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Spectacular poppy project bridges generation gap

Gwersyllt school pupils during their visit to pendine Parks Bryn Bella taking part in a craft class on the theme of Remembrance; Resident Tracey Wilde with Gwersyllt pupils Ellie Mae and Naomi. Picture Mandy Jones

Schoolchildren and care home residents are working together on a spectacular collage of 2,000 poppies to mark Remembrance Day.

The intergenerational art project is a joint effort between pupils from Gwersyllt Community Primary School and residents of Pendine Park’s Penybryn and Bryn Bella care homes in Wrexham.

The school’s year 5 and 6 pupils have reconnected with Pendine for the first time since the 2020 Covid 19 pandemic lockdowns put a stop to their regular visits.

Assistant Head Jacquie O’Toole said for many years the school’s pupils made weekly visits to the home.

She said: “We forged a great friendship and our older age pupils loved to come here and help with various recreational projects but when the pandemic occurred our visits had to be stopped for everyone’s safety. 

“We have only this year got round to reinstating the partnership and even on our first visit back at Bryn Bella it was not hard to see how much both the children and the residents benefit from this relationship. 

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“Our pupils were so excited to be coming here today and to have the chance to forge new friendships with residents and staff.”

One pupil, Eliza Flewitt, aged 11, was delighted to contribute to the Poppy Day artwork.

She said: “It’s been remarkable. I’ve loved every minute helping the residents and seeing how talented they are. 

“I have been helping them to cut out some of the thousands of laminated card poppies which are needed for the collage. 

“But to be honest I have been learning from them as well as we take on so many of these practical tasks.”

Eliza said she had enjoyed helping residents Gary Grant, Lynn Kelly and Tony Ithell.

She said: “Gary was amazing and Lynn is a speed demon the way she cuts out poppies so fast. Tony loves painting and I have been helping him to paint a big red wooden heart bright red. It’s been a great day.”

Fellow pupils Olivia Beattie, 10, and Jacob Moore, 11, also relished the chance to join in the art class.

Jacob admitted: “I was a little bit shy at first as this was the first time I had met any of the residents, but they were all very welcoming and friendly and I have got more confident the longer we have been here. It is nice to be doing something good for the community.”

Pendine Park Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards, who has been leading the project, said the idea is to create a stand-out artwork which will adorn the wall at the entrance way as visitors arrive at Pendine Park. 

She said: “It will be our colourful way of marking national Remembrance Day in November. We did a similar collage of trailing poppies last year and it was really well received. But this year we want to make it even bigger and better. We are aiming to have 2,000 poppies trailing down from a giant heart.”

Sarah, who set up and runs the popular art class in Seren lounge for  Bryn Bella and Penybryn residents , added: “It is so nice to have the schoolchildren back with us again, making friends with our residents and inputting their creative ideas into our projects.  

“Gwersyllt School is our closest primary school and having the pupils visit Bryn Bella in the past was always a real joy. Our residents looked forward to the school pupils arriving when we used to have them before the pandemic and we are all delighted that we are now able to rekindle that friendship once more.” 

Residents Tracy Wilde and Tony Ithell agreed that the return of the school visits was positive for everyone.

Tony said: “The pupils are full of enthusiasm but patient as well. They have lots of ideas.”

Lynn Kelly said that with a target of 2,000 poppies to cut out it was great to have all hands on deck.

Jacquie O’Toole added that the school looked forward to joining in various activities over future visits, including arts, music and other recreational projects.

She said: “The benefits are two-fold. It is a great learning curve for our pupils and a chance for them to meet members of our local community who they might not otherwise encounter day to day.

“We’re also planning a carol concert performance for the residents in the run up to Christmas. 

“We had seven pupils on today’s visit, aged 10 and 11. We arrange it so that most of our Year 6 pupils can come here in rotation and there is always great feedback.

“In the past some of our pupils have kept in touch with the care home even in their own time. They are keen to swap news about what they’ve been up to at school and hear how the residents are getting on.”

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