'My Dearest Mother': A Valleys View of the First World War

Kaylinn Nash of Cwmbran High School at the First World War event in the Senedd Credit: Patrick Olner, Tall and Short Photography
15 year old Kailynn Nash is a student at Cwmbran High School and is one of a group of young people that worked with Head4Arts to create an engaging animation, exploring the impact of the First World War through the eyes of one young soldier from Abertillery. Here she talks about the project and of her personal experiences of the Senedd event.

Beginning

When I first heard about this project I was in the middle of making another film which was about illegal highs and the impacts that they have on people my age – a very different subject matter. Bethan from Head4Arts came onto the set and discussed with us what we enjoyed doing involving drama and filming.   She also told us about different ways that subjects can be portrayed such as through animation as well as through actually acting. We then had the opportunity to be put forward to be involved in an animation project which I was very excited about because I have never tried animation before and I thought it would improve my skills in different ways - patience is definitely one of them!

Working on the animation

At the start of the year we went to Pontypool Leisure Centre to plan and create our piece. I met up with Bethan and the friends that I made along my journey and we discussed our knowledge about the First World War.  In addition to this, a lady from the National Museum of Wales came in with artefacts and inspiring information which helped us adapt our knowledge and improve our understanding about World War One and its rich history. I was so grateful for being involved as it improved my confidence when speaking to people, I formed friendships and overall I had such a fantastic time learning about different things. The group and I studied the artefacts and even had fun trying them on! Even though we were making a serious piece of animation the fun we had actually developing and making the film I personally think was the best part.

Bethan and her team brought in Glo magazines from Big Pit and that's when we found the inspiring story of James Henry Finn who lived in Abertillery and fought in Mesopotamia in the First World War. As I read the story it became clear why he got the Victoria Cross for his gallant work and we felt it was the bravest story we could find. Then, we got to work. 

Two artists from Gritty Realism helped us make our animation and took us through the different stages of the creative process, such as storyboarding, scriptwriting, designing scenes and drawing characters. To be honest I felt my literacy skills stood out more than my artistic skills therefore I decided that I would write the letter. We all went to work on putting our interpretation of the story together. I found it fascinating how it all came together, it took about six weeks in total to make the whole film, using different techniques.

The Finished Product

We were asked to visit Big Pit to be presented with a copy of the DVDs by the Mayoress of Torfaen. This made me feel that we achieved something really important.  We discussed the film with the Mayoress who was really interested in what we all had to say. It was so good that we got everything across that we wanted to achieve and portray. It was also nice to see our picture in the local press.

The Senedd event

The biggest sense of achievement was when I got asked to the Senedd in Cardiff to present and show the film with Charlie, another member of the team who put the film together. It was very nerve racking to get up on the stage in front of such important people like the Chair of HLF after being in a maths exam that morning, but it was such a brilliant feeling when others watched the film and commented on how good it was. I felt so proud of what we had achieved and would not hesitate to be involved with another production that Beth put together as she showed me I could achieve anything that I could put my mind to. I would like to say a big thank you for allowing me to have this opportunity.

My Dearest Mother, the animation created by Kailynn and other members of the Torfaen Group can be viewed on the Head4Arts website.

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