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Animating Schools was an Ancient Connections project led by Cardiff-based animation company Winding Snake. The project commenced in 2020 and brought together three schools: Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Scoil Naomh Maodhog and St Edan’s School, both in Ferns, County Wexford; to create a tri-lingual, cross-border animation piece entitled “The Tales Between Us”.
Children at these schools engaged in a programme of exchange visits and workshops in storytelling, script writing, puppet making and animation. The children were at the heart of this project, making choices about which stories to tell and how to tell them all the way along.
Many talented specialists from Ireland and Wales were involved in mentoring the children such as storytellers Joe Brennan, Lorraine O’Dwyer and Daniel Morden and Deb Winter, artist David Begley, writers Sylvia Cullen and Nigel Crowle and puppet makers Ann Shrosbree and Bill Hamblett from Small World Theatre. Music is by BAFTA Cymru winning composers Tic Ashfield and Benjamin Talbott with voice over by Sara Gregory and Róisín Murphy.
One pupil said of the project, “I really enjoyed the animation [project] because I had the chance to make new friends from Ireland and I also learnt some history about the local area.”
The film highlights tall tales and local legends that link the two regions; saints, sea beasts, banshees, mermaids, selkies and witches all feature in the film. We find out why no one ever goes fishing on St Martin’s Day, 11th November in Wexford and what happened to the mythical land of Cantre’r Gwaelod.
Glen Biseker of Winding Snake said, “There are a lot of stories and a rich history between the two regions, but finding the right parts from the [pilgrim] trail was a priority and a big undertaking. With the help of storytellers and writers we unearthed some great stories. The participant’s interpretation of those stories, through the production process, gives it a real identity.”
Ruth Jones, Project Officer for Ancient Connections said, “It has been wonderful to see this project develop over the last eighteen months. We’ve seen friendships flourish as well as a deeper understanding of the importance of knowing our stories and being able to share them. Winding Snake have given the young people involved such an incredible insight into animation filmmaking, and they have also learnt new skills from many other creative professionals. We hope that it’s an experience that they will remember all their lives and might even inspire some of them to take up creative careers.”