Blog posts by year and month July 2011

Posts (105)

  1. The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth has come up with a unique way of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the iconic building. On Friday 15 July 2011, staff will attempt to form the world's biggest cwtsh around the iconic neo classical building, and they are calling on friends and fans of the Library to help them with this record attempt. The Library employs 300 people but to create a human chain to encircle the half kilometre circumference of the building, they will need around 450 people. Commenting on the approaching anniversary, librarian, Andrew Green said: "Over the years thousands of people have visited the Library as readers or to see exhibitions and events here. We'd like to invite them to join us and a create a huge human chain around the building in celebration of the contribution of the National Library to Welsh cultural and intellectual life and to the town of Aberystwyth. "The National Library of Wales was founded on the back of a mass subscription campaign waged by the Welsh people over a century ago. In that respect it is unique among the national libraries of the world. We are now asking the Welsh people to show their continued support for the Library and affirm that the building and its collections will serve the people for the next hundred years." The foundation stone was laid on 15 July 1911 by George V. Images kindly provided by the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth Cornish granite was used for the ground floor and white Portland stone for the floors above. The building itself wasn't actually completed until 1936 as a result of financial constraints brought about by World War One and later, by the Depression. To find out how you can be part of the cwtsh, and to read more about the history of this wonderful building, visit the website of the National Library of Wales. Supporters are asked to wear red clothing if possible - the colour of the Library's logo and Welsh dragon, so that the chain will stand out. Other centenary events taking place at the Library include: Wednesday 13 July at 1.15pm The Library of Film - archive clips of the Library including a film of laying the foundation stone, the official opening in 1937 and an early film by Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards. Thursday 14 July at 1.15pm Gwyneth Lewis - Poetry and talk in the company of Wales's National Poet who composed the Library's centenary poems during the celebrations of the Library's founding in 2007. Friday 15 July at 10.30 am & 3.30 pm Guided Tour of the Building and its History in the company of Tony Morgan, architect.

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  2. The £750,000 revamp of Theatr Colwyn has been delayed by a few months due to unforeseen structural problems. The Colwyn Bay venue, originally scheduled to re-open in the spring, will now open this autumn. Building work is due for completion in August and the theatre is already taking bookings for September. Though the necessary extra building work is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds, it is hoped that a contingency fund will cover the extra expense. Read more on the story on the Daily Post website.

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  3. Welsh actor Michael Sheen took over BBC 6 Music for an hour on Sunday, in which he played some of his favourite music tracks. Sheen was the first celeb host of A Month of Sundays, which runs throughout July and August on BBC 6 Music. All the guests who will take over the station for an hour o...

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  4. Craig-Y-Nos, the mid Wales castle which was once home to Adelina Patti, the greatest soprano of her day, is up for sale to anyone with a spare £1.5 million. The opera house at Craig Y Nos Patti, who died in 1919 after a stellar singing career and high-flying social life, bought the ca...

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  5. This week's BBC Radio Wales Arts Show is a mixed bag with Welsh visual arts, literature and music news all crammed in to the 30 minute programme. Gallery space at the National Museum of Art. Photo: Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales Wales' National Museum of Art opens to the public ...

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  6. If you're in or near Milford Haven this evening, you could enjoy a rare screening of some of the earliest silent movies to be made in Wales by one of the pioneers of British cinema. This evening, the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven will be showing a rare screening of silent movies by William Haggar as part of the Pembrokeshire Schools Film and Animation Festival by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. William Haggar was a larger than life fairground showman who made most of his short movies in the first decade of cinema history. Born in Essex, he lived and worked in Wales for much of his career. He ran both a travelling cinema (then called a bioscope) and travelling theatre, performed as a stage actor and singer, staged most of his early cinema shows in the fairground and set up permanent cinemas across Wales. The films that will be shown are A Desperate Poaching Affray, The Bathers' Revenge, The Life of Charles Peace, The Maid of Cefn Ydfa, A Message From the Sea and The Sheep Stealer. Tonight's screenings will also have a live piano accompaniment and there will be a short talk about each film followed by a question and answer session with the audience. For more information, visit the Torch Theatre website. Still taken from a William Haggar film. Image courtesy of the Torch Theatre To find out more about William Haggar, browse an article written by film historian Dave Berry on the BBC Wales Arts website and read about Haggar's flea pit cinema on the BBC Wales History blog.

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  7. BBC Wales History blogger Phil Carradice has written a great piece about one of the most successful actors of the 18th century, Sarah Siddons. Siddons was born in Brecon on this day in 1755. Phil explains: "Sarah Siddons was the most renowned actress of 18th century Britain. Her performances at Drury Lane and Covent Garden - particularly her portrayal of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth - were so powerful that audiences swooned and often had to be helped out of the theatre in various stages of distress... "Siddons was the most famous actress of her day, at a time when the job of actress was at last beginning to become respectable. She held soirées or receptions where the rich and famous - men such as the Duke of Wellington, Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson - regularly attended." Read the article in full, and browse some of Phil's previous blog posts on figures from the world of Welsh art and culture: Augustus John, bohemian and painter Allen Raine, forgotten Welsh writer WH Davies: the Welsh Super Tramp Ivor Novello, the Welsh nightingale William Haggar's fleapit cinema

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  8. Sarah Siddons was the most renowned actress of 18th century Britain. Her performances at Drury Lane and Covent Garden - particularly her portrayal of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth - were so powerful that audiences swooned and often had to be helped out of the theatre in various stages of distress. In the words of essayist William Hazlitt, Sarah Siddons "was tragedy personified." And yet what many people do not realize is the fact that this incomparable tragedienne was born in Wales, in the little market town of Brecon. The date was 5 July 1755, and the place of birth was a room above a small tavern in High Street. These days the place of her birth is known as The Sarah Siddons Inn and the pub sign, now proudly displayed outside the door, is a replica detail of Sir Joshua Reynolds' famous 1784 painting of the actress. When she was born here, however, the pub was called The Shoulder of Mutton, a tiny place that stood in the shadow of the much larger and grander St Mary's Church tower. Sarah was the daughter of the actor-manager Roger Kemble, a man who travelled the country with his small troop of actors - a dozen at the most - entertaining people in the courtyards of country inns or market squares in a way of life that was not far removed from that of Shakespeare's strolling players over a century before. Actors would each play several roles and while their performances were wildly applauded and greatly looked forward to, the travelling companies were certainly not regarded as respectable. Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mr Kemble, was a piece of advice that might have been given to Roger Kemble. It was advice he chose to ignore. Acting was in the blood - Sarah's grandmother was the famous actress Fanny Kemble - and the lure of the footlights was too great, for both father and daughter. As a young child, Sarah was regularly appearing in her father's stage shows. By the time she was a teenager she was an experienced performer. Legend has it that the handsome actor William Siddons, a member of Kemble's troop, proposed to Sarah during one performance at The Bell Inn at Brecon. Whether or not that is true, the announcement caused dismay to her parents who had intended her to marry someone of "greater quality" and Sarah was sent off to work as maid to Lady Greathead. It was a short engagement but it does show the social status of actresses at this time - and also the social connections of the Kemble family. Realising that Sarah was serious, her parents relented and she returned to the company and duly married William. They had seven children, five of them dying young, but the marriage was not a success and eventually culminated in an informal separation. Acting was more important for Sarah than marriage. After a false start when David Garrick booked her to appear at Drury Lane - she did not impress and the manager had to write to tell her that her services were not required - Sarah spent six years touring the provinces in what would now be called rep shows. She returned to the London theatre in 1782 in Garrick's adaptation of The Fatal Marriage. She was an instant success. Over the next 20 years Sarah Siddons became the toast of Drury Lane. Her tall, beautiful figure and stunning good looks made her ideal for the role of Lady Macbeth, a part where she was easily and effortlessly able to show the vicious nature and passion of the woman who led Macbeth to his doom. Her personal favourite role, however, was not the evil Lady Macbeth but Queen Catherine in Shakespeare's little-known play Henry VIII. Sarah Siddons was the most famous actress of her day, at a time when the job of actress was at last beginning to become respectable. She held soirées or receptions where the rich and famous - men such as the Duke of Wellington, Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson - regularly attended. In 1802 Sarah left Drury Lane for Covent Garden, appearing there to more huge acclaim for a further 10 years. During her years on the stage it was recorded that "Siddons Fever" gripped the theatre going world, a form of mass hysteria with which many modern audiences may relate. Joshua Reynolds painted a famous portrait of her, even signing his name across the hem of her dress on the painting. It could not go on forever, of course, and on 29 June 1812, at the age of 57 years, Sarah retired. During her farewell performance in Macbeth the audience was so moved that they simply refused to allow the play to continue after the sleepwalking scene where Lady Macbeth makes her final appearance. In desperation, the curtain was closed, only to re-open a few minutes later with Sarah in her day clothes, sitting centre stage. She made an emotional speech that lasted for nearly 10 minutes before quitting the stage - not quite for ever as the lure of fame and public adulation were too great, and she did relent to did make the occasional guest appearance over the next few years. Sarah Siddons died on 8 June 1831, renowned and acclaimed as the greatest actress the world had ever seen. Over 5,000 people attended her funeral and internment at St Mary's Cemetery in Paddington. These days there are statues to her, streets named after her and, of course, that pub in Brecon. In 1952 the Sarah Siddons Award was created, thus imitating a fictional award of the same name that had originally been mentioned in the film All About Eve. The award is given each year by the Sarah Siddons Society for outstanding performance in the dramatic arts. Perhaps the most interesting commemoration of the great actress, however, was the naming of an electric locomotive after her. This came in 1923, on an engine built for the Metropolitan Railway - the engine still exists and still runs, the oldest working main line electric locomotive in Britain. Not bad for a young girl from Brecon!

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  9. More details have been announced for Merthyr Rocks (4 September, Cyfarthfa Park), with Kids In Glass Houses being brought in as curators of the festival's second stage. Future Of The Left Future Of The Left, Jettblack, Exit_International, Save Your Breath, The Social Club, Spycatcher,...

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  10. A number of paintings by one of Wales' defining artists of the 20th century will go under the hammer this week. Oil paintings, watercolours and prints by the late Sir Kyffin Williams are included in The Chester Sale at Bonhams, which runs this week across 5-7 July with the sale of the paintin...

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