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In the summer of 1951, a large-scale quilting exhibition was staged at St Fagans as part of Wales’ contribution to the Festival of Britain. Billed as ‘the largest, most comprehensive and the most interesting of its kind ever staged in the Principality’, the exhibition organised jointly with the Monmouthshire Rural Community Council showcased the work of 60 contemporary quilters, alongside historic examples from the Museum’s collection and private owners. The Banqueting Hall – a vast pavilion-like structure in the grounds of St Fagans Castle – provided a dramatic setting for the display, the likes of which had not been seen at the newly-established Museum before.

Call for entries

Although the exhibition ran for little over three weeks (16 July – 18 August), it was the culmination of months of planning, led by Mr D. L. Jones of the Welsh Rural Industries Committee. In keeping with the Museum’s founding principle of inspiring a new generation of makers, the show included daily demonstrations and prizes for the best contemporary work on display. In February of that year, a final call for entries was published in the Western Mail:

Although we have received a record entry for the National Quilting Exhibition… it is not too late to receive further entries… Substantial prizes and certificates of merit will be awarded to successful candidates, and it will undoubtedly provide an excellent opportunity for Welsh quilters to show our oversees visitors that they still possess the skill of their forebears in this one remaining traditional needlecraft.

Competition

The work submitted for the exhibition included large and small quilts, cot covers, bonnets, dressing gowns and dressing jackets. In total, 65 original, hand-quilted pieces were chosen for display by the selectors. The judging panel included Mavis FitzRandolph who, under the auspices of the Rural Industries Bureau, had been instrumental in setting-up quilting classes in the industrial heartlands of south-east Wales during the 1920-30s Depression. The aim of the scheme was to revive and improve the standard of Welsh quilting, therefore enabling young women in economically deprived communities to earn a living making by hand. Many of those who won prizes at the 1951 exhibition were taught to quilt under this scheme, including Irene Morgan of Porthcawl - one of the best quilters of her generation. Originally from Aberdare, Irene began to quilt in the late 1920s and subsequently became a nightclass teacher in the Bridgend area, until the onset of glaucoma stopped her from stitching in the 1960s. Her prize winning certificates from the 1951 exhibition were donated to the Museum following her death in 2000.

The future - Gweithdy

Emulating the spirit of the 1951 exhibition, exciting plans are afoot here at St Fagans. A new gallery called Gweithdy is currently being built in the Museum's grounds which will be a celebration of making by hand in Wales through the centuries. As well as having objects on display including several quilts and other textile crafts the new gallery will be designed very much like a workshop, with spaces for people to have-a-go at making, and to enroll on craft courses. Needless to say, we are all hugely excited about this development – a new chapter in our history as a Museum which, we hope, will inspire the makers of the future.

 

 

 

 

I’m finding it hard to believe that the St Fagans Food Festival will be soon upon us – where has the year gone? Last year, we asked you to tweet your favourite family recipes to us. We had an amazing response, thanks again to all who took part, enabling us to create a lovely exhibition at Oakdale Workmen’s Institute over the Festival weekend.

As part of this year’s Festival, we’re launching a digital version of Welsh Fare, a collection of traditional recipes collected by Minwel Tibbott. When she started at the Museum in 1969, the study of traditional foods was a very new research field. She realised very early on that the information would not be found in books and she travelled all over Wales in order to interview, record and film the older generation of women. They recalled the dishes prepared by their mothers, and their memories harked back to the end of the 1880s.

With the digital version, not only can you read the recipes, but also hear the women explain the processes and see them prepare the dishes. We’re also keen to add to this collection, and as the Great British Bake Off fever grabs us once again, we’re asking you to share with us your favourite family recipes. We’d also like to add to our images of people feasting - people enjoying your showstoppers, a family celebration or a gathering of friends.

Tweet recipes, images and information to @archifSFarchive or post them on the St Fagans Facebook page using the hashtag #Ryseitiau #FoodFestival. Another option is to bring them along to Oakdale Workmen’s Institute during the Food Festival and we’ll scan them. All the recipes and photos, as well as last year’s collection will be uploaded on to the People’s Collection Wales.

For the latest on this project, follow tweets by @archifSFarchive and @SF_Ystafelloedd and the hashtags #Ryseitiau #Food Festival #WelshFare #AmserBwyd.

Since the last post the local families coming to the Museum from Ely and Caerau have been enjoying taking part in a variety of exciting sessions, including:

  • Experiencing what it was like to go to school in Victoria Wales.
  • Learning to handle a newt found during pond dipping in the Tannery ponds.
  • Making clay coil pots to take home

So far 102 people have taken part in this programme of activities at St Fagans and the feedback from everyone has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I enjoyed the experience of going to a Victoria school because I learnt new things and how they learnt back then.”

“I had a good time holding a newt and looking at all the pond bugs.”

“Brill, we had lots of fun, will be coming back!”

“I liked pottery because you can get messy and it is crafty.”

“Calming session.”

The children are learning a lot, so are the parents, and so are we. We’re finding out just how much families love to learn together and the families are discovering all that the Museum has to offer them. Many of these families had not visited St Fagans until coming along to one of these sessions, and now they are thinking of coming back again. This is why we value our partnership with ACE Action Ely Caerau so much, as they are able to help us to meet and work with these lovely groups to show them just how relevant the Museum on their door step can be to their lives.

With one more week to go we are looking forward to welcoming more families to Bryn Eryr, the Iron Aged farmstead, to help us with an authentic Iron Age smelt, and a very enthusiastic group who will be coming in to take part in a traditional weaving workshop.

Keep following this blog for more updates.

If you are interested in taking part in fun family activities and events at St Fagans over the summer there are lots of opportunities to get involved, just check our What’s On for more information.

Jack is 21 and lives in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales. He is a keen sportsman and is particularly interested in rugby. Jack goes to Ammanford College three days a week and both Jack and his father felt that Jack would really benefit from incorporating some work experience into his weekly routine. Jack lives in a very rural part of Wales and this adds to the challenge of accessing work opportunities. The family contacted WorkFit to see if we could help. WorkFit is a project run by the Down’s Syndrome Association to support people with Down’s Syndrome aged between 14 and 25 to access volunteering opportunities, work placements and paid work by removing barriers to employment.

Jack Volunteer at the National Wool Museum

 

Jack is enjoying college and getting a lot out of his studies but he wanted to start using his skills in a work environment. After his vocational profile was completed, it was clear that Jack was ready for a challenge; he is a very sociable young man, fit and eager to learn.

We felt that Jack would benefit from a role where he was able to try different tasks and learn different skills and approached potential placements with this in mind.

We approached the National Wool Museum in Dre-fach Felindre. Ann Whittall, the manager of the museum, is always looking for volunteers to help out. She was happy to consider Jack but agreed that the free Down’s syndrome awareness training was going to be essential for the museum to be able to properly support him. It was great to see all the museum’s members of staff at the training.

Feedback from the training session included:

“Think of tasks, break it down to simple steps, and make visual aids if needed. Be aware of the need to show Jack the process.”

“Informative and proving how much less daunting working with someone with Down’s syndrome can be.”

“Very positive – also in understanding needs of visitors with Down’s syndrome and considerations of ways in which we can improve their visitor experience.”

“Excellent – I wish I’d had this training years ago when I had a young person with Down’s syndrome in my school registration class.”

Jack has been volunteering at the museum since November 2015. His tasks include organising the woollen display and helping in the retail and reception area; helping with activities in the children’s area; assisting with the inter-active displays; and cleaning the café and museum. Jack has also helped out during the seasonal events at the museum and particularly enjoyed putting up their very impressive Christmas tree!

At first, most of Jack’s tasks were indoors as it was the winter. He is looking forward to getting on with outdoor work during the spring and summer. This will include ground maintenance, weeding, planting and helping with outdoor events.

Jack has also been working on independent travel as part of his experiences at the museum. He has been supported in learning to walk from the village to the museum. This is a small but very important development for Jack.

Ann Whittall said that “working with Jack has been a great experience for all the staff here at the National Wool Museum. It has been great to see Jack gaining confidence, coming to the museum on a weekly basis and developing in his role. Jack is now happy to work independently, supported by his colleagues at the museum. The support and initial training provided by the WorkFit project was particularly helpful in setting us up to provide Jack with a good work experience opportunity.”

Jack said “I really look forward to going to work at the museum on Fridays. I have learnt new skills and tried jobs for the first time. I enjoy all the jobs except using the hoover.”

WorkFit will continue to support both Jack and the National Wool Museum and are looking forward to working with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to find other opportunities across the organisation.

Exactly 65 years ago, during the summer months of 1951, there would have been much excitement in the air at St Fagans.

It was the year of the Festival of Britain, and the Welsh Folk Museum as it was known then, had a significant role to play in the festivities.

The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition held throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of 1951, organised to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition 1851. Its purpose was to display the British contribution to civilisation - past, present, future, in all the arts, science and industrial design. Nearly all the leading British designers and architects of the time were involved in the festival.

But the Festival of Britain was also considered as a moment of light relief for a nation recovering from war. The official festival booklet described the festivities as 'A Tonic to the Nation’.

The Festival of Britain’s committee invited the Welsh Folk Museum to organise a programme of events and exhibitions at St. Fagans as part of the festival, to showcase the best of Wales.

The special programme ran throughout the months of July and August in 1951, and consisted of three concerts, a series of four lectures, two performances of the play Blodeuwedd, written by Saunders Lewis, seven exhibitions of folk dancing, together with two national exhibitions of Welsh rural crafts and Welsh quilting.

At the same time the Committee provided the money necessary to re-erect the Stryd Lydan barn and the Esgair Moel woollen factory as permanent memorials of the Festival. Shortly afterwards the Committee took the decision to provide additional money for the re-erection of a third building, the Gower farmhouse, Kennixton. The total contribution for the three buildings was £6,150. 

Craft was a vital element of the festivities at St Fagans. The museum employed extra staff and craftsmen during these months to provide daily live craft exhibits and demonstrations, including a wood turner from Abercych, Pembrokeshire, along with his apprentice and a basket-maker, from Caeo, Carmarthenshire.

A small ‘Welsh Rural Crafts’ exhibition went on display, including examples of pottery, iron work, textiles, leather work and furniture. However, the most important and prominent event of the entire festival at St Fagans was the Welsh Quilting exhibition, where competitions and demonstrations formed the major part of the activity.

The Western Mail reported in Feburary 1951 that;

This exhibition will undoubtedly be the largest most comprehensive and the most interesting of its kind ever staged in the Principality. Substantial prizes and certificates of merit will be awarded to successful candidates and it will undoubtedly provide an excellent opportunity for Welsh quilters to show our overseas visitors that they still possess the skill of their forebears in this one remaining traditional needlecraft.

65 years later, there is excitement and anticipation in the air again at St Fagans, as we look forward to a new and transformed museum - once more, showcasing Wales as a nation with its own identity on the world stage #MakingHistory