Abdul's Stepping into Welsh grounds

Having spent a week in Wales I felt that I needed to tell you all about my amazing and at times extraordinary first week in Wales.
I was given the opportunity through Step Change (programme with the National Theatre in England) to come out to Wales and shadow my mentor John McGrath. John came to London in mid June and I had a meeting with him and we decided that coming to Wales would be a good idea and a great comparison to my first placement in the historically rich and rooted building of Theatre Royal Stratford East. However he did not mention to me how his diary normally shaped up.

I arrived in Cardiff at midnight on Sunday, after a four hour train journey. Tired and not really sure what to expect and having got lost a few times, I turned up at the office on Monday morning as instructed. I was then told that we were going to meet Charles Way for a very unusual meeting in Abergaveny. Myself and John rushed off to the train station and it was on the train that John broke the news to me that Charles Way planning to take us for a hike up Sugar Loaf Hill- a bloody hike, that's all I wanted. He then gave told me a quick low down of his diary and I was amazed at how much of Wales I was actually going to see.
So we arrived in Aberystwth and Charles was waiting and we got in the car and I hoped that the talk of a hike was just a joke but unfortunately it wasn't and we were heading to the bottom of Sugar Loaf. When we got there I looked up and around and completely fell in love with the my surroundings and at that point decided that this hike may not be such a bad idea. So an hour and a couple of pit stops later I stood at the top of Sugar Loaf and looked down and around some of the south Wales valleys and realised that this trip may not be so bad after all, if the views were as pretty as the one from on top of the hill.
The following day was a more office based day where I got a real understanding of the how an organisation of the magnitude of the National Theatre of Wales is going to be a national theatre in a country where there are so many dispersed and difficult to reach communities. How do you approach this issue and reach out to the communities and deliver the work that they want to and are used to seeing but also challenge and give them new work that they can appreciate. From my observations I think the approach so far has been a great start, there is a real emphasis to seek out the artists across the nation through this social network and utilising the age of virtual communication that we exist in. There is also a real want from the team to really go out into the communities and meet artists and communities in their surroundings as much as inviting them to come to the Castle Arcade offices. There is also a real commitment to enable dialogues to be created within the creative circles of Wales and diversify what, where and how theatre is viewed.
In the evening, I had the privilage of visiting Bedwas Working Mens Institute, this was for a Arts Council night out project. Local young people are given the opportunity to promote a show which will visit them in late July. The young people were really nice and seemed to be warming slowly to the idea. They really got going at the point where they had to think practically about where and how they sell tickets. We also got a great tour of the building, which for me was amazing and seemed steeped in history and integrity. Although it was not in the greatest shape physically I was certainly inspired by it. I was later informed that these buildings and there are many in the mining valleys of Wales, were built through donations from the low paid miners, they were built with much pride and this is clearly the case when you hear local older generations talking of the centre.
Wednesday was my next big day out and I got to see the west of Wales. It was trip to Milford Haven and the Torch Theatre. After a 3 hour drive and an in car meeting we finally arrived and once again the city lad from East London was gob smacked in the July sunshine of the view of the mariner and coast of Milford Haven. The Torch theatre was a very nice place serving it's particular local community. I would really like to see a show at the Torch at some point and maybe take a short sunshine filled break there.
In the evening I went to see a show at the Llanover Hall, it was called 'Gardener of Spring' and
was a co-production between Theatre Lolo, Theatre Gwent and Spectacle theatre. What was really funny was that Mathilde forgot to tell me that the show was in Welsh. Which was not so great for me as I didn't understand much of it. However it seemed to be well received by the audience and theatre for young people seems to be quite popular and well supported. This makes me very happy due to my background in this field.
Thursday was again back in the office and learning about the leading theatre practitioners and makers and understanding the diversity of work of offer across the Europe and further afield. There was also a discussion around the responses about the writers policy of the National Theatre of Wales. In the evening 'Sandpit' took over the offices and Hide and Seek, came in and quite astonishingly had adults both from the creative industries and those who are not, losing the plot and creating new plots. We run around the city and the park creating and reporting on bizarre news stories, smuggling picnics from the park and playing invented card games- great fun.
Finally Friday was the my trip out to the Brecons. I was warned that I would find myself once again gobsmacked and in awe of the brilliant scenery which would be encountered in the journey through the valleys. I have to say that I was not disappointed and found myself gazing out of the window wishing that my phone was not broken so that I could capture these amazing views in order to share with you all.
So all in all a very eventful first week with some awesome experiences which I have had the privilege of sharing in with at the National Theatre Wales. Thanks John, good choice of weeks to invite me out for, however the second week is yet to come....watch this space!

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Comment by Deborah Powell on July 3, 2009 at 21:44
Wales has a habit of doing this to people Abdul &, before you know it, it has stolen your heart!!

Croeso!
Comment by Gary Owen on July 3, 2009 at 17:44
Sounds like you've had a crash-course introduction, Abdul. The Miners' Institutes truly are inspiring - if you want to see what one might've looked like in its heyday, one has been rebuilt and restored in the museum at St Fagans.
Comment by Mathilde Lopez on July 3, 2009 at 17:10
Now, next week we want the same fantastic reportage with pictures and videos
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