CAER Studio to nurture a new generation of artists

20 March 2018

CAER studio image
(Image courtesy of Vivian Paul Thomas)

People of all ages in the west Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely will learn new artistic skills, thanks to an initiative devised by researchers at Cardiff University and the artist Paul Evans. 

CAER Studio builds on the award-winning CAER Heritage Project, which is based around one of Cardiff’s most important archaeological sites - Caerau Iron Age hillfort. It is being coordinated in partnership with community development organisation Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE) and local secondary school Cardiff West Community High.

Thanks to a significant Arts and Humanities Research Council grant, people living in Caerau and Ely will have the chance to get involved in a range of artistic activities, inspired by the knowledge and artefacts gained from archaeological excavations within a stone’s throw of their homes.

The project is an exciting collaboration of archaeologists, historians, social scientists and community journalists from Cardiff University working with community development workers, teachers and artists.  

The CAER Collective, a cohort of local artists, will hold workshops where residents can come along and get creative, while learning more about the history of their community.

They will get the chance to explore ancient craft skills including pottery and ceramics, working in animal bone, through a series of experimental archaeology workshops run Cardiff University’s CAER Heritage and Guerrilla Archaeology teams.

A range of possible products including, crafts, cards, jewellery and culinary products, will then be developed and potentially sold at local outlets and heritage institutions developing social enterprise opportunities for local artists and residents.

The CAER Collective will also work with students at Cardiff West Community High School to create an art installation for the reception area of their new school. The history of the hillfort will be also be embedded into the curriculum so that pupils can learn about the significance of the site.

Residents can keep abreast of the latest events through a new “CAER BC” YouTube channel and CAERNews, a one-off newspaper that will be specially produced for Ely Festival 2018, featuring local art and artist’s profiles, helping to promote the project to local people. Both these initiatives will be supported by expertise from Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism.

Plans are underway to take the achievements of the project out to other parts of the city, with a performance, exhibition and large-scale projection in the city centre planned for later in the year.

Caerau Iron Age hillfort, one of the most impressive in South-East Wales, stood as the centre of power for the region before the Roman invasion in AD74. The remains of a ringwork and church built during the Medieval period can still be seen today.
In the first century AD, a Roman villa was constructed in the area, and the remains of this L-shaped complex still exist under the playing fields at Trelai Park.

Dave Horton, Development Manager at ACE, commented: “You don't have to be in Ely and Caerau long to recognise a wealth of creativity and artistic skills that are too often ignored.  For the past two years ACE has been identifying and developing local artists through the Breaking the Mould project.

“With the launch of CAER Studio we have the opportunity to take this to another level, using diverse creative disciplines to explore, understand and communicate our extraordinary heritage while further developing and celebrating a thriving local arts scene.”

CAER co-director Dr Dave Wyatt, senior lecturer at the University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: “The story of Caerau hillfort is an incredible one and CAER Studio will help local people to celebrate that story creatively while gaining new skills training at the same time.”

Paul Evans, artist, added: “Since I began working on the CAER Project in 2012 I have been hugely inspired by the beauty and emotional power of the heritage that we have encountered in Caerau and Ely. Everything, from the fascinating objects that have been uncovered from the ground to the wonderful stories that we have been told by members of the community, adds richness and depth of meaning to this unique and complex picture.

“The CAER Collective of artists has an incredible resource to draw upon when it comes to creating art and craft in response to this heritage, and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing what will emerge from this exciting creative process.”

This latest project builds on the success of the CAER Heritage Project that recently won the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community.

CAER Heritage explores the history and archaeology of the Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely from prehistory through to the modern day, helping to connect communities with their heritage and develop educational opportunities and community wellbeing.

For more information visit the School webpages.