This post is a part of the Story of Wales series, which looks at different aspects of Welsh history, and how today’s Wales remembers, and shapes it. Subscribe to the blog on the right to ensure you don’t miss any posts.
Every year, as part of the Education Service’s Outreach programme, a Masterpiece in Schools Day is held, when an original item from the Library’s art collection is taken to a school somewhere in Wales to be the focus of an educational workshop. In the last three years William Turner’s painting of Dolbadarn Castle has visited a school in Llanberis, and a series of Kyffin Williams’ artworks were taken to schools in Dyffryn Nantlle and Bro Lleu in Penygroes. These events are important because they are excellent examples of how the National Library’s collections can inspire a younger audience, and help them to learn about and interpret works of art and the history associated with them.
This year, guided by Sculpture Masterpieces in Schools Art UK (a charity aiming to promote works of art held by public bodies in Britain), we invited Ffederasiwn Cysgod y Foel – which includes Ysgol Bro Tryweryn, Frongoch and Ysgol Ffridd y Llyn, Cefnddwysarn – to participate in a project that focussed on one of the National Library’s most significant sculptures, Cofeb Tryweryn by John Meirion Morris. The sculpture was created with the intention of commissioning a full size version (30 feet tall) on the shore of Llyn Celyn to commemorate the drowning of the Tryweryn valley in the 1960s.
It was decided to invite Iola Edwards, a local artist and daughter of John Meirion Morris, to lead a session for pupils in Years 5 and 6. She visited the National Library to search our collections for artworks inspired by the story of Capel Celyn, which, alongside her father’s sculpture, would be used to prepare and provide suitable activities for the workshop.
On Thursday, 12 September, the sculpture was taken to the Bala area to be the focus for the day’s art workshop. The day began with an opportunity for the children of both schools to see the sculpture during the morning service.
To give some background to the memorial’s history, Iola showed the pupils some photographs taken by Geoff Charles. They tell the story of the drowning of Capel Celyn village, and the vigorous protesting that occurred in opposition to the plan.
The pupils’ first task was to study the sculpture’s form and make sketches of it, so that they could appreciate the dynamic shape of the bird reaching up from the water. They worked in charcoal that enabled them to leave a bold mark that flowed easily.
The children were given the opportunity to study the memorial very closely, and to see the detailed faces in the bird’s feathers. They discussed the feelings of the villagers that these faces represent, their sadness and their fears, all protesting against what was happening to them. After lunch the children went on to make 3D figures from paper showing faces shouting and screaming about the injustice suffered.
A part of the workshop looked at the village of Capel Celyn and the community that was lost under the water. Using their design skills, the pupils created an image of the village’s buildings, and made a collage of scenes of the area and the people using Geoff Charles’ photographs.
The last part of the workshop involved the pupils discussing how we remember the history of Tryweryn, and the iconic wall that stands near Llanrhystud in Ceredigion. Using the screen printing process, the children recreated the graffiti that has now been replicated at many sites across Wales.
This year’s Masterpiece in Schools Day was an opportunity for pupils to learn about and commemorate events that occurred a stone’s throw away from Ysgol Bro Tyweryn over half a century ago, in the presence of a sculpture created especially to commemorate the history. Under the guidance of Iola Edwards, the sculpture inspired a group of children to develop new art skills and create a mural as their own memorial to an extremely important event in the modern history of Wales.
Education Service Manager
This post is also available in: Welsh