Wales in France - Y Bont Project Development

As I sit in my dark dining room in a very wet & windy Wales sipping a milky, over brewed tea, it's hard to imagine that this time last week a group of 20 wild french performers balanced on a bridge, moving across the water, in glorious sunshine.

For a little context, Tin Shed has been privileged over the years to have worked across some incredible spaces and places, some super local, others not so much. Our latest project, Y Bont, funded by Wales Arts International has given us the opportunity to explore something that crosses geographical realms. 

Initially inspired by our work back in 2018 with our re-telling of Moby Dick on the Newport Transporter Bridge.

I remember the revelation that there were more of these structures across the world, and the team at the time audibly daydreamed of what it might be like if we toured these places, making more shows, in different languages… Well here we are. 

This whistle stop tour brings us back to Rochefort, France, thanks to a British Council awarded travel grant as part of this year's Welsh Government programme, Wales in France. 

To date, Tin Shed have worked alongside collaborating artists from Wales & France, exploring the tall tales & local heritage of these incredible structures, investigating through our artistry, who connects or disconnects from them, how we respond as creatives to this & what are the stories we are interested in telling and who, more importantly, are we. 

Last year we explored an initial concept of mapping and storytelling, watch the documentary here

As a company Tin Shed uses a key collaborating ingredients list in order to co-create the work. This often begins with a place and the land stewards or managers of that location, building, monument or landscape. Then the people or communities connected or disconnected from that specific location & then the professional artists surrounding them. We sometimes find that these things interconnect and in many cases are surprised by who becomes our company & what the story is we are trying to tell. But it is always organic. 

The stories we tell are unique & varied, inspired by those who collaborate with the company, or sit next to us on a train. 

Firstly, before I reminisce too much about the truly inspiring experiences I’ve just had, I want to talk a little bit about working internationally as an artist or company that self-produces. I must add, that at present TSTC are not a core funded organisation, therefore we rely on project funds to see us through our work, often meaning that a lot of the heavy partnership graft happens outside of the allotted ‘project’ time. We hope, soon, that this will change. 

Initially, I know we were apprehensive to make work internationally. 

Back in 2014 we toured America with some of our fringe performance work and although feeling hugely adventurous and ambitious, there was certainly a safety in language & communication.

There was ease in being able to chat over things like booking accommodation, support in kind & how we might negotiate payment of ticket sales & general hosting etiquette. 

This becomes far more difficult to negotiate when you don't have the ability to communicate freely in a shared language and the presence of bilingual producers and artists are key to the development process. 

It's actually surprising how well people can communicate when language is broken, it's certainly inspired the work we are developing in France & fortunately, as a company we always consider the accessibility of sharing our work, and think deeply about language & how we communicate with our audiences.

Having said that, this time, we are working across a total of 6 languages. 

Welsh, English, French, Patois Charentais, Spanish & Basque. 

The exploration of language is hugely important to the work, especially to consider the protected languages and dialects involved & how those may realise themselves. When language is carefully selected, limited & more so, physical, we find ourselves playing with theatrical forms that live in physical theatre, circus, movement & Dance to communicate our stories.

During our time in Rochefort we have been hugely  privileged to have worked alongside a great team. 

The CARO & Pont Transborduer team have been instrumental in linking us up with local artists, makers, collaborators & a regional amatuer network of performers.

Supporting Art & culture, in my opinion, the French do it incredibly well, in France it is embedded, accessible, celebrated & held equally.

Using Rochefort as an example. They have La Maison du Gardien. This little house, solely used to accommodate artists, was once a military hairdressers, situated on the grounds of the council offices, a stone's throw away from La Boit, a small, black box performance space. 

Artists are welcomed here on a residency, with open access to the performance and rehearsal spaces, a house to live in & cultural officials on hand to guide them & see their work. This enables everyone to become fully invested, integrated & fully informed part of the artist's process; to be able to articulate the work & to help it grow. 

France also has the CNAREP network, financially supported by the Ministers of Culture & French Government, these are the Centers for national street arts and art in public space. 

There are a total of 13 of these across the country, all of which have their own identity but are deeply rooted in providing accessible spaces for creation & sharing for artists and audiences. 


Culture is valued as a crucial & vital part of daily life in France, therefore the role of the artist is held in high esteem, in this way it is always part of the bigger conversations.

I often wonder, what would Wales look like if it was supported culturally in this way? hosting international collaborations, sharing language, skills & artistry. 

Surely that would make for a more culturally diverse & inclusive landscape? A series of centres across the country specifically dedicated to the development of artists, not just venues, but artist led buildings & spaces,, financially supported by Arts councils & central government to encourage the creation & interrogation of new work. 

I often think, what do people need in order to be at their creative best? It's definitely not a one size fits all, but sometimes a bit of cash, time, a roof, space to chat and connect, a warm welcome and a place to stay goes a long way, and most venues could do better to ensure they are creating paid space and time for artists to make art that doesn't involve lengthy applications & short term offers, this is about long term relationships & continued developmental support that can come in all shapes and sizes. From the use of printing facilities, to time with a producer, from free hot drinks and desk space to rehearsal rooms, it all helps.

It feels like Tin Shed are scratching the surface with this and our work on www.theplacenewport.com is definitely a start.

Working internationally & you are inevitably dealing with Brexit. There’s little point going into detail about the hugely detrimental impact this has had on arts moving in and out of the UK. 

However I do remember saying to a fellow creative ‘‘We’re exploring some international work” and they said, ‘Well you’ve picked a great time for that’ … *Sigh*

I digress. 

Back to our time in Rochefort, a small but mighty team of collaborators. 

Angharad Evans, Tin Shed’s Producer of Participation and Welsh Language advocate, Giles Bennett, projection artist & photographer, & myself. 

After a canceled flight, an overnight stop at my mums in Bristol, a 2 day detour via a cheap hostel in Paris, we made a trip to see the Eiffel Tower & ran from Metro to Metro in a bid to get to Rochefort on time.

We finally arrived, 3 weary travellers, traversing the undergrowth, dressed for welsh weather in the blazing french sunshine, thankful for the warm welcome. 

We were greeted like old friends, with the offer of dinner at one of the performers houses, free tickets to see work sharings at La Boit & a planned workshop with the company of local performers, all arranged for us. 

We spent the subsequent days landing, exploring, playing, planning, meeting & workshopping. 

France is an interesting place to be at the moment, it feels like walking into a sunny storm. 

There is a gnarly bubbling of civic unrest due to recent policy changes by Macron for the pension and retirement age. This means protest, and hence our travel delays. It felt right to be present for the local protest, and right to acknowledge this conversation during our time here. 

The protest felt intergenerational and a coming together of people from all ages to consider the impact of these policy changes on their lives. As we looked on, across the square surrounded by the calmness of many french cafe dwellers drinking espresso and smoking long cigarettes we wondered over our personal experience of protest and how this felt filmically picturesque and generationally united.

On our return protest trip from town we stumbled across an exhibition in a cafe come art gallery for the off season. We met Jim Skull, a Parisian artist who has recently relocated to Rochefort.

He showed us his collection of skulls inspired by the maritime rope seen across Rochefort and encouraged us to draw our own skulls in his book. He explained how he had been collecting public doodles of skulls at his exhibitions for years and how he would create an entire gallery of publicly drawn skulls.

Walking the riverbanks in and out of town, to and from the bridge we became inspired by the movement and feather like shapes of the reed tops that littered the pathways between the charente & the walkways, exploring the disused concrete structures along our journey we discussed populating these as performative platforms and dreamt of using boats. 

The trip had many highlights, working with the company on the bridge in rochefort late into the evening, exploring the physical movement of flight, welsh language song & ending the evening in a kitchen disco, europop style, dancing around a diabetic cat, uniting over a song with ridiculous lyrics. 

We threw around words in multiple languages & imagined how ambitious we really could be with our ideas, and how everyone longed to visit Newport.

“Mais Oui! This is possible, yes?” …. And, one sharp intake of breath later, I tell them

… “I’ll try”

Our week ended in seeing a wonderfully macabre sharing at La Boit from a local team of artists exploring using the mud of the Charente River in performance, with gorgeous side lighting capturing a bespoke paper costumed pieces, with minimal dialogue and hugely skilled physical work, this short piece was beautifully crafted. 

Moving on to Bordeaux for the weekend, bidding farewell to the team in Rochefort.

Our long train journeys together as a collaborative group went from word association to welsh culture, from charades to intergenerational storytelling and how on earth we are going to fully realise the ambition of creating a piece of site specific work, for 3 transporter bridges across europe in 6 languages.

There were moments of pure revelation and those too of grounding realism.

Landing in Bordeaux we met with Nico Edant, a French Lecoq trained performer, who is linked through his ancestry to the original architect of the Transporter Bridge in Bilbao. We spoke with him about his family's history & the similarities between the protected languages of basque & Welsh. Nico and Angharad spoke deeply about the ancestral trauma that permeated their lives with their families' relationship in speaking their mother tongues. 

Here is some of Nico’s performance work. 


We headed across town to the Bassins de lumiere, a WW2 giant submarine bunker in the bastide region of the city to explore the use of projection mapping in their latest Dali & Gaudi exhibitions.

We were all taken by the grandeur of many moments immersed in the space and particularly how enveloped we all felt in the chasmous environment although surrounded by hundreds of chattering strangers. 

We spent our final evenings in the city feeling very full, and once again, inspired by all of the new relationships we had made, but all those pre-existing that now felt nourished and nurtured.

There are some great ideas… too many probably, but with a planned final residency moving to Bilbao in September and a return to Rochefort later in the month to tie it all together, we think we’re heading somewhere ridiculously and adventurously exciting. 

Ending our week, we return to Wales, feeling a bit blughghggh …. Assuming a case of post trip blues, but returning to the rain with our bodies feeling unseasonably warm, a few lateral flows later confirmed it, we all have covid.

So as I sit in my hazy covid stupor, surrounded by sleeping dogs, tissues & even more tea, I'm 

enjoying imagining where this work might go.

Diolch yn fawr to British Council, Wales Arts International, Rochefort CARO & Tec-Tap for supporting 

the work to date. 

And thank you for reading. 

À bientôt 



Whats New? Where have we been? And Whats The Place all about?


Well, we certainly have been busy bees at camp Tin Shed.

Since launching a Rocket from

Blaenavon ironworks back in October 2021, which if you missed, you can find the full version here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3Qp0AQDC7k&t=5205s

and our new project HEULDRO, another outdoor collaboration with CADW https://cadw.gov.wales/heuldro-bryn-celli-ddu its all go go GO!

We’ve worked on growing our outreach provisions with a bigger and better youth theatre, our community company and skills share schemes, welsh language creation space and opportunities can all be found here https://www.tinshedtheatrecompany.com/education

However, our main focus over the last 6 months has been our Connect and Flourish Arts Council of Wales project, The People are The City.

Since launching the project we have worked on a number of branches and partnerships but by far the most exciting is the repurposing of the old post office on Bridge Street, Newport, which is taking on a new life as…


But what is it? 

The Place is a brand spanking new creative and socially cohesive space right in the centre of the city. 

Under its roof are a new venue space, artists' studios, coffee, wellbeing studio, hot desking space, workshop and community kitchen. The place also hosts The Living room - a social space imagined, designed and created by the Newport Youth Academy for young people of the city, with lots happening as part of The Sgilliau project with TGP Cymru.

We also have a garden - ‘The Wild Patch’ curated by Anna and Katie - 2 arts wellbeing practitioners who came to us last year in Unit 9 seeking to better people's health through movement. They are now opening a wellbeing space in The Place and are running a shared allotment plot ‘The Wild Patch’ where volunteers can take time out of the city and immerse themselves in nature.

Anna and Katie will be curating a new programme of wellness based activities. To find out more visit:


Its taken 2 years to raise funds, build the framework, convince people it's a good idea, gain permissions, sort out dodgy electrics, leaks and design what will essentially be a new city centre creative space. A HUGE thank you to Newport City Homes, Newport City Council, Arts Council of Wales and The Riverfront for supporting the vision.

But why?

Many moons ago as a company of creatives, we at Tin Shed realised that the work we were making in most theatre venues just wasn’t hitting it. Not the work itself, but the relationships we were having with buildings, the process of making and engaging felt HARD, it felt inaccessible and closed off for many who wanted or needed to be involved.

We ventured out, got keys to shops, made things happen in streets, in houses, on benches, in moving cars and BOOM! We found it. And the ingredients of the company were born.

12 years later we are still working with this methodology, except we’ve learnt how to harness the ingredients, negotiate the finer details of temporary space ownership or guardianship, gain permissions, work in partnership, create in a public place & curate and deliver creative social engagement work across cities, towns and rural locations not restricted but definitely inspired by Newport. 

Working out of buildings, rather than shut away inside them.

Now we want to open the doors to enable others who want to do the same.

The Place will have carefully curated open space indoors, there will always be a place to sit and have a drink and the doors will always be open (as long as someone is in!). We believe in creating open spaces, not just by design but through a careful understanding of the barriers, invisible and otherwise that can exist in engaging with a space that you can't really put your finger on. Walking over thresholds and interacting with strangers is a daunting thing. This is why we've worked hard to consider outdoor space as much as indoors, with pavement licensing and event power sockets, the street outside can become a place to breath life and action.

The Place has visible Artwork on the OUTSIDE of the building. In our case, this has been given life by Molly Hawkins. It's often about changing the attitudes to the outside of places, the streets we walk down, giving the brutalist structure of the city a POP of colour can completely change the mindset and behaviour of those around it. It's playful, joyful, and costs you nothing to look at or to step inside. We’ve worked closely with Gwent Police on the Safer Streets campaign to look at a piece of artwork that directly challenges people's attitudes to negative space - an idea beyond the use of cameras and street lighting, that changes the ecology of how we behave in public places. A piece of work inspired by the late, great Lynette Webbe who would say to anyone who’d listen “You’re all bloody fantastic” those words now sit on the side of the building with some beautiful artwork by consumer smith.

Ok, But what is it? What is The Place? What does it do?

We’re going to get asked this A LOT. 

And whilst I think we’ve nailed the ‘Art in the heart of the city’ strapline and elevator pitch, we have to remember that spaces like The Place and the young people's living room aren’t typical. 

They don't fit under local authority banners of retail, coffee shop, A1, A2 business listing jargon. Because ultimately what this space will do is increase people's social infrastructure, promote social engagements through arts activity, increase people's social capital, increase people's civic pride, create new and lasting relationships and hopefully, in turn, better people's mental health and wellbeing and change attitudes and behaviours to the city and those around us.

For example, since opening Unit 9 in Friars Walk back in 2021 we were asked the same questions - since then its been a workshop space, pop up shop, venue, and meeting place and regularly hosts companies and organisations from all over. Hundreds of people have walked in and out of its doors having interacted in unique experiences, met new people, formed new relationships and often without any monetary exchange. Sometimes these temporary buildings and ideas just have to ‘happen’ they almost end up writing their own script and purpose for the time they are functional because they rely heavily on the people who need them, and that changes. 

To find out what's coming up at Unit 9 visit: https://www.tinshedtheatrecompany.com/unit-9

Big up to Emily and the team at Friars for supporting Unit 9 and all those who have used it to run their excellent projects.

Now, by osmosis, other empty units in the centre are now hosting student galleries, fundraisers, social awareness campaigns, charity pop-ups and concerts. 

But this isn’t a new concept, we had the empty shops project in Newport 11 years ago, it's just with increased UK government capacity funds comes a boost in creative and social engagement work, it's a shame this stuff can't be a constant, but we can't grumble. It's here and we’re happy, for as long as it lasts. 

In order to respond to our changing world, habits, relationships and economies, we have to see that repurposing empty or disused space for more than just the traditional business use is essential. This includes outdoor spaces and the creation of more places and spaces that simply seek to better people's lives in ways that don’t involve a capitalist framework. 

But this IS happening in Newport and it seems pretty quickly. Geek retreat gaming shop, Reality Theatre's space, The Remake Centre, Mark and Gap Bikes Cycle storage space, all within 2 minutes walk of each other. All supporting new spaces for people to engage with that serve far more than consumerism. We cant deny that Newport's economy and communities are fragile, and this is why organisations with social purpose woven into the fabric of their constitutions have to be better supported.

The Place has a website, www.theplacenewport.com where people will find more information, more on studio hire, venue bookings and what's coming up. We will be kicking off with an exciting lineup of resident artists from all over wales in multiple disciplines who will be working in, but mainly out of the building, directly engaging with the city outside the doors. But we want to curate the space collectively so tell us what you want to see here.

A huge thank you to our partners and funders at Arts Council Wales, Newport City Council, Newport City Homes, TGP Cymru, Riverfront Theatre, Newport Live, Gwent Police, Welsh Government. 

And an even bigger thanks to all the hands that have helped imagine, design, build and paint from The Public Theatre Co, Newport Youth Academy, Molly Mural, Apple Tree Decorating, Digger and the Construction Boys, St Davids Hospice, Irina at Olneya woodwork, Georgie Berry, Alice and Lucie at Bon Homie Interiors, Anna Coviello, Lucy Llewellyn, Pete Morgan, Consumer Smith and all the Tin Shed Freelance team.

In the words of the late, great Lynette Webbe, whose passion for social engagement and Newport's people still inspires us today, 

‘You’re all bloody fantastic’ 

You can find out more as it develops here

www.theplacenewport.com find us @theplacenewport

Find out more about what's on at our venues and events at www.tinshedtheatrecompany.com

And on socials @tinshedtheatreco