Academi and WNO MAX Creative Writing and Opera Partnership

mike WNO

June 26 and July 3 2010 saw Blaenavon and Aberdare come alive to the sound of Opera and creative writing workshops with Performance Poet, Mike Church.

Academi ran two workshops in partnership with WNO MAX to help celebrate their three year project in the South East Wales Valleys with funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The Academi South Wales Valleys Literature Development Officer had worked with the WNO MAX Co-ordinator in a number of projects including Boxing Beats, Surf Tailz/Surf Academi, Valley of Hope and The Treorchy Journey as part of the ongoing development of engagement with literature and opera throughout the South Wales Valleys.

The two days of celebration and the WNO Commission The Journeybrought together the music and words created through a range of song writing projects in six counties. The Valleys Communities celebrated their journey with WNO and in part Academi across the three year programme of work.

Blaenavon Heritage Day

Mike Church from conversations in Blaenavon

Back in the day
The Blaenavon way,
Chapels fit to burst
Bustling, busy buses
Carried crowds to Commercial Street,
Friday Mornings you couldn’t drive through town.
Workman’s Hall Pantomime packed them in
The chuckling, cheerful, close-knit community
Chorusing in choirs
Counted off at the pithead:
Pummelled, peppered, pink and proud,
When domestic drama was a tin bath
With outside loo and newsprint tattoo.
They were forged in furnaces
Front doors forever open,
Co-operative as the Co-op:
‘It gets friendlier the further up the valley you go
Once bigger than Newport you know’
As immigrants, outsiders
Flooded in from England
Cultivating coal,
Back in the day
The Blaenavon way.

Years pass, the hills have got steeper
The town sleepier,
An industrial museum.
The Heritage Day highlights pack them in
Balloon popping, tub thumping, beer swilling, chip cartooned crowds
Stream through the high street once more.
A Welsh National Opear trampled tissue
Lays in the gutter,
A wasted cultural crown.
The youth out of tune
With the Chapel Choir on stage
While the Queen Vic hosts rock and roll
And a youngster sings in to the mic:
‘We don’t need no education’
A siren blares
Set off by children crawling like industrial migrants
Over a fire engine.
Bronze tattooed men
And tattooed white linen ladies
Enjoy beer and ice cream
Back in the day
The Heritage Way.

And George Spencer’s electrical store
Lights up the town
Charting moves from radiogram to ipod nano,
Death notices decorate the display,
While George stays razor sharp
At 84
He knows more about Pobol y Cwm
Than S4C
He can see the loss of aspiration
And the rise of multi-nationals
Watching a stranglehold on culture
As the cinema crumbles
And the Co-op shrinks
Around the kebab and pizza house.
But George guards hope
And still mends TV’s
His door forever open,
He’s known them all
As the Community Policeman nips in
For respite from the Heritage foray
And has a sly fag and smile behind the counter
Back in the day
The Blaenavon Way.


The Suitcase
Aeron Elias

Alone on the railway station platform, I sit waiting,
Why doesn’t someone pick me up?
Why doesn’t someone take me home?
Alone, I sit as others are carried away,
Wait a moment, I’m being lifted up,
Wait a moment, I’m boarding the train,
A gentle hand is holding me, carrying me,
You see, I’m not just a suitcase anymore,
I’m someone’s luggage.

The Suitcase
Jeff Thomas

It’s full of tricks that were all a flop
Dummies and dolls and frogs that don’t hop
Sticks, white scarves and top hats too
Doves and rabbits and a didgeridoo
It could be a life that’s almost through
It could be full of a mountain range
Cream Himalayas. Well that would be strange
Or a ocean of ginger beer
And a swimming horse. Oh, that would be queer.


The Suitcase
Maureen Thornton

There’s a suitcase in my attic,
All dusty and old
There are treasures within it
Worth more than gold
Fluffy booties from my babies feet
A lock of hair tied with
Ribbons so neat
Some photographs of us all together
In sun, snow, all kinds of weather
A Christmas scene, a Christmas tree
A photo of my grandchild on my knee.
A wedding bouquet, a silver key
The funeral coat, I wore for my love
Who is now in Heaven above
My life is within this case to show
How I have loved
To the human race
And when at last my life is through
I leave behind this case of memories
To you.

The Suitcase
Judy Toms

The brown suitcase
stock still
against the coloured carpet edge

spelt sunshine
spelt seaside
spellt FUN.

The man
belonging to the suitcase
stood stock still
eyes glued to the square shoulder pads
defining the dated brown suit
in his wardrobe

and exploded “Brighton”
out loud, VERY LOUD.

The labels on the surface
of the suitcase
told tales
bolkd tales
now old tales
of Hotel rooms
now faded, shabby with dusty memories
turned over too often

like the corners of the case,
the compendium of better days.