Archives for February 2012

Radio 4's Poetry Workshop from Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:48 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

This Sunday's episode of BBC Radio 4's Poetry Workshop was recorded at Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre, and features a number of local Welsh poets.

The radio series Poetry Workshop explores the pleasures of both writing and reading poems. In each episode poet Ruth Padel leads a workshop with a group of aspiring writers from a different area in the UK, and discusses the poems that they're working on.

This Sunday's episode will feature members from Swansea group Junkbox Poetry, and readers from The Crunch poetry night, which is held at Mozart's in the Uplands area of the city.

Poetry Workshop members Howard Ingham, Becky Lowe, James Angel, Alan Kellermann, presenter Ruth Padel and Tim Evans.

Poetry Workshop members Howard Ingham, Becky Lowe, James Angel, Alan Kellermann, presenter Ruth Padel and Tim Evans.

During the programme the group warm up with some writing exercises before developing and refining poems from two members of the group.

The poems, both of which have a sense of loss or longing, are Milking Time by Becky Lowe and Still Life with Wine Glasses by Alan Kellermann.

Poet Kellermann works at the Dylan Thomas Centre as an attendant, and his first poetry collection will be published by Parthian Books in September 2012.

Alan Kellermann. Photo: Nick McDonald

Alan Kellermann. Photo: Nick McDonald

The group also discuss line endings, alliteration and adjectives, and the effectiveness of their use in the two poems. Plus they enjoy and respond to a poem by the inaugural National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis, which evokes the Welsh phenomenon 'hiraeth'.

Jo Furber, the literature officer at the Dylan Thomas Centre, said: "I was delighted when the show's producer got in touch to discuss ideas for the show.

"The Junkbox Poets have used the Dylan Thomas Centre as a venue for workshops in the past, and they regularly attend events both at the Centre, and at Mozart's.

"It's really exciting that some of Swansea's brightest talents will have the chance to showcase their work on this prestigious national programme."

Poetry Workshop can be heard on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 4 March at 4.30pm, and for seven days after transmission on the BBC iPlayer. Browse the episode's programme page for more photos taken during the session and for more information on the poems and writing exercises undertaken by the group.

For more on the Dylan Thomas Centre and its events programme, see www.dylanthomas.com.

The Indian Doctor's Sanjeev Bhaskar on Jamie and Louise

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:53 UK time, Friday, 24 February 2012

Fans of the BBC daytime drama The Indian Doctor will be pleased to see the programme returning for a second series on Monday.

Ahead of the start of the new series Sanjeev Bhaskar, who returns as Dr Prem Sharma, will be talking to Jamie and Louise on BBC Radio Wales on Monday morning about the Welsh-filmed drama.

Sanjeev Bhaskar in The Indian Doctor. Photo: Rondo Media/BBC

Sanjeev Bhaskar in The Indian Doctor. Photo: Rondo Media/BBC

The first series, which was first broadcast in November 2010, proved popular with viewers, with a record number of people contributing comments on Sanjeev's blog post for the BBC TV blog.

The new series of The Indian Doctor continues the story of Dr Prem Sharma, the high-flying Delhi graduate who has come to Britain in the early 1960s as one of the first wave of Indian doctors invited by the health minister, Enoch Powell.

This time around Prem has to deal with three different complications; a new adversary in the form of evangelist preacher Herbert Todd (Mark Heap), an outbreak of smallpox that threatens to bring catastrophe to the village, plus the arrival of his dreaded mother-in-law Pushpa.

Sanjeev Bhaskar as Dr Prem Sharma, Ayesha Dharker as Kamini Sharma and Indira Joshi as Pushpa. Photo: Rondo Media/BBC

Sanjeev Bhaskar as Dr Prem Sharma, Ayesha Dharker as Kamini Sharma and Indira Joshi as Pushpa. Photo: Rondo Media/BBC

Actress Ayesha Dharker returns as Dr Sharma's wife Kamini, and Welsh actors starring in the drama include Mali Harries, Alun ap Brinley, Ifan Huw Dafydd and Naomi Everson.

Tune in to the Jamie and Louise show on BBC Radio Wales on Monday 27 February from 9am to hear what Sanjeev has to say about the new series. Watch The Indian Doctor on BBC One Wales on Monday at 2.15pm, or on the BBC iPlayer soon after transmission for the subsequent seven days.

Visit the BBC programme page for The Indian Doctor to find out more about the series.

Fashion designer Julien Macdonald opens Merthyr's Puddlers Bridge

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 13:35 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Fashion designer Julien Macdonald returned to his home town yesterday to open a new bridge, calling Merthyr Tydfil a "beautiful part of Wales".

In a change from unveiling glamorous catwalk creations and working in the upper echelons of celebrity society, Macdonald opened the new bridge at the ceremony in Pentrebach.

The bridge forms part of the Trevithick Trail, a walking and cycling route named after inventor and mining engineer Richard Trevithick who was influential in the area in the early 1800s. It has been named Puddlers Bridge after local resident Alan Lewis won a Sustrans competition to name the structure.

A steel sculpture of Macdonald now stands alongside one of Trevithick and one of fellow designer Laura Ashley next to a bench on the route.

Julien Macdonald next to his steel sculpture in Merthyr. Photo: Sustrans

Macdonald said: "It's a really special feeling to have the people from the area I grew up in recognise me in this way, and I hope the portrait bench becomes a well-used and familiar part of the landscape.

"Merthyr is a beautiful part of Wales and a route like this one will inspire more people to get out on foot or bike and discover just how beautiful it is."

Macdonald was joined by pupils of Afon Taf school, Sustrans Cymru and Cllr Jeff Edwards, Leader of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council for the opening.

The designer has not presented a collection at this week's London Fashion Week. As Wales Online revealed last month, Macdonald has given the event a miss to concentrate on his career in America, creating made-to-measure outfits for some of the biggest Hollywood stars.

This week's Radio Wales Arts Show

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 09:47 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

This week's Radio Wales Arts Show presents a mix of film and theatre as presenter Nicola Heywood Thomas hears from directors and actors alike.

Actress Minnie Driver and Welsh director Marc Evans talk about their new film Hunky Dory, which is set for release on 2 March.

Minnie Driver and Marc Evans on the set of Hunky Dory. Photo: Warren Orchard

Minnie Driver and Marc Evans on the set of Hunky Dory. Photo: Warren Orchard

Set in Swansea in the sweltering summer of 1976, it focuses on drama teacher Vivienne (Driver) and her fight to stage an end of year music version of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The film also stars rising Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard as Davey, one of Vivienne's students, who will no doubt get to showcase his Oliver-Award winning musical talents in the film after recently starring in the BBC's We'll Take Manhattan.

Minnie Driver (Vivienne) and Aneurin Barnard (Davey) in Hunky Dory. Photo: Warren Orchard

Minnie Driver (Vivienne) and Aneurin Barnard (Davey) in Hunky Dory. Photo: Warren Orchard

Also on the show, actress Alex Clatworthy talks about her role in National Theatre Wales' forthcoming production A Provincial Life.

The play is a new interpretation by renowned director Peter Gill of Chekhov's poignant work My Life - The Story of A Provincial. The play will be staged at the newly-refurbished Sherman Cymru in Cardiff from 1-17 March.

Read Polly March's interview with Peter Gill about the production on the blog.

Alex Clatworthy in rehearsals for A Provincial Life. Photo: Helen Maybanks / National Theatre Wales

Alex Clatworthy in rehearsals for A Provincial Life. Photo: Helen Maybanks / National Theatre Wales

From one director to another, Terry Hands talks on the show about the latest production from Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold, Shakespeare's As You Like It.

The production, directed by Hands, runs at the theatre until 10 March.

Listen to the Radio Wales Arts Show from 7pm this evening, Wednesday 22 February, and if you miss it you can listen on the BBC iPlayer for a week afterwards.

For Once at the Sherman Cymru

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Polly March Polly March | 12:05 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

The Sherman Theatre in Cardiff's long-awaited relaunch season continues apace this week with the opening of a new play by an acclaimed young Welsh playwright.

Sid (Jonathan Smith) and Gordon (Patrick Driver) in For Once. Photo: Robert Day

Sid (Jonathan Smith) and Gordon (Patrick Driver) in For Once. Photo: Robert Day

For Once is a dark comedy by Tim Price, one of the founder members of the Dirty Protest theatre company.

Set in a small picture postcard market town on the Welsh borders, it focuses on the emotional upheaval after a car crash in a country lane kills three local teenage friends.

For Once is a family drama which revolves around three interweaving monologues by the young survivor of the crash, Sid, who was blinded in one eye during the accident, and his parents April and Gordon. And in this idyllic setting everything is not quite as it seems.

The horror of what has happened exposes cracks and divisions in the family unit which pre-existed this tragedy. But the tensions also provide the opportunity for plenty of comedy in an exploration of the terse relationship between any adolescent and his parents.

The kitchen sink drama also offers an insight into why teenagers, and adults, living in such places might be inspired to seek their thrills elsewhere.

For Once premièred in Hampstead last summer and scooped four star reviews from Time Out, The Evening Standard and the Financial Times. It is directed by Orla O'Loughlin, the newly appointed artistic director of Traverse Theatre Edinburgh.

The premise for the play evolved out of one of the Ludlow-based Pentabus Theatre's writers' weeks as a 10-minute exercise, but was inspired by time Price spent in a similar market town and the young people he met there.

Image taken from For Once. Photo: Robert Day

Image taken from For Once. Photo: Robert Day

Orla O'Loughlin said: "During these weeks we invite writers to come and explore a local issue with us.

"These have found us, among other things, out in the wilds following a fox hunt, witnessing life in an abattoir and working shifts in a Michelin-starred kitchen."

For Once will be performed at Sherman Cymru from Thursday 23 February to Saturday 3 March at 8pm before embarking on a short tour which will include the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven on 20-21 March.

The cast features Jonathan Smith as Sid, Geraldine Alexander as his mother April and Patrick Driver as his father Gordon. All three starred in the original run in London.

Jonathan Smith as Sid in For Once. Photo: Robert Day

Jonathan Smith as Sid in For Once. Photo: Robert Day

Price's work will soon return to his native Wales when his other play, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning is produced by National Theatre Wales in April.

Tickets for For Once at the Sherman Cymru are £14 and under 25s can receive up to 50% off their tickets.

For further information and tickets, please contact Sherman Cymru's Ticket Office on 029 2064 6900 or visit shermancymru.co.uk. There will be post-show talk on 28 February.

Welsh film-makers in bid for funding

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Polly March Polly March | 09:58 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

Leading lights in the Welsh film industry are headed to the Berlin International Film Festival this week hoping to secure international funding for a clutch of new feature films.

According to the Film Agency for Wales, producers Elizabeth Morgan-Hemlock, Caradog James, John Giwa-Amu and Vaughan Sivell will be at the city's prestigious event to promote their latest projects.

Among the 400 films being screened for the international audience this year are Resistance by Owen Sheers and Hunky Dory, a film directed by Marc Evans and set in 1970s Swansea.

Hunky Dory, in which Minnie Driver stars as a teacher trying to stage a musical version of Shakespeare's The Tempest in the summer of 1976, is set to be released in March, with a premiere scheduled for Cardiff on 22 February.

Elsewhere, it looks like another exciting year for Welsh film-making with various development projects in the pipeline.

Caradog James and John Giwa-Amu of Red and Black Films will be using the networking event, which usually attracts 400 companies from across the world, to try to fix international backing for their latest venture The Tunnel. The film is about a Palestinian fugitive, trapped in Israel, who digs a tunnel back to his village to save the woman he loves. It already has support from Film Agency for Wales.

Another producer hoping for exposure of her latest project is Elizabeth Morgan-Hemlock of Arturi Films, who will be promoting Bouncing Back. The film has three settings and tells the stories of three survivors of natural disasters based in South America, Africa and the Far East, comparing their experiences as shell-shocked, they recover from the horror of what has befallen them.

Morgan-Hemlock is hoping to capitalise on the recent success of her documentary Mugabe and the White African, which was Oscar Shortlisted, BAFTA Nominated and a winner of the British Independent Film Award for feature film in 2010. The film documented the story of a farmer in Zimbabwe who brought a case for racism against President Mugabe.

She said: "The business of film is incredibly competitive and Berlin signifies an important event in the business calendar for sales agents, distributors and many of Europe's leading producers.

"It is therefore essential for us to have a presence there as it provides a great opportunity to meet with potential co-producers, financiers and distributors."

Rik Hall and David Howard of Monster Films will be promoting A Song For Robin Orange which tells the story of the eponymous music talk show host.

Keith Potter, head of production for the Film Agency for Wales said: "Berlin is a fantastic opportunity for filmmakers to sell films on the basis of their artistic quality and is therefore a popular venue for film producers to launch their new films and attempt to sell their works to the distributors who come from all over the world.

"Indeed, we are proud to be profiling some of the very best of Welsh talent at this year's festival and getting the message out there that Wales is a great place for film.

"The Festival also gives us the opportunity to attend a programme of industry events and meet with fellow members of Cine-Regio, a lobby group for European film funds. We'll be looking for support for Welsh filmmakers and discussing pressing issues of film finance.

"Our purpose is to strengthen and maintain a dynamic film business across Wales, providing support for Welsh filmmaking talent and their films. Working with established, emerging and new talent, we adopt a fully integrated approach from script to screen and that's why the major international film festivals like Berlin are so important."

Siân Phillips on the Radio Wales Arts Show

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:20 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Siân Phillips is currently starring in Frantic Assembly's theatre production Lovesong, and has called it the "most wonderful experience" that she's had in decades.

Welsh actor Siân spoke to Radio Wales Arts Show presenter Nicola Heywood Thomas about her career and her role in the production that is running at the recently revamped Sherman Cymru in Cardiff.

Siân Phillips in Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

Siân Phillips in Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

Lovesong is written by Cardiff-born screenwriter Abi Morgan, whose recent screenplay credits include The Iron Lady and the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong.

The story entwines a couple in their 20s with the same man and woman a lifetime later. Their past and present selves collide in the play, which looks at the beginning and ending of the couple's long relationship.

Sam Cox (Billy) and Siân Phillips (Maggie) in Frantic Assembly's Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

Sam Cox (Billy) and Siân Phillips (Maggie) in Frantic Assembly's Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

Frantic Assembly's physical style of theatre combines movement,dance, design, music and text. Siân spoke to Nicola about the physical nature of the company, and how it affected her role:

"It's not something I ever thought I'd get a chance to do because, obviously, Frantic Assembly is physical theatre," she said.

"Normally, ordinarily, they work with young people. So at my age I never thought I would be in a physical theatre company.

"So when they did look as if they wanted me I jumped at it. And it's been the most wonderful experience I've had in decades.

"Looking back I can't remember when I was in such an extraordinary and interesting show. Not just doing the show, but being part of that sort of company, it's completely different for me.

Sam Cox and Siân Phillips in Frantic Assembly's Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

Sam Cox and Siân Phillips in Frantic Assembly's Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

"I've learnt so much. I've realised that you can express something in a movement or with pictures or with music that would take pages of text to convey. And I've learnt a lot about how you move and what's interesting and what tells the story and what doesn't.

"I was a bit alarmed the first day I turned up for work, they said 'bring old clothes' and then they said 'OK, we'll start with the press-ups'. It was a bit like being in the army... rehearing was rugged!"

Lovesong also stars Sam Cox, Leanne Rowe and Edward Bennett and runs until Saturday 18 February.

Listen to Nicola's Radio Wales Arts Show interview with Siân on the BBC iPlayer for the next six days.

For more information on Lovesong and to book tickets visit the Sherman Cymru website.

Animated short explores loss and belonging in Welsh border landscape

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Polly March Polly March | 09:45 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

As a boy, Sean Vicary used to look west from his Shropshire borders home to where the sun was setting, just beyond his reach, behind the stunning Welsh hills. The sense of teetering on the cusp between two countries became a strong motif throughout his boyhood.

Now as an artist living in Cardigan and looking back east at the landscape of his youthful imagination, he has chosen to re-evaluate his place within it via a short film, Lament, which blends and interweaves animation, poetry, folk music and found objects.

The trigger for the piece, which has been funded by Arts Council Wales and features a soundtrack by acclaimed folk artist Ceri Rhys Matthews, came with the death of Sean's father, himself an artist, in 2006.

Sean said: "My mother and father have always lived in the same house north of Shrewsbury and his death prompted me to re-evaluate my roots and where I came from.

"I came home and spent a lot of time at their cottage and my father's print studio which is crumbling and needs a lot of attention. While this was distressing, it also enabled me to look at things from a very different perspective."

Thus the idea for Lament was born, with Sean using his skill in animation and macro photography to examine objects he has found in the natural environment which he believes are part of the DNA of a specific area.

Using items like lichen, animal remains, berries and twigs, he took them back to his studio and animated them so they could be reintroduced into the landscape on a larger scale or floating, disembodied in the area they originally belonged to.

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Part of the project uses a technique which will delight all fans of "augmented reality", where spectators can access an app via their smart phones and go out into the countryside, using GPS, and see these objects, such as a giant spinning leaf, suspended in specific locations.

This site-specific approach of 're-compositing' the objects back into the landscape allows the viewer to physically interact with the artwork.

The five objects are currently on display outside the Oriel Davies gallery in Newtown, but will be taken out into the landscape in April. For more details visit the gallery website.

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Because Sean was keen to make a moving image piece, he started discussions with Ceri Rhys Matthews about producing some music that would convey the narrative of loss, longing and belonging he was so eager to capture.

"It was very strange how it all came together, but he introduced me to the seventh century Welsh poem cycle Canu Heledd," says Sean.

"These poems deal with the fall of the Brythonic Kingdom of Pengwern, or eastern Powys, in what is now Shropshire. This particular lament originates from the border area describing the silence and ruin of Prince Cynddylan's home after his death.

"Coincidentally there are 15 verses relating to the village of Baschurch where I went to school and there was this lament for Cynddylan's crumbling empire which had particular resonance for what I was going through with losing my father and having to work out what to do with his art studio.

"Ceri put a band together and recorded a soundtrack which uses fragments of the poetic cycle in both Welsh and English to help further portray that sense of border space and questions of belonging."

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

The project's partners are Arts Council of Wales, Animate Projects and Small World Theatre, which is hosting a screening and music performance event on Friday 24 February to showcase Lament.

Sean and musicians Ceri Rhys Matthews, Christine Cooper and Ceri Jones will take part in an innovative performance with live projection of Lament's footage and improvised music.

At the end of this performance there will be an opportunity to explore the ideas and making of the work in a discussion chaired by cultural activist, Osi Rhys Osmond. The project will go online at the beginning of March via the Animate Projects website.

For more information about Sean Vicary and Lament visit seanvicary.com.

For more details on the performance at Small World Theatre on 24 February at 8pm visit the Small World Theatre website.

Tickets are £6/£4 and can be bought through whatevertheweatherwales.co.uk and by calling Small World Theatre on 01239 615 952.

John Piper's Mountains of Wales on show

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 10:25 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Works by the British 20th century artist John Piper depicting some of Snowdonia's most breathtaking landscapes have gone on show at the National Museum Wales, Cardiff.

Surrey-born Piper is noted for his drawings and paintings of landscape and architecture as well as abstract compositions, still life, ceramics and designs for stained glass and tapestry.

This new exhibition of Piper's paintings and drawings of Wales are taken from a private collection.

Rocky Valley, North Wales, 1948, oil and gesso on canvas, private collection © The John Piper Estate

Rocky Valley, North Wales, 1948, oil and gesso on canvas, private collection © The John Piper Estate

Piper trained at the Richmond and Kingston Schools of Art, and later at the Royal College of Art.

His first major painting trip to Wales was in 1936 when he visited Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire.

Yet his initial significant encounter with north Wales was a result of his role as an official war artist during World War Two, as in 1943 he was tasked with recording the interior of Manod Mawr quarry by the War Artists Advisory Committee.

Rocks at Capel Curig, about 1950, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, private collection © The John Piper Estate

Rocks at Capel Curig, about 1950, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, private collection © The John Piper Estate

In a period of around 15 years in the 1940s and 50s, Piper lived and worked intermittently in north Wales, and rented two cottages Pentre and Bodesi in the Snowdonia area.

During his time there he recorded the mountains of Wales in a group of works which are among his greatest artistic achievements.

In this new exhibition 29 works are from the private collection, and 36 works in all are on display.

Jagged Rocks under Tryfan, 1949-50, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, private collection © The John Piper Estate

Jagged Rocks under Tryfan, 1949-50, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, private collection © The John Piper Estate

John Piper: The Mountains of Wales is on display at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff until Sunday 13 May 2012.

The exhibition will be touring to Oriel y Parc in St David's, Mostyn in Llandudno and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester in 2012-2013.

The Rise of the Dovey, 1943-44, oil on gessoed canvas mounted on board, private collection © The John Piper Estate

The Rise of the Dovey, 1943-44, oil on gessoed canvas mounted on board, private collection © The John Piper Estate

In conjunction with the exhibition Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales is organising a trip to Snowdonia where participants will be able to follow in the artist's footsteps with art and geology curators, and see some of the points at which Piper painted some of his dramatic landscapes.

Tickets for the tour cost £10 per person and booking is essential. For more information on the trip visit the National Museum Wales website.

Poet laureate to judge poetry competition on climate change

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Polly March Polly March | 16:00 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

Carol Ann Duffy and the Welsh poet and translator Elin ap Hywel are to judge the entries submitted to a bilingual poetry completion on the theme of climate change.

The contest is being organised by the energy charity Awel Aman Tawe, the body behind the development of a community wind farm on Mynydd y Gwrhyd in the upper Swansea Valley.

The wind farm project has been many years in the offing but the charity says there are just a few more planning hoops to jump through before it is able to start generating green energy.

The original mission statement of the development was that all profits from the sale of wind energy would be transferred back into the community and would help fund environmental ventures.

The charity has an active arts arm which regularly hosts events to get local people thinking about greater environmental issues.

This is the second annual poetry competition it has hosted. Last year the competition was judged by National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke and the award-winning Welsh language poet Menna Elfyn.

It attracted 350 entries from adults and children and Awel Aman Tawe published a book of the best entries called Heno, Wrth Gysgu and launched it at the prize giving night at Pontardawe Arts Centre.

Organiser Emily Hinshelwood said: "I talk with people all the time about climate change and there's a terrible feeling of powerlessness in the face of ever worsening scenarios for the earth.

"Whether it's the diminishing sparrow populations in their own gardens, or the flooding of entire islands, most people have a personal response to the subject.

"We want them to capture that feeling in poetry.

"The place where poetry happens," she says, reflecting on her own poetry, "is that creative place within us - the same place where we improvise, and play.

"And sometimes unexpectedly we come across solutions to problems that have been bugging us for years."

AAT manager, Dan McCallum, said: "It's only by involving people that we can build something sustainable."

Duffy was asked to be a judge because of her own interest in the subject of climate change. Her poem "Atlas" examines the fragility of the planet and the theme is one she has been returning to with frequency in recent poems.

Adults and children are welcome to contribute to the competition, which has a closing date of 31 March 2012.

Carol Ann Duffy will judge the English entries while Elin ap Hywel will judge the Welsh entries.

First prize for adults is £500, £100 for second place and £50 for third place.

For children the first prize is £50; second is £30; while third is £20.

Entry fees do apply. Visit awelamantawe.co.uk for more details.

Reckless Sleepers present Schrödinger

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Polly March Polly March | 09:30 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

A touring production which explores the theatrical possibilities offered by a curious scientific theory is coming to Wales.

Performance artists Reckless Sleepers have revived their production of Schrödinger, named after the Nobel Peace prizewinning scientist Erwin Schrödinger, and his thoughts on quantum mechanics.

The Austrian physicist made a name for himself in 1935 with a paradoxical "thought experiment" about the possibilities offered when a cat is placed in a box with a bottle of poison gas.

Because he believed light particles are in different states of being at the same time, Schrödinger concluded it was possible for the cat to be both alive and dead in the box simultaneously.

Schrödinger decided that whether or not the bottle of gas opens and the cat is poisoned depends on whether a radioactive atom decays which will trigger the poison to be released. So quantum theory allows for the cat to be both 'decayed' and 'not decayed' until the box is opened.

Reckless Sleepers have used this concept as a springboard for a whole performance with the production revolving around their very own box of endless theatrical possibilities.

Reckless Sleepers in action

Reckless Sleepers in action

The box is covered with hatches and doors and acts as an experimental chamber used by the group of artists on stage. They climb in and out of it, carrying out research into immeasurable theories and creating a world where the boundaries between truth and illusion are blurred.

Mole Wetherell, artistic director, says: "Laws are made, bent then broken. It's a visually mesmerising performance that sways between question and answer, chaos and order, what we can measure and what we can't.

"Over the past 10 years we have looked at the project again and again.

"The structure - the box or sixth performer as it is called is a constant - the doors, hatches, walls exits and entrances are in the same place.

"But the people who occupy it will have changed - like the spaces that we perform it in, the cities that we visit will have gone through a transformation."

The Anglo-Belgian company has made a name for itself devising original theatre pieces and installations for theatres, galleries and museums. The company embraces all ideas, even those arrived at in error, and prides itself on the fact that sometimes its concepts can be uncomfortable to watch.

Schrödinger will be at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 6 and 7 March. For full tour details visit reckless-sleepers.co.uk.

Road To 2012 exhibition opens in Cardiff next month

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Over 30 large panels showing some of Britain's top athletes involved in the highly anticipated London 2012 Olympics will form an outdoor exhibition in Cardiff next month.

Paralympian Nathan Stephens by Bettina von Zwehl

Paralympian Nathan Stephens. Photo: Bettina von Zwehl

The Road To 2012 touring exhibition features some of the highlights of one of the largest photographic commissions ever undertaken by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Photos of athletes, and other other key figures involved in staging the Olympics, will be be printed on the panels.

Welsh sitters for some of the portraits include Paralympian Nathan Stephens, who competes in the javelin and discus events, and Welsh Paralympic swimming coach Billy Pye.

Cardiff will be the first to enjoy the exhibition, with the panels taking up residence just in front of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

Due to its outdoor nature, the free exhibition will be open 24 hours a day for people to experience.

Photographs from the project were first seen in two exhibitions held at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Road To 2012: Setting Out In 2010 and Road To 2012: Changing Pace In 2011.

In this new touring exhibition previously unseen photographs, by new photographers working on the final commissions, will be on show on the panels when the exhibition opens.

The free outdoor exhibition will open in Cardiff on Friday 30 March and will run until Sunday 27 May 2012. It then moves on to Edinburgh and later Birmingham.

See more portraits, listen to audio clips from the photographers and find out more about the exhibition on the Road to 2012 website, roadto2012.npg.org.uk.

Peter Gill on his new production for National Theatre Wales

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Polly March Polly March | 14:05 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

One of the giants of British theatre is to bring his interpretation of a poignant Chekhov tale to audiences at the newly refurbished Sherman Theatre in Cardiff.

Despite growing up in Cardiff, Peter Gill's lengthy and illustrious career has never once seen him direct a play in his home city, until now.

As part of National Theatre Wales' action-packed second year, the prolific playwright and director is heading a new production of A Provincial Life, a play he adapted from Chekhov's story My Life - The Story of A Provincial, and first directed at The Royal Court Theatre in 1966.

Gill himself admits he "feels like a different man" revisiting the play so many years later and cannot remember much about directing it as a younger man, which gives him the freedom to view the text and "Chekhov's wonderful poetry" afresh.

Peter Giil. Photo: Helen Maybanks / National Theatre Wales

Peter Giil. Photo: Helen Maybanks / National Theatre Wales

A Provincial Life is set in 1890s Russia and centres on the life of Misail Poloznev, a young gentleman who renounces the "privilege of capital and education" in favour of earning his living through manual labour.

This daring decision causes ructions within his family, with his architect father beating him and his sister begging him to rethink his chosen path. After working in construction on a railway line, he takes up a position alongside a painter and labourer but finds that society is not accepting of his lifestyle choices.

He is disinherited by his father who accuses him of shaming the family but falls in love with an engineer's daughter who finds his idealism exciting, that is until they marry and her true feelings for the peasants they are surrounded by become known.

For Gill it is a play that still resonates today and he hopes audiences in Cardiff will appreciate the themes of struggle, a thwarted search for equality and disillusionment through failed ideals.

"Whatever they think, it's a marvellous story and portrait of a mind at a very specific point in history," he said.

"What struck me about it most was the wonderful characters and how they are involved in what is a very engaging and moving story.

"It's fascinating to come back to after all these years, a very curious thing."

The production sees Gill once more join creative forces with the designer Alison Chitty, who has been a long-term collaborator with Mike Leigh and Peter Hall in the past and was resident designer at the National Theatre in London for eight years.

Gill and Chitty first began working together at the famous Riverside Studios Gill founded in London in 1976 and have teamed up many times since. She too has more than four decades of experience designing operas, plays and films all over the world.

Gill says: "I'm not very conceptual but Alison is and she can bring something to the production beyond my grasp. We have always worked well together. The first time I saw her theatre design it struck me and I liked it very much. We have a good method of working."

He would not be drawn on the exact staging of the show, particularly as rehearsals began in London only last week, but said: "I'm not too worried about a traditional setting or fitting in with convention."

The cast of professionals will include Kezia Burrows, Alex Clatworthy, Richard Corgan, Helen Griffin, Lee Haven-Jones, Mike Hayward, Mark Lewis, Sara Lloyd-Gregory, John-Paul Macleod, Liam Mansfield, Clive Merrison, Kenneth Price, Nicholas Shaw, William Thomas and Menna Trussler.

Alongside these will be an ensemble of 12 semi-professional performers from Cardiff, gathered as part of National Theatre Wales' TEAM programme, with help from Sherman Cymru and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Gill has high hopes for the cast, hand-picked by himself and currently being put through their paces in London.

He said: "We've a Welsh crew and largely Welsh cast which I think will give it a Welsh flavour. They are a wonderful and very balanced bunch.

"Our lead actor Nicholas Shaw is particularly talented and I think will bring something wonderful to the role of Misail."

Gill is excited to be leading one of the first productions at the revamped theatre, which has just undergone a £6.5m redevelopment.

The changes include an entirely new exterior, and redesigned foyer space, public areas and access.

Cast and crew will also benefit from improvements to rehearsal rooms and backstage areas. He said: "It looks fantastic and I'm really looking forward to being a part of its relaunch.

"And if the audience in Cardiff likes human stories, filled with poetry, good acting and fascinating characters then they will love A Provincial Life."

Peter Gill was born in 1939 in Cardiff and initially worked as an actor before making his foray into directing and writing.

His varied career has seen him at the helm of more than 100 productions in the UK, Europe and North America.

His time at the Royal Court in the 1960s saw him credited with introducing the plays of DH Lawrence to the theatrical world.

He was the founding director of Riverside Studios and the Royal National Theatre Studio.

The raft of plays he has directed include Wilde, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Congreve, Otway, as well as Hampton, Orton, Osbourne, Pinter and Wright.

A Provincial Life is at the Sherman Cymru in Senghennydd Road, Cardiff from 1-17 March 2012. For tickets contact the Box Office on 029 2064 6900 or visit shermancymru.co.uk.

Exhibition to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

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Polly March Polly March | 10:48 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A collection of the most striking and significant images of Queen Elizabeth II throughout her reign has just arrived in Cardiff.

The exhibition is just one of hundreds of events planned to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the monarch's accession to the throne.

From Chris Levine's curious photograph of HRH with her eyes closed to Justin Mortimer's famous painting where the Queen's head appears disjointed, floating away from her body, the display aims to incorporate the many visual representations of Elizabeth II from the 1950s until now - both conventional and unconventional.

The Queen by Justin Mortimer, 1998
Oil on canvas, 1350 x 1350 mm
The RSA © Justin Mortimer

The Queen by Justin Mortimer, 1998 Oil on canvas, 1350 x 1350 mm The RSA © Justin Mortimer

Works by Pietro Annigoni, Lucian Freud, Annie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter form part of the National Portrait Gallery's touring exhibition, The Queen: Art and Image, now on display at National Museum Cardiff until 29 April 2012.

It accompanies a wider exhibition at the Cardiff venue which aims to show how the Queen has been received in Wales during the numerous official visits of her reign and how perceptions of royalty have shifted via various social and historical contexts.

Archival artefacts and memorabilia from National Museum Wales' collections such as newspapers and film footage are used to explore the Queen's relationship with Wales from events like the opening of the National Library of Wales in 1955 and how this compared to her later visit to Aberystwyth in 1996 to open the Library's new wing, which was halted by protesters.

The material includes recollections from the Welsh language activist Meg Elis who in 1955, was the five year old girl chosen to give a posy of flowers to the Queen at the National Library.

By 1996, she played a lead role in the protest event in Aberystwyth.

David Anderson, director general of Amgueddfa Cymru said: "Amgueddfa Cymru is pleased to be working in collaboration with one of the UK's leading art institutions.

"This is an example of how effective partnerships between museums and galleries can make works by such influential artists such as Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter, accessible to visitors across the UK.

"The National Portrait Gallery's exhibition is an innovative take on a traditional subject, and I'm glad that we have been able to add an extra dimension, using items from our collection and interviews with key figures to give the display a Welsh perspective."

Other images included in the collection are Gilbert and George's 1981 work Coronation Cross, where they used postcards of the nave at Westminster Abbey in a pattern with repetitions of Cecil Beaton's Coronation Day photograph.

Formal portraits and official pictures rub shoulders with multimedia images and unofficial paintings to contrast the more traditional styles of official portraiture with some of the more controversial portrayals by contemporary artists and to show how the task of depicting the Queen has undergone seismic changes since the 1950s.

Also included are less formal portraits by such photographers as Eve Arnold, Patrick Lichfield and Lord Snowdon.

The museum will also use multimedia interviews with Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, Media Wales' chief arts correspondent Karen Price, Adam Phillips from Balchder Cymru, and two residents from Sunrise Senior Living - Major James Geary and George Malcolm Pearce, to share their impressions of the Queen.

The Queen: Art and Image tour will end at the National Portrait Gallery in London, 17 May - 21 October 2012.

Browse a gallery of photographs from the exhibition on the BBC Wales News website.

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