Being on National Theatre Wales’s TEAM Panel guarantees I'm inundated with thought-provoking events and conferences to represent NTW at, and Casgliad 2015 was no different. At 9am on Saturday 11th April I found myself, along with TEAM coordinator Laura Thomas and fellow panelist Loui-Joe Milne, drinking in the stunning view from Aberystwyth’s Art Centre, ready for a full day of workshopping. Facilitated and curated by YANC members this was billed as a ‘one-day gathering of youth arts professionals to collaborate and share ideas, practice and begin to develop the youth arts sector across Wales’.
I wasn’t familiar with YANC’s work but their callout inspired me to attend:
The level of organisation and thought put into the programme was impressive, and meant that the 100+ delegates didn’t swallow my voice. It felt more like a giant meet-up of friends from across Wales (even though I only knew four or five people). A freelance workshop facilitator’s job can be a lonely one at times; your opinions and experience feel like one small voice lost in the overall conversation, so I arrived with the following goals:
I had no idea what to expect or what levels of support YANC had garnered in Wales so the opening talk by Arts Council Wales’ Sally Lewis was a revelation. It was heartening to discover the levels of commitment from this national body. Living and working in North East Wales means I can feel a bit out of the loop where national initiatives are concerned and I often feel I’d benefit from talking more with people from other areas of Wales. ‘If only there were some sort of national network for artists and practitioners working with young people to meet and share ideas’ I have been know to wail (no longer!).
On to a quick whistlestop tour of the day’s events (to give you a feel of the three sessions I attended):
Firstly YANC Network Workshop facilitated by YANC members: interesting, inspiring, informative, fun. Our thoughts and ideas on shaping YANC for 2015/16 were collated in a creative way (I loved the timeline and one group’s ‘hoover’ analogy. Our group presented a call-and-response poem). There wasn’t enough time to perhaps fully immerse in this - it would need a full day in itself, but the workshop was well structured and thought-out. There were a number of areas where it was obvious NTW is already excelling such as providing online communication platforms for people (Community) and opportunities to share ideas (Skillswap) so it was more a case of making sure other groups are aware of this rather than duplicating what’s already being done successfully. My only (tiny) criticism is that, outside of one delegate presenting in Welsh with translation, the Welsh language wasn’t particularly well supported in this arena. There were headphones and a translator so that anybody who wanted to use Welsh could do, but here’s the thing, the language cannot survive through technical means alone, it needs real-live-Welsh-speaking-people facilitating as well as participating, and as such this didn’t feel like an environment where I was confident using my Welsh.
After lunch I discovered Foxy and Husk. My new love. Check out their first video here. This workshop, for me, was a huge creative and inspirational shot in the arm. I cannot sing their praises enough. The latest work is stunning and profound. Cheers ladies - I will be hunting out the rest of your art and cannot wait to see you live sometime!
Final workshop (literature and visual arts) facilitated by Bethan Marlow and Shaun Featherstone: and everything I said about the Welsh language in the first session changed in this one. Being fluent in both Welsh and English enabled Bethan to encourage everyone to speak in whatever language they felt comfortable (which meant we also heard some French and Polish). I gave my Welsh a go and delegates who hadn’t written in Welsh for years commented they felt supported and confident enough to do so. Result. The story-creation was hilarious and the umbrellas and paint added a fun element. I also picked up some new workshop techniques and was asked to share some of my own.
The chair of Casgliad, Sarah Jones, did a fantastic job of overseeing this event, of course it couldn’t have happened without the hard work of everybody else involved, and it was great to have the opportunity to show our appreciation at the closing event. This took us up to 6.30pm. I didn’t attend the hour-long AGM afterwards as the drive back to Wrecsam loomed but I’m looking forward to reading the minutes.
To sum up: Casgliad was, in my opinion, a huge success because it stepped away from a ‘top-down’ approach. Organisers provided open and inclusive platforms and creative arenas in which delegates could experience and share work, making it possible for us to feed into the overall conversation in a meaningful and thoughtful way. I loved being able to share ntwTEAM initiatives, and as an individual I left inspired to have met so many creative people working towards the same goals in Wales. I look forward to seeing how YANC shapes up in the future and hope I can continue to be a part in some small way.
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