Published Mon 6 Feb 2023 - By Iola Ynyr
Lindsay Walker Photography

Through creativity and literature, communities can educate, explore, and challenge one another; take ownership of their local eco-systems and work towards healthier and resilient communities with thriving wildlife. Our Lit in Place pilot projects supports the artist and their community own their space, connect back with nature, and themselves.

Iola Ynyr speaks of her experience in her first 6 months of running her project, Gwledda.


Leading the Gwledda  (meaning ‘feast’) scheme, funded through a partnership between Literature Wales and WWF Cymru is a great experience. The creative writing sessions are based in Rhosgadfan, on the school grounds, and explore how we can receive nutrition from nature to maintain our well-being and reduce climate change.

I have a special relationship with the school having worked with them as part of the Plastic Island film for Future Generations Commissioner ‘Blotdeuwedd’ which was shown to represent the vision of the young people of Wales at COP26. Subsequently, I took up residency from the school for a year to encourage the creativity of the pupils and held a few sessions with the parents. It was intended to give a taste of the type of tasks pupils were undertaking but what emerged was how the parents themselves were desperate for an opportunity to express their creativity in a safe space.

There are now six participants attending the sessions, depending on life demands and health and work pressure challenges. Although only three sessions have been held so far, there is a strong sense of community within the group. There is no shyness in carrying out the tasks, only an enthusiasm to create and play with words.

I can fully relate to some of the participants’ mental health challenges after experiencing a breakdown in my life following the onset of my alcoholism. It was a dark time for my physical and mental health but with professional support and a 12-step recovery plan, I had the opportunity to break a new curse in my life.

The first professional and creative work after this difficult period, more than a few days here and there, was with Literature Wales developing Ar y Dibyn or Writing on the Brink as it was at the time; a project in partnership with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Galeri to offer creative writing workshops to individuals living with addiction. Now, two and a half years later, this scheme operates nationally and creates impressive and quality pieces of art that assert the right of every individual, no matter how vulnerable, to express themselves creatively.

But Gwledda secures an amiable place for an element beyond us as humans, namely nature. Each session involves spending time outside in the wild garden, vegetable garden or in the schoolyard, noticing and strolling outside. There is connecting with the immense power in the form of Mother Earth and feeling her comfort guiding us to imagine and hear her messages of encouragement.

Nature draws us together but connects us to ourselves. We then assemble in the hut or in the school’s small kitchen, in inclement weather, to capture it all in the form of words and sentences forming at the pace and hands of the participants for the best following the tail of the ideas. There is a ritual of calming and listening to each other and ruminating on images, snappy sounds, warnings, words of love and ideas that rise into a soft cart over the school and the community of Rhosgadfan and throw its edges far over the lighthouse and beach of Llanddwyn beach.

The peaceful presence of the earth was stronger than ever as we planted trees with Anna Williams of the North Wales Wildlife Trust. Trees nurtured at Penrhyndeudraeth Powder Works where weapons used to be made for warships. Witnessing the children lying on their bellies on the ground sealing the soil for the trunks of the trees while their parents pressed spades was an image of human well-being and nature’s, as one. In the creative pieces, there was talk of ‘breathing deeper’, ‘creating life with our hands’ and ‘printing our hands into rooted plants’.

I’m looking forward to working together over the coming months with GwyrddNi and to providing an endowment to the project through the link with this climate change action movement based in the local community.

The two-hour sessions disappear like the wind, but I take mentoring sessions to plan, analyse them and air any free flight that hasn’t landed on the ground with poet clare potter. I first collaborated with clare on the On the Brink scheme and as I was invited to choose a mentor, she was the instinctive first choice for me. clare understands, living in a world deeply rooted in contact with nature.

With clare, I get pieces of poetry to take a fresh look at nature, at how to slow down and take stock and perhaps, most importantly, consider how my well-being is. I get motivated to write creatively myself and gain confidence as I’m concerned that I have no right to consider myself a writer. clare has grown an appetite then to write daily, to record, to notice, to take my own creativity seriously through the tenderness and strength of a spider web.

Feasts, and the weekly sessions, will conclude at the end of March with a feast for the local community in the school hall prepared from the garden produce and with catering from the creative produce. Somewhere, deep in my heart, I hope there will be a desire from the participants to read their own work, or to hear them from their children’s souls.

Literature Wales