Care organisation wins top award for moving play about dementia

Pendine Park, Bryn Seiont Newydd, Caernarfon; Pictured are Olwen Williams and Carl Owen from Fran Wen With Gwynfor Jones and Nia Davies Williams.

An arts-loving care organisation from North Wales has been honoured with a top award for their partnership with a theatre company in producing a moving play about dementia.

More than 5,000 people saw the drama, Ŵy, Chips a Nain (Egg, Chips and Grandma), which was inspired by residents of Pendine Park.

At the glittering Arts & Business Cymru Awards at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Pendine Park, which has eight care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon, was presented with the Arts, Business Health Award. They were also finalists in the Business of the Year category.

The nationwide tour of the play by the Frȃn Wen theatre company was the most successful large-scale production in their history.

It shone a light on the effects of the cruel condition as seen through the eyes of a young grandson.

The play was written by Welsh language poet and musician Gwyneth Glyn who visited Pendine’s Bryn Seiont Newydd in Caernarfon to speak to the residents and staff as part of her research.

Following the premiere at Galeri Caernarfon, there were 33 performances right across Wales at venues including Mold, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Cardiff.

Many of the venues including the final shows at Cardiff’s Chapter theatre were sold out.

The sponsorship for the production came via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which was set up by Mario and his wife, Gill, to support arts and community initiatives.

Thanks to additional support from Arts & Business Cymru’s Culture Step programme, Frân Wen also hosted Ŵy, Chips a Nain theatre workshop sessions with Bryn Seiont Newydd residents and their families.

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: “We are very proud to have received this prestigious award from Arts & Business Cymru and we are indebted to Frȃn Wen for the fantastic work they did from the start to the finish of this lovely project.

“Our long-standing commitment to the arts, community and education is central to everything we do at Pendine Park as a way of enriching lives across the generations so this particular production and its theme was a perfect fit.

“We were probably the first company in the social care sector in the UK to appoint an artist in residence nearly 30 years and we have enduring collaborations with the Hallé orchestra and Welsh National Opera. I was particularly proud earlier this year to become WNO’s first Community Champion.

“We saw the production of Ŵy, Chips a Nain as a tremendous opportunity to contribute in terms of knowledge and good practice and being an integral part of the production not merely sponsors of the play.

“The fact that the play was in the Welsh language was also important because we have seen the difference it makes when care is provided in a person’s mother tongue, particularly when they have dementia, and it has always been important to us that Bryn Seiont Newydd.

“The importance of the Welsh language and culture is reflected in our enrichment programme which is a key component of our work in terms of staff development.

“Gwyneth Glyn’s superb script and some wonderful acting really drew in audiences and helped show what it is like to not only live with dementia, but to see the condition through the eyes of a young boy.”

“Ŵy, Chips a Nain is an inspirational play and we are really delighted to have been involved from the outset. The framed photograph presented to us by Frȃn Wen will take pride of place in Bryn Seiont Newydd.”

Nia Jones, Frân Wen’s Executive Director said: “We’re absolutely delighted to win the award. Although we operate in different industries, we both share a similar value of enriching lives so it was a perfect fit.

“It was a truly two-way partnership – our artistic team were allowed priceless access to engage with the care centre residents and their families during the development of the production Wy, Chips a Nain.

“It’s immensely important that our work reflects true life and experiences and there is no doubt that this would have been very difficult to achieve without this partnership.

“In addition, the support allowed us to provide creative workshops to 750 school children, an intergenerational creative project with the residents and their families and perform the production of ‘Wy, Chips a Nain’ to over 5,000 children and their families in theatres across Wales, our most successful theatre production yet.

“It was a great example of how a production can be the springboard to other creative opportunities.”

Nia Davies Williams, Bryn Seiont Newydd’s musician in residence, says it was vital Frȃn Wen artistic team were able to visit and observe how dementia affects people and families.

She said: “Mainly it was a case of observing, watching mannerisms and listening to conversations. Of course, we ensured residents and their relatives were aware of what we and the Frȃn Wen team were doing.

“I found the play charming, funny yet often emotional. I saw it several times in rehearsals and in fact took along one of our residents, who is living with dementia, as well as her daughter and grandson to see what they thought.

“That particular resident reminds me so much of the main character of Ŵy, Chips a Nain and it was interesting to see how they reacted to the story.

“It was clear the grandson could relate to the play and although he clearly enjoyed it he was also quite moved by it too. There were parts we all laughed at and equally parts we all found moving.”

Pendine Park  Pictured are Olwen Williams and Carl Owen from Fran Wen with Gwynfor Jones and Nia Davies Williams from Pendine Park.