The Girl Who Wouldn't Give Up
"There's a monster in the lake.
And one day, very soon, it'll come out."
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Give Up is a storytelling and street art project inspired by the young people and community organisations who are speaking up and taking action on climate and ecological breakdown, and by our belief that action and creativity are powerful antidotes to the fear and apathy we can experience in the face of these challenges.
The project is based around an ancient Welsh legend of a lake monster, whose angry thrashing floods a community. We collaborated with local film makers Mud and Thunder, storyteller Tamar Eluned Williams, and Welsh musicians Ritual Cloak to bring this story to life and create this short film.
The film features Cardiff groups and communities taking action – including Global Gardens, Cardiff Rivers, Keep Splott Tidy and Repair Cafe Wales – as well as young climate activists taking part in the 2019 global climate strike. We also worked with ten young women and girls from the community aged 6-17 years to represent the character of Anwen in the film.
Sharing the story from the Glanfa Stage in the WMC, surrounded by hundreds of children from around the city, and chatting about its themes afterwards with them all was brilliant, and the activities that Green Squirrel developed to run alongside complemented and strengthened the work.
We launched the film in October 2019 ahead of our live storytelling event at the Wales Millenium Centre in November. At the same time we launched a new project website full of downloadable resources such as a bilingual story pack, creative activities, community event planning, litter picks and street art.
Cardiff individuals, groups, families, schools, and communities were invited to share the story and create something in response. We offered a varied programme of free workshops teaching creative and sustainable skills and offering resources and support to help those taking part develop new partnerships and collaborations. We wanted to create opportunities for groups who would not normally work together to explore their shared values and for people who wouldn’t usually consider becoming involved in an environmental project to connect with the planetary emergency in a way that’s tangible and relevant to them.
We intended for the project to culminate in May 2020 with a week of celebration around the city, showcasing the artworks, performances, and community action resulting from the project. This was not possible due to the Covid 19 pandemic however we were able to adapt our project and provide safe ways for our community to connect and create throughout the crisis.
A great morning hearing a Welsh tale with a powerful message! 3EP had a fantastic time at Wales Millennium Centre. We thought about bravery, listened to an amazing storyteller and collaborated with art work.
What change did this project make?
- 240 key stage 2 and key stage 3 pupils explored their ideas around the role of individuals and communities in caring for the environment.
- We brought together groups and tutors who hadn’t worked together before to form new connections.
- We created artworks around the city, including Guardian Creatures designed by adults and young people to protect the places they loves.
- To our great delight the project was shortlisted for a Culture Wellbeing Health Alliance Climate Award.
It was an experience that really put storytelling at the heart of creating change, and that felt really special.
What did we learn?
One of the most valuable aspects of this project was the opportunity to bring together groups who hadn’t worked together before – for example, artist Cat Lewis created a unique dyed background for the live perfomances and then went on to work with a group at the Dusty Forge to embroider them and decorate them with fabric flowers, creating beautiful banners.
This project also taught us to be flexible – the pandemic started just as our 2020 events programme should have been launching, and we had to cancel everything – moving this project online was our first experiment with a live virtual event. Many of the planned project elements had been based around collaborative artwork, and displaying things in streets and windows, but as people started doing this as a result of the pandemic, we didn’t think it was helpful to try distract from that, so we had to find alternative ways of doing things!
We were honoured to have the One World Choir take part in the storytelling performances – hidden among the audience, choir members added their voices, one by one, to Anwen’s song. Working with Tamar the choir learned the Welsh lullaby Si-Lwli.
You can book a The Girl Who Wouldn’t Give Up workshop for your group or school – sessions include storytelling, song, and crafts and activities to explore themes of courage and using your voice for postive change. Please use the form below to enquire.
You can also download the story packs and toolkit below to run your own session – in these downloads you’ll find the full tale and plenty of ideas for activities to accompany it.
This project was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund – we are very grateful to them for making this project possible, and for their flexibility and support during the pandemic.
We’re also grateful for the support of our brilliant volunteers who help plan and run this project, and to the Wales Millennium Centre and The Gate for proving venues for events.