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February 8th 2019: the Century of Hope Party and Finale at the Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil

February 8th 2019:  the Century of Hope Party and Finale at the Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil

The Century of Hope project was concluded with a bang and a very successful and worthwhile celebration. All the tickets were ‘sold’ and the theatre was comfortably full on the night. The evening was divided into two parts:

1) Remembering the Life and Work of Dr Ursula Masson: one of the main founders of Women’s Archive Wales and a native of Merthyr Tydfil. The first talk was given by Professor Emeritus Jane Aaron, who worked with Ursula at Glamorgan University (as it was at the time), and who gave a detailed and interesting analysis of Ursula’s immense contribution to women’s studies through her pioneering books and articles and through founding Women’s Archive Wales and inspiring the Roadshow project. She noted especially how much Ursula had achieved during her last years when she was very ill. It was especially gratifying that Ursula’s family could be present to join with us in commemorating Ursula.

Then Gail Allen came forward to talk about her great personal debt to Ursula as they worked together for the Swansea Women’s History Network and the opportunity this gave them to make pioneering films on the munitions’ factory in Bridgend, the Miners’ Strike 1984-5 and Conscientious Objectors in WW2. But Gail also took this opportunity to pay a heartfelt tribute to Professor Deirdre Beddoe, another of the founders of WAW – she described her academic work which put women’s history on the map in Wales for the first time. She presented Deirdre with a bouquet of flowers as a mark of WAW’s thanks and admiration for her special contribution to women’s history.

Finally, Emeritus Professor Jen Wilson, Jazz Heritage Wales, paid her tribute to Ursula for encouraging her to return to education and by showing faith in her ability to achieve. She told several poignant tales and amusing anecdotes about researching and recording material for Swansea Women’s History Network and about how they worked together and socialised.

2)The second part of the evening was dedicated to the premiere of the Century of Hope documentary film, work accomplished by Catrin Edwards and Tash Horton, the project’s film-makers. Throughout the year they had been diligently recording every event and producing miles of film testimony about them. This had entailed hours upon hours of hard work and selecting material from this huge amount of testimony must have been very challenging. They had also recorded the memories of 16 of WAW’s founder and other active members. From this whole range of evidence, they succeeded in creating a fascinating film which managed to weave these elements into a coherent narrative. Each interviewee showed a picture of her favourite heroine(s) and these cameos were carefully woven into the film’s central story. The film’s conclusion was particularly poignant as it commemorated the contribution Avril Rolph, another founder member of WAW, had made but who died midway through the project year in 2018. The editing was skilful, imaginative and creative and the choice of background music inspirational. The audience had obviously enjoyed the film’s journey and appreciated very much how the film-makers had succeeded in crystalizing so cleverly all these elements and the events of 2018-19. This film will be shown again many times and will remain a lasting legacy of this ambitious project.

Then we all went down to the Plymouth Courtyard to enjoy a glass of wine and a buffet!