Project bridges the generation gap in Caernarfon

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Resident Eirwyn Pritchard with Ilan Owen, 10, Daniel Drew, 11 and Tyron Griffiths, 10

A pioneering craft project is helping bridge the generation gap between residents of a Caernarfon care home and a local primary school children.

Ten years old Cai Evans with resident Mic Foster.

Pupils from Ysgol yr Hendre visited Bryn Seiont Newydd 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, was the brainchild of textile artist Cefyn Burgess, who hails from Bethesda and is based at Ruthin Craft Centre.

It has been arranged by the Arts and Business Cymru organisation and is being jointly funded by the Pendine Park care organisation which opened Bryn Seiont Newydd a year ago.

The first meeting to discuss the historic migration 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 have been exhibited at Galeri, Caernarfon and now Cefyn has 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 are working 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 will then explore those experiences with residents to produce tea cosies in stitch and fabric that will go on show at the care home and also be used at tea time so memories and stories can be shared over tea and bara brith.”

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

“They will draw the line, shapes, colours and texture to create tapestries using felt, cotton, flannel and stitch using embellishers and sewing machines as well as hand stitching.”

“It helps children understand the depth of a person and the experiences they have had. I hope the images and tapestries we create will start conversations.

“And seeing pupils work alongside residents is a fantastic way of getting personal interaction between generations.”

“They are helping residents cut and make their tea cosies. It’s wonderful to see the memories of residents being incorporated in the cosies. And residents really seem to respond to working with the children.”

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

She said: “They all really enjoy working with children. We have had our resident Millicent Foster telling children about one of her passions, fly fishing which is being incorporated into her tea cosy and another resident Eurwyn Pritchard has enjoyed talking to some of the boys about football and his favourite club, Everton.

“It’s clear to see residents are more alert, talkative. The children have been engaged and have asked lots of questions. It’s lovely to see the two very different generations so engaged and happy in each other’s company.”

Among the residents taking part is Daphne Egan who said: “I came from Ireland and my husband and I lived near the Menai Strait and could see ships passing. I have nice memories of when I lived there with my dear husband, Dennis.

“It’s lovely making the tea cosy telling a bit of my story of Ireland and the Menai Strait.

“I have loved working with the children they are so polite and nice it’s a pleasure being with them.”

Pupil Mia Gardner, 10, said: “It’s been really interesting talking to Daphne and learning about her life.

“I’m helping her make her tea cosy which shows a sailing ship passing under the Menai Bridge and sailing past Ireland.”

Fellow pupil Cai Evans, 10 says he has been working with resident Millicent Foster making her tea cosy which depicts a fly fishing scene.

Cai said: “Millicent liked fly fishing and has told me all about how she used to catch fish. We are showing that in her tea cosy.”

Millicent added: “I have enjoyed working with the children. The tea cosy shows a big salmon. I use to really like fly fishing. I went with my husband and brothers. We were a fishing family.”