Archives for November 2011

December exhibitions at Mostyn, Llandudno

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:44 UK time, Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mostyn in Llandudno will open three new exhibitions on Saturday, in addition to the two current exhibitions already running at the gallery.

The work of Anselm Kiefer, one of Germany's most significant post-war artists, will go on show at Mostyn from Saturday 3 December. The exhibition is part of ARTIST ROOMS, a new collection of international contemporary art that tours the UK with the aid of the Art Fund. It will be the first time that Kiefer's work has been shown in Wales.

Works on display by Kiefer date from 1969, together with more recent works by the artists from 2006-2010.

The exhibition gives the chance to explore Kiefer's work and in particular the way in which his work resonates with Welsh culture, for example in relation to the nature of mythology and its link with landscape.

Detail from Anselm Kiefer's 1969 photograph Heroische Sinnbilder (Heroic Symbols). Image: ARTIST ROOMS, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art

Detail from Anselm Kiefer's 1969 photograph Heroische Sinnbilder (Heroic Symbols). Image: ARTIST ROOMS, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art

Mostyn has previously hosted the work of American artist Alex Katz as part of the ARTIST ROOMS touring collection, while the National Museum Wales in Cardiff currently has work on show by another influential German artist Joseph Beuys, also as part of ARTIST ROOMS.

Meanwhile, Ha Ha Road also opens on Saturday at Mostyn. The exhibition has been curated by two Berlin-based artists Sophie Springer and Dave Ball, the latter is originally from Swansea.

Ha Ha Road is a group show of work by 25 artists and takes a look at the use of humour in contemporary art. Some of the artists involved include Pipilotti Rist, Ceal Floyer, Erwin Wurm and Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams, who won the gold medal for fine art at this year's National Eisteddfod.

Curator Dave Ball will be at Mostyn to discuss the exhibition in a free talk at 2pm on Saturday afternoon. The exhibition will occupy gallery one and two at Mostyn until 11 March 2012.

Detail from Prank by Dan Witz, 2005

Detail from Prank by Dan Witz, 2005

The other new exhibition at the Llandudno gallery is Shelter by Gareth Griffith. Shelter is a multi-dimensional exhibition that has evolved from a body of paintings by Griffiths that featured one of the most basics forms of shelter, a tent, that was used on his past family holidays.

Griffith began to build small constructions of tents and shelters, originally to be used as maquettes for paintings. Yet after constructing around 20 or so small examples of these structures Griffith invited his three sons, all of whom are artists themselves, to add their own constructions to the collection and this began a wider collaborative process with other artists.

Contributions from 60 artists from Wales and further afield, such as Peter Finnemore, Heather and Ivan Morison, Ivor Richards and Paul Granjon, who have each produced their own 'shelters' will form part of the exhibition at Mostyn, together with some of Griffith's background research for the project.

Gareth Griffith's Shelter exhibition at Mostyn. Image courtesy of the artist and Mostyn

Gareth Griffith's Shelter exhibition at Mostyn. Image courtesy of the artist and Mostyn

Current displays at the gallery include The Colour of Words, an exhibition of work by local school children made in response to the recent David Nash exhibition at the gallery, plus Bruegel Boogie Woogie, an exhibition of small paintings - each measuring 18x24cm - by Georgian artist Misha Shengelia.

Visit for more details on the current and future exhibitions at the gallery.

'Oh, go on.... just do The Hiss...'

Post categories:

Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 16:04 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The only known vampire in Wales - arguably the oldest recorded in Britain - came from the border area around the end of the 12th century.

Little is known about this case, but it did appear to leave an entire community seriously anaemic before it ended with the full works, including the traditional exhumation and the removal of a head with a spade.

And then it all went quiet for nearly a millennium, until a whole colony of the Undead was reported around Rhuddlan Castle in North Wales by the award-winning fantasy writer Sam Stone.

Sam, who lives at Prestatyn, is one of two Wales-based writers of vampire novels on Sunday's Phil the Shelf, which asks: what, apart from a haemoglobin-rich diet, has kept the Undead alive and flourishing for so long?

I'd kind of imagined that Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and all the romantic chicklit vamps it spawned would put the final stake through the heart of the sanguinary genre. Not so, apparently. An internet list of the top 10 horror titles this week reveals that four of them are vampire stories.

They've come back to life... as ebooks.

And the top two are both Vampire Federation novels by Scott G Mariani, who lives in the countryside near Carmarthen, where he watches movies and does a bit of archery.

Scott Mariani, without the G, is the bestselling author of the Ben Hope series about an ex-SAS officer who gets involved in Dan Brown style mystical mysteries. The Vampire Federation, his less-serious sideline, creates a whole EC-style bureaucracy through which Euro-vamps survive alongside the human race.

Both Sam and Scott employ the device of having archaic monsters exposed to all the horrors of the 21st century, including texting and the net, although health and safety are played down. So... is it getting too silly? Hundreds of thousands of readers think not.

Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

Putting this programme together reminded me of the time we talked to the greatest screen Dracula of them all, Christopher Lee, about his autobiography.

It soon became clear that Lee, while not ashamed of such Hammer classics as Taste The Blood Of Dracula, preferred to be remembered for his other screen roles, such as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man - a movie recalled by the first book in our new Shelfstarters spot.

Last week we talked to Sue Walton, a professional publisher's copy-editor from Penmaenmawr, who's set up a business to help would-be published writers make their manuscripts more presentable for submission to publishers and literary agents.

Sue's been working with Karl Drinkwater from Aberystwyth on Turner, a novel about a mysterious island off the Welsh coast, ruled by a certain Lord John - so lots of echoes of The Wicker Man.

In Sunday's programme we run a sample of the book past experienced fantasy publisher Jo Fletcher to see if the combination of Karl and Sue has produced a winner.

Jo will also be giving us her opinion on whether vampire fiction is finally coming to the end of the bloodline. A question we decided not to attempt to ask Christopher Lee, remembering what happened at the end of my last interview with the great man.

I'd been saving a particular question, thinking it would be a really memorable way to end the programme. It went something like:

Me: Er... you remember that sinister noise you used to make when you opened your mouth to reveal the fangs... that hiss?


Me: Do you think you could do one now?

Lee: No.

Me: Just one...?

But he refused. He refused to do the hiss!

Honestly, you'd've thought I was asking for blood.

Listen to Phil the Shelf on BBC Radio Wales on Sunday 4 December from 5pm.

Free tickets for Elis James' new BBC Radio Wales show

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:53 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Rising Welsh comedian Elis James is currently recording a new comedy series for BBC Radio Wales, and there are free tickets on offer for those who'd like to be part of the audience.

Elis James

Elis James

The new Radio Wales series is called Elis James' Pantheon Of Heroes. The rather bizarre premise is that Elis has been given a dubious grant by the European Union to populate a garden of heroes with granite statues of figures from Welsh history. Each show attempts to work out which Welsh hero should be immortalised.

The radio series has been written by Elis James, Benjamin Partridge and Gareth Gwynn.

Tickets are available for the next two recordings which will take place on Sunday 4 December and Sunday 11 December at the BBC Wales Club in Llandaff, Cardiff. Doors open at 7pm with the recording beginning at 7.30pm.

Tickets are first come, first served so visit the Pantheon Of Heroes Facebook page to see how you can book yourself a seat.

Jeweller Anne Morgan to design 2012 Eisteddfod crown

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:44 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Anne Morgan has been selected from a shortlist of Welsh artists to design one of the iconic prizes of the 2012 National Eisteddfod.

The Penarth-based jeweller will design the crown for next year's National Eisteddfod, which will be held in Llandow in the Vale of Glamorgan. The 2012 crown will be sponsored by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

Anne said: "I'm extremely proud that my design has been selected for this year's crown. In fact, I feel a real 'ownership' of the Eisteddfod this year, especially as it is being held in the Vale of Glamorgan. I wanted the crown to represent exactly what I love about the Vale."

Anne Morgan with Vale of Glamorgan Council leader, Cllr Gordon Kemp

Anne Morgan with Vale of Glamorgan Council leader Gordon Kemp. Image courtesy of Vale of Glamorgan Council

Although the design details of the crown are being kept very much under wraps, the Vale of Glamorgan coastline will inspire her creation.

Anne added, "I haven't submitted a design for this calibre of commission before," she said. "It was a nerve wracking experience. So the fact that mine was chosen is fantastic. But knowing the makers of the crown who have gone before me, it's quite a daunting experience."

The crown is awarded to the winning bard at the welsh cultural event of the year. This year it was won by Geraint Lloyd Owen.

For clips and highlights from this year's Eisteddfod browse the BBC Wales Eisteddfod website, and for the latest news ahead of the 2012 event, browse the official website,

A Christmas Carol - as told by Jacob Marley (Deceased)

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 10:33 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

James Hyland's unique stage adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol sees the experiences of miser Ebenezer Scrooge told through the eyes of his former business partner Jacob Marley.

The acclaimed one-man show is touring the UK and will be making pitstops at the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen, the Met in Abertillery and the Blake Theatre in Monmouth for one night apiece.

James Hyland as Jacob Marley

James Hyland as Jacob Marley

Hyland's show makes much of the Victorian somewhat ghoulish obsession with the supernatural, bringing Marley back from the dead, not only to haunt Scrooge, but to haunt the audience in an eerie and chilling display of physical theatre which manages at once to be comic and tragic. For this reason, parents are advised to use their discretion if bringing children under seven.

Hyland, who has won several awards for his work in the past, said: "My objective in adapting A Christmas Carol as a one-man show, told from the point of view of Jacob Marley's ghost, was to emphasise the differences between a saved soul and one that is lost, Scrooge being the former and Marley being the latter.

"This contrast serves to highlight both the themes of redemption and forgiveness, by comparing Marley's temporary liberation from his chains to that of Scrooge's full reclamation of spirit; shining a light on the necessities of changing one's outlook upon life, in regards to acknowledging and taking account for one's fellow beings as well as adding a certain poignancy to the proceedings since Marley can never really escape his imprisonment and must continue to suffer in death on account of his behaviour in life."

James Hyland as Jacob Marley

Hyland acts as both protagonist and storyteller in the play

The gripping tale of crime and punishment sees Hyland both as protagonist and storyteller, switching guises through Dickens' cast of characters while remaining faithful to the original text. This is the third year he has staged it, after performances sold out in London during the first run.

It comes hot on the heels of his warmly received previous production Fagin's Last Hour, a one man show based on that other Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, and is produced by Brother Wolf, Hyland's own production company.

Hyland began his career by winning the Guardian International Student Drama Award at the Edinburgh Festival and performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, before setting up Brother Wolf, which has produced a wide array of projects.

His work includes penning the dialogue for an appearance in Tinie Tempah's music video Disappoint You, which won Best Urban Video at the UK Music Video Awards.

A Christmas Carol will be at the Met in Abertillery at 7pm on 7 December. It then moves to the Lyric in Carmarthen on Thursday 8 December before ending its Welsh run at the Blake Theatre in Monmouth on 9 December.

To view a trailer of the show visit YouTube. Visit for more information on the production.

Ken Russell - director, trailblazer and teacher

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 16:37 UK time, Monday, 28 November 2011

Ken Russell, the outrageous talent who defied the critics, has died, aged 84.

During his career, he became known for his controversial films including 1969's Women In Love, which featured Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestling nude.

He also directed the infamous religious drama The Devils (1971) and The Who's rock opera Tommy (1975). And as the great and good of the film industry unite to pay tribute to his canon of work, those who saw a different side of him, as a great teacher and motivator, have also been remembering him.

Ken Russell in 1962

Ken Russell in 1962

Russell inspired a whole generation of young Welsh film-makers through his collaboration with the Newport Film School, where he took up the role of visiting professor in 2003.

Humphry Trevelyan, former head of the Newport Film School, who also worked with Russell at the University of Southampton, said his approach to teaching was as refreshing as his devotion to the arts in general.

He recalls: "He was very down to earth with the students - he didn't have any of the airs or graces one might expect from someone so well-known.

"He could be impatient at times but he was always looking for something beyond the ordinary and always trying to stimulate the students to think beyond that which was traditional and formulaic."

Russell hosted film master classes but many students also had the privilege of his feedback on scripts they were developing as part of their coursework on the MA and BA courses at Newport.

Mr Trevelyan said: "It was noticeable that the students who were more in tune with his kind of filmmaking and imagination were always very pleased to get the chance to talk to him as they felt he was supporting them in their more adventurous ideas that sometimes their own tutors might try and steer them away from.

"His message to students was always, 'do things on your own terms'."

In fact, that message could act as a moniker for Russell's own approach to filmmaking through his life, where he often enjoyed attracting criticism for his non-traditional approach.

Ken Russell in the BBC series Waking The Dead (2003)

Ken Russell in the BBC series Waking The Dead (2003)

The love of the dramatic which imbued his takes on classics and his fondness for sensual imagery often saw him branded over-indulgent by critics.

But this was not something that bothered Russell, who believed the sensationalism stimulated interest in his subjects.

In all, Ken Russell made three feature films and 33 drama-documentaries at the BBC.

His first successful film for the big screen was Women in Love, which won him an Oscar nomination for Best Director, for the first and only time in his career.

The graphic nude scenes of his next offering, a film about Tchaikovsky caused outrage and was widely panned by the critics.

Russell later returned to more small budget, but no less flamboyant fare, including Crimes of Passion, Gothic, Salome's Last Dance and the cult horror-comedy The Lair Of The White Worm, starring Hugh Grant.

The director also made an adaptation of DH Lawrence's The Rainbow followed by the gritty film, Whore, and even tried his hand at music videos, making Nikita for Sir Elton John.

Ken Russell directing 300 children in the 1966 TV film Isadora: The Biggest Dancer In The World

Ken Russell directing 300 children in the 1966 TV film Isadora: The Biggest Dancer In The World

Many of Russell's later films were dismissed as too eclectic and by the 1990s he found it almost impossible to get funding for his work.

Mr Trevelyan said Russell's understanding of the role actors play and how they should be directed was what stood him apart and was a talent he was happy to share with his students at Newport.

He said: "A couple of times he came to help out with a directing workshop and would take the students though how to rehearse the actors they had chosen for their own filming.

"It was very straightforward but invaluable teaching, making the students think about what actors do when they are not communicating verbally and what motivates them throughout the scene.

"The students were always completely bowled over when they were given this help and related really well to it.

"Russell was somebody who brought a lot of influences to film from the various arts, music, literature and theatre, which is what made his films so unusual and almost non-filmic.

"He always said that his generation saw it as their duty to shock and I don't think he ever forgot that duty."

winter#2 pops up in Cardiff's Castle Arcade

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:05 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

The latest pop-up exhibition from Cardiff-based contemporary arts gallery project/ten will make one of the capital city's celebrated Victorian arcades its home from next week.

The latest temporary exhibition entitled winter#2 will open, like an advent calendar door, on Thursday 1 December. It will occupy 16 Castle Arcade, currently an empty retail unit in the shopping arcade, for three weeks.

Debbie Smyth, No Place Like Home, nail and thread 2011

Debbie Smyth, No Place Like Home, nail and thread 2011

There will be a selection of work on show by new artists in the gallery's collective including painter Menna Angharad, designer Jess Jones and ceramic artist Natalia Dias.

Menna's 'pillow' series is quiet and contemplative, Jess' designs are innovative and functional, while Natalia's award-winning ceramic work is suitably nonconforming, pushing the boundaries of the craft - as you can see in the image below.

Natalia Dias, Autumn Hearts, porcelain 2010. Photo: Jon Pountney

Natalia Dias, Autumn Hearts, porcelain 2010. Photo: Jon Pountney

The exhibition will sprawl over two floors of the retail unit, with a range of media on offer including paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, textiles and ceramic pieces.

winter #2 runs at 16 Castle Arcade in Cardiff from Thursday 1 December to Friday 23 December. See for more details, including exhibition times, and to browse more images of work by the artists on show.

Photography exhibition explores Bangladeshi community

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:23 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

A new photography exhibition at The Cardiff Story provides an intimate insight into the UK's Bangladeshi community.

The exhibition consists largely of observational portraits of Bengali women living in Cardiff, London and Sylhet, the region in north east Bangladesh where the majority of the UK's Bangladeshi community originates.

The portraits not only give an insight into their private lives and situations but also wider cultural issues of the Bangladeshi community. It is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK, suffering from high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and it is the older women in the community that typically suffer from ill health.

The images have been taken by documentary photographer Vanja Garaj, who is also a lecturer in digital media design at Brunel University. The photographs explore the ideas of migration, nutrition and ageing in a cross-section of Bengali women taken in the three very different cities.

Each striking photograph is accompanied by a caption, written by journalist Nick Hunt, that explains a little about the subject's situation, though all the women involved have been given pseudonyms.

Photograph by Vanja Garaj

Cardiff, Wales, UK - Leena, 37, was born in Cardiff, and her family speaks English at home - her children understand the Sylheti dialect, but cannot speak it well. She regularly visits Bangladesh to keep in touch with her family.

Garaj told me: "The two-year project involved a number of visits to Cardiff, several sessions in London and two prolonged trips to Bangladesh between January 2010 and September 2011.

"The majority of the photographs tell personal stories and provide an insight into the way of life of Bangladeshi women both in the UK and in Bangladesh and some illustrate the complex female-male relationships existing in the Bengali society.

"Besides their documentary aspect, the photographs and the exhibition are intended to raise a wider awareness of the issues many Bangladeshi women face in their daily lives."

Photograph by Vanja Garaj

Cardiff, Wales, UK - "Here I have only my children but in Bangladesh I have so many relatives around me," says Lubna, 52, who has been living in the UK for 31 years. "I used to feel like going back home. I was feeling so bad, but slowly everything was OK."

Photograph by Vanja Garaj

Sylhet City, Bangladesh - Most street restaurants in Bangladesh cater for rickshaw drivers and other male workers, and women generally feel uncomfortable to visit these places. Other more upscale food establishments, however, are frequented by both men and women, particularly in urban centres like Dhaka and Sylhet City.

The exhibition is part of Project MINA: Migration, Nutrition and Ageing across the Lifecourse in Bangladeshi Families: A Transnational Perspective - a three year research project funded by Economic and Social Research Council UK, under New Dynamics of Ageing Programme.

Bangladesh→UK: The Stories of Food, Ageing and Migration, A Photo Exhibition by Vanja Garaj, runs at The Cardiff Story Museum at The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff until Thursday 15 December.

Browse a photo gallery of some of Garaj's striking images on the BBC Wales News website.

National Dance Company Wales tour India

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:10 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

National Dance Company Wales are about to embark on three-city tour of India, taking in Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi in a collaboration with the Bangalore-based STEM Dance Kampni.

NDC Wales will perform in venues across the three cities on the tour, which takes place from tomorrow, 25 November, until 7 December.

During their time in India the dance group will also lead dance masterclasses and discussions.

By Singing Light by Stephen Petronio. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

By Singing Light by Stephen Petronio. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

The tour, which is supported by the British Council, Wales Arts International and Welsh Government, will include performances of B/olero and Black Milk by Ohad Naharin and By Singing Light by Stephen Petronio, which was inspired by the poetry of Dylan Thomas.

The relationship between NDCWales and STEM began in August last year as the resident choreographers from each company went on exchange visits during which they were able to explore each other’s companies and plan future collaborations.

Lee Johnston, B/olero by Ohad Naharin. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

Lee Johnston, B/olero by Ohad Naharin. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

Following their return from India, National Dance Company Wales will perform their Spring Tour Première at the Wales Millennium Centre in the new year on 26 January 2012.

For more visit the website

Rhian Field's Pembrokeshire-inspired art goes on show

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 16:08 UK time, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Work by artist Rhian Field, which is heavily influenced by her Pembrokeshire surroundings, has gone on display in Pembroke Dock.

Field was recently the artist in residence at St David's gallery Oriel y Parc. A scientist as well as an artist - she has a degree in coastal and marine environment studies - she works from her studio at the foot of the beautiful Preseli Hills in Mynachlogddu.

Unsurprisingly, Field's work focuses on the natural environment and many of her paintings have an underwater theme like the one below, which was painted during her residency at Oriel y Parc.

Rhian Field painting All Rise for the Judge, depicting St David's Cathedral submerged underwater

Rhian Field painting All Rise for the Judge, depicting St David's Cathedral submerged underwater

Field's work can be seen in the foyer gallery of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority's head office at Llanion Park in Pembroke Dock from Monday to Thursday, 8.45am-5pm and on Friday from 8.45am to 4.30pm.

Swansea Met offers free art classes

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Free art classes for children and adults alike are being offered by Swansea Metropolitan University as their popular Saturday Art Class scheme returns next month.

2011 marks the sixth year that the university has run the classes, with workshops including drawing and painting, textiles, photography, TV/video production, sculpture and stained glass. Plus this year there's the extra options to study graphic design and stained glass.

Young people at a previous art school workshop

Young people at a previous art school workshop

The art class programme will start on Saturday 3 December at the university's Dynevor Centre for Art, Design and Media.

Children's workshops run for 12 weeks and will be held on Saturday mornings between 9.30am-12.30pm, while the adult workshops run for 10 weeks and will be held in the afternoons from 1.30-4pm.

To book a space on the courses call 01792 481285 or email

Previous students in a drawing class

Previous students in a drawing class

Meeting the Devil in a country lane (or was it just a Man in Black?)

Post categories:

Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 10:54 UK time, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

As I said to Byron Rogers, when I first came to mid Wales as a young reporter, I was like a kid waking up in Disneyland.

I think he got the point. Byron, who opens Sunday's edition of Phil The Shelf, is also a journalist. More distinguished, obviously, than I've ever been, but drawn to the same kind of story. The kind that rural Wales has in abundance - not world-shaking but definitely mind-altering. For example, I remember... educated businesswoman in a split-level bungalow on the hillside above a west Wales town explaining very soberly how a comparatively-recent family tragedy had been preceded by an experience of the toili, the phantom funeral.

...a farmer near Machynlleth recalling the sound of the old wooden bier they kept in the attic trundling across its floorboards not long before his father died.

...the secret guardian of the Nant Eos Cup opening a wooden box, brought out of a bank vault, to show me the chipped and blackened remains of what she and others firmly believed to be the Holy Grail.

OK, that one made a rather good radio feature at the time but, generally-speaking, stories like this are of very little interest to serious news media unless told in a certain way. Byron Rogers, Carmarthenshire-born, but now living in Northamptonshire, is a master of the certain way.

His book, Three Journeys, has stories about conjurers and condoms and how once - and not all that long ago - he was mistaken for the Devil in a country lane. Mostly, episodes of the kind you maybe don't realise the value of until you're looking back from exile in Middle England where, if these things happen at all, they seem to happen far less frequently than they do in rural Wales.

Byron was, of course, born in the middle of it, but the old magic seems to work equally well on outsiders. In this week's programme, we talk to Kevan Manwaring, an English bard from Stroud on an endless search for magic in the landscape, who'll be describing the curious qualities of the north east Wales waterfall Pistyll Rhaeadr.

Cover image of Andy Roberts' UFO Down?

Cover image of Andy Roberts' UFO Down?

Usually it just makes people want to visit the loo, but in Kevan's book, Turning The Wheel, the torrent's previously-unsung aphrodisiac qualities come to the fore in the kind of incident from which folklore is formed.

But some people remain resistant to the spell. We also talk to Andy Roberts who investigated the famous Berwyn Mountain UFO Disaster of 1974, when the crash-landing of an alien craft was said to have been covered up by the Men in Black.

This is an excellent example of the way rural Wales regenerates its mythology. In the old days it was the fairies - the tylwyth teg - who would have been encountered in lonely places furnished with the remains of Bronze Age ritual monuments. Now it's aliens. But are they part of the same phenomenon?

Andy's book UFO Down? is the first serious examination of the Welsh Roswell for many years and may also explain why he's become a figure of hate for UFO-hunters across Britain.

Was he got at by the Man in Black? Find out in Phil The Shelf, just after 5pm on Sunday on BBC Radio Wales.

Unless of course the Men in Black disconnect the transmitters...

The Christmas Cuckoo's Cooking

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 12:22 UK time, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Imagine a world where The Borrowers meets Toy Story and you are close to picturing the visual concept that will greet audiences at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven this Christmas.

The impressive set of The Christmas Cuckoo's Cooking

The impressive set of The Christmas Cuckoo's Cooking

Set in an attic of forgotten items, The Christmas Cuckoo's Cooking features broken toys and other discarded household detritus, scaled up to 50 times their normal size, which come alive during the performance.

From a giant cuckoo clock which is home to the two main characters, a toy soldier and a shepherdess, a vast spider and dusty cobwebs to an 8ft Brasso tin and a floor made of discarded annuals, the oversized landscape is an incredible sight to behold.

Set designers have been working round the clock to whip ceiling-high piles of wood and polystyrene into shape thus creating the magical world of the play, a vision dreamt up over a decade ago by artistic director Peter Doran.

An artist building the enormous spider

An artist building the enormous spider

He said: "Some years ago I was talking to the designer at the time about adapting The Borrowers by Mary Norton, because I was fascinated by the idea of the little people living under the floorboards.

"We realised we would find it impossible to stage and so the idea for Cuckoo was born."

Peter wrote the play himself and it was first staged at The Torch 10 years ago. But now that generation of children has grown up he decided to revisit it, adapting the script and adding some extra visual marvels.

"It's basically an incredible world created out of things people shove in their attics and forget about.

"There is a fairy who has been demoted from the Christmas tree, living with a mouse, the shepherdess and soldier near a huge watertank and pipes. Then there is an evil group of woodworm who are the real villains of the piece and I have made them even more menacing this time!

"It's going to be a beautiful set and I think everybody has really enjoyed making it. I created it before the first Toy Story film but obviously that sort of world, where toys come alive, is an exciting one for children to visualise."

It has taken a team of nine, working full time for a month, to create the magical world of The Christmas Cuckoo's Cooking.

The overall effect is like a pop-up story book and will be shared with local schools and audiences in a run of more than 50 performances.

The set in detail, including enormous toys

The set in detail, including enormous toys

But it's not just the set they will enjoy, as Peter is very complimentary about his cast as well.

"They are a great bunch of actors and will be working very hard and singing some lovely songs for everybody too."

The first show takes place next Tuesday, 29 November, in front of children from Pembroke Dock Community School. The play then opens to the public on Thursday 22 December and runs until Saturday 31 December.

Tickets can be purchased from the theatre's website,, or by calling their box office on 01646 695267.

Oriel Davies Gallery exhibitions

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 11:29 UK time, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rural living and raw landscapes are at the heart of two exhibitions being hosted by the Oriel Davies gallery in Newtown, Powys.

The first, A Place In The Country, showcases the work of six Danish artists and their explorations of how urban living and country life compare.

Karen Havskov Jensen, Heraldik, textile installation

Karen Havskov Jensen, Heraldik, textile installation

Several of the artists live in the remote windswept region of West and North Jutland on Denmark's western coast where sand dunes, wind farms and tiny villages are prevalent.

The artists use their works to express their impressions of its quietude and natural splendour. One is Karen Havskov Jensen, who returned to the countryside after living in a city for many years. She works with traditional needlecraft and imbues her work with questions about what it means to live on the periphery of society.

One of her pieces includes a knitted jumper with incredibly long arms, which eventually merge into the trouser legs of a knitted pair of trousers. And above that is displayed a flag, where the pennant merges into a series of dangling socks.

Her interest is including motifs she spots in the landscape close to her home in her sculptures. A Place In The Country includes her major installation Around In The Reserve, with crocheted images of wind turbines, farm and wild animals.

The exhibit also incorporates delicate prints, installations and drawings by Klavs Weiss mostly concerned with geographical boundaries and the concept of 'home' explored via his installation He Who Lives In The Wilderness.

This tension between the urban and the rural is also a concern for Thomas Wolsing, who has himself left behind city life to reside in a village in North Jutland.

He uses cross-stitch images of decaying farmhouses and installations of deserted properties to show the harsh effects of agricultural decline and depopulation.

Thomas Wolsing, Collapsed House, cross-stitch textile

Thomas Wolsing, Collapsed House, cross-stitch textile

Detail from Jette Ellgaard's video projection Homecoming

Detail from Jette Ellgaard's video projection Homecoming

Video is the main medium for Jette Ellgaard, who spent her formative years on a farm in West Jutland and chooses to make reference to this past life and compare the countryside of her childhood imagination with the actuality of now.

The curious works of Hartmut Stockter focus on inventions which explode romantic notions of what ideal nature means seen through the eyes of an artist who lives and works on a houseboat in Copenhagen's docklands.

His eccentric creations include The Portable Rat-Converter, a contraption which allows rats to change into squirrels by putting on fluffy tails, and life-sized sparrows made from discarded chewing gum and cigarette ends.

There is a much more physical element to the work of Marianne Jørgensen, who embraces cutting texts into the earth, writing with grass seed or creating explosions in her local field to highlight threats from encroaching urban development.

The exhibition has received financial support from Arts Council of Wales, the Danish Arts Council and Wales Arts International and will launch this Saturday 26 November from 4-8pm with discussion sessions with all the artists, performances and a selection of Danish food and drink.

Detail from Marianne Jørgensen's video installation Love Alley

Detail from Marianne Jørgensen's video installation Love Alley

Visitors to the opening will be able to enjoy an unusual musical performance by Tom Gilhespy, who will be exhibiting his installation the Cain Valley Kettle Choir at 4pm. This sees 50 whistling kettles sing together as they are fired by specially created stoves.

Tom Gilhespy's Kettle Choir

Tom Gilhespy's Kettle Choir

Also opening on Saturday is Rebecca Spooner's Hearth And Hill, which is on show in the gallery's TestBed space. Both exhibitions run until 1 February 2012.

The Testbed dedicated space is designed to display experimental work from new and emerging artists in Wales.

Rebecca's installation is created in response to the countryside and promises a "multi-sensory" environment featuring found objects from nature as well as film and photography.

She is a fan of using Polaroid photography, particularly Super 8 and 16mm film and is fascinated by the recurring motifs of the Welsh landscape.

She says about the exhibition: "It's about the tension between two desires, of wanting a shelter, a safe place or sense of home, and of being drawn outside to the hills and woods, finding wilder spaces".

Thoughts from the India Wales Writers Chain in Kerala

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:39 UK time, Monday, 21 November 2011

The British Council's India Wales Writers Chain is a project that marks and celebrates a growing relationship between Indian and Welsh literature.

In the latest stage of the project, Welsh poets Siân Melangell Dafydd, Robert Minhinnick, Twm Morys and Eurig Salisbury have recently travelled to Kerala in India to collaborate with Indian poets K Satchidanandan, Anamika, Sampurna Chattarji and Anitha Thampi.

Malayalam poet, translator and critic K Satchidanandan. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

Malayalam poet, translator and critic K Satchidanandan. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

This visit gave the poets the chance to work together in pairs and and groups to develop creative translations of each other's original poems, as well gaining a better understanding of each other's cultural roots and inspiration. It follows on from summer workshops and performances that took place in Wales in June earlier this year.

We've been sent some beautifully lyrical musings on the collaborative event in India from poets Twm Morys and Sampurna Chattarji, which give an insight into the work that took place in

Nikki Morgan, a representative from Wales Arts International who accompanied the Welsh writers over to India, also penned a few paragraphs for us to set the scene.

Nikki Morgan

We're staying on a cliff top overlooking the Arabian Sea. This is the perfect setting for a meeting of different words and worlds - of Wales and of India through the languages of Malayalam, Bengali, Hindi and Welsh, and of imaginary worlds and the worlds of the everyday.

Sometimes we must move away from our own lives to bring them back into sharp focus. Exchanges of recipes, songs, philosophies and words. Many, many words. Old words. Newly created words. Words for trees and fruit and birds. Words for chillis and potatoes and sweets. Words that have many meanings. Words that have one specific meaning. Words that need no translation.

The poets spend the days offering insights into the roots and context of their work. They talk of literary and folk traditions, metres and rhythms and the social, political and linguistic landscapes. They work on translations of each other's poems, creating new work that can stand on in its own.

At night, the connections are woven through talk of young children and elderly parents, of horoscopes and chapels and a shared love of food. The translations are enriched for these connections; poems become stories that are now 'twice told'.

Hindi poet Anamika

Hindi poet Anamika. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

Sampurna Chattarji

We are sitting on the rocks by a river. Twm is speaking about himself, his life, how he came to poetry, talking about listening to the clack of keys on his father's typewriter as he lay on a sunny wall as a young lad.

The group of writers near the river. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

The group of writers near the river. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

And suddenly, behind him a sharp wind begins to blow, leaves fall from the trees around us, onto the rocks, into the river, there is a quickening of the hot heavy air, a storm is coming, any minute it might rain, a nervous energy fills the air, and then it passes, quiets down, and the river returns to its quiet murmur, and Twm is still speaking.

Like sharp unpredictable flurries of wind and leaf, revelations arise amidst us. Satchida talks about madness. "She was not consistently lunatic," he says about an aunt. "My English version of your poem may be an abomination," says Robert to Satchida, in his trademark self-deprecatory manner. Those two words - abomination, preposterous. The wonderful sonorous way they roll off the tongue.

"You cannot fall ill in your mother tongue," says Siân, who has given me the tremendous gift of translating my long poem 'Five Different Words for Love', the poem I share at each translation workshop, hoping someone will attempt it.

We talk endlessly about the sections, she is fierce and questing, and she writes in the margins the English words for the Bengali I have used in the poem. Bondhu/Friend, Bhai/Brother, Bhalobasha/Love, Bhogoban/God, Bhoboghurey/Vagabond.

"Are you familiar with Hiawatha?" asks Twm. I am, and he is not surprised. Longfellow composed it in a folk metre that the Welsh use, but Twm has no evidence that Longfellow ever visited Wales.

"Metres flew away like Siberian cranes," says Anamika about Hindi poetry, "and then like the migratory bird, they came back." Birds fly in and out of the poems, the spaces we inhabit, what is the Welsh word for sea eagle, it's white, Robert says, there is an old Welsh word for it that no one remembers. Is the white bird that stands daintily by the sea an egret, I ask Satchida. Yes, he says.

I learn the word the Kani tribals use for kitten. 'Poocha' I repeat after the sweet 19-year old who is about to be married. We smile at each other, it is all the vocabulary we need.

"Who is the Elephant Man?" asks Eurig, pointing at the immense stone statue reclining on the grass. I laugh, and say, "It's Ganesh," and tell him one of the stories of how he came to be the elephant-headed god, my favourite.

"The bearhug between the cosmic and the commonplace," says Anamika. Yes, I say, silently, yes, yes, yes.

A statue of the Hindu god Ganesh

A statue of the Hindu god Ganesh. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

Twm Morys

Twm Morys, Robert Minhinnick and K Satchidanandan. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

Twm Morys, Robert Minhinnick and K Satchidanandan. Photo: India Wales Writers Chain

My mind sometimes wanders, out of hours, to things seemingly not entirely relevant; the fact, for instance, that there is no Malayalam word for 'squid'.

Also that that the Communist authorities of Kerala discouraged the workers in the fields from singing their folk songs. (There is a song for every activity on the land).

The reason for this was that, singing, they worked too quickly, so there was no enough work left to go around. But I have run into a young poet who knows a lot of these songs. He promise to sing some into my microphone for my documentary.

This all fascinates me, because the songs exactly correspond to our Hen Benllion, the folk-verses of the common people of Wales, long, long ago, and I realise this is all relevant.

India Wales Writers Chain 2010-2012 has been developed by British Council and Wales Arts International, in partnership with Wales Literature Exchange, and is supported by Welsh Government, Hay Festivals and Literature Across Frontiers Wales.

Winter exhibitions at Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:01 UK time, Monday, 21 November 2011

Two very different exhibitions are running this winter at Oriel Y Plas Glyn-y-Weddw in Llanbedrog near Pwllheli.

The gallery has two displays running in conjunction up to the tail end of December; a Christmas exhibition that features work by some of the gallery's best artists and an exhibition of artisan works featuring one very special self-portrait.

Edward Owen, self portrait, 1732

Edward Owen, self portrait, 1732

A painting by Edward Owen, thought to be one of Wales' oldest professional self-portraits, has returned to Wales for a one-off exhibition at the gallery, more than 80 years after being given up as lost forever.

The painting was last seen in public at the 1927 National Eisteddfod in Holyhead. It was rediscovered by chance in Massachusetts by art historian Peter Lord.

Read an article about the amazing rediscovery of this important painting on the BBC Wales News website.

It sits alongside around 40 other paintings in the exhibition, including portraits, ship paintings and landscapes by local and national artisan painters.

Meanwhile, the Christmas exhibition at the gallery features work of a more contemporary nature. Work on show includes pieces by William Selwyn, Sue Morgan, Ceri Auckland Davies, Niki Pilkington, Luned Rhys Parri, Sonja Benskin Mesher and the 2010 Welsh Artist of the year Elfyn Lewis among many others.

Oriel Plas-Glyn-y-Weddw is open daily except Tuesdays between 10am and 5pm. For more info:

Detail from Near Aber Rhigian by Ceri Auckland Davies. Image courtesy of the artist

Detail from Near Aber Rhigian by Ceri Auckland Davies. Image courtesy of the artist

Marc Evans at Taliesin Arts Centre

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 16:46 UK time, Friday, 18 November 2011

Welsh director Marc Evans will discuss film making in Wales and internationally at the Taliesin Arts Centre at Swansea University next week.

Marc Evans. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Marc Evans. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Evans has worked on international productions such as Trauma (2004) with Colin Firth and Mena Suvari, and Snow Cake (2006), which starred Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Yet the director's work also has a strong Welsh streak. His latest cinematic release was Patagonia and starred Welsh actors Matthew Rhys, Nia Roberts and Matthew Gravelle, and also saw the acting début of Welsh songstress Duffy. The film, which features both the Welsh and Spanish languages, is the UK's submission in the foreign-language film category for the 84th Academy Awards.

Previous home-grown titles from the director include Beautiful Mistake (2000), a film on the Welsh music scene featuring John Cale, James Dean Bradfield and Cerys Matthews, and 2003 documentary film Dal: Yma/Nawr (Still Here/Now).

Evans' new film Hunky Dory is due for release in spring 2012 having played at the 2011 BFI London Film Festival. It stars Minnie Driver and rising Welsh star Aneurin Barnard.

Marc Evans will be in conversation with Dr Gwenno Ffrancon on Monday 21 November. The event will take place through the medium of Welsh with simultaneous translation. Starting at 6pm it is free and open to all, but to register for a ticket visit the Swansea University website.

Read more about Marc Evans in an article by Dave Berry on the BBC Wales Arts website.

Dylan Thomas Centre staff to be redeployed

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:26 UK time, Friday, 18 November 2011

Staff at the Dylan Thomas Centre have been told by Swansea City Council that they will be redeployed should planned changes for the venue go ahead.

The Dylan Thomas Centre. Image courtesy of Swansea City Council

The Dylan Thomas Centre. Image courtesy of Swansea City Council

The city council has said it is close to finalising a deal to lease the building to the University of Wales, in which most of the centre would become business space for creative companies though an exhibition dedicated to Dylan Thomas would remain.

Earlier this year more than 200 artists, authors and supporters of the centre, including Michael Sheen, Russell T Davies, Cerys Matthews and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, signed a letter expressing their concerns about its future use.

For more on the news read an article on the BBC Wales News website.

Theatr Colwyn: a century of cinema

Post categories:

Martha Owen Martha Owen | 09:30 UK time, Friday, 18 November 2011

On 15 October 2011, a famous face made an appearance in Colwyn Bay.

Terry Jones, acclaimed director, writer, documentary maker and Python, was in his hometown to reopen a small theatre, nestled just shy of the north Wales coast, following a refurbishment which has restored the venue to its former glory.

Although Jones' appearance was greeted with excitement, in truth showbusiness' most famous faces have been appearing in the small town of Colwyn Bay for over 100 years. It's all thanks to the presence of Theatr Colwyn, recently named the oldest operating cinema in the UK and the oldest operating theatre in Wales.

Now a popular and affordable community attraction, in its heyday it boasted an impressive audience, with a seating capacity estimated between 500-800 strong at the time its cinema opened in 1909. Harry Reynolds, a well known face on the West End stage, had taken over The Public Hall - as the venue had been known since the 1880s - revamping the auditorium and installing electric light. It was one of the earliest purpose-built cinemas in the country.

Newspaper advert showing Theatr Colwyn's revamped auditorium with cinema and programme information, dated 1909

Newspaper advert showing Theatr Colwyn's revamped auditorium with cinema and programme information, dated 1909

The first screening was on 25 January 1909: short animated pictures including Hunting Crocodiles On The Nile and The Naughty Little Princess. The Pioneer newspaper, in its review of the cinema's opening night, praised a warm-up performance by singer Revill Hall, and Morris Davies, an "accomplished pianist [who] performed a suitable programme of music" to accompany the films.

The sheer number of screenings suggests cinema quickly proved to be a popular past time with Conway residents. "There were several showings every day of the week," says marketing officer Joann Rae, "often more if it was raining!"

However, although popular, ticket prices indicate the theatre attracted an affluent visitor, with admission ranging from one shilling to three or six pence. Colwyn Bay and its attractions were a magnet for wealthy residents and visitors, in particular, Joann Rae explains, "industrialists and mill owners from north Wales."

The early 20th century cinema-goer's experience differed to a contemporary viewer's in some respects - for example, the film's score was performed live in order to bring the silent pictures to life - though it was more familiar in others, with sweets and chocolates sold before performances and public fascination with the biggest and brightest stars of the period dictating the cinema programme.

In the 1920s, the period which saw the flourishing of Hollywood's golden age of silent cinema, audiences flocked to the Theatr Colwyn to see the movie icons of the day. Joann reveals the cinema still holds posters from that era advertising films starring Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd: "massive stars, so we know that they were popular with audiences here in the '20s."

As the century wore on, Theatr Colwyn continued to play host to popular stage and film performers. Several notable acts started their careers at the theatre, including Charles Dance and original Coronation Street cast members Jack Howarth and Betty Alberge. Pauline Jamieson was a member of the rep company during the 1930s before becoming a leading light of the West End, with Vivien Leigh serving as maid of honour at her wedding.

In 2006, Terry Jones was invited to become the theatre's patron, in large part due to his personal connections with the venue. Not only did his mother perform in amateur productions, in 1936 his grandfather William Newnes conducted an orchestra on the night the theatre reopened following repairs after a fire.

Exterior of newly refurbished Theatr Colwyn in 2011. Photographer: Paul Sampson

Exterior of newly refurbished Theatr Colwyn in 2011. Photographer: Paul Sampson

Now owned by Conwy County Borough Council and run as an independent cinema, Theatr Colwyn underwent a £750,000 refurbishment in 2011. It remains an active and vibrant part of the community's cultural landscape while retaining a sense of the venue's historical importance.

Phil Batty, theatre manager, explains: "We started up the cinema again in 2000, after receiving grants from our town council and county council which covered the cost of the projector and screen. Our audience likes to come and watch a film in a traditional setting and they also appreciate the fact that our tickets are so affordable."

With a century's worth of entertainment history to its name, Theatr Colwyn intends on bringing a small slice of Hollywood to the residents of Colwyn Bay for another hundred years to come.

They exist, but we don't know the rules

Post categories:

Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 10:05 UK time, Thursday, 17 November 2011

I heard Brian Cox, TV's Mr Science, on the radio some weeks ago saying with absolute certainty: "There are no ghosts." As if anyone who thought otherwise was a moron.

At which point, for me, Cox's credibility went right down the pan. Now, when he tells us how many holes there are in the asteroid belt, I'm likely to add a couple on.

The problem is that scientists tend to believe that everything in existence should be subject to human control, and ghosts are nicely outside the box. But they don't go away.

At least one in three people I know has had an experience hinting at some other level of existence. When you talk to these people, they know they weren't dreaming or hallucinating. They know, by the circumstances, that it wasn't somebody's idea of a practical joke. And that's how it's always been. Strange things happen and nobody knows how or why. Not even Brian Cox.

I'm always fascinated by how many autobiographies contain an episode involving a possible ghost, premonition or prophetic dream. Even Hitch 22, the autobiog of arch-atheist Christopher Hitchens has one.

On this week's Phil The Shelf, we talk to actor John Challis, TV's Mr Ambrose Boyce of Peckham, about his uncanny experience while performing in Llandudno. You might not want to buy a second-hand car off him, but it's hard simply to drive away from this story with a contemptuous sniff.

Cover image of MR James' Collected Ghost Stories courtesy of Oxford University Press

Cover image of MR James' Collected Ghost stories courtesy of Oxford University Press

We also discuss Joanna Lumley's very sinister encounters in the house where Montague Rhodes James was born nearly 150 years ago.

Which is where we leave real-life behind.

The distinguished antiquarian scholar MR James remains Britain's most celebrated creator of fictional ghosts and is the main subject of this week's programme. Actually, ghost is only a loose term for the entities MR James wrote about. He dealt with earthen things, hairy things, creeping things. Which invariably were evil.

Rhondda-born Darryl Jones, now head of English at Trinity College, Dublin, is the editor of a new edition of MRJ's collected stories - all 35 of them - for the Oxford University Press. Darryl's been addicted to supernatural tales since he was a kid, so obviously it was no hardship putting these together with a new introduction, copious notes on dates and relevant history as well as James' own opinions about the existence of ghosts and hauntings.

On the programme, we also hear the work of another actor, Robert Lloyd Parry who's made a career out of impersonating MR James, recreating the evenings, usually around Christmas, when James would sit down amongst academic colleagues and students to read his accounts of otherwordly malevolence.

Of course, it's not only scientists who have a problem with this stuff. For nearly a century the paranormal has been a forbidden area for writers of detective fiction. One of the rules of The Detection Club, formed in 1930 by Dorothy L Sayers, GK Chesterton and others, was:

All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course. To solve a detective problem by such means would be like winning a race on the river by the use of a concealed motor-engine.

The prejudice survives to this day. The hard-boiled, violent private eye novels of John Connolly usually involve an unqualified element of the supernatural, which is viewed with a certain suspicion by some of his crime-writing colleagues.

In his latest novel, The Burning Soul, Connolly's regular narrator Charlie Parker is awoken in the night by a TV that won't stop showing Loony Tunes cartoons... and the voice of a missing girl. It doesn't change anything. It doesn't help him to identify the killer. It's just there because Connolly sees it as part of human experience.

Is it all in his head? You decide. The point about most ghost stories - like most actual ghost experiences - is that there are no certainties. Which is usually what separates the ghost story from the horror story in which all may be resolved, often by mysterious or occult means. MR James had no time for all that stuff. As he said towards the end of his life, They exist, but we don't know the rules.

Maybe just as well...

Listen to Phil the Shelf on BBC Radio Wales on Sunday 20 November from 5pm.

Sherman Cymru announces line-up for reopening season

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 09:40 UK time, Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The New Year will bring the long-awaited re-opening of the newly refurbished Sherman Theatre, which has received £3.9m in lottery funding to modernise its backstage and public areas.

And today, the theatre's team announced a varied programme of plays, gigs and dance acts to propel the venue forward into a new era.

The old Sherman building closed its doors for the 18 month refurbishment in January 2010 and the eagerly-anticipated new season will kick off in February in a building designed by Jonathan Adams at Capita Architecture, who also designed the Wales Millennium Centre.

Sherman Cymru's redevelopment is almost complete. Photo: Marina Newth

Sherman Cymru's redevelopment is almost complete. Photo: Marina Newth

The season officially starts with an Open House weekend on 4-5 February, with the first production taking place from 7-11 February.

This will be a Welsh language production of Bethan Marlow's Sgint, co-produced by Sherman Cymru and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

Set in Caernarfon, its focus is real people and how they are faring during the current tough economic climate.

Marlow has spent the past 18 months painstakingly interviewing a range of subjects about their experiences coping with tightened purse strings.

Promotional shot for Sgint. Image courtesy of Sherman Cymru

Promotional shot for Sgint. Image courtesy of Sherman Cymru

The production is being directed by Arwel Gruffydd, who says: "Sgint will be a theatrical event unseen until now in Welsh, where people's voices will be heard on stage in a way they've never been before; raw, honest, and from the heart.

"Although we'll be working with professional actors, this will be a mirror held up to real life that will be sometimes brutal, and difficult to view - there are some unpalatable home truths here.

"It will be quite a challenge for me and the actors to capture this authenticity, and be true to the wonderful people who will be portrayed, who have been so generous in the making of this play."

The production then tours Wales throughout February and March 2012.

Next on the agenda is Lovesong, a play by the BAFTA awardwinning Abi Morgan, which explores the concept of lifelong love, revisiting the past and present lives of a couple in the first flush of love and in the autumn of their lives. It is inspired by TS Eliot's poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, about a couple rediscovering the early glow of their relationship in old age.

Leanne Rowe (Margaret) and Edward Bennett (William) in Frantic Assembly's Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

Leanne Rowe (Margaret) and Edward Bennett (William) in Frantic Assembly's Lovesong. Photo: Johan Persson

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

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

The play sees Morgan, the brains behind the forthcoming The Iron Lady (starring Meryl Streep), The Hour and Sex Traffic, once more working with physical theatre company Frantic Assembly. Running from 15-18 February, it stars the Sherman's redevelopment campaign patron Siân Phillips.

From 23 February-3 March comes a dark comedy by playwright Tim Price, For Once, which premièred in Hampstead in London in July to a warm reception from critics and some 4* reviews.

Price, who is the co-founder of the Dirty Protest theatre company, said: "For Once is my first play, it's about a family dealing with the after effects of a tragedy.

"It's set in a small market town on the Welsh borders and I'm super chuffed to have it staged at the Sherman."

The production is being presented by the pioneering Pentabus Theatre company and explores a community's profound reaction to unexpected misfortune.

The Sherman dates mark the start of a tour which will see it play at venues including the Newbury Corn Exchange, Warwick Arts Centre and the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, before ending with a run at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh.

Image taken from For Once. Photo: Robert Day

Image taken from For Once. Photo: Robert Day

The work of Wales' former national poet Gwyneth Lewis will take centre stage when her new play Clytemnestra opens in April.

It reconfigures the epic Greek legend about the femme fatale who was thought to have murdered her husband in revenge for sacrificing their daughter and imbues it with a new sense of drama through Lewis' traditional storytelling methods in a production directed by Amy Hodge.

Other highlights include White by the award-winning children's theatre company Catherine Wheels, Political Mother: The Choreographer's Cut by the internationally acclaimed choreographer Hofesh Shechter, as well as appearances from Cerys Matthews, National Theatre Wales, Belarus Free Theatre, Grid Iron and Matthew Bourne.

Cerys Matthews. Photo: Rhys Frampton

Cerys Matthews. Photo: Rhys Frampton

Ticket booking is now open for priority bookers, with general ticket booking opening on 28 November.

Sherman Cymru Director Chris Ricketts said: "The programme is a real setting out of the Sherman Cymru stall.

"It features a great mix of Welsh, UK and international companies and artists, and includes work we will be producing in-house, some fantastic writing that will be seen for the first time and work generated by our Creative Learning team.

"We think it's a really strong opening season and hope it will allow people to delve into Sherman Cymru for the first time or to rediscover it anew. We're very much looking forward to welcoming audiences back into our new home."

Tickets and full information about the reopening season are available from Sherman Cymru's Ticket Office on 029 2064 6900 or online at

Stories From The Sea at Oriel y Parc

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:29 UK time, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

New works will go on show at the Stories From The Sea exhibition at Oriel y Parc in Pembrokeshire as the display enters its final stage.

Barbara Hepworth, Project (group of figures for sculpture) © Bowness, Hepworth Estate. City & County of Swansea, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Collection.

Barbara Hepworth, Project (group of figures for sculpture) © Bowness, Hepworth Estate. City & County of Swansea, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Collection.

The exhibition has been running at the gallery in St Davids since 16 April, but the installation of new art works and objects has bolstered the marine-inspired display for its concluding months.

New paintings going on show include Project (group of figures for sculpture) by Barbara Hepworth.

Other new works on display include a selection of pieces by 20th century British artist Graham Sutherland, whose bequest to Pembrokeshire led to the opening of Oriel y Parc, where rolling exhibitions always feature a selection of work by Sutherland.

There's also work by Gavin Turk, a seascape by Tenby-born artist Augustus John and examples of maritime treen and scrimshaw on loan from a private collection.

The exhibition opened with a wide variety of artworks, with pieces from Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones to Welsh artists Ceri Richards and Richard Wilson, examples by 20th century figures such as David Jones to more contemporary work by Jem Southam, Jennie Savage and Marcus Coates.

Also on display is a collection of 25 intricate glass sea creatures, including jelly fish, anemones and sea slugs, by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

The gallery was closed on Wednesday and Thursday this week to allow for the hanging of the new pieces, but will reopen on Friday 18 November.

Graham Sutherland, Cathedral ©The Estate of Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland, Cathedral ©The Estate of Graham Sutherland

Stories From The Sea: Above, Below And Beyond The Tide runs at Oriel y Parc until 19 March 2012. For more information on the exhibition and the gallery visit

The British Resistance in Wales

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 12:02 UK time, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

So much is documented about the heroics and bravery of the French resistance under the shadow of Hitler, yet Britain had its own ranks of secret passionate fighters during World War Two.

This hidden home defence force forms the subject of an upcoming film adaptation of the novel Resistance, by Welsh writer Owen Sheers, set in the isolated Welsh border valley of Olchon.

Resistance imagines a world where German soldiers were able to invade British soil and occupy half the country, as the opposition fighters toiled to halt their advance.

Resistance film poster. Courtesy of Metrodome / Big Rich Films

Resistance film poster. Courtesy of Metrodome / Big Rich Films

So dedicated were these men to their cause that their secret was not shared with their closest friends, or even their wives.

The focus for the film and novel is a community where the men, all specially recruited as guerrilla fighters, have fled to complete a resistance mission, leaving their wives to cope alone as German troops move into the area.

Ahead of the film's launch on 25 November, Sheers and the film's producers have been working closely with the Abergavenny Museum to help them curate an exhibition chronicling the history of the British resistance movement during World War Two.

A display case from the exhibition at Abergavenny Museum

A display case from the exhibition at Abergavenny Museum

The subject has particular resonance in Abergavenny, where local men and women were among those joining the ranks of the secret movement.

Costumes and art work from the film, which was shot around the Olchon Valley last autumn and stars Michael Sheen, have been loaned to the museum for display, along with cinematic extracts from the film itself.

The exhibition at the museum includes costumes and art work from the film plus early drafts of Sheers' novel

The exhibition at the museum includes costumes and art work from the film plus early drafts of Sheers' novel

Sheers has also contributed early drafts of his novel, while the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team have produced a documentary about the auxiliary units set up throughout the country to fight the would-be invaders.

A sketch by artist on set Dan Llewelyn Hall. Image courtesy of the artist

A sketch by artist on set Dan Llewelyn Hall. Image courtesy of the artist

Dan Llywelyn Hall, the resident artist on the film set, will be exhibiting some of his works, which visitors to the display are able to purchase. And on the gallery's listening post guests can access audio accounts by some of the men who served in the resistance.

Rachael Rogers, curator at the museum, said: "We felt the combination of a fascinating subject, brought to life by a local author and the pending film release made this the ideal time to stage an exhibition.

"We have been privileged to work with the families of those men who were part of the resistance, who have generously lent us original artefacts."

The movement saw suitable men carefully selected in a clandestine manner, which then saw them trained as guerilla soldiers in utmost secrecy.

They were primed and ready to fight the Nazis as they advanced through Britain and tasked with sabotaging their progress at every turn.

Auxiliary units were supported by Special Duties Section, selected from the civilian population and trained to carry and receive important messages across the countryside.

The exhibition at Abergavenny Museum will run until 25th February 2012. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 11am-1pm and 2-4pm.

And on Monday 21st November, to celebrate the release of the film, the museum is hosting a lunchtime event from 11.30am-1.30pm.

Owen Sheers, the film's director, Amit Gupta, and members of the production team will be on hand to chat to the public who are invited to enjoy wine and canapés, and view the exhibition.

Tickets are £20 and include a voucher to see the film at Baker Street Cinema, Abergavenny when it is on general release.

Email if you would like an application form for tickets. Tickets will be sold on a first come basis. For further details visit

For more information on the auxiliary units visit For the latest on the film visit And to find out what Owen Sheers is up to visit band - animation, action and art in Cardigan

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 10:36 UK time, Tuesday, 15 November 2011

In the days of early cinema, silent films were usually accompanied by live music acts, to bring a bit of drama into the auditorium and help with those vital emotional clues perhaps not made obvious by the showreel.

Often picture houses had their own pianist, with some even employing organists and orchestras to create special effects and create an atmosphere.

This hallowed tradition is to be reinvigorated at a night of film and music appreciation at the Small World Theatre in Cardigan on 20 November.

The band from Cardiff will be tailoring live soundtracks to an array of six short animated and action films being shown at the theatre.

The idea is to showcase the work of emerging Welsh film-makers from south Wales and the Newport Film School, while giving a platform on which to perform.

The films on show include work by Virginia Head, Rhiannon Evans, Ewan Jones Morris and Joel Calvert within the genres of live-action, animation, silent film and new media film making.

Still taken from Rhiannon Evans' stop-motion animation Heartstrings. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Rhiannon Evans' stop-motion animation Heartstrings. Image courtesy of the artist

The band consists of Timothy Tate, Paul Jones and Tina Hitchens and they will be dabbling in experimental, pop, electronic and classical influences using acoustic instruments and items they have found and converted for musical purposes.

They are fresh from showcasing their music at the recent Swn Festival, The Trailerpark Film Festival, which described them as "stunning and extremely skilled" and the National Experimentica Festival.

Sŵn Festival director John Rostron was fairly complimentary about them recently: "As far as I know there aren't any groups in the UK working the way dots. do with contemporary film and music.

"They do whatever it takes to get the right approach for each film by the sheer variety and scope of their music; guitars, synths, flutes, effects... even a bicycle!

"There's a real sense of occasion with dots; they've ripped up the textbook for what you can do with a live film and a soundtrack!"

The band will also be hosting a workshop for those keen to see how live soundtracking works and try their hand at it. This takes place prior to the evening show and will be at between 4-6pm on 20 November. Small groups will get a chance to compose and perform a piece of music in response to a particular short film. Those interested in participating are encouraged to bring their own instrument. Workshop costs £5 per person.

The audience for the evening performance is invited to arrive early at 6.30pm to enjoy tapas and live music ahead of the show, which starts at 7.30pm.

Detail from a poster for band

Detail from a poster for band

You can book tickets ahead by calling Span Arts on 01834 869323 or Small World Theatre on 01239 615952. Or book online at or

Tickets are £8/£6 (Span Arts Members and under 21s). To listen to some of the band's music visit

Pontio hosts exclusive Michael Pennington one-man show

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:52 UK time, Friday, 11 November 2011

West End veteran Michael Pennington will bring his one-man show Anton Chekhov to Pontio in Bangor next weekend, making it the sole Welsh venue to host the production.

Michael Pennington. Image courtesy of Pontio

Michael Pennington. Image courtesy of Pontio

Pennington has toured theatres worldwide with his production since it premièred in 1984 at the National Theatre, but this is the first time the show will visit Wales.

The one-man show takes the form of an evening spent in the company of the Russian writer towards the end of his life.

In it he reminisces about his life and work, demonstrates his writing technique by telling stories, speaks about the theatre and engages humorously with his audience.

Pontio's arts co-ordinator Dyfan Roberts said: "This is quite a coup for Bangor to host one of the West End's most prestigious stars - and to be the only venue in Wales to do so."

Anton Chekhov with Michael Pennington will run at the John Phillips Hall at Bangor University on Saturday 19 November.

For more information visit the Pontio website:

New series of Phil the Shelf begins on Radio Wales

Post categories:

Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 11:29 UK time, Friday, 11 November 2011

I'm sitting here slightly shelf-shocked.

The new series of the Radio Wales book programme starts on Sunday... towards the end of probably the most dramatic year in the book world for three quarters of a century.

Not particularly dramatic in what we're reading - most of the year's bestsellers have been fairly predictable - but in how we're reading it.

And suddenly it's looking like the programme could be sounding dated, even before it starts. I mean... Phil the Shelf? The way things are going, this time next year half the population won't even have a shelf any more. Who needs it when you can carry your entire library in an inside pocket?

Who would have thought this time last year that the ebook would have eaten its way so deeply into the market that publishers would be talking about the impending death of the paperback? Who would have believed that a canny author can now earn a steady living without books or bookshops?

Phil Rickman surrounded by books

Phil Rickman surrounded by books

It'll never catch on, we were saying. It'll never win more than 10 per cent of book sales, and even that won't last.

People probably said the same about paperbacks when they were introduced in the 1930s. Who wants a book that only gets read once before its spine is all cracked and the cover's curling at the corners?

When the ebook first arrived, authors were the most contemptuous. Authors love real books. It's a great moment when you finally spot someone reading one of yours on the train. Now all you see is everybody bent over a piece of plastic the size of a DVD case with no picture on the front.

Depressing, huh?

But not for long. For some previously-unsung authors, it's been an unexpected new beginning. When the Net Book Agreement was scrapped, allowing shops to sell books at half price or less, only the bestsellers benefited. Big book chains, supermarkets and publishers could handle a reduced margin if they were guaranteed to sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

The ebook has changed all that because there are no production costs - no paper, no printers to pay, no warehouse-space required. This means that a publisher can offer any new ebook for as little as 50p, thus encouraging thousands more readers to take a punt on an unknown writer.

And - very worrying for publishers - an author can now do a deal direct with Amazon, which, with its Kindle e-reader, has already cornered 70 per cent of the ebook market. For the first time, an author doesn't need either a publisher or an agent to succeed. They still help, but they're no longer essential.

For several weeks this autumn the number one bestelling Kindle was by west Wales thriller writer Scott Mariani, who tells me he encouraged his publishers to cut the price as low as possible to reach new readers. It worked. They liked Scott... and looked around for his other books.

The Magic Of Christmas by one of this week's Phil the Shelf guests, Trisha Ashley from Conwy, is already scaling the Kindle charts like a mouse up a Christmas tree.

Later in the series we'll be running an entire programme about the ebook phenomenon... and there's a lot to talk about.

However, our first programme looks forward to Christmas reading, showing that, despite new technology, most readers are still seasonal traditionalists.

Maybe it's something to do with the continuing recession, but comfort-reading has been big this year, with the domestic love-story, One Day always prominent at a supermarket near you. Trisha Ashley's novel is a light romantic rural comedy with lots about Christmas pudding and other goodies (previously she's done chocolate) and a happy ending guaranteed. It's aimed at women, but men read it too - on their Kindles on the train, thus avoiding sneers from the Tom Clancy fan sitting opposite.

A traditional Christmas essentially is a Victorian Christmas, which is doubtless why Anthony Horowitz's publishers have just released his first - and, he insists last - Sherlock Holmes novel, The House Of Silk. He's on the programme, too.

And we also note the first publication in English of Daniel Owen's Fireside Tales, originally published as Straeon y Pentan in 1895, now translated by Adam Pearce.

Perfect material for a bit of Christmas Kindling...

Not for me, mind. I still don't own any kind of e-reader. I like cracked spines and curling pages. Especially at Christmas.

The new series of Phil the Shelf begins on BBC Radio Wales on Sunday 13 November at 5pm, and will be available on the BBC iPlayer for a week after transmission.

Lucy Caldwell wins 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:15 UK time, Thursday, 10 November 2011

Belfast-born author Lucy Caldwell has scooped the 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize for her novel The Meeting Point.

Caldwell was presented with the £30,000 prize at a ceremony in Swansea, Dylan Thomas' birthplace, last night. The Meeting Point is the London-based author's second novel.

2011 Dylan Thomas Prize winner Lucy Caldwell

2011 Dylan Thomas Prize winner Lucy Caldwell

The founder of the prize, professor Peter Stead, said: "The Meeting Point is a lyrical modern day parable set in Bahrain depicting the crises in the faith and marriage of an Irish woman and her relationship with a troubled Muslim teenager.

"It is a beautifully written and mature reflection on identity, loyalty and belief in a complex world."

Caldwell beat four other shortlisted authors to the prestigious prize: New Yorkers Benjamin Hale and Tea Obreht, Yorkshire-based first-time novelist Annabel Pitcher and Canadian poet Jacob McArthur Mooney.

For more on the news read the article on the BBC Wales News website and visit

Marega Palser: Sometimes We Look tour

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 16:24 UK time, Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A multi-faceted show exploring the link between visual art and dance is embarking on a tour of Wales.

Image from Marega Palser's Sometimes We Look

Image from Marega Palser's Sometimes We Look

The brain behind it is dancer Marega Palser, who is one half of the performance duo Mr and Mrs Clark, which she operates with her husband Gareth Clark.

The pair both starred in National Theatre Wales' play on location in Barmouth last year, For Mountain Sand and Sea, curated by Marc Rees.

This time Palser, also an associate director of Volcano Theatre Company, has devised a work that is site specific and combines dance, drawing, animation and printmaking.

The idea behind it is that the way a drawing is created and the use of mark making can influence the way a movement develops. But turning this on its head, Palser is also fascinated by how dance can power the impulse to draw.

She herself has a foot in each camp, having trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance and studied Fine Art at UWIC.

She says: "It is the link between the world of visual art and dance that I am interested in and how the drawing together of these two mediums can expand and create a niche that attracts an audience from these two areas."

The exhibition is a collaboration with some of Wales' most accomplished movement artists, Catherine Bennett, Belinda Neave and Rosalind Brooks.

It operates as a live piece and develops ideas created during an Arts Council Creative Wales Award.

Image from Marega Palser's Sometimes We Look, courtesy of the artist

Image from Marega Palser's Sometimes We Look, courtesy of the artist

The tour starts at Volcano@ 229 High Street, Swansea and runs from 17-19 November. Box Office: 01792 60 20 60, website:

Next it moves to the Studio Theatre at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on 24-26 November. Box Office: 029 20 30 44 00, website:

The tour concludes with a date at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Aberystwyth on 30 November. Box Office: 01970 62 32 32, website:

Radio Wales Arts Show: Lloyd George, Abertoir and BBC NOW

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:52 UK time, Wednesday, 9 November 2011

This week's Radio Wales Arts Show features stories from a one-man show about a Welsh prime minister to a new National Orchestra of Wales tour, plus frights galore from Wales' only horror festival.

On this evening's programme, Arts Show presenter Nicola Heywood Thomas meets actor Richard Elfyn and dramatist DJ Britton who have collaborated on the play The Wizard, The Goat And The Man Who Won the War.

Taking its title from three nicknames that were given to him by the press during his political career, the play is a fictional account of the life of Lloyd George. The one-man play sees Lloyd George's imagination roam, revisiting his life history and imagining thoughts of further personal and political conquests to come.

Richard Elfyn as David Lloyd George. Photo: James Davies

Richard Elfyn as David Lloyd George. Photo: James Davies

The Wizard, The Goat and the Man Who Won the War opens at the Taliesin Arts Centre tomorrow, 10 November, and enjoys a Wales-wide tour throughout the rest of November. Read more about it in one of my previous blog posts.

Nicola also speaks to the principal oboist of National Orchestra of Wales, David Cowley.

Cowley is about to tour mid and north Wales with the orchestra with Landscapes of Wales, which is part of the Touring Around Wales 2011-12 series.

The concert will feature Alun Hoddinott's Landscapes, which was inspired by one of Wales' best-loved landmarks Snowdon, Mozart's Oboe Concerto and Beethoven's Symphony No 6, Pastoral.

Oboist David Cowley. Photo: Luc Besson

Oboist David Cowley. Photo: Luc Besson

Landscapes of Wales plays at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Thursday 10 November, at the Prichard Jones Hall at the University of Wales in Bangor on Friday 11 November and then the William Aston Hall at Glyndwr University on Saturday 12 November.

For more information and to book tickets visit the BBC NOW website.

The Arts Show also hears from Gaz Bailey, the festival director of Abertoir, Wales' only horror festival that takes place annually in Aberystwyth. This year's festival began in the seaside town yesterday. (Gaz recently gave us the lowdown on Abertoir in a separate blog article.)

Home-grown Welsh film Devil's Bridge will have its world première at this year's festival, which runs until 13 November. David Lloyd, one of the film's producers, also speaks to Nicola about the film.

Listen to the Radio Wales Arts Show today from 7pm, and on the BBC iPlayer for the subsequent seven days after transmission.

The Wizard, The Goat and the Man Who Won the War

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 13:45 UK time, Tuesday, 8 November 2011

No, I've not lost my marbles in the title of this blog post. The Wizard, The Goat and the Man Who Won the War is a new play from DJ Britton and Richard Elfyn about the extraordinary life of Welsh politician David Lloyd George.

Original photography by James Davies. Archived photo sourced at Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales

Original photography by James Davies. Archived photo sourced at Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales

Written and directed by Britton, who is a senior lecturer in dramatic writing at Swansea University, the play takes its name from three separate nicknames that were bestowed on Lloyd George by the press during his political career.

The play is a result of a lengthy collaboration between Britton and Bafta Cymru-winning actor Elfyn, which began some years ago at Ty Newydd, Lloyd George's last home in the village of his birth, Llanystumdwy in Gwynedd.

The setting for Britton's fictional drama is Antibes in the south of France at the time of Lloyd George's 50th wedding anniversary.

From there, the politician's imagination wanders back through the length of his life history, and he relishes the thought of further personal and political conquests.

Britton said, "Lloyd George is a dramatist's dream, a mass of contradictions: charismatic, intelligent, foolish, impulsive, clinically decisive and painfully human.

"I wrote this progressively, giving Richard a few pages at a time, and he grew to possess the role as much as it possessed him.

"It may be a one-man play, but don't expect a monologue. Richard becomes all the people in Lloyd George's world and somehow manages to sing and dance his way into the great man's soul."

Elfyn, who was born in Bangor and raised in Pwllheli, has a staggering amount of lines to get through in each performance. In fact, Britton recently divulged an impressive statistic that he discovered in a rehearsal leading up to the Welsh tour. The role of Hamlet, which is often considered a massive part in theatre, typically runs to about 4,000 words but Elfyn has to handle almost twice as much material in his portrayal of Lloyd George!

The Wizard, The Goat and the Man Who Won the War opens at the Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea on Thursday, 10 November, before embarking on a Wales-wide tour throughout the rest of the month.

Other venues on the Welsh tour include the Borough Theatre Abergavenny, Galeri in Caernarfon, Theatr Harlech, the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Ystradgwyn Heritage Centre in Tal-y-Llyn, Clywd Theatr Cymru in Mold, Neuadd Dwyfor in Pwllheli, Theatr Soar in Merthyr and The Riverfront in Newport.

Richard Elfyn as David Lloyd George. Photo: James Davies


Richard Elfyn as David Lloyd George. Photo: James Davies

Richard Elfyn as David Lloyd George. Photos: James Davies

Richard Elfyn in rehearsal. Photo: Erich Talbot

Richard Elfyn during a rehearsal at the Taliesin Arts Centre. Photo: Erich Talbot

Both DJ Britton and Richard Elfyn will speak to Nicola Heywood Thomas on tomorrow's Radio Wales Arts Show, Wednesday 9 November, from 7pm. Richard will also be speaking to Roy on the Roy Noble show today from 2pm on BBC Radio Wales.

You can learn more about Lloyd George's political career on the BBC Wales History website.

Reggie's Roller Palace at the Mission Gallery, Swansea

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 10:55 UK time, Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Think Strictly Come Dancing meets the X Factor meets Crufts, only this time with ceramic dogs, then perhaps you might be a little closer to imagining Olivia Brown's latest art installation.

It's a wry look at the cult of celebrity, audience need and the prevalence of mass marketing tools and is heading to the Mission Gallery in Swansea.

Brown is clearly an animal-lover, as each of her creations is lovingly hand-crafted from clay and imbued with its own personality and characteristics.

Ceramic dogs in Olivia Brown's installation Reggie's Roller Palace. Image courtesy of the artist

Ceramic dogs in Olivia Brown's installation Reggie's Roller Palace. Image courtesy of the artist

The exhibition is expressed through the eyes of another of Brown's beloved animals, Reggie the rat, but involves around 120 dog characters who star as contestants, judges and audience members in the Canine Rolla Dance.

Built around a roller event not dissimilar in style to the BBC One hit show, it follows a cast of ceramic characters through the highs and lows of such a competition and how the audience members take vicarious pleasure in the success and misfortune of those competing.

Photo from Reggie's Roller Palace by Olivia Brown. Image courtesy of the artist

Photo from Reggie's Roller Palace by Olivia Brown. Image courtesy of the artist

Brown says: "My aim has been to capture the excitement and tension associated with such an event.

"I'm fascinated with the explosion of the current cult of celebrity and the audience's need to feed on it.

"I wanted to examine this 'worship of the worthless' in greater detail from both the onlookers and the icon in question's viewpoint."

The work is set in a roller rink, complete with billboards, ticket machines and display teams. It is accompanied by a commentary and film clips, but Brown admits she is also partial to reality TV, so it is not merely dismissive of the format.

One of the aspects that fascinates her is the prevalence of branded goods and celebrity endorsements, and the way the unsuspecting audiences are exposed to product placement and having an entire lifestyle with all the trappings advocated to them. She even has one of the characters emitting a waft of a desirable cologne.

The installation also touches on the requirements of living in the limelight, with Tony the badly stuffed otter inviting the audience to reflect on the current thirst for botox or the frozen face of the eternally young.

Another of Olivia Brown's creations. Image courtesy of the artist

Another of Olivia Brown's creations. Image courtesy of the artist

Brown has thrown herself into creating a world around the exhibition with a blog and souvenirs like tickets and badges for visitors. The idea is to create a story around each character, which the audience can follow in this unique setting.

Currently on show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, Reggie's Roller Palace moves to the Mission Gallery from November 19 until January 2012.

For more details visit

Joe Dunthorne on his latest novel, new ideas and looking forward to a well-earned break

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 17:25 UK time, Monday, 7 November 2011

It's fair to say that the success of his début novel, Submarine, opened a string of doors for Swansea author Joe Dunthorne.

Five years ago he was a creative writing graduate dreaming of getting published, now he has two novels, a film adaptation, two mini-collections of poetry and a literary prize under his belt.

Author Joe Dunthorne. Photo © Angus Muir

Author Joe Dunthorne. Photo © Angus Muir

He admits that finishing his most recent work Wild Abandon and publishing it within a month, followed by the requisite three month promotional trail, has been exhausting but necessary, so the book could capitalise on the still-warm success of Submarine, and the excitement surrounding the film.

Released in March and directed by the IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade and produced by Hollywood darling Ben Stiller, the film managed to bring the painful yet hilarious coming of age tale of Oliver Tate to life on screen in a way Dunthorne had never envisaged.

He concurs that he did worry about the notorious difficulty writers often face in penning the second novel, particularly when the first has met with such acclaim.

But it looks like Wild Abandon too has been largely well-received and could also be adapted for TV, with talks already underway with Ayoade to transpose it to a six-part mini-series, possibly for Channel 4.

Cover image of Joe Dunthorne's Wild Abandon

Cover image of Joe Dunthorne's Wild Abandon

The book casts a hilarious glance at life on a Welsh commune that is slowly disintegrating and the overarching desire teenage brother and sister Albert and Kate have to leave it. As their parents' marriage falls apart, and various characters' turbulent relationships begin to unravel, their father attempts to reunite all commune dwellers through an almighty rave.

Dunthorne visited several communes himself in researching the novel, "some culty, some just like the Good Life", but says the original idea came from a friend who lived on one in Pembrokeshire and spoke fondly of her time there.

He said: "I liked to hear her stories about it and ages ago started writing something about a commune through the eyes of a visitor, in the first person, and it just didn't work.

"Later I came back to it and felt more comfortable writing in the third person and set in the community itself, so once I'd found a way in, I just went with it."

He wouldn't be averse to living on a commune himself and says it's impossible to generalise as they are all different. "But I imagine it would have to be designed to my exact specifications, so I would probably have to be in charge of the place."

Wild Abandon is just as funny and touching in places as Submarine, with Dunthorne displaying that uncanny knack he has for seeing the complex world of adults through the eyes of a teenager.

"When I wrote Submarine and created Oliver's character, it wasn't so long since I'd been a teenager myself, so it wasn't hard for me to imagine inhabiting that realm," he said.

"I didn't plan to continue writing about them, it was just a way into the situation. But I think there's a great source of energy you get when teenagers are involved in a scene - they are unreliable and unguarded and unexpected things just seem to happen when they are around."

The TV adaptation will focus on different elements of communal life, perhaps with the separate episodes representing different characters' viewpoints.

But for the moment, Dunthorne is out of contract after finishing his novel and relieved his nomadic promotional days are nearly over.

He is looking forward to writing the next novel, but without the constraints of time, and immersing himself in his beloved poetry.

"The whole process so far has been really good and I'm really pleased with where it has left me, but there's tremendous value in being left to your own devices and weird and often more risky things come out of writing when you are not doing it for anybody else and it can just blossom.

"To have just finished a novel is such a luxury."

One idea he is working on is developing a short story he has written, which explores what happens when a writing tutor tells his students to let every bit of their life experience into their writing, with no shame or compunction about the feelings of those they mention, even if it includes their classmates.

Dunthorne says the idea and its potential for drama fascinates him: "A friend of mine told me of other writers who say their fiction contains more truth from their lives than their non-fiction, which contains more lies.

"So this idea of fiction being the place where writers can include very personal and possibly embarrassing things seemed a great route to explore.

"In the story the tutor tells the students to have no barriers about what they include and they basically go about cannibalising each other."

Surely this is one of the perils of being a writer, that every person you know dreads inclusion in one of your novels and chastises you if they recognise an ounce of their own experience?

With Submarine Dunthorne says some of his parents' friends were convinced that Mr and Mrs Tate were based upon them, although he denies this.

"It's not totally untrue, but it's mostly untrue. There are some people whose experiences I draw on explicitly in my work, but I always ask them and speak to them as part of my research.

"I'm a bit sensitive to using real people, I think fiction should use elements of real life as inspiration, but then you should be able to develop that as part of the narrative and move the character on."

Because Wild Abandon has been so all-consuming, Dunthorne has not had much time to devote to his beloved poetry of late, so he is looking forward to dedicating some time to it, with the hope of bringing out a full collection in the future.

"I've been writing lots of notes whenever I get an idea for a poem, so it will be really fun to revisit those notes and pluck out the ideas and develop them. I have at least 15 or 20 ideas already."

One of the things his success has allowed him to do is collaborate with other writers, something he relishes as he admits to being a sociable person, who can find slaving over his writing overly solitary.

Throughout the year he, John Osborne, Tim Clare, Ross Sutherland and Luke Wright have arranged a public event called Homework, which allows them to showcase their work and pool ideas. The last one saw them welcoming Nick Hornby and this month former poet laureate Andrew Motion is paying a visit.

They are currently working on a Poet in Residence theme which will see them visiting places which have no such position available. Dunthorne is going to the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, while the others are variously taking up residence on a London bus, a bowls club, an online casino and a Weetabix factory.

But for the immediate future, Dunthorne continues his whirlwind of engagements. Monday night sees him appearing at the Dylan Thomas Festival, while on Tuesday he will be at Swansea Metropolitan University to meet staff and students and to talk about his work.

The visit is a part of the South West and Mid Wales Regional Library Partnership 'Reading Roadshow' campaign, taking place this autumn.

Tim Davies talks about his Venice Biennale experience

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:05 UK time, Monday, 7 November 2011

Artist Tim Davies will give a talk this Wednesday about representing Wales at the 2011 Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious and influential events on the international contemporary visual arts calendar.

Davies, who is the head of fine art at Swansea Metropolitan University, represented Wales this year at the 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, which took place between June and November.

In Wednesday's talk at the university, which is open to the general public and free of charge, Davies will discuss his work and experience at the Biennale.

Detail from Drift by Tim Davies. Image courtesy of the artist

Detail from Drift by Tim Davies. Image courtesy of the artist

Detail from Cadet series by Tim Davies. Image courtesy of the artist

Detail from Cadet series by Tim Davies. Image courtesy of the artist

Tim Davies will speak at the Swansea Met's Dynevor Centre for Art, Design and Media (in Lecture Theatre 1) this Wednesday, 9 November, at 12.30pm. For more details visit

Unseen Richard Burton memorabilia unveiled

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 16:36 UK time, Thursday, 3 November 2011

Previously unseen items from Richard Burton's youth have gone on display in a permanent exhibition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

The college recently underwent a dramatic transformation with a £22.5 million rebuild. It opened its new facilities in June earlier this year and one feature of the redevelopment was a new 160 seat theatre, named the Richard Burton Theatre after the Welsh actor who hailed from Pontrhydyfen.

The new exhibition was unveiled yesterday and sheds new light on Burton's early life in Wales. Items in the display have been donated on permanent loan by Burton's niece, Rhiannon James Trowell.

Theatre design graduate Kelly Bannister puts the finishing touches to a display case. Photo: Ollie Edwards

Theatre design graduate Kelly Bannister puts the finishing touches to a display case. Photo: Ollie Edwards

Items on show for the first time include some of Burton's school and Eisteddfod certificates, together with his school cricket team photograph from 1939 and a simple wooden tray he made for his sister Cecilia.

Also on display are letters and postcards that Burton penned while serving in Canada in the RAF in the latter years of World War Two.

The clothes trunk that was used by the actor in the early 1950s during his many trans-Atlantic voyages is on display having been gifted by RWCMD graduate and actor Josh Richards.

The Richard Burton Theatre was officially opened by Kate Burton, Richard's actor daughter, on 23 June 2011.

The interior of the Richard Burton Theatre. Photo: Nick Guttridge/BFLS

The interior of the Richard Burton Theatre. Photo: Nick Guttridge/BFLS

She unveiled a bronze bust of the actor that had previously been presented to the college by Burton's former wife Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The bust now sits at the entrance to the Richard Burton Theatre.

Work of painter-poet David Jones goes on show

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:44 UK time, Thursday, 3 November 2011

The work of the influential poet and artist David Jones goes on display in a new exhibition at National Museum Wales in Cardiff from this Saturday.

David Jones (1895-1974), Capel-y-ffin, 1926-7. Pen, watercolour and bodycolour on paper. Image reproduced with permission of the Estate of David Jones

David Jones (1895-1974), Capel-y-ffin, 1926-7. Pen, watercolour and bodycolour on paper. Reproduced with permission of the estate of David Jones

Jones was born in Brockley in Kent in 1895 to a Welsh father and English mother. During World War One, having originally been rejected by the Artists Rifles he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Jones served in the battle for Mametz Wood on the Somme where he was wounded, and later on the Ypres salient where he suffered trench fever.

His wartime experience at the front, together with his religious faith and interest in Welsh mythology, landscape and language, all influenced his painting and poetry.

This new exhibition at National Museum Wales, Cardiff has been curated from a selection of the works held in the museum's collection.

The museum has the principal public collection of Jones' work but as he worked primarily in watercolour many of the pieces are not on permanent display, due to the fragile nature of watercolour paintings.

This exhibition focuses on his work in this medium while another, expected from March-July 2012, will showcase Jones' engravings, book illustrations and inscriptions.

To coincide with the exhibition the museum is holding two free lunchtime talks on the artist and his work.

The first, An Introduction to the artist and the exhibition, will be held on Friday 18 November at 1pm and will be hosted by Dr Anne Price-Owen from Swansea Metropolitan University. Dr Price-Owen is the director of the The David Jones Society and she has written widely on Jones, and recently completed a film on his early life.

Watch a clip taken from the recent BBC Cymru Wales programme Framing Wales, in which Dr Price-Owen speaks to Kim Howells about Jones and Capel-y-ffin, where he lived with the controversial sculptor/typeface designer Eric Gill and his family.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

The second talk will be given by Oliver Fairclough, the museum's Keeper of Art, on Friday 2 December at 1pm. Changing Attitudes: David Jones at the National Museum, 1932-2000, will explore the artist's work and examine why the first of his works to enter the museum's collection were grudgingly accepted gifts.

David Jones (1985-1974): Paintings and Watercolours will be on show from 5 November 2011 to 4 March 2012.

David Jones (1895-1974), Mehefin, 1949. Watercolour, bodycolour and pencil on paper. Image reproduced with permission of the estate of David Jones.

David Jones (1895-1974), Mehefin, 1949. Watercolour, bodycolour and pencil on paper. Image reproduced with permission of the estate of David Jones.

Joseph Beuys exhibition at National Museum Wales

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:25 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A new exhibition featuring the work of German artist Joseph Beuys has taken up residency in two of the new contemporary galleries at National Museum Wales in Cardiff.

Felt Suit, Joseph Beuys (1970)

Felt Suit, Joseph Beuys (1970)

Beuys is known for the three days he spent in New York, sharing a room with a wild coyote in his 1974 performance I like America and America Likes Me. Photographs of this event were even exhibited at the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham in 1977.

The works in this exhibition are taken from ARTIST ROOMS, a new collection of modern and contemporary art held by the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland for the nation.

These ARTIST ROOMS touring exhibitions allow some of the best contemporary art to be seen by different audiences across the whole of the UK; the Mostyn in Llandudno exhibited the work of American artist Alex Katz last year as part of the project.

Nicholas Thornton, the head of contemporary art at the Cardiff museum, said, "We are delighted to be hosting Joseph Beuys at National Museum Cardiff.

"The exhibition, which is installed in two gallery spaces in the National Museum of Art's newly opened galleries for modern and contemporary art, makes powerful connections with adjacent displays from [the museum's] own outstanding collection of post-1950 art.

"Visitors to the new contemporary galleries can also see many works by Welsh artists exploring their own cultural identity since the 1960s, including Paul Davies - who has been described as 'a Beuysian inspirational figure for political art in Wales' and who made a political protest of his own at the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham in 1977."

The Joseph Beuys exhibition runs at National Museum Wales until 8 January 2012. For more on this and other exhibitions visit

Scala Napoletana, Joseph Beuys (1985)

Scala Napoletana, Joseph Beuys (1985)

Open Day at Wales Millennium Centre this weekend

Post categories:

Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:59 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

If you're in Cardiff this weekend and at a loose end, the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay is throwing its doors open and putting on a range of free events and activities.

The centre has teamed up with the other companies that are resident in the building, including Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Hijinx Theatre, National Dance Company Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and Welsh National Opera for a day of free events.

 Wales Millennium Centre. Photo: John Evans

Wales Millennium Centre. Photo: John Evans

Activities on offer include drop-in craft workshops, the chance to learn about performance, backstage tours and a range of live stage performances. There will also be a demonstration area including costume displays, stage make-up and technical demos plus performances from the Balloonatics.

The BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales will also be taking part in the open day, as their home is Hoddinott Hall in the centre. They will be performing concerts free of charge from noon on Saturday.

Literature Wales will also be staging events at the open day, including a heat for the 2011 John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry in the evening from 7pm. (You can buy tickets directly from Literature Wales for this event.)

Check the full timetable of events on

Believing is Seeing exhibition at Ffotogallery

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 11:55 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The idea in some parts of the world that taking a photograph of somebody amounts to stealing their soul is nothing new.

But a fascinating new exhibition of work by seven Korean artists about to open at the Ffotogallery in Penarth goes a step further in exploring just how much of our selves can be captured in a portrait.

Hein-Kuhn Oh, Jung-suh Yun, age 17 July 19, from Cosmetic Girls, 2007 © the artist

Hein-Kuhn Oh, Jung-suh Yun, age 17 July 19, from Cosmetic Girls, 2007 © the artist

The term 'Junsinsajo' is used in traditional Korean portrait painting and signifies the replication of a person's shape and spirit. This means that taking a snapshot of a person is not restricted to a replication of their physical likeness, but should also embody the essence of their personality.

It is an idea that endures in contemporary photography and makes for one of the themes explored by the seven photographers incorporated in the Believing is Seeing exhibition, a body of work which also appears to question the very notion of 'Koreanness'.

The collaboration has been made possible through the work of Ffotogallery curator David Drake and Jiyoon Lee from the SUUM Academy & Project in Korea and was jointly funded by Arts Council Korea and Wales Arts International.

David says: "Each of the seven featured artists has a very different approach to photographic portraiture.

"The exhibition examines some common themes in contemporary Korean photographic art - its performative nature, ideas of duration and transience, nature and constructed reality, memory and illusion.

"Inverting the Western idiom 'seeing is believing', the exhibition features artists with markedly different strategies in relation to photographic portraiture, but who have in common the rejection of any approach to photography that emphasises visual verification and purely mechanical reproduction."

Je Baak, detail from We Laughed Together, 2009 © the artist

Je Baak, detail from We Laughed Together, 2009 © the artist

The exhibition will, he says, challenge our preconceptions about Korean culture.

"It's a very distinct culture but each artist is very aware of Western arts traditions, influenced by global contemporary art trends but remaining deeply rooted in Korean culture and traditions.

"The work featured in the exhibition also demonstrates the 'natural ambiguity' of the photographic image in that the portraits are no longer just depictions of people, they have a reality of their own and become a screen onto which the viewer projects their own relationships and emotions."

The featured artists are Byung-Hun Min, Duck Hyun Cho, Hein-Kuhn Oh, Hyun Mi Yoo, Je Baak, Kyungwoo Chun and the awardwinning photographer Seihon Cho. In all they have contributed 44 different works to the exhibition.

One of Duck Hyun Cho's works sees him combining an image of the queen with an image of his mother in a portrait realised as a graphite pencil drawing on canvas, where the canvas is allowed to hang loose, like a drape.

His collection sees him repeatedly blurring the boundaries between painting and photography and reflects a keen interest in personal memory and collective history, identity, family and spirituality.

Duck Hyun Cho & Seihon Cho, Portrait of a Great Monk, 2001 © the artists

Duck Hyun Cho & Seihon Cho, Portrait of a Great Monk, 2001 © the artists

In Oh's work, his subjects in many cases break a Korean taboo, as they are teenage girls embracing the world of cosmetics and the myriad ways it can alter and sexualise appearance.

Chun has become well-known for his poetically blurred photographic portraits, created in a very unconventional way of dealing with time and space.

The exhibition runs from 10 November to 17 December with a private view on 9 November and a curators' talk on 1 December at 6.30pm.

Admission is free to all visitors. For more details visit

Conscious Oil - an evening of music, theatre, art and stories

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 10:50 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Crude oil hasn't always been a valuable commodity or "black gold" driving the world's markets.

For thousands of years in the Middle East it was used as a cure for common skin complaints. This and other curious facts about oil and its relationship with humans and the world throughout history are to be explored in an evening of culture and performance at the Pontardawe Arts Centre.

The intriguing event has been set up in response to an exhibition by printmaker Emily Johns, which explores how humans have used the vital resource of oil to effectively destroy the planet.

Her five huge hand-cut lino prints will act as a springboard for local cultural groups to express themselves through various mediums.

Hand cut lino print by Emily Johns. Image courtesy of the artist
Hand cut lino prints by Emily Johns. Images courtesy of the artist
Hand cut lino print by Emily Johns. Image courtesy of the artist

Hand cut lino prints by Emily Johns. All images courtesy of the artist

The centre's own Script Cafe has tasked local scriptwriters with penning their own pieces of short theatre which will be performed at the centre on 15 November.

There will also be a 10-minute performance from youth theatre group Mess up the Mess, singing from the Murton Community Choir from Swansea and storytelling centred on the accounts of local miners and with contributions from the professional storyteller Esyllt Harker.

Emily Hinshelwood, from the community energy charity Awel Aman Tawe, based in Cwmllynfell, which is organising the event, says the idea is to launch the exhibition while provoking thought and debate.

"The prints by Emily Johns are very evocative and really centre the mind on how we use oil," she says.

"The six short scripts chosen from the Script Cafe's work will be performed by professional actors and have been directed by Derek Cobley and are all a response to the pictures. But we thought it would be good to get as much of the local community involved as possible, and the storytelling session will convey some of the miners' accounts, either in their own words or with the help of Esyllt Harker."

The charity has been involved in various arts events linked to the theme of climate change and this evening has funding from Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Wales and Literature Wales.

Swansea scriptwriter Brian Cainen is one of the contributors and has written a sketch which sees two polar bears fighting over the last piece of ice in the Arctic.

He says: "Drama explores big issues by bringing them down to a human story - or in my case a polar bear story."

Jan Daniel, chair of the centre's Script Cafe, adds: "We are oil addicts. But we all have to adapt to survive."

Conscious Oil, an evening of music, theatre, art and stories, takes place at the Pontardawe Arts Centre on Tuesday 15 November from 7pm-9.30pm and will accompany the launch of the exhibition.

On Saturday 12 November Derek Cobley is hosting a day-long event to construct responses to the exhibition and the artist Emily Johns will be at the centre on 9 November. For more information on Emily Johns visit

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.