I’m back at my desk in St Fagans having just had one of those ‘I love my job’ kind of weeks. On Wednesday, I spent the day with an amazing group of Year 10 students from Ysgol Clywedog in Wrexham, gauging their opinions on devolution and its impact on Wales since 1997. Heavy-going stuff for 14 year olds? Think again!
With my colleagues Owain and Richard, I met the students at Wrexham County Borough Museum bright and early on Wednesday morning for an action-packed day of researching, questioning and debating. The aim of the day was to produce a film of the students discussing devolution and what it means to them as teenagers living in Wrexham today – a town which voted ‘no’ in 1997. We took a banner from the collection with us as a springboard for debate. This banner – made for the ‘yes’ campaign by the artist Mary Lloyd Jones – will be displayed in one of the redeveloped galleries here at St Fagans in the near future, along with contemporary voices from Ysgol Clywedog.
To kick-start the discussion, we asked the students to do a little background research. Some trawled the web using i-pads, while others accessed local newspapers stored on microfilm in the museum’s archive. Headlines and articles from the Wrexham Leader gave a snapshot of the debate at a local level – 44.3% of voters in Wrexham were in favour of devolution, while 55.7% were against. The Year 10 researchers were not surprised by the ‘no’ vote in Wrexham. This prompted a lengthy discussion about their identities as young people in north-east Wales, living so close to the border with England. Interestingly, eight out of the nine participants would have voted ‘yes’ in 1997 had they been eligible to vote.
We then moved on to analysing the banner. Without any prompts or contextual information, we asked the students to jot down their initial reactions and emotions on viewing it for the first time. Comments varied from questions about its design to its usage and meaning. In the afternoon, we filmed two group discussions, with the students directing questions to each other. This took on the feel of an informal Question Time, without the cheering and heckling! We were so impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of the students, it’s going to be a real challenge to edit the finished product.
A huge thank you to Thomas, Jess, Edan, Pedro, Morgan, Elise, Matthew, Lucy and Harry from Ysgol Clywedog for taking part in the project. We can’t wait to see the film on display. Our thanks also to Wrexham Museum for hosting and supporting the workshop. Diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb.