Valleys youngsters use modern technology to commemorate the First World War

13 / 11 / 2015

Animated films don’t always have to be funny, or frivolous, as a group of young people from Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen have been finding out – they have embraced this much loved and often light hearted form in order to engage local people with the First World War in an unexpected but poignant way.

Youth groups in Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen have worked together to research the experiences of Welsh soldiers during WW1 and brought these to life in animated form. Whilst the youth groups where completing their projects; with the help of the Breaking Barriers Community Arts, Head4Arts visited communities in Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly in their “bunker” – a transit van which was imaginatively disguised as a wartime dugout  and used as a mobile digital storytelling space. Local people were encouraged to visit the “bunker” to share their family stories and impressions of the First World War to compliment the animation project.

‘World War One: A Valleys View’ is an arts and heritage project led by Head4Arts and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which has deployed the digital arts to explore the long-lasting impact of the First World War on both a global and local scale.

One of the young people was Kailynn Nash, who felt that being involved in the project gave her a new insight into these century old – but nevertheless still vivid – wartime experiences.

“It can be hard to understand how the First World War is relevant today – for me and my day to day life. But the more people we spoke to and the more stories we heard I began to see how people’s lives at that time weren’t so different – but then the war broke out and communities, families and friendships were shattered.

“We came up with the idea of the animation because we thought it would appeal to young people today and it also allowed us to learn new skills such as filming and editing.”

Supported by HLF, the project is one of many featuring today at a special event at the Senedd in Cardiff, where visitors will be encouraged to consider new ideas for activities to help them mark the Centenary milestones of the First World War.

Bethan Lewis, the project’s co-ordinator, feels it has offered valuable experiences to all involved:

“The big success, in my view, is the fact that it developed constantly as the young people came up with new ideas on how to capture the wartime stories. The majority had not been involved in heritage projects in the past but are now keen to get involved with other similar activities going forward.

“The active engagement with people of all ages in the local communities allowed the young people to view a vast array of digital stories and create their own animations  that bring the experiences to life – it’s a project that will continue to grow and be a valuable educational resource as well.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has supported a variety of projects throughout Wales and the UK that help people to find out more about their First World War heritage, with 63 projects being awarded a grant in Wales so far.

Due to its success to date, HLF has made an additional £4 million available in 2015/16 for communities looking to explore, conserve and share their local First World War stories and connections. Grants are available from £3,000 to £10,000 from the First World War: Then and Now programme, particularly those looking to explore the Somme in 2016.

Richard Bellamy, Head of the HLF in Wales explains, “The demand for National Lottery funding for projects that help communities to explore and share the heritage of the First World War has been overwhelming.  As we can see from this excellent project, we know that there is huge interest in marking the Centenary and exploring that heritage and stories in new and different ways.

“However, there are still more stories to tell, many of which have never been told or have been forgotten over the years.  Some of these are thought-provoking and inspiring, some are uncomfortable and create debate.  We want to encourage communities to explore these stories.  The additional funding we have announced will help even more people to get involved and explore a greater range of stories that ultimately give us a better appreciation of how the war shaped the world we live in today.”

The ‘World War One: A Valleys View’ project is just one of the many groups that have been able to explore the First World War thanks to this funding, but there are plenty of stories still to uncover. For more information about HLF’s First World War: Then and Now grant programme and how to apply, visit