Hela’r Twrch Trwyth

Hunting the Twrch Trwyth, 2005

The First Experiment...

“For some time,” says Sean Harris of his first foray into the world of animation, “my collagraph print images had been forming themselves into narrative sequences – almost like storyboards. At the same time there was a growing cacophony of voices telling me that this artwork should start moving”

The opportunity to make an experimental animated piece was enabled by a Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales and Good Ideas grant from Cywaith Cymru Artworks Wales. This provided the financial wherewithal to work with award winning animator Gerald Conn of Cardiff based studio Cinetig.

Harris continues...

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“For some time I had been interested in the story of the hunt for the Twrch Trwyth from the ancient Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, partly because of its rich array of male archetypes but largely because of its close association with the contemporary landscape and culture. The story is so geographically specific that you can plot the route on a modern map. And if you actually drive along it – as I have to confess I did – you’ll find all sorts of references to the narrative.

In the bar of Cwm Twrch rugby club the stuffed head of a wild boar is proudly displayed. One of its eyes is missing and has been replaced by a button, giving it a somewhat deranged appearance. The story is deeply embedded in the contemporary culture. In order to make a direct link between story and landscape, it made sense to integrate footage of the Twenty First Century landscape into the film.”

“I also wanted to give the film a feeling of Homer-esque heroism. Arthur’s warband (listed at some length in Culhwch ac Olwen) was, I felt, capable of drinking the crew of the Argo under the table. Rather than medieval pointy hats and shoes and white chargers, I wanted dirt under the fingernails and murky prehistory. And a diversity of character artwork that reflected the surreality of the list in the original story. Through working closely with ten-year old children in school’s workshops, I had come to value their imagination and energy as an inimitable creative force. Therefore, it made complete sense to enlist them as project artists.”

“As the best means of referencing the landscape of West Wales seemed to be to use direct footage, so the best way to reference prehistory seemed to be to use prehistory itself. With this in mind, I contacted Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and asked them if I could take pictures of objects in their prehistoric collection and attempt to animate them. They said yes, and put me in touch with the National Museums of Ireland and Scotland as well.”

“John Kenny (composer) and Michael Harvey (narrator) and I had worked together before and I knew I wanted them to be involved...”

And the rest, as they say, is (pre) history...

Until we ran out of money of course, which is why the film grinds to a halt rather. The whole project was heroically over-ambitious in scale, but, nevertheless, the seeds for a long and fruitful collaboration had been sown. The creative potential seemed obvious – we had to explore the process further...

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