Crymych, Pembrokeshire

Crymych, Pembrokeshire

I was born in Haverfordwest, Wales. My mum is from London and she learnt to speak Welsh from a book in the 90s not long before she met my Dad who was born in Pembrokeshire.

Welsh is my mother tongue, I think in Welsh and English and I dream in both. I love Welsh poetry, there’s a certain kind called cynghanedd which when used sounds so fluid, melodic and beautiful compared to the English language.  I love Welsh poets like Waldo Williams, one of my favourite quotes is from Waldo William’s poem ‘Preseli’  “Mi welais drefn yn fy mhalas draw”, which means ‘I saw order in a faraway palace’. He’s referring to being away from Wales and that longing to be in the Welsh hills, the Presell’s where he saw order and beauty, familiarity and most importantly home.



“I was born in Abergavenny, mid Wales and when I was 3 my dad passed away and we moved to Cardiff, me my mum and 2 older sisters. My parents moved to the UK from Erbil, Kurdistan in 1998, my dad was a Doctor and my mum worked in Civil Engineering but when we got here she started working as a translator, she speaks Kurdish, Arabic and English.

School is very very important to me, I take my academics very seriously, culturally education is all important. I love learning, I want to go to Oxbridge when I grow up. I see education as one of the most important things in my life: it helps you get to wherever you want to be.

I deleted all my social media apps at the start of my GCSE’s, Instagram, youtube everything.  I used to vlog and do you tube, I would vlog about my visits to Erbil, and all sorts. Through my youtube channel, people got to see a different part of me and see my life through a camera. I used to to do blogs at school where I would vlog my day at school and people could see what I do at school.  I used to be addicted to my phone, its so unhealthy.  I know a lot of people say social media makes you feel bad but it really does, it drains your energy. I still blog tho and write regularly, I guess that is like a diary.

I’m doing my GCSE’s, I love the humanities history, RE, English and Welsh.  My school here in Cardiff is unique, its very diverse, 85 percent of students are from ethnic minorities, white British people are the minority in my school. Students come from all over, a lot of parents work at the university but a lot are refugees and in foster care. During my school hours, as well as being Deputy Head Girl ,I worked on a app called Vocaleyes which is a social democracy app made for young people to express their opinions anonymously on how to improve the school.

In my spare time I like to improve my Welsh and read, I love reading and spending time with my family is really important to me.

It’s through my mum’s work that I’ve become interested in other peoples lives.  She helps to welcome new arrivals to the country, theres a lot of women and children on their own.  When I was 11 or 12 I went with mum to the Eid celebrations, we took food, and my heart broke, it was so sad to see people having to flee to this country and having to start all over again.  I’m Kurdish first, my blood is 100 percent Kurdish but I’m also Welsh. Cardiff is very diverse, there’s a lot of people from my community here.

There was a period of time when lots of refugees were coming to Wales and it was always on the news. I’m not a refugee but my parents had to leave their country and start again so I started to understand what was going on, I was watching the news and becoming more aware and then going to school with all these different people made me realise how different life is for them, just getting housing and jobs, learning the language and integrating.


Maenclochog, Pembrokeshire

“I’m a farmers daughter, I’ve lived here my whole life, my dad works on the farm and my mam works in the hospital and I live between the two of them. They split up when I was younger but life is good now.

I’ve always spoken Welsh, my mam is Scottish so I don’t speak it with her but with a lot of my family I will use my Welsh.  It depends who I’m talking to as to whether I speak Welsh or English, I go to school in Crymych and it’s the only Welsh secondary school in the county so I speak Welsh with a lot of my friends.

It’s shocking how many people don’t speak Welsh and I feel like being able to speak Welsh makes us unique. In Wales it gives us more opportunities with jobs etc. I love using the Welsh language to put emphasis on things or if I can’t think of the English word quickly enough.

My favourite Welsh quote comes from the poem ‘Etifeddiaeth’ meaning ‘Heritage’ written by Gerallt Lloyd Owen: ‘Gwerth cynnydd yw gwarth cenedl’ which is translated to ‘The dishonour of a nation is at fierce value’ The message of this quote is to emphasize our senseless attributes and perceptions towards our language and the land we have been given”.

Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent 

“I’m not your average 16 year old, I’m different and have always felt older than my age. I was bullied when I was younger because I wasn’t like everyone else. 

I was asked to get involved in the Youth Parliament and thought I’d give it a go, I put my name down to go too an event in Cardiff and was surprised by what I found, I felt I had things in common with people for the first time. You’d think the YP would be just super intelligent type kids but it was people from all different backgrounds. I found the people really interesting, people from all across Wales and I loved being united by the same issues. 

The common issues for young people are that we’re not heard enough.  Big things at the minute are lack of transport for young people, but thats just one there’s a big range of issues, there’s just not enough for young people to do. 

For me in particular I’m worried about the way that arts and music is being cut in schools.  I love drama and performing, I’m in 3 different theatre groups and spend all my free time when I’m not campaigning, rehearsing and performing. I’m currently playing one of the lead roles in Legally Blonde in our local Theatre.  

Other big issues for young people are Votes at 16 – I’ve been campaigning on that for 2 and a half years.  There’s never been a more prominent moment than now to make it happen. What with Brexit, and especially if there’s a peoples vote which is being talked about in the news at the moment. Its a fundamental point that young people will be affected by policy, just as much as anyone else, and with BRexit for even longer. 

We’ve got a lot of rights at 16 such as giving consent, getting married, joining the army, so why can’t we vote.  

The best analogy is that you can enter into a relationship with your MP, live with them, marry them and start a family with them but you can’t vote for them. 

In terms of my local area, Blaenau Gwent is one of the most socially deprived areas in Wales, so do you allow deprivation to be destiny? For me a big thing locally is bringing opportunities for young people. No matter who you are or where you are, for example Google was created in a garage.  Success is not a big annual salary its being proud and accomplishing something, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as low skilled jobs, all jobs require skills and I don’t know why we have this view. 

My hopes are that I can get through my A-levels and get to Uni. I’d like to train professionally in the performing Arts and do that for a few years and then return to my home area and work in politics. 

My fears are getting through college and getting those qualifications. If I’m honest life is getting harder. It’s hard to be fearful over our long term futures when there’s so much uncertainty, I mean who knows what the future holds. 

I’m fearful about the outcome of Brexit.  The most frightening thing is uncertainty. 

The most exciting thing right now is the prospect of getting out there in the world, going away to Uni, I mean I love living here but I’m looking forward to having new experiences and seeing different things. 

Globally whats exciting is technology, I mean we are excelling quicker than ever before in history, in your day to day lives, with space and travel and AI. And yet at the same time that is scary, we don’t always realise the impact of our actions. 

I think we need to start trying to excel as a human race, not just as individuals and not just for UK and USA, we owe developing countries a duty, as well as the environment and our oceans. We are developing but not necessarily being responsible, we are creating new things but the waste is killing us”. 

Abbie Trayler-Smith

While studying law in London Abbie discovered a passion for photography. After graduating she worked as a staff photographer for The Daily Telegraph, spending eight years covering news and features worldwide, including the war in Iraq, the Darfur crisis and the Asian tsunami. As a freelancer she remains determined to focus on social issues, travelling widely to undertake national and international assignments for charities and magazines.

Her longer term project The Big O is a sensitive and highly praised exploration of childhood obesity. Recently she worked with Oxfam documenting the experiences of women living under Isis rule. In harrowing situations Abbie eschews the shocking, instead connecting with the people she meets to make penetrating and dignified portraits. She co-founded the Welsh Photography Collective: A Fine Beginning, which showcases photography made in Wales.

Abbie relished returning to Wales for SIXTEEN. She has created a celebratory series of portraits of Welsh sixteen year olds who engage with local and national issues.