Dec 16
Cymerau, the mid Wales Hydrocitizenship team, are holding a storytelling event at the Friendship Inn, Borth. Tonight (7pm Tuesday 16th December). Peter Stephenson, a local storyteller, will be telling tales of the sea and will be inviting local attendees to share their own water related stories. 

Obviously its a long way for you to come in person. However, we will be streaming part of the event live on the internet. So please do join us by logging on. Online viewers are invited to write and submit their own stories electronically. All stories will be presented online as part of the documentation of the event. We aim to start the broadcast at 7.15pm so best to get set up a little before hand.

You will find more information, a viewer through which you will be able to watch, and a space where you can add comments during the broadcast by visiting this page on the Cymerau website. http://www.cymerau.org/digwyddiadau--events.html


ps.. we are at the mercy of heavy winds and an unreliable broadband connection... so if all fails on the night we will post Peter's story online afterwards!
Mar 12

Cymerau, the local Hydrocitizenship team, are planning to hold three public events on 19th, 20th and 22nd March 2015. 

See our website for more information about the project. http://www.cymerau.org

The first two take the form of drop in sessions where members of the public can come and share their views about water. These will take place at the Community Hall in Borth (19th - 15:00-20:00) and the Memorial Hall in Tal-y-bont. (20th - 15:00-20:00). These are open to anyone and we would really appreciate it if you were able to share the details through your networks. 

Please also come and see us yourself and share your thoughts if you are free!

The third event is specifically aimed at local artists and it will take place at CAT on Sunday 22nd March, World Water Day.  This event is designed to engage artists with the project and to share with them the details of our proposed year of creative activity, our Water Map (Sept 2015 – Aug 2016). 

For details of the Water Map follow this link:


For details of the artist event on the 22nd please follow this link:


You can also share your thoughts online, by filling in this questionnaire. http://www.cymerau.org/you-say.html We will be using these to help guide our work in the coming months.
Mar 23
Yesterday was World Water Day 2015 and the four Hydrocitizenship teams (Lee Valley, Bristol, Shipley, mid Wales) staged water themed activities in their case study areas.

The Cymerau team put on a day long event at the Centre for Alternative Technology, where we met with artists connected to Borth and Tal-y-bont.

The aim of the event was to provide local artists with an insight into the Hydrocitizenship project and to give them a broad understanding of our proposed year of water related activity, our Water Map (Sept 2015 - August 2016). We are inviting artists to submit proposals for work that might take place during the year and this event hopefully gave them an idea of some of the things that might be possible.

The day was broken into four parts:

1) Introductions: A confluence of artists
2) Hydrocitizenship themes: Water, Participation, Citizenship
3) Cymerau: Creating a Water Map in Borth and Tal-y-bont
4) Group Work: Imagining creative responses

By the end of the day the gathered artists had generated some really interesting ideas and hopefully made connections with one another that they will follow up later. As a team, we made a lot of discoveries about the different ways that artists work with and approach 'participation'. I think it would be good to follow up this event with some one to one conversations with the artists involved in order to get a better sense of what they think about this term within the context of their work. It would be interesting to develop a shared local language.

Two questions occur to me:

1) In what ways are local artists working with 'participation'?
2) How are local artists working with water?

Later I will put up further posts about some of the conversations that we had during the day.

But for now, here are some pictures - taken by Sara Penrhyn Jones. 

Enjoying the Spring sunshine!

Artists reflecting.

Developing proposals

Chatting over lunch

More on this to follow!!
Oct 19

First off I’d like to thank the Tir A Mor café for welcoming us in and providing such excellent tea, coffee, locally made cakes and scones.

We set up a room upstairs with big paper and lots of craft and drawing materials.  We also put up stills and quotes from the videos played the night before.

Below are some of the conversations we had

photos by Tom Gunn from our sunday event in Borth

What do you think of the sea defenses?

I don’t like them, I don’t like walking on the stones, I’ve hardly been on the beach at all since they’ve gone in and I used to go on every day.  We used to walk along to school and you cant a lot of the time now. I’m not that convinced its going to work. I think it’s got a time limit on it – not a very long one…

Is it worth it at all do you think?

Yes, definitely.  It’s definitely worked because you all got flooded the year before it was done.  Compared to what we got flooded down the shop end.

The sea’s so powerful isn’t it?

I just don’t like the way it physically looks

I quite like the coves that are forming between the breakwater

I miss the groins, the wooden groins and some of it is like a car park rather than a beach, the way the stones have settled.  I do like the way the rocks are settling in and the light around the rocks. 

Snorkelling great

There’s a lot of life there

Every year there’s more seaweed and kelp, it’s getting richer and richer

And all the birds really make use of it, the cormorants have stood there, they love it

I don’t like the shape and size of the stones, I must admit. But I think it would work

It might make a difference but only for a very short time, I don’t think its really going to stop the sea

Its seems such a huge amount of money and such an environmental impact bringing all that stuff in for such a short time that its going to work

Do you think if they’d offered to spend the money relocating everyone in Borth instead, that you lot would have said yes? Together but somewhere else.

It’s an interesting thought

Where would we move?

Up the hill

It’s more about protecting the railway line than the people

And the road

That’s going to be a matter of time

If they’ve only given us 40 years then the railways going to be under water

Access to Aberystwyth

Maybe they’ll do a bypass like they’re going to do in Machynlleth

The cliff is eroding anyway so we can’t go that way we’d have to go inland

That’s the bog

The reason I’m in Borth is because of the sea

I think a lot of the people who live here are taking their chances anyway.

They say, “I’m not going to buy”

They say “Its going to last my lifetime”

My kids aren’t expecting any inheritance anyway

What is about Borth that makes it worth it?

The people

The good community definitely

Its so beautiful around this area, you could live in Taliesin and you’d still have

Everything that’s here, because it’s really close, but it hasn’t got that wildness

Just being so close to the sea, it so mental and right in your face

Looking out the windows and seeing dolphins and seals and shoals of fish and

Thousands of birds diving in.

People were stopping their cars last week with all those dolphins, people trying to

Get round them but they’d just stopped.  We’ve got that we live there.

We don’t have to come on holiday here

Hundreds of gannets diving at once it’s like being in a wildlife movie

We’re so lucky

I don’t know where I'd move to

When my house is being flooded I’ll be trying to get into the pub

We’ll just go upstairs

We’ll live upstairs

It’ll be like Venice

You’ll be punting around

Gondola Company

Forget skateboards everyone can get on paddleboards

We wont have a bus anymore; we’ll have to paddle board to work.

There’s plenty of wind for sailing

Do you think that living somewhere that’s been really affected by climate change? Or will be really affected by climate change has made anyone live differently, more sustainably or think about their carbon footprint?

Yes, I’ve always tried to do that, ever since I realised when I was about late teens.

It is really in your face in Borth isn’t it?

You know there’s an inevitability whereas in a lot of places you don’t see it so it’s easy to forget

I think its interesting, I work in renewable energy all the time and living by the sea hasn’t made it any stronger, its almost cuz its such a slow process, its quite easy to ignore it as well.  It feels it will be a long time in the future, even though it might not be.  It’s a contradiction for me.

It’s a funny time, because we don’t know, its not like we know that in 10 years time the sea will be here.

It could be anything between .2 of a meter and a meter difference in 50 years

What is it that Allan Hubbard said last night in that film, its rising 3mm a year and 1mm of that s attributed to the Greenland ice sheets and he was directly linking that with Borth.

Spot the man who lives up the cliff

He’s the man who knows

I’m not going to live on that shingle bank.

Beached: the Final Landing

Reflections on Cymerau in the Spring  - Katherine Jones and Tom Payne

From May 26th to 29th the Cymerau artists and community members showcased creative projects devised with and for people in the Borth and Tal-y-bont area in Ceredigion, mid Wales.

This included Beached: The Final Landing by Jane Lloyd-Francis and Gwilym Morus-Baird;  Water Surgery by Jess Allen; Y Gors by Dafydd Sills-Jones, Anne Marie Carty and Nick Jones; Edafedd-dwr by Ffion Jones; The Water Shed by residents of the Borth Community Allottments and Stories, Songs, Science and the Sea by Peter Stevenson, Erin Kavanagh and Lynne Denman.

The following is written conversation between two participants in these events. Tom Payne was involved in organising the Spring Gathering with other members of the local team. Katherine Jones is a former Aberystwyth resident and is a Towards Hydrocitizenship team member working on the Water City Bristol case study.

Ar Lan y Leri

The weekend began on Thursday evening with Beached: The Final Landing, which was the last installment in a series of walks and public events organised by Jane and Gwilym under the title Ar Lan y Leri (beside the Leri). The Leri is one of three rivers that run through the Cymerau Case study area; the others include the Ceulan and the Dyfi, all of which combine in the waters of the Dyfi Estuary which flow into the Cardigan Bay.

Katherine: A group of mainly Borth residents assemble at the Ynyslas nature reserve for a short walk inland along the edge of the main Ynys Las car park and along to the river Leri. At this point, the mouth of the river, we are treated to Suzanne Iuppa reading some beautiful poetry.  Suzanne has come down from Mold, and has an American accent. Her poems are a response to a landscape initially unfamiliar to her, but they have bubbled up through impressions and conversations gathered through walking some of the Leri. For my own part, having grown up in this area, I never knew this particular river which runs past the back of the Borth train track, and along part of the coastal path which I have walked, is called the Leri. Beached: the Final Landing

Tom: I have never walked inland at Ynylslas.  Every other time I have been here I’ve followed the boardwalk through the dunes out towards the sea. I am reminded of a time many years ago that I had a brief part in a film playing Timothy Spall’s body double. I had to sit on a bench in a long trench coat so that the filmmakers could film him/me from behind looking out to the horizon; not the most flattering casting decision. Further inland, close to the boat yard at the mouth of the Leri, I’m taking in the awesome view that stretches eastwards beyond the flat esturine landscape to the hills above Tal-y-bont. I can see small white windmills spinning briskly on and between the green peaks as I listen intently to James Meek talk about the wrecked ships that lie below the surface of the water in the estuary. Small wooden posts jut upwards, some distance away, marking the location of one of the vessels. I can hear James’ voice clearly, even at a distance, like he is speaking to me in a small room, which is surreal, given the backdrop. It’s difficult to bring our immediate location into relation with the enormatiy of the vista, which seems somehow like it might be a painting on enormous stage flats.

Beached: the Final Landing

Katherine: We meander back to the nature reserve centre where chairs have been set up for an audience, to watch Jane and Gwilym share their impressions from their three-day journey from source to sea of this river. The walls are adorned with pictures of snakes and birds, and a list of birds recently spotted in the Ynyslas nature reserve. Jane and Gwilym’s impressions involve recorded conversations, recounted stories of encounter (with the owners of a watermill, with a hare…) and musical compositions ranging from electronic loops of mbira music, and folk songs in Welsh with accompanying ukulele or mandolin.

Tom: The event takes the form of a staged conversation between the two performers. Opening occasionally to include the audience who respond with interest and offer corrections or additional insights. The autobiographical nature of their account is inviting and allows me to make connections with places that I have never been. Following their narrative, I travel downstream with them from location to location, imaging myself deep within the rural Welsh landscape east of the estuary. They weave music, poetry, anecdotes and historical facts into their personal accounts of the places that they passed through on their way from source to sea, and in doing so produce a layered account of this part of Wales.

Katherine: At the end of the performance, Gwilym plays the last conversation between himself and Jane, recorded at the ‘end’ of the Leri as it reaches and flows out into the Dyfi Estuary. They muse on what an ending even means, this is the end of what is called the Leri, but not an ending in any meaningful way for the water that flows, which will flow into the sea, evaporate, rain down again, flow again through the river, and so on, infinitely. It’s an ending though of a conversation begun by the Cymerau project, and they muse on this too. Is it art, they wonder? Particularly the representation that they have treated us to. The journey and the conversations along the way were the art posits Jane, but supposes that the outcome, this sharing, is also art.

Tom: In conversation with Suzie Gablik, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett refers to the ‘art of living’; this is not the art of the gallery or the museum, or professional artists, although she’s quick to point out that it’s anything but amateur, it’s the art of ‘domestic interiors, the table, food, language [...] the arts of sociability, conversation, etiquette and dress’ (https://www.nyu.edu/classes/bkg/web/gablik.pdf). For me, Jane and Gwilym’s representation of their three-day journey down the river Leri is a poetic construction of lived experience. It includes their encounters with people and place, the micro politics involved in spending prolonged periods of time in the company of another person, making decisions about which turning take, and so on. But its also much more than that, this lived experience has a poetic inflection constituted by Gwilym’s mindful act of composing music by the river or in response to the landscape, and Jane’s beautifully written prose. Their deliberate act of walking is artfully performed and represented here, in a mode of exposition that invites us to attend not just to the narrative, but to the place in which the story is being told. Two words/phrases that they used to decribe their journey - ‘honouring’ and ‘paying attention to’ really stuck out to me. Particularly when used in relation to water. The event is an ‘honouring’, a ‘paying attention to’ that invites us to do the same. It’s a gentle invitation, but it’s a political one too. For me it’s saying something very firmly about our abstracted relationship to the water that we use and the natural environment from which it comes. But it’s also one that speaks of a particular priviledge, which the artists themselves draw attention to, that of being able to step outside of everyday life and to spend time, watching, listening, thinking, ‘pay attention’, ‘honouring’...

Beached: the Final Landing

Katherine: Later I have a conversation with Tom around the questions of ‘what is art?’ ‘what is participatory art?’ ‘what is community art?’. I remember back to a philosophy course I took a very long time ago with a reading list that included Tolstoy’s What is Art? Tolstoy’s argument, as I remember it, is that the best form of art is that which is the most common, that is to say the type of art that the most people can relate to. It shouldn’t be obscure, or refer to things or even spiritual or emotional senses that would not be easily identifiable to the person least interested in the study of art. Tolstoy’s argument is very much about inclusivity. The Cymerau project and the Towards Hydrocitizenship project as a whole, also aspires to this kind of inclusivity, and this is realized in the various sub-comissions emerging from it, though inevitably, events are prone to attracting the same group of people who happen to be interested in these sorts of things. Questions also arise around differing understandings of art and creativity. The constraint of inclusiveness can mean that more edgy and difficult creative pieces are excluded. In the Bristol case study for example, we have had rather an extensive focus on tides and tidal landscapes in Bristol without touching much on legacies of slavery, issues of flooding, or explicitly thinking about the effects of a tidal barrage, although at points in the programme all of these things came up and were talked about. Yet the creative work itself was not about engaging with and addressing these more difficult topics in a direct way, and I have wondered at times whether we are watering down (pardon the pun), the darkness as well as the light that is existent in all life. Rebecca Solnit talks about how life is a combination of dark and light, and that we need to embrace both in our understanding of it….

So is this art? Is it good art? Is it participatory art? Do the answers to any of these questions matter?  

Watershed Borth Community GardensFrom May 26th to 29th the Cymerau artists and community members showcased creative projects devised with and for people in the Borth and Tal-y-bont area in Ceredigion, mid Wales.

This included Beached: The Final Landing by Jane Lloyd-Francis and Gwilym Morus-Baird;  Water Surgery by Jess Allen; Y Gors by Dafydd Sills-Jones, Anne Marie Carty and Nick Jones; Edafedd-dwr by Ffion Jones; The Water Shed by residents of the Borth Community Allottments and Stories, Songs, Science and the Sea by Peter Stevenson, Erin Kavanagh and Lynne Denman.

The following is written conversation between two participants in these events. Tom Payne was involved in organising the Spring Gathering with other members of the local team. Katherine Jones is a former Aberystwyth resident and is a Towards Hydrocitizenship team member working on the Water City Bristol case study.

The Watershed

On Saturday, an open invitation was extended to members of the general public to visit the Borth Community Gardens. From Borth train station platform, which looks out onto Borth Bog, the gardens can be located by walking to the end of the platform and through a walkway gate. This is part of the coastal path walk, which curves inland a great way after Borth to get around the Dyfi estuary. It can be accessed from this direction by passing through the gate and down a lane, across the tracks and past a derelict looking barn with three small ponies moseying about next to it, and then towards the church and cemetery. Just before reaching these, is a slight right turn leading to the gates of the Borth Community Garden and allotments. Started five years ago by a group of people who got together, and were given a small piece of land by a local farmer for whom it was simply more grazing land for sheep (no shortage of that in Wales!), the community garden is the site of The Water Shed; a timber framed building designed using found and recycled materials, with the aim of providing a meeting/workshop space for community members.

Watershed Borth Community Gardens

Katherine:  We are greeted on arrival by Caspar and Anne, who offer us tea or coffee and tell us the story of the community gardens, while we munch some homemade pakoras brought by Anne (made with gram flour). The space is beautiful. Bunting adorns a gorgeous pond as damselflies alight on lilypads, an orchard of fruit trees is punctuated by a chicken enclosure with several plump and healthy-looking chickens, and the place feels full of warmth and buzzing with vibrance and life (or that might be the bees from the two hives also in the orchard!). The top of the gardens afford a beautiful view of the Dyfi estuary in the distance, while the peacefulness of the surrounding landscape of bog and sea soaks in.

Tom: The gardens are partitioned into small allotments. Some are growing seasonal vegetables, others are carefully manicured, while several look like re-wilding is taking place. Our conversation with residents reveals that nettles and thistles are very much a deliberate choice on the part of some community members. Woe betide anyone who tries to cut them down! We are told that within hours of receving permission to use the field for allotments, the first stake went in the ground, marking out one man’s territory. Many sheds are dotted around the various plots, each one is unique, and adds individuality and personality. In contrast to the individual plots, are the communal areas, the polytunnel, the fledgling orchard, the communal tool shed, which are all suggestive of amicable collaboration. Athough we’re told that it pays to be quick if you want save any of the apples from scrumping.

Katherine: The Watershed is the name of the project, and the building that the members of the community garden, led by Jono, a professional builder, are building. The timber frame is up and three men are clambering about on it, hammering in joints and joists (my building knowledge is being tested here). The building will not be connected to water and electricity, but will have solar panels on the roof, and will collect water running off the roof into a storage tank. The goal is to use the energy from the solar panels to pump the water to the top of the gardens. It will also serve as a small hub for the community garden, a space where people can stop for a cup of tea perhaps. Also in process is a pizza oven a little further up the slope, created in the shape of a pregnant woman. I’d like to visit again when it’s up and running!

Tom: The ‘pizza oven’ was salvaged from the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Ceramic Festival. Its former designation as kiln is a somewhat distant one, as it awaits restoration. And it is not the only evidence of such purposeful re-imagining. Salvaging and re-using are themes that stand out strongly in this place. The re-purposing of land, the re-location of sheds, the recycling of materials to build the Water Shed.

Watershed Borth Community Gardens

Katherine: After a wander around the site, observing the water tanks and taps, admiring the view, and talking about planting and plots, and the amazing transformation this piece of land has undergone in only five years, we return to the gazebo [is that what that tent thing is called?] where several people are painting the bottoms of clear glass jars, which will be embedded into the wall of the watershed, a kind of communal stained glass window. I ask if I can join in and Tom and I then sit and paint jars with several women. A man is sprawled out on a blanket with his two beloved dogs, and a couple of girls sit next to him coloring in books. Next to me is a young woman who tells me her partner has a plot in the allotments and so she comes along. Conversation meanders from the project, to the group of people who are involved, to what brought them together, and to Borth. It seems that there are a lot of artists in the area, attracted to the peace and quiet. And yet people come through from all over the place, there are always international connections. A friend who used to live there is now on an island somewhere off the coast of British Columbia doing organic farming. A couple from South Africa are about to come to stay in Caspar’s Airbnb.

Tom: I believe Owain has stayed there too.

Katherine: Painting the bottoms of jars feels therapeutic, and we talk about this a little. I am reminded of a recent book called Art as Therapy by Alain Du Botton. As we paint, conversation ebbs and flows without pressure, without rush. I remember reading a story in which someone said they had their most heart-to-heart conversations with their mother when they were shelling beans together, and this has a feeling like that. Naturally we talk about the Watershed project, but more so the community gardens, and Anne talks about some future project she wants to do next, using the groynes that are currently abandoned in a tip. She has chainsaw work to do but decides not to disturb the mellow peace of our activity. Several of them are going to ‘True Tales’ in the Friendship Inn in the evening, the last of the season apparently, and they encourage us to come along. These are activities that hold the group together.

Watershed Borth Community Gardens

Katherine: We talk a bit about the ‘water project’ as they call it. Cymerau or Towards Hydrocitizenship being a bit of a mouthful clearly. One person quotes another Borth-based friend as saysing ‘if one more person comes and tries to talk to me about climate change!’. I express a bit of surprise thinking most of the projects I’ve come across haven’t explicitly mentioned climate change, though obviously it wont’ only be our arts projects but many others as well, which have alighted on this strange and wonderful little place as being in the line of sea level rise. There seems to be an awareness of this among the people we talk to in any case. I mention that our project deliberately set out not to explicitly talk about climate change or flooding, but to allow people’s understandings of and relationships with water to emerge through conversation. And emerge they do. Now that we’re on the topic, people talk about their own relationships with the prospect of climate change affecting Borth. They note that some people don’t want to think about it and would rather put their fingers in their ears and go ‘la la la la’ than hear about it. Others feel a bit helpless and wonder what to do. And others do things like the community garden, building a sense of community, camaraderie and being in it together.

Katherine: I’ve been listening to a podcast interview with Rebecca Solnit, called Falling Together, in which she discusses people’s responses following disasters. The way that people spring up to help, opening their homes, providing food and shelter to those affected, donating blood, showing up and helping. This is something that is witnessed time and again, and a narrative that is often left out of the media. Solnit wonders about how this spirit is fostered at times when there is no disastrous event, and as I sit and paint the bottom of a glass jar, I think this is exactly the kind of way that it happens (or is brought about). These are the people who in a disaster will be there for each other. This is what some would call the building of ‘resilience’, and of ‘community’ and of ‘community resilience’.

As an afterthought, I wonder if this would all be happening without interventions like Cymerau, and I imagine it would. But Cymerau has given such things a boost, which seems the most appropriate intervention that a short duration project could be involved with. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, the project has come along as part of a flow of things and in a fluid way become a small part of existing activities and networks, potentially transforming, in a small way, the relationships within and between those networks... Perhaps in any case the transformation is about us and not 'communities'. In this space, Tom and I both reflect on how this project feels good and how we're glad to have been part of something like this, even in a small way. We are learning something, perhaps many things, from being present in such spaces, without trying too hard to frame or impose our own ideas and structures onto these interactions.

Watershed Borth Community Gardens


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