The makers of an app to help the region’s children and parents enjoy reading Welsh together have been hailed in a national public vote.
Musician, author and broadcaster, Cerys Matthews surprised Gill Stephen, chief officer of Menter Iaith Fflint a Wrecsam, with UK’s Best Education Project award from the National Lottery for the Llyfrau Bach Magi Ann apps.
Miss Stephen said yesterday that she thought she was coming to Clays Golf Course in Wrexham to film an interview piece covering the enterprise’s projects.
She said: “It was real shock, but a very good one. I honestly didn’t know this was happening this morning.”
They finished ahead of 1,300 National Lottery-funded good causes in the public vote to receive a £5,000 cash prize and feature in a special episode of the BBC’s The One Show in September.
The apps, based on a popular children’s book series, had received £4,867 of lottery funding and help both first language speakers and Welsh learners read and enjoy the language together with a series of animated stories.
Although created to help families in Flintshire and Wrexham, the apps were officially adopted by Menter Iaith groups across Wales at the National Eisteddfod and have been downloaded more than 100,000 times – even as far afield as Patagonia.
Miss Stephen told how the apps came about after Menna Evans, author of the Magi Ann books series, chatted with a Menter Iaith staff member about the difficulties learners had with pronunciation.
Cerys Matthews added: “It’s such a simple idea, but sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, and this is simply the best.”
She said that Llyfrau Bach Magi Ann brought the apps to a new audience, and added: “Many Welsh speakers have fond memories of the books and now, thanks to these apps, anyone in the world can enjoy them.
“They fully deserve this National Lottery Award, and players should be very proud to have helped the magical Magi Ann.”
Gill Stephen said that the group would consult with Flintshire and Wrexham residents on how to use the funds to develop another project, tailored specifically to the area, adding that “a lot of people have given their time and expertise very generously” to create the Magi Ann apps.
“These stories are a much-loved resource for children who are first language Welsh as well as for learners, and parents and teachers who aren’t fluent can be confident that they are pronouncing the words well.
“We’re delighted to have won a National Lottery Award and to be recognised in this way by the public, not just in Wales but throughout the UK.
“I’d like to thank everyone who voted for us and everyone who plays the National Lottery for enabling us to bring the Welsh language to so many.”