Focus Project

A group of silver surfers from North Wales have taken some stunning photographs, which are now in the running to snap up a prestigious national award.

Around a dozen older tenants of the Cartrefi Conwy housing association signed up early last year for a 10-week photography course, known as the Focus project, which is based at both Venue Cymru in Llandudno and Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay.

The overall aim of the Focus project is to encourage the participants to learn and develop skills within the digital world, while having fun and meeting new people.

Their eye-catching efforts developed from this course have been exhibited to great acclaim at Venue Cymru in Llandudno and the Oriel Gallery at Theatr Colwyn last summer. Their efforts have also recently been awarded by landing a place on the shortlist for this year’s Arts & Business Cymru Awards.

These awards are now in their 22nd year and aim to encourage, acknowledge and celebrate exemplary partnerships between the private sector and the arts. This is to reflect the broad range of work undertaken by Arts & Business Cymru.

Cartrefi Conwy’s veteran photographers face some formidable competition in the Arts, Business and Health category from projects across Wales. However they’re keeping their fingers crossed for success when the winners are announced at a fantastic presentation ceremony at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on July 1st 2015.

Some of their work previously created has already won recognition by being selected to adorn the association’s new £5 million showcase development of sheltered homes, which are currently being built in Llandudno.

The group has also been commissioned to take pictures to help judges of this year’s Llandudno in Bloom competition make their selection. The course was led by Paul Sampson, curator of the Oriel Colwyn photographic Gallery at Theatr Colwyn, where the shortlisting news was announced.

He said: “Most people take and have photographs and have access to a digital camera. So, as well as learning a few photographic skills participants learned how to store, retrieve, manipulate and file their images on a computer. We also looked at how to share images on social media.

“The group went out taking photographs on Llandudno promenade, the Happy Valley Gardens on the Great Orme and at a 1940s festival in Colwyn Bay.

“It gave me the opportunity to teach a few things about photography, such as using light and shade, composition and exposure techniques, and once we returned to the computer room, what to do with those images.”

He added: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the project has been shortlisted for such a prestigious national competition and it would be fantastic if they won. The project hasn’t just been about the pictures taken – although these were great – but also about people getting together each week. For some of them I think it provided a real lifeline.”

Some of the most memorable images in the project were taken by 77-year-old Renee Williams, of The Fron, Old Colwyn.

She admitted: “I paid just £20 for a small digital camera from the local supermarket, so I’m surprised and delighted that about our work being shortlisted for such a big award. Just to be on the shortlist is enough, but to actually win would be amazing.”

Renee, who has eleven grandchildren and one great-grandson, came up with a trio of powerful pictures showing a young boy holding a red balloon and an authentically dressed air-raid warden, both from the Colwyn Bay 40s festival, and a shot of smiling Cartrefi Conwy staff  at Happy Valley.

She added: “Being part of course has given me a fantastic sense of achievement.

“I’ve enjoyed everything about it, including going out to take the pictures and the comradeship other members of the group. I have met new friends and neighbours I didn’t previously know. I think it all helps to keep you young.”

Also thrilled to see the project shortlisted for the award was Renee’s fellow group member, 67-year-old Eddie Bradley, of Maes Cwstennin in Llandudno Junction.

He said: “Hearing that we’re in the running for such an honour is fantastic news. The camera I used to take the pictures isn’t an expensive one, but this shows that whatever sort of equipment you use you can still make it count.

“For me, being involved in the project has revived an interest I had in photography some years ago. I enjoyed getting out and about taking the pictures and being with the rest of the group. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I only took a week away from the work after I had a knee replacement operation. I now take the camera with me wherever I go.”

Eddie’s most striking images include atmospheric shots of a vintage military motorcycle and a group of re-enactors from the Colwyn Bay 40s festival and a steam wagon from the Llandudno Transport Festival.

Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator, who helped organise the Focus project, said: “The group have done unbelievably well by being shortlisted for such an important national competition.

“Originally, we just saw the project as a 10-week photographic and digital imaging course but it became so successful that we just couldn’t leave it there.

“There were the exhibitions at Venue Cymru and Theatr Colwyn last summer and some of the group’s amazing images will be transformed into art work at Cysgod y Gogarth, the £5 million development of 30 state-of-the-art apartments and houses for older people which the association is having built in St Andrew’s Avenue in Llandudno to replace two older sheltered blocks on the same site.

“The group has also been asked to take pictures of local scenes that will also be transformed into artwork as part of the improvement works Cartrefi Conwy are currently making to their communal hallways.

“More good news is that they’ve also been commissioned by Llandudno in Bloom this year to take pictures of the places their judges are unable to visit.

Sarah Ecob, general manager of Theatr Colwyn and also Venue Cymru, said: “I’m delighted that the group’s work has been recognised in this way. We now hope to continue this excellent initiative in partnership with Cartrefi Conwy.”


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