STUNNING photographs taken by group of silver surfers from North Wales are in the running to snap up a prestigious national award.
Around a dozen older tenants of the Cartrefi Conwy housing association signed up early last year for a 10-week digital inclusion and photography course, known as the Focus project, based at both Venue Cymru in Llandudno and Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay.
The aim was to encourage them to learn and develop computer skills while having fun and meeting new friends.
Now their eye-catching efforts, which were exhibited to great acclaim at Venue Cymru in Llandudno and the Oriel Gallery at Theatr Colwyn last summer, have just been rewarded by landing a place on the shortlist for this year’s Arts & Business Cymru Awards.
The awards, now in their 22nd year, aim to encourage, acknowledge and celebrate exemplary partnerships between the private sector and the arts and reflect the broad range of work undertaken by Arts & Business Cymru.
Cartrefi Conwy’s veteran photographers face some formidable competition in the Arts, Business and Health category from projects across Wales.
But they’re keeping their fingers crossed for success when the winners are announced at a glittering presentation ceremony at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on July 1.
Some of their work has already won recognition by being selected to adorn the association’s new £5 million showcase development of sheltered homes currently being built in Llandudno.
And the group has been commissioned to take pictures to help judges of this year’s Llandudno in Bloom competition make their selection.
The course was led by Paul Sampson, curator of the Oriel Colwyn photographic Gallery at Theatr Colwyn where the shortlisting news was announced.
He explained that photography was used to encourage participants to be more comfortable using computers.
He said: “Most people take and have photographs and have access to a digital camera. So, as well as learning a few photographic skills participants learned how to store, retrieve, manipulate and file their images on a computer. We also looked at how to share images on social media.
“The group went out taking photographs on Llandudno promenade, the Happy Valley Gardens on the Great Orme and at a 1940s festival in Colwyn Bay.
“It gave me the opportunity to teach a few things about photography, such as using light and shade, composition and exposure techniques, and once we returned to the computer room, what to do with those images.”
He added: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the project has been shortlisted for such a prestigious national competition and it would be fantastic if they won.
“The project hasn’t just been about the pictures taken – although these were great – but also about people getting together each week. For some of them I think it provided a real lifeline.”
Some of the most memorable images in the project were taken by 77-year-old Renee Williams, of The Fron, Old Colwyn.
She admitted: “I paid just £20 for a small digital camera from the local supermarket, so I’m surprised and delighted that about our work being shortlisted for such a big award.
“Just to be on the shortlist is enough but to actually win would be amazing.”
Renee, who has 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson, came up with a trio of powerful pictures showing a young boy holding a red balloon and an authentically dressed air-raid warden, both from the Colwyn Bay 40s festival, and a shot of smiling Cartrefi Conwy staff at Happy Valley.
She added: “Being part of course has given me a fantastic sense of achievement.
“I’ve enjoyed everything about it, including going out to take the pictures and the comradeship other members of the group.
“I have met new friends and neighbours I didn’t previously know. I think it all helps to keep you young.”
Also thrilled to see the project shortlisted for the award was Renee’s fellow group member, 67-year-old Eddie Bradley, of Maes Cwstennin in Llandudno Junction.
He said: “Hearing that we’re in the running for such an honour is fantastic news.
“The camera I used to take the pictures isn’t an expensive one but this shows that whatever sort of equipment you use you can still make it count.
“For me, being involved in the project has revived an interest I had in photography some years ago.
“I enjoyed getting out and about taking the pictures and being with the rest of the group.
“In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I only took a week away from the work after I had a knee replacement operation. I now take the camera with me wherever I go.”
Eddie’s most striking images include atmospheric shots of a vintage military motorcycle and a group of re-enacters from the Colwyn Bay 40s festival and a steam wagon from the Llandudno Transport Festival.
Subjects chosen for the project by another group member, 77-year-old Philip Batty from Parkway, Rhos-on-Sea, were images of a skyline at sunset, a giant bulldozer at work on the beach at Colwyn Bay and his son Philip driving a digger in his garden on display.
He said: “I think it’s great that we’ve been shortlisted for the award as it shows all our efforts have been recognised. I just hope we’re in with a chance of winning.
“I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since I was 15 but I’ve never done anything like this project before. The course showed me how to put some of my old pictures on a CD card and I’ve also learned how to exchange photos electronically with my family in New Zealand.
“We went out in all weathers taking our pictures and enjoyed every minute of it.
“I’d advise anyone to get up and have a go in something that interests them instead of just sitting in their room.”
Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator, who helped organise the Focus project, said: “The group have done unbelievably well by being shortlisted for such an important national competition.
“Originally, we just saw the project as a 10-week photographic and digital imaging course but it became so successful that we just couldn’t leave it there.
“There were the exhibitions at Venue Cymru and Theatr Colwyn last summer and some of the group’s amazing images will be transformed into art work at Cysgod y Gogarth, the £5 million development of 30 state-of-the-art apartments and houses for older people which the association is having built in St Andrew’s Avenue in Llandudno to replace two older sheltered blocks on the same site.
“The group has also been asked to take pictures of local scenes that will also be transformed into artwork as part of the improvement works Cartrefi Conwy are currently making to their communal hallways.
“More good news is that they’ve also been commissioned by Llandudno in Bloom this year to take pictures of the places their judges are unable to visit.
Sarah Ecob, general manager of Theatr Colwn and also Venue Cymru, said: “I’m delighted that the group’s work has been recognised in this way.
“We now hope to continue this excellent initiative in partnership with Cartrefi Conwy.”