Hacio’r Iaith – hacking the Welsh language

I spent Saturday in Aberystwyth at Hacio’r Iaith – the second annual Welsh-language code camp. Highlights included:

  • A fantastic one-hour crash crowd-sourced creative session aimed at translating newly-out-of-copyright Welsh poet Gwilym Deudraeth’s work into multimedia, digital stories and more. This session was very  well facilitated by Carl Morris of NativeHQ. Here’s a summary of the work, including a ten second video based on Deudraeth’s englyn about Gandhi which took me twenty minutes to make and publish using Zoom H2, JayCut and YouTube.
  • Meeting some enthusiastic people, including Telsa Gwynne, who translated Linux Gnu into Welsh, and her husband Alan Cox, a Linux pioneer who’s been someone I’ve admired for some time.
  • Witnessing the launch of Umap in Welsh – by Rhodri ap Dyfrig and partners in the Gwlad y Basg –  which offers Pynciau Llosg (Trending Topics) and  a feed of Welsh-language Tweets.
  • A viewing of some of Harry Meadows’s work at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. This was a duck’s eye view on a CG stream outside London gliding past picnickers and peacocks on the banks.

As the day came to and end I was startled by swirling black clouds of thousands of starlings coming to roost under Aberystwyth pier as the sun set, bathing Cardigan Bay in an orange glow.

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Photo by Bryn Salisbury, diolch.

Menna Richards

Tonight, I’m going to say goodbye at a party to an old friend and colleague who’s leaving the BBC soon. Menna Richards is the woman who commissioned BBC Capture Wales / Cipolwg ar Gymru back in 2001. I hope some of those who made a digital story with Capture Wales might feel that digital storytelling has been as big a gift to the people of Wales as the hugely-enjoyable Doctor Who and Torchwood TV programmes. Menna brought those two hits to Wales too.

Menna Richards in 2003
Photo (c) BBC by Andrew Orchard.

I remember Menna coming back to work with BBC Cymru Wales more than ten years ago when Greg Dyke was director general. There was a real buzz in the air. The social nature of new media and the internet was blossoming. There was no YouTube, Facebook or Twitter but the cost of camcorders was plummeting and access to storytelling tools and platforms was opening up.

Even so, it took tremendous courage for Menna to say that she wanted a way of helping the people traditionally considered to be ‘audience’ to become ‘producers’. She had inspiration from Daniel Meadows and Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University and her colleagues Mandy Rose, Maggie Russell and Karen Lewis put together the team needed to realise the vision. As well as being a valuable contribution to media literacy, I felt that showing these first-person stories on TV gave tremendous warmth to BBC Wales, as a viewer. I don’t know what Menna’s going to do next after leaving the BBC but I do know that by championing digital storytelling she played an important historical part in helping to make Wales a more  empowering and connected nation.

Who’s missing from this list of 43 Digital Storytelling Influencers?

As part of the process of redesigning this Aberth Digital Storytelling blog, I decided to look again at the links from the point of view of listing some of the digital storytelling people and projects who’ve influenced me over the years. Here’s the first draft. I know I’ve left many people off this list. If there’s someone from the field of digital storytelling you’d like me to consider adding, please use the Comments system to let me know.


Staff of National Library of Wales accepting the BBC Digital Storytelling archive for safe keeping
Staff of National Library of Wales accepting the BBC Digital Storytelling archive for safe keeping from Digital Storytellers Dai Evans, Rhian Cadwaladr and Alan Thomas at DS4 in 2009 in Aberystwyth, Wales.

Six steps to a sustainable digital storytelling project

If you’re planning a digital storytelling project, and you want it to be a sustainable one, here are six steps to consider:

1. an outline of the ethos your project will employ, encompassing:

* fair dealing with contributors and participants,
* contracting,
* intellectual property and  third-party rights,
* licensing-on the products your participants make,
* capturing and storing consents by parents/guardians/carers of minors and vulnerable people,
* diversity policy
* disclosure policy
* how to keep participants’ personal data safe,
* etc.

2. summary of all your recruitment methods. The difficulty of this isn’t to be underestimated, as this was an element that turned out to be one of the most challenging to us at Capture Wales

3. ways of helping participants to express and capture their story as best as possible

4. outline of a number of possible production scenarios, either devised from scratch or drawing on models used by CDS, Capture Wales, etc.

5. exhibition plans – i.e. where will your finished stories be shown?

6. plans to share methodologies, training and supporting trainers, forming and maintaining partnerships, ensuring other projects will benefit from your lead. Outline plans for robust governance, e.g. how a steering group for your project can develop this project even after you have moved on and left…

I hope that including these six elements within your work will help you plan your digital storytelling project so you can leave a sustainable legacy so other projects can benefit from your work.
Full credit is due to Gilly Adams  and Karen Lewis for stressing the importance of a stated ethos.