Art in Waun Wen

Home and Hinterland

Home and Hinterland is a community arts project I started working on in November 2021 and I’ll be working here until March 1st 2022. Based in the Waun Wen area of Swansea, I’m using art to explore the lack of representation of working class people in culture and media. We’re demonised by the right and fetishised by the left, turned into a monster of stereotypes by the UK bourgeoisie and largely excluded by and from the Arts. If you would like to see all my blogs about this project please click on the image below.

A drawing I did of Swansea Valley and Kilvey Hill from Brynmelyn park.
My drawing of the view from Brynmelyn park

HOME: THE WHITE MEADOW AND THE BLACK DUST

Waun Wen is a traditional working class area in Swansea’s Castle Ward. Local place names show how beautiful it once must have been – Ysgubor Fach (Little Barn), Cwmfelin and Brynmelin (valley with a mill, hill with a mill), Caepistyll (field with a waterfall), Pontyglasdwr (bridge over the blue water), Pentre Hafod (Village of the Summer Pasture), while Waun Wen itself means White Meadow.

Unfortunately, this idyll didn’t survive the Industrial Revolution and when I was growing up on the outskirts of the area, Cwmfelin was an inner-city steelworks and Pentre Hafod the biggest slag tip in Europe, both covering the washing on lines for miles around with black dust. They were eventually cleared (after the tragedy of Aberfan pricked the conscience of the government) and the sites have been used for social housing and a comprehensive school respectively.

Yet despite the ugly heritage, it’s gorgeous (apart from the busy dual carriageway that cuts through the area) with wonderful views up the valley and down to the sea. There’s a park with a popular community centre. St. Joseph’s Cathedral and school serve the wider Catholic communities; the little state primary has a multi-cultural cohort reflecting the area, and both schools use the park.

A view of Kilvey Hill from Waun Wen
A view from Waun Wen

It’s known as demographic area Castle 1, and it has the highest percentage of income deprivation in the Castle Ward area of Swansea. But Castle Ward also includes the well-heeled area of The Marina and guess who gets the bulk of public art investment then? Not Waun Wen. But there’s loads of public art all over the posh area.

This sort of inequality is what really makes me angry and is what has motivated me to do this work.

HINTERLAND: SOMETHING THAT LIES BEYOND WHAT IS VISIBLE OR KNOWN.

Class discrimination in the UK, in Wales, is rife! Just 16% of people working in the creative industries are from a working-class background.

I’m one of them.

Only about a third of adults in socio-economic groups C2DE participate in arts activities at least once a year.

I’m one of those too.

And I think it’s wrong. Hinterland, for me, is about this class discrimination, this big division between working class and bourgeois access to cultural activities.

WHAT AM I DOING?

I‘ve done a lot of walking, drawing and thinking in Waun Wen to try to come up with some plans for this project. Mostly I’ve been thinking about my chats with people in the community and taking Covid19 into account when i’m planning to do things. I’ve been walking around Waun Wen every Sunday, sketching into my little sketchbook, capturing little nooks and crannies I didn’t know were there.

Drawings of the community and play equipment in Brynmelyn par
Fixtures and fittings in Brynmelyn park.

I’ve booked the Waun Wen/Brynmelyn community centre twice a week, Tuesday and Sunday afternoons for 3 hours through January and February. I’ll be using it as my base to work out of, to prepare my materials and make art, and I’d like to carry on meeting up with residents of all ages, to listen to peoples stories and opinions, have some tea and cake.

A blue plate with a plum tart tatin on it
A plum tart tatin.

If Covid19 restrictions allow it, people in the community can drop in, have a cuppa and cake and have a look at how art is made. There will also be some art sessions for people to join in with. And if the weather is fine, I’ll be coming out into Waun Wen, taking art out into the street.

Three cyanotype images of ferns.
Cyanotypes of ferns

I would love to speak to people in the area about their memories of growing up in Waun Wen – good and bad – as well as their thoughts on what is needed to improve their community. What does it need more of and what does it need less of?

A Hassle Of Bottles

I’ve finished the group of bottles on the left hand side of my copy of Edouard Manet’s painting “A Bar At The Folies Bergere”. There’s another group on the right of the picture to complete, but with fewer bottles and they’re mostly done, just some detailing to do. I feel like I’m getting near the […]

One Bottle At A Time.

I’m still copying the painting by Manet and it’s a right slog, I can tell you. It’s mostly done, just the finer details to do, so today I decided to tackle it a bottle at a time – there are a lot of bottles – and worked on the pink wine bottle. It’s nearly finished, […]

Another Day, Another Segment

I moved onto another bit of Manet’s “A Bar At The Folies Bergere” painting that I’m copying today, upside down because it’s easier. The oranges are almost finished, the glassware is shaping up and I’ve laid down a base coat for the bottle. Still-life painting is new to me and much more complex than I […]

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