Archives for January 2012

Appeal for Sir Kyffin Williams artworks held in private collections

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Joe Goodden Joe Goodden | 11:16 UK time, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A north Wales gallery has launched an appeal for privately held artworks by Sir Kyffin Williams to go on show in a special exhibition.

Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni, Anglesey, wishes to borrow original artworks held in private hands. The gallery is planning a major exhibition of Sir Kyffin's lesser known works, to run in the Kyffin Williams Gallery later this year.

Sir Kyffin Williams

Sir Kyffin Williams

Pat West, curator of the exhibition, said: "We're very keen to hear from anyone who has original works by Kyffin Williams.

"Once an artwork is sold to a private owner, unless it is lent to a gallery, you could say that it almost disappears."

The exhibition, From The Hearth To The Oriel, will run from 17 March to 7 October. Some owners of Sir Kyffin's paintings have already come forward.

"This is an opportunity for everyone to experience the pleasure of standing in front of some great works of art," says West. "We have already had some phone calls, and owners are looking forward to seeing their artwork in a gallery setting.

"We have borrowed from private collections in the past, but never on this scale. I would encourage anyone who's interested to get in touch."

For more information contact Ian Jones on 01248 752082 or Nicola Gibson on 01248 752014.

New artist in residence at National Wool Museum

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:34 UK time, Friday, 27 January 2012

Welsh poet Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch has taken up a new post as artist in residence at the National Wool Museum in Dre-fach Felindre.

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch. Photo: Keith Morris

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch. Photo: Keith Morris

The artist in residence post is a result of funding awarded by the Leverhulme Trust, which makes awards for the support of research and education.

During her time in residence, Samantha will work towards her fourth collection of poetry, on the theme of textiles.

Working at the museum for three days each week, Samantha will hold free writing surgeries where individuals can gain feedback on a piece of prose or poetry they have written and help in improving writing skills and techniques. She will also hold writing workshops at the museum, again free of charge, and will guide people in creating a piece of poetry from beginning to end.

I recently paid a visit to the National Wool Museum and during my time there, in amongst being shown how the various machinery works and watching the fascinating looms in action, I met Samantha.

We talked a little about her residency and what it entailed, and earlier this week she followed up our brief chat with an email with some more details.

"I am thrilled that the Leverhulme Foundation have awarded me this residency to work with the National Wool Museum," she said.

"The residency will enable me to interview and record the voices of weavers at the National Wool Museum and in the local area around Ceredigion in order to create a sound archive that will then form the basis for my fourth collection of poems.

"As a poet I am fascinated by the use of voice in writing, both when reading other poets' work and when writing my own. The residency will give me the opportunity to explore the full spectrum of weavers' working experiences and will allow me to give voice to those whose experience of working in mills lives on only in archived diaries and letters.

"The sound archive that I am planning on creating will then be available for researchers and members of the public to consult and some of the recordings will be available on the People's Collection Wales site.

"In addition to the research and writing that I will be undertaking at the museum, I shall be running regular writing workshops for museum visitors, staff and the local community.

"I spent some years of my childhood in Lancashire against the backdrop of the mills and it was there that I first became interested in textiles.

Banjo by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch

Banjo by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch

"I now live where I was born, in New Quay, Ceredigion, near the Teifi Valley, which was once a bustling industrial centre employing hundreds of weavers and exporting its produce all over the world.

"This residency will give me the opportunity to collect orally and preserve in poetry the traditions, memories, expertise and processes associated with the weaving industry. The finished audio recordings and the collection of poems will then form a lasting memorial to the industrial history of the Teifi Valley."

While Samantha embarks on the journey towards her fourth collection, her third collection of poetry Banjo will be published by Picador in June 2012. It celebrates the centenary of Captain Scott's arrival at the South Pole in 1912.

Her second poetry collection, Not In These Shoes (2008) was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year award in 2009.

Visit the National Wool Museum website for more information, including the dates of the writing surgeries and workshops and how to book places.

To read more about Samantha's work visit her website www.rhydderch.com.

Lothar Götz: Wait Until Dark

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Polly March Polly March | 10:18 UK time, Friday, 27 January 2012

Those with an interest in architecture and its connection with art should check out a new exhibition soon to open at Chapter in Cardiff, by Lothar Götz.

Wait Until Dark, which opens at the arts centre on Friday 3 February, Götz has created a series of new pieces that refer to and comment on the current use, architecture and history of the building.

He has also been commissioned to produce a work for the lightbox glass structure on the outside of the centre, which greets visitors as they arrive.

That work "will both reveal and affect the exterior and interior of the building and its inhabitants."

An example of Lothar Götz's work. Photo: M Franke

An example of Lothar Götz's work. Photo: M Franke

Götz's body of work straddles both ends of the scale, ranging from site-specific wall paintings and installations contained in one room to smaller drawings.

The German artist likes to continually engage with ever-changing ideas about architecture and space, blurring the boundaries between the historical accuracy and imagined past-lives of buildings.

He is renowned for using flashes of intense colour and abstract geometric forms and juxtaposing them in his work. His approach often sees him create floor plans of buildings for specific historical figures as well as domestic spaces for imagined dwellers. The colour splashes then convey the various functions or atmosphere of different rooms and link to the identity of the inhabitants.

His past public commissions include Platform for Art at Piccadilly Circus underground station in 2007; a collaboration with Caruso St John Architects at the Arts Council England Offices in 2008 and a commission at Haymarket Metro Station, Newcastle in 2009. He has also had commissions for the Ministry of Justice and Westminster College, London.

He has been on residencies in New York, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and enjoyed an Abbey Fellowship at the British School at Rome in 2010.

The exhibition preview is on Thursday 2 February from 6-8pm and it runs until Sunday 1 April 2012.

New season at Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw

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Polly March Polly March | 13:25 UK time, Thursday, 26 January 2012

A riot of colourful local scenes will dominate in a new exhibition at the Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw in Llanbedrog, Pwllheli.

For its first display of 2012, the gallery is showcasing regular Anne Aspinall alongside the work of Caernarfon-based artist Stephen John Owen, plus new offerings by five arts students from across Wales.

Manchester-born Aspinall has proved popular for the gallery in the past with her striking collection of local vistas. She uses mixed media to bring well-loved scenes to life and this exhibition will give her a chance to test out her latest collection, with some new paintings from further afield such as Porthgain and Abereiddy.

Anne Aspinall, Abereiddy - Three Cottages

Anne Aspinall, Abereiddy - Three Cottages. Image courtesy of the artist

She says: "I was inspired by the ghosts of their industrial past and the tenacity of the people who lived and worked in such a harsh environment on the very edge of the land. I am drawn to places like this.

"They have a gravitas and a melancholy but I see real optimism in the way they adapt and continue.

"Porthgain has a new life as a fishing village - the tiny boat dwarfed by the vastness of the old industrial harbour and the old cottages at Abereiddy are still there having witnessed the rise and fall of the quarry, now swallowed by the sea.

"I'm inspired by the spiritual feel of old places where people have lived and worked hard for hundreds of years especially those on the edge of the sea - hence my love for harbours."

Stephen J Owen is best-known for his vibrant scenes of Gwynedd and Anglesey. His contributions for this exhibition have been influenced by his own recent house move to Groeslon.

He says: "It is strange how light and colour can change so dramatically from one place to the other, even if it's only within a couple of miles."

Stephen J Owen, Clothes Drying. Image courtesy of the artist

Stephen J Owen, Clothes Drying. Image courtesy of the artist

As well as paintings, his display includes a collection of three-dimensional clay pieces which have been inspired by people in the local area.

"Originally made as a gift for my wife, these figures are only intended as a bit of fun. They capture images and moments that I see on my regular walks about the area."

To accompany the other two artists, there will be a group exhibition by art graduates from last year on the first floor of the gallery, funded by the Arts Council for Wales and Gwynedd Council.

They are: Rhian Haf MA from Swansea University, Laura Hunt MA - Aberystwyth University, Dave Byrne BA - Bangor University, Lara Usherwood Art Foundation - Coleg Menai, Ffion Evans BA - Cardiff, Samantha Ellis BA- Glyn Dŵr University and work by blogging site 'Animation Newport' from Newport University.

Ffion Evans, Dead Bird. Image courtesy of the artist

Ffion Evans, Dead Bird. Image courtesy of the artist

Line up for Artes Mundi prize announced

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Polly March Polly March | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 26 January 2012

The organisation behind Artes Mundi, the UK's biggest contemporary art prize has announced its shortlist.

Selectors have whittled down the choice of talent from 576 different artists to just seven, who will now vie for the prestigious £40,000 prize.

The seven artists are: Miriam Bäckström (Sweden), Tania Bruguera (Cuba), Phil Collins (England), Sheela Gowda (India), Teresa Margolles (Mexico), Darius Mikšys (Lithuania) and Apolonija Šušteršič (Slovenia).

They were selected by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, who is curator of contemporary art at Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York and curatorial agent for dOCUMENTA (13), and Anders Kreuger, curator at M HKA in Antwerp, Belgium.

Ben Borthwick, Artes Mundi's chief executive and artistic director, who joined the team from Tate Modern in 2010, said: "We are delighted with the exceptional quality of this shortlist, which was drawn from a very strong field of nominations.

"I look forward to welcoming the artists to Wales and creating an exhibition in October that will give audiences the opportunity to engage with the most exciting international contemporary art."

Anders Kreuger added that he was honoured to have been a selector for the prize: "Almost 600 artists were nominated this year, and it was a huge challenge to whittle these highly accomplished individuals down to just seven.

"We have chosen seven very different but equally talented artists, of different generations and from all across the globe, to exhibit at the National Museum of Art this autumn."

All of the shortlisted artists will exhibit their work in a 14-week show at the new museum from 6 October 2012.

The final decision on the winner will be made by an international judging panel halfway through the exhibition, with £4,000 handed out to all the runners-up. And one of the shortlisted artists will also get the chance to exhibit in a solo show at the Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno in 2013.

The artists selected have all used various mediums to explore life and comment on their experiences and social issues, but all of their work is said to share the common threads of action and performance.

Swedish artist Miriam Bäckström uses photography, text, theatre and video to explore the idea of the documentary and the fictional and to recreate memory.

In 2005 she represented Sweden at the Venice Biennale and collaborated with artist Carsten Höller.

Miriam Bäckström, Attractions/Red Vitrine (2010). Coloured (red) vitrine in glass and wood, with interior made of wood and coloured mirrors, neon light (red) with electric support. Four black painted iron legs. Objects placed in the interior, on the mirrors.

Miriam Bäckström, Attractions/Red Vitrine (2010).
Coloured (red) vitrine in glass and wood, with interior made of wood and coloured mirrors, neon light (red) with electric support. Four black painted iron legs. Objects placed in the interior, on the mirrors.

Tania Bruguera, from Cuba, uses performance, installation and social interventions to reflect on what it means to be Cuban.

She is particularly interested in how art transects daily political life, and how the individual's sense of self links to a collective historical and contemporary social memory.

In 2003 she founded the alternative art school Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Art of Behaviour) in Havana to help up and coming Cuban artists access channel intellectual and technological resources unavailable in Cuba. It has been credited with helping an entire generation to display their work internationally.

Tania Bruguera, Tatlin's Whispers #5, 2008 Photo: Sheila Burnett, Courtesy Tate Modern

Tania Bruguera, Tatlin's Whispers #5, 2008.
Photo: Sheila Burnett, Courtesy Tate Modern

Phil Collins is from the UK but based in Germany and works mainly in video and photography in places that have experienced political unrest such as Baghdad, Belgrade, Bogotá, and, most recently, Jakarta.

He is keen to explore the relationship between producer, participant and viewer and how history is narrated in various forms, be it documentary, reality TV, soap operas and music videos.

Phil Collins, Auto-Kino!, 2010. A stationary drive-in cinema with a curated programme of films and videos. Co-organised with Siniša Mitrović. Installation view, Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin - courtesy of Shady Lane Productions

Phil Collins, Auto-Kino!, 2010.
A stationary drive-in cinema with a curated programme of films and videos. Co-organised with Siniša Mitrović. Installation view, Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin - courtesy of Shady Lane Productions

Sculptor Sheela Gowda from India is fascinated by the social and cultural reality of her home country and how the unconventional materials she uses in her work can reference that context.

From thread and hair to traditional dyes, patterns and weaving, she investigates India's traditions of labour, inequity and oppression.

Sheela Gowda, Of All People, 2011. Wood, metal, Print on paper. Installation, variable dimension

Sheela Gowda, Of All People, 2011.
Wood, metal, Print on paper. Installation, variable dimension

Mexican Teresa Margolles' work has a particular focus on the drug culture of northern Mexico and the impact of violence and murder on the community.

She has a diploma in forensic science and explores how the morgue and dissecting room often bear witness to social unrest.

Teresa Margolles, What Else Could We Talk About, Cleaning, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Teresa Margolles, What Else Could We Talk About, Cleaning, 2009.
Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Darius Miksys from Lithuania is a fan of experimenting and re-imagining processes of making, displaying and engaging with art.

For the 54th Venice Biennale, he invited all Lithuanian artists who had received European grants to submit a work to his project Behind the White Curtain, 2011. Visitors were then able to select works to create their own displays of post-Soviet Lithuanian art.

Darius Mikšys, Artist Parent's Meeting. Lithuanian Art 2000-2010: Ten Years (2010), Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius (CAC), Vilnius.

Darius Mikšys, Artist Parent's Meeting.
Lithuanian Art 2000-2010: Ten Years (2010), Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius (CAC), Vilnius.

Finally Apolonija Šušteršič of Slovenia uses her background in architecture to create works within urban environments and encourage a socially engaged practice that brings together artists and architects, critics and curators.

Apolonija Šušteršič, Garden Service (2007). Project by Apolonija Šušteršič and Meike Schalk, Edinburgh 2007

Apolonija Šušteršič, Garden Service (2007).
Project by Apolonija Šušteršič and Meike Schalk, Edinburgh 2007

Established in 2002, Artes Mundi supports contemporary visual artists from around the world whose work engages with social reality and lived experience.

Every two years, the organisation works with artists, galleries, art institutions, curators and the British Council, to seeks nominations of artists perhaps famous within their own countries but little known on the world stage.

In 2010 the Artes Mundi 4 Prize was awarded to Yael Bartana who went on to represent Poland at the 2011 Venice Biennale (June-November 2011).

Artes Mundi is publicly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and by Cardiff City Council.

Welsh rugby stars are the faces of World Book Day in Wales

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:28 UK time, Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Wales rugby internationals George North and Rhys Priestland have been chosen as the faces of World Book Day 2012 in Wales.

The players, who both play for west Wales regional team the Scarlets, are currently undergoing a rigorous training camp in Poland in the run up to the Six Nations tournament.

George North reading at Parc y Scarlets. Photo: Patrick Olner/Welsh Books Council

George North reading at Parc y Scarlets. Photo: Patrick Olner/Welsh Books Council

But before they departed the two players took part in a photo shoot at their home ground Parc y Scarlets so they could both feature on posters to promote World Book Day in Wales.

Over 15,000 of these posters are being distributed across Wales to highlight the event, and are being sent to every school in Wales plus libraries, book shops, prisons and workplaces.

Fly half Priestland commented, "It's a great privilege to be chosen for the World Book Day 2012 poster campaign.

"As sportsmen we spend a great deal of time training for a match or tournament, but in my down time I enjoy reading - either a rugby magazine, news online, catching up with friends and fans on social media sites or any biographies."

Rhys Priestland reading Roald Dahl's classic Danny Champion Of The World in Welsh, Danny Pencampwr Y Byd

Rhys Priestland reading Roald Dahl's classic Danny Champion Of The World in Welsh, Danny Pencampwr Y Byd

Winger North added, "Reading is an important skill whichever job you choose, but it is also a great way to relax after a hard day's training."

World Book Day 2012 falls on Thursday 1 March. The day was designated by UNESCO as worldwide celebration of books and reading and it is now celebrated in over 100 countries.

Find out more on worldbookday.com and for more on World Book Day in Wales visit the Welsh Books Council website. Let us know if you're planning to mark the day!

Artist Owen Griffiths talks about Vetch Veg project

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:55 UK time, Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Artist Owen Griffiths will give a talk this Friday lunchtime about his involvement in turning the disused Vetch Field into a socially engaged artwork, which forms part of the Cultural Olympiad in Wales.

Once the home ground of Swansea City Football Club, the Vetch in the Sandfields area of the city became redundant as the Swans moved on to their newer, shinier abode, the Liberty Stadium, in 2005. Over the last six months Griffiths has been working with the local community to create an 'urban utopia' on this site following the demolition of the old stadium.

The result is the Vetch Veg project. A portion of the old Vetch site has been turned into temporary vegetable patches and the local community has worked together over the last few months to develop the plots, tend winter crops and generally maintain the space.

Here are some before and after photos to give you a taste of what's been created on the site of the old football ground:

The old Vetch Field

The old Vetch Field before the project started

The Vetch Veg project, Sandfields

The Vetch Veg project, Sandfields

Billed as a 'participatory and interdisciplinary social artwork', this community project is in association with Adain Avion - an exciting mobile art space created from the fuselage of a DC-9 aeroplane, which will make various stops across Wales this summer in the run up to the Olympics.

Find out more about Adain Avion, which is Wales' Artists Taking The Lead commission led by Welsh artist Marc Rees, a UK-wide project part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The Vetch Veg project will run for 12 months in total, and will have a grand finale with a flower and produce show plus a communal culinary celebration that will take place in June around Avion's nesting site in front of the National Waterfront Museum.

Griffiths works both individually as an artist and collaboratively with fellow Swansea artist Fern Thomas in the collective Supersaurus.

He will give the talk, which has been organised by the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, on Friday 27 January at 1pm at the YMCA on the Kingsway.

The Vetch Veg project is managed by Taliesin Arts Centre in partnership with Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Environmental Forum and the City and County of Swansea.

For more about Gylnn Vivian's programme of events visit www.glynnviviangallery.org.

A creature of the night

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Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 12:01 UK time, Monday, 23 January 2012

One evening last week, I stopped in the little rural town of Presteigne, in Powys, just on dusk... and one of those timeshifts occurred.

It's a phenomenon best evoked on TV, when the picture goes into black and white and you see men in ankle-length macs and women with pins through their hats, and the men raise their trilbies to the women and offer them a Capstan Full Strength.

Presteigne at dusk

Presteigne at dusk

Well, OK, I may have exaggerated the odd period detail, but you get the idea: Presteigne at nightfall, especially when you haven't been there for a while, is part of another era.

For a start, there are no superstores. There's a traditional greengrocer's which, like my dad's old village shop, also sells fresh fish. There are shops trading in second hand goods overflowing on to the pavement. There's a flower shop and a town hall with a clock. And never many people about.

And not much light.

Which is the point. Presteigne is not merely old-fashioned. Because of Powys County Council's bid to reduce its electricity bill, it's also extremely dim.

No surprise, therefore, that this is the home of Ian Marchant, author of Something Of The Night, a new book about the strangeness of Britain after dark.

The title comes from Ann Widdecombe's memorable description of her Tory colleague, Michael Howard. Something of the night about him, Ann remarked - and we might have guessed that she was about to become a novelist.

Anyway, I've met both Michael Howard and Ian Marchant just the once, and maybe I'm not sufficiently attuned to this kind of aura but neither of them struck me as having much of the night about him. Michael Howard was fairly chatty and Ian Marchant seemed kind of sunny. And that's how his book begins.

Author Ian Marchant

Ian Marchant

Ian is one of those guys almost destined to live in Radnorshire, where incomers are rarely entirely normal. He's been a singer with various bands, including the almost-legendary Your Dad, and also a travel writer.

"I am a creature of the night," he writes. "Ninety per cent of this book has been written after dark."

His journey into the shadowlife is told in a series of flashbacks from an all-night drinking and confessional session with his mate Neil, a disabled small-time dope-dealer exiled to Ireland. To the strains of old pop music, most of which only one of them likes, we observe their wry but intermittently harrowing game of psychological strip-poker as the night makes its way towards the Hour of the Wolf.

Although it's scattered with statistics about sleep, dreams and circadian rhythms don't expect some kind of encyclopaedia of the nocturnal world. This is an increasingly personalised account, which begins with fireworks in Abergavenny, floodlit football, dog-racing and where to get the best pillows.

It moves on to the search for a nightingale in the Cotswolds and a visit to the Spacewatch observatory set up (in Radnorshire, obviously) to save the world from asteroid damage. There are memories of Ian's student years in Lampeter and a drive to Llanddewi Brefi where "the stars came crashing out in all their glory."

And then it does get dark.

The first danger signs appear in an account of a long drive from Cumbria home to Presteigne, listening to the car radio airing newly-discovered tapes of the poet Philip Larkin reading his own works. Larkin is a recurring murmur in this book which, sooner or later, had to tackle Aubade, arguably the most depressing poem ever written about lying awake with the knowledge that you're riding on a one-way ticket.

A weird, apparently-prophetic dream signals the sudden death of Ian's estranged first wife, turning him overnight into a single-parent suffering repeated panic attacks and the conviction that he won't see another morning. Then comes the temazepam, the Valium, the beta-blockers.

Meanwhile, we learn the tragic truth about how Neil came to be in Northern Ireland. And then there's the death of Ian's father, with whom he had a very negative relationship. And you remember a line from Chapter One.

"Night is when we are most likely to die, commit suicide... the time of our greatest fears."

It's not looking good. You examine the back fly-leaf to see if it says anything about this manuscript being found among the effects of the late Ian Marchant.

But, no, he was still around for the candlelit launch party in Presteigne. And you remember the night in a curiously bright and vibrant churchyard when - OK, with his system not exactly substance-free - he became aware "that I wasn't alone in the universe. that I was part of this beauty, somehow, and it was appropriate that I was there, and loved..."

It wasn't in Presteigne, but you can't have everything.

Comics join forces for 'Comedy and Cwtshes' evening

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Polly March Polly March | 09:30 UK time, Monday, 23 January 2012

Wednesday sees St Dwynwen's Day in Wales, when the country's patron saint of lovers is honoured and people make their romantic intentions, requited or otherwise, known to one another.

Following that theme, on Friday comedian Phil Evans is hosting a night of stand-up involving seven other artists at the Pontardawe Arts Centre.

Comedian Phil Evans

Comedian Phil Evans

The event is to raise money for the Follow Your Dreams charity, and support their work with children with learning disabilities throughout south Wales.

The charity raises awareness and helps young people with learning disabilities to realise their full potential or special dream within sport, art, music, drama and ICT. As they grow older, they are also helped on the road to a career and learn to prepare themselves for adulthood, with the aim of living independently and securing employment.

"It's a great cause and a great occasion," said Phil, who is a warm-up comedian for TV shows on BBC, S4C and ITV.

"St Dwynwen's Day is on 25 January, so we may be a couple of days later celebrating it, but better late than never. I've hand-picked a team of seven other Welsh comedians for this show, so laughs are guaranteed."

Joining him on stage will be other BBC names including reviewer and presenter Gary Slaymaker, BBC Radio Cymru presenter Daniel Glyn and actress and writer Eirlys Bellin.

Alan Wightman, Matt Steel, Geraint Evans and Ignacio Lopez will also bring their unique blends of comedy to the fore on the night.

The theme of the evening is 'relationships' which follows on from St Dwynwen's Day and it has a parental advisory of "mature content" so children under 16 will not be admitted.

Evans is adamant that the Welsh for hug should always be spelled cwtsh rather than cwtch.

The word is said to be one of the nation's favourites and has been adopted by many in the cross-over language of Wenglish, particularly popular in the south Wales valleys.

Comedy and Cwtshes is on Friday 27 January, 7pm to 9.30pm at the Pontardawe Arts Centre, Herbert Street, Pontardawe, Swansea.

Tickets are £10 and can be bought via boxoffice.npt.gov.uk.

Craig Roberts scoops award for Submarine role

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:38 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

Welsh actor Craig Roberts picked up the young British performer of the year accolade at yesterday's London Critics' Circle Film Awards for his role in Swansea-shot Submarine.

Roberts, who hails from Maesycwmmer, Caerphilly, beat the likes of War Horse star Jeremy Irvine, Saoirse Ronan, John Boyega and his Submarine co-star Yasmin Paige to the award.

Craig Roberts as Oliver and Yasmin Paige as Jordana in Submarine. Photo © www.image.net

Craig Roberts as Oliver and Yasmin Paige as Jordana in Submarine. Photo © www.image.net

Submarine was adapted from the novel by Welsh author Joe Dunthorne, and directed by Richard Ayoade.

Ayoade was beaten to the breakthrough British film-maker gong at last night's awards by Andrew Haigh for Weekend, which starred Cardiff actor Tom Cullen. Cullen in turn missed out on the best British actor award to Michael Fassbender.

Read more about the award winners on the BBC News website.

Artist Tim Davies joins Artes Mundi team

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Polly March Polly March | 11:15 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

Artes Mundi, the team behind the UK's largest international visual art prize, have welcomed Welsh artist Tim Davies onto their board.

Davies, who is head of fine art at Swansea Metropolitan University, was the only European artist shortlisted for the prestigious award in its first-ever year in 2004.

Tim Davies

Tim Davies

He was also selected to represent Wales in a solo exhibition of video and two-dimensional work at the 54th Venice Biennale of Art in 2011. It was only the fifth time that Wales had staged an exhibition in the festival's history.

His appointment to the charity comes at its busiest time, as it is gearing up to announce the international shortlist for the fifth Artes Mundi Prize at the end of January.

Accepting the appointment, he said: "I am thrilled to become part of an organisation with such an outstanding record - not only promoting contemporary visual art in Wales but also building Wales' cultural standing on the world stage."

William Wilkins, Chairman of Artes Mundi, added: "I am delighted that Tim Davies has agreed to join us.

"As one of Wales' best known and most distinguished artists, his experience and knowledge of the visual arts and of arts education in Wales will be invaluable to us."

Ben Borthwick, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, who joined Artes Mundi from Tate Modern in 2010, said: "Artists are at the centre of everything Artes Mundi does so the recruitment of Tim Davies as a trustee is an important step forward.

"Crucially, at a time of development for Artes Mundi's activity and ambitions, he brings to the board the experience and insight of being shortlisted for the prize himself."

Davies, who is based in Swansea, works in a range of media. He is primarily an installation artist whose work often derives from environmental or political concerns.

His contributions to the Biennale included two pieces inspired by the Venetian city. 'Drift' gave audiences an unusual view, whilst 'Frari' was a result of an "emotional" visit to the inside of a little-seen landmark bell tower.

Artes Mundi was established in 2002 as a contemporary visual arts initiative to promote artists who are "socially-engaged" and give them exposure on an international platform. Work is already under way to prepare for its autumn exhibition at the new National Museum of Art in Cardiff.

Stage adaptation of Rachel Trezise's Fresh Apples to go on tour

Polly March Polly March | 17:09 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

Teenagehood in all its transience and emotional intensity will be brought to life on stage during a new touring production by Cwmni Theatr Frân Wen.

The company is producing Fala' Surion, a Welsh-language adaptation of Rachel Trezise's acclaimed Fresh Apples.

The collection of observational short stories, which casts a wry eye at the awkwardness of adolescence in modern Wales, shot to notoriety after scooping the EDS Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006. It features 11 darkly comic stories dealing with topics from drugs and adultery to stalking and first sexual experiences.

Promotional still from Fala' Surion

Promotional still from Fala' Surion

The cast includes Mold-born Rhodri Meilir, who appeared in the BBC hit comedy My Family and Terry Pratchett's Hogfather on Sky One.

He said: "The raw emotional power and directness of the book had a profound effect on me. "It's a moving exploration of adolescent innocence with a dark comedy vein running through.

"There are laugh out loud moments in the book that only serves to heighten the tenderness of the stories. It's humour that the Welsh will appreciate and associate with."

Also starring are Pobl y Cwm's Catrin Mara and Rhodri Miles, who won the Best International Artist award at the 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival for his portrayal of Welsh icon Richard Burton in the one-man show Burton.

Other actors include Lowri Gwynne from S4C's Rownd a Rownd and stage actress Lynwen Haf Roberts, who took the lead role in the National Theatre's Welsh translation of Frank Wedekind's musical Spring Awakening.

The production is being directed by Iola Ynyr, who was supported by Manon Eames and Catrin Dafydd, who translated the work from English to Welsh.

She said: "They are among Wales' finest wordsmiths and have been very courageous in transferring the characters from page to stage.

"They have used the dark humour, poverty and oppression to portray Welsh urban life in all its glory."

Trezise was born in Cwmparc in the Rhondda Valley in 1978. Her semi-autobiographical debut novel In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl depicted a harsh childhood. It also marked her out as a writer to watch and scooped her a place on the Orange Futures list, highlighting 21 promising young female authors at the turn of the century.

Having studied at the University of Glamorgan and University of Limerick, In And Out Of The Goldfish Bowl was picked up by Parthian before Trezise had even completed her degree. Published in 2002 to critical acclaim, the book prompted Harpers & Queen to vote her the new face of literature in 2003.

Her style of prose is often described as witty and shocking, and in the past has been dubbed 'Welsh urban fiction', speaking vast truths about a perceived emotional and physical wasteland in urban Wales.

She said: "Where there's real pain; poverty, political oppression, injustice, there's also good jokes and a dark and quick sense of humour.

"Often I don't realise that what I'm writing is humorous. I've been working recently on a novel set in America with Orthodox Jewish characters and some characters from the Deep South, and their tendency toward humour is similar to that of my Welsh characters."

Trezise is currently involved in writing a screenplay with Human Traffic director Justin Kerrigan, about which she said: "To see actors lift characters off the page, characters that you dreamt up in your head, is both a frightening and very gratifying experience."

The tour kicks off on 28 February at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, where there will be a post-performance discussion with Trezise and the artistic team.

From there it moves to Theatr Felinfach, the Taliesin Arts Centre, Galeri, Caernarfon, Theatr John Ambrose, Ruthin, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli, Pontio, Bangor, Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay ending at Theatr Lyric, Caerfyrddin on March 28.

Further information and tickets are available via falasurion.com or 01248 715 048.

Newport's Ffresh film festival announces full line-up

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Polly March Polly March | 16:29 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

Following the news that top British film director Mike Leigh will be hosting a masterclass at this year's Ffresh film festival, organisers have revealed the full and final line-up, including appearances from Jonathan Caouette and Asif Kapadia.

Ffresh - the Student Moving Image Festival of Wales - takes place from 8-10 February at the Newport Film School and the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre in Newport. Its overarching aim is to celebrate the cream of new talent in low-budget filmmaking from Wales and across the world.

There will be more than 30 screenings that are a must-see for students of film and anybody interested in the industry. And as well as the Leigh masterclass, devotees of film can enjoy sessions with a range of inspiring film-makers.

On 10 February there will be a masterclass with the American Jonathan Caouette, whose new film Walk Away Renee enjoys its UK première at the festival on 8 February.

Jonathan Caouette

Jonathan Caouette

Caouette's first documentary Tarnation, about his deeply troubled upbringing growing up with a schizophrenic mother, was a hit in America and went on to win awards including Best Documentary from the National Society of Film Critics, the Independent Spirits, the Gotham Awards, and the LA and London International Film Festivals.

It was the result of hours of Super 8 film, home video, photo albums and voicemails he had recorded over 20 years, chronicling his problematic relationships with his mother Renée and his grandparents.

His latest offering sees him take a road trip across America to help his mentally ill mother move from one facility to another.

Renée's troubles began when she fell off the roof of her house aged 12, losing the use of her legs. Her parents believed her inability to walk was psychosomatic and so took her to receive electric shock therapy. The invasive treatments left her with bipolar and schizo-affective disorders while her legs regained their use after a trapped nerve recovered naturally.

Her life since has seen her institutionalised more than 100 times and at one point saw her and a five-year-old Caouette end up on the streets of Chicago where he witnessed first-hand her being raped.

The latest film uses the present road trip as a prism through which to examine their complicated mother son relationship, with numerous flashbacks to their traumatic past.

On 9 February comedy director Matt Lipsey will share his insights on the highs and lows of working on some of Britain's best-loved hit comedy series with the audience. He has worked with many of the UK's best comic actors including Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Julia Davies, Matt Lucas, Reece Shearsmith, Reeves and Mortimer, and Dawn French with his credits including such hit shows as Armstrong & Miller, Human Remains, Little Britain, Jekyll, Saxondale and Psychoville.

Asif Kapadia, the brains behind the recent biopic Senna, about the tragic Brazilian Formula One star, will chart his journey from graphic designer to acclaimed director on 9 February.

Kapadia dipped his toe in the industry as a production runner, before himself studying at Newport Film School. His debut The Warrior, a Hindi-language film set in the deserts of Rajasthan, won a BAFTA for best British film and one for special achievement in first feature film in 2003.

Merlin Crossingham, who directed Wallace and Gromit, will also share his knowledge with audiences on 10 February.

The festival also sees the premieres of six new short films about Newport and five Welsh language films about community made from young filmmakers from around Wales as well as showcasing work by the winners of its own Ffresh awards.

Despite its obvious allure for film students, those behind the event are keen to stress that all the screenings and events are open to the public.

Chris Morris from the Newport Film School is chair of this year's festival. He said: "We wanted to focus on something which is at the heart of everything we teach: how to tell a great story.

"From the Newport Stories project to the Ffresh Awards, and masterclasses with such renowned filmmakers as Mike Leigh, Matt Lipsey, and Jonathan Caouette, storytelling is at the very heart of this year's Ffresh programme.

Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh

"I'm also thrilled to have two graduates from the University, Asif Kapadia and Merlin Crossingham who've gone on to achieve so much, come back to the Film School to share their experience with the festival audience.

"Jonathan Caouette is someone I regularly teach about in my classes so to have him travelling all the way from New York to talk to the students in person is tremendously exciting.

"We're very grateful to British Council Wales for their support which has enabled us to host the first ever UK retrospective of Jonathan's work including the UK première of his new film Walk Away Renee which I'm sure will be fantastic and well worth seeing.

James Nee, festival director added: "We wanted this year's festival to celebrate how new talent can shine in tough times through great ideas and mutual support and I think the programme clearly demonstrates this.

"As well as the shortlisted work for the Ffresh Awards - which all the judges have commented are of a very high standard - we're premièring 11 fantastic new short films, which were made on minuscule budgets, and have guests like Jonathan Caouette who made his first film for only $218!"

Full programme details and information about individual tickets and festival passes are available on the Ffresh website.

Aneurin Barnard on David Bailey and We'll Take Manhattan

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:40 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard portrays a young David Bailey in BBC Four's We'll Take Manhattan, a one-off drama that explores the explosive love affair between the iconic photographer and 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton.

Predominantly set in 1962, We'll Take Manhattan centres on a week-long Vogue photo shoot in New York that sparked a love affair between the 23-year-old married Bailey and 18-year-old model Shrimpton.

Aneurin Barnard and Karen Gillan star in We'll Take Manhattan. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Aneurin Barnard and Karen Gillan in We'll Take Manhattan. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Aneurin Barnard is very much a star in the ascendency. After graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2008 he entered the world of musical theatre and won an Oliver Award at the age of just 23 in 2010 for his role in Spring Awakening. Last year he appeared in the 2011 medieval action film Ironclad alongside acting heavyweights James Purefoy, Derek Jacobi, Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox.

He's already got a number of new films under his belt that are due for release this year, including Welsh director Marc Evans' Hunky Dory, Elfie Hopkins - starring father and daughter duo Ray and Jaime Winstone - and drugs-trial-gone-wrong thriller Guinea Pigs.

But the first chance to see Barnard in 2012 is in We'll Take Manhattan. I recently spoke to the actor about his role in the drama.

How did it feel to land the role, and to have the chance to portray an icon such as David Bailey?

Landing the role was an absolute pleasure, I was very happy. I think there were a lot of people of involved for the role so I was over the moon really to get it. And to portray Mr Bailey, I was really excited and so happy that I was given the opportunity to get underneath his skin and to tell his story. Just brilliant.

How did you research for the role? Did you have any contact with Bailey?

I didn't have any contact with him until after we had shot the whole thing. The research I did was watching certain videos of him at the time, lots of interviews and material from when he was about 23. After that I didn't really look into his work. I know his work anyway, but all my research went in to when he was younger and what influenced him in photography as a person.

For instance, one of the strongest influences on him was Picasso, especially one painting called Jacqueline. So stuff like that, and looking into his involvement in the army, his family, his mum being a single mum and growing up in the Mile End area of London. That kind of stuff was really important for me.

Then the biggest research really at hand was his voice, his accent. Because he's not just a 'normal' cockney, he has a very particular way of speaking and that was the challenge at hand.

Have you ever dabbled in photography yourself?

I've picked a camera up a few times. I remember buying my first camera when I was about 18 and really going wild with it, as you do as an 18-year-old, especially when you're in college.

For this role I was given the two cameras that Bailey used back then, a Rolleiflex and a Pentax. I was given them two weeks beforehand and I spent a day with a photography specialist who went through the ropes with me with the cameras. And then I was given them to play with so I was just taking shots of friends at home, in my flat, on the street, on the Tube, kind of just getting used to using them in the way that Bailey does.

Aneurin Barnard holding a Pentax camera. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Aneurin Barnard holding a Pentax camera. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Plus, Bailey shoots through his left eye and I normally shoot through my right so I had to learn to change that. It was almost like changing from being right-handed to left-handed in a sense.

The subtle things like that, that really key in to him - probably things that only he would notice - were really important to me.

What was shooting in New York like?

We were shooting for a week. We were there for about eight or nine days, and it was a pleasure from the moment we got there until the moment we left.

It was beautiful weather, the streets were busy, there was a buzz in the air as the city always has.

To shoot on Brooklyn Bridge was the highlight for me, and then we shot on a tower which was overlooking the UN building and that was a moment as well. Just phenomenal.

Taking shots of Karen Gillan as Jean Shrimpton then, looking down at the long streets of New York with all the taxis underneath you, was just sensational. You know you have some moments in your life where you think 'it'll never be this good' and that was one of them.

The pair on a New York rooftop. Photo: BBC/Kudos

The pair on a New York rooftop. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Do you have any plans to move to America?

Not to move, I don't think I could ever move there permanently. I definitely will have to go there for some time; I have done in the past and I will continue to have to.

I could live there for a short period of time, I could probably live in New York for a good couple of years actually because it's such a phenomenal city, but... [in an exaggerated voice] I love this country too much!

What was it like working with Karen Gillan?

Karen is sensational. She's a very talented actress, she's very beautiful and very elegant on screen. We became really good friends; there was really good banter between us. Also, the concentration was there to really zone in on scenes and to really take control of the story and make sure that we were portraying David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton with respect and admiration.

Gillan, a former model herself, portrays 1960s model Jean Shrimpton in the drama. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Gillan, a former model herself, portrays 1960s model Jean Shrimpton in the drama. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Bailey and Shrimpton were among some of the most stylish people around at the time. Did you get to wear any particularly memorable 1960s-style costumes while filming?

There was of course the black polo neck which was very Sixties, and the turtleneck that Bailey wore, so that's what I had on for a long time. [jokingly] I had a nice white vest at one point!

And the leather jackets and Cuban heels, it was very Sixties. But the thing is, Bailey was almost wearing these clothes before they even hit the streets, if you know what I mean.

Aneurin Barnard in a scene from the drama. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Aneurin Barnard in a scene from the drama. Photo: BBC/Kudos

He almost had the 'Beatle' look before The Beatles had it, even the Beatle bob as that's how his hair naturally fell. He was ahead of his time in a way, and I think that's what was quite attractive about him because he was on it; there was influence where the fashion was coming from other places, and he was getting it before anyone else was.

What did you find most enjoyable about filming the programme?

One thing I learnt was that you don't have to spend all day shooting: you can get it done in half an hour if you're that talented as a cameraman. You can get the shot done very quickly, and there's no one who works as fast as Bailey. It's astonishing how he can get the quality he does, which is the best, in so little time.

Another thing I learnt was to plough on really; if you believe in something then you really have to drive through it. Bailey was told many times that he was doing the wrong thing or that it was never going to work for him, but everything that he stuck with actually panned out.

Karen Gillan and Aneurin Barnard in We'll Take Manhattan. Photo: BBC/Kudos

We'll Take Manhattan can be seen on BBC Four on Thursday 26 January at 9pm. Photo: BBC/Kudos

Can you tell us about any future projects you've got coming up?

Well there are a lot of films that will be coming out. Hunky Dory will be out soon; it is set in Swansea with Minnie Driver. Another movie called Elfie Hopkins with Ray Winstone and Jaime Winstone, another called Citadel which is set in Glasgow with James Cosmo, and another called Guinea Pigs.

So there's lots coming out. People will be able to see something that I've done, which is quite nice as it's been a while since anything has come out. I'm just looking forward to being seen really.

Are you likely to return to theatre or musical theatre in the near future?

Hopefully. I don't turn my back on anything. It's a really good format to have, to go back to theatre and build yourself as an actor. I think it's a great skill to go from screen to stage.

So definitely, I absolutely want to get back on stage, it's just about making sure it's the right show at the right time.

How often do you get back to Wales?

I try to get back as much as possible. Unfortunately it's been pretty difficult over the past months because I've been filming on several different projects and most of them have been overlapping. So every few months I get back, but I'm constantly on the phone and I do miss everyone there dearly, but they know I've got to do what I've got to do right now.

What would be your dream role?

Oooh, right, I've been asked this before and I'm going to stick with it, for a very personal reason. Bond is actually my dream role. Only because it was the film I watched with my grandfathers and father from a very young age, and it would be the only way that I could actually repay them with my art form for what they've done for me.

We'll Take Manhattan can be seen on BBC Four at 9pm on Thursday 26 January, and on the BBC iPlayer for the subsequent seven days after transmission.

Browse a photo gallery of images taken from the drama.

Read an article by the writer and director of We'll Take Manhattan, John McKay, on the BBC TV Blog.

National Eisteddfod calls for 2012 art entries

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:14 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

Artists and makers in Wales are now able to submit their entries for the Open Exhibition at the 2012 National Eisteddfod.

This year's National Eisteddfod will be held in the Vale of Glamorgan between 4-11 August. Artists are now being encouraged to submit their entries for the exhibition, which is held each year in Y Lle Celf - the visual arts pavilion - and draws up to 40,000 visitors.

The exhibition is open to any person born in Wales, or of Welsh parents, or any person who has lived or worked in Wales for the three years prior to 4 August 2012, or any person who is able to speak or write in the Welsh language.

The Eisteddfod has invited art critic and director of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin Declan McGonagle, Cardiff artist Sean Edwards and applied artist and curator Laura Thomas of The Makers Guild in Wales to select this year's exhibition. The panel will also award the gold medal for fine art, the gold medal for craft and design plus the Young Artist Scholarship for excellence and commitment.

The closing date for entries is 1 March 2012.

For more information visit eisteddfod.org.uk. Browse the BBC Eisteddfod site for clips and highlights from last year's event in Wrexham, plus browse a gallery of images taken at last year's Y Lle Celf.

Circus performers double up as waiters for new theatre act

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Polly March Polly March | 10:40 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

This weekend the Riverfront Arts Centre in Newport is hosting a live circus-theatre performance which will see audiences eating a meal served by the very artists they have come to watch.

The Crashmat Collective

The Crashmat Collective

Super Pseudo is co-produced by the centre and the Crashmat Collective and marks a foray into experiential theatre.

The idea is that the audience is totally immersed in the experience they are witnessing and are almost eavesdropping on the restaurant staff's lives. The aim is to blur the boundaries between performer and the audience.

The Crashmat Collective is a new company involving experienced performers from No Fit State circus and Mary Bijou Cabaret.

Although café staff will be present, the artists will bring pre-ordered dishes to the tables for the audiences to eat and serve drinks at the bar, offering snippets of insights into imagined lives. The centre tweeted on Wednesday that audiences will be in for a real surprise.

Performances began last night and will continue until Saturday 14 January 2012, where the Riverfront's studio theatre will be transformed into a circus-café space.

The Crashmat Collective in rehearsal earlier this week

The Crashmat Collective in rehearsal earlier this week

Spokeswoman Rachel Kinchin said: "A café in a circus or a circus in a café? Come and meet Crashmat's performers, see their stories unfold in thrilling and touching ways; while eating and drinking at your table - served by those same performers.

"The performance provides an insight into the restaurant staff's internal thought processes, varying from beautiful to funny and always unpredictable."

Ticket prices range from £11 to £14, although any food must be pre-ordered. Some drinks-only tickets are still available.

Elis James' Pantheon of Heroes on BBC Radio Wales

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 16:44 UK time, Thursday, 12 January 2012

Welsh comedian Elis James hosts a brand new comedy show on BBC Radio Wales that examines some of Wales' forgotten historic heroes.

The premise of Elis James' Pantheon of Heroes, which starts tomorrow evening, is that Elis has been given a dubious grant - and a very hypothetical one at that - to populate a garden of heroes with granite statues of figures from Welsh history.

Each show in the series works out which Welsh hero should be immortalised, through a mixture of comedy sketches and stand-up material. Every programme will examine a number of candidates from Welsh history in a given topic area and, at the end, decide which will gain a coveted place in the garden.

Pantheon of Heroes is written by Gareth Gwynn, Elis James and Benjamin Partridge. Co-writers Elis and Ben star alongside fellow comedian Nadia Kamil in each show.

Pantheon of Heroes contributors Ben Partridge, Elis James and Nadia Kamil

Pantheon of Heroes contributors Ben Partridge, Elis James and Nadia Kamil

In the first episode of the series Elis, Ben and Nadia consider legendary Welsh seafarers, including Prince Madoc, Swansea Jack and Jemima Nicholas.

Elis James' Pantheon of Heroes starts on Friday 13 January at 7pm on BBC Radio Wales, with a repeat on Saturday at 6.30pm. And if you miss both of those, you can also catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Plus tune in to the Jamie and Louise show tomorrow morning on Radio Wales as Elis joins the pair to give them an insight in to what the series has in store.

Mike Leigh to appear at Ffresh Festival Fringe

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Polly March Polly March | 15:20 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Acclaimed British film director Mike Leigh is to take part in a festival which showcases the best student film work from Wales and the UK.

Organisers of the Ffresh Student Moving Image Festival of Wales have announced his appearance at this year's event in February.

Leigh, the brains behind a raft of films including Secrets And Lies, Vera Drake and Topsy Turvy, will talk about his infamous improvisational techniques in taking films from script to screen.

Mike Leigh, as pictured in 2008

Mike Leigh

An innovative realist, he has always encouraged his actors to push beyond the naturalistic when playing their roles and is famed for a heart wrenching blend of compassion, gravitas and humour.

He will be in discussion with audiences at the Riverfront in Newport on Monday 6 February at 11am.

The full festival programme, including all the events at the Ffresh Fringe, is due to be announced next week and tickets will be available on the website www.ffresh.com.

The festival, now in its 10th year, works hard to bring young film-makers and industry leaders together while giving new student work from Wales and the rest of the UK a platform. It is being staged in Newport for the first time ever this year.

Ffresh works with 14 other film festivals around the world to annually select new work to feature in the festival's line-up.

Previous guests to Ffresh have included directors Stephen Frears, Sergey Dvortsevoy, and Gaston Kaboré; screenwriters Andrew Davies and Tim Firth; producers Stephen Garrett and Sally Hibbin; highly acclaimed visual artists Lichtfaktor and Semiconductor; international S/FX companies The Mill and Double Negative; Oscar winning editor Jim Clark; and animators Johnny Kelly, Phil Mulloy and Peter Dodd, among many others.

This year the programme also includes all the shortlisted work for the Ffresh Awards, which consist of 13 categories of excellence, and are open to all film students from around Wales and the UK.

The winners are announced during the Ffresh Awards Show on the final night of the festival.

The 2012 programme also includes a new exhibition called Newport Stories based on the community project of the same name, which encourages people to tell a story about the city in less than 50 words and a single photograph.

Various figures from public life in Newport have offered contributions, including the leader of the council Matthew Evans, and authors Matt Beynon Rees and Paul Manship. An assortment of the stories can be read on the project's website newportstories.tumblr.com.

Several of the stories have also been adapted by students from the Newport Film School into short films, which will première on the opening night of the film festival on February 8 at The Riverfront.

The festival will also feature a selection of photographs and stories from the project.

Ffresh 2012 will take place at the Newport Film School from 8-10 February.

Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman) to be screened underground

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Polly March Polly March | 12:43 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A film viewed as the first ever Welsh language 'talkie' and a milestone in Welsh cinematic history is to be screened in the very bowels of the earth.

The innovative event will take place in the Deep Mine of the Llechwedd Slate Caverns at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

It's being put on by Cytser - The Constellation Project, a new theatre company based in Gwynedd which at its inception was tasked with generating spectacular events that reached those not normally in touch with arts in the area.

Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman) by Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards, founder of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (The Welsh League of Youth), and John Ellis Williams, dates from 1935 and was made in Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Still taken from Y Chwarelwr. Photo courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - Archif Genedlaethol Sgrin a Sain Cymru

Still taken from Y Chwarelwr. Photo courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - Archif Genedlaethol Sgrin a Sain Cymru

It was once thought lost because the original print became damaged and incomplete and reels featuring the grand finale were lost forever.

In 2006 Ifor Ap Glyn of Cwmni Da and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales recovered and restored the film to its original condition.

Caernarfon-based company Cwmni Da then recreated the lost final part of the film, adding voices, sound effects and a new soundtrack by Bangor University music lecturer Pwyll ap Sin to replace the reels that could not be found.

Still taken from Y Chwarelwr. Photo courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - Archif Genedlaethol Sgrin a Sain Cymru

Still taken from Y Chwarelwr. Photo courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - Archif Genedlaethol Sgrin a Sain Cymru

Cytser, which has arranged the screening with the help of Llechwedd Slate Caverns and Cell B, has invited Ifor Ap Glyn to the event so he can introduce the film to audiences and explain the painstaking process of restoring it so that it could be enjoyed by future generations for years to come.

The film shows different aspects of a typical slate quarryman's life in Blaenau Ffestiniog, portraying him in a variety of settings, from home to work and chapel to courtship.

Still taken from Y Chwarelwr. Photo courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - Archif Genedlaethol Sgrin a Sain Cymru

Still taken from Y Chwarelwr. Photo courtesy of National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales - Archif Genedlaethol Sgrin a Sain Cymru

The special screening takes place at the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog at 7.30pm on Saturday 21 January.

Tickets will be available on the door. Tickets: £8, Concessions and Blaenau locals (with ID): £6.

Patrons are advised to wear warm clothing and sturdy shoes. Safety helmets will be provided.

National Dance Company Wales announces spring tour

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Polly March Polly March | 10:24 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Three choreographers of world renown are topping the bill for the National Dance Company Wales this season.

Josef Perou performing Black Milk by Ohad Naharin. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

Josef Perou performing Black Milk by Ohad Naharin. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

The varied programme will see 12 dancers from across the globe bringing their work to life.

Kicking off with a performance at the Wales Millennium Centre's Donald Gordon Theatre on 26 January, the line-up includes two pieces created by the acclaimed Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

His first, B/olero, set to the music of the same name by Ravel, features two female dancers and is sharply cut so their motions appear to be in competition with one another at times.

His second, Black Milk, involves five male dancers, displaying typical traits of tribal behaviour and almost ritualistic warrior actions.

Naharin, artistic director of dance company Batsheva, is famous for pioneering his own language of movement called Gaga, which predates the international pop phenomenon of the same name. Gaga emphasises exploring sensation and availability for movement to create "organic flows of energy" and has attracted a wide following in the international dance community.

Also on the bill is a piece entitled The Grammar Of Silence by the award winning Netherlands-based Itzik Galili.

Galili has directed two pieces previously for the National Dance Company Wales. This powerful new work builds on the themes of his last contribution, Exile Within, and aims to push dancers to their limits while "exploring the intimate poetry of words left unsaid".

The Olivier Award nominee has produced a catalogue of work for Rambert Dance Company, the English National Ballet and Netherlands Dance Theatre.

Dancers Neus Gil Cortés and Eleesha Drennan run through The Grammar of Silence, watched by Itzik Galili's assistant Helena Volkov. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

Dancers Neus Gil Cortés and Eleesha Drennan run through The Grammar of Silence, watched by Itzik Galili's assistant Helena Volkov. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

National Dance Company Wales' own choreographer Eleesha Drennan has created a new piece called Phantoms Of Us. The work is for eight dancers and is the first Drennan has made for the full company repertoire. She has collaborated with Wales-based visual artist Sue Williams to create the costumes and visual elements for the piece.

The idea behind it draws on Drennan's own dreams and the idea of a human struggle while trying to move forward in life and achieve individuality. Some of the themes that emerged were the power of the group and consensus versus the individual.

Williams created costumes that resemble a second layer of skin and the tight, body-coloured costumes aim to "give bodily form to androgynous beings who reach out beyond superficial identity to strip away layers of human vulnerability and search for individuality".

The tour opens on 26 January, before taking to the road with dates across Wales, England, Jersey and Ireland.

In Wales it moves to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 9 and 10 February, Swansea's Taliesin Arts Centre on 23 and 24 February, Milford Haven's Torch Theatre on 14 March and Mold's Clwyd Theatr Cymru on 28 and 29 March.

A special event during the tour will be at British Dance Edition 2012 when the company performs By Singing Light by Stephen Petronio accompanied by BBC National Chorus of Wales at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre.

Artistic Director Ann Sholem said: "Whether you're a seasoned National Dance Company Wales fan or have never seen a contemporary dance show before, we look forward to welcoming you and demonstrating just why we have become a leading name on the international dance stage."

After the spring tour the company will take part in a new commission from world-renowned choreographer Christopher Bruce for Dance GB.

National Dance Company Wales will join Scottish Ballet and English National Ballet in a celebration of dance inspired by the 2012 London Olympics, performing in Glasgow, Cardiff and London in the summer.

For tickets and dates visit www.ndcwales.co.uk.

New season at the Dylan Thomas Centre

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Polly March Polly March | 12:45 UK time, Monday, 9 January 2012

The Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea has announced its latest programme of events, boasting an array of new poetry, thought-provoking lectures, drama and live music to cheer audiences into spring.

Sarah Coles. Photo: Bernard Mitchell

Sarah Coles. Photo: Bernard Mitchell

Among the highlights on the schedule will be the launch of a new collection from emerging poet Sarah Coles and a book of short stories by the writer, and former BBC Wales arts and media correspondent Jon Gower.

Coles is a recent graduate from Swansea University's MA in creative writing course and her poetry aims to capture the true soul of Wales and its people.

The début collection is entitled Here And The Water and is published by Gomer. Those wishing to dip their toe into her style of poetry can come along to a free reading event on 23 February at the centre.

Llanelli-born Jon Gower has penned a new book of short stories called Too Cold for Snow and will be in discussion with Raconteur editor Gary Raymond about this, his second collection, on 12 April.

According to the blurb, the subject matter is wide-ranging, jumping from northern Russia to the very "depths of despair".

It reads: "A paid assassin called Krink loads up on viper-spit to tackle some uber-thugs; the governor of a prison ship introduces his inmates to haute cuisine; a farmer wakes up after an avalanche in north Wales to find he's the last man alive."

Jon Gower. Photo: Emyr Jenkins

Jon Gower. Photo: Emyr Jenkins

Other poets showcasing their work via the Poets in the Bookshop series are Deryn Rees-Jones, Clare Pollard and Lynne Rees.

On 18 January Rees-Jones will talk about her fourth collection of poems Burying The Wren, due to be published by Seren soon, as well as her book Consorting With Angels, which traces women's poetry throughout the 20th century. She is also editor of the accompanying anthology Modern Women Poets.

Pollard will read from the latest of her four collections, Changeling, at an event on 29 March, while Port Talbot poet Rees comes to the centre on 26 April to talk about her current projects. She is currently researching The Real Port Talbot for Seren and is also expected to read from her collection, Learning How To Fall.

Drama-wise, it's an action-packed few months for the centre as in April it will launch a new annual event in honour of Shakespeare. It kicks off with a performance of Fluellen's Happy Birthday, Mr Shakespeare which offers a heady mix of extracts from the Bard's biography as well as his collected works.

Also on the schedule is a performance of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead on 15 February, Joe Orton's Funeral Games on 3 March, The Custom House by Kit Lambert on 14 March and Love In Plastic by Ian Rowlands on 11 April.

The spring series of free Science Café talks will feature discussions on sleep and dreaming, the Fermi Paradox and astrobiology.

Meanwhile on 26 April, Celtic harpist Delyth Jenkins will launch her new solo album, Llais. The album features original music she composed for Fluellen Theatre Company productions, including Under Milk Wood, Doctor and the Devils and Cymbeline, as well as her interpretations of traditional Welsh melodies.

Full details can be found on www.dylanthomas.com or by contacting the Dylan Thomas Centre on 01792 463980.

BBC Two pays tribute to John Howard Davies

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Martha Owen Martha Owen | 14:29 UK time, Friday, 6 January 2012

Acclaimed television executive John Howard Davies is being profiled in a special tribute on BBC Two tomorrow evening. John Howard Davies: A Life in Comedy will be followed by a night of programming dedicated to some of his best-loved works.

Davies first found fame as a child actor, landing the lead in David Lean's 1948 film Oliver Twist, before briefly pursuing a career as an actor. It was later, having completed military service and while working as a comedy producer and director, that he had a hand in some of the most well-loved and iconic British sitcoms, including Only Fools And Horses, The Goodies, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Yes Minister and Mr Bean.

John Howard Davies, pictured in 1983

John Howard Davies, pictured in 1983

Davies' comedy hits are well-known, but less so was his enthusiasm for his Welsh heritage. An accomplished rifle shooter, he had represented Wales and captained the national shooting team.

Although born in London, in an interview with Aled Jones for BBC Radio Wales he expressed his deep affection for Wales: "The whole lot of my family were Welsh... we were from north Wales but I was born in Paddington, so I can hardly call myself a proper Welshman in one sense, but I feel very Welsh when I go to Wales."

He descended from a long line of showbiz stock including his father, successful screenwriter Jack Davies, and his great great grandmother who, according to Davies, was the first woman to be shot out of a cannon.

Like so many English-born Welshmen before him, Davies confessed, "as soon as I cross that bridge, I'm afraid, a [Welsh] accent appears from absolutely nowhere," though he admitted it had an unfortunate tendency to "lurch into Pakistani."

Although never a household name, John Howard Davies has been recognised as a towering figure in British sitcom history. Tomorrow night's tribute sees him hailed by writers and performers including John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis as one of the masters of television comedy.

Watch John Howard Davies: A Life In Comedy on BBC Two Wales at 7.45pm tomorrow night, Saturday 7 January. Following the tribute there's the chance to watch some examples of his work, with episodes of The Good Life, Steptoe and Son and Fawlty Towers being shown, as well as an episode of Comedy Connections, which tells the inside story of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Browse the BBC Two online schedule for details.

Alexandra Roach makes Bafta longlist for The Iron Lady

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:37 UK time, Friday, 6 January 2012

Rising Welsh star Alexandra Roach has been named on the Bafta longlist in the category of best supporting actress for her role in The Iron Lady, which goes on general release in UK cinemas today.

The longlist is the result of round one voting of films by BAFTA members for entry in the 2012 Orange British Academy Film Awards. Round two voting, which opened today, will reduce these longlisted contenders down to the five nominations in each category.

Alexandra Roach as a young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Image: Pathé UK

Alexandra Roach as a young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Image: Pathé UK

Nominations in all Bafta categories will be announced on Tuesday 17 January, while the winners will be announced at the Orange British Academy Film Awards on Sunday 12 February.

Meanwhile, Swansea-shot film Submarine, adapted from the novel by Welsh author Joe Dunthorne and directed by Richard Ayoade, also makes it onto the longlist in the category of outstanding British film.

For more information visit www.bafta.org, and read our interview with Alexandra, who hails from Ammanford.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

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Polly March Polly March | 12:06 UK time, Friday, 6 January 2012

A play, which has been a classic of working class literature for nearly a century, comes to Wales next month as part of a national tour.

Stephen Lowe's version of Robert Tressell's The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists will enjoy two dates, one at the Blackwood Miners Institute and another at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

The new production is by Townsend Productions and is a two-hander, starring Neil Gore and Rodney Matthew.

Neil Gore and Rodney Matthew star in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Image courtesy of Townsend Productions

Neil Gore and Rodney Matthew star in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Image courtesy of Townsend Productions

The story follows a group of painters and decorators tasked with the backbreaking work of renovating a large three-storey house for the mayor of the town.

It explores the bones of socialist thinking and as the workers act as 'philanthropists' giving their work in exchange for paltry wages, the original author Tressell - the nom-de-plume of Robert Noonan - adeptly demonstrates Karl Marx's labour theory of value.

The decorators are followed through a year of their life in an Edwardian England where high unemployment is driving down wages and they are struggling to make ends meet or face destitution. They also experience intense frustration at not being able to do their jobs to a satisfactory level, because they are locked in a constant battle to keep costs down.

When the men break for breakfast or for their dinner they often talk about politics and one of them, Owen, tries to persuade the others towards an understanding of socialism by explaining that the cause of poverty is the capitalist system.

In one of the most famous passages in the play, he demonstrates the 'Great Money Trick' using slices of bread and pocket-knives to show that the system favours the bosses by lining their pockets, while the workers' poverty is maintained as the status quo.

Part of the play's timeless appeal is that the issues it explores have not loss relevance or resonance over time. Townsend Productions felt the current political climate and 2011 being the centenary anniversary of Tressell's death meant it was time to take the play on tour.

Lowe's version of the story was first seen in 1978, when Joint Stock Theatre Company toured the country playing to booked-out theatres. It was revived at the Half Moon Theatre in London in 1983 and again for a touring production by the Birmingham Rep in 1991.

The play has had the backing of the unions RMT, Unite, TUC, GMB, PCS, Wales TUC, NUT, Accord, UCATT NASWT and the FBU.

It will be staged at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Tuesday 7 February at 7.30pm.

Tickets are priced at £9 (£8 Concs) CC £8.50 (£7.50) and can be purchased at the Box Office at on 01970 62 32 32 or online at www.aber.ac.uk/artscentre.

The production travels to Blackwood Miners institute on 8 February.

Box Office: 01495 224425. Website; www.blackwoodminersinstitute.co.uk. Tickets are priced at £10.00/£8.00.

For more info on the touring production visit www.townsendproductions.org.uk.

Dinefwr Park and Castle to host new literature festival

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 5 January 2012

West Wales will enjoy a new literature festival this summer set in the beautiful surroundings of Dinefwr Park and Castle in Llandeilo.

The Dinefwr Literature Festival is a collaboration between Literature Wales, the National Trust, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

The new bilingual festival has been awarded £65,000 by the Arts Council of Wales from its Festivals Fund and will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July.

Newton House at Dinefwr. Image courtesy of the National Trust Photo Library/David Norton

Newton House at Dinefwr. Image courtesy of the National Trust Photo Library/David Norton

The line-up, which hasn't yet been announced, is likely to include a wide-ranging mixture of authors, storytellers and performance poets, with fringe events to get the children as well as adults involved. Along with literature the festival will also include music, comedy and cinema.

The site will have a dedicated camping field for the weekend, plus outdoor entertainment and a variety of stalls will hopefully add to the festival atmosphere.

A website for the Dinefwr Literature Festival will be launched soon, but in the meantime you can find out more on the Literature Wales website and read about Dinefwr Park on the National Trust website.

Daniel Blaufuks - Works On Memory

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Polly March Polly March | 14:00 UK time, Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A new installation by Portuguese artist Daniel Blaufuks will explore the complexities of the processes of memory and the role photography plays in freezing and retrieving memories.

The exhibition is due to open at the Ffotogallery in Penarth on 14 January with a talk by Blaufuks on the subject taking place from 11am- 2pm.

It is the first solo UK show for the artist, who uses the media of photography, video, sound and installation to express his fascination for how memory is formed through an accumulation of notions and details throughout life.

Fifteen Minutes 1 from The Business of Living, c-print, 2010 © Daniel Blaufuks

Fifteen Minutes 1 from The Business of Living, c-print, 2010 © Daniel Blaufuks

Blaufuks believes memory cannot be separated from our notions of time, space and place.

In his own contemporary photography, for which he has built up a strong reputation in Portugal, he uses each object he snaps as a springboard for something else, be it conscious or unconscious.

Untitled from The Memory of Others, c-print, 2010 © Daniel Blaufuks

Untitled from The Memory of Others, c-print, 2010 © Daniel Blaufuks

The works contained in the exhibition will explore how these cues for romantic relationships, emotional resonance or recollections just outside the realms of consciousness have significance yet can often remain beyond our reach.

As he says: "The hand-written note, postcard, concert ticket, passport stamp, shopping receipt; as individual images they appear to have little significance and meaning, but presented in a series they encourage us to look for patterns and relationships, to build a coherent narrative from the shards and fragments of personal or collective memory."

Another point of interest for Blaufuks is how individuals archive the important information in their lives and how that affects their ability to remember and the way they access those memories.

Images of film canisters, cassette tapes, celluloid film strips and negatives included in the installation cast a glance at technological developments in photography over time and muse on how, even as we find ever more newfangled ways to store and retrieve data, something true can also be lost in the process.

In using photography as his medium, Blaufuks investigates how it in itself becomes part of the process of memory and is more than just a trigger for past reminiscences or snapshots.

"From the act of photographing something new, or incorporating a found image in a work, new memories and associations are formed."

Untitled, from Terezín, c-print, 2007 © Daniel Blaufuks

Untitled, from Terezín, c-print, 2007 © Daniel Blaufuks

Works On Memory is co-curated by Filipa Oliveira and Ffotogallery Director David Drake and runs until 25 February. A new Ffotogallery publication, Works On Memory, will accompany the exhibition.

Exhibition preview: Friday 13 January 2012, 6.30-8.30pm. Artist talk: Saturday 14 January, 11am-2pm.

Line-up unveiled for Laugharne Weekend 2012

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:50 UK time, Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Cerys Matthews and Howard Marks are two of the Welsh acts named on the initial line-up for the 2012 Laugharne Weekend.

Cerys Matthews

Cerys Matthews

This year's Laugharne Weekend festival will run from 13-15 April. Some of the acts already announced include comedians Robin Ince and Simon Day, and authors Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Allison Pearson and AL Kennedy.

Alongside Welsh musician Matthews, who published her first children's book in 2011, other musical stars who will appear at the festival include Robin Williamson and James Fearnley, accordion player with The Pogues.

Further acts taking part in the festival will be announced later in January but for the latest news visit www.laugharne.co.uk.

Learn more about Laugharne, Dylan Thomas' final resting place, on the BBC Wales Arts website.

Playwright Tim Price on his obsession with Wikileaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning

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Polly March Polly March | 11:40 UK time, Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Bradley Manning, 24, stands accused of the biggest leak of government secrets in American history. The former intelligence analyst, who spent a chunk of his teenage years in Wales, is accused of leaking huge amounts of classified information to the website Wikileaks while working for the US Army in Iraq.

Now his extraordinary journey, from schoolboy in Haverfordwest to soldier on trial and in some people's eyes the true hero of the Wikileaks saga, is to be dramatised in The Radicalisation Of Bradley Manning, a production for National Theatre Wales (NTW) in April 2012.

Manning was arrested in May 2010 and since then has been incarcerated in a military prison.

The courts are still considering whether he is to face a court-martial. If he is found guilty he could be executed, although the prosecution says they will not seek the death penalty. However, he could be facing a life sentence behind bars.

Tim Price. Photo: Marc Brenner

Tim Price. Photo: Marc Brenner

The man behind the NTW project is Tim Price, founder of the Cardiff theatre company Dirty Protest, and the playwright of For Once, which opens at The Sherman in February 2012 and Salt, Root And Roe, staged at the Donmar Warehouse in London in November 2011.

Price was already fascinated by the Manning story before the young man's links to Wales were revealed and persuaded NTW to stage The Radicalisation Of Bradley Manning while it was still just an idea buzzing round in his head.

He says: "I had a commission from NTW and they had given me a slot and we met to discuss it, but I just couldn't get Bradley Manning out of my mind.

"At the meeting I couldn't help but say, 'I think we're doing the wrong play', we should be focusing on him, and we had a discussion and they agreed.

"Because NTW is such a dynamic organisation, I knew there would be the appetite for it and they made it possible, which is a huge credit to them."

So why did Manning's plight strike such a chord for Price?

"I've been completely fascinated by the whole Wikileaks saga and the Arab Spring and how technology has been the prime activists' tool other than conversations in the street.

"Then when I learnt that Bradley had spent a number of years in Pembrokeshire, learning Welsh at school and playing rugby and knows where places like Llanidloes are, it seemed crazy that there he was in his cell and we had this shared sort of experience.

"I definitely had the sense that in Wales not enough people knew about him or supported him, so part of my goal in writing this play is to raise awareness about his Welshness and make people think about why we should champion his cause.

Price has made contact with the soldier's support group UK Friends of Bradley Manning, and via them obtained Manning's address so he could send him a birthday card for his recent 24th birthday and a letter explaining about the play.

He is yet to hear back but hopes he is doing some good for the cause.

So it's clear where he sits on the Manning - hero or villain? - debate, one that's likely to rage throughout any trial the young soldier faces.

US officials have said the leaks of hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic cables put military and civilian lives at risk, but those who support Private Manning believe that, if guilty of what he is accused of, he has cast a light on injustice, letting the public know the truth about the torture of Afghanis and Iraqis carried out during the US invasions of these countries.

Price says: "If he is guilty then I think he is a hero because he has proven to the world that not only is finance, religion, media, manufacturing and politics transnational, but so is our morality.

"His actions have undoubtedly saved more lives than any other US soldier serving in the military and he did that all when he was just 22.

"But then you can't get forget that this is a 24-year-old, sitting in a 9ft by 6ft cell, likely to go to prison, possibly for 30 years. It's very sobering."

He admits writing the play has come at the busiest possible time for him and likewise NTW have committed to staging the play before anybody knows Private Manning's fate.

Does this make it a nightmare legally and could it disrupt the staging of the production?

"Nobody really knows what the outcome will be but he is likely to face a court-martial and when that will be we just don't know. It could happen in the next couple of months or it could take a year.

"This has meant I've had to keep the script fairly flexible as we go to rehearsal in March, so up until then we are trying to incorporate as much of the story as we can.

"It's important to remember that it is a fictionalised account and not a documentary because we have no way of knowing all the facts.

"In 18 months' time Bradley Manning could be speaking out or writing his own autobiography and it might mean there are inaccuracies in the play, but I'm happy with that, it's part of the journey of writing theatre."

The play will be staged at Bradley's old school, Tasker Milward in Haverfordwest, so the audience will be walking down corridors Bradley himself once walked down, something that strikes Price as a "powerful" part of the whole experience.

His play will deal with the period Manning spent from the age of 12 to 16 at the school and NTW is also planning to stage it at other schools in Wales.

Tickets for The Radicalisation Of Bradley Manning are now on sale via nationaltheatrewales.org.

Alexandra Roach on playing a young Margaret Thatcher and a big year ahead

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Polly March Polly March | 09:30 UK time, Monday, 2 January 2012

Most jobbing actors leaving drama school can expect months and possibly years of scraping by, existing on bit parts and leaving countless auditions downhearted.

Not so for Ammanford actor and recent Rada graduate Alexandra Roach, for whom the 18 months since graduating can only be described as something of a meteoric rise.

Until now Roach is most recognisable to Welsh audiences as Elin, the young troublemaker from the Valleys, a part she played in BBC drama series Pobol y Cwm between the ages of 11 and 18, and for which she won a Children in Entertainment award in 2003.

But 2012 is set to be a big year for the 24-year-old, and could even make her a household name, as she takes her place in four films, several of which are opposite Hollywood stars and with shooting due to start on two more.

The movie she stars in with the most hype is Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady, a film about Thatcher looking back at her life as an old lady, which premièred in New York last month and stars Meryl Streep as Thatcher in her prime.

Alexandra Roach as a young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Image: Pathé UK

Alexandra Roach as a young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Image: Pathé UK

Roach's portrayal of a young Maggie between the ages of 16 and 33, falling in love with a young Denis, is key to this more sympathetic understanding of the political icon who changed the face of Britain.

Growing up in Betws, near Ammanford, an area much affected by the impact of Thatcher's pit closures and the subsequent strikes in the 1980s, Roach is no stranger to Thatcher's legacy.

But as she tells BBC Wales: "I grew up knowing her name and with people always discussing this woman but she affected the generation above me, so I did have to go back and really research who she was, as I didn't know enough about her.

"There are a lot of judgements about how she affected people in Wales, especially where I'm from, but I had to put that to one side and focus on trying to portray this honest and strong woman, a grocer's daughter.

"It's not my place to judge her and as less is known about her as a young woman it did give me a bit more artistic licence."

But after throwing herself into the role, with prosthetics and all, Roach admits her view of Thatcher has changed.

"What surprised me was that she had such humble roots, having worked in a shop and then she enters this man's world of politics, with such a hard job and in my view made such huge strides for women."

Alexandra Roach (young Margaret Thatcher) in a scene from The Iron Lady outside the family's business. Image: Pathé UK

Alexandra Roach (young Margaret Thatcher) in a scene from The Iron Lady outside the family's business. Image: Pathé UK

Much has been written about Streep's eerily accurate portrayal of Thatcher in The Iron Lady, and how she has apparently nailed the booming authoritative diction of the premier.

For Roach, getting that vocal right was the biggest challenge of the role.

"Thatcher had training to try and lower her voice to make it as distinct as it eventually became, but that was not in the period of her life that I was involved in.

"I could only find two recordings of her when she was 33, which is at the latest end of the spectrum I played her and she had quite a high vocal register and hardly ever breathed in, so I really had to train my lungs up and focus on my breathing."

But the young actress is not one to baulk at the trials of getting a part just right, as she admits: "I like parts that require a big transformation. I don't get scared about that, which is why I have loved the varied roles I have been offered so far."

She also managed to get over the daunting prospect of having a Hollywood giant like Streep watch her acting out her scenes as they were both filmed on the same set.

"She would watch me do a scene and then I would watch her. It was surreal at first but she was so wonderful, she would give me a thumbs-up or a wink to encourage me and did so much to make me feel less uncomfortable so that in the end her watching me didn't make me feel nervous.

"I know it's amazing for such a young actress to be able to say that Meryl Streep has seen them act and it's not something I'll ever forget."

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe. Photo: Pathé UK

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe. Photo: Pathé UK

Variety really seems to be the theme of her first clutch of starring roles as this year audiences will see her star as Molly in the upcoming adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful, a novel about two brothers during World War One.

She also plays Countess Nordston opposite Jude Law, Keira Knightley and Aaron Johnson in Anna Karenina, and stars in Trap for Cinderella, an independent psychological thriller written and directed by Iain Softley.

February will see her appearing in BBC Wales' Loserville, a film about youth homelessness by the Newport Film School.

And she is due to start shooting for Girls Night Out, where she plays a young Queen Elizabeth opposite Dakota Fanning as Princess Margaret, in an account of what happens when the young royals were let out of the Palace to celebrate the end of World War Two. The year will also see her begin work on a romantic comedy, "a typical boy meets girl story which is lovely", which she is remaining tight-lipped about at present.

Looking back on the runaway success of her career since finishing RADA, she admits it has been something of a surprise and she still has to stop to pinch herself. But underneath there is a hint of a steely determination Thatcher herself would be proud of.

"I am thrilled to be part of such a big project but I am just trying to concentrate on the work I'm doing and not get sidetracked by everything else. I just really want to stay focused so I can keep doing what I'm doing because I'm aware it could stop at any moment."

When I spoke to her two weeks ago she was just back from the world première in New York, which was her first trip to America and saw her attend four different screenings of The Iron Lady.

Most touchingly, she attended a private screening with both her proud parents, who had flown over from Wales, and admits they all held hands throughout. "It was a really sweet, special experience actually."

As for watching herself back on the silver screen, she admits the prosthetic nose and wig she wore to play Thatcher made her feel somewhat removed from the experience.

Roach donned a prosthetic nose to play the former premier. Image: Pathé UK

Roach donned a prosthetic nose to play the former premier. Image: Pathé UK

She says she is looking forward to seeing what reaction the film gets here in the UK, where it premières on 4 January, and believes people will be surprised by the Thatcher they see.

"It's obviously a big talking point and quite controversial, as it shows Thatcher as an old lady looking back at her life. I think people who are expecting it to be another King's Speech will be surprised. There are bits of comedy and a very touching love story and it is really heart wrenching at points.

"Everybody has a view of Margaret Thatcher so it will be interesting for them to see this different, more sympathetic side of her."

The Iron Lady goes on general release in UK cinemas on Friday 6 January.

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