Lleuwen is a successful musician who was raised in Rhiwlas, North Wales but is now living in Brittany. Lleuwen travels the world with her music and has performed in the worlds most famous jazz clubs and festivals. She’s also a very talented actress and has performed in several theatre productions in Wales and beyond over the past few years.
I was fortunate enough to be on the same University Course as Lleuwen! We studied Theatre, Music and Media together at Trinity College Carmarthen and also studied together at Central College, Pella, Iowa in the States. I recently caught up with Lleuwen to learn about life as a mum to her 5 year old son Caradog, and 4 year old daughter Eira, and to ask how on earth she juggles her amazing international career with motherhood ?!
You travel the world as a performer and musician. Is it difficult to juggle this with your life as a mum ?
I have yet to meet a mother who doesn’t juggle! The juggling would be much easier to deal with if we were not judged for all manner of things . . .homebirths, hospital births, breastfeeding in public, not breastfeeding, working full-time, being a stay at home mum…the list is endless! It is challanging to be a musician mother but then again, I don’t seperate my work as a mother and my work as a musician. I think this helps my children to understand me as a whole and for us to feel a part of the same team. They often comment on the music and are indeed a huge part of what I am singing about these days.
I want to be honest with them about who I am. Cooking-up music as well as birthday cakes! Playing musical instruments as well as lego.
Do your children enjoy music?
They enjoy dancing with me in the kitchen. Chuck Berry videos on YOU TUBE are a huge hit with the kids!
The gigs enable them to meet people. From time to time we look at the map before bedtime and remember the places we’ve seen, the music we’ve heard and people who have been kind to us on the road.
When they were tiny I didn’t want to tour or perform . The only gigs I did were ones with uncomplicated travelling arrangements for the whole family. I was tandem – breastfeeding at one point and that was more than enough hard work! I REALISE I was very, very fortunate to have a loving husband who was working full-time at the time. Otherwise I would not have been able to do it. And I treasure that time and know I always will.
The children came with me to the States for a month last year. An incredible experience for them but pretty bonkers for me at JFK airport with kids, amps and guitars! But looking back I am so thankful they came with me. My agent babysat and taught English to the kids in the process. She made it possible for us as a family. A wonderful experience all round.
As they get older, the more settled they become at school and the happier they are with their every day structure. As long as that continues, I don’t think they will travel as much in the near future. But then again who knows. We take each day (and job) as it comes. I go with my gut on this. I have to. I know their happiness will always be my number one priority so I trust my instinct on this.
When and why did you move to Brittany?
I originally came to Brittany for a gig. Soon after I was fortunate enough to win a creative Wales award that enabled me to return to work on my album Tan (Fire), with Breton musician Vincent Guerin. I was actually booking my ferry ticket to return home to Wales when I got a phone call offering me a part in a musical theatre production in Plogoneg. I accepted, decided to dive deeper into learning Breton, fell in love with my teacher, had kids with him and then married him. BOOM! Eight years have flown by.
What kind of place is it to raise children?
We are far from the city. It’s important to me that the children can be raised close to nature and I feel fortunate to be able to give them that. It is an agricultural area and there is land all around and not many people. I need quiet and simple spaces but I must admit that I miss the lively Welsh culture very much. I try to cross that sea regularly and I am fortunate that the music enables me to do this. It keeps the hiraeth (homesickness / longing) at bay.
There are vibrant living traditions in Brittany. The fest noz in particular, is so unique. The young and old unite in dance and it’s a truly heartwarming experience. But when it comes to language culture, it is a constant struggle. Breton is classified as “severely endangered” by the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. It’s difficult to find gigs, theatre productions, art and cultural events that happen through the medium of Breton. As a language disappeares so does its culture.
At the moment, Welsh language culture is in a healthier state. The Welsh music scene is thriving at the moment. And in my lifetime there has never been a time with young Welsh language female poets gigging regularly. It’s happening now. And it thrills me. The children feel this. It gives them a sense of belonging. I try to give them the opportunity to connect with their Welsh (as well as Breton) roots.
How is the education system in Brittany?
My children go to Skol Diwan Karaez. Diwan is the network of Breton language schools in Brittany. Diwan is not a part of the French system and recieves very little support (financial or other) by the French government. There may be less financial support but Diwan is richer in freedom and open-mindedness. I have worked on various projects in many schools in Brittany, Diwan and other. The atmosphesre at the Diwan schools are less formal and strikingly more creative.
Events and festivals are created to fund teachers’ wages as well as the MAINTENANCE of the schools. It is a struggle. But that brings togetherness; a sense of community. It gives me great pleasure to know Caradog and Eira are happy at school.
Are you raising the children in Welsh or Breton ?
Welsh is one of their first languages. And if Welsh is their mother TONGUE, you could say Breton is their father TONGUE! They also speak French and correct my mistakes on a daily basis! They speak more and more English, thanks to gigs and netflix! The more the merrier! I am constantly amazed by children’s ability to learn languages. It just seems to happen. And the more they know the easier it becomes for them to pick up another! Adults seem to reflect too much and the fear of failure gets in the way. We have much to learn from our little ones.
You had an amazing relationship with your mum. Are you similar in the way you raise your children?
All my memories of my mother’s love are covered with a bright, warm glow. An unselfish and radiant being; we could always rely on her. The biggest compliment you could give me is “you are so much like your mum!” It’s true that I have her ginger hair, her freckles and her legs. But that’s just the shell isn’t it? Inside, I can only dream of being a mother as wonderful as she was.
What are the best and worst things about being a mother?
My favourite part is watching the children learn through play. IMAGINATIVE stories and games – playing shop, pirates and UFO’s! The worst part is letting go. Being without them bring on worries that spiral out of control in my mind.
What is your ambition as a mother?
To create happy, confident individuals that love themselves as well as other human beings.
What kind of things do you enjoy doing as a family?
We go for walks. And usually collect stuff . . .shells, nuts, wood, mushrooms, leaves . . . depending on the season and weather
What advice do you have for new mothers?
You don’t need advice. You know what you’ re doing. Instinct !
Catch up with Lleuwen’s latest news and tours by visiting her website
By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru.
*Copyright Mam Cymru