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Veteran snappers help clinch awards double

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An arts-loving housing association has clinched a major awards double – with the help of some veteran photographers.

Cartrefi Conwy were honoured at the prestigious Arts & Business Cymru Awards at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff.

First they scooped the prize in the Arts, Business and Health category and then capped the night off by being named Business of the Year.

The housing association are long-term supporters of Arts & Business Cymru.

The first joint project happened in 2012 when they created a Military Wives-style choir from the Peulwys estate in Llysfaen to perform at the North Wales International Music festival under the baton of royal composer Paul Mealor.

One of their eye-catching projects involved a group of silver surfers who took dramatic photographs which were exhibited to great acclaim at Venue Cymru in Llandudno and Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay.

Around a dozen older tenants of Cartrefi Conwy signed up for the 10-week digital inclusion and photography course, known as the Focus project.

The aim was to encourage them to learn and develop computer skills while having fun and meeting new friends.

The awards, now in their 23rd year, aim to encourage, acknowledge and celebrate exemplary partnerships between the private sector and the arts and reflected the broad range of work undertaken by Arts & Business Cymru.

Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden said: “I am immensely proud that we have been honoured at the Arts & Business Cymru Awards, not for the sake of winning awards but for what they represent and say about our wonderful organisation.

“Even in times of budgetary challenges, the arts have a big role to play in improving the quality of people’s lives and this is certainly the case for our tenants who have been involved in a variety of arts-related projects in recent years.

“We fully support the ethos of bringing arts and business together for mutual benefit because it helps us in our aim of creating communities to be proud of.”

The digital inclusion course was led by Paul Sampson, curator of the Oriel Colwyn photographic Gallery at Theatr Colwyn.

He explained that photography was used to encourage participants to use 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.”

Some of the most memorable images in the project were taken by 78-year-old great-grandmother 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 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.”

Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator, who helped organise the Focus project, was thrilled.

She said: “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 and some of the group’s amazing images were transformed into art work at Cysgod y Gogarth, the £5 million development of 30 state-of-the-art apartments and houses for older people in Llandudno.”