After spending time working at the Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition as part of the Wales in Venice project in 2019, Heledd Evans, who is originally from Eastbourne, was inspired to learn Welsh.
In Venice, Heledd, 25, who studied Fine Art at Cardiff Metropolitan University, met Welsh-speaking friends who encouraged her to start learning Welsh.
Heledd, who has family connections in Llandysul, Ceredigion, and has always felt proud of her Welsh roots, signed up for a course with Learn Welsh Cardiff, which is run by Cardiff University on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
Heledd, who is currently working as a freelance artist, loves her online lessons and the way in which the Welsh language and culture influences her artwork:
Heledd explains: “I’m really interested in Welsh music, specifically folk songs and the link between music and poetry in Welsh history. I made an installation a few years ago based on the song ‘Dafydd y Garreg Wen’ as I loved the melody and the story behind the song. I’ve been doing more composing recently and would love to set some Welsh poems or text pieces to music one day!”
As an individual working in the creative field, Heledd adds:
“In lessons, learners often get the opportunity to talk about their work but I found it difficult as I didn’t know enough vocabulary about the creative arts.”
To ease conversations about her work, Heledd, along with the help of a friend, has decided to create a ‘word bank’, where people can share arts-based Welsh words, and also find new ones.
Heledd has enjoyed using her Welsh outside the classroom too. Between January and March 2022, she worked at the Winter of Wellbeing project with the National Museum Wales and the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales.
“As part of the project, I held workshops at St Fagans museum and it was really wonderful being surrounded by so many Welsh-speaking staff and workshop participants and being encouraged to practise with them.”
From September 2022 onwards, the National Centre for Learning Welsh will be offering free Welsh courses for 18-25 year olds. Heledd welcomes the new initiative:
“I think it’s a wonderful idea! Offering free lessons removes any financial barrier and will enable many young people to give the lessons a go. The free lessons will also benefit those who are looking for new work opportunities as well.”
Celebrating young people’s stories during Youth Work Week
Youth Work Week, which is being held 23-30 June, is a chance to highlight positive stories, such as Heledd’s.
Sharon Lovell, Chief Executive of Wales National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS), is also Chair of the new Youth Work Strategy Implementation Board, which aims to increase opportunities for young people in Wales.
Sharon says: “I would like to congratulate Heledd on her wonderful achievement of learning Welsh – Heledd clearly loves using the language and is an inspiration to other Welsh learners, like myself.
“As we celebrate Youth Work Week, we’re delighted to share Heledd’s story. Learning new skills such as Welsh, can help build confidence, which is especially important for young people.
“Learning can also help young people feel connected, and can open the door on all sorts of exciting new opportunities, as Heledd has discovered.
“With the news that Welsh courses for 18-25 year-olds will be free from September, and with a choice of virtual and in-person courses, I’m delighted there are more opportunities than ever for young people to learn and enjoy speaking Welsh. Making the language accessible for all young people ensures equality.”