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
Stories

The Tinnaberna Fishermen

Folklore

The Tinnaberna Fishermen

The tragedy of the Tinnaberna Fishermen took place in the 1810s. Tinnaberna was a small fishing village on the north Wexford coast near Kilmuckridge. Two fishing cots set out to sea on the feast of St. Martin’s, November 11th. Both were blown out far into the Irish Sea by a storm. One was lost, but the second made land on the coast of Wales. The crew were given food and shelter by a farmer, but could not communicate with him as he only spoke Welsh. The men eventually made their way to Ballycotton, County Cork and walked back to Wexford to be greeted by relatives who thought they had been lost forever. The story of the tragedy became the subject of a ballad which is still sung locally.

Sources:
The Schools Collection, Vol. 0886, pp.24-5 

Available Online at: 
www.duchas.ie
Accessed November 21st 2019
Gaul, L. “Songs, Ships and High Seas” in The Past, No. 31, 2011-’12, pp.95-102

Categories
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

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

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

Categories
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
Arts

Artists in Residence

Arts Project

Artists in Residence

Ancient Connections has appointed two Artists in Residence who will be exploring the shared past of North Wexford and North Pembrokeshire working alongside the contracted archaeologists and historians as well as local communities.

The artists will produce new artworks over the next two years, inspired by archaeological excavations, geophysical surveys and community story searches in Pembrokeshire and Wexford; with a final public showing of the work in both places in Spring/Summer 2022.

Fern Thomas

The artist selected for Pembrokeshire is Fern Thomas; she is based in Swansea and has a long track-record of working with communities. Fern plans to create a radio station and a series of 16 podcasts that follow the progress of the Ancient Connections project. The radio station will be broadcast from a fictional island YNYS in the Irish Sea: “A shared place for culture, history, dreams, poetry and song from all time to live alongside each other.”

Fern describes this as:

“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”.

David Begley

The artist selected for Wexford is David Begley, an experienced multimedia artist. 

David invites us to:

“Wonder this: before St Aidan arrived and The Normans later, what drew the ancients to Ferns [Wexford] in the first place? Was it chance Tom Breen’s plough unearthed the first relic at Clone which led us to poke holes in the turf and speculate? Who lay the first seed? What made the first tribe put down roots, leaving charcoal and ceramic in their wake?”

David will make a video documentary on the history of farming in Ferns, facilitate a 12 week visual arts, storytelling and gardening project with St Edan’s National School, Ferns and produce a new body of work in drawing, print, painting, ceramic and writing.

It is also hoped that the two artists will find ways to collaborate together and learn from each other’s journeys.

Date: July 2020 – July 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections and the Wexford Percent for Art scheme

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