Author Archives: Louise

TwLetteratura Cymru


March 2017 saw the launch of an exciting new European digital partnership project bringing TwLetteratura and Betwyll to Merthyr Tydil from Italy. The project was funded by Cardiff University as part of the Fusion Pioneer programme and was a partnership between Literature Wales, Head4Arts, Merthyr Libraries, Possib Project, 3GS working in collaboration with Pierluigi Vaccaneo (the co-developer of the TwLetteratura project in Italy and the creator of the Betwyll app).

TwLetteratura is one of the 15 good practices enlisted in the manual “Promoting Reading in the Digital Environment”, published by the European Union and written by the work group of the experts in digital reading of the EU States. The project combined reading and social media to explore TwLetteratura techniques, linked with other projects across Europe, and increased learning and creative opportunities in an appealing way.

Working with author Francesca Kay, pupils and staff from two schools Pen y Dre Comprehensive and Goetre Primary, Merthyr North, read the same book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (divided into small sections, over a period of weeks). They devised their own creative responses in 140 characters to what they read, posted them on a closed digital platform (Betwyll) and enjoyed art workshops led by Andy O’Rouke to create illustrations to complement the written responses. Supported by Jen Angharad, Possib Project, the project also encouraged bilingual responses to the text. The project has been shared both online and the twylls and artworks have been produced as a book, reflecting the new tech / old tech values of the project.

Miss Rhianon Bennett, Goetre Primary school said:

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for giving us the opportunity to take part in this wonderful project.

The children and I have thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end and feel saddened that it has now come to a close.

Firstly, I feel that the quality of the children’s writing has improved significantly in such a short space of time!

They have readily ‘twylled’ a whole range of things including lipograms and rhymes, and used alliteration on many occasions. They have written in role, and they have written in the 3rd person – with equal success -and have done all of this without complaint or concern.

I must say, I feel a huge factor in the success of the project, is down to the fact that Francesca and Louise have been frequent visitors to the school – supporting our numerous sessions with the children.

The children have greatly enjoyed this new and fresh interaction, so much so that they have sat for nigh on two hours at a time, twice a week, and sometimes more – listening to Francesca read – and then’ twylling.’

The importance of these sessions simply cannot be underestimated.

Oral performance, especially listening to someone read, in my opinion, is one of the greatest things a child can be a part of – and this was quality, interesting, engaging reading!

In fact, the children have become more inclined to read aloud of late overall, and on one occasion, a very quiet introverted child, once  chose to read a complete chapter to the rest of the class! This was as a direct result of the modelling of the reading she had listened to and chose to replicate to her peers.

In addition to this, we have had great fun with Andy the artist.

Children who avidly stated, ‘I can’t draw!’ had to eat their words after producing lovely animated pictures of characters and scenes from the book – and spent several hours practising their new found skills.

We also welcomed Jen Angharad to the class, who worked with the children through the medium of Welsh – and some dance – we may be able to exhibit this at a local festival.

Finally, I have now planned a trip for the whole of year 5/6 to visit Cadbury’s World. The children are very excited….

It may not be Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – but I guess it’s the closest we’re going to get!

Many thanks for everything again.

Also see Francesca Kay’s blog on the Literature Wales website TwLetteratura and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Chris Riddell and Huw Aaron at the Riverfront

© Sioned a Nia

© Sioned a Nia

In SWLDI’s major showcase of 2016, 350 year 5 pupils from Caerphilly, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Torfaen and the Vale of Glamorgan enjoyed a fun, interactive show by Chris Riddell, UK Children’s Laureate and Welsh illustrator Huw Aaron at the Riverfront, Newport on Tuesday 8 November 2016.

Pupils had the opportunity to direct Chris and Huw as their illustrations evolved live on the stage’s big screen. Chris and Huw also told their stories of how they built their careers in illustration – showing that a career in the arts is both achievable and rewarding. Huw and Chris signed hundreds of books.

© Sioned a Nia

© Sioned a Nia


© Sioned a Nia

© Sioned a Nia

© Sioned a Nia


Credit Sioned a Nia

Credit Sioned a Nia

Ashianna – Urdu, noun

  1. bird’s nest
  2. beautiful home full of, or made with, love and friendship

Poet and printer Francesca Kay led a series of workshops with Newport Mind’s Ashianna group, a group for Asian women to learn new skills and develop support networks in a culturally appropriate and safe environment. Using cut-ups from botanical illustrations, the group created collages, writing empowering messages and poems in English and Urdu about being women. The group then embellished and decorated the assembled piece before it was framed.

The themes of positivity and womanhood were developed further using Francesca’s mobile badge making machine and 1920s printing press. The letterpress printing process uses wooden letters and symbols, called moveable type, which are then inked. This creates a unique impression each time it’s pressed against the paper, giving members of the group individual and distinctive artworks, some of which were taken home to use as gifts or to display. The rest of the artwork produced by the group will be used to decorate Newport Mind’s new offices to make them more colourful and welcoming.

This project was developed in partnership with Mind Newport and Newport City Council.

Stories from the Circus

spinning plates 2 small

Mike Church used circus skills and stories to engage the pupils of The Learning Centre, Glan Y Nant, teaching important life skills and new ways of being creative.

The circus came to the class room with spinning plates across the solar system, synchronised devil stick flipping, wobbling on the balance board and twirling diablo with Lionel the Lion. These helped to develop concentration skills, and the classes supported and encouraged each other while learning new things.

Using role play, the classes explored classic stories from new angles to look at choices and consequences, cross examining and sentencing goldilocks and the boy who pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall.

Click below to see the World Record for Simultaneous Devil Stick Flipping, and Spinning Plates Across The Solar System.

Dementia Week – Friends Group

Poetry With Friends

During Dementia Awareness Week, poet and printer Francesca Kay worked with patients with early-onset dementia at Barry Hospital St Barruc’s Ward’s Friends Group. Their words, along with words contributed by University Hospital Llandough staff, were compiled into poetry pieces that reflected the complexity of memories affected by dementia. The project gave voice and creative expression to patients, contributing to their sense of dignity and self-worth. Staff also benefited through new ways of interacting with their patients. The poetry was part of the ‘Threads: Memory in Focus’ exhibition which explored the fluid and complicated nature of memory. The exhibition was open to the public until 1 June 2016. This activity has helped increase well-being for participants and creates greater social and community cohesion by including the family of patients in the project.

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Roald Dahl 100 at Big Pit

Big Pit Takeover

On Monday 21 November 2016, Year 6 pupils from Ysgol Bryn Onnen came to ‘takeover’ Big Pit and turn part of the museum into a home fit for The BFG as part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day. Bardd Plant Cymru (Welsh-language children’s laureate), Anni Llŷn, and rapper and hip hop educator Rufus Mufasa helped the pupils unleash their creativity through Roald Dahl inspired writing workshops. After interpreting their dreams by making Dream Jars, the pupils worked with Anni to create imaginary giants with words, before turning their creations into rap poetry with Rufus.

The highlight of the day was dressing the ‘King Coal’ underground simulation with the glittering Dream Jars to resemble The BFG’s cave, and performing and recording poems in the space.

The event was developed in partnership with Literature Wales as part of the South Wales Literature Development Initiative and the organisation’s Roald Dahl 100 Wales celebrations. Literature Wales will be supporting further writing workshops at the school.

This was a project developed in partnership with National Museums Wales and Torfaen County Borough Council.


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In the summer of 2016, Literature Wales in partnership with Newport Mind and Big Issue hosted creative writing workshops for young people who struggle with mental health or have experienced homelessness. Held in Newport’s Grade II listed building, Beechwood House, the workshops were led by poet and playwright Patrick Jones.

According to the Arts & Health Foundation, engaging in creative activities can provide ‘a mental boost’. Writing creatively has the potential to relieve stress, improve concentration, provide an outlet for emotion, and offer opportunities to connect and collaborate with other writers. The group wrote A-Z poems about positive thinking, made cut-up poems from old books and assembled poetry from magnetic words, often over a picnic in Beechwood Park.

The Big Issue ran a Q&A session for the group about writing in journalism and how to get their poetry published.


Accept life as it is

Be yourself

Call out negativity

Differences make you unique

Everything will fall into place

Failing doesn’t make you a failure

Give yourself a chance

Have the courage to speak your mind

It’s ok to stand out

Jump for opportunities

Knock out the demons

Live to the fullest

Make it work for you

Never underestimate yourself

Open your eyes


Quit quitting

Restarting isn’t an option

Young Carers 2016


During the November half term, Mike Church led a drama project to give young carers from the Caerphilly a chance to enjoy and learn more about drama and develop trust and friendships with each other through their experience of performing together. This was also a chance for young carers to have a break from their caring role.

Through team games and role play, Mike built teamwork, unlocked imagination and helped the group immerse themselves in creativity. Each session started with warm up games like ‘Eek, Woosh and Pass’, and giant Rock, Paper, Scissors. In the afternoon everyone took part playing roles in stories like the ‘Hat Maker’ (each person playing a monkey and stealing a hat from the hat maker).  The young carers started playing with characters through role playing. The Laughing Chair, where the person sitting down is not allowed to laugh and people takes turns trying to make them laugh. Nobody made it up to one minute in the chair.

The groups then put together poetry about a brick, with everyone contributing ideas for what it could be used for. These ideas were then built on in small groups to develop little plays which were performed at the end of the day, all showing just how much can be imagined from a humble brick.

“The young carers loved this type of activity. They all went home with smile on their faces. Even the young carers who were normally quiet took part in the activities that Mike delivered. If given the chance we would certainly be looking to do more partnership working in the future.” – Gillian Cleaton, Barnardo’s Team Manager

Ysbryd Y Môr Writers


Award winning poet Rhian Edwards led a group of chronic patients in an innovative addition to their treatment with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Healthboard. The group wrote mood poems, reflecting on positive and negative emotions, wrote about their homes and childhoods, bringing objects and photos to inspire the writing. Rhian drew together powerful collective poetry from conversation in the group. The group has continued writing as an enjoyable form of expressing themselves.

  • “I didn’t know what to expect, but this has been much better than anything I could have imagined. I’ve had a bad week and this has been the thing I’ve been looking forward to getting out of bed for.” – participant, Ysbryd Y Môr Writers


Remember the multi-coloured pen,

black, red, blue and green.

Lisa’s daughter only writes with black pen,

she refuses to write with blue.


Lynwen has an Art Nouveau pen

with a matching notebook.

Her daughter Lucinda

has a similar design.


Bethan pulls out a crayon

“which says it all really.

Years after teaching

I was still pulling

red pens out of my handbag.”


Lined paper for Diane, otherwise

her writing slopes to the side.

“You can tell I’m not used to writing”,

says Neil waving his hand

clutching the blue pen.


My daughter used to go to sleep

to the sound of the washing machine

or a Billy Joel album and I only had one.

Did she fall asleep to the sound

of the steelworks?

“Is Goldilocks guilty or not guilty? Guilty!” – Rachel Noelle on her internship with Literature Wales

Rachel Noelle is a writer from Chicago. In June 2016 she joined the Literature Wales team as an intern, working on the South Wales Literature Development Initiative. If you would like to find out more about volunteering opportunities with Literature Wales please email  

This is part 2 of Rachel’s blog. You can read part 1 here. You can follow Rachel on twitter here and read more from her blog here.


‘And is it good to break into somebody’s house?’

We have Goldilocks on trial. The whiteboard lists all her offences: breaking and entering, vandalism, theft (stealing porridge), and squatting (falling asleep on the Little Bear’s bed). Performance poet and writer Mike Church poses the question to the classroom, all boys, between the ages of 7 and 12, ‘Is Goldilocks guilty or not guilty?’


This seems like just a fun game but underlying the listing of offences, the testimony from my colleague posing as the Little Bear, and the students serving as the jury, there is a strategic mission that involves promoting anti-criminal behaviour.

We’re in a referral unit in rural South Wales. The school works with pupils who have been deferred from mainstream education because of disruptive or challenging behaviour. When Mike Church was asked to lead the project, he was warned that the kids would have short attention spans and might not listen. But so far, he’s been brilliant in keeping them engaged. The activities include play, storytelling, acting, and circus tricks. Some activities are more focused on identifying criminal behaviour while others subtly encourage choices that simply benefit mental health and understanding. Mike draws out ideas from the students and crafts a story which advocates thinking-before-doing. He acts out three different characters who fail to get a DVD refunded, one character having little confidence, the next demonstrating appropriate interpersonal skills, and the last exhibiting poor anger management. When it’s time for the pupils to try their hands at Devil Sticks and Spinning Plates, Mike teaches techniques which require concentration and controlled energy.

The workshop is one of the many projects of Literature Wales’ flagship outreach scheme, the South Wales Literature Development Initiative (SWLDI). My colleague is the scheme’s officer whom I assist during my internship at Literature Wales. We meet up with Mike a week before the workshop and he tells me how children’s literacy levels are used to predict their likelihood to commit crimes later in life. I learn later about a study done in 2011 that suggests ‘a positive relationship between participation in organised arts activities and pro-social and anti-criminal behaviours.’ This correlation propels the major component to SWLDI’s project of bringing creative activities to the referral unit. The workshops inspire pupils to engage with literature, drama, circus tricks, and other forms of cultural activities, potentially decreasing their likelihood to commit a crime.

‘These kids need hobbies,’ one of the teachers tells us. ‘They go home and stay indoors and have nothing to do.’

I always felt that creativity and cultural activities were helpful to mental and physical health. But I never thought it could help facilitate anti-criminal behaviour. As the classroom’s teacher who acts as Goldilocks admits to her faults and apologises, the lesson is made complete. Don’t break and enter into somebody’s house. Don’t steal their things. The moral has an effect on me at a personal level. A few days ago, somebody broke into my house and swiped my laptop, money, iPod, and passport. I was already feeling insecure as it was my first weekend in Cardiff so the burglary made matters worse. I didn’t feel in control and I certainly didn’t feel safe. My confidence had plummeted.

Coincidently, confidence works as another theme to this project. The teachers speak to us about how a number of their pupils suffered from discouragement at home and at past mainstream schools. One student struggles to contribute his own ideas in the classroom and a teacher predicts it’s due to a pattern of harsh criticism prior to his placement in the referral unit. But the creative activities that Mike leads is gradually working to empower the students. Judging from the looks on their faces, the most rewarding activity has been the circus tricks. Mike lays down a poster of the solar system and has the students walk across it with a spinning plate in each hand.

‘You can go home and tell your parents that you walked across the universe with two spinning plates!’

He lets them try his balance board and even lets go of their hands – ‘Can you do the 5 second test?’ – for as long as they can stay balanced.

But of course, in addition to the circus tricks, Mike works to raise an interest in literature. He acts out the first chapter to a book, performs a poem of jokes, and tells a story with contributions from the students. The interactive element means the kids can tap into their creative side and use their imaginations. Their efforts do not go unnoticed. Mike cheers on their input and works to incorporate their ideas into the story. I remember a statement I read by the Arts & Health Foundation that said how engaging in creative activities can provide ‘a mental boost.’ Creative writing specifically can relieve stress and provide an outlet for emotion, among other mental and social benefits. This doesn’t surprise me.

Now that my internet access has been drastically limited what with my laptop gone and my lack of a Smartphone, I have no choice but to spend my free evenings penning scraps of prose into a notebook. But the experience has been as rewarding as crossing the solar system with a spinning plate in either hand. I’ve been channelling my frustrations and insecurities into creative expression, feeling satisfied with the finished work even if it’s fragmented or melodramatic. Gradually, I’m regaining my confidence and sense of control.

As the kids at the referral unit get a turn suggesting how to discipline Goldilocks, their voices get heard and their confidence also gets a boost.