How children in Cardiff are celebrating St David’s Day during lockdown
From digital eisteddfodau to celebrity judges, pupils across the capital are enjoying Welsh culture
IF you are like me and grew up in Wales, St David’s Day epitomises all of the best parts of Welsh culture.
Even if you did have to put up with your mum tying your Welsh hat on, and buttoning up your waistcoat was a childhood tradition, only to pull it off five minutes later.
Sadly, due to the Coronavirus this year, children and young people across Cardiff will not get to experience the traditional school eisteddfod.
With pupils either at home or on a phased return to school, teachers across the capital have found innovative ways to keep Welsh culture alive and kicking despite the lockdown restrictions.
Some of Cardiff’s youngest residents have been getting involved with celebrating St David’s Day.
Children at the Little Explorers and Little Explorers at the Park, based in Llwynfedw Gardens, have been getting stuck into a variety of activities, while getting to spend precious time with one another.
“It is so important to make the most of celebrations, especially this year. Where schools have been closed, nurseries and childminders have remained open to provide continuity of care and to allow the children time to see their friends, play and continue learning,”
said owner Laura Marlow.
The children have been focusing on arts and crafts, including painting pictures of daffodils and colouring Welsh flags. These activities are not just enjoyable for them, but enabling them to learn much needed motor skills and co-ordination to aid in their development.
On St David’s Day, Little Explorers have planned for their children to get involved with a day-long celebration of all things Welsh.
They will get to make their own Welsh cakes and enjoy traditional cawl for lunch. The Welsh language will also be a part of the celebrations, with all their pupils getting to enjoy learning Welsh music and dancing.
However, these activities are not just important in order to celebrate Welsh culture, but for the children to be able to play and interact with one another, something which we all know has been difficult during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“During lockdown we have seen our children thrive, they have developed strong bonds with each other and benefit from social interaction.
“We recently celebrated children’s mental health week and the children’s comments were that they were so happy to play together and have friends,” said Ms Marlow.
Teachers at Lansdowne Primary School, Canton, have been pulling out all the stops to make their virtual Eisteddfod one to remember.
Nine celebrity judges will be helping to decide the Key Stage 2 winners, including Children’s Laureate of Wales Eloise Williams, who will be judging the prestigious Year 6 Bardic Poem competition.
“Lots of the children are happy they can still show off their work and have a chance to win a competition.
All the competitions have been spread over two weeks through remote teaching to make sure every child is able to take part, given the challenges posed by online learning.
Mrs Fry added: “It is sad that we cannot celebrate St David’s Day together. The children really enjoy dressing up and sharing their work.
“It is sad for staff too because we enjoy seeing everything other classes have done and how well the children perform. We are especially missing the singing this year.”
Pupils in the Foundation Phase are getting involved as well, with their events taking place in school. Each class is getting the opportunity to learn and record a poem and Welsh song, alongside art activities, whilst some of the older children are taking part in a writing competition.
The school will also crown its Community Champion, with children presenting their own ideas on how to make their community a better place. Some of the pupils have done this through a poster, a leaflet and even videos.
In true Eisteddfod fashion, story-writing is one of the main competitions taking place, with an array of judges ready to cast their eyes over the children’s work.
Cardiff Book Festival creators Brian Meechan and Cerith Mathias will be judging alongside Cardiff-based children’s author Claire Fayers, author and lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University Dan Anthony and former TV presenter turned author, Matt Brown.
“Twitter’s unofficial Poet Laureate”, Brian Bilston will be judging the poetry competition for years three to five.
The arts also take a centre stage with children submitting videos for the performance poem competition, with pupils creating videos of themselves reciting poems they have been given.
The next mini Picasso or Andy Warhol could be found in the school’s art competition, with Newport landscape artist Karl Davies judging the pieces.
Pupils in each year group have been tasked with modelling a specific item for their design competition, with the judging being done by sculptor Darrell Wakelam. The children also get to show off their writing in the handwriting competition.
Educating children about their shared history and traditions is important for teachers at the school.
“Our children come from a huge range of national and cultural backgrounds. Learning Welsh and finding out about the legends and traditions brings us all together on common ground.
“Regardless of their background, the children love the magic of sharing songs, stories and music and they are very supportive of each other,” Mrs Fry added.
Pupils at Radnor Primary School will also be showing off their Welsh spirit next week.
Key Stage 2 pupils are going to be celebrating with a week of Welsh-themed activities. From a music competition to their Bardic competition, the pupils will be getting involved with a variety of events.
This will all culminate in a mini-Eisteddfod on Friday, March 6, with pupils doning their house colours in support.
The school, based in Canton, will be even be chairing their very own bard, with the winner of the poetry competition being crowned a special chairing ceremony.
Students at Cathays High School got to celebrate St David’s Day a bit earlier this year.
The school ran a virtual Eisteddfod on Friday, February 12, in place of their usual in-person Eisteddfod.
It brought the community together with the pupils, their families, staff and partner primary schools all getting involved to support the performances from the children and staff.
“It was disappointing not to have the Eisteddfod in person as it’s an opportunity to bring the school together to celebrate school talent and our culture.
“As a multicultural school we feel it is important for our pupils to feel a sense of pride in their identity. Celebrating St David’s day allows our pupils to develop a deeper understanding of Welsh culture and tradition especially through our Eisteddfod,”
said Nia Davies, a Welsh teacher at Cathays.
In the weeks leading up to the event, all the different subjects ran competitions as a part of their independent study time. The Eisteddfod then showcased the best entries from each subject.
Pupils are also getting involved with a series of challenges on St David’s Day. The Welsh department at Cathays have been advertising a variety of challenges on Twitter for their students to get involved with over the weekend.
Lucy, a Year 10 pupil, said that being able to learn Welsh has allowed her to be able to connect more with here community.
She said: “I think that the Welsh language is important because learning it means that you are able to communicate with more people in your community. It also gives you more opportunities when it comes to jobs and makes you more appealing to employers.”
Over in Fairwater, Cantonian High School have been combining Welsh culture and wellbeing, as a part of their Eisteddfod competitions.
“There have been so many creative responses to our digital Eisteddfod competition. It is clear that there is a real appetite to celebrate in any way we can, even as we’re confined to our own homes,” said Mr Radsma, the subject area leader for languages.
The past fortnight has seen each department set their own competitions, with a variety of choices available to the pupils.
All pupils were then able to choose to take part in what interests them, with this being built into their weekly wellbeing sessions.
“It is so disappointing that we aren’t able to celebrate with all the colour, pageantry and performance that St David’s Day would usually entail, but we are keen that it should be a fun, engaging day that celebrates all things Welsh,” Mr Radsma added.
Prizes will be awarded for the winners and the best entries will be showcased on the school website.
All staff and pupils will then be dressing up in red on Monday to celebrate St David’s Day.
He said: “There was no way we could let this day go by without some kind of celebration. St David’s day is a chance to highlight what is so great Welsh culture, and we should take every opportunity to promote what makes us unique.”
In the city
Young creators across Cardiff are going to be celebrated in a digital art exhibition on St David’s Day.
FOR Cardiff, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to transform the city, commissioned 10 local creators aged between 18 and 25 to tell a story about Cardiff through different artistic means.
Unlike a typical art show, the ‘Creatives of the Capital’ exhibition is utilising a variety of different storytelling techniques. These include contemporary dance, music, illustration and textiles amongst others.
On March 1, FOR Cardiff will be releasing each artist’s creative concept and the story behind their piece every hour from 9am to 7pm.
Even with lockdown restrictions forcing many of us to rethink how we celebrate important cultural and historic events, children and young people across Cardiff are continuing to show how proud Wales should be of its rich heritage.