I’ve been awarded a Digital Located Residency by National Theatre Wales funded by the Jerwood Foundation. My plan is to research the possibility of creating a piece of work that connects Jamaica and Bangor through the archive of letters that sits in Bangor University - catalogued, but not digitised.
This idea was inspired by my time researching and writing the new guidebook for Penrhyn Castle. The archives are incredible, and public, but you have to go to the archives to see them. For those in Jamaica, this resource that is so significant to their history, is missing.
This work will start in January 2019.
Here’s a bit of information about the project
The landscape and people of North Wales and Jamaica have a shared and difficult history.
In Bangor there sits an enormous country house built by the Pennant family to look like a huge castle - Penrhyn Castle .
In Jamaica, the Pennant family owned huge sugar plantations worked by thousands of enslaved Africans.
The family wrote letters from their castle. Dictating to agents in Jamaica how to work the land and their cattle and their “negroes”. They made a fortune.
That fortune funded the development of the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda - at one time the largest slate quarry in the world and later the site of the longest industrial dispute in British history.
In this project I would like to share some of these letters, that have been waiting silently to be heard, for hundreds of years.
I’m currently artist in residence in Conwy Library. Conwy is having a new library, archive and art centre on the site where once a primary school stood - Ysgol Bodlondeb.
So far, I’ve put together an exhibition about the school in the library and invited people to share their memories and stories. We had over 300 people in five days - it was a ruddy joy.
I’m now recording oral histories with people, sounds from the old site, and making new work with primary school children.
I’m going to put together a series of stories, exhibits and an audio walk that will be ready for the opening of Conwy’s new Culture Centre in 2019.
IN THEIR SHOES
Familiarity can make spaces invisible to us. This familiarity can be dangerous when what is now hidden has a huge impact on those who travel through and in that space. Like Patients in a hospital.
In Their Shoes was a project that came from years of recording patients and staff and realising how significant this issue is. I designed a story walk made of patient experiences through a hospital - designed for receptionists, nurses and hospital designers. I took this idea to Professor Maggie Kirk (who is a legend) at the Genomics department of the University of South Wales, and together we got the funding from the AHRC to explore the impact this walk could have on empathy.
An audio experience for one person at a time commissioned by Warwick Arts Centre and performed at Warwick, Edinburgh fringe and Machynlleth Comedy Festival.
Here’s the blurb:
Every place has its own sound. A resonance made up of invisible sound shadows of what exists and what has been before. Even when it seems empty.
We carry resonance inside of us too. And when we’re still, we can hear them. The shadows of people and presents and stupid jokes. Long after we think they’re forgotten.
Trace brings together stories that emerged from listening to and recording an empty football ground. Stories of loss, the FA cup and of what it means to remember.
The piece includes field and archive recordings and the voice of goalkeeping hero Steve Ogrizovic”
“It’s a glorious piece of work – funny, clever and absolutely heart-felt…I can’t stop feeling it, and I want that piece of work to live forever.” Bianca, audience member
You can read a review of Trace at Forest Fringe here.
Following a six month artist residency at the National Trust’s Penrhyn Castle where we were asked to explore the relationship between the local communities and the castle (spoiler: they’re historically not on the best of terms) I put together a series of pieces that included a three part audio installation across three sites - in the Grand Hall in the castle and in nearby Bethesda’s cooperative shop Siop Ogwen and Caffi Coed Y Brenin (two courses on a thursday for £5). Alongside this I made a lightbox that sat in the fireplace in the Grand Hall.
There’s a video that the National Trust made about the work here.
This was about bringing in the voices, the language and stories of local people and of the quarry lockout and place them at the heart of the castle - it would be a three part audio piece that would be in both languages, that would be listened to when sitting in chairs from the andfacing the quarry.
I would draw people to this story by bringing light into the dark fireplace that was at the centre of the grand hall by making a lightbox that would have written on it an idiom used time and time again by people in this area to articulate their feelings towards this history.
And I would write those words in the font of the quarry’s agent at the time of the dispute that I found in the archive.
And I would only have those words in the language they were shared with me.
MI GEWCH CHI’CH CROGI AM DDWYN DAFAD ODDI AR Y MYNYDD, OND AM DDWYN Y MYNYDD MI GEWCH CHI’CH GWNEUD YN ARGLWYDD.
Translation: YOU WILL BE HANGED FOR STEALING A SHEEP FROM THE MOUNTAIN, BUT FOR STEALING THE MOUNTAIN YOU WILL BE MADE A LORD.
I had another chair that faced the quarry and in the cafe I had another that faced the castle. Each one with a different part of the story and different voices. And to tie them all together I produced a book with my photographs and quotes from the people I spoke to and some I didn’t. Like Boris Johnson.
More recently, I was asked to write the new guidebook for Penrhyn Castle. I’ve just completed the first draft. In this book I have tried to ensure the family’s fortune made in Jamaica and through slave ownership is given the proper attention alongside the stories and voices of local people.
This story is still so relevant and so current. Just take this quickly pulled down tweet by the Treasury - we as taxpayers only just finished paying off the compensation given to slaveowners at the time of abolition for the loss of ‘their property’.
Ar gyfer yr Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol rydw i'n casglu Hanesion Llafar gan bobl sydd wedi byw neu sydd â pherthynas â Thy Mawr Wybrnant. Mae hwn yn eiddo anhygoel ac anarferol yr Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol. Lle geni William Morgan.
Os nad ydych erioed wedi bod, fe ddylech chi wir fynd ... Mae'n wych.
For the National Trust I'm gathering Oral Histories from people who have lived or have relationship to Ty Mawr Wybrnant. This is an amazing and unusual National Trust property. The birthplace of William Morgan.
Ganed William Morgan yn Nhŷ Mawr Wybrnant o gwmpas 1545, yn ail fab i John ap Morgan a Lowri. Roedden nhw’n ffermwyr ac yn denantiaid i Maurice Wynn o Gastell Gwydir ger Llanrwst.
Mae’n rhaid bod gan y landlord feddwl mawr o’r teulu oherwydd anfonwyd William, pan oedd yn blentyn, i gael ei addysg yng Nghastell Gwydir ochr yn ochr â phlant y landlord.
Aeth William ymlaen i gael ei addysgu yng Nghaergrawnt, lle bu’n astudio am 10 mlynedd i ennill gradd Baglor a Meistr yn y Celfyddydau ynghyd â Baglor Diwinyddiaeth. Fe wnaeth astudio Hebraeg a’r iaith Roegaidd hefyd - byddai’r holl sgiliau hyn wedi bod yn werthfawr iddo wrth fynd ati i gyfieithu’r Beibl.
Pan ddaeth yr alwad gan Elizabeth I i gyfieithu’r Beibl i’r Gymraeg, ymgymerodd William â’r her anferth a gymerodd 10 mlynedd i’w chwblhau. Amcangyfrifir bod 1,000 o gopïau o Feibl gwreiddiol 1588 wedi eu hargraffu. Dim ond tua 20 o’r rhain sy’n weddill erbyn heddiw ac mae dau ohonynt i’w gweld yn Nhŷ Mawr.
I really like taking pictures. I take so many pictures that there’s usually some that work out quite well even if I’m not wholly certain of the f stop.
I use photography in all of my projects, even if the end result is only sound. It helps me work things out and see things differently. Shapes and colours and curiosities are the things that grab me most, but I also like taking pictures of people. They’re often curiosities too.
I would like to do more of the taking pictures on purpose, so let me know if you fancy a good time in Snowdonia (or elsewhere).
I share lots of pictures on Instagram. I mainly take photos on my phone these days, but I do have a nice camera that does f stops too.
IN HERE ALWAYS
“Last day of school today, nail in coffin of village” - texted my dad. I was living in Cardiff at the time. I didn’t want to believe that the village I’d grown up in was ruined by this - the closure of my old school. Glyndyfrdwy is a place of 500 people, living in houses on either side of the river Dee and the A5 and people do so much for each other. Or at least that’s what I remembered. So I decided to come back and find out, record people and listen.
In time I created a performance that took people from the old school and to the only open and public building - the Village Hall. Once there people were asked to consider what they would like to see happen in the Glyndyfrdwy of the future. By asking these questions and telling these stories I realised that I wanted to move home again, and be part of the community once more. Did they want me? Too late now!
I worked with Cardiff University’s festival team to gather oral histories and memories relating to music for a Music Museum that launched as part of Swn Festival. In terms of a conversation starter, music is a ruddy winner.
KEEPING THE LIGHT IN
I worked with my friend Ashleigh Enness to make this piece. We thought we were going to make a site specific show about the Lighthouse, but it ended up being about the snack bar that sits a few hundreds away from it and the people who ran it.
Here’s a bit of the script:
fog horn station bit
A: The fog signal is sounded at 14.00 on the first Saturday and third Sunday of each month, weather conditions permitting.
L: We have arranged that as you’re all here we can sound the horn. But for that we need you to follow some basic satefy instructions.
health and safety bit
A: We want everybody to have an enjoyable experience and believe that safety is a key contributor to people leaving with smiles on their faces. We have a few rules we enforce and would be grateful if you could put these headphones on as we would like to protect your ears from the sound of the fog horn. It is very important that you do not take off your headphones until we give you the all clear.
L: We will do this by saying “you can take off your headphones now”. Stand anywhere you can find a spot and look towards Chris - who will take us through the sounding of the fog horn.
Lisa and Ashleigh stay at the door as people enter. They wait until everyone is in and looking at Chris and then they walk towards the lighthouse.
People put on headphones. Chris to take over the sounding of the horn. We slip away.
In Headphones we say:
A: The foghorn is pretty great isn’t it? Did you feel it in your bones? Did it make you think of a thousand boats safely sailing between England and Wales without crashing into secret sand?
L: Don’t be alarmed. It’s just us. Your guides. The two from before. The two that told you the facts about this lighthouse that you may remember but you’ll probably forget. And that is fine.
A: Of course, the facts are important - they’re the reason this lighthouse is here, what makes it stand tall and shine light so far. Every fifteen seconds of every minute of every day. But this tour isn’t actually about the facts.
L: Up until we got into these headphones all of the words you’ve heard have not been our own. They are the parts of Nash Point’s 180 years that are deemed noteworthy by the writers of history. Or at least the writers of Wikepedia.
A: We want to share with you a different set of stories – stories that belong to us and the people we’ve met. The invisible undocumented stories that make this place real and important and alive. Not in history. But for us. Today. Now.
L:We will guide you with instructions. We will only ask you to participate by looking, walking and listening. If at any point you’re in need of help, just raise your hand and someone will come over to you.
A; If you could make your way to either window on the right hand side of this room – the side that looks out to the lighthouse, that would be lovely.
TIME TO TALK
I loved this project. Working with Jeni Burnell from Oxford Brookes we recorded the life stories of those that live on the Leys estate. Lots of these photos were taken when I went back to their homes and played their edited stories back to them. The final films were shown as part of an exhibition at Oxford Museum.
END OF LIFE
Coming soon…to all of us. Best make the most of it eh?