I’ve been back to Wales again. Yes, to move the St Thomas Way exhibition to another stop on the pilgrim’s trail, but also to be part of ‘Holding on to Hope’– a multi-disciplinary week-long arts festival focused on wellbeing and mental health awareness. It’s based in the incredible St Illtud’s Church, led by Father Edwin Counsell and offers free workshops, exhibitions, performances and endless cups of hot chocolate (with a multitude of marshmallows on top!).
My contribution to all of this has been to lead a series of workshops for local schools offering pupils something different than their normal Geography or Religious Education lessons – to get them out of school, into their community and exploring new things, hopefully building self-confidence too. All the workshops used photography – or rather, ‘phoneography’ – as the tool, and aspects of their main lesson as the inspiration.
Year 3 pupils from Wick School went on a Treasure Hunt in small groups, using iPads as their new window on the world. One group were looking for ‘flowers’, another went hunting for ‘animals’, another ‘views’… one group even decided to look for ‘elephants’! They didn’t find an elephant, but they did have fun – and they found an unlikely yellow chicken in the churchyard which they loved photographing.
Back in the church, we selected our favourite photos and children sent their first official school email to Alison, St Illtud’s super-helpful administrator, who then printed them out so we could choose the final 5 photos to be framed and put in the exhibition. The chicken photo, I’m glad to say, was voted in by popular demand.
Measuring & Mapping
With slightly older students from St Illtud’s secondary school, three separate workshops explored the medieval practice of Measuring to the Saint, the church itself, the town around us and aspects of the Mappa Mundi.
Since their lessons were in Geography, I have uploaded their photos to Google Maps so that they could actively be part of mapping their world through their own eyes – Search for ‘St.Illtuds Church’ and see if you can spot them!
The resulting exhibition in the church shows a curated selection of 20 photographs from the classes that took part. The intention is that they will invite their families to come and see what they’ve achieved and find out more about what the vibrant programs here at St.Illtud’s and the surrounding parishes can offer – both in terms of a venue and hub for community-led events and in terms of family support for all ages.