Gwennan Mair Jones

4 November 2020

“I’m Gwennan Mair from Llan Ffestiniog in North Wales and I currently live in Ruthin. I’m a creative drama facilitator and director that works with community. My passion lies in people’s equal access to the arts and telling hidden stories. At present I work at Theatr Clwyd as Director of Creative Engagement. I struggled in schools because of my severe dyslexia. I was in the top (ish) sets but never felt I could get my voice heard, and people never properly understood me (because I talk in silly sentences that don’t make much sense). I always thought I wasn’t clever enough, and to this day I still feel guilty for things – I don’t read much, for example. If I hadn’t found the arts when I did, I really don’t know where I would be right now, and I guess this is the root of why being a creative woman is important to me: so that I can inspire different paths for anyone who struggles within the ‘system’. I truly believe the arts can shift and change people’s lives.At school, I wanted to be a nurse or doctor, or social worker, but totally loved the arts. I started to look into how I could combine both aspects of health, community and arts. Perhaps a drama therapist or a play therapist… Anyhow, I studied a Community Drama degree at LIPA and literally it’s the perfect degree for this sort of work! I just love being with people and finding things that bring us together.Over lockdown Theatr Clwyd launched a ‘Together’ program where we continued, and grew, our community work. We’ve been running Parkinson’s workshops, delivering food packs to homeless shelters in Flintshire, as well as still connecting to around 1000 people a week with drama, dance and music workshops. I think this process has been a journey of discovery, because we as facilitators and directors are so used to being in a space and being able to feel the energy, but over a screen this is a lot harder! One thing it has shown me is how community theatre work is key to how our Arts sector works. It’s the only thing that’s kept going when our theatre venues have had to close – this must prove something about its importance. As an industry, I plead: can we start seeing it as a core part of our work, instead of an afterthought?I think a lot of us, if not all of us, feel a level of ‘I’m just not good enough’ (and I feel like this while acknowledging my privileges as a straight, white and Welsh woman). I was really young getting a senior manager role at 24, and in external meetings and situations it has felt at times that I’m just an energetic young woman, with no experience. I also, as many do, feel less superior than others because of my age and the way I speak as well as being a woman. I hope together we can work towards creating environments that does listen and respects everyone’s voice. Being a Welsh creative woman makes me feel complete, happy, powerful, determined and strong, and I’m truly dedicated to make sure others that don’t get the chance can get the choice to be a Welsh creative. We must lead together to make pathways for people to be empowered and to believe that they are enough.Next for me is to continue to find a work-life balance (I discovered this over lockdown) and it’s shifted my work, creativity and energy. It’s not good to be on a hamster wheel all the time. It’s a scary, strange time, but a time for self-discovery and pausing, and learning not to feel guilty about this pause.”

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