To coincide with the 'Man Engine' visit to Blaenavon on the 8 of April 2018, Angharad Evans has been appointed as the Community Engagement Project Manager, to work with the local community, creating a community gift that will be presented to the Man Engine at the ceremony, and getting local groups involved in the ceremony and procession itself. Cadw’s Heritage and Arts Manager, Dr. Ffion Reynolds asks her a few questions about what she's been getting up to.
1. Tell us a little about the work that you are doing with the community at Blaenavon for the Man Engine's visit.
When I first met Will Coleman the man behind the Man Engine he spoke Kernewek/Cornish to me and I was surprised how similar it sounded to Welsh. For instance: 'community and family' is 'kemeneth ha teylu' in Cornish and 'cymuned a theulu' in Welsh. Working on the Man Engine project has really brought these connections home. The Man Engine was originally commissioned by the Cornish World Heritage Site, and when I started looking into it, the links between us in terms of industry are huge. By making these connections and working with the local community, I've been able to highlight the important role that Blaenavon had during the industrial revolution through iron and coal production.
2. What kind of groups are you engaging with?
I have been working with various groups in Blaenavon, focusing on creating short walk-about character based work for the event, and also creating a gift for the Man Engine. The gifts we chose to make reflect the main outputs at Blaenavon World Heritage Site, with the community creating a Welsh piece of coal representing the Big Pit, and an 'iron pig' from Blaenavon Ironworks — the main raw material made at the works, which was then worked into objects by blacksmiths.
At the Blaenavon Workman's Hall, I've been working with 'Dwanswyr Blaenafon' (Blaenavon Dancers) and Adhoc Youth Theatre on creating small walk-about character based work. At the Big Pit museum, I've been working with Blaenafon Youth Ambassadors, Big Pit guides and apprentices, along with family and college groups on creating a 2.1m high gift of coal and the 'pig iron' for the Man Engine.
As part of the event, we will be encouraged to 'sing' to the Man Engine to bring him to life. Helen Woods has been commissioned to write a song that Tredegar Male Voice Choir, Blaenafon Ladies Choir, & Blaenafon Male Voice Choir and Blaenafon Brass Band are learning and practicing as we speak. The song is both beautiful and haunting, and I can't wait for the audience to hear it.
3. Have you found any interesting stories about Blaenavon, which will become part of the Man Engine show?
There are so many stories in Blaenafon wherever you go and everyone I've met has a story to tell: families who worked at the ironworks, or down in the mines. They were often difficult and dangerous times where lives where lost.
Through the research process and with the help of Ceri Thompson, Senior Curator at the Big Pit, we came across the poems of Watcyn Wyn, a 10 year-old child miner from Ammanford who worked at Tri Gloyn Level (1844 - 1905). Although not from Big Pit he represents all child miners through his poetry and will be the key character who will follow the Man Engine's procession through the south Wales Valleys, delivering the coal from the Big Pit all the way to Hafod-Morfa copper works in Swansea.
4. Do you have any favourite pieces that you’ve created while you’ve been here?
It's hard to choose my favourite part, everyone has been so welcoming! Working closely with all the community groups has been a pleasure. Giving them this opportunity to be a part of something special has been the real highlight of the process.
5. What's coming next?
Putting final touches to the procession and the gifts. I hope the streets will be lined, and that visitors will enjoy the works by the local community. The Man Engine lands in Blaenavon on the 8th of April. I'll see you there!