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Therapeutic artist, therapist and educator, Cara Louise Jones, from Llansanffraid, Conwy, captured a series of reflective films as part of her MA in Creative Practices in Education showing the impact of litter on the countryside.

One film, where Cara compared the rubbish left behind at Snowdonia beauty spot Llyn Padarn in Llanberis, Gwynedd, during the heatwave last year with the ‘aftermath of Glastonbury’ went viral and captured the attention of media across the country.

Cara also ran a social and environmental arts exhibition called Bin it Bugs which featured a series of lino-print postcards using handmade paper pulp which were once fast food paper bags collected around Snowdonia. The postcards highlighted the impact humans were having on Llyn Padarn and were used to promote a free film which showed facemasks, cans, socks and packets underwater floating around small fish with the sounds of people having fun above.

Cara said: “Speaking from personal experience, when you love the environment that you grew up in, you will care for it in the future. For me and my children, there was a noticeable difference to our local environment during the lockdowns. Litter that spoiled our landscape was minimal during lockdown 2020, until the day fast-food restaurants re-opened and suddenly 'car' litter was appearing everywhere again. Wales had another long ‘wintering’ lockdown in 2021 and it seemed like a good opportunity to monitor the re-opening of Welsh borders and lifting of our own local five-mile radius laws.

“After a long day swimming at Llyn Padarn, at the base of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) with friends and family, I decided to check a popular area of the lake and photograph items left for my research project. It was absolutely ruined by post-restriction fun, and I shared the mess on social media, labelling it ‘Glastonberis’ and appealing to people's better natures to take better care of these beautiful places, as well as taking responsibility for their own waste instead of leaving it for others to manage and dispose. 

“It went viral and I had local press interviewing me, and appeared on three BBC Radio Wales programmes on the approach to COP26, as well as featured on a BBC Radio documentary exploring recycling, called Beyond Recycling, where I shared my research, top tips and the theories. A few months passed and I was contacted by the BBC's Countryfile producer, and they asked for permissions to use my work in their upcoming episode exploring plastics around Eyri (Snowdonia).”

The final film made for her studies, titled Picking up the Pieces, reflected on how Cara felt after taking part in organised litter picks, juxtaposed against the repetitive nature of motherhood and constantly picking up the pieces.

She said: “The film paid homage to the those in mothering roles, and female nature writers that paved the way such as Dorothy Wordsworth, along with my Great Aunt’s travel journal which was lost to water damage recently. I feel that was poetic, considering my research was fundamentally protecting our Welsh water. 

“Littering behaviour is a complex cultural, social and environmental issue which needs to be considered in its locality due to the behaviours of people, and how they learn and interact with their own environments, and I feel I represented that in the layered aesthetic of the final film, and demonstrated my narrative of experience.”

Cara said that she “loved University and it’s sense of place and belonging” and is looking to continue her studies with a PhD. She added that she has recently had ecofeminist poetry published in an anthology of Welsh female poets, Gwyl Y Ferch and as well as an eco-centric visual arts installation at an upcoming exhibition with Plas Bodfa Creatives on Anglesey this spring. She is compiling children's books from her research and aims to find a publisher to teach young people that caring for the environment can be fun as well as beneficial. She is also arranging dates for performances using storytelling and poetry, which will be shared on her website newsletter poetrywales.org

Dr Si Poole, Programme Leader for the MA Creative Practices in Education, said: “The best thing about the Master’s in Creative Practice in Education is how so many of the students go on to achieve amazing things. Whether that’s starting impactful new businesses, carrying on with doctoral studies or meaningful changes within and for communities. Cara’s work is fantastic and the coverage it’s had is a testament to this!”

To watch the Countryfile special on Snowdonia visit here.

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Creative Practices in Education COVID-19