Igam Ogam – an exploration and experimentation around a hive community.

Written by: Patricia Mackinnon-Day

Igam Ogam, is an experimental project where I will be working with sound, film and gathering physical materials associated with bees to explore ideas. I also have the pleasure of collaborating with the well-known Welsh composer Robat Arwyn to evolve experimental soundscapes. I will also be involving another artist from Denbighshire: Angela Davies who runs Studio Made in Denbigh.

There will be a presentation of the research to date at Ruthin Craft Centre on Saturday 25 May at an informal ‘sharing’ event, which will involve local community, artists, musicians, ecologists and beekeepers. The sharing day will present the research ideas, and there will be talks and workshops (please check Ruthin Craft Centre’s website nearer the time for more details). The project is being curated by Welsh art curator Ann Jones. Seren Gwanwyn, the Ruthin Craft Centre education officer, will be maximising the potential of educational and outreach aspects of the project.

At the same time as the ‘apiary oriented’ exploration through the senses, I have started to collect the narratives of women, who have lived all their lives in the rural community near my home in Denbighshire. I am keen to explore how both humans and bees interact with their immediate environment and how it can impact what they produce and make of their lives. I have collected three stories so far from three amazing women in their 70s who reflect on their mothers’ lives, and their own childhoods, growing up experiencing the changes and challenges within a rural community.

I am fascinated by the correlation between female-run hive communities and challenges often faced by different generations of rural women.

“worker bees reflect human society in that its women that are often the ones trusted to find and share food, and to take care of the community as a whole. This is seen as important work within the hive.” Khanyi Mlaba Global Citizen Life (2023)

“From ancient times it was common place that bees were wise, ingenious, social, architectural, pious and above all industrial beings” Bee Wilson The Hive (2005)

“— in times of food insecurity, women typically eat last and eat least. This is for a couple of reasons, including a restriction of women’s rights and the exercising of deep-seated and oppressive gender norms. In fact, of the 690 million people who are food insecure globally right now, 60% are women and girls.”  Bee Wilson The Hive (2005)

The Igam Ogam project is particularly important to me as it is the first time I have worked within the community where I live and for that reason I envisage it being a long term commitment. The project has provided me with the opportunity to develop my interest in working through multiple senses and to work with the Welsh language (the title of the project is inspired by the bees’ waggle dance), bringing together diverse communities, the arts and environmental concerns around sustainability and local economies. It also moves my practice in a new direction through working with physical substances of honey production.

This project, as with all my previous projects, has been a period of intense research around the subject and communities of interest. I hope to involve the beekeepers in the Vale of Clwyd in the project and build up imagery via a microscopic study of the biology of bees and daily recording of my own hive, and experimenting with honey and wax as a creative medium.  My own knowledge of bees is limited, but I have been supported by Professor Peter Barrar, Director of the National Beekeeping Centre for Wales in Conwy and environmentalist, Wendy O’Neill. It has also helped me greatly by attending meetings at Llysfasi Agricultural College where I have found members immensely interesting and supportive as a new beekeeper. I would be delighted if any members who might be interested in being involved in this project, in any way, could make contact.  If anyone has any ‘inside the hive’ footage to share with me, that would be amazing.

Warm regards

Dr Patricia MacKinnon-Day
Artist, Honorary Research Fellow Liverpool John Moores University

e: patricia@mackinnon-day.com


I am an experienced filmmaker and in 2022 I received a commission to make a film for the new Chester market. The film was then selected for presentation at the Venice Time Space Existence Architectural Biennial 2023, showing at Palazzo Mora, Venice. I have undertaken research with local communities for a very broad range of public art projects for over twenty five years; my practice is all about widening access and working with diverse communities; this has included a large scale urban development at Cambridge, a solo exhibition at Tate Liverpool working with women shepherds from Wales, Republic of Ireland, England and Scotland, working with ancient monuments and archaeologists in Exeter, working with women in nightclubs and universities in Shanghai to explore how they express themselves through dress and researching Hull’s maritime history in collaboration with Hull Maritime Museum during their City of Culture year.