Working Whispers Art Project

Working Whispers Art Project

In 2019, St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School and Pontarddulais Primary School began a shared art project funded by the Arts Council of Wales working in creative collaboration with schools, artists and higher education organisations. Two schools, one urban, one rural, one shared heritage. The project ran from July 2019 to December 2020 – (the project was adjusted due to the Covid 19 lockdown and a new online celebration event created).

We would like you to share in our creative journey to explore the amazing heritage of the coal and copper industries here in South Wales.
We used a combination of creative disciplines and digital media:
Print Making – Sculpture – Dance – Film – Music – Creative Writing – ICT

Please join us as we discover how in the late nineteenth century Swansea’s Copperopolis became the number one copper exporter in the world. The creative disciplines were all used to experience how the lives of the local communities and migrant workers were changed forever through the coal mines and copper foundries.

This project will be leaving behind a legacy of creative exploration into this world changing era of industrial heritage.

Further information can be found on our ‘Working Whispers’ website:

Film can be viewed via this site:


Cerian Appleby- Project Lead (St. Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School)
Creative Journey Final Reflections

Wales, the world’s first industrial nation was recognised in the latter part of the nineteenth century as a centre for coal production and heavy industry. This concentration of industry and innovation in South Wales left behind a rich legacy of historically important sites and artefacts. This project demonstrates how important it is for children to engage in activities that are in the heart of the community, to learn about the past from the things around them to retell the stories and highlight the historical, economic and cultural importance of the things that surround them everyday, the things that often go unnoticed. Our creative collaboration, ‘Working Whispers- An exploration of Industrial Heritage’ does just that and serves as a reminder to us of how important Copperopolis was in shaping the Swansea and Wales that we know today. It has allowed children to consider how communities have been established and affected by industrial change, to explore and manipulate natural, man-made and reclaimed materials, to produce art work that expresses emotion in so many different ways and to explore the concept of a lost past; a chance for those ghosts from a lost landscape to speak once more.

We ambitiously designed the project with a hands-on immersive approach, so children could have high quality educational experiences, learning skills from a wide range of disciplines and artists and we weren’t disappointed. What is striking about the project is how well the children from the two schools collaborated from the beginning with this shared historical springboard.  Working with the artists in their different disciplines inspired the children, their imaginations, creativity and enthusiasm for learning and the work they produced collaboratively is simply breathtaking. They gained new skills, working with equipment and materials that they had not previously worked with.

It has helped all participants tease out a greater comprehension of how a multidisciplinary, expressive, immersive approach can enhance learning processes and provide new perspectives for children as producers and viewers of art. The collective works in this collaboration, expressed by pupils through the different art forms reflect the different kinds of physical sensations and memories associated with past industries and modern day.

The project has exceeded expectations, with artists collaborating with different artists, sharing skills with not only the children but each other. Teachers have gained invaluable CPD and have learnt new skills and techniques from the creative practitioners involved in the project and from higher educational institutions that will influence and shape their future practice. The relationship between the two Swansea schools, from very different settings has strengthened and has allowed children from very diverse backgrounds to collaborate together with a shared purpose and aim. It has empowered the children to embrace the philosophy and approach of the new curriculum and has provided a genuine example of how learning from real life experiences can make learning dynamic and bring together many different organisations from the wider community to support and form rich, memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. It has served to highlight how important the creative arts disciplines are to children’s development and academic progress, to engage them personally and emotionally in the subjects being studied. It has delivered new practices and ways of working for all those involved in the project and has taken participants out of their comfort zones and given them opportunities to develop new innovative ways of working in a multi discipline, cross-curricular approach.

Creative arts explorations and collaborations enhance learning experience for pupils bringing an excitement that engages and stimulates, enabling them to produce things they could have never imagined possible. Using the expressive arts to immerse children in the heritage of their local community is a powerful tool. It links past to present and allows a reimagining of the future, enabling all who are touched by it to consider the part they might play in it.
We would encourage others to consider how their work with children and those that they collaborate with, can influence others in a wider context, going beyond the classroom reaching and influencing wider communities on both a local and global scale. We believe that developing an expressive arts approach to the curriculum is the answer. Funding from the Arts Council of Wales for this creative collaboration initiative has enabled us to develop new ways of working, to acquire new processes and techniques and do just that. To all the many people involved in the development and delivery of this project in such trying times, you have gone over and above. During the global pandemic you have remained true to your art disciplines but have adapted your delivery of workshops and reimagined your way of working to ensure the passion for this project has remained at the very heart; a fire that did not go out. On behalf of both schools, we cannot thank you enough.
Cathryn Jones, Deputy Head teacher (Pontarddulais Primary School) The CPD by Swansea Collage of Art was inspiring. The creative way that the training was delivered ensured that you delved down and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone when expressing yourself creatively through language, in a way that was new to me. It was beneficial to me going forward as we need new and creative ways of engaging our learners in a curriculum that will develop cross-curricular working and stimulate a deeper way of thinking. The approach used during the training I will utilise again.
Pontarddulais Primary works in partnership with the University of Wales Trinity St. David on their student teacher training programme. Led by teachers and pupils, the two schools participated in workshops held in their schools, which enabled teacher training students to learn the importance of a creative, expressive arts approach to drive and  deliver curriculum concepts and ideas and gained examples of how to develop learning through an expressive arts approach.​Working Whispers was showcased as exemplary practice as part of a module within the Teacher Training Programme. It demonstrated true community collaboration, culminating in a passionate project that went far beyond expectations.