Conscious Oil - an evening of music, theatre, art and stories

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Crude oil hasn't always been a valuable commodity or "black gold" driving the world's markets.

For thousands of years in the Middle East it was used as a cure for common skin complaints. This and other curious facts about oil and its relationship with humans and the world throughout history are to be explored in an evening of culture and performance at the Pontardawe Arts Centre.

The intriguing event has been set up in response to an exhibition by printmaker Emily Johns, which explores how humans have used the vital resource of oil to effectively destroy the planet.

Her five huge hand-cut lino prints will act as a springboard for local cultural groups to express themselves through various mediums.

Hand cut lino prints by Emily Johns. All images courtesy of the artist

The centre's own Script Cafe has tasked local scriptwriters with penning their own pieces of short theatre which will be performed at the centre on 15 November.

There will also be a 10-minute performance from youth theatre group Mess up the Mess, singing from the Murton Community Choir from Swansea and storytelling centred on the accounts of local miners and with contributions from the professional storyteller Esyllt Harker.

Emily Hinshelwood, from the community energy charity Awel Aman Tawe, based in Cwmllynfell, which is organising the event, says the idea is to launch the exhibition while provoking thought and debate.

"The prints by Emily Johns are very evocative and really centre the mind on how we use oil," she says.

"The six short scripts chosen from the Script Cafe's work will be performed by professional actors and have been directed by Derek Cobley and are all a response to the pictures. But we thought it would be good to get as much of the local community involved as possible, and the storytelling session will convey some of the miners' accounts, either in their own words or with the help of Esyllt Harker."

The charity has been involved in various arts events linked to the theme of climate change and this evening has funding from Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Wales and Literature Wales.

Swansea scriptwriter Brian Cainen is one of the contributors and has written a sketch which sees two polar bears fighting over the last piece of ice in the Arctic.

He says: "Drama explores big issues by bringing them down to a human story - or in my case a polar bear story."

Jan Daniel, chair of the centre's Script Cafe, adds: "We are oil addicts. But we all have to adapt to survive."

Conscious Oil, an evening of music, theatre, art and stories, takes place at the Pontardawe Arts Centre on Tuesday 15 November from 7pm-9.30pm and will accompany the launch of the exhibition.

On Saturday 12 November Derek Cobley is hosting a day-long event to construct responses to the exhibition and the artist Emily Johns will be at the centre on 9 November. For more information on Emily Johns visit

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