Chatting chair wins top award

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A special chair designed to get people talking has won a top award.

The Cadair Sgwrs (Chatting Chair) was created by housing association Cartrefi Conwy to combat loneliness.

The ground-breaking project has now been honoured at the prestigious Arts & Business Cymru Awards where it crowned in the community category.

The star-studded virtual ceremony included guests from as far afield as Los Angeles and Australia.

The chair made its first public appearance  at the National  Eisteddfod in Llanrwst when the Archdruid Myrddin ap Dafydd wrote  a special englyn – a four-line strict metre verse – in praise of the project.

It was created with the help of Cartrefi Conwy tenants and local schoolchildren, guided by artist Catrin Williams and bespoke furniture maker Rhodri Owen.

The intergenerational project was made possible by part-funding from Arts & Business Cymru’s CultureStep programme.

When it is safe the chair will hopefully become a symbol of friendship, a talking point, encouraging people to sit down, have a chat, make friends and socialise at housing estates managed by Cartrefi Conwy.

The vibrantly coloured chair is enveloped in a stunning outer surface comprising a compilation of more than 80 artworks created by tenants of Cartrefi Conwy and Clwyd Alyn housing associations, members of Llanrwst Men’s Shed group, and pupils of Ysgol Bro Gwydir, Llanrwst.

It is made out of polystyrene and fibre glass in what is a change of direction for carpenter and furniture maker Rhodri, of Ysbyty Ifan, who also made the Bardic Chair for the 2017 National Eisteddfod. He traditionally works with wood.

He designed the chair in collaboration with artist Catrin Williams, a member of the Royal Cambrian Academy, who is based on the Llyn Peninsula.

Catrin was commissioned by Cartrefi Conwy to work with about 20 tenants and other volunteers who agreed to help with the Cadair Sgwrs project.

During the project they met at  Hafan Gwydir Extra Care housing, Llanrwst, to produce a selection of artwork which was collated together to form the unique overall design now permanently embossed onto the chair. Their artwork was based around the key themes of what makes them happy and what community means to them.

The innovative project was managed by Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Officer.

She said: “I was thrilled and delighted when it was announced that we had won and it was particularly appropriate that it was recognised in the community category because that is what Cartrefi Conwy is all about.

“Everybody who took part put their heart and soul into the project so it will mean a great deal to them and deservedly so.

“The idea is that we can use the Cadair Sgwrs to strengthen our local communities and the bond that exists between our tenants.

“It will be a very valuable tool in combating loneliness because it encourages people to talk to each other.

“Our aim is to create new social networks and enable people from different backgrounds and ages, who may not otherwise meet, to come together and form connections and friendships.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Cartrefi Conwy Managing Director Katie Clubb.

She said: “We are all very proud that this wonderful, intergenerational project has been honoured at this prestigious event.

“The Cadair Sgwrs is a perfect illustration of how the arts can be used to enrich people’s lives and make a real difference to their quality of life.”

Arts & Business Cymru’s Chief Executive Rachel Jones says the annual awards ceremony is the highlight of their calendar.

She said: “The decision to take the ceremony online was made possible by the incredible and staunch support of our sponsors and the long established partnership we have developed with Orchard Media & Events.

“For over a quarter of a century, the Awards have encouraged, acknowledged and celebrated exemplary and innovative partnerships between the private sector and the arts that benefit communities across the country.“

As part of the ceremony, a range of celebrities gave messages of support during the evening and announced the winners of the various Awards.

They included actors Rakie Ayola, Rhys Ifans, Mark Lewis Jones, Suzanne Packer.