Cân y Bugail in Dinas Mawddwy

Cân y Bugail in Dinas Mawddwy, February – March 2024 A story told mainly in pictures

So, after months touring the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland, the wandering exhibition arrived back in Wales – until this April, when it will leave again for the Aran Isles off Connemara and then Amerland, off the North Sea coast of Fryslân in the Netherlands, Just as we’d hoped, it continues to grow as it goes, and carry forward the traditions, skills and concerns of every community that hosts it.

Here in Bro Ddyfi and the southern slopes of Eryri, we’ve been eagerly anticipating our turn to be the hosts, and began our preparations months in advance.

Perhaps the first stage was the creation of a lifesize sheep, visualised and made of local willow by the artist and puppeteer Swsi Kemp from Ceinws.

The sheep became our icon, and was mounted outside Meirion Mill, the exhibition’s focal point. To everyone’s delight, it lambed during the night before the exhibition’s opening. Swsi’s work was supported by a grant from the Arts Council of Wales

During the same time, we began a series of workshops in Ysgol Bro Idris, the primary school in Dinas Mawddwy village. The triple harpist Rhiain Bebb from Machynlleth spent several sessions with the children learning and performing Welsh folk songs featuring sheep and farming in the hills, leading to a performance at the exhibition’s opening in mid-February

We owe a big thank you to Rhiain, to Heledd Glyn the school’s head teacher, to Naomi Jones and Parc Genedlaethol Eryri who supported the workshops, and above all to the children themselves. They do seem to have enjoyed themselves.

Two other sets of workshops preceded the exhibition’s formal opening, and added spice to the show itself. The ceramicist Cathy Knapp worked with a mixed group ond adults and children at the Mid-Wales Arts Centre in Caersws to create pottery on the themes of sheep and shepherding.

The last of our workshops was led by the multi-media artist Luned Rhys Parri, supported by Elinor Wigley and Elin Vaughn Crowley. Children from the Aberhosan Sunday School group met during the school half-term holiday to create the exuberant farming models shown below. Both these workshop sessions were supported by a grant from the Arts Council of Wales’ “Create” scheme, and couldn’t have taken place without their help. We’re specially grateful to Elin Roberts of ACW for her support and encouragement throughout.

The children’s work is now on its way to the Urdd Eisteddfod, Wales’ largest and most prestigious annual youth event.

The exhibition’s opening day was a great success. We were joined by Jacob Bosma from Fryslân whose community created the woollens that inspired this travelling show; by Mairtín O Flaheartha and Beartla O Flatharta, farmer-spinner and arts support worker from the Aran Islands who will be hosting the exhibition next, the researcher and poet Siún Carden from Shetland, Elin Roberts from ACW, farmers, craftspeople and artists, and many others. We drank cider made in Abercegir from Dinas Mawddwy apples and ate sheeps’ cheese from Aberdyfi.

We admired the woollens from Fryslân and Aran, the traditional patterns from Benbecula in the Hebrides and a range of exhibits from Shetland, as well as Welsh tapestries and more modern products. And in addition, we held two short symposiums, involving our guests and native animateurs, leading to the creation of an action group “Cerrig Camu/ Stepping Stones” which will stimulate and support cultural collaborations between out highland and island communities in the future.

That same weekend, thanks to the generous spirit of Tegwyn Jones from Dinas Mawddwy, Mairtín and Beartla spent a day on his farm Talglannau, sharing ideas about sheep-breeding, wool production and the future of hill farming. Beartla commented “we travelled a great distance that day, taken to one of the highest spots in the area as well as beautiful scenic remote areas. We also drove by the man made artificial lake, over the hydro electric dam and also saw 2 hydro plants on the farm. Large vistas of forest, farming and non farming land, plenty of sheep and pheasants. we also enjoyed a wonderful home made meal with Tegwyn and Catherine at their generous and kind abode. It’s a beautiful country made better by wonderful people.” It’s a relationship we need to nurture, and we hope to send Tegwyn to stay with Mairtín and enjoy the opening of Cân y Bugail on Aran next month.

The opening gave us an excuse to organise a celebration concert, and to facilitate a short tour together by two of the giants of modern Celtic music, the Welsh-language singer-songwriter Meinir Gwilym from Ynys Môn and Padraig Jack from Aran, who writes and sings in Irish and English. Their final performance, in Neuadd Cemaes, was a sell-out, and between them they created so much electric creative energy that they are planning to tour together, in Fryslôn this autumn and Ireland in the winter. As has so often been the case, the ACW funding stream ‘Noson Allan/ Night Out’ played a crucial part in supporting this tour, enabling future collaborations to flourish.

Ffair y ddafad – 2il Mawrth, 11 – 3
Neuadd Cemaes
www. canybugail.cymru

Fel rhan o arddangosfa ‘Can y Bugail’ a chyfres o ddigwyddiadau (10fed Chwefror – 5ed Ebrill) rydym yn gwahodd pawb sydd â diddordeb mewn gwlân, mewn crefftau, mewn ffermio ac yn ein diwylliant mynyddig i gymryd lle yn y digwyddiad hwn. P’un a oes gennych chi bethau i’w gwerthu, syniadau i’w rhannu, cysylltiadau yr hoffech eu datblygu neu os ydych chi’n hoffi siopa a chwrdd â phobl – dewch i ymuno!

The sheep fair – 2nd March, 11 – 3
Cemaes Village Hall

As part of the ‘Cân y Bugail’ festival, we invite everyone with an interest in wool, in crafts, in farming and in our mountain culture to take part in this event. Whether you have things to sell, ideas to share, contacts you’d like to develop or you simply like shopping and meeting people – come and join in!

Canmol y Ddafad
Dathliad mewn barddoniaeth

Fel rhan o arddangosfa ‘Can y Bugail’ a chyfres o ddigwyddiadau (10fed Chwefror – 5ed Ebrill) rydym yn gwahodd yr holl feirdd i gyfrannu cerdd ‘moliant y defaid’. Os hoffech gymryd rhan, a fyddech cystal ag anfon eich cyfraniad at Pryderi Jones ar bryderi83@gmail.com os bydd yn Gymraeg, neu Diane Bailey yn penralltbooks@gmail.com os bydd yn Saesneg, o dan y teitl ‘Canmol y Dafydd’. Anfonwch hi naill ai fel pdf neu recordiad clyweled digidol.

Bydd yr holl gerddi a gyflwynir yn cael eu dangos ar sgrin ym Melin Meirion a lleoliadau eraill drwy gydol yr arddangosfa, a bydd yr awduron yn cael eu gwahodd i berfformio eu gwaith mewn swper yr ŵyl yn Y Llew Coch, Dinas Mawddwy ar ddydd Sadwrn 12fed Ebrill. Cyfrannwch os gwelwch yn dda – mae ffermio defaid a defaid angen ein cefnogaeth yn y cyfnod anodd hwn.

In praise of the sheep
A celebration in poetry

As part of the ‘Can y Bugail’ exhibition and series of events (10th February – 5th April) we invite all writers to contribute a poem ‘in praise of the sheep’. If you would like to take part, please send your contribution to Pryderi Jones at pryderi83@gmail.com if it will be in Welsh, or Diane Bailey at penralltbooks@gmail.com if it will be in English, under the title ‘Canmol y Dafad’. Please send it either as a pdf or a digital audio-visual recording.

All poems submitted will be shown on screen at Melin Meirion and other venues throughout the exhibition, and their writers will be invited to perform their work at a festival supper in Y Llew Coch, Dinas Mawddwy on Saturday 12th April. Please contribute – sheep and sheep farming need our support in these difficult times.

Bydd y Bugeiliaid yn canu yn Ninas Mawddwy The Shepherds will be singing in Dinas Mawddwy

This story begins in a small coastal village called Moddergat, in the north of Frŷslan in the Netherlands. There, a fishing and farming community began to research, and then to re-create, the woollen fishermen’s garments that used to be made there a century ago. Farmers bred the sheep and sheared them, others carded, dyed and spun the wool, and many people became involved in the knitting. Old photographs and written records were dug up, and in a few years a successful small community business was developing, making and selling warm, beautiful and natural jumpers modelled on those the Moddergat fisherman set out to sea in more than a century ago.

Excited by what they’d achieved, the community then created an exhibition, demonstrating and contextualising the work, and this in turn was so popular we decided to bring it on tour to other shepherd communities, first to Wales and then on to other farming and fishing cultures across Western Europe. Now it’s already been to Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, to Shetland Woollen Week, and to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Bit it’s an exhibition with a difference – in at least three ways.

First of all, it’s an exhibition that’s growing as it goes – wherever it stops, each community adds in elements from its own culture and experiences, so we can all enjoy and learn from the achievements of others. Secondly, wherever it goes the hosts use it as a focus for their own interests and concerns, building events, discussions and workshops around it. And lastly, it’s making this journey fuelled only by enthusiasm, energy and excitement – we haven’t asked for a penny of public money to finance its travel, its display costs or anything else. It’s our exhibition – and yours!

In Februaru 2023, the show will reach Dinas Mawddwy, centred in Melin Meirion and Ysgol Bro Idris, with elements also taking place in Cemaes, Trawsfynydd, Aberystwyth and Caersws. We want it to involve, delight and challenge everyone who takes part. Who knows exactly what shape it will take? But here below is a glimpse at some events already being planned. Please contact us via Facebook or our website at www.canybugail.cymru if you’d like to join us in the planning – or anything else.

Dinas Mawddwy – February to April 2024 Exhibition schedule

  • Exhibition centred in Meirion Mill : Wool and associated crafts from Cymru, Shetland, the Hebrides, the Aran Islands and elsewhere. Archive film and visual arts, young people’s workshop productions, photographs and more, with contextualisation and history in five languages.
  • Creation of giant willow sheep
  • Printing on wool fabric workshops
  • Ceramic workshops for children and young people
  • Willow modelling workshops in primary schools
  • Panel discussion – “Sheep as custodians of the environment”
  • Photography: live reportage on lambing by young people, displayed in real time on large screens in centres in mid and north Wales, also internationally in venues visited by this exhibition
  • Evening showing of the photographs, with concert and Dawns Twmpath : in several venues
  • Cooking on the farm : talk by Carwyn Graves followed by practical cookery session
  • Exhibition of craftwork from Bro Dyfi , guided by staff of ‘Tymhorau’
  • Perspectives from other mountain and islands cultures , including Shetland, the Hebrides, the Aran Islands and Fryslân
  • Poetry to be performed and displayed : ‘Canmol y dafad/ In praise of the sheep’
  • Ffair y Dafad ’ – open air market and info exchange in Cemaes. including presentations about milking sheep, weaving, wool compost manufacture, insulation and alternative uses for wool.