Cheryl Beer

Cheryl Beer
Award Winning Creative Director making social change through the mediums of sound, story & mantra

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mother Moon at Welsh Mam's Day

I am thrilled to be invited to bring my Mother Moon Story to Cwmdonkin Park, Swansea, for Welsh Mam's Day on 27th April. Thank you to Annie Haden for inviting me.

Foto: Cheryl at last year's Celebrations at Cwmdonkin Park

Welsh Mam's Day is the Birthday of Florrie, Dylan Thomas' Mother who lived at No.5 Cwmdonkin Drive.

There will be a whole host of great musicians, poets and storytellers at the event. I'm not sure what time I am on just yet, but soon as it is confirmed I'll let you know.

Just as a reminder, Mother Moon is the story I wrote and performed for my practical assignment for my MA Drama in January and was then invited to tour the story around Wales as well as perform in Ireland at The Art Hand. 

I am delighted to bring Mother Moon to such a wonderful outdoors celebration, particularly as it is the week before I start my Artist in Residence at The Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne, kindly funded to create a piece entitled '100 Notes for Dylan' while I am there for the month of May.

Blast from The Dragon Tree Past!

How lovely of  Christine Stock to put these short clips from my Dragon Tree Performance at The National Botanic Garden of Wales last year when it toured Wales funded kindly by The Arts Council of Wales. I haven't seen any film footage from the tour so it was lovely to receive this on my facebook wall. Thanks Christine.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Fairytales from Louie

Like the story that wouldn't stop, postcards from Louie keeps on growing.

One of Louie's favourite things from her childhood was shown to me by Alun and Jill,  her story book from when she was 10 years old.

How beautiful to read these stories. I love that a child along the way has coloured it in.

The book is illustrated by Winifred Ackroyd and we believe she is also the author of the stories although they are not attributed to anyone. 

I managed to trace a book shop in Denmark with a version of the book still with front cover, but it doesn't give the author on there either. The shop owner thought it may be Enid Blyton so I sent details to the Enid Blyton Society but they say it can't be Enid Blyton because she didn't write for Collins Clear Type-Press until later in her life.

Either way it matters little to me. It is beautiful. What is important is that these are the stories that children in West Wales sat huddled up by the fire or under welsh blankets to listen to.

I have recorded all the stories in the book and will learn them to tell to the children sat on welsh blankets as part of our trail in June.

Postcards from Louie Greenspace Exhibition

'Wouldn't it be nice,' said Jill, 'if there was an Exhibition after the story trail of Louie's things with the lyric booklets and the music.' 

'Yes ...' I replied, 'Let's put it out there and see what happens.'

I have been saying this all along and I'm not sure people quite understand what I mean. I'm not sure I do! But it seems that everytime the story takes its own turn, we are met with exactly what we need.

At a meeting for Postcards from Louie with Jodie Boyd and Rachel Murphy from Arts Care Gofal Celf, who have been fabulous, I mentioned that Jill had said this. Then the following week, Rachel was sent an email from Greenspace Gallery Owner in Carmarthen town centre, who was looking for artists to share her Gallery Space in June for an Exhibition called 'My Favourite Things'

Well, it seemed to me that this would be a perfect setting for Postcards from Louie as throughout her life, she use to enjoy going into Carmarthen. 

So, I emailed Dorothy Morris who owns the Gallery and we arranged an appointment to meet, yesterday.

Dorothy is a lovely woman. She is an incredible artist and her Gallery is set up to 'make a difference' with themes linked to environmental awareness, social change and cultural heritage. 

She has an MA in Fine Art and the piece you see her with here entitled 'Large Lady, Sagging Couch' is set to be part of 'I am Sacred; I am Beautiful' an exhibition showing the beauty of women at Swansea Grande Theatre.

Dorothy has very kindly welcomed Postcards from Louie and  invited us to be 'the heartbeat of the
 'My Favourite Things' Exhibition'

WOW!! Brilliant! Thanks Dorothy. 

But one of the things that Jill was concerned about was the safety of Louie's things at an Exhibition. We discussed glass cabinets for display.

I talked with Dorothy about this and explained that we have no funding to buy in anything, but ...

 ... as luck would have it, on the floor below Greenspace Gallery, Lottie has her gallery: 
Uncle Albert's Drawers 

Lottie (Charlotte Richards) studied at the West Wales School of Arts and runs Uncle Albert's, hand-making and up-cycling furniture

And when I told her the story of Postcards from Louie, she very kindly offered to source 2 glass cabinets from the utility period (1930-1950's) which will stand back to back in the middle of Dorothy's studio to house Postcards from Louie as part of the 'My Favourite Things' Exhibition.

Next door to Lottie, Julie James  has a vintage clothing studio and she very kindly offered to help too. 

Am thinking ... this may come in handy for the Story Trail ... mmmm maybe I could dress up?

Aren't people lovely. I feel very blessed indeed to have met everyone yesterday.

You can find them all above a fabulous Community Crafts Shop in King's Street, Carmarthen.
It is seriously beautiful there! I for one, now that I have found them, will be going back to the Gallery to sit and have afternoon tea and cake on bone china retro cups and saucers, sat gazing from the sash window across the church yard, no doubt daydreaming about the next adventure Louie takes me on!

More Postcards from Louie

Meetings have been had
Visits have been made
Stories recorded
Recipes saved!

It's all going on!

Great news update for Postcards from Louie as it grows and gains momentum within the community.

Louie's son Alun very kindly brought down Louie's toys from the attic. One of the items is a collection of tiny vinyl records for a children's gramophone! Now then, this is very exciting indeed (especially as I am a musician!) 

Having spoken with Jodie Boyd the Occupational Therapist at the home and doing some research,  science shows us that the part of the memory storing music, is the last to fade. Louie's collection of songs is from the age of about 10 years through her teens. These songs,  are lost songs; Songs that might just access the long term memories for people of the same age group as Louie.

Alun has very kindly catalogued the songs and found on line links to some really old recordings. I have sent the links to my good friend Jeff Beer, who has sound engineered for me throughout my career and he has kindly agreed to compile a CD of these songs for us so that Jodie can use the songs with her clients. This could potentially bring joy to so many people. Many thanks Jeff.

I have composed a collection of 7 children's songs/ nursery rhymes. The CD will be called 'Postcards from Louie'

We are applying for funding to make 100 CD's which will look like Louie's vinyl.

We are applying for funding for materials to make 100 lyric and story booklets in the style of Louie's 21st Birthday card. Melanie Phillips an artist from Pencader who studied at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design & is  Co-Director of Pet Portraits and a friend of mine, has very kindly agreed to graphic design the booklet for free.  Many thanks.

These will be distributed to old folk homes as memory joggers for other older folk, and offered to local schools and Carmarthenshire libraries so that we are sharing and disseminating local welsh women's history to mainstream access points.

Arts Care Gofal Celf have very kindly agreed to pay £200 towards my petrol costs and £150.00 towards the expense of the materials needed for the booklets and CD's. This has been accessed via The Baring Foundation. Many Thanks. 

I am going on a story map day over the Easter break with Jill and Alun to plan the site specific performance tour of Postcards from Louie for the children.

I am going back to visit Louie again tomorrow to chat to her about modes of transport from Llanstephan to Carmarthen as  this will inform how I work with the children on the 21st Century time travel bus! (known more commonly as a coach!)

The People's Collection at National Library of Wales have kindly lent me a Digital Storytelling kit which I have used to collect images from Louie's collection. Many thanks.

The People's Collection Wales have offered to train, for free, a group of 15 staff identified by Jodie within the care homes so that they can record the stories of the old folk! Isn't that an amazing legacy for the story!! Potentially, there will be 15 staff in Carmarthenshire care homes who can perserve people's stories. Brilliant!

Jodie has agreed to fund and arrange the tea party for the older folk and the children at the end of the Children's Trail when they come to visit and sing. Many Thanks.

At the tea party, the school children will sing a medley of old traditional children's hymns which they are learning for the 200 year anniversary of Capel Newydd and  also a repertoire of war songs that they sang in The 50th Anniversary celebrations of Llangain MEMORIAL hall, just last week. 

Louie passed Capel Newydd Chapel every day on her 2 mile walk back and for to school and faithfully attended for services. It was an important part of her childhood and fitting indeed that the children will bring a piece of Capel Newydd with them to the Old folk home.

Jill has found some old cake recipes of Louie's and these will be made for the tea party for everyone.

Now then, do you see how this story is telling itself! How people have warmed to it, taken to it, want to be a part of it? Look at the wide reaching potential that is growing from it? Not because we have been asked by a funding body to reach X amount of people, but because inherently, it is a story of the people, by the people for the people and so,  naturally, people want to be part of it, they ARE part of it. It is telling itself in the spirit of the story.

Artistically, morally and socially, this pleases me ... 

Many thanks to:

Jeff Beer:

Melanie Phillips:

People's Collection Wales:

Arts Care Gofal Celf:

Postcards from Louie

As you know, I have been working with older folk this year. One of my contracts was with Arts Care Gofal Celf who kindly invited me to deliver Music & Story in a specifically designed new, Dementia friendly Gwalia home for older folk in Tumble, Llanelli. Continuity Artist already at the home, Rose Thorn, had advised that Music and Story would work well. I was kindly funded to come for 6 sessions on a Monday morning and work alongside Rose.

This is where I met Louie,  a 92 year old woman living at the home. To be honest, she didn't really like the music part of the session. I would ask her if she would rather come in after the music, but she preferred to sit and listen, waiting for the last half hour because she enjoyed talking with me about her life in West Wales during this time. She brought in a book for me of  Llangybri, where she grew up and talked passionately about parts of her childhood and younger adult life, as if it were only yesterday. We laughed and chatted as she shared snippets of her lifetime with me.

It was as if she were sending me postcards from her memory of all the times that had made her smile.

I really looked forward to talking with Louie. She loved looking at maps of the local area and I came to realise that her story was one that was seldom told in the history books: a woman who had spent her life as part of West Wales farming culture. In effect, Louie was giving me insights into what life was like for welsh women and girls in agricultural Wales.

Just as my contract was finishing, Louie asked me if I could 'do something with her story' Well, what was I going to say! 'Sorry, the funding has finished!'  As a storyteller and musician, I think being asked to be the curator of someone's story is a great privilege. I decided there and then, to promise her that I would do what I could, that I am not a historian but that I would write songs based on the memories she shared with me. She agreed. I made the decision to do this regardless of funding and that some things just need to be ...

We called our journey 'Postcards from Louie' because of the nature of how she told me her stories but also she has a huge collection of postcards to her father, grandfather and herself.

I would let go of the idea of being paid for my work and treat Postcards from Louie as Research & Development to potentially inform ways of working within community arts for the future; to work in a one to one way with people who have Dementia and Altzhiemer's Disease, and with their families, to allow their story to lead the way in terms of engaging and informing others. 

Here is an example of how Louie's story has led the way ... 

Louie's daughter in law, Jill, works as a teacher in the village just outside Llanstephan, Louie's last home before moving to the old folk's home. When I visited the family and looked at the type of songs I would compose, given that  Louie's toys from her childhood were central, we decided to focus on nursery rhyme/songs for children. We then talked about a site specific performance whereby the children from Jill's primary school would come to the places where the songs were written for an intimate sharing, and hear them in the context of that site. So, for instance, the cockle picking song would be on the beach in Llanstephan where Louie, at weekends, would pick cockles, right up until her 70's, for the folk in the old people's home . 

At the the end of the story trail, the children would visit Louie and all the folk at the Old People's Home in Tumble and sing at an afternoon tea.

When it came to potentially paying me for my time,  funding was kindly offered, but it would need to be delivering the trail to children in the Tumble area schools and not Llanstephan, because of the funding restrictions.

But the Tumble schools are not part of Louie's story in the way that Jill's school is. To switch schools would not be staying true to, or allowing Louie's story to lead the artistic journey of the piece. It will be a delight to tour those schools afterwards ... and I sincerely appreciate the kind offer, but it is not artistically right for this stage of the story.

We can see very clearly how funding might sometimes tie us in a way which means that we can not follow the story of the client.  As Community Artists we need to earn money and this understandably leads to compromise. But I really did not want to compromise Louie's story and given all the things she has done for her community, and many other welsh women with her throughout their hidden histories, this would be my contribution, this is how I would join them; by telling their story through Louie's .

And it is such a beautiful story. A story of a woman who cared very deeply about her community, who gave her time and love to those in her village, much in the way that many welsh women did and still do: behind the scenes, making things happen in an unassuming way for the good of the people. A time when communities survived through sharing and citizenship. 

Since working with Louie, people have asked me, 'So, who is Louie? Is she famous or something? Did she do something amazing?' and I reply, 'Yes, she did do something amazing. She is a welsh woman who kept a sense of community alive in her village for the whole of her life. Her story shows us our own history, a hidden history. And she is still doing this now, by inadvertently appointing me as the curator of her story to inform others of what life in West Wales was like.' Perhaps she can teach us all. She is certainly teaching me.