Author Archives: Eluned

Bonvilston Bookmakers








Over Easter, artist and poet Francesca Kay delivered two workshops on the art of bookmaking to a group in Bonvilston in the Vale of Glamorgan. The group are organised and supported by the charity Age Connect, which seeks to address issues of isolation in rural areas. The Vale of Glamorgan is comprised of many ‘ribbon communities’, such as Bonvilston and Ewenny, where people live in detached housing spread over a large area. Transport issues mean that individuals, especially elderly people, are at risk of being cut-off from the wider community.

In partnership with Age Connect and Barry Library, SWLDI provided a new and creative way for older people in the Vale to get together and socialise; at the same time introducing writing and paper-based crafts as a possible creative past-time for the future. Over the two days, twenty-four clients and volunteers made their own notebooks and booklets out of card, thread and paper. The first booklet was a memento of a chosen theme or sentiment: one lady chose to write hers on her experiences of pressing flowers. The second booklet was inspired by the spring, using William Wordsworth’s famous poem ‘The Daffodils’ as a starting point for deeper, more personal impressions. These were decorated with old botanical illustrations; home-made paper; pieces of crochet; stickers; drawings; personal names and fragments of poetry.


This innovative fusion of crafts and writing means that poetry becomes accessible to those individuals who may have been put off by the idea of writing on its own.

 For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Love, Laska

Love Laska, Lots of Laughter

From January to March 2015, a class of 12 children at Maindee Primary School, Newport, enjoyed spoken poetry and song-writing classes with bilingual rapper, Rufus Mufasa.

The children, who are from European Roma backgrounds, experimented with the English and Welsh language through the medium of song, beats and performance. The majority are originally from Slovakia, with one boy from Romania, yet they all speak Roma with each other and at home. The Roma language has many forms and dialects depending on the country, but it is the major language of traveling communities in Eastern Europe. It is a non-written language. Although storytelling, music and song are all central to traditional Roma culture, written literature – and literacy – is often neglected. As a result, this project focussed on the oral aspects of literature, using the melodies and lyrics of Roma music as a starting point for their own song: ‘Love, Laska’.





The tracks combine Roma, Slovakian, Welsh and English words. ‘Laska’ is the Roma word for ‘love’, for instance. ‘Bystrany’ – another track – is a name of a hometown in Slovakia. The lyrics were inspired by the day-to-day lives and their favourite things: dancing, singing, church, football and, most importantly, family.

As well as working with Rufus Mufasa, the students enjoyed a trip to the Central Library, where they had the chance to have a tour and see the wealth of books on offer. Many of them had not been to Central Library before, and they were all given the chance to register as users of Newport Library services. Moreover, as seen in the short film, a professional beatboxer came in to give the children a masterclass in the art. Beatboxing can give young people the confidence to express different sounds – a skill which lends itself well to the ongoing task of English language learning.

Maindee Primary School is one of the most ethnically diverse schools in Wales, with pupils coming from all sort of backgrounds – including Pakistan, Somalia, Malaysia, China, Poland and many more. The EU Roma students were looked after by enthusiastic teachers, who offer specialist language acquisition classes. With the added support of a Slovakian teacher and translator, the students delved into the multilingual world of poetry, music and song, and produced some awesome beats.

Memories of Barry


The residents of Golau Caredig, Barry’s new Extra Care Unit, enjoyed a series of reminiscence sessions with poet and artist Francesca Kay last month. Together with Barry Library, Francesca brought archive photographs of Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan to share with the group at their weekly coffee morning. The photographs ranged from beaches filled with holidaymakers; Butlins holiday camp and cable car; the Lilo, dotted with swimmers, sunbathers and ice-cream vendors. Bars and clubs from the 60s and 70s were shown alongside pictures of a deserted Thomas Street, with horse and carriages rather than gleaming cars, in the early 1920s. One lady in particular, who was a remarkable ninety-four years old,  remembered a time when the streets were quieter and there were far fewer houses and buildings lining the sandy coastline than there are now.

Kay, Francesca

Francesca Kay

Together with Barry Libraries, the South Wales Initiative (SWLDI) ran the workshop with the hope of allowing the elderly residents of Golau Caredig to partake in story-telling and creative interaction. The poet Francesca Kay worked with small groups and individuals and used their words and phrases as material for a six poems. These poems will then be accompanied by the archive photographs and displayed at Barry Library and Golau Caredig for everyone to see.

We’re looking forward to seeing the finished exhibition, but – in the meantime – here is the wonderful writing that arose from memories of Barry:



Everything was delivered,

Boys on bicycles,

Butcher, baker, greengrocer,

Money in a twist of paper,

My Mam checking her list,

Food to last the week.


Damaged fruit to make pies,

Salted swordfish, the oils and juices for gravy.



Chips in newspaper,

Salty, too hot to eat,

An ice cream on the beach,

With a little bit of crunchy sand.


Food tasted good then,

Sunday dinner was the best.


Outdoor Bathing

The old pool in Barry,

So slippery,


The sea came over and filled it,

You got into gritty water

Down six or seven steps.


Only a paddling pool really,

Temperature gauge telling you how cold.


Sun bathing,

Bright sunshine,

Thin shivery breeze.



On the Beach


Not a pinpoint between people,

A patch of sand,

Mam and Dad by the sea wall,

Sat under painted numbers so

We knew where they were.


I had a red swimsuit,

A donkey bit my sister.


Old Folk dressed in Sunday clothes,

Sat in deckchairs

In their caps and coats.


Kids had freedom then,

Out all day,

No-one bothered us.


We didn’t have much,

But we had fun,

Shared what we had.


End of the day,

Foraging for bottles

to get the money back.


For sweets?

No – to give to Mam,

She’d buy something nice for tea.


Sunday Best

You didn’t wear it in the week,

Not even socks,

Just for Sunday,

Special occasions.


A new outfit for Whitsun

for the Chapel outing,

a dress,

a blazer,

oh – new shoes

so clean and stiff.


Everybody wore a hat,

They were smarter days.

The Knap, Moonlight Sonata

We would take the car,

Park for free,

Deckchair for nothing,

Sit down and read the paper.


Fish and chips,

Sunshine and sea breeze.


Imagine sitting on the beach

Watching the moon come up,

We’re all musicians.





Funny Faces


In January 2015, selected children from Greenmeadow Primary School took part in a two-day workshop with illustrator and artist Huw Aaron. 15 young people between the ages of 7 and 10 created their very own comics – creating a storyboard, characters, and artwork all of their own. The finished comics will then be printed in a pamphlet so they can share their work with family and friends. The students had been struggling with some key literacy skills, but regular attendance of the Communities First Comic Club and a project like this is a way of conveying the joy of reading and writing. Characters who came to life on the page include: the Four Musketeers (girls, of course); the victorious Hameleg; the amazing Super Squirrels; and a talented football star! There are love stories, action stories, tales of growing-up and even a page of one-line jokes – something for everyone. The collection of work is called Funny Faces, and the project was organised and supported by Communities First Thornhill and Literature Wales.



After the success of the project, similar creative scribbling and comic-book making is planned in several other schools in Torfaen, including working with older secondary-school students.




Young New Rap Stars Emerge at Lewis School




Boys at Lewis School, Pengam have been following in the steps of rap stars like Eminem, 2Pac and Jay-Z in a series of creative rap-writing workshops. Together with poet and writer Patrick Jones, brother of Manic Street Preacher’s Nicky Wire, and bilingual rapper Rufus Mufasa, two groups of students aged 13-16 worked on creating their own lyrics and songs. The finished pieces were then performed, put to music and made into CDs, which were played at a presentation ceremony at Lewis School  to congratulate the students on their achievements.

The rap workshops were organised by Caerphilly Arts Development and Literature Wales’ South Wales Literature Development Initiative, and participants were selected after being identified as ‘being at risk of exclusion’ by the school. Some had a school attendance record as low as 15%, and a history of challenging behaviour in the classroom. Writing lyrics and rapping can be a way for young people to express themselves and their attitude to life in a creative way, and both authors were delighted with the outcome of the project.

Patrick Jones said: “I think we have proved how creativity and freedom of expression can enhance a pupil’s learning experience. Some pupils who have been reluctant to put pen to paper have written honestly about their lives. It has been a thrilling and challenging journey.”

Performance poet Rufus Mufasa said: “It has been an absolute pleasure working with the groups and their creativity with poetry and lyrical skills has given them a new found passion for language and literature. They created such powerful and inspirational pieces of work in such a short space of time. I’d love to support the boys in future projects as the possibilities are endless in their ability to create powerful pieces that will inspire their peers and community.”




The Miner’s Poems

Talented students from Oakdale Comprehensive in Blackwood remember the Senghenydd mining disaster in the form of poetry and storytelling with local writer, Patrick Jones.


Just over a 100 years ago, on October 14th 1913, Senghenydd was struck by one of the worst catastrophes to happen in the history of mining in Britain.  Over 430 miners and one rescuer were killed by an explosion caused by rising levels of methane in the pit and electric sparks from the mining machinery. The resulting funerals took over a month to complete.

Patrick Jones, published writer, poet and playwright, and once a pupil of Oakdale Comprehensive himself, worked with gifted and talented students in Year 10 (14-15 years of age). He is proud to be working on a project which he describes as ‘close to his heart’. Brother of Manic Street Preacher’s Nicky Wire, Patrick grew up in Tredegar and has strong ties with the area.


With support from Caerphilly Arts Development, this workshop was a chance for a group of young people to learn more about the history of their region, and be inspired by the places they see every day. The students had a great day, and said that ‘it needed to be done again’. What speaks even more eloquently is what they produced on the day: the beautiful poetry and mature prose of the students themselves.

Here are some examples of their work:

Shovel Hands by Emily Clark

Deeper and Deeper my shovel hands dig,

Through the blackness of the earth’s heart.

In hope of filling my home with heat and life,

To survive this wintery bleak, bleak time.

Deeper and deeper my shovel hands dig,

Through the blackness of the earth’s heart.

Deprived from my dreams, all hope lost,

With no chance of changing my fate.

Deeper and deeper my shovel hands dig,

Through the blackness of the earth’s heart.

Sifting through memories of friends with lives cut short,

Lying besides you in the dirt and dark.

Deeper and deeper my shovel hands dig,

Through the blackness of the earth’s heart.

Looking back at the scenes of my hard and weary life,

Wondering how my dragging time has flown by.

Deeper and deeper my shovel hands dig,

Through the blackness of the earth’s heart.

Into a world where there is a place for childhood,

Hopes and dreams encouraged and loved.

Deeper and deeper my shovel hands dig,

Through the blackness of the earth’s heart.

My life has been plagued by your twisted and devious games,

Yet here I am digging myself deeper.

The Miner’s Wife by Adam Pick

Where are you? Please show your face,

I don’t want to stay here anymore.

I want to believe that you are safe,

I’ll be waiting at home just open the door.

I’ve cooked your favourite meal for you,

Our child is afraid to eat without you.

You’re never this late, I’m thinking of you.

I never told you how much I loved you.

Our Hero by Jasmine Young

While I’m stood here,

Waiting for the news,

If he survived or not,

I begin to cry.

He emerges from the pit,

With a limp body,

He’s placed in front of me,

He lays there lifeless.

Those men  stole him,

They took him away from us,

They took his dreams and innocence.

They took away our hero.

Candles by Miles Aldridge

A flickering hope in a pit full of darkness,

A pit full of death,

A pit full of black,

A pit full of darkness.

Wax slowly melts away,

Like the lives of so many.

The pale wax.

The pale skin.

A flickering hope in a pit full of darkness,

The people’s hope.

False hope, the only light

The white at the end of the tunnel.

The only light,

For which the poor souls do not need,

For they are in eternal darkness.

A flickering hope in a pit full of darkness.

Candle Poem by Katelin Parfitt

 Light of guidance,

In more ways than one.

The way forward in life,

The way forward when gone.

Flickering innocently,

No sign of what was to follow.

Once their flames eventually dies,

The mine will be hollow.

Now they play a different role,

One of grief and sorrow.

Again the are guiding the miners,

But now to a heaven unknown.

Untitled by Taryn Elliott

Here I stand, waiting for you

Not knowing wether you’ll pull through.

How will I feed my baby now,

Now that you’ve taken your final bow

Your baby doesn’t know what’s going on,

Yet it knows somethings has

Gone very wrong

People have gathered

Both rich and poor

As this disaster has brought us together

All the more.

I Blame You by Teigan Rogers

I’m stood here thinking in the open,

Thoughts surrounded by many others,

All scrambling in utter devotion,

To win over our crushed dreams together.

All hoping for the same answer,

Trying with all our might to stop

Traumatizing deaths as: “obsene as cancer”

Ruining our lives through vicious fumes.

Trying to keep control of myself,

I blame it all entirely on you,

The levers on your shelf,

Leads you to turn our work into a heap of darkness.

We Blame You,

They Blame You,

I Blame You.

So Pure by Megan Martindale


Shining in the darkness,

Showing us there is light

Even when the flame goes out.

A little flame,

Brightening up such a big world,

With such a little light,

Almost impossible,

You’d imagine.

Petra the Penguin

Together with Communities 1st, The Parent Network and Caerphilly Arts Development Team, South Wales Literature put together a fantastic creative writing project last year, working with groups of parents from Hengoed Parent Forum

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Making your own Graphic Novel

Over the last four weeks, tucked away in Cowbridge School and town libraries, young people have been busy creating their own spectacular, heart-racing, shock-inducing, goosebump-causing graphic novels.

Illustrating storyboards

Busy illustrating their stories

Thanks to support from the Rhys Davies Trust,the Cardiff-based animation team, Turnip Starfish, who’ve instructed professional illustrators and artists who’ve worked on famous animation films by Disney and Pixar, led the workshops. A small and select group of 9 students from Cowbridge Comprehensive School – from the age of 11 to 17 – succeeded in producing their innovative, individual storyboards just four sessions. The stories included all sorts of exciting characters inspired by film, animations and comics, as well as completely new figures straight from their imaginations – an evil bank-robbing dog, a terrifying serial killer, a chase for a crazed gunman, a skateboarder who can skate over rooftops…

The young people were first taught essential drawing skills (how to draw hands, feet and bodies, for example – who knew that a human torso is the same length from their hips to their feet?) before launching into drawing their own fictional worlds.


The graphic novels have been collected together and published in their own book, so that the young debut authors can spread the joy of story-telling to friends, families and everyone else!