Archives for September 2011

John McGrath to give annual Richard Burton lecture

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Polly March Polly March | 14:54 UK time, Friday, 30 September 2011

Next Tuesday, 4 October, sees this year's annual Richard Burton lecture at the Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot, near where the Hollywood screen legend grew up.

The lecture is being taken by John McGrath, artistic director of National Theatre Wales, who was key in bringing this year's much-lauded production of The Passion, starring Michael Sheen, to the town.

The annual Richard Burton Lecture was inspired by the launch in 2010 of the Richard Burton Archives, the new home of Swansea University's archive collection.

John McGrath. Image courtesy of National theatre Wales

A year on from the National Theatre's launch, Mr McGrath will talk about its journey 'from Blackwood to Brecon to Port Talbot's Passion'.

National Theatre Wales was established in 2008 with a pledge to "create theatre in the English language, rooted in Wales, with an international reach". In its first year it has largely wowed the critics with performances staged in a range of locations.

The company managed to gain unprecedented access to military ranges on the Brecon Beacons to stage The Persians and then took over an ordinary house in Gwynedd's Nantlle Valley for The Weather Factory, a series of installations representing different weather systems.

Image from The Persians © Toby Farrow/National Theatre Wales

Mr McGrath said it has been an "incredible" year for the company, which has no specific base, but has been staging events in a variety of venues throughout Wales. He said it was "an honour" to be asked to take the lecture in memory of "one of Wales' greatest actors".

The theatre's decision to produce the 72-hour performance of The Passion, inspired by the biblical passion play, around the town on Easter weekend was a hit with local businesses, who saw a boost in trade.

Mr McGrath said: "We couldn't have had a better finale to our first year than The Passion. It was great because it moved beyond the realms of theatre into being a part of life and reaching audiences theatre doesn't normally reach.

"It was a wonderful achievement for Port Talbot as well, the whole town really embraced it. The whole year has really exceeded our best dreams of what it might be."

Michael Sheen and members of the cast of The Passion. Photo © Richard Hardcastle

Michael Sheen and members of the cast of The Passion. Photo © Richard Hardcastle

In his lecture, Mr McGrath will take the audience through the theatre company's year, seeing performances through the eyes of the actors who took part, like Michael Sheen, Nia Roberts, who starred in Love Steals Us From Loneliness, Boyd Clack and Sharon Morgan, who both starred in the theatre's début, A Good Night Out In The Valleys, which was staged at the miners' institute in Blackwood.

Mr McGrath said that journey would show the audience just what effect the company's different kinds of theatre have had, from larger-scale productions and musicals to smaller, more experimental pieces and how much it has tried to engage with the community.

"Actors are at the heart of everything we do and the most exciting thing to come out of the theatre this year has been that degree of enthusiasm we have felt from both them and the audiences.

"Audiences were our starting point and our work has been very rooted in the community and will continue to be so. Audience members have often had a part to play within the shows themselves.

"Our aim has always been to give them a slightly different experience, whether it's taking the bus to a firing range in Brecon for The Persians or walking round a house in Caernarfon, people have always embraced the experience."

The company is looking forward to another action-packed schedule in its second year.

Next month sees it begin a tour of 16 village halls with new production The Village Social, the theatre's first musical.

Creators of The Village Social Ben Lewis and Dafydd James. Photo © Warren Orchard/National Theatre Wales

Creators of The Village Social Ben Lewis and Dafydd James. Photo © Warren Orchard/National Theatre Wales

Another highlight will be a production of Coriolanus in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is planned for August 2012, at Dragon Studios near Bridgend.

The production will use the same team as The Persians and will see the performance staged "in the era of 24-hour news, of celebrity culture, and of a new global politics," with members of the audience tasked with playing extras.

March/April 2012 will see The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, a play centred on the plight of the 23-year-old US soldier, who was educated in Pembrokeshire and is currently in prison accused of revealing US government secrets via Wikileaks.

Mr McGrath said: "This is an urgent story which has resonance in Wales. It's good for the company to involve ourselves in something as current as this and explore his connections with the area."

Entrance to the Richard Burton lecture is free. It will take place at the Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot on Tuesday 4 October at 6pm.

New Critics Day

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Polly March Polly March | 14:12 UK time, Friday, 30 September 2011

Leading arts commentators from across the UK are descending on Cardiff tomorrow (Saturday) for an event to celebrate the end of a pioneering scheme to boost arts criticism in Wales.

The New Critics Programme was launched in 2010 and offered budding critics encouragement via a mentoring project, which saw them partnered with experienced names in the business.

The New Critics Day will see panel discussions headed by guests like Lyn Gardner and Elisabeth Mahoney from The Guardian; Matt Wolf from the New York Times Online, Arts Desk co-founder and author of Bred of Heaven: One Man's Quest to Reclaim His Welsh Roots (Profile Books) Jasper Rees, and journalist, broadcaster and critic Aleks Sierz.

Other guests include Artistic Director of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Arwel Gruffydd, and academic and literary critic Prof Hazel Walford Davies.

The day at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is being hosted by Literature Wales in conjunction with National Theatre Wales.

It will be officially opened by the theatre company's Artistic Director, John E McGrath The four new critics to successfully complete the scheme are - Ben Bryant, Megan Jones, Dylan Moore and Adam Somerset.

They applied for the unpaid roles last year and after demonstrating their passion for the arts, were given the opportunity to critique events during National Theatre Wales' first season. During the debate and discussion session, they will offer their feedback on the scheme.

Theatre-goers, writers and armchair critics are invited to attend the event from 1.30pm-7.00pm.

Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance. For more information and to book tickets contact Literature Wales: 029 2047 2266 /

Plas Newydd hosts Josie Russell exhibition

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:46 UK time, Friday, 30 September 2011

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of strolling around the neo-Gothic mansion Plas Newydd on Anglesey, which is run by The National Trust.

The brilliant weather we've been having in Wales this week added to beauty of this gorgeous building and its gardens that sits on the Menai Straits. Yet only two weeks ago the building suffered a water leak and damage to its saloon.

The highlight of my visit was getting a glimpse of some of some of the artworks on show, including a fascinating 58 foot wide trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) mural by Rex Whistler in the house's dining room.

Josie Russell with some of her art work. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Josie Russell with some of her art work at Plas Newydd. Image courtesy of The National Trust

An example of some more contemporary art will make Plas Newydd its home from tomorrow though, as the building hosts a new exhibition of work by textile artist Josie Russell.

Josie staged her first exhibition of work at Plas Newydd almost a year ago, and enjoyed a sell-out of her works during the exhibition. At the time she said: "I even had to introduce some new work during the exhibition to keep up with the demand."

Josie works with recycled materials to create her fabric collage art works, some of which include landscapes of the Nantlle Valley where she grew up and went to school.

She said: "I became aware very early on that beautiful, unique artwork does not have to cost hundreds of pounds to create or cause a detriment to our surroundings.

"Only the bare minimum of my required materials are bought new: canvasses, certain threads, or spare parts for my sewing machine. The rest - buttons, beads, ribbons, and off-cuts of strange, striking fabrics - are sourced from extensive rummaging in my local charity shops, recycled from my own clothes, or else kindly donated by generous family and friends."

The exhibition runs at Plas Newydd from tomorrow, Saturday 1 October, until Wednesday 2 November.

Find out more about Josie's work on her website and for more information about Plas Newydd visit The National Trust website or keep up to date on Twitter @NTPlasNewydd.

Get involved with Powys Arts Month

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:46 UK time, Friday, 23 September 2011

Throughout October the spotlight will shine on the visual arts, and on the artists responsible for creating them, in the county of Powys.

Powys Arts Month has been organised by the Powys Arts Forum, who earlier in the year won a £25,000 grant from the Arts Council of Wales to set up this rolling programme of events.

I've been having a flick through the brochure and there's a whole host of different arts on offer. There's also a large number of artists who are throwing open their studio doors for visitors to pop in, have a chat and take a look around. Some are even offering workshops for visitors to their studios.

In addition to open studios and practical workshops, there are a number of exhibitions being hosted plus musical performances, demonstrations, talks and more.

The website,, has an interactive map that allows you to search for events by area so that you can see what's on near you with most events taking place on weekends and in the school half term holiday. It's also possible to create your own arts trail and to take in a number of the open studio events.

I've been sent a few pictures of work by a just couple of the artists who are taking part in the Powys Arts Month, and I think they give a small flavour of just how many different types of art media you'll be able to see.

Woven willow deer by Beryl Smith. Image courtesy of the artist

Woven willow deer by Beryl Smith. Image courtesy of the artist

Pottery by Alex Allpress. Image courtesy of the artist

Pottery by Newbridge-on-Wye based artist Alex Allpress. Image courtesy of the artist

Rock and Pebble by Phillipa Hughes, who works with fused and cast glass. Image courtesy of the artist

Rock and Pebble by Phillipa Hughes, who works with fused and cast glass. Image courtesy of the artist

Ts'ung by Tony Hall. Image courtesy of the artist

Ts'ung by Tony Hall. Image courtesy of the artist

Arts Month Xtra is another part of the initiative, which consists of seven projects across Powys that provide an extra opportunity for the public to interact with artists and their work.

These range from multimedia and creative workshops in Newbridge-on-Wye and an artist-led walk into ancient caves that takes in performance readings and music, to an opportunity to experience Paul Granjon's works and to engage with the artist at the Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown. Arts Month Xtra also takes in Artbeat Brecon, a nine day arts festival in Brecon.

Take a look at the schedule of events on the website and keep up to date with the latest news on the Powys Arts Month Twitter account and Facebook page.

Cultural Olympiad projects launched in Wales

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:39 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Welsh contribution to the 2012 Cultural Olympiad has been launched today at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Power Of The Flame is Wales' contribution the the Cultural Olympiad, a series of five different projects. Its is led by the Arts Council of Wales and funded by Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity that was set up to create a cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The five projects in this £2.85 million programme are Kindling Talent, Mzanzi Cymru, Cauldrons And Furnaces, Following The Flame and Whose Flame Is It anyway? These projects range from engaging with artists from South Africa to increasing the voice of disabled young people in Wales, with organisations such as CADW and the Urdd Gobaith Cymru at the heart of some of the projects.

Read more on the story on the BBC News website and find out more details on the Power of the Flame on the Arts Council of Wales site.

Plus read one of my previous blog posts on one of the projects, the Following The Flame exhibition.

Discover Dance in Newport this weekend

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:46 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Discover Dance festival returns to Newport's The Riverfront and across the city from tomorrow, with opportunities to see a broad range of dance by both national and international dancers.

Dance groups set to take part in the festival range from ballet to breakdancing, while the festival includes performances, visual art exhibitions, films and even workshops for you to get involved if you so wish.

Performing at the Riverfront for the first time, Phoenix Dance Theatre will present a mixed programme of four different dance works, entitled Declarations.

On Friday Ballet Cymru will perform a version of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood while on Saturday the Newport Centre will host the Welsh BBoy Championships, where you can see performances by some of the best breakdancers from all over the world.

Ballet Cymru's Under Milk Wood. Image courtesy of Ballet Cymru/The Riverfront

Ballet Cymru's Under Milk Wood. Image courtesy of Ballet Cymru/The Riverfront

Image showing the interactive video experience Duet for Three. Image courtesy of Duet for Three/The Riverfront

Image showing the interactive video experience Duet for Three. Image courtesy of Duet for Three/The Riverfront

Image from the Rubicon Exhibition courtesy Rubicon Dance/The Riverfront

Image from the Rubicon Exhibition courtesy Rubicon Dance/Sharon Teear

There's also a series of dance exhibitions taking place. The Male Dancer features works by Roy Campbell-Moore, who founded the Diversions Dance Company in 1983 while the Rubicon Exhibition showcases dance and art images by Sharon Teear and documentary dance photography by Craig Allen and Juliette. There's also an interactive dance video experience called Duet For Three, in which two dancers on screen respond to your movements in front of it.

Interested? Find out what's happening in full at the festival on the The Riverfront's website.

Iris Prize Festival marks fifth birthday

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:57 UK time, Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Iris Prize Festival, the international gay and lesbian short film festival that has adopted Cardiff as its home, celebrates its fifth birthday in 2011.

To mark the occasion the opening night of this year's festival will see the European première of the film August, which is directed by former Iris Prize winner Eldar Rapaport. August is one of eight new feature films in the festival programme alongside the 30 shortlisted short films vying for the prestigious Iris Prize.

Actor Murray Bartlett in Eldar Rapaport's feature film August

Actor Murray Bartlett in Eldar Rapaport's feature film August. The New York based actor will introduce the film at the gala screening on Wednesday 5 October

Valued at £25,000, the Iris Prize is the world's largest short film prize. What's more, the prize is more than just a trophy or certificate; it supplies the winning film-maker with the funds, support and guidance to make a new film.

Organisers have described this year's festival programme as the strongest line-up in the festival's history. Films will be screened at the Chapter Arts Centre in Canton and the Cineworld cinema in the city centre.

Here are a few stills from some of the shorts on show to whet your appetite:

Still taken from Maria Bock's short film  Bald Guy (Skallamann). Image © Maria Bock

Still taken from Maria Bock's short film Bald Guy (Skallamann). Image © Maria Bock

Still taken from Hold On Tight by Anna Rodgers. Image © Anna Rodgers

Still from Hold On Tight by Anna Rodgers. Image © Anna Rodgers

Image from Jon Stanford's Lost Tracks © Jon Stanford

Image from Jon Stanford's Lost Tracks. Image © John Stanford

David Fitchew as the Colonel in The Colonel's Outing by Christopher Banks. Photo by Vince Pol and courtesy of the artist

David Fitchew as the Colonel in The Colonel's Outing by Christopher Banks. Photo by Vince Pol and courtesy of the director

Still from Ric Forster's Thinking Straight. Image © the artist

Still from Ric Forster's Thinking Straight. Image © Ric Forster

This year the 13 strong jury is chaired by Mary FitzPatrick, an independent Diversity Advisor who has worked for the BBC and the UK Film Council.

Other jury members include Pembrokeshire-born author Sarah Waters; the 2010 Iris Prize winner Magnus Mork; Ana Moreno, who won the Iris Prize Best UK short film in 2010, plus filmmakers Amarjeet Singh and Carl Medland. Their feature film, The Adored, will close the 2011 festival.

The 2011 Iris Prize Festival begins on Wednesday 5 October and runs until Saturday 8 October. Visit the Iris Prize Festival website for more information and to see the full line-up of films on show over the four days.

Gwyneth Lewis' poem on the Gleision mine disaster

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:54 UK time, Monday, 19 September 2011

Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis has written a poem in response to the Gleision mining tragedy.

The former national poet of Wales was commissioned by the BBC to write a poem about the disaster at the Gleision Colliery, near Pontardawe, in which four men died last week. She spoke about writing the poem on BBC Radio Wales this morning.

Listen to Lewis reading the poem, entitled Gleision, on Good Morning Wales.

You can watch a special documentary on the tragedy, Week In Week Out: The Gleision Mine Disaster, on BBC One Wales at 8.30pm tonight.

Seren celebrates its 30th birthday in style

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:30 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

I sincerely doubt that you know anybody who has organised a street party to celebrate their 30th birthday, but that's just what Welsh independent publishers Seren Books have done.

Dannie Abse

Dannie Abse. Image courtesy of Seren

To celebrate the milestone Seren are planning a street party at their base in Nolton Street in Bridgend on Saturday 1 October. The day will kick off at about 11am with bookstalls and a piece of birthday cake for everyone.

Welsh poet and author, and guest of honour at the event, Dannie Abse will give a speech and a short reading at 3pm.

Author Patrick McGuinness, who was recently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011 with his début novel The Last Hundred Days, will also be attending.

There's a rare chance for prospective writers to have a one-to-one with the fiction and poetry editors at Seren. These spaces are limited though and you'll need to email Seren to book yourself a spot stating either fiction or poetry:

Plus they're staging a raffle and a lucky dip, and not to take the magic away, that means a free book for each lucky dipper.

Literary readings, conversation, a free book and a slice of birthday cake; it sounds like a great start to October if you ask me.

Find out more about the plans on Seren's website and Facebook page.

Up for Arts in Rhyl this Saturday

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:41 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

If you're in or near Rhyl this Saturday and fancy trying your hand at something creative, head down to the White Rose Centre on the High Street.

Voluntary Arts Wales has organised an Up for Arts event in Rhyl, which follows another successful event in Carmarthen last weekend.

This Saturday there will be around 10 local arts groups displaying their work, some of whom will be demonstrating their art forms and letting the public have a go.

Some of the groups taking part include the North Wales Women's Centre Creative Writing Group; Knitting Knutters; Rhyl Music Club; Rhyl and District Musical Theatre and Phoenix Performers. Rene Davies will be there representing Denbighshire Art Society and Conwy Valley Arts Society, while people will be on hand to spread the word about Helfa Gelf Open Studios, currently taking place all over north Wales throughout September.

The day will kick off at 11am and there will be performances including bellydancing and Bollywood dancing, with members of the Rhyl Junior Marching Band and Rhyl Silver Band also set to entertain visitors.

Playing the guitar and West African kora in the Up for Arts marquee in Carmarthen last weekend. Image: Coracle

Playing the guitar and West African kora in the Up for Arts marquee in Carmarthen last weekend. Image: Coracle

Up for Arts events have previously been held in Merseyside, Salford, Gateshead and Carmarthen. They aim to bring together local amateur arts, crafts and cultural groups to celebrate the work of voluntary arts groups and to encourage local people to take part and try something new.

Owain Glyndwr and the Invisible Hand

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Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 13:10 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

We're in the middle of the fourth verse when I forget the words.

I didn't think this happened when you'd actually written the words, but a live gig is different from sitting on the sofa with your guitar across your knees and only the dog to laugh at you.

"It's OK," I tell the crowd. "This happened to Coldplay at Glastonbury. We can just start again."

And this is what we do because Allan (lead guitar) and Gordon (keyboards) are experienced musicians. Only one of us is incompetent.

Luckily, I'm better on the hip/hop/trance number, mainly because I can hide behind a phoney West Indian accent while wearing a baseball cap back to front. I smile apologetically at Owain Glyndwr.

Portrait of Sion Cent/Owain Glyndwr by DS Hughes

Owain doesn't smile back. He looks kind of furtive. In this ancient painting he's in disguise, too, wearing the friar's habit of local hero Sion Cent. It's far from an official portrait but I'm convinced it really is Owain, because we're at Kentchurch Court, the stronghold of the Scudamores, on the Monmouthshire border. Owain's daughter, Alice married a Scudamore, and this is where he's widely believed to have retired (and then vanished) after his final defeat. And the face in the picture is eerily similar to the great man's living descendent, John Scudamore.

The family have been at Kentchurch for over a thousand years, and keeping a place like this intact gets harder all the time. Which is why, for a reasonable fee, they're letting us use it to launch my new novel.

Yes, I realise it's only a few weeks since I was mocking the writer Jasper Fforde for promoting his work at fan-gatherings like The Fforde Fiesta. Well, I'm sorry, that was part of the cover-up. My launch for The Secrets of Pain, is even more bonkers. But it's the sort of thing writers are having to do to stay afloat in the Internet era, in the same way that illegal downloads are forcing rock bands back on the road.

The band. I'd better explain. The new book is part of a series, and one of the regular characters is a singer and songwriter. Snatches of his lyrics, ghosted by me, have appeared in the books. One day, Allan Watson, a long-time reader and composer up in Glasgow, emailed with an offer to write some music and actually complete the songs.

It was an intriguing idea, and within a few months we had an album. Eighteen months later we had two, and on the second one I actually did a bit of singing. So now I'm in a band, and we're playing live to about 150 readers in Owain Glyndwr's retirement home.

Performing at Kentchurch Court

Performing at Kentchurch Court

Suddenly, with ebooks and audiobooks and literary festivals as common as rock festivals, publishing a novel has become a multi-media phenomenon.

The original idea was to hold the concert outside - a real Glastonbury job, with a backcloth of the border hills and the deer park. It's well-known that Owain Glyndwr was good at managing the weather, and I was hoping he'd shift a few clouds for us. But half an hour ago it started to rain and we had to carry the amps back into the house.

Inside, there isn't really enough room or sufficient seating and one bloke walks out because he can't hear. But, with a stained glass window behind us and the chandelier overhead, the atmosphere's amazing.

And, of course, there's someone else to make up the numbers and he's wearing a friar's habit and he can see every chord I fluff.

Owain's very strange unofficial portrait is actually hanging in the area of Kentchurch we're using as a stage - me and Allan and Gordon, down from Glasgow for the day, and Krys on backing vocals and Terry, the blind painter, on second guitar. We fixed up for Allan to spend the night in the dim, oak-panelled, four-postered room known as Glyndwr's Bedchamber where, in spite of me repeatedly assuring him that it was seriously-haunted and he could expect to lie there shivering until dawn, he seems to have slept very well.

I'm still nervous, though, and keep glancing at the face in the picture. However, apart from the afforementioned forgetting of lyrics, nothing strange happens. Not on stage anyway.

But, at the end of the passage, is the Ladies loo...

The women's lavatories at Kentchurch are very ornate and contain a grandfather clock. I know this because afterwards I get a guided tour from Jan Scudamore, who runs things.


Yes, earlier, a friend from Aberystwyth emerged from this same convenience more than little shaken. Seems she was on her own in there and, on the way out, her shoulder was gripped - quite hard. By an unseen hand.

If I was making this up, I'd go back up the stairs to the wall beside the big window and the face of the man in the friar's habit would have acquired a small, subtle smile.

In fact, I don't like to go back up there, so we'll never know.

Jooney Woodward's Royal Welsh photo makes Taylor Wessing shortlist

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:22 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

A photograph taken by Jooney Woodward at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show has been shortlisted for the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011.

Her photograph Harriet and Gentleman Jack, 2010 is of 13-year-old Harriet Power, a steward at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, photographed in the guinea pig judging enclosure.

For the first time five photographers have been shortlisted for the £12,000 prize, which is seen as the leading showcase for new talent in portrait photography.

The five shortlisted photographs will go on show at the National Portrait Gallery in London from 10 November until 12 February 2012. They will form part of the exhibition of 60 portraits selected by the judges from over 6,000 submissions entered by 2,506 photographers.

Harriet and Gentleman Jack, 2010 by Jooney Woodward © the artist

Harriet and Gentleman Jack, 2010 by Jooney Woodward © the artist

Woodward, who was born in London and grew up in Dorset, said, "I found her image immediately striking with her long red hair and white stewarding coat. She is holding her own guinea pig called Gentleman Jack, named after the Jack Daniel's whisky box in which he was given to her.

"Using natural light from a skylight above, I took just three frames and this image was the first. There is something unsettling about the austere background and the scratch on her hand."

Woodward's series Unhidden: Documentary Photographs of Contemporary Wales was exhibited at MOMA Wales in 2010. Read a blog post I wrote about the exhibition last September.

Alongside Woodward the shortlisted artists vying for the prize are Jasper Clarke, David Knight, Dona Schwartz and Jill Wooster.

See more about the prize on the National Portrait Gallery website and browse a gallery showing all five shortlisted portraits on the BBC News Entertainment and Arts website.

Kyffin Williams and Charles F Tunnicliffe at Oriel Ynys Môn

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:25 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

To coincide with its 20th birthday, Oriel Ynys Môn is hosting a unique exhibition of pieces by two artists famous for their work on Anglesey: Sir Kyffin Williams and Charles F Tunnicliffe.

The exhibition, entitled Island Inspiration, will be held in the Oriel Kyffin Williams within the gallery. Both artists are closely tied to the history of Oriel Ynys Môn, which was originally established to house a collection of Tunnicliffe's work that was bought in 1981.

Tunnicliffe had spent 35 years on Anglesey documenting the myriad of wildlife on the island, having moved to Malltraeth in 1947. Following his death in 1979 his sketchbooks, measured drawings and many other works in his personal collection were seen to be of national, and even international, importance.

Whooper Swans at Malltraeth Cob by Charles F Tunnicliffe

Whooper Swans at Malltraeth Cob by Charles F Tunnicliffe. Image courtesy of Oriel Ynys Môn

Due to be sold by London auction house Christie's, an 11th hour purchase from Anglesey Borough Council, as it was at the time, kept all but 12 lots together as one collection.

Oriel Ynys Môn was built 10 years later to house the Tunnicliffe collection, and to act as Anglesey's premier centre for arts and culture.

Bridge, Red Wharf Bay by Charles F Tunnicliffe

Bridge, Red Wharf Bay by Charles F Tunnicliffe. Image courtesy of Oriel Ynys Môn

Sir Kyffin, always a passionate advocate for the arts in Anglesey and north Wales, built a strong relationship with the gallery. A frequent visitor to the gallery he donated over 400 works from sketches to drawings and oils.

Due to this relationship, a new gallery was built within Oriel Ynys Môn to exhibit his work. Kyffin was supportive about the new gallery from the outset, even being involved with the plans for the design and location. Oriel Kyffin Williams was opened in the summer of 2008, just under two years after his death in September 2006.

Kyffin Williams image of Pwllfanogl

Kyffin Williams' image of Pwllfanogl. Image courtesy of Oriel Ynys Môn

Island Inspiration opens to the public this weekend, from Saturday 17 September, and runs until Sunday 4 March 2012.

Related links

Mostyn prepares for David Nash exhibition

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 09:25 UK time, Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Mostyn in Llandudno is currently gearing up for a new exhibition of the work of one of Wales' foremost sculptors, but as you can see from these pictures it's no easy task.

Blaenau Ffestiniog-based sculptor David Nash constructs works from wood, as well using living plants and trees to create art works - one of the most famous examples being his Ash Dome.

Many of Nash's works are often on a large scale. It took a specialist transport firm from Nash's hometown of Blaenau to deliver the pieces; three trucks, one fork lift, two pallet trucks and a lot of hard work was required to get the work into the gallery in about three hours.

One of the Nash pieces on a pallet in the gallery. Photo: Martin Barlow

One of the Nash pieces on a pallet in the gallery

Another piece entering the gallery. Photo: Martin Barlow

Another piece entering the gallery...

A David Nash sculpture being manoeuvred into position in the gallery. Photo: Martin Barlow

... and being manoeuvred into position.

More sculptures waiting to be unloaded from the lorry. Photo: Martin Barlow

More sculptures waiting to be unloaded from the lorry

The sculptures can be seen, minus the protective Cellophane, in the exhibition that opens at Mostyn on 24 September. Photo: Martin Barlow

Some of the 'black' pieces by Nash. The sculptures can be seen, minus the protective Cellophane, in the exhibition that opens at Mostyn on 24 September.
All photos courtesy of Martin Barlow and Oriel Mostyn

This new exhibition of 25 works, four of which have been made especially for Mostyn, is entitled Red, Black, Other. It will examine the presence and function of colour in Nash's work, to date a largely unexplored theme in the artist's work.

Fire has been an essential component in Nash's work over the years, and some of the charred black pieces that will be on show include King and Queen, 1997 and Torso, 2009. Red pieces, made from yew and redwood, can be seen such as Red Sheaves, 2008 and Redwood Cutups, 2011 while other colours will be represented in works such as Blue Ring, 1992 and Sod Swap, 1983.

It will be the first time since the gallery reopened in May 2010 following its refurbishment and extension that an exhibition will take up all of the ground floor gallery space.

Red, Black, Other will open to the public on Saturday 24 September and will run until Sunday 13 November. Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas will officially open the exhibition at 6.30pm on Friday 23 September.

You can see more photographs of the team unloading some of the huge sculptures on the Mostyn Facebook page. Plus browse the Mostyn website to see what else is happening at the Llandudno gallery.

13 September: Roald Dahl Day

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:23 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

Tuesday 13 September marks the annual Roald Dahl Day, a celebration of the life and work of the Cardiff-born author on what would have been his 95th birthday.

Read an article by Wales History blogger Phil Carradice about Roald Dahl and his Cardiff connection, plus read a blog post I wrote last year that marked the 20th anniversary of the author's death.

There's also a really interesting article on Dahl, and the darkness within his children's books, on the BBC News Magazine website.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

For the last couple of days Radio 4 Extra have been including Dahl-esque features on The 4 O'Clock Show. You can listen again on BBC iPlayer to previous shows, which include Johnny Depp and Tim Burton talking about making Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Roald Dahl himself on his love of chocolate; while another show hears from the original Willy Wonka Gene Wilder, plus Quentin Blake takes listeners around his art studio.

On this Friday's show presenter Mel Giedroyc introduces a tour of Dahl's very own garden, complete with his writer's hut and his famous gypsy caravan. While a week today on Monday 19 September, Miriam Margolyes begins to read James And The Giant Peach - which is 50 years old this year having been published in 1961 - especially for the show.

There's lots of info and ideas on how you can mark the day on the official Roald Dahl Day website, Let us know if you've got anything planned!

Welsh born actor Andy Whitfield loses cancer battle

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 08:58 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

Actor Andy Whitfield, who was born in Amlwch on Anglesey, has lost his battle with cancer at the age of just 39.

Whitfield starred in the controversial but popular American television series Spartacus: Blood And Sand. He was forced to take a break from the show when diagnosed with stage 1 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in March 2010. Though originally declared free of the disease he suffered a recurrence and died in Australia, where he had lived since 1999.

Read more on the story on the BBC News website.

FILMCLUB in Wales marks International Literacy Day

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 09:45 UK time, Thursday, 8 September 2011

Today, 8 September, marks the annual UNESCO International Literacy Day.

International Literacy Day poster © UNESCO

International Literacy Day poster © UNESCO

Each year on International Literacy Day, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. This year the event will focus on the link between literacy and peace.

In support of the day the education charity FILMCLUB, that recently launched in Wales, has established a global literacy film season.

This special season of international films seeks to highlight the importance of literacy in people's lives and the disparity of literacy levels across the world, while at the same time helping members to develop their own skills by writing film reviews for the website.

Schoolchildren belonging to the charity will be encouraged to watch, discuss and review specially selected titles ranging from Akeelah & The Bee, about an impoverished girl's exceptional talent for spelling, to Eleanor's Secret, The Class and Oscar-winning drama The Lives of Others.

Visit the FILMCLUB website for more about their work in Wales and browse the UNESCO site for more info on International Literacy Day.

Pont Books present new title on artist David Nash

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:36 UK time, Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pont Books have released a new title that explores the work of one of the most important artists living and working in Wales, sculptor David Nash.

Nash was born in Surrey in 1945. He studied at Kingston College of Art and Brighton College of Art before attending Chelsea School of Art between 1969 and 1970. He moved to the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog after graduating from Chelsea and it has since remained his home.

The sculptor takes his inspiration from the distinctive landscape surrounding Blaenau and the area has been a major part of his success. He works primarily with wood and trees, with natural forces and the nature of the tree itself being integral to his art. In a career spanning 40 years he has created over 2,000 sculptures out of wood, many of them monumental in scale.

David Nash: A Place in the Wood is the latest addition to the series of publications about Welsh artists from authors Carolyn Davies and Lynne Bebb. They have selected numerous striking images of Nash's wood sculptures for the book, as well as living artworks such as the famous Ash Dome.

David Nash's Pyramid, Sphere & Cube. Photo © Jonty Wilde

David Nash's Pyramid, Sphere and Cube. Photo © Jonty Wilde

Another example of David Nash's work. Photo © Jonty Wilde

Another example of David Nash's work. Photo © Jonty Wilde

Pont Books is a branch of Gomer Press. For more information visit the Gomer website.

Helfa Gelf/Art Trail begins across north Wales

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 17:20 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

North Wales' largest open studio event, Helfa Gelf/Art Trail, begins this weekend and runs throughout September.

Helfa Gelf is now in its sixth year. It's a brilliant initiative that gives the public the opportunity to have a sneaky peek into the normally private studios in which artists right across north Wales work.

It also presents the chance to chat to artists about their work and creative processes, and with a host of artists taking part in Gwynedd, Conwy, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Wrexham there's plenty to see and hear.

Wendy Lawrence at work in her studio. Photo © Simon Proffitt for

Wendy Lawrence at work in her studio. Photo © Simon Proffitt for

Anvil Pottery, a pottery studio housed in an historic 17th century smithy in Denbigh. Photo © Simon Proffitt for

Anvil Pottery, a pottery studio housed in an historic 17th century smithy in Denbigh. Photo © Simon Proffitt for

Artist Helen Melvin in her studio. Photo © Simon Proffitt for

Artist Helen Melvin in her studio. Photo © Simon Proffitt for

A wide range of artists are taking part this year including painters, sculptors, photographers, jewellery makers, woodworkers, potters, textile workers, glass makers, basket weavers and printers.p

You can browse the calendar on the Helfa Gelf website to see what artists are throwing their doors open on each weekend during the month.

Helfa Gelf /Art Trail runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in September, with studios open from 11am-5pm daily. For further details about the event, maps and information about the artists, browse the website:

Get involved with Roald Dahl Day events

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 16:08 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

Roald Dahl Day takes place on 13 September. It will be the sixth annual celebration of the Cardiff-born author.

If you and/or your children haven't made any plans to mark the day yet then read on for some events that are taking place in Cardiff. And do let us know if you're attending another that we haven't mentioned.

Roald Dahl in his writing hut, circa 1990 © Jan Baldwin, courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Roald Dahl in his writing hut, circa 1990 © Jan Baldwin, courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Literature Wales have joined together with the Wales Millennium Centre to offer a Roald Dahl walk and workshop for children aged 8-11 years old in celebration of the author on Saturday 10 September.

Children's novelist, scriptwriter and dramatist Dan Anthony will explore Cardiff Bay through the eyes of Dahl. Children will discover the events behind The Great Mouse Plot of 1924 and listen to excerpts from some of Dahl's most popular novels at places he knew and loved. Children will then have the opportunity to write their own poem based on George's Marvellous Medicine in the Wales Millennium Centre.

Booking is essential (tickets cost £5 per child/£3 per adult) so contact Literature Wales for more information on 02920 472266, or find out more about the event on their website.

Cardiff Libraries are also getting in on the Roald Dahl-inspired fun.

Cardiff Central Library is hosting A Marvellous Celebration on Saturday 10 September, with phizz-whizzing activities, storytelling at 11am and 3pm and the chance to add your favourite character to their Dahl display.

You can get more info by contacting the children's library on 029 2078 0953 or email

Plus, Llandaff North library is holding a Peach Party to celebrate Roald Dahl Day, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of James And The Giant Peach.

Taking place on Saturday 10 September between 10am-12pm, children aged up to 12 years old can join in the fun including craft activities and a treasure hunt. For more information you can contact the library on 029 2061 3182 or email

On Sunday 11 September at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay there will be storytelling, arts and crafts workshops and balloon sculptures and displays from Dr Bob's Balloons. Events will take place from 11.30am until 4.30pm at the church, which Dahl and his family attended during their time in Cardiff.

Plus on Thursday 15 September there's a tribute to Roald Dahl event at Insole Court in Fairwater, Cardiff. Details are still being confirmed but it's likely that there'll be a compilation of readings with some Revolting Rhymes thrown in, with the evening costing around £10 per person. For the latest info visit the Friends of Insole Court website.

Related links

Disabled Avant Garde take camp in Newtown

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

Arts group the Disabled Avant Garde will descend on Newtown in Powys in a week's time to create an arts space and performance intended to challenge perceptions of disabled people.

The Disabled Avant Garde (DAG) bill themselves as a satirical arts group, comprising of two artists Katherine Araniello and Aaron Williamson. For this project, Camp DAG, they will stage an 'alien invasion', a two-day encampment that will take place on the riverbank of the river Severn, adjacent to the Oriel Davies Gallery.

It all sounds a bit cryptic and mysterious, but the Oriel Davies website promises 'caravans, an assortment of tents, horses and dogs and a slim plume of campfire smoke'.

Camp DAG promotional image


The DAG will work with seven disabled artists from Wales during the two day event, which takes place from 9-10 September:  Joolz Cave-Berry, Helen Clyro, Marion Fletcher, Lindsay Foster, Dean Warburton, Amanda Wells and Richard Newnham.

Camp DAG is part of the Outside IN programme aimed at increasing the number of disabled and deaf artists working together with mainstream galleries.

Video footage captured over the weekend, including the responses of the people of Newtown and visitors to the arts space, will be documented in a film that will hopefully be screened at Oriel Davies in September 2012.

Find out more about the project on the Oriel Davies Gallery website, and if you visit the camp next weekend let us know what you made of it.

Matthew Rhys to star in BBC's The Mystery Of Edwin Drood

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:21 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

Welsh actor Matthew Rhys will star in a forthcoming BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Dickens' final work was left unfinished at the time of his death in 1870 but has been completed by writer Gwyneth Hughes for this two-part drama for BBC Two. Alongside an adaptation of Great Expectations for BBC One it forms part of the BBC's celebration of Dickens, with 2012 marking the bicentenary of his birth.

Rhys will play the role of John Jasper in the psychological thriller, a choirmaster and the uncle of the eponymous Edwin Drood (who will be played by Freddie Fox). Jasper is a troubled man addicted to opium and with an obsession with his student Rosa Bud, the fiancée of his nephew Drood.

Having spent his life in the stifling and claustrophobic cathedral town of Cloisterham, Jasper's darker self has conceived a murderous hatred of his nephew who, he believes, stands between him and the lovely Rosa, to be played by Tamzin Merchant.

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood is currently in production for transmission later this year.

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