Hundreds of children across the country will get the opportunity to learn more about Betty Campbell – Wales’ first black headteacher and a champion of multiculturalism – thanks to a new play that starts touring this week..
The one-woman show, called Betty Campbell – A Journey through Butetown, will take children on a historical journey through Butetown, Cardiff, from the building of the docklands through two world wars and on to modern-day Cardiff Bay – all told through Betty’s eyes.
The Welsh-medium play was at Ysgol Hamadryad primary school in Cardiff Bay, before touring other schools across Wales. Plans are also underway for an English-language production.
Written by Nia Morais, a young writer from Cardiff, the play is being staged by children’s theatre company Mewn Cymeriad/In Character. The play was inspired by the Monumental Welsh Women campaign which culminated in the unveiling of a statue of Betty Campbell in Cardiff Central Square last summer.
Born in 1934 in Butetown, Betty was a bright, studious child, but was told by one of her teachers that as a black working-class woman, she could never achieve the academic heights she aspired to. Betty proved her teacher wrong, becoming Wales’ first ever black head-teacher. Betty’s work on equality has also been recognised around the world.
Mewn Cymeriad/In Character worked closely with Betty Campbell’s family, who have supported the project from the outset. The play and its production has been developed in partnership with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and with support from BACA – Butetown Arts and Culture Association.
Betty Campbell’s daughter, Elaine Clarke, says: “Mum was a passionate teacher, committed to enriching the lives of her pupils. She was also an innovator, teaching her pupils about slavery and black history, later working for the Commission for Racial Equality and helping create Black History Month. We’ve been delighted to work with In Character on this play, which continues my mum’s legacy. We hope children across Wales will be inspired by Betty’s story to achieve their own goals and dreams.”
Betty Campbell is played by actress Kimberley Abodunrin, originally from Pembrokeshire, and now living in Birmingham after moving to the city to study drama. The play is directed by Swansea actor and Director Carli De’La Hughes.
Kimberley Abodunrin says: “I’m excited and proud to play such an inspirational woman as Betty Campbell, and to be able to share the rich history of Butetown with children across Wales. “
Arwel Gruffydd from Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru says: “It is important to share the story of Betty Campbell’s life with schoolchildren across Wales. Her story has already inspired so many people, and will continue to do so, and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is delighted to support this very special production. The company is particularly pleased to be able to support the professional development of the two lead artists involved in the project, playwright Nia Morais and director Carli De’La Hughes. It has been a pleasure to work with both. We wish the actor Kimberley Abodunrin well and the production every success as it visits schools all over Wales.”
Producer Ffion Glyn, who works for Mewn Cymeriad/In Character, adds: “Working on a project about such an inspirational Welsh woman has been a joy. Betty Campbell was passionate about the teaching of black history in schools, and our aim, in this play, will be to honour her legacy, by giving children across Wales the opportunity to learn about Betty and her beloved Butetown. With the learning of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories now central to the new Welsh curriculum, we hope that schools from all over Wales will take up this opportunity”.