Pioneering Caernarfon art project in running for a top award

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A pioneering art project that bridged the generation gap between residents of a care home and local primary school children is in the running for a top award.

School children from Ysgol Hendre working on the Patagonia project with residents at Bryn Seiont, Caernarfon
resident Daphne Egan with pupils, from left, Sian Williams, 11, Mia Gardner, 10 and Maryam Khan, 10.

Pupils from Ysgol yr Hendre in Caernarfon visited Bryn Seiont Newydd on the outskirts of the town so they could work alongside the people living there to make tea cosies and tapestries.

The project to celebrate the area’s links with Patagonia, the Welsh colony in Argentina, has reached the final of the prestigious Arts and Business Cymru Awards.

It was arranged by Arts and Business Cymru organisation and was being jointly funded by the Pendine Park care organisation which opened Bryn Seiont Newydd 18 months ago.

The project been shortlisted in the Arts, Business and Health Category and the winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on Friday, June 23.

The project was the brainchild of textile artist Cefyn Burgess, who hails from Bethesda and is based at Ruthin Craft Centre.

Pendine Park have won a host of awards from Arts and Business Cymru over the years and were named Business of the Year in 2015.

Proprietors Mario and Gill Kreft are now planning their own visit to Patagonia to see how the project can bring even closer ties between the communities in South America and North Wales.

Mario  said: “The arts is the golden thread that runs through everything we do as part of our enrichment programme that is designed to enhance and improve quality of life for our residents and the staff who care for them.

“We were delighted to partner with Cefyn Burgess to be involved in this very special project.

“Seeing the positive benefits to residents, staff and the schoolchildren has been a humbling and truly uplifting experience and one that will live on not just in our memories but also as a long-lasting legacy that will live on.”

The first meeting to discuss the historic migration to Patagonia took place at Engedi Chapel in Caernarfon and 150 Welsh settlers set sail aboard a clipper called the Mimosa on May 28, 1865.

There are now 5,000 people in the Chubut area who still speak Welsh, and in recent years there has been a significant revival of interest in all things Welsh, particularly since the 150th anniversary last year.

Cefyn originally worked on a project called Perthyn (belonging) with of Ysgol Yr Hendre in the Patagonian city of Trelew to produce tapestries depicting life on the River Camwy in fabric and stitch.

The tapestries were exhibited at Galeri, Caernarfon and Cefyn extended the project to include pupils of Ysgol Yr Hendre in Caernarfon, which is twinned with the Patagonian school of the same name.

The local youngsters worked with Bryn Seiont Newydd residents to illustrate life on and around the River Seiont.

Cefyn said: “A really important and iconic image of life in Patagonia is the Welsh tea room, the Casa de Te. The students of Ysgol Yr Hendre, working as reporters, will help gather the thoughts, memories and tales of places and events here in the same way I did in Patagonia.

“They then explored those experiences with residents to produce tea cosies in stitch and fabric that can also be used at tea time so memories and stories can be shared over tea and bara brith.”

“The pupils also researched and gathered images of the area, both old and new, to help capture the shared moments and information with the residents.

“It helped the children understand the depth of a person and the experiences they have had and seeing pupils work alongside residents was a fantastic way of getting personal interaction between generations.”

Bryn Seiont Newydd resident artist and Enrichment Co-ordinator, Nia Lloyd-Roberts, says residents have really enjoyed the project.

She said: “They all really enjoyed working with children and It’s clear to see residents are more alert, talkative. The children were engaged and asked lots of questions. It was lovely to see the two very different generations so engaged and happy in each other’s company.”