PATRIOTIC pupils have been getting a big kick out of creating a collage celebrating Wales’s place in the Euro 2016 championships and Wrexham’s rich footballing heritage.
Youngsters from two of the town’s primary schools – Alexandra and St Giles – have been busy working on the giant piece of wall art which will adorn Wrexham’s Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre to mark the national team’s qualification for the big European tournament for the first time since 1958.
The collage, designed by professional artists and commissioned by the shopping centre, also salutes legendary goalkeeper Leigh Roose from, Holt, near Wrexham.
He played for Wales against Ireland at the Racecourse ground in 1906, when the game became the subject of the first surviving film of an international match, but just 10 years later was tragically killed at the Battle of the Somme while serving in the First World War.
Professionals from Yorkshire-based Faceless Arts, who designed the collage, held workshops at the two schools to help the children produce the stunning display which will take pride of place at Eagles Meadow from May 29 and remain on display for the duration of the Euros.
The first of these was held at Alexandra Community Primary School where creative director of Faceless Arts, Tony Wade, said children involved had become completely absorbed in the project.
He explained: “The collage was designed by one of our artists, Helen Taylor, and is based on four large round discs, each measuring four feet in diameter, depicting various things such as the red dragon which is the badge of the Welsh FA, the famous Welsh footballer Leigh Roose, the Euro 2016 trophy and some text which describes the whole project.
“The discs also feature the Welsh words `Gorau Chwarae, Cyd, Chwarae’, which form the motto of the Welsh FA, `Best Play Together Play’.
“The pictures on each disc were built up by the children using layers of vinyl in mainly red and green, the national colours of Wales.
“The children at the Alexandra workshop were all very enthusiastic about being involved in the creative process and are also very excited about Wales’s involvement in Euro 2016.”
He added: “Faceless Arts, which was set up in 1990, works with people right across the age spectrum, from school children to care home residents.
“Although it’s our first time in Wrexham, we have done similar projects before and recently worked with school children down in Uxbridge to make a collage in vinyl celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday.”
The design workshop at Alexandra involved 30 children, aged from eight to 10, from years four and five.
Helping to create the dragon’s head for the first disc of the collage was 10-year-old Galynah Warwick-Jones from Wrexham.
She said: “It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this because a few years ago I helped to produce a collage our school did for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, which is now in Wrexham library.
“But I’ve never worked in vinyl before and it’s very interesting cutting out the shapes making up the dragon’s head and then sticking them down.
“I like art and at home I make my own cards and draw pictures of things like bugs.
“When this collage is finished it will be good to see it on the wall at Eagles Meadow, which will make me very proud.
“I’m also going to be watching how Wales gets on in the championships.”
Also helping with the dragon’s head was Adam Jones, also aged 10 and from Wrexham.
“I’ve been cutting out the black pieces of vinyl and it’s been very interesting.
“In the past I’ve done other art things at school and I drew a portrait of King Henry VIII for a project we were doing on the Tudors.
“I think it’s great that Wales will be playing in Euro 2016 and I’m going to be watching all their games. It will also be great to see the collage we’ve made at Eagles Meadow and I’ll be taking my family there to show it to them.”
Year five teacher Joshua Jones said the children had learned a lot from being involved in the collage project.
“They’ve discovered a new artistic technique and found out about teamwork.
“It’s also been about making them familiar with their own local heritage in terms of the history of the Racecourse ground and a star player from the area who died in the war.
“We did a topic on World War Two just before Easter and this is teaching them a bit about World War One and a local man who was very famous in his day but many people may never have heard of.”
The historic match at the Racecourse 110 years ago which the collage commemorates, ended in a 4-4 draw and was watched by a crowd of between 5,000 and 6,000 fans.
The silent black and white film which records it was made by film pioneers Mitchell and Kenyon.
It lasts for 2 minutes 10 seconds and is now in the safe keeping of the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, in Aberystwyth.
A plaque to commemorate the milestone match was unveiled at the Racecourse in 2006 by the then Wales team manager and Liverpool legend John Toshack.
Wales’s goalkeeper on that unforgettable day was Leigh Roose, the prototype for today’s celebrity footballers.
Roose, who was born and raised in Holt, near Wrexham, was known for his skill, dashing good looks and mischievous charm which made him a big favourite with the ladies of Edwardian London.
In 1905, when the Daily Mail published a world XI to play another planet at football he was the undisputed choice for the goalkeeper’s jersey.
That same year he was in the top 10 list of the most recognizable faces and among his many female admirers was the music hall superstar Marie Lloyd.
But his life was tragically cut short when he died in the trenches of the Somme during the First World War in 1916.
Top sportswriter Spencer Vignes has written Roose’s biography, Lost in France.
He said: “Leigh was the most famous footballer of his generation. He was the prototype for the modern-day goalkeeper. Up until he came along, goalkeepers were seen as more or less cannon fodder by opposition forwards.”
“You can’t believe half the things that he got up to. He was popular with his team mates and very popular with the ladies – he was like a Boys’ Own character.”
As part of the Euro 2016 celebrations, a free flag making workshop is being organised at Eagles Meadow between 11am and 4pm on Thursday, June 2.
Eagles Meadow manager Kevin Critchley said: “We’re delighted to be marking Wales’s first appearance in this major international tournament in almost 60 years and to be celebrating Wrexham’s position as the birthplace of football in Wales.
“It’s also a privilege to honour Leigh Roose, the game’s first ever superstar who was the forerunner of Welsh international stars of today like Gareth Bale but whose life was cut so tragically short by the First World War.
“We hope the fantastic collage produced by two groups of talented local youngsters will be a focal point for people in Wrexham who will be backing Chris Coleman’s boys all the way to victory in the championships.
“The free flag-making workshop for children on June 2 promises to be a lot of fun.
“With all the materials they need at hand, children can craft their own Welsh flag to support their team during the Euros.”