ANCIENT Connections is delighted to announce that internationally renowned artist Bedwyr Williams working with Contemporary Art Society has been selected by an expert panel and the communities to create the new piece of public art that will link St Davids with Ferns, Wexford.

Bedwyr has proposed to create a series of giant beehives, three in St Davids Cathedral grounds and three in Ferns. These beautiful structures would be modelled on traditional skeps, and although they would be much larger than a typical beehive, they are functional hives and would house real bee colonies. The artist has proposed that the communities in each location will take over the care for the bees and compare the unique flavour of the honey produced with their neighbours across the Irish Sea through exchange visits.

The decision to select Bedwyr’s proposal from the shortlist of five artists, was made by a panel of specialists which included Wexford County Council’s Arts Officer Liz Burns, Emma Price – Director of Studio Response, a public art consultancy company in Cardiff, the Very Reverend Sarah Rowland-Jones – Dean of St Davids Cathedral, and Remco de Fouw, artist and lecturer based in Wexford. The panel unanimously agreed that Bedwyr’s proposal bridged ancient traditions with modern concerns for the environment and biodiversity as well as highlighting the story of friendship between St David and St Aidan. According to legend, St Aidan was mentored by St David, who gave him a gift of bees before Aidan returned to Ireland to found a monastery in Ferns.

Twenty percent of the artists’ overall scores were generated by the online community engagement survey. Bedwyr’s proposal also came out on top with the communities when the scores were averaged out. These were some of the comments that community participants made about the project:

“I like the fact that this is a ‘living’ sculpture, in that it will house live bee colonies. This will provide much needed pollinating insects in both communities and continue the ancient tradition of bee keeping”.

(Pembrokeshire)

“This project is simplicity itself, I particularly like the idea of the bees collecting the pollen to bring it back to the beehive and being turned into lovely honey. It would be a great idea and it would help to conserve and safeguard our environment”.

(Wexford)

Bedwyr Williams is originally from St Asaph and now based in Caernafon. He is widely recognised as one of Wales’ most significant contemporary artists and represented Wales in the Venice Biennale in 2013 with his installation ‘The Starry Messenger’. He works across a range of mediums in both gallery and public art settings, often employing wry humour and surrealism to explore culture through a different lens. For this project, he will be working closely with Contemporary Art Society, a consultancy specialising in support and delivery of public art projects. 

Bedwyr says: “I’m interested in objects that invite communities to become active participants to make the artwork whole. I want people to become fully engaged in the artwork, doing the little things to bring the artwork to life, forgetting themselves and their daily concerns for a few hours. St David’s last words were “Gwnewch y pethau bychain” or “Do the little things.” 

This ethos has guided the development of my proposal which is founded on the story of St David and St Aidan and steeped in the magic and history of these two intertwined locations”. Next steps will be for the artist to engage with the communities in both regions to drill down into the detail of how to translate this wonderful concept into a successful venture in practical terms.

The total cost of the commission is €175,000 to cover all costs including artists’ fees, project management, the costs of making the hives, artist travel and accommodation, transport and installation costs for the artworks, community engagement costs, including the purchase of necessary equipment for community bee-keeping and the costs of exchange visits as well as marketing costs to promote the honey produced. It is hoped that the skeps will be installed and the project launched in Spring 2022.

Ancient Connections is led by Pembrokeshire County Council, together with partners Wexford County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-operation programme.

If you are interested in finding out more or getting involved in any aspect of the Ancient Connections project please email the team at AncientConnections@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or visit www.ancientconnections.org