Children's Festival of Welsh History 2016

From Boudica to Owain Glyndŵr - actors “In Character” around Wales for the new school term September 19, 2018

- One-man/one-woman history shows touring primary schools are helping to support key educational objectives in Wales
- Former S4C marketing chief is helping to make lessons “fun and exciting” for young pupils
- Celebrating five years of “In Character” shows - seen by around 100,000 children

A Welsh company which stages one-man/one-woman history shows for primary school children is helping to support key educational objectives set out by the Welsh Government. The business is also contributing to the creative and cultural economy of Wales.

The company Mewn Cymeriad ("In Character") teaches children about leading figures in Welsh history with professional actors taking on the roles of such characters as Owain Glyndŵr, Boudica, Henry Tudor, Black Bart ("Pirate of the Caribbean”) and World War One poet Hedd Wyn. The hour-long shows are available in Welsh or English.

This month sees the fifth anniversary of the founding of Mewn Cymeriad and the staging of the very first show at Ysgol Bro Brynach primary school in Carmarthenshire. To mark the anniversary, a free show featuring Owain Glyndŵr (“The Rebel Prince of Wales”) will be held at the school on Friday, 21st September.

Eleri Twynog Davies, owner and creative director of Llansteffan-based Mewn Cymeriad, says the shows are helping to support some of the recommendations set out by the 2015 Donaldson Report, commissioned by the Welsh Government, on the future of the curriculum in Wales.

From this month, schools can adopt elements of the new curriculum, with a Welsh Government expectation that all schools will be teaching the new curriculum fully by 2021.

The report emphasises the importance of extending and promoting "experiential learning" as a way of igniting interest, stimulating passions and increasing the confidence of children and young people. Schools are encouraged to explore culture through learning experiences beyond the classroom. The report highlights the importance of partnerships beyond the school gate to reach this goal.

“Creating fruitful partnerships beyond the school gates is precisely what Mewn Cymeriad is all about,” says Eleri, a former head of marketing at Welsh TV channel S4C.

“The shows offer a unique interpretation of history and give pupils the chance to interact with their heritage. The combination of facts and play, imagination and reasoning are crucial, brought to life by talented performers with scripts that are of full of interest and appropriate to the target age group.”

Eleri set up the company in 2013 as a means of fulfilling her dream of presenting Welsh history “with fun and excitement”.

“Like many people, I realised that I knew a lot about the history of Europe, in my case after doing A Level History, but, to my shame, very little about the men and women who formed Wales,” she says. “I wanted to redress that and ensure that our younger generations are aware and interested in the fascinating characters who make up our own history and have made their mark on the nation and, in some cases, the world.”

The shows are written, directed and designed by experienced creatives commissioned by Eleri, and taken on the road by professional actors with their costumes and props. Schools can book the shows from the Mewn Cymeriad/In Character website.

With a portfolio of over 20 characters, the company averages 100 shows per month in primary schools throughout Wales, with shows taking place simultaneously in different parts of the country. Since the company’s launch, it's estimated that over 100,000 children have seen and participated in one or more of the shows.

As well as leading figures from Welsh history, there are also show on “generic” characters such as “Glenys y Siop”, a 1940s Swansea woman who recounts what it was like to live through the Blitz.

There are also shows that combine history with maths. Ever heard of Robert Recorde? He’s Wales’ most famous mathematician - the 16th century Pembrokeshire physician who invented the “equals” (=) sign. He’s the focus of an interactive problem-solving show that aims to make maths fun.

Literature has also been given the Mewn Cymeriad treatment. A show on Roald Dahl was originally commissioned by the Welsh Books Council for the Dahl centenary celebrations in 2016 with the specific aim of encouraging children to read. And Kate, a show for KS3 based on the life of Welsh language author Kate Roberts, has also been produced.

In addition to the Mewn Cymeriad programme, Eleri is also responsible for staging the annual Children’s Festival of Welsh History, now in its fourth year.

“It’s not-for-profit initiative where we stage activities for children throughout September at heritage sites all over Wales,” says Eleri. “The aim is to encourage schools and the general public to learn about important characters from Wales’ past, to discover sites of buildings of interest, and to celebrate Wales’ rich history and heritage.”

This year there are more than 60 different shows being held at heritage sites all over Wales throughout this month. Festival locations include: Raglan Castle, Tretower Court in Crickhowell, Cardigan Castle; Copper Kingdom Museum; National Wool Museum and St Fagan’s National Museum of History, near Cardiff.

For more information, contact Eleri Twynog Davies on 07891 383392