Pammy's Chapel Quest and the Return of the Prodigal Son.It takes a particular type of person to be able to teach and when it comes to teaching students of all age groups and differing abilities, well that take real patience and skill. I would like to introduce to you an amazing awe inspiring artist, mother and special needs tutor, Pamela Junes, Pammy to anyone who knows her and since she will consider you her friend for reading this, then Pammy it is.
|Pammy loves to make new friend and reunite with old acquaintances|
Pammy is not one to brag in fact she describes her life as quite ordinary, fortunately I know better than to take Pammy's frankly, down to earth approach to life as gospel and I was determined to find out more, not only that, I wanted to share Pammy's story with the world because let's be honest here. When it comes to finding selfless pillars of the community, they are in rather short supply and I hope you will agree with me when I say Pammy certainly is the cream of the crop.
As a past student of Pammy's I have witnessed her transform a room of well frankly a mixed bunch of students from young children to ageing pensioners from a chatty rabble to a dedicated group of artists in a matter of seconds, not because she rules like the Iron lady herself but because in her shy, appealing way Pammy takes control of her classes, as soon as she begins to instruct. In fact so taken with Pammy's style of tutoring that a devoted silence fills the large converted chapel space almost as if we are at prayer.
Pammy's Gallery and Art studio, is in fact a wonder to behold in it self and on first sight walking in through the large old wooden double doors you cannot help to be in awe of such magnificence, not least because of the high draped ceilings and feeling of serenity that this space offers but also because of the array of artwork, painted directly on the the walls, hung on canvas or displayed around the room. Such a collection that has taken a lifetime of dedication to create and solely for the purpose of sharing her talents with others, helping them find the peace, she has become so at home with.
More than that, this is Pammy's life, devoted and dedicated to her passion, Pammy simply loves to teach and if you are ever lucky enough to attend of of her many classes at Chapel Arts and Crafts, Berriew then you will know why. Expressive and emotional in her teaching Pammy is an instant hit with everyone. No wonder she is in demand, teaching special needs twice weekly and visiting local day centre's for the elderly in near by Welshpool and Newtown and that's not counting the extra classes and demonstrations she holds for the community here at the chapel.
I asked Pammy of her plans and what she was hoping to achieve for the future and I wanted to find out if I could help in any way. Pammy explained that in many way's the chapel provides everything she needs and that is when she begin to well up and tears began to show, as I began to fell uneasy and wondered what had upset her so, I sheepishly enquired as to what was bothering her so, and her response moved me to tears.
Pammy told me she found this place by sheer chance and good fortune, after a difficult troubled marriage, she needed an escape route to find away out of the abuse from a aggressive realtionship. "Don't worry she said this was over 15 years ago and long in the past" My mother and I found this place she added and scraped the money together to pay for the fuel to drive up here. On finding the place we were taken back by the scale and size of the chapel itself and even before we saw the adjoining living space I was sold" It has been a struggle she said and it's not over yet my family want me to leave well my youngest son and daughter want an easier live for me, but she sobbed I am not ready to leave just yet! In fact I have told my eldest that I want to be carried out of here in a box she giggled at this bold yet cutting statement.
I wanted to know more and so as Pammy made us a cup of welsh tea, I settled in the comfy armchair I had been offered and listened to the rest of this gripping tale. As it began to unwind I could not help but notice Pammy vulnerability, miles from anywhere living in a frankly less than perfect living space with next to no heating and basic amenities. She explained that some modernisation had been done to keep out the howling winds that whip around the external corners of the chapel, perched high on a mountain ridge, overlooking the severn valley and beyond to shropshire.
Alone and fighting to stay here, it really is not surprising that Pammy struggles to get the visitors she and the chapel so desperately need. Even though the location is picturesque and the setting serene, finding the chapel can be difficult, as it well off the beaten track. I try to reassure Pammy at this point and tell her that everything that has been done to date is a credit to her and her family and she must not give up hope just yet.
This appeared to lift Pammy's mood and she refocused on telling her story, but before she did she suggested we take her dog and life companion "Pippy" for a short walk so I can really appreciate the view and get a look at the chapel in all it's glory. I did not really understand what Pammy meant by that but simply agreed to accompany her down the lane as she put it.
Steeping outside the chapel and into the warm spring breeze, Pammy mentioned that the light her was so intense and for an artist that's a must, it really helps you focus on your work a type of clarity, she explained. I could see what she was referring to as there are no buildings or city smog to obstruct the view in fact it's almost as if your halfway to heaven I said at this Pammy exclaimed "Do you know I think I am, and my simple request is to share my piece of heaven with the world" taking a deep breath and a sigh almost simultaneously we set off.
As we walked Pammy explained that she cared for her mother her, as her mother gradually slipped away refusing treatment for the cancer that had taken over her body. She explained that her mother was a strong, independent women with a career in nursing and she had simply come to terms with the fact it was her time to die. Pammy had to come to terms with this alone, and whilst her mother had regular care visitors and family Pammy never really dealt with the loss of her mother until she felt her presence one day in the chapel. Pammy said "I always believed that the chapel was a special place and for the first few years I would tell my eldest son Stephen that my father, his grandfather had come here to watch over me" "Now" she said "My mother is doing the same, I have never felt them her together but some how I know they are at peace" This single explanation made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle and as I rubbed the goosebumps from my arm Pammy asked if I was feeling cold "No" I replied I am fine and we continued to talk the short walk allowing Pippy to do her duty and as we turned on our heels I got to see exactly what Pammy had mentioned earlier. The Chapel in it's full glory! This really is a sight to behold the spanse of sky that sit above the chapel, the wondrous highway to the heavens that Pammy had referred to, the glorious setting in which the chapel was built some 200 years ago is enough to make anyone weep.
Right then and there I was determined to do all I could to help Pammy in her quest! Pammy does not ask for much in life and lives very simply. Everything she has, she explained has come from goodwill, hand me downs from friends and family, support from the neighbours comes in all forms from items of furniture to company and the occasional home cooked meal. Her closest neighbour also has the foresight to provide Pammy with logs for her one log burning stove that heats the tiny chapel living space. This is contentment indeed and Pammy does not want this to change. Telling me about the winter just past, she is happy to of come through it relatively unscathed, if not a little brow beaten but not from the weather but from the concern of her family who want in their wisdom to make things easier for her.
However there is good news on the horizon, she explains as my eldest is returning from his life abroad, at least for the summer and perhaps if fate allows even longer? She smiles a warm glow that only comes from a mother's love for her first born and as she talks about her son's own journey over the last four years, I can see that the return of the prodical son is very important to her.
"Moving on" Pammy said "My son has suggested we attempt to raise some support for the chapel and to raise the profile for community art projects in the area". A valiant attempt I thought at helping out his mother but how were you both planning to do this I enquired. "Oh" she said "You don't know my son" "If you knew my son you would not asking me that question" and laughed out loud a warm reassuring laugh that could not help but make me smile.
|Pammy and Stephen re-united|
This intrigued me further as I began to realise that this interview was becoming much more than just an elderly women fighting to keep her community Chapel alive this was indeed a story of courage and bravery against all odds in the less than prosperous cottage industry that was Pammy's life and only source of income.
So I enquired as to Pammy's quest, what was this big idea that her son was drumming up to call to action people in the community to help support such a worthy cause and how could I help. Pammy explained that her son was due home in a few weeks and that he had been in Europe, Poland In fact far from the madding crowds as isolated as anyone could be and here he found himself, a little like me finding this place she said, just he had to go a lot further to do it and I don't like to fly she exclaimed.
The thought of her son re-uniting with his mother after some form of mission in Poland, gave me a warm earthy feeling inside and that's when Pammy said that her son had said he feels re-born well at this point I was itching to start writing I knew this was exactly how we were going to put this place on the map and I could hardly contain my excitement. Pammy was quite right the vibe and aura from the chapel is intoxicating and I was beginning to feel the love she had for the place wash over my body and deep in to my soul. I knew I was not ever going to be able to forget this place and my idea for an article that escalated into a life changing experience.
|Chapel Crafts now home to Pammy's studio and art gallery|
As I put my tea cup and saucer on the side table, gathered my things together and made my way to leave Pammy asked me to speak to her son, to ask him about the plans for the summer and how we were going to engage the community in Pammy's quest to heat the chapel, so that local artists, day centre residents, children and special needs can have access and comfort in the chapel during their therapeutic visit.
I agreed and took his contact details, keen to speak with Stephen and offer my support in what little way I could. Leaving I felt an overwhelming sense of warmth, pride and togetherness that I have never experienced before, I knew that I had to start writing immediately and as I walked to the car I removed my recorder that had saved our conversation and began adding my own feelings to this recording that was going to play an important role in helping Pammy and her prodigal son in their Quest to save the community chapel from closure.
Chapel Crafts and Art Studio invite you to visit us! We are nestled in the rolling hills of Montgomeryshire, high above the idyllic black and white cottages of Berriew is Chapel Crafts. Taking a short trip from the village of Berriew, up the winding lanes, into rolling hills and you will find Cefn-Y-Faenor Community Chapel standing solid and proud as it has done since it was constructed in 1826.
Chapel Crafts Community Art projects believes that creativity enriches the mind, body and soul and as such, our team of volunteers invites you to share in the talents of others. We encourage you and your family to take part in our free workshops and demonstrations in the serene and tranquil setting that the Chapel and its hilltop garden provides.
Open 10-4pm and 7-9pm Daily (please call to confirm in advance)
Other times and group (visits by appointment only)
Free Entry and refreshments (Donations welcome)
For our latest Free Workshops, demonstrations and classes visit our Blog (http://chapelcrafts.co.uk)
Map and Directions: (http://goo.gl/maps/0vZzs)
Chapel Crafts, Cefn-Y-Faenor, Berriew, SY218PP.
Tel: 01686 640722
Looking for near by B&B? We highly recommend a traditional Welsh Farmhouse experience
Prefer to stay in Berriew try the Talbot Hotel for an authentic Welsh Inn welcome and great menu
The Talbot Hotel is situated just back from the Berriew Bridge, adjacent to the River Rhiw. It is reportedly one of the oldest buildings in the village. http://talbot-hotel.com/