Taking place in real-time, GALWAD looks at what would happen if the future tried to contact us, telling the story of 16-year-old Efa (Aisha-May Hunte) – who swaps with her 46-year-old self from 2052. Adam England spoke to some of the creatives behind it.
Coming at the end of September is GALWAD, a week of live-streamed performances, film and TV drama produced by Collective Cymru led by National Theatre Wales with Fran Wen and Mad As Birds. Commissioned by Creative Wales, GALWAD is one of the 10 projects forming part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK. It’s set to run from Mon 26 Sept to Sun 2 Oct, and it’s set to culminate on Sky Arts in a free-to-view five-hour broadcast. Not only that, but throughout the week viewers can keep track online, across social media, and on S4C too.
“Creative Wales offered us the opportunity to grow our initial idea for UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK into a project that would reimagine storytelling,” says creative director Claire Doherty. “We asked ourselves two things: how might we create a project that draws on the world-class talent and expertise of Wales, and what does Wales have to say to the world? We set ourselves a challenge to tell a story that would connect us in 2022 with a future in 30 years.”
Doherty describes GALWAD as being inspired by the Well-being Of Future Generations Act, and was first conceived during the pandemic over Zoom. “It’s rooted in the dynamic, fresh film-making, writing, and artistic talent of Wales, and emerged from the communities with whom we’ve had to privilege to work in Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil, and Blaenau Ffestiniog.”
Being a project formed in the midst of COVID-19, you’d be forgiven for thinking it could have been tricky business, but for Doherty it’s been an “extraordinary two years”.
“I’ve heard new bilingual and bold perspectives on our future emerge from the 16-strong writing team; watched a young cast integrate British Sign Language in their scripted performance; imagined a weather report from 2052 with the Centre For Alternative Technology; and listened to hundreds of people reimagine their lives in 30 years. If anyone doubted our ability to imagine a different kind of future, they only have to immerse themselves in GALWAD to see something bold and radical in Wales,” she says.
She leads a team packed with talent, including associate composer Beth Lewis and associate musician Greta Isaac. “I joined the project at the start of the summer after [director of music and sound] Dyfan Jones heard my music for the Matsena Productions work Shades Of Blue,” says Lewis, “The project and the world of GALWAD sounded incredible and not like anything I’ve worked on before – I was so excited to be involved!”
She describes GALWAD as a “completely new experience”, explaining that it’s “been great to have the opportunity to collaborate with so many creatives on such a large-scale innovative project”. In her role, she worked alongside Jones and producer and co-composer Alex Comana, collaborating with musicians including Isaac to create the sound of 2052, and she’s also been recording and mixing community voices for the final track.
She, LEMFRECK and Dunja Botic was also approached by Jones. “We got chatting about the sonic landscape of the project and how he wanted the project at its core to be rooted in Celtic folk vocal harmony, elevated by more electronic production. That fusion of worlds was really appealing to me and I knew I had to get stuck in!” she explains.
“I was called in to offer the project a pop writing perspective and to help facilitate the musical handwriting that would weave in and out of the story,” continues Isaac. “I’ve really enjoyed the space and time we were granted to just try things out and see how they landed. What I’m really enjoying about this process is the very considerable time that’s spent on it. It feels really intentional and all about process – not exclusively outcome.”
As well as the talented team, part of what makes GALWAD so unique is the Young Company, which consists of 12 people from across Wales. They were selected to collaborate with the GALWAD team on the project, helping them grow on their own creative journeys while receiving support, training, and mentoring. The Young Company range in age from 18 to 26 and includes writers, creatives, students, musicians and more.
“Out went formal interviews and applications in the recruitment of GALWAD’s Young Company, and in came creative meetings and workshops which enabled us to support and talk with over 100 young people across Wales,” explains Doherty. “From this process, 12 were offered the opportunity to be part of GALWAD. They’ve been a crucial part of the process to bring the story to life – from writing scripts, advising on story, assisting on film production with Ffilm Cymru – and some are about to be part of the digital storytelling team during live week.”
So, what can we expect from GALWAD? “If you’ve ever found yourself immersed in a story, wishing you could come to see it come to life around you, this is for you,” says Doherty. “Over one week, you’ll be able to follow the story of Efa and her teenage friends as they start to discover the future is in contact. Helped by investigative journalist Tomos, you’ll be able to piece together fragments from the future world.”
GALWAD is just a matter of weeks away from being shared with us, but could there be anything else in the pipeline? Doherty describes it as ushering in a “new era of live performance and storytelling for the streaming age,” and giving Wales a “new model of storytelling”.
“Together we’ve built a model for how we might create, share and watch stories in the future,” ends Doherty, “Streaming services – we’re ready, what’s next?”
GALWAD takes place in real-time over a week from Mon 26 Sept to Sun 2 Oct online, across social media, and on S4C, culminating in a five-hour broadcast on Sky Arts. Info: here
words ADAM ENGLAND
Discover how our brand new learning experience is giving young people in Wales the skills they need to get ahead.