Pensioner's life story inspires songwriter to pen children's rhymes

South Wales Guardian: Schoolchildren are pictured with Cheryl Beer, Louie Davies and Jodie Boyd, Occupational Therapist at Gwalia. Schoolchildren are pictured with Cheryl Beer, Louie Davies and Jodie Boyd, Occupational Therapist at Gwalia.

A PENSIONER living in a Gwendraeth Valley nursing home has inspired a local singer songwriter to write a collection of songs based on her early life in agricultural west Wales.

Performing artist Cheryl Beer, wrote the album, entitled ‘Postcards from Louie’ after meeting 92 year-old Louie Davies while delivering an arts project designed to celebrate life stories at Gwalia Mynydd Mawr, a nursing care home in Tumble.

Cheryl recalls how the idea for the album came from something Louie said, “I was working with Arts Care Gofal Celf at one of Gwalia’s care homes to deliver group music and story therapy sessions.

“At these sessions I really looked forward to talking with Louie, she talked passionately about parts of her childhood and younger adult life as if it were only yesterday.

“After one of my last sessions with the group Louie said to me ‘I wish you would save my story and do something with it’. As a storyteller and musician, I think being asked to be the curator of someone’s story is a great privilege, so, as her childhood and younger life were central to her most vivid memories I decided to compose songs based on nursery folk rhymes and children’s songs.”

Cheryl’s songs have been inspired by all aspects of Louie’s life including cockle picking at Llansteffan, the excitement of going to Lammas Fair and travelling to Carmarthen on a horse and trap.

Louie lived in Llansteffan before she moved into Gwalia Mynydd Mawr, and as the songs have been written in the form of rhymes, Cheryl performed the songs to children from local primary schools at locations mentioned in the tracks.

Following the song trail, Cheryl took the children to visit Louie at Gwalia Mynydd Mawr and sing the songs at an afternoon tea, where Louie and her friends made cakes using recipes from Louie’s original recipe book.

Jodie Boyd, Occupational Therapist at Gwalia, said “Postcards from Louie is one of the many fantastic outcomes of the arts project that was taking place at Gwalia Mynydd Mawr.

In taking on the project Cheryl has given her own time and called in favours from other artists, Gwalia Mynydd Mawr has also been successful in applying for funding from Gwalia’s Community Chest grant to produce a CD and booklet of the album. They will be distributed across local schools, libraries and to other older adult services with the aim of inspiring more people to capture extracts of local history and personal stories.

Cheryl said “Louie has been such an inspiration - it was as if she was sending me postcards from her memory of all her happiest times. I hope that when she hears the songs they make her smile and most importantly, her story is saved for future generations to enjoy.”

Louie’s daughter-in-law, Jill, has now offered to volunteer at Gwalia Mynydd Mawr to encourage other people living there to exhibit items important to them, creating a fitting legacy for Postcards from Louie.

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