by Anke (Intern from Germany)
Hello everybody! My name is Anke. I have been doing a internship at Valley and Vale for several months and I’d like to share some of my experiences and impressions.
First to my background and why my way led me to Wales and to this Community Arts organisation:
I had just finished my studies as a Social Worker in Germany focused on cultural pedagogical issues and I came to Valley and Vale Community Arts to develop my knowledge and skills in creativity and Community Arts practice. I was delighted to get this opportunity.
I was awarded a scholarship from the Leonardo da Vinci fund which enabled me to do this, I had a lot of new experiences in the last few weeks and I am really looking forward to lots more! I have been joining in with projects across a range of different art forms and in lots of different communities and settings in South Wales, including Community Centres and groups, Prison, youth projects, mental health projects, schools, and also joining the new Valley and Vale Person-Centred Creativity training programme in Cardiff.
I have also visited other Community Arts organisations and projects during my time in Wales with Valley and Vale, and would love to hear from anyone that would like to meet me, let me come for a day or more and join in, see what you do, or maybe meet for a coffee and talk with you about the creative work that you do, as this has all inspired me to leave Germany and become part of the creative world in Wales for a few months! I know that Valley and Vale Community Arts has lots of friends and partners and so do please get in touch because I would love to meet you. Please call Valley and Vale on 01656729246 and leave your details and I’ll get back to you.
Let me tell you about the first weeks:
When I arrived I was warmly welcomed. During my first time at Valley and Vale’s I met very friendly and helpful staff members and had the great good fortune to stay with one of them in her home, received insights into the work, saw a lots of beautiful places in this area and met many interesting people. It was made very easy for me to feel well here.
Once a week I accompanied a cooperative project between Valley and Vale, Barnado’s Cymru (www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/barnardos_today/wales.htm) and Willows High School in Cardiff. The staff members worked with girls from the Czech Republic. Because of the fact that they partially don’t go to school there was the aim to engage them with the school and to promote their social participation. It was a group of lively and lovely girls. In the workshops they danced, painted, also composed and sang their own songs. Also there were also conversations about bullying and sexual abuse.
During preparations for the exhibition “Hear our Voice”, it was not easy to find a way for all the girls’ different expectations and wishes and it needed a lots of discussions and conversations. The exhibition (which was funded by the Arts Council of Wales, Barnardo’s Cymru Seraf Service and Valley and Vale Community Arts) was, among other things, about young people’s experiences of relationships and growing-up and about the danger of sexual exploitation and was a very successful event.
I also got the great chance to participate in a few Person-Centred Creativity (PCC) courses! I met team members, who bring in multidisciplinary skills and issues (academic, therapeutic, drama, theory, human) and also very different characters. For me this brings a special quality into the PCC-team. I also met pleasant groups – and, of course, the exciting Person-Centred approach.
If I am honest, it was not easy and also a bit thrilling for me to join the different courses and sessions and to communicate with the participants because of my limited language skills. But I found that sometimes it doesn’t need words. Arts and play in PCC become a new type of communication – and suddenly we are all artists … (it reminded me of Josef Beuys). But I also recognised that sometimes it isn’t easy at all to switch off the brain and let it flow… Therefore I was always looking forward to the next date but I also was a bit nervous…
From the beginning of my stay I have very much enjoyed taking part with the Valley and Vale Community Choir. Here again I was warm-heartedly welcomed. I’m also very impressed about the warm and hearty way the choir is led. Everyone gets lovely appreciation and despite the lower number of members we are able to sing many-voiced. I like the diversity of songs. Singing mostly allowed me to relax. This is where I feel most comfortable – especially during the first weeks it was very valuable for me because through singing I was able to participate – regardless of my limited language skills.
Another exciting experience was meeting members of the TEAM, that belongs to the National Theatre Wales (nationaltheatrewales.org/team). TEAM affords all people to take part actively in projects. I was lucky that I was allowed to attend rehearsals. The good and relaxed atmosphere was noticeable. The play was funny and innovative, also with music and dance scenes (which I especially liked). But what I loved most is the participative approach. A day after, I saw the play and, as expected, it was a fantastic evening with many laughs.
It didn’t take a long time until I noticed that my stay in Wales would be much too short to attend and join all the events I’d wish to join in, to deal with, to discuss and reflect all the issues I’m interested in. However, I am really enjoying my stay and I’m using my time well!
Outside the work I had another highlight in my first weeks: I met Ursula on a walk in the wood. She comes from North Wales and was walking for 7 months through the country (around 1700 miles up to this point!) for cancer-charities (www.onewomanwalkswales.com). Amazing! She was half-way, in Cardiff, and a few days after our first meeting I spent a lovely day with her walking at the coast.
And now? What can I say? Time is flying! I have already stayed in Wales more than 4 months. Unbelievable! And I have seen and experienced so much – I don’t know where to begin…
I joined in a few more PCC courses and conferences. The repeat is great for me and happily now I’m able to understand a lot more about this approach than at the beginning. I especially do like the basic idea of having a close look at the individual interests, wishes, needs and strengths of the participants and working regardful and mindful with artistic stuff and through using creativity.
Besides this I also observed and joined in different sessions and courses – much too much to report everything. But to give a few examples: I joined in dancing sessions with elderly people. It is so much fun to move and dance with these open-minded, humorous and positive women and men. Mostly we dance while sitting. But sometimes there are also enthusiastic dancers who move in the circle. It seems as we all enjoy the music and perhaps also some related memories.
I was quite touched by a conference named “Building bridges – here to listen”, organised by Barnardo’s Cymru Seraf Service in association with the Cardiff Council Cultural Scheme, Arts Council of Wales, Valley and Vale Community Arts, the Welsh Government and South Wales Police. Among other things, there was shown a play, by a Valley and Valley theatre group, called “What’s Happening Frankie?”. This play will be brought to schools in the community in order to raise awareness of sexual exploitation. Furthermore it intends to listen and to improve dialogue between young people, the police, professionals, education, health and social care.
In addition I experienced different percussion, singing and theatre-sessions with people with learning disabilities and mental health issues or storytelling with elderly people with dementia. I also met two members of the amazing Destino Dance Company from Ethiopia which develops Ethiopian Contemporary Dance and Social Projects. In this context I also had the great honour to meet Royston Maldoom, in whose projects I’ve been so interested for a long time.
In my free time I visit a lot of Community Arts events and, all in all, gradually I’m getting an idea of Community Arts. Nevertheless there’s still so much to see, to experience, to ask, to find answers, probably to find more questions, to observe, to give a try, to discuss.
Finally one other experience: Squirrels in Wales are grey?! I’ve never seen them before. And their voices sound a bit like babies!
For now I wrote enough – but I’m looking forward to the coming period and for that what happens. I will report.