“Company, friendship and laughing together, face to face” are just some of the things that members of Theatr Felinfach’s Hwyl a Hamdden group have longed for since everything stopped in 2020.
Hwyl a Hamdden is a group for older people who meet at Theatr Felinfach on a weekly basis. “The group is very important to the theatre” says Dwynwen Lloyd Llywelyn, Head of Theatr Felinfach “they are a lively, cultured bunch who come together to discuss, share and learn, they’re great company to each other and to all of us at the theatre. They are also a great source of information and knowledge when we need some research for projects”.
Gwanwyn is an annual arts festival for the over 50s that promotes the health benefits of the arts to older people. It provides grants to groups across Wales to run events during May, giving older people the opportunity to take part in arts and creative activities.
"In 2020 we successfully submitted a bid to the Gŵyl y Gwanwyn fund, to run an artistic project with Hwyl a Hamdden and Machynlleth artist Elin Vaughan Crowley," said Rhian Dafydd, Theatr Felinfach's Business and Marketing Manager. "Although everything stopped in 2020, we were determined to adapt the original project to work with Elin and members of Hwyl a Hamdden in 2021".
One of the main concerns of the theatre team during the lock-down period was how isolated people could feel, and so "Helo, Hwyl a Hamdden" was created as an alternative project to celebrate Gŵyl y Gwanwyn and create artwork for friends from Hwyl a Hamdden to keep in touch. Rhian co-ordinated the project and gathered a wide range of responses to various questions with the aim of collating information and capturing the mood and atmosphere of the group. They were also asked to identify what was important to them and what they got from meeting weekly with their fellow members in their spiritual home at Theatr Felinfach.
From the responses, Elin created four images that interpreted the spirit, mood and feelings of Hwyl a Hamdden members. The 4 images were printed in postcard format and each member received a set of the postcards and a supply of stamps for them to send a note to fellow members and friends.
Elin Vaughan Crowley said, “This project was fantastic and I really enjoyed working on it. The responses to the questions were lovely and I hope I can get to meet everyone some day in the future”.
Rhian added “For many members, the weekly Hwyl a Hamdden meeting gives structure to the week and to others a vital social link and companionship in what can otherwise be a long and lonely week”.
Hwyl a Hamdden members communicated with each other during May through the postcards and sent them to fellow members as well as receiving some back. “A great way to keep in touch”… said Margaret Morgan one of the group members.
Councillor Catherine Hughes, Cabinet Member for Culture said, “It is wonderful to see Ceredigion residents over the age of 50 enjoying the Gwanwyn Festival through Elin’s work. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the feeling of connection and belonging through art, creativity and postcards.”
Gŵyl y Gwanwyn is a month-long national festival, held across Wales in May each year to celebrate creativity among older people. The festival started in 2006 and is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government.