Categories
Community

The Little Things

Community Project

The Little Things

Village Voices, an established community drama and music team based in Llangwm, will be leading this ambitious cross-border project to create a new community Rock Opera called ‘The Little Things’ based on the lives of St Aidan and St David. They will be collaborating with Ferns Choir in Wexford, who will form the core chorus group in Wexford, and draw in other singers from the Enniscorthy and Gorey areas. Librettist Peter George has been devising the storyline, which is set in the future, where environmental decline inspires people to look to these early ascetic saints for inspiration. St David’s simple lifestyle, respect for the natural world and his axiom ‘Do ye the Little Things’ provides a new vision for the future.

Sam Howley is the musical director for the project, and the team are working to engage mirror partners over in Wexford. Main characters and chorus groups will be drawn from both regions to create a truly cross-border community extravaganza to be performed in St Davids and Wexford in 2022-23.

“This project will draw together people from the communities of North Wexford and North Pembrokeshire and provides an innovative and educational focus for the future as well as opportunities for developing friendships and meaningful collaborative links through the medium of music.” – Liz Rawlings, Village Voices

The project will begin in early 2021 with online rehearsals led by Sam Howley, who will be teaching the groups two of the chorus numbers as well as working with lead part singers to develop solo songs.

Date: November 2020 – March 2023

Project Outputs: Community Rock Opera

Categories
Arts

Artists Commissions

Arts Project

Artists Commissions

Ancient Connections has commissioned four new artists’ commissions, exploring some interlinked themes that are at the heart of the project including: pilgrimage, connecting with the Celtic diaspora of Ireland and Wales and our relationships to sacred places such as holy wells, chapels and ancient sites.

The artists will produce new artworks over the next two years, inspired by their own research as well as the findings uncovered by the Ancient Connections teams of story gatherers, community researchers and archaeologists. Each artist is expected to create work that can be shared online, in order to engage with both local audiences and with people much further afield such as Australia and North America, where there are significant communities of people with Irish and Welsh ancestry. The artists will also present their work in a final public showing in both Wexford and Pembrokeshire in 2022.

The four artists are Seán Vicary and Linda Norris, who are both visual artists based in West Wales, and artist/archaeologist John Sunderland and writer Sylvia Cullen, based in Ireland’s south-east.

Linda Norris

‘Williams Leatham Plate’ from Cân yr Oer Wynt series, ceramic decal on vintage china

Linda Norris proposes to use ‘sherds’ or found pottery fragments as the starting point for her project, encouraging people to send sherds to her and locate them on an online map. She says:

“Far from the glamour of precious metal hordes or celebrated monuments, sherds speak of anonymous domestic stories and link us with the people who lived in our homes in the past. I propose to initiate a ‘citizen archaeology’ project in Pembrokeshire and Wexford, and extending into the Celtic Diaspora. I will be researching people who emigrated from these regions to the Diaspora in the 19th century and trying to trace their descendants.”

Seán Vicary

'Field Notes RAF St Davids'

Multi-media artist Seán Vicary recently discovered that his great-grandmother was born in 1874, just 3.5 miles from Ferns in Camolin, and he seeks 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”.

He will be discovering ‘hidden narratives’ in the landscape and creatively working them into an engaging personal travelogue that moves back and forth between Pembrokeshire and Wexford.

“Voice, text, music, film and animation will combine to evoke these places in an exciting, contemporary way; building a deeper sense of identity through sharing experiences of reconnection”.

John Sunderland

'The Shooting Hut' (Site 1, Visit 9) from the project 'Touching Darkness' (2019)

Trained archaeologist and visual artist John Sunderland will be undertaking a pilgrimage from Whitesands to Ferns and excavating found objects along the route for the creation of a reliquary alongside pinhole photographic work. Rather than approaching this like an analytical contemporary archaeologist, he hopes to examine his discoveries with a mediaeval mindset, paying attention to “the supernatural or the sacred, to questions of good and evil, signs or portents”.

Sylvia Cullen

Cover of Sylvia Cullen’s play The Thaw, commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland, produced by the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, published by New Island Books, inspired by the people of North Wexford, South Wicklow and East Carlow.

Writer Sylvia Cullen proposes to create a bespoke new series of short stories for podcasts or livestreaming, drawing on “dramatic tales of piracy and bootlegging along the Welsh and Irish coastlines” and haunting tales of sacred places or a longing for home. She will also run creative writing workshops in both communities.

Watching these projects evolve separately and then ultimately weave together in a final presentation will be a journey of discovery for both the project team and our audiences.

Date: August 2020 – December 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections

Categories
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

Click here to listen to Fern’s radio transmissions

 

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/ynys.com

Project Outputs: 
Podcasts, a ceremonial event and an exhibition

Categories
Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage overview – rationale for a new route

Arts Project

Pilgrimage overview - rationale for a new route

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

Categories
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

Categories
Arts

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

Arts Project

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

Artist Bedwyr Williams was commissioned to create a permanent public artwork for St Davids and Ferns as a legacy to the Ancient Connections programme.

Inspired by the story of St Aidan, St David and the bees, Williams has created a series of giant beehives, three in St Davids Cathedral grounds and three in Ferns. These evocative structures are modelled loosely on the kind of traditional straw skep hives that St Aidan might have used in the care of St David’s bees.

Though much larger in scale and simpler in form, these skep sculptures house real bee colonies in conventional beehives, creating a living, working sculpture for both sites. Beekeepers in both communities have been active in the design of the skeps and are taking care of the bee colonies. In time, both Ferns and St Davids will produce their own honey, which will be harvested and jarred for sale at both sites and shared across the Irish Sea between the neighbouring communities.

The story goes that, on leaving St David, Aidan was followed by David’s bees three times to the ship as he attempted to return to Ireland. Each time St Aidan dutifully returned the bees to the monastery but on the third occasion Saint David, seeing St Aidan’s kindness, agreed for the bees to accompany him to Ireland. Williams feels that this story, whether truth or myth, is a nice motif for the connection between both sites.

By evoking or invoking this ‘story’ with a sculpture, which also has a practical use it’s possible to make these ancient connections feel tangible and relatable.

Bedwyr Williams

Bedwyr Williams is originally from St Asaph and is 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 has worked closely with the  Contemporary Art Society, a consultancy specialising in support and delivery of public art projects. Bedwyr says: ‘As an artist I like turning to stories and myths for my inspiration and what I really enjoy is working with these tales in a playful relatable way’

“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”.

Funded by: Ancient Connections

Dates 2021-2022

Categories
Arts Pilgrimage

Creative Camino

Arts Project

Creative Camino

Ancient Connections is undertaking an experimental and creative pilgrimage from Ferns to St Davids in May 2022 – the Creative Camino. Four artists, four community members, a travel writer and a filmmaker will make the eight day journey on foot from Ferns to St Davids starting on 1st May and ending on 8th May. A documentary film will tell the story of their journey and encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

The artists are: Bonnie Boux, Kate Powell, Suzi MacGregor and Ailsa Richardson

The project is teaming up with Journeying, a Celtic focused walking and pilgrimage guide company based in Pembrokeshire who are working closely with The British Pilgrimage Trust on the development of the new pilgrim route from Ferns to St Davids, which will be the main legacy of the Ancient Connections project and will be launched officially in 2023.

2023 marks the 900th anniversary of the granting of a privilege to St Davids by Pope Callixtus II, who declared that two pilgrimages to St Davids Cathedral were equal to one journey to Rome. It seems a fitting year to launch the new route! 

The route will encourage stronger links between these two Celtic regions, as well as attract overseas visitors in a sustainable form of cross-border tourism. 

 The British Pilgrimage Trust have created a mailing list for those interested in keeping up to date about the developments of this new route. Click on the button below to join.

The Journey

The pilgrimage sets off with  community celebrations and a world premiere performance of a traditional Celtic music piece (composed especially for the event). A fitting festive send-off for a group of pilgrims. Pilgrims will then make their way to Rosslare via Oulart, Olygate and Our Lady’s Island where they will take a ferry to Fishguard. Finally, they will walk the Pembrokeshire coast path along with some inland pathways.  They will reach their destination, the small city of St Davids, on Sunday 8th May where they will be given a glorious Pembrokeshire welcome. The pilgrims will be joined by a giant St David puppet who will lead the travellers into the grounds of St Davids Cathedral with a special choir procession. A spectacle to behold! The event is led by Small World Theatre . The artists will present an improvised performance to share the story of their journey and experiences along the way.

Media and Documentary

Throughout the journey, the experiences of the pilgrims as well as the beautiful scenery, heritage sites and wildlife will be documented by Llif:Flow a digital media company based in Angelsey. The stills and footage will be used to promote the project and new pilgrimage route concept across social media platforms and a short documentary film has been commissioned as promotion and legacy.

Follow the story!

Follow the pilgrims journey on our Instagram page which will be updated daily

Date: May 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections

In Partnership with: Journeying 

Project Outputs: 
Artist performances 
A Documentary film
Short media content for social media and still photos

Learn More at: www.journeying.co.uk

Categories
Arts

Sylvia Cullen – Smugglers and Summer Snowflakes

Art Commission

Sylvia Cullen

Smugglers & Summer Snowflakes will be a bespoke new collection of short stories, responding to the Ancient Connections themes of journeying, sacred places, Celtic diaspora and longing for home. Inspired by the Story Searches from 2019, and using my own tailored process of Creative Exchanges with local communities, I will create this new collection, setting two stories in Wexford and two in Pembrokeshire.

A Summer Snowflakis a beautiful, rare, poisonous flower native to Wexford; it symbolises the elements every great short story should contain. Smugglers speaks for itself suggesting where I will glean inspiration for this new collection from – drawing on dramatic tales of piracy and bootlegging along the Welsh and Irish coastlines.

The stories will be distributed digitally and shared online as a podcast series for the global Celtic diaspora, as well as being published in book form. In addition, they will be broadcast on local radio in Wales and Wexford.

A Shared Past

“I am a rural-based writer, living in north county Wexford. For Ancient Connections, I will make new work that draws inspiration from our shared past on both sides of the Irish Sea, in order to illuminate our present. This commission is a superb opportunity to explore the interconnectedness of these two regions, creating haunting stories, which will linger on in the minds of all who listen to or read them, no matter where in the world they live.”

Creative Exchanges

“As part of the research process, I will facilitate several Creative Exchanges with local community groups in both Wales and Wexford. I see these interactions as a two-way exchange of oral history and local research. I will facilitate a creative writing workshop for a number of groups and in exchange, participants will offer me their perspectives and opinions on the four Ancient Connections themes.” – Sylvia Cullen

Cover of Sylvia Cullen’s play The Thaw, commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland, produced by the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, published by New Island Books, inspired by the people of North Wexford, South Wicklow and East Carlow.

Date: September 2020 – December 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections

Project Outputs: 
New short stories
Podcasts and radio broadcasts
Final exhibition book launch