from YNYS, a fictional island located between Pembrokeshire and Wexford. YNYS takes its initial response from the erosion on Whitesands Bay, which exposed the buried chapel of St Patrick. The project considers the potential, through coastal erosion, for all of this history to be washed away – that somehow these coastal places are living right at the precipice, or at the very edge of history.” – Fern Thomas

A Place of the Past and Future

“Taking this as a broader image I am imagining Pembrokeshire’s history washing into the sea while simultaneously Wexford’s history does the same, and from here they move towards one another and meet somewhere in the middle to form a fictional island. An island where St David can sit alongside the three young men from Wexford in their borrowed canoe; where the fire of Boia’s hill fort or the mermaids off Porth y Rhaw are as present as the eroding sand at Whitesands bay. A place where the past and the future are simultaneously considered.

This audio work will exist as several episodes which will follow the development of the Ancient Connections project where I will weave together excerpts of interviews with community members and participants in the Ancient Connections project alongside folklore, historical research, myths, field recordings from the sites, and sounds from archives as well as the present day to create an audio telling from this timeless land.”

“Embedded in the broadcasts I will offer poetic responses inspired by the questions being asked within the project as it develops, following the mysteries, the stories and the revelations as the Ancient Connection project unfolds.

The radio station’s content will be shaped by communities of Pembrokeshire and also of Wexford through public engagement events and one to one conversations.” – Fern Thomas

Date: July 2020 – August 2022

Learn More at: 

www.fernthomas.com

Project Outputs: 
Podcasts and an exhibition

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Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage

Arts Project

Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is an ancient concept; stretching back through history across cultural and religious boundaries, historical and economic spectrums, regardless of race or gender. It has been argued that pilgrimage fulfils a basic human need to reconnect to oneself through the simple process of putting one foot in front of another on the destination to a sacred or special place.

Ancient Connections is rediscovering historic links and ancient stories that connect the communities and culture of North Pembrokeshire with their counterparts on the East coast of Wexford. In particular, it is exploring the link between the city of Saint Davids and the village of Ferns, two significant sites associated with the early Celtic church. St Aidan studied in Wales with St David and after this he journeyed to Wexford where he set up his own monastery in Ferns.

St Davids has been a place of pilgrimage since the middle ages and still is. People are drawn to the area for many reasons for refreshment of body, mind and soul. It is recognised as a special place, a ‘thin’ place in Celtic terms, a place where hearts are opened and emotions are touched.

Modern day pilgrimage isn’t necessarily religious or even spiritual but an opportunity for reflection, connection and discovery; perhaps finding a new sense of purpose, direction and wellbeing. Pilgrimage in modern times is becoming increasingly popular with TV programmes such as Pilgrimage; The Road to Rome and The Road to Santiago. The Santiago de Compostella pilgrim trail, which was boosted through EU funding in 1987, has been a major success story with numbers increasing from under 3,000 per year to over 300,000 now.

A New Route

2023 will commemorate 900 years since Pope Callixtus II declared two pilgrimages to St Davids equal to one to Rome. This date and the Ancient Connections project could be a launch pad from which to start building a pilgrimage route on both sides of the Irish Sea. Could pilgrimage/transformational tourism be as successful in Wexford and Pembrokeshire as it has been in Northern Spain?

Ancient Connections has commissioned a feasibility study to assess the potential for a new pilgrimage route that links Ferns and St Davids. In May 2021, the trailblazing Creative Camino pilgrimage will take place, an experimental journey led by guides from Journeying based in Pembrokeshire and Wexford Trails. Traveling with them will be a group of artists and community pilgrims, who will be responding creatively to the experience. It is hoped that this combination of stakeholder research and hands on experiential journeying will point to the next steps for building and promoting this new route.

Date: Ongoing

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Arts Community

Animating Schools

Arts Project

Animating Schools

Animating Schools brings three schools together for the ambitious creation of a short animation film telling the stories of connection between these two regions. The participating schools are Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Scoil Naomh Maodhog Ferns and St Edan’s School, both in Ferns, County Wexford.

In March 2020, the project kicked off with a group of aged 12-13 plus staff traveling from St Davids to Ferns to meet and get to know their peers in the Ferns schools. The pupils in all three schools have been learning about their own heritage stories, as well as the stories that link these two regions through working with Fishguard based storyteller Deb Winter and Wexford based Lorraine O’Dwyer. In Ferns, the young people performed their stories to each other as well as sharing musical performances of contemporary and traditional pieces.  

“I just wanted to send a HUGE thank you from all at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi for the amazing visit we had to Ireland. The pupils and I were so ‘blown away’ by the incredibly warm Irish welcome and every aspect of our visit was perfect! The arrival at Scoil Maodhog was moving and our pupils are now texting, snap chatting/what’s-apping etc. and looking forward to the return visit. All the excursions were fabulous and informative and when I asked pupils what their favourite aspect of the trip was, not one of them could decide as there were just too many things to pick from.”

Cilla Bramley, Head of Expressive Arts at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi

The project is due to recommence in March 2021, and Cardiff based animation studio Winding Snake will be assisting the young people to creatively retell these stories through different animation techniques, culminating in a short film that will be screened in venues and online in 2021-22.

“The team at Winding Snake are thrilled to be working with the schools involved as part of this exciting and historic project.  We can’t wait to get stuck in and start making! The young people taking part will work with us to create animation, learn musical composition, make foley and sound effects, participate in script writing and storytelling sessions, and will work with professional actors to learn acting and performance skills. With lots and lots of arts and craft thrown into the mix too, it’s going to be a wonderful project.” 

Amy Morris, Director of Winding Snake

A short documentary film about the project will also be created by filmmaker Terence White based in Wexford.

Date: March 2020 – Jan 2022

Project Outputs: A short animated film

Learn More at: www.windingsnake.com

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Community

Creative Camino Concert – Ferns Heritage Project

Community Project

Creative Camino Concert – Ferns Heritage Project

Ferns Heritage Project are organising a concert to take place in St Edan’s Cathedral as part of Ancient Connections Creative Camino pilgrimage project, which begins its journey from Ferns to St Davids in May 2021. The concert will feature original songs inspired by the music of O’Carolan and will present a premier performance of the first phase of a three-phased suite inspired by the themes of Ancient Connections and written by Melanie O’Reilly. The event will feature local adult and children’s choirs as well as local musicians – Ferns Comhaltas.

Melanie O’Reilly, vocalist and professional music teacher will conduct workshops with the adult choir in preparation for the concert.  The choir will join Melanie and her group in the specially composed piece to be premiered at the concert. Composition of phases 2 and 3 will be inspired by workshops in Ferns and St. David’s taking place after the initial concert.

Date: May 2020 – May 2021

Project Outputs: Community Concert and Workshops

Learn More at: www.melanieoreilly.com

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Arts

Bedwyr Williams ‘Do the Little Things’ Public Art commission St Davids and Ferns

Arts Project

Bedwyr Williams 'Do the Little Things' Public Art Commission in Ferns and St Davids

Ancient Connections is thrilled to be able to create a permanent legacy of the project through commissioning public art in St Davids and Ferns. 

Bedwyr Williams was selected from a shortlist of five artists by a cross-border panel in July 2021. He has proposed to create a series of giant beehives, three in St Davids Cathedral grounds and three in Ferns. These beautiful structures would be modelled on traditional skeps, and although they would be much larger than a typical beehive, they are functional hives and would house real bee colonies. The artist has proposed that the communities in each location will take over the care for the bees and compare the unique flavour of the honey produced with their neighbours across the Irish Sea through exchange visits.

The project is in its early stages. Currently the focus is on finding the ideal locations for the skeps and connecting with local bee keeping specialists to ensure that public safety is ensured as well as the wellbeing of the bee colonies. 

Bedwyr Williams

Bedwyr Williams is originally from St Asaph and now based in Caernafon. He is widely recognised as one of Wales’ most significant contemporary artists and represented Wales in the Venice Biennale in 2013 with his installation ‘The Starry Messenger’. He works across a range of mediums in both gallery and public art settings, often employing wry humour and surrealism to explore culture through a different lens. For this project, he will be working closely with Contemporary Art Society, a consultancy specialising in support and delivery of public art projects. Bedwyr says:

“I’m interested in objects that invite communities to become active participants to make the artwork whole. I want people to become fully engaged in the artwork, doing the little things to bring the artwork to life, forgetting themselves and their daily concerns for a few hours. St David’s last words were “Gwnewch y pethau bychain” or “Do the little things.” This ethos has guided the development of my proposal which is founded on the story of St David and St Aidan and steeped in the magic and history of these two intertwined locations”.

Public Consultations

Bedwyr’s proposal was also the most popular among the communities of North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford, who took part in the online survey. These were some of the comments that community participants made about the project:

 

“I like the fact that this is a “living” sculpture, in that it will house live bee colonies. This will provide much needed pollinating insects in both communities and continue the ancient tradition of bee keeping”.

(Pembrokeshire)

 

“This project is simplicity itself, I particularly like the idea of the bees collecting the pollen to bring it back to the beehive and being turned into lovely honey. It would be a great idea and it would help to conserve and safeguard our environment”.

(Wexford)

Funded by: Ancient Connections

Dates 2021-2022

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Arts

Seán Vicary

Art Commission

Seán Vicary

“I’m going to embark on a journey through an entangled landscape of ancestral heritage and place in search of my great-grandmother’s roots near Ferns.

Using the language and processes of archaeology as a metaphor, I’ll scrape back the layers of landscape to discover hidden narratives, creatively working them into an engaging personal travelogue that moves from N. Pembrokeshire to N. Wexford and ‘home’ again. Voice, text, music, film and animation will combine to evoke these places, building a deeper sense of identity through sharing experiences of reconnection.”

'Field Notes RAF St Davids'

“I recently discovered that my great-grandmother was born in 1874, just 3.5 miles from Ferns in Camolin. She was one of 10 children, I know nothing else about her or her family. In this current time of flux and heightened identity politics it feels apposite to consider where we’ve come from in order to contemplate where we might want to go. I carry my Irish roots in my name, yet I’ve never really acknowledged that part of myself. I’d like to understand the forces that shaped me living here across the water from my great grandmother’s home. By excavating my own past I’ll undertake a process that mirrors the archaeological and historical research underway in both communities.

I’ll be looking at different personal responses to place and landscape, where they overlap, and how artistic representation might open them for another’s understanding. I’m particularly excited about the use of geophysics for revealing hidden structures/ traces in the landscape and I’ll be exploring how the data produced by the geophysics techniques (magnetic gradiometry, electromagnetic conductivity and ground penetrating radar) can be manipulated to inform an artistic outcome.

There’s something alluring about the archaeological process and I find many similarities with my own arts practice. Archaeology’s test pits and stratigraphic sequences map phases of place over time, cutting across our inner and outer landscapes and forcing us to imagine our future as part of this record. Thinking on timescales that reach beyond our own lifespan informs how we make decisions. How might this also affect our understanding of contemporary anxieties?”

Date: September 2020 – December 2020

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Arts Community

Lost Words – The St Davids Connection

Community Project

Lost Words –
The St Davids Connection

Lost Words is the first stage of an arts and nature trail to be established in St Davids, led by St David’s Connection, a new community organisation set up by Becky Lloyd and Amanda Stone.  The trail is inspired by The Lost Words, a successful book and touring exhibition by award winning local artist and writer Jackie Morris and author Robert McFarlane. Jackie lives and works in St Davids and takes her inspiration from the natural beauty of the St David’s Peninsula.

“We are delighted to have received this support to get this project off the ground. We will be running workshops and activities to engage local schools and community groups to co-design and develop The Lost Words trail, celebrating the connection to the natural world in this area and its role in our wellbeing”.

Becky Lloyd – St Davids Connection

Date: August 2020 – December 2021

Project Outputs: Arts and Nature Trail

Learn More at: www.facebook.com/stdavidsconnection.co

Categories
Stories

Ancient Connections: Stories that Connect and Confound

Folklore

Ancient Connections: Stories that Connect and Confound

There’s more to historic research than that found on parchment and vellum or between the pages of books. Much still lives within a place’s culture, landscape and memory. So very importantly, during this project, we’re asking our communities to share with us those half remembered tales told to them as children, to tell us their colloquial names for places and to explore with us fragments of local folk knowledge that’s everyday stuff to them, but may well lead us together, to a little treasure trove of knowledge and understanding about their place. We’ll also be sharing some of the gems we unearth through our research in archives and with community members.

So let’s begin with a saint’s tale. St David’s Cathedral and St Edan’s Cathedral Church in Ferns, Ireland are both within the project areas, so the stories of saints and their comings and goings across the Irish sea, their interactions and miracles loom large in our research. Trying to tease apart what might be counted as history from the Age of Saints as opposed to mythology and folklore is virtually impossible. Our ancestor’s did not think of history or recording it as we do today, and much of saintly happenings were spread orally, growing in colour and wonder as the tales passed from tongue to ear.

In Pembrokeshire, we benefit from the work of author Brian John, who has lovingly collected local folktales over many years and published them in four excellent volumes: Pembrokeshire Folk Tales, The Last Dragon, Fireside Tales from Pembrokeshire and More Pembrokeshire Folk Tales. 

Saint David and the Chieftain Boia

Here’s just one of his collected tales that relates to Wales’ patron Saint, David – or Dewi to give him his Welsh name.

At the end of his missionary travels in about the year 560, according to the tale, Dewi was guided by an Angel to return to found a monastery in the land of his birth. And so he returned to Glyn Rhosyn with some companions, including Teilo, Ismael and Aidan (also known in Ireland as St Edan, who later founded the Cathedral in Ferns).

Once there, the companions lit a fire to warm themselves and prepare some food, but the curling smoke drew the attention of a local chieftain, Boia who ruled this corner of the land from his hill fort of Clegyr Boia. He was furious that intruders were planning to settle a short way from his fort – and without doing due homage to him, and paying the respect he felt he deserved. And so, with the encouragement of his wife, he took warriors down to Glyn Rhosyn to drive Dewi and his followers away. But as Boia and his men attacked, they were afflicted with a terrible fever and dropped to the ground and were forced to crawl away in retreat. When they returned to the fort, it was to find that their sheep and cattle were dead, and that Baia’s wife was in a frenzy of fury.

However, aware that he had encountered in these men powers beyond his understanding, and in a little awe and fear, Boia granted Dewi the land at Glyn Rhosyn for his community. Sure enough, as soon as he did so, the warriors were cured of their affliction and the livestock restored to life.

Boia’s wife however, was not so easily won over. She sent her maidens to bathe naked in the River Alun, to tempt Dewi’s followers away from their vows, but they held fast, and through fasting and prayer Dewi helped his companions withstand these great temptations. Finally, Boia’s wife led her step-daughter Dunawd down to the river Alun and sacrificed her to the old gods in an attempt to drive the Christian men away. Her failure drove her to utter madness and she fled, never to be seen again.

Boia was devastated by his loss and again tried to attack David, but an Irish chieftain by the name of Lisci had just landed nearby, and attacked Boia’s poorly defended camp and killed him. Lisci’s name remains in the landscape to this day in the name Porthlysgi.

To complete the tale with one final miracle, fire poured down from heaven during a great thunderstorm and the whole of Boia’s hill fort settlement was destroyed by the inferno. And all this must be utterly true because over 1400 years later, when archaeologists excavated Clegyr Boia, what you think they discovered? Beneath the turf lay the charred remains of huts and storehouses.

You can easily visit Clegyr Boia as it’s accessible from a little lane running out of the city of St David’s in Pembrokeshire (see the OS map above). There are also a number of holy wells nearby to explore – enjoy, and please unearth some more myths and legends as you walk.

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Featured Stories

Mermaids Ahoy!

Folklore

Mermaids Ahoy!

Folklore is tantalising. Around the coast of Wales and indeed the British Isles, stories, themes and fantastical creatures appear time and time again. It conjures up a sense of a past filled with goblins and witches, tylwyth teg, sirens and selkies. Of course some of these appear in the stories of other lands too, albeit with a slightly different cultural slant. I’m a storyteller, so I’m not going to venture into the debate about whether or not these creatures are or were ever ‘real’. For me, they are alive in our storied imagination, in our landscape and in the shallows and depths off our coast.

A Great Story to Tell

The north Pembrokeshire coast between St David’s and Fishguard is a haven for mermaids! Every other cove it seems has a mermaid sighting or story connected with it. In fact, the sea captain Daniel Huws, reported seeing a mermaid town beneath the waters near Trefin when he sheltered there in 1858. A little closer to St David’s is Porth y Rhaw, where earlier in 1780 quarry men from Penbiri reported meeting a Mermaid. Here is their fishy tale…..

On fine summer days it was their custom to walk down to the sea to eat their lunch. This day was particularly glorious, with hardly a cloud in the sky or a breeze across the blue surface of the sea and only small waves lapping the shore. As they chatted and settled to their lunch, one of the quarrymen noticed a gwenhadwy- a mermaid sitting upon a rock in the shadow of the cliffs. 

According to their account, she was quite preoccupied with combing her long, golden tresses. The men noted that nothing much distinguished her upper parts to other ‘lasses of Wales’, but that her bottom half was clearly that of a fish. A couple of the braver quarrymen ventured closer – close enough to exchange a few words. They tried in vain to engage her in conversation, and while it was clear that she understood Welsh, all she would say to them was “medi yn Sir Benfro a chwynnu yn Sir Gar” which means “reaping in Pembrokeshire and weeding in Carmarthenshire”. Then she slipped off her rock and disappeared into the waves of Cardigan Bay, leaving the quarrymen eternally perplexed as to what she meant… but with a great story to tell!

Watch Out for Mermaids!

Porth y Rhaw can be visited via the Wales Coastal Path. There’s also a circular walk you can do using footpaths from the hamlet of Yspytty, skirting the old and now disused Peaberry Quarry site – which would have been the workplace of our quarrymen – to join the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. By following this along the coast heading north east, you can follow in the story’s footsteps and enjoy a spot of lunch and mermaid spotting in Porth y Rhaw! 

After lunch, continue along the path towards Ynnys Gwair and Castell Coch promontory Fort. This monument comprises the remains of a defended enclosure, which probably dates to the Iron Age period (c. 800 BC – AD 43). Its location on a narrow coastal promontory above the sea, creates part of the defensive circuit. The construction of two lines of ramparts placed across the neck of the promontory on the south divide it from the mainland. The northern end of this slopes steeply down to the sea. The original entrance lay at the western end of the defences where the inner bank had a slight in-turn; this has since been lost to coastal erosion.

After a look at the fort, walk along the coastal path for about a quarter of a kilometre before turning inland along a permissible path towards Tremynydd Fawr farm where you’ll join a public footpath towards the hamlet of Waun Beddau and the lane which will lead you back to Yspytty where you began. It’s about a 6.5 KM walk in total.

Enjoy…and let us know if you meet any mermaids!

Map of suggested walk courtesy of Ordinance Survey