New hobby puts silver surfers in the picture

A group of silver surfers are snapping up new computer skills – by learning about photography.

More than 10 tenants of housing association Cartrefi Conwy signed up for a digital inclusion and photography course.

The 10 week course held at both Venue Cymru in Llandudno and Theatr Colwyn in ColwynBay was open to Cartrefi Conwy’s older tenants and proved a massive hit according to those taking part.

It was run by Paul Sampson, curator of the Oriel Colwyn photographic Gallery at Theatr Colwyn, and co-ordinated by Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator.

According to Paul, whose post is funded by Cartrefi Conwy, the Arts Council of Wales and Conwy County Borough Council, he used photography as a “stealth medium” to encourage course 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 have been learning how to store, retrieve, manipulate and file their images on a computer. And we are looking at how to share images on social media too.

“It doesn’t matter what camera they have, so long as it’s digital. We have been going out taking photographs at locations such as Llandudno promenade and the Happy Valley Gardens on the Great Orme as well as a 1940’s themed weekend.

“It gives me the opportunity to teach a few things about photography, such as using light and shade, composition and exposure techniques, and once we return to the computer room, what to do with those images.

“It’s amazing how many people know how to download images to their computer and then, when they try to find the images later, they can’t. So we have been working on how to make and manage digital files.”


Tenant Brenda Robinson, 74, from Kennedy Court, in Old Colwyn, described the course as “absolutely brilliant”.

She said: “It has got us out and about and taken me away from my flat. We have been learning but also talking together, we have had such a laugh. I have made new friends and really enjoyed the experience.

“I never went out much to be perfectly honest so joining the course has really given me a new lease of life. I do have a computer but never realised just how much you can do with them and how much I didn’t know.

“Paul has been a wonderful teacher and he has been very patient with us all. I’m so glad I joined the course and intend to keep on taking photographs and downloading them to my computer. And I will definitely carry on meeting my new friends.”

Fellow tenant Phil Batty, 77, from Parkway, Rhos-on-Sea, intends to send photographs to his family in New Zealand now he has learnt how to download images.

He said: “I joined the course to enhance my photography skills and to learn how to transfer images to my home computer. My step-daughter lives in New Zealand and has two sons who are both married with children of their own.

“They send me lots of photographs and now I’m e-mailing them some of my own thanks to what I have learned from this course which has been very informative.”

He added: “I’m certainly more confident now using my computer and the course has also been a great way to meet tenants from other Cartrefi Conwy estates and sheltered housing complexes. It means I’ve made quite a few new friends.”

Renee Williams, 76, a tenant of The Fron, Old Colwyn is now downloading her pictures to her home computer.

She said: “I have just bought a lap-top and also have a home computer but I had no idea how to download pictures and store them. The course means I have learnt a great deal but it has been much more than that.

“Socially it’s been great and means I have met new friends and neighbours I didn’t previously know. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting out and about and taking pictures too.”

Sarah Ecob, Venue Cymru’s general manager says the idea for the course came about following a discussion she had with Cartrefi Conwy Chief Executive Andrew Bowden regarding digital inclusion.

She said: “We were in the process of employing Paul Sampson as Venue Cymru’s resident photographer and he was ideally suited to run this course.

“We thought it was an ideal way to teach digital inclusion. People want to take photographs and they want to share them. I’m delighted the course has been so successful and look forward to running similar events in the future.”

Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator, Nerys Veldhuizen, says the course has evolved into much more than a means of teaching digital inclusion.

She said: “It has taken some of our tenants a little bit out of their comfort zone and away from their community centres. It has been fantastic to see tenants making friends and meeting with tenants from other sheltered housing schemes.

“Of all the digital inclusion courses Cartrefi Conwy have run I think this photography and digital inclusion course is the one participating tenants have become most excited about.

“We intend to display the photographs from the course at Venue Cymru during August with a planned exhibition opening for family and friends, as well as at Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s day which will be held on the 1st of October, at the Kinmel Manor.”

Paul Sampson added: “The Cartrefi Conwy tenants have been a fantastic group. They have retained the information and are now using their computers more and taking some wonderful pictures too.

“In fact some have even been out and invested in new cameras. I think we have seen confidence levels rise across the board and they seem to have become firm friends. I really am thrilled with the way the course has evolved and the progress of those that have taken part.”


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