Thursday, 29 April 2010

New enthusiasm in Swansea

Today, Cheryl and I have been to two schools in Swansea to start new projects and were met with great enthusiasm from everybody at both.


This morning we were at Ysgol Penyrheol, where children from year nine were eagerly waiting for us. As has become normal for us starting a new project, there was lots of excitement being held back while we introduced the ideas behind what the kids will be doing and experiencing. Once we had done the 'chat' and the primary assessment forms had been completed by the class (this helps us to get some sense of how much skill and experience with digital photography the children have at the beginning), the cameras were distributed. This is the time everyone feels like it's Christmas again!

Above: Penyrheol class and staff in the school grounds

The part where the kids began using the new cameras by taking pictures of each other was fun for them. Soon we went outside to the school grounds, where the basic principle of holding the camera steady in two hands was practiced and the self discipline of looking at the landscape through it explained. Also as usual, we took group shots to commemorate the beginning of the project. Looking at the best three photos from each kid was very encouraging. It was clear that they all had grasped the big idea and also had done some very promising work. I look forward to the next session when we have our first field trip.


After lunch we set off to our other school in Swansea. At Pen-y-Bryn special school Cheryl and I were made to feel very welcome by pupils and staff alike. Everybody was waiting patiently for us and we were only too delighted to get started with the programme. Just as in Penyrheol, the kids at Pen-y-Bryn were very keen on the idea of getting a camera and going out in the landscape with it. They were lightning quick at learning how to use the cameras and the whole school was soon fair game for these budding photographers. Everybody joined in the fun.

Above: Pen-y-Bryn students with new cameras

It was raining, but that didn't put these young people off. Out we went, snapping away at the trees, play ground, surrounding houses, everything in the landscape close to the school. Back in class, I looked at their best three shots and was very pleased with the results of the first session. Next time, we need some good weather for our first field trip.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Really BIG Picture Show

At last the day dawned. The children of the two Milford Haven schools have been through a great deal to get to the culmination of the project, the big exhibition. I hadn't been involved with the printing of the hundreds of photos, so arriving at Cedar Court on Wednesday I was shocked at how huge (and magnificent!) the show actually was. I shouldn't have been surprised. Thinking about the number of students involved – fifteen from each school – and the fact that each was having ten of their best shots on two display boards, plus boards full of their other pictures of the places we had been, it wasn't really that surprising. That makes a big roomful of stands with photos on them. It's just as well then, that the Milford Haven Port Authority kindly let us use suit 4A for the exhibition – so a very big thank you to them.

Above: Everybody who was at the exhibition seemed to enjoy it

Anyway, as soon as I arrived I took off my jacket got stuck into helping with the last minute details. Cheryl (helped by her husband Frank) had been working all hours to put the show together, bringing it all from Carmarthenshire, erecting the stands and arranging the pictures in the proper order. Needless to say, it was all ready for the first guests as they arrived. There were lots of important people there including the head teacher of the comprehensive, MP Stephen Crabb, CEO of Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust, Robert Parker, reporters from Radio Pembrokeshire and the Western Telegraph, as well as representatives from organisations that are generously supporting the project, including South Hook Terminal and Countryside Council for Wales. Like many people, the Director of South Hook was caught up in the flight delays caused by the volcanic dust in the atmosphere. The Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr. and Mrs Tony Eden, kindly attended and the Mayor presented each of the children with one of their best pictures in a frame and a DVD of all their work on the project. When you add all the students, their teachers and those parents who could make it, it was a pretty big crowd for the official opening.

Above: Lucy Swanell of CCW, Robert Parker and Cheryl Kitt at the exhibition

After the speeches and the scrimmage for food, Cheryl and I were able to get a sense of what people thought of the exhibition itself, the work by the kids and the project as a whole. The overwhelming response from people there both on the first day and on Thursday was of awe and surprise. The quality of the pictures was what most people commented upon. Some said they thought there was work in the show that could be in magazines or as prints in frames. Others remarked that it goes to show you what kids can do when they are given the opportunity. There was so much to see that quite a number of people stayed on to go round a few more times to ensure they missed nothing. The project's sponsors were very pleased with the exhibition and the way it indicated the quality of the delivery of the programme.

Above: The Mayor commends the children's work

As for myself, I was very moved by the work and by the children's responses to the great achievements they have made; also by their pleasure at seeing pictures they had taken under very difficult circumstances being praised so highly by teachers, parents and VIPs alike. I can only hope that the people who attended the exhibition were as inspired by the pictures as I was inspired working with the young people who created them.