Investing in Maindee Library’s Shelving

18/05/2018 | Arts, Development & Building, Learning, Library

We are about to make a series of investments in the fixtures and fittings in the main reading room at Maindee Library. As a place which holds a collection of books we are pleased that the first things to happen is an improvement to the shelves!

As with the spirit of the work done to the building so far, we are looking to create some new and functional from what is there already: we are going to ‘hack’ the current system with an elegant design - see image above - inspired by a group of Cardiff University Architecture Students. This blog explains the process of working with the student group and what happens next.

First Meeting of Maindee Makerspace

13/02/2018 | Arts, Learning, Opinions

David Henshall hosted the first meeting of the Maindee Makerspace on Monday 12th February. This short blog tells a little about the 5 presentations to the group, including the news from Jason Reilly that 3D printing is actually pretty affordable and the message from Marion Webber that people can get into making from very different angles.

Maindee Makerspace Feb 2018

The blog finishes by explaining what the organisers hope will happen next, including a meeting on Monday 12th March and some ideas for a focus for making things!

Finding Blaenavon & learning about Enterprise Facilitation

30/11/2017 | Finding Maindee, Development & Building, Learning

For the last couple of years we have been trying to find Maindee. To be honest this is hard as the people living in this place keep on changing and there are other names which confuse the geography... like Corporation Road, Victoria and even Beechwood. Last week we went to the end of X24 bus route from Newport - to the town at the top of the valley called Blaenavon.

Jayne and John in Blaenavon

This article mostly centres on what we learned from Jayne Skyrme [pictured above left], who lives and works in Blaenavon. What we found were some lessons about facilitating enterprise and understanding what it means when a place has a strong sense of its own identity.

Responding to Toilet Debate: 3 Questions for Localities

10/11/2017 | Finding Maindee, Development & Building, Community, Learning

On Tuesday 7th November 2017 we hosted a memorable and successful seminar which started with presentations on the specifics of public toilets, but broadened out [as we had hoped] towards wider discussions about public space and social justice. To pick one message from the day is quite easy: Clara Greed said that: “We have to talk toilets because if we’re too embarrassed to talk about them then we won’t get policy right.”

Attendees at seminar

This blog article gives us a resume of the day and sets out what a small charity like Maindee Unlimited, based in a very specific locality, may be able to do to protect and provide public toilets in a place like ours. As such we will explore the following questions:  (1) how can communities organise around issues of provision e.g. for consultations like the one which we learned will happen in Wales in 2018; (2) can toilets become/make desirable urban destinations and (3) Are Local authorities still the best-placed provider for toilets?


Learning from Soup Making Event

30/10/2017 | Development & Building, Community, Learning

We are making a lot of progress with our food and drink serving counter since architect George Lovesmith [pictured below left] connected us with a group of architecture students at UWE in Bristol. We wanted something that could be moved around the building and even taken outside for events and last week we tried their life size mock-up at the Library Soup event [Weds 25th October].

Student architecture group

The group of four [pictured left to right – Sammy, Matt, Verity and Brad] have been given a budget to make a product and will be presenting their work to us on November 16th. This blog article adds more to the intitial research [17th October] and shares some of the feedback from the library soup event...


Student Group helps us Test, Cook & Serve

17/10/2017 | Development & Building, Learning, Library

We are very pleased that four architecture students from UWE in Bristol are getting involved with our project. The group of four postgraduate students - Sammy, Verity, Matt and Brad - will help us design a food and drink serving counter for the library.

Test Cook Serve Team

We want something that could be moved around the building and even taken outside. They have until November 16th to develop and produce their ideas and you will first have the chance to meet them at Library soup event from 4pm on Wednesday 25th October. This blog article gives some background on what they are doing and why it is valuable to our work and also for their learning.


Practicalities of the Maindee Library Refresh

06/10/2017 | Development & Building, Community, Learning

Writing this article in early October 2017 we are getting close to making the first changes to the Maindee Library building. Everybody asks why things seem to take such a long time to happen? The honest answer is that as we explore this building we sense that it has its own personality and that there are many complex relationships between all the different processes [not least human behaviours] needed to make the refresh happen.

Consider the knock on effects

This piece of writing explores how changing one part of the building will have knock-on effects in other parts [see real image above taken of the library boiler room]. We also deliberate embracing renewable heating systems… the upfront capital price versus the lifetime running costs. In many respects we hope that other small charities will be able to read this account and benefit from our little adventure...

Evaluation of Finding Maindee

04/09/2017 | Finding Maindee, Development & Building, Learning, Library

On Monday 4th we welcomed Endaf Griffiths from Wavehill Consulting to the library for discussion about evaluation; how we are gathering data and how we learn. We had a diverse range of views and perspectives at the meeting, including from PhD researcher Eugene Dubens, Maindee Unlimited trustee Angela Lloyd, artist Stephanie Roberts and somebody quite new to the library Kay Flatten.

Stephanie Roberts and Kay Flatten

This blog article explains the conversation we had and gives an approach to project evaluation. We provide some detail about how we are gathering data and reflecting on practice as we: (1) develop capital projects such as work to Maindee Library; (2) work individuals and organisations as part of our monthly gatherings and running projects such as through New Paths; and (3) how we are learning by doing.

Maindee Unlimited developing as a charity

03/09/2017 | Development & Building, Community, Learning

On Tuesday 29 August 2017 John Hallam [pictured below] delivered a training session called ‘Being a Trustee’ to some of Mainee Unlimited’s board of trustees; and also to some people interested in joining the board. This short blog article shares some of the discussion from the session, alongside some video links and an invitation to our annual general meeting [AGM] at 6pm on Monday 18th.

Being a trustee

First Phase of Library Makeover

23/08/2017 | Development & Building, Learning, Library

Thanks for spending time giving us your thoughts and ideas this summer. Maggie and Kim have gathered your questionnaires about the library over July and August and group of library volunteers also had the chance to be architects. Our paid architects have used all these ideas to propose a first phase of works.

We have now defined the first phase of the work to the library: this will concentrate on what we call the small spaces to renovate the toilets, backroom spaces and the meeting room that we hire out. We will also find a more efficient way to heat and cool the building. It will take some time this autumn to get the necessary approval from building control and to find the right contractors. We will get the work done this winter.

Library spaces

This blog article gives background on how we have made these decisions to form this first phase. We explain here how we will develop incrementally, as per the Ideas: People: Places thinking of our principal funders the Arts Council of Wales, to test our ideas as we going along and make changes to the building bit by bit. After the small spaces the other stages of the project will include the main library space, what we call the building envelope [windows and external doors], works to the space in front of the building and a dedicated space for children.

New Paths Gathering - July 2017 retrospective

09/08/2017 | Finding Maindee, New Paths, Arts, Learning

We try to write up a record of every New Paths before the next one takes place. On this occassion we are only just going to get one in before the session tomorrow on August 10th at 6pm with Stephanie Roberts and KHBT.

Last month we had an update from George Lovesmith on the library project which then linked us into three presentations from art spaces in south Wales. First of all we heard from Dan at the Elysium Gallery in Swansea, followed by Dai from Made in Roath in Cardiff and then Zosia and Dafydd from the Kickplate Project which is currently working in Pontypool.

Kickplate Project at New Paths

We moved on from these presentations to hear a little about plans for the the 2017 Newport Photo Marathon with Fez Miah and the finishing with Karsten and Bernd giving their perspective on the Maindee Triangle. There is a longer write up about KHBT on our blog; they will be joining Stephanie Roberts on the agenda to host a workshop at the New Paths session on Thursday 10th August.

Becoming an Architect!

02/08/2017 | Development & Building, Learning, Library

On the evening of Tuesday 1st August a group of 12 people involved in Maindee Library were given the chance to be architects. We put on hard hats and made some real progress to understand budgeting, particularly the overheads, but we did get to feel how we can all be deal brokers and decision makers. 

 You be the architect!

The session was hosted by Rosie Poebright, who created a game which put paper money in our hands, and was assisted by George Lovesmith [pictured above left] who is our real life architect. This blog article takes us through the games that we played and how it really helped to build enthusiasm and momentum for the task that we are currently on.

Drawing, Space and Articulation - Workshop with Stephanie Roberts 10th August

26/07/2017 | Finding Maindee, Arts, Learning

Maindee Library invites you to a workshop on Thursday 10th August [1pm to 4pm] hosted by talented local artist Stephanie Roberts. Stephanie introduces us to her new project Out of my Mind and she wants the community to join in.

Stephanie Roberts drawing
We were lucky enough to meet Stephanie at the library to talk about her project. This blog account, with insight and emphais added by library volunteer Victoria O'Hagan, describes what we learned.

New Paths 4th Gathering: Evaluating the Arts

18/04/2017 | Finding Maindee, Arts, Learning

This article centres on the task of evaluating and researching the work that is done through art projects such as this that we are developing through Finding Maindee. Sympathy is already felt for the role of evaluator as we write this blog and try to capture ambitious and challenging presentations; and the reactions from a group of people who attend this monthly discussion space.

Our main speaker was Eugene Dubens discussing how to evaluate the arts and culture. Eugene is pursuing a PhD about the Arts Council of Wales’ Ideas: People: Places  (IPP) programme which financially supports our Finding Maindee project as well as 6 others. We also heard from Steph Roberts with reflections on her 2016 Mosaic Maindee project and the future work of Steve Jones (AKA Stuart Farnsworth) as he starts the Nonsensus survey of 2,000 households.

By the end of this article it is possible to perhaps see that the question we are really asking is how to go about the task of Finding Maindee; that’s to say how are the artists we work using their practice as a process of gathering data about people in the place of Maindee?

Help MAP to save 'The Nylon'

26/03/2017 | New Paths, Learning, Opinions

At the last New Paths Gathering we had a talk by Robin Bobby from the MAP Project. MAP are trying to preserve part of 'The Nylon' factory for future use as a venue for science and the arts. This blog is a call to action to help their cause by making objections to new plans for the site.
British Nylon Spinners
MAP wish to utilise the former nylon factory at Mamhilad (designed for British Nylon Spinners by Sir Percy Thomas & Son 1948) to create a cultural centre for Wales. The owners of the site wish to create a village there and whilst we have no objections to the village, we do object to their plans to take down 40% of a Grade 2* listed building and to demolish the former Parke-Davis site in its entirety.
The building was designed by Ivan Dale Owen 1969, and influenced by his secondment to Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius in New York. JEUK have conducted a short two day presentation on 1st March / 2nd March 2017 and the public now have until 28th March to object. MAP feels this is a worthy cause to support and would like you to take a few minutes of your time over this weekend to take the opportunity to object.
You can view the plans here and on the site there is a platform to email objections at

Evaluating Art and Culture?

07/03/2017 | Finding Maindee, Community, Learning

For the fourth New Paths meeting at 5.30pm on Wednesday April 12th we will centre on research and evaluation for arts projects, focusing on the work that we are doing in Maindee and looking at other practice in Wales.

We will be presenting proposals to document our work in Maindee through the Space Invaders artist commission. Deadline is Friday 10 March!

Space invaders plays with how we let outsiders into our communities and the places where we live: whether they artists or researchers. In the spirit of inviting somebody new to the library here researcher Eugene Dubens introduces himself ahead of the meeting on April 12th...

Second New Paths Gathering

14/02/2017 | Finding Maindee, New Paths, Arts, Learning

Following the first gathering in January we decided to repeat the format: get a group together in the library and give a few of them the chance to go in front to present their projects and seek advice and collaboration from others in the room. This time the order on the bill was Jo Haycock, Ismael Velasco and Lloyd Gittins; and Jo even came to us with a set of prepared questions for the group!

Steve Jones with Lloyd's shoe

This is what happened at the gathering, with some links to the different projects and an invite to the third event, which will take place at 5pm on Wednesday 15th March.

Exploring activism through photography

08/02/2017 | Street Media, New Paths, Learning, Opinions


It’s difficult to deny there has been a surge of social activism recently in various forms. From protests to petitions, these pop up on a daily basis on our Facebook feeds as well as across tabloids and anywhere news and information is delivered, often being accessed by consumers simultaneously across multiple platform. Polarising opinions are plentiful in our post-Trump, Corbyn, EU referendum world. Adverts from brands such as Kenco, Starbucks, and AirBnB are layered with aspects of social activism, it can be argued that sex no longer sells but activism and social change is at the heart of many conversations. But what part does photography play in all of this? This blog post aims to share my experiences after attending a New Paths funded project called: Activism and Photography. My name is Mohamad Fez Miah I am film maker, lecturer and mentor for Street Media.

Understanding heating (and cooling) a little better

31/01/2017 | Development & Building, Learning, Library

At this time of the year [i.e. winter] we know that the library takes about 2 hours to heat up in the morning. One of our volunteers has to come in at about 8am so that the building is ready for the public for opening at 10am. We have realised that this is not a sustainable way of heating the space...

Aircon outside units

This little blog article explains something about the advice we got from Lyn Jeffries at local firm Phoenix Aircon about how we could better heat and cool the building. It was a fascinating visit and we finally got to understand what those boxes [pictured above] on the outside of buildings actually do: they both heat and cool spaces.

Read more to find out what this means for the library and many other similar community spaces...

Making the arts more inclusive - learning from Sherman 5

23/01/2017 | Finding Maindee, Arts, Learning

On Monday 23 January we met Guy O’Donnell from the Sherman 5 project at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. What we learned was how the practice of meeting people from the types of neighbourhood where people don’t normally go to the theatre can help to make arts venues – and art programmes – much more inclusive.

Guy O'Donnell

The Sherman 5 is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation as a project to diversify the Sherman’s audience. Since Guy [above] started he has linked with different Communities First projects and some of the benefits have already been felt by Maindee Library volunteers: in the summer a group used their Time Credits to see ‘Before I Leave’ at The Sherman.

This blog article considers how Sherman 5's engagement with people, and empowered a group of Sherman 5 champions, has led to some positive results for both the artistic programme at The Sherman and the way that the space is managed.

Photography and Activism

04/01/2017 | Street Media, New Paths, Arts, Learning

Happy new year to all! The 'New Paths' programme is opening the year with an interesting workshop suited to the inquisitive photographer of the family. This workshop is aimed at supporting ones own activism. Lead by Independent Journalist and Documentary Photographer Vedat Xhymshiti. Vedat has travelled the globe on assignments as well as explored his own stories. In this unique weekend workshop before he begins new work outside of Wales, he will highlight and share means of using images to develop effective campaigns that you feel passionate about. 

All images copyright to VXPictures

Art and place making in Stokes Croft, Bristol: be brave and think long term

17/12/2016 | Finding Maindee, Arts, Learning

On Friday 16th December representatives from Maindee Unlimited and some local artists took up an invitation from Ruth Essex to visit Stoke’s Croft and the Bear Pit in Bristol. What we found was a real life story of the journey taken by both the local authority and the community to shape an inner-city area of nearby Bristol. Maindee could take similar steps over the next few years: there are opportunities for art and creativity to make the most of property assets such as the library and the skills of people.

This blog article gives a taste of the visit to Bristol. We hope this gives a pointer to both the potential challenges and the rewards from taking such a brave approach.

Reflections on Blaenau Gwent Arts Gathering - the 'Social Contract.’

13/12/2016 | Finding Maindee, Arts, Learning

Finding Maindee is part of the Arts Council of Wales’ Ideas: People: Places' programme (IPP). As one of the seven IPP projects across Wales the team from Maindee get the chance to share our experience with other people from across Wales and get ideas for what we do next. This blog article explores some of things that we learned earlier this month from taking a relatively short trip the trip up the Ebbw valley from Newport.

The programme was organised by Chris Coppock and the Arts and Minds team with most of the two days of events happening at the wonderful Metropole in Abertillery. In the evening of the first day we crossed over to the Ebbw Fawr to see the Newtown Community Centre Ebbw Vale and also visited Beaufort at the head of the valley.

Review of Arts Council of Wales Conference 2016 ‘Common Goals’

28/11/2016 | Arts, Learning, Reviews

The Arts Council of Wales [ACW] held their annual conference on 17th November 2016 at the Cardiff City Stadium. This review of Common Goals comes from the perspective of Marion Webber. Marion [pictued below with artist Owen Griffiths] was one of our New Paths artists and more recently has started a new role with Community House to coordinate the 1,000 voices projects. We are very grateful that she is such a very fast transcriber or we would be able to present this perspective of the day!

 Marion with Owen Griffiths

The conference included speakers such as Ken Skates AM and workshops led by a group of practitioners from across the World.  The day was introduced by Dr Phil George, who this year became the Chair of Arts Council of Wales [ACW].  This review begins with the first speaker Ken Skates AM – the Minister at Welsh Government whose role includes responsibility for arts and culture. 

Maindee Stories Opens this Friday, 21st 5-8.30pm

18/10/2016 | Finding Maindee, New Paths, Arts, Maindee Voices, Community, Learning, Library

Come along and see the extraordinary textile work from the women from Community House's 'Coffee and Laughs' group with members of  Beechwood Stitchers led by fine artist Marion Cheung. Included in the show are books that show the design process and the ideas that went into the work. Show runs until 11th November. There is so much to see!

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