When The Circus Came to Town…
“Congratulations to Valley and Vale for being a huge hit last Saturday in Betws!”
Wendy Mackay, Environmental Action Project Officer, Groundwork Bridgend Neath Port Talbot
This summer the village of Betws was filled with the sound of drumming, painting, singing, acting and dancing at Valley and Vale Community Arts’ unique multi-arts summer school for children and young people. Local children and volunteers worked at venues throughout the village for 2 weeks in August, taking part in a variety of creative workshops that worked towards performances and artwork for the Betws Summer Festival on the 15th August in the school playing fields.
During the 2-week project there was the opportunity for local children to create exciting and innovative art work; huge wicker structures were created that were carried in the procession at the festival, as well as banners and masks and many colourful head pieces. Working on themes related to the village, the children explored ideas around nature, the history of the village, myths, local stories, and places of interest, which all went into the work produced. A big fish was created for the procession because Betws Church has a fish weathervane on it; the fish, one of the symbols of Christianity, was a form originally used for church weather vanes in Europe and early America. The young people also worked towards a variety of drama, dance and music pieces on these themes that were performed in the Valley and Vale Big Top on August 15th to enthusiastic audiences.
On the day of the festival, despite the rain, spirits were sky high inside the Big Top, which was alive with creative activity all day. The community enjoyed a magical play made by the children about time travel in Betws called ‘The Wishing Well’, the first gig for new girl rock band ‘Electric Shock’, performing 2 songs they had created in the workshops, film screenings of the summer school and other films made by local people, and a host of other lively activities. People of all ages took part in art and textile workshops, Indian drumming, circus skills, salsa, singing and drama workshops.
At the end of a soggy but successful day in the Valley and Vale Big Top, the whole community joined together to take part in a procession around the field with singing, drums and music, carrying the huge Betws Fish structure and lots of other banners, masks and the huge ‘beasts of Betws’ that were made throughout the summer school.
This festival was a real community celebration, with over 300 people enjoying the day and thanks to everyone who took part and worked to make the day such a success. As well as Valley and Vale Community Arts’ Festival Arts tent, there was a whole range of activities on offer during the day, from old-fashioned arcade games, to wood carving, a hog roast, stalls, local dance performances, face painting and children’s activities put on by local people.
This community day was organised by The Betws Communities First Partnership, an active local group working together for the benefit of the people of Betws. This event was also made possible thanks to funding and support from many sources including Valley and Vale Community Arts, Groundwork, Youth of Betws, Betws Primary School, Communities First, The Arts Council of Wales, Bridgend County Borough Council, Cymorth, and the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 which is financed by the European Union and the Welsh Assembly Government.
Everybody had a wonderful day and the rain certainly didn’t dampen this lively and successful fun-filled family festival.