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Llangwm Village Voices was established to provide opportunities to minimise social isolation in rural Pembrokeshire and to bring together people and give them a sense of belonging, identity and purpose. This manifested itself in an incredible village opera based on the true stories of those who fought in WW1 and those left behind. It was played in venues around Pembrokeshire in 2014-2018 to celebrate the centenary of the conflict.
In 2020, the same team came together and proposed another opera, of an entirely different genre – a rock opera – entitled ‘Little Things’. The concept was to use the story of the friendship of St Aidan & St David but to project it into the dystopian future of 2122, where the planet has undergone an environmental disaster. The key message of the play would be that, like St David’s words “Do the little things”, it is not too late to save the planet if we all pull in the same direction.
The support given by Ancient Connections was for a first phase in this project, to write the words and compose the music, to engage singers, professional and non-professional from each region and to make a series of videos that could be used to leverage more funds in the future.
The team enlisted writer Peter George to write the Libretta and composer Sam Howley to create the musical score. They worked with Fishguard/Wales-based choir Bad Habits and Ferns/Ireland-based choir Chord-On-Blues; as well as several local school groups.
Here are the films they created:
Non, the mother of St David is cast out to sea in a boat without a sail at the mercy of the elements.
The year is 2122 and the Earth has had an environmental disaster. The Celtic saints David and Aidan return to remind mankind that it is only by doing ‘The Little Things’ that balance can be restored to the planet and society.
There are food and water shortages and the people that remain are forced to leave their homes in search of the precious commodity, water. This piece conveys the anger of our future generations.
Young people from Wexford and Pembrokeshire, celebrating the importance of bees to the health and wellbeing of our planet.
Choirs from Ferns in County Wexford and Llangwm in Pembrokeshire sing together to celebrate Saints David and Aidan.
For more information or to get in touch with Llangwm Village Voices please click here to visit their Facebook page.
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.”
Ancient Connections, held a spectacular outdoor community event in St Davids Bishop’s Palace on Monday 29 May supported by local communities, artists, traders, visitors and project partners. The sun shone and over 4000 people enjoyed the lively occasion.
Highlights of the day included guided walks with Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way and St Davids Cathedral, a beautiful choir concert and performance by Span Arts and members of Côr Pawb, and demonstrations by the Tywi Centre’s master builders and makers.
Cardigan-based festival organisers and performers Small World Theatre, also created a spectacular Pilgrim Parade with pupils from Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi. Their two giant puppets of Saint David and a sea monster led a crowd through the town and into the heart of the festivities.
“It was a sight to behold!” said Ancient Connections project manager Rowan Matthiessen. “We’ve been so fortunate to work with amazing Welsh & Irish artists, volunteers, partnering organisations and community groups throughout the 3-year project. Over 12,000 volunteer hours have contributed to making the project a success.”
Siobhan McGovern, Co-project manager continued, “The Pilgrim Fayre was a genuine celebration showcasing some of the finest talent, produce and crafts produced in West Wales. We wish to thank St Davids Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace for supporting and hosting us, and everyone who took part and joined us.”
Cllr Thomas Tudor, Chair of Pembrokeshire County Council, who was at the event to greet delegates over from Ireland said, “We were delighted to welcome our Irish colleagues and friends to an event that truly represented the creative collaborations this project has achieved.”
Click here for more info on the event as well as similar events in the area.
The Festival of Ferns was a community festival, led by Wexford based events company Lantern. The festival celebrated Ferns’ unique heritage as the site of St Aidan’s monastery, ancient capital of Leinster, seat of Diarmuid Macmurrough, the Gaelic king who is said to be responsible for the Noman invasion of Ireland.
During April and May 2023, Lanterns artist Caoimhe Dunn worked with schools and community groups to create beautiful puppets and costumes for the parade. She coordinated 12 fantastic workshops which had over 300 local participants.
The festival itself took place in Ferns on the bank holiday weekend of June 4th and 5th 2023. The Sunday had a music trail around the pubs in Ferns with over 15 bands playing throughout the day and night and a beautiful concert in St Edans Cathedral by traditional singer-songwriter Melanie O’Reilly.
Monday’s festival was launched by a parade from the cathedral to Ferns Castle with 85 participants from various local groups. The event continued with a festival in the castle grounds and performances from local musicians, choirs, dancers and medieval jousting from the Horse Men of Eire. The event was attended by around 2500 people from the local area.
The event could not have happened without the contributions of:
In addition we would like to thank Small World Theatre for bringing their giant Dewi Sant puppet over from Wales to join the parade.
The community of Ferns hope to fundraise in order to make the festival an annual or bi-annual event.
Wexford County Council invites submissions for an ambitious cross-border participatory arts project addressing the overarching theme of ‘Who is a pilgrim?’ that links the communities of Wexford and Pembrokeshire, as well as the international diasporas of these regions. The project is expected to be delivered through a mix of face-to-face activity and online engagement. This commission is expected to be completed by late Spring 2023 and will be the finale of the Ancient Connections arts programme.
There is a total value of €50,000 available for this commission. One lead individual or organisation must apply, but proposals must have a collaborative cross-border partner(s) who will enable delivery of the project evenly between the two regions and the delivery budget must reflect this.
Key aims of the project are to encourage international visitors to both regions and to present an ambitious, engaging and high impact finale project for the local communities of North Wexford and North Pembrokeshire that further enhances and cements their shared history and connections.
Applications are welcomed from organisations and individuals who live in Pembrokeshire or Wexford as well as those outside of the project area, however the applicant must be able to demonstrate a successful delivery model that takes into account their geographical location, as well as the requirement to ensure equal impact and accessibility for participants in both Pembrokeshire and Wexford.
FINALE arts project Spring 2023
The British Pilgrimage Trust have formed a partnership with Pilgrim Paths of Ireland, Journeying and Guided Pilgrimage to manage the new pilgrim route between St Davids, Pembrokeshire and Ferns in County Wexford. The pilgrim route will be the primary legacy of the Ancient Connections project.
Guy Hayward, Director of The British Pilgrimage Trust said:
“The British Pilgrimage Trust aims to facilitate grass roots activity around Britain by offering our expertise for free to all those that need it, and there is so much more of this local community activity now that they are seeing the attractive potential of pilgrimage for the home area that they know and love. We also want more people to actually walk the routes in practice, not just as a historical concept, and that is why we are so excited about this project, creating an old route as new with all the infrastructure that a modern pilgrim needs. Coming together and working with all these different partners – Pilgrim Paths Ireland, Journeying, Guided Pilgrimage, Ancient Connections – who are all passionate about forming a pilgrimage connection between Ireland and Wales, is going to lead to the kind of innovation and freshness of approach that is only possible when different cultures come into contact and share their wisdom. We are in the earliest stage of this project, but I can already tell that we are going to create something very beautiful together that bridges both sides of the Celtic Sea, and something which so many will enjoy and find meaning through for generations to come”.
Working alongside the British Pilgrimage Trust and representing the Irish interest in the project is Pilgrim Paths Ireland. Chairman John G O’Dwyer said: “he was delighted to be part of the team tasked with developing a pilgrim route as part of the Ancient Connections project that will commemorate the 6th-century journey of St Aidan to study under St David in Wales.” The project will, he believes, revive long-standing links between communities in Pembrokeshire and Wexford by drawing on a common heritage to actively share local knowledge, experience and skills. “The new pilgrim route should mean much additional spending to Wexford and Pembrokeshire and draw attention to the rich heritage both areas have to offer to visitors,”
Also joining the team will be two West Wales based not-for-profit companies. Journeying have been taking small groups of pilgrims on guided walking tours to the more off-the-beaten-track parts of Britain and Ireland for over thirty years. Guided Pilgrimage offer Celtic pilgrimages of one day or multi day duration that create a space for people to reconnect body and spirit through the wild and beautiful Celtic landscapes.
Following community consultation and market research, the name of the route will be Wexford – Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way. Cardiff based destination marketing specialists Heavenly, along with graphic design company Orchard have created a unique brand for the route that will inspire visitors from the UK, Ireland and abroad to take up the pilgrim’s mantle and have a potentially life-changing experience. Branding will feature on route way-markers, maps and leaflets as well as pilgrim passports and a pilgrim app.
The route will be open to the public in 2023 for both guided and self-guided tours. There are a number of opportunities to take part in one day pilgrimage events on the new route.
For more information visit:
This is a route in development and is currently going through the Sport Ireland accreditation process. Although some sections of the route are on existing accredited Wexford Walking Trails (Ferns Village, Oulart Hill, Three Rocks Trail and Carne to Rosslare), all other parts of Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way route have yet to be accredited. Accordingly, Wexford County Council and its route development partners do not accept responsibility and are not liable for any loss, damage or injury which may arise and all users and participants should take all necessary care to satisfy themselves of the suitability and safety of the route.
Project Outputs: Two new FTE jobs. New pilgrim route between Ferns, Wexford and St Davids, Pembrokeshire