The Power of Popular Culture

My name is Joanne Davies and I am the Fundraising Officer for Monmouthshire Museums Service.

We have been delighted to join the Young Roots community this year and I wanted to introduce myself and share details of our most recent project ‘Stables to Studios – The Story of Rockfield, Monmouth & Music’.

‘Stables to Studios’ is an exciting collaboration between our Museums Service, Monmouth Comprehensive School Sixth Form and Rockfield Recording Studios. It was led by the Museums Learning Manager, who worked closely with the Studios and a group of 13 Lower Sixth students who were undertaking their Welsh Baccalaureate qualification.

The studios are legendary within the music industry having welcomed artists such as Robert Plant, Queen, Oasis and Coldplay in their 50+ year history. A number of these artists have recorded “defining” albums and worldwide hits in this rural studio – perhaps the most famous being Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ - yet it’s story has been largely hidden up until now.

The idea of focusing the exhibition on Rockfield Studios was the brain-child of Karin Molson, the Museums intrepid Learning Manager. She made an approach to the studio’s management team and suggested that they also ask the school to get involved. Rockfield loved the idea of working with the students as well as the museum. They were also keen to tell their ‘official’ story for the first time in an exhibition and ‘Stables to Studios’ was born!

The exhibition is based on the memories and stories of the artists, producers and engineers who recorded there. Crucially it also includes the memories and stories of the people of Monmouth who live and work alongside the studio’s and their famous guests.

The students led on researching, recording, interpreting and finally presenting these previously hidden stories in the exhibition, with help from the Museums team and some great input from Rockfield. They were asked to attend for an hour each week after school but were extremely dedicated and also gave up weekends and holidays to keep working on the exhibition. They were involved at every stage of the project, even volunteering to help us re-paint the exhibition space!

The students brought their own skills and experience which was invaluable to us. For example, we had initially set budget aside for technical help for recording and editing interviews, but didn’t need it in the end as some of the students were very skilled in this area, showing real talent and flair for the work. Perhaps the biggest impact has come from the energy and enthusiasm they have brought into the museum each week which has spread to all members of the Museum team, particularly those on working Front of House.

We would love to hear from other organisations working on projects which are using popular culture, particularly music heritage, to engage younger audiences.

We have found it a fantastic tool for getting young people involved. Their knowledge, passion and understanding of music – not just contemporary but right the way back to the 1960s and 1970s – are infectious, reminding us all of the excitement music added to our youth. This is also being reflected in the responses we are over-hearing from our visitors - “I had that album”, “I loved that band”, “That was the first band I saw live”, “It’s like hearing the sound-track of my life”.

By involving young people in the creation of the exhibition we believe we have made it appealing, accessible and enjoyable for all ages, ensuring that those aged 11-25 in particular feel that the town’s heritage has a story that is for them.  Just by adding music to the exhibition space we have seen a change in how it is perceived and used, making it a more relaxed and interactive environment than ever before.

We’re also delighted to see how relaxed the students now are within the museum and how quickly they picked up understanding of how and why we work the way we do. Right from the beginning the students were keen to help us create a sense of pride and excitement in the town for the Studios that have put “Monmmouth on the Map” of popular culture. It has been a pleasure working with them!

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Fy enw yw Joanne Davies a fi yw Swyddog Codi Arian Gwasanaeth Amgueddfeydd Sir Fynwy.

Rydym yn falch iawn i fod wedi ymuno â chymuned Young Roots eleni a dymunwn fy nghyflwyno fy hun a rhannu manylion ein prosiect diweddaraf 'Stablau i Stiwdios - Stori Rockfield, Trefynwy a Cherddoriaeth'.

Mae 'Stablau i Stiwdios' yn gywaith cyffrous rhwng ein Gwasanaeth Amgueddfeydd, Chweched Dosbarth Ysgol Gyfun Trefynwy a Stiwdios Recordio Rockfield. Cafodd ei arwain gan Reolwr Dysgu'r Amgueddfeydd, a fu'n gweithio'n agos gyda'r Stiwdios a grŵp o 13 o fyfyrwyr blwyddyn gyntaf y Chweched Dosbarth yn gweithio ar gymhwyster Bagloriaeth Cymru.

Mae'r stiwdios yn fyd-enwog o fewn y diwydiant cerdd ac wedi croesawu artistiaid fel Robert Plant, Queen, Oasis a Coldplay yn eu hanes 50+ mlynedd. Mae nifer o'r artistiaid hyn wedi recordio albymau "diffiniol" a fu'n llwyddiannus yn fyd-eang yn y stiwdio wledig yma - efallai mai'r enwocaf yw 'Bohemian Rhapsody' gan Queen - eto mae'n stori a fu'n gudd gan fwyaf hyd yma.

Syniad Karin Molson, Rheolwr Dysgu'r Amgueddfeydd, oedd canolbwyntio'r arddangosfa ar Stiwdios Rockfield. Cysylltodd gyda thîm rheoli'r stiwdio ac awgrymu eu bod hefyd yn gofyn i'r ysgol gymryd rhan. Roedd Rockfield wrth eu bodd gyda'r syniad o weithio gyda'r myfyrwyr yn ogystal â'r amgueddfa. Roeddent hefyd yn awyddus i ddweud eu stori 'swyddogol' am y tro cyntaf mewn arddangosfa a ganwyd 'Stablau i Stiwdios'!

Mae'r arddangosfa yn seiliedig ar atgofion a straeon yr artistiaid, cynhyrchwyr a pheirianwyr fu'n recordio yno. Yn hollbwysig, mae hefyd yn cynnwys atgofion a straeon pobl Trefynwy sy'n byw ac yn gweithio wrth ochr y stiwdios a'u gwesteion enwog.

Arweiniodd y myfyrwyr ar ymchwilio, recordio, dehongli ac yn olaf gyflwyno'r straeon cudd hyn yn yr arddangosfa, gyda help gan y tîm Amgueddfeydd a mewnbwn gwych gan Rockfield. Gofynnwyd iddynt fynychu am awr bob wythnos ar ôl yr ysgol ond roeddent yn ymroddedig iawn a hefyd ar benwythnosau a gwyliau i ddal ati i weithio ar yr arddangosfa. Fe wnaethant gymryd rhan mewn prosiect, gan hyd yn oed yn gwirfoddoli i'n helpu i ailbeintio gofod yr arddangosfa!

Daeth y myfyrwyr â'u sgiliau a'u profiad eu hunain oedd yn werthfawr tu hwnt. Er enghraifft, roeddem ar y dechrau wedi neilltuo arian ar gyfer help technegol ar gyfer recordio a golygu cyfweliadau, ond nid oedd angen hynny yn y diwedd gan fod rhai o'r myfyrwyr yn fedrus iawn yn y maes yma, gan ddangos talent a dawn wirioneddol am y gwaith. Efallai y daeth yr effaith fwyaf o'r egni a brwdfrydedd a ddaethant i'r amgueddfa bob wythnos sydd wedi lledaenu i bob aelod o dîm Amgueddfeydd, efallai rhai yn gweithio ym mlaen y tŷ.

Byddem yn falch iawn clywed gan sefydliadau eraill sy'n gweithio ar brosiectau sy'n defnyddio diwylliant poblogaidd, yn arbennig treftadaeth cerddoriaeth, i ennyn diddordeb cynulleidfaoedd ifanc.

Cawsom ef yn ddull gwych ar gyfer cael pobl ifanc i gymryd rhan. Mae eu gwybodaeth, angerdd a dealltwriaeth o gerddoriaeth - nid dim ond cyfoes ond yn ôl i'r 1960au a'r 1980au - yn heintus, gan atgoffa pawb ohonom o'r cyffro a ychwanegodd cerddoriaeth i'n hieuenctid. Caiff hyn hefyd ei ddangos yn ymateb ein hymwelwyr - "Roedd yr albwm yna gen i", "Roeddwn wrth fy modd gyda'r band yna", "Dyna'r band cyntaf i mi erioed i mi ei weld yn fyw", "Mae fel clywed trac sain fy mywyd".

Drwy gynnwys pobl ifanc wrth greu'r arddangosfa credwn ein bod wedi ei gwneud yn fwy deniadol, hygyrch a difyr i bob oedran, gan sicrhau fod rhai 11-25 oed yn arbennig yn teimlo fod gan dreftadaeth y dref stori ar eu cyfer nhw. Mae ychwanegu cerddoriaeth i ofod yr arddangosfa wedi gweld newid yn y ffordd y caiff ei ystyried a'i ddefnyddio, gan ei wneud yn amgylchedd mwy hamddenol a rhyngweithiol nag erioed o'r blaen.

Rydym hefyd yn falch iawn i weld pa mor gartrefol mae'r myfyrwyr yn awr o fewn yr amgueddfa a pha mor gyflym maent wedi sicrhau dealltwriaeth o sut a pham y gweithiwn fel y gwnawn. O'r cychwyn cyntaf roedd y myfyrwyr yn awyddus i'n helpu i greu ymdeimlad o falchder a chyffro yn y dref ar gyfer y Stiwdios sydd wedi rhoi "Trefynwy ar Fap" diwylliant poblogaidd. Bu'n bleser gweithio gyda nhw!