The local MS for Arfon visited Y Festri recently
Y Festri is a charity promoting and developing community arts initiatives and projects in the Gwynedd village of Llanberis.
The arts initiative is based in the former vestry building of Capel Gorffwysfa, a chapel that was located on Llanberis High Street and was demolished in 1982.
Before the Covid lockdowns Y Festri was a thriving hub for the CircoArts art and circus classes for the young people of Llanberis, as well as being used for yoga classes, birthday parties, and community shows. The building was renovated in 2016 with support from the community and is run and maintained by volunteers.
According to Merlin Tomkins, the charity’s Chair, Y Festri’s mission is “to promote and instigate community visual, digital and performing arts in ways that celebrate the Welsh language and culture.” Nevertheless, when 2020’s first Covid lockdown hit, Y Festri had to find new ways of delivering projects which enabled community participation.
Early in the pandemic CircoArts drew in funding from Mantell Gwynedd and UnLtd to give free art and circus equipment to children and families who used to come to Y Festri. They also ran art and circus classes on Zoom, and put community art exhibitions in the phone boxes on Llanberis High Street. Y Festri’s daffodil project encouraged Llanberis residents to display daffodils in their windows as symbols of hope and resilience.
When classes were able to resume, the funding provided equipment for all the children. Most recently Y Festri and CircoArts commissioned 3 artists as part of the LleCHI bid to secure the successful World Heritage Site status, to create pieces to go in the phone boxes that celebrated the cultural and industrial history of Llanberis and its relationship with slate.
As Director Thomasine Tomkins said:
“When it was impossible for people to visit art galleries, we took the art to the people!
“We feel that Y Festri has an important role in rehabilitation and recovery as the pandemic becomes less of a problem to our community life.
“It is vital that communities have a safe space to come together, connect and socialise. Y Festri hopes to support the community with a special emphasis on wellbeing and creativity.”
Gwynedd County Council funded a 2021 “Summer of Fun” project which allowed children and youth to attend free art and circus sessions over the summer holidays.
“It brought so much joy, filled the hall with laughter, and meant so much to a lot of young people who have missed out on vital parts of growing up, because of Covid.”
Y Festri was recently visited by Siân Gwenllian MS, the local representative in the Senedd:
“The vestry was a staple of Welsh cultural life, and there is a sense of continuation, seeing Y Festri serving its original purpose as a communal and cultural focal point for the village.
“The arts and culture are both integral parts of all our lives. It would have been hard to imagine life hadn’t it been for the arts and culture during the Covid lockdowns.
“We are a creative nation, that find creative solutions to the constant challenges that we face, and the village of Llanberis has its fair share of challenges.
“The pandemic has been a massive hit to the Welsh arts industry, but it’s encouraging to see that initiatives such as Y Festri have carried on.
“For the sake of our young people’s resilience, confidence, and mental health, it’s vital that projects such as Y Festri thrive. They give young people transferable, analytical skills, and the ability to think independently and express themselves.
“Recently we have been reflecting on the rich history of the area, in light of UNESCO’s decision to designate Wales’ slate areas as a World Heritage Site.
“The slate area’s artistic and cultural contribution over more than a century is immense. It’s terrific to see Y Festri continue in that tradition.”
Director Thomasine Tomkins added:
“We’re very grateful to all those who have supported the charity. Whether they have come to classes at the hall, donated, given time or followed and liked us on social media.
“It is only in partnership with a community that community arts can thrive! Community arts is not just about participation in workshops or events it's about providing ways to reach out and bring different people together to have shared experiences, create positive identities and relationships, and therefore make a stronger and healthier community.”