When Covid hit, the Go Tell the Bees team in Pembrokeshire had to reimagine how to approach a mass-participation community project and begin a programme of digital engagement – no mean feat. Here, Co-Creator Naomi Chiffi, describes how they continued to keep the project alive in the most difficult of circumstances:
At the start of the pandemic there was still hope that it would be a short-term crisis. Therefore, we didn’t immediately abandon our original ambition for a full-scale theatre production. However, it soon became apparent that this was wildly optimistic and we would need to think in a new way about the entire process.
Asking ourselves key questions
We asked ourselves some key questions – how are we still able to place communities at the heart of all decisions around the production? How do we provide opportunities for mass participation? What provision can we make for education programmes and connecting with young people? How do we continue a creative Research & Development process that keeps communities at the heart of co-creation? How do we continue to build new relationships? What can, and should, we be doing during a time of global crisis that will best support and serve the communities we work with, whilst also contributing to our own artistic ambitions?
Coming together in solidarity and celebration
We began a programme of digital engagement, the aims of which were to continue to let people know that Go Tell the Bees was still very much alive; to continue to find ways for people to contribute creatively to its development; to provide an opportunity for people to come together in solidarity and celebration – a mass participation moment (despite being kept apart by lockdown); and to continue to drive the project forward.
Opportunities for creation and hope
Our first digital mission was the creation of sunflowers, designed by Di Ford with an instructional video by Gemma Green-Hope and music by Ben Mason. With everyone confined to their homes, we wanted to provide an opportunity for creation and hope, based on themes of the show. Keen to make the process open to all, we distributed free art packs. We partnered with a local growers’ association who donated hundreds of seeds which were sent with the packs. People were encouraged to plant and share images of their flowers and artistic creations.
Finding moments of mass participation
To bring people together and create a moment of mass participation we developed a digital procession to emulate the physical procession we had planned as a part of the live event. This gave us a great opportunity to further develop the narrative of the project with actors Ioan Hefin and Carys Eleri. It also provided paid opportunities for actors and community groups including Bella Voce and Samba Doc. Other participation opportunities included learning a dance routine by Sean Griffiths of Unison Dance Group in Milford Haven. Carys Eleri and Branwen Munn composed a song, Go Tell the Bees/Dod Nol at Fy Nghoed, which was released to raise money for our charity partner, Size of Wales. All of this culminated in a live performance of the procession, where a zoom audience waved the sunflowers created as part of our first mission.
Our seven simple acts
Working with Counterpoints Arts and NTW TEAM Panel we created our Simple Acts programme, inspired by the words of St David himself: “Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain”. These seven Simple Acts help us to better connect with our environment and with each other. The final minutes of our film is footage that people across Pembrokeshire and beyond have sent us of themselves performing these Simple Acts. It’s a really special moment.
The Learning Hive
We also worked with six creative practitioners and five consultant teachers in the development of our Go Tell the Bees Learning Hive, a bank of resources for Key Stage 2 and 3 school children. These resources, which complement the new National Curriculum for Wales and Well-being of the Future Generations Act, provided resources not only for teachers but also those who were teaching from home during lockdown.
At the heart of Go Tell the Bees is the hope that by doing, we can learn from each other, we can build confidence and that we can experience through all of the senses. TEAM wanted this project to have a positive impact on communities. Learning in an active and imaginative way is critical to this so we are really pleased to have been able to develop this hive of activity and inspiration.