Archives for March 2012

Anthony Hopkins' Oscar win, 20 years on

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 15:38 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

Twenty years ago Anthony Hopkins scooped one of the most prestigious accolades that Hollywood has to bestow, the Academy Award for best actor.

Hopkins won the gong on 30 March 1992 for his role as the brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic murderer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, adapted from the novel by Thomas Harris.

The Margam-born actor shone in the film as the murderer who helps FBI agent Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster) to catch serial killer Buffalo Bill.

As the late film critic and historian Dave Berry commented, "The screen career of Anthony Hopkins reached its zenith spectacularly when, in his 50s, a string of films allowed him to capitalise on his innate talent for playing reflective, introverted roles with rare intelligence."

"Hopkins played his role, occupying little screen time, with a twinkle, as Hannibal relishes the discomfort and asinine mistakes of his jailers, and the actor displayed hitherto unexplored extrovert facets of his extraordinary acting range."

Watch this archive clip of Hopkins talking to Terry Wogan just a day after his Oscar win.

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Hopkins' win marked the third year in succession that a British actor had been awarded the prize, with Jeremy Irons winning the previous year and Daniel Day-Lewis in 1990.

Hopkins beat some heavyweight acting peers to the award. Fellow nominees in 1992 included Warren Beatty, for his role as gangster Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel in the star-studded Bugsy; Robert De Niro for Martin Scorsese's thriller Cape Fear; Robin Williams for Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King and Nick Nolte for The Prince of Tides.

Did you know? Billy Crystal was the host of the 64th annual Academy Awards in 1992 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. Such was the impact of The Silence of the Lambs on the cinematic world that for his first entrance Crystal was wheeled on stage, by two uniformed orderlies, strapped to a stretcher and wearing a replica of the Hannibal Lecter mask Hopkins had worn in the film.

The Silence of the Lambs scooped five Oscars in total at the 64th Academy Awards, for best actress in a leading role and best director for Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme respectively plus best screenplay and best picture.

Following his win in 1992, Hopkins has received three more Oscar nominations so far in his career.

In 1994 he was again nominated for best actor in a leading role for the screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's best-selling novel The Remains of the Day (1993), in which he played butler James Stevens. He was beaten to the prize by Tom Hanks, who won for his role in Philadelphia.

Hopkins was nominated in same category in 1996 for Nixon (1995), the biographical story of the former US president Richard Nixon. He was pipped this time by Nicholas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas.

In 1998 he received a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997) but he was beaten to the statuette by Robin Williams for his role in Good Will Hunting.

Try out your Oscar knowledge with a mini quiz - it's just for fun, find the answers at the foot of the article.

Quiz: Wales at the Oscars

  1. For what film did Richard Burton receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor?
  2. How many Oscar nominations did Burton receive in total?
  3. Which Neath-born actor won the best actor gong in 1946 for The Lost Weekend?
  4. What was the name of Hugh Griffith's character in Ben-Hur, which secured him the best supporting Oscar?
  5. And in which year did Griffith scoop the Oscar?
  6. Christian Bale won the best actor gong in 2011 for The Fighter, but in which Welsh town was he born?
  7. Which two Welsh-language films have been shortlisted in the Oscar category for best foreign language film?
  8. For which film did Rachel Roberts receive a nomination for best actress? (She missed out on the Oscar but picked up the Bafta for the role in the same year.)
  9. For which film did Catherine Zeta Jones scoop the Oscar for best supporting actress, and in what year did she claim the gong?
  10. Jack Howells' 1963 Oscar-winning documentary short, starring Richard Burton, was about which Welsh author?

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Quiz answers: 1. My Cousin Rachel (1952), 2. Seven: six for best actor and the one for best supporting actor, 3. Ray Milland, 4. Sheik Ilderim, 5. 1960, 6. Haverfordwest, 7. Paul Turner's Hedd Wyn (in 1994) and Paul Morrison's Solomon and Gaenor (in 2000), 8. This Sporting Life, 9. Chicago in 2003, 10. Dylan Thomas.

National Library of Wales' oil painting collection goes online

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:35 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

The National Library of Wales' entire collection of oil paintings has gone online for the entire population to enjoy as part of the Your Paintings project.

Ivor Davies, Branwen 1999. Oil on canvas 122 x 183cm © Ivor Davies, courtesy of The National Library of Wales

Ivor Davies, Branwen 1999. Oil on canvas 122 x 183cm © Ivor Davies, courtesy of The National Library of Wales

Over 1,950 oil paintings in the library's collection have been photographed and put on the website in the partnership project between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC. It aims to put all of the UK's oil paintings that are in public ownership, whether on display or in storage, onto the website for all to appreciate and enjoy.

You can read the full story and learn more about the project on the BBC Wales News website.

Plus browse a photo gallery on the BBC Wales Arts website that shows a very small selection of paintings in the collection that have recently gone online, and which also gives a sense of the breadth of the collection housed at the National Library in Aberystwyth.>p

Children's literature festival planned for 2013

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 11:45 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2012

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson has signed up to take part in the inaugural Cardiff Children's Literature Festival, which takes place between Wednesday 20 March and Sunday 24 March 2013.

Jacqueline Wilson. Photo: Grant Squibb

Jacqueline Wilson. Photo: Grant Squibb

The event is being organised by Literature Wales, Cardiff Council, Cardiff University and the National Museum of Wales.

Wilson, who was the children's laureate from 2005 to 2007, said: "I am delighted to have been asked to take part in Cardiff's first festival dedicated to young readers.

"Books enable children to become explorers, both of themselves and the wider world, and it's vastly important that they are celebrated and encouraged."

More information about the festival will be released throughout the year by Literature Wales.

It is likely to bring some of the best contemporary children's writers and illustrators to the capital city, giving the chance for young readers to meet and interact with some of the most creative minds in the field of children's literature.

Visit for more details about the festival and other literary events in Wales.

Wales Drama Award 2012 launched

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:04 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A new collaboration between BBC Writersroom, BBC Cymru Wales' TV drama department and National Theatre Wales has been launched to find the writing stars of the future.

The Wales Drama Award is a new biennial prize open to any writer residing in Wales.

To enter, writers must submit a full length script in any medium, with a minimum length of 30 minutes, to BBC Writersroom by 16 July 2012, that is unperformed or unproduced and in the English language.

Wales Drama Award 2012 image

Wales Drama Award 2012 image

The winner of the Wales Drama Award will receive £10,000 while two runners-up will receive £1000 each. All award winners will be given an opportunity to develop their script and/or ideas with either BBC Cymru Wales' TV drama department or National Theatre Wales.

Six shortlisted writers will be invited to a meeting with the judges to discuss their script and an idea they want to develop in September, with the winner due to be announced in late 2012.

BBC Writersroom have just announced two free workshops for budding writers to get involved with in Bangor and Wrexham in April. The sessions will take place on Thursday 26 April at Bangor University, Arts Centre, 6.30-7.45pm, and on Monday 30 April at Wrexham University, CIB Foyer, 5.30-6.45pm.

For information on how to reserve a place on either session visit the BBC writersroom website.

Other forthcoming sessions in Aberystwyth and Swansea are to be confirmed.

The judging panel for the Wales Drama Award 2012 will be led by Kate Rowland, BBC creative director of new writing. The other judges are award-winning writers Russell T Davies and Abi Morgan, BBC Cymru Wales' head of drama Faith Penhale, and John McGrath, artistic director of National Theatre Wales.

Born on this day: Tommy Cooper

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 09:30 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

Loved for his on-stage magic trick buffoonery, trademark Fez hat and infectious laugh, comedian Tommy Cooper was born on this day in 1921.

Tommy Cooper on 1952 programme It's Magic

Tommy Cooper on 1952 programme It's Magic

Though Cooper's family moved to his mother's native Devon when he was just a few years old, the comedian was born in Caerphilly on 19 March 1921.

His love of magic started at an early age when he was bought a magic set as a child, and he spent time during his service in the army in World War Two refining his variety act, performing magic tricks and comedy routines for his colleagues.

He became a popular name on the variety circuit after the war and made his television début in 1948 on the show New To You, starring in his own shows soon afterwards.

Cooper's apparent on-stage incompetence during the performance of his magic tricks was a carefully constructed act. He was an accomplished magician and a member of The Magic Circle, but he nailed the art of performing failed tricks and routines for great comic effect.

This archive clip, in which Cooper is preparing to perform his famous eggs trick during the 1964 Royal Variety Performance, highlights his comic style to a tee:

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Here are some classic Cooper jokes - feel free to contribute your favourite in the comments box below if we've missed it out:

Someone actually complimented me on my driving the other day. They put a note on my windscreen that said, 'Parking Fine'. So that was nice.

A man said to me, "Do you always drink whiskey neat?" I said, "No I don't, sometimes I don't wear a tie and leave my shirt hanging out."

I love kids, I went to school with them.

I backed a horse today, 10 to one. It came in at 20 past four.

They say take an aspirin for a headache. Who wants a headache?

Did you hear the joke about the short-sighted bank robber? He went into the bank and said, "Stick 'em up... are they up?"

Tommy Cooper performing on BBC's Gala Variety in 1950

Tommy Cooper performing on BBC's Gala Variety in 1950

Read a full profile about Tommy Cooper's life on the BBC Wales Arts website.

Cerys Matthews joins Dylan Thomas Prize judging panel

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:38 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

Welsh singer, songwriter and children's book author Cerys Matthews has been announced as one of three new judges for the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize.

Matthews joins Guardian literary journalist Nicholas Wroe and Media Wales columnist Carolyn Hitt as the new faces on the judging panel,which also consists of Peter Florence (Chair), Kim Howells, Allison Pearson, Kurt Heinzelman and Peter Stead.

Cerys Matthews

Cerys Matthews

The Dylan Thomas Prize, worth £30,000, is one of the world's largest literary awards for young writers. It is awarded to the best published or produced literary work from the past year in the English language written by an author under 30.

The inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize was awarded to Welsh writer Rachel Trezise in 2006 for her short story collection Fresh Apples. Another short story collection, The Boat by Nam Le, scooped the award in 2008 while Elyse Fenton was the winner of the 2010 prize with her poetry collection Clamor.

Originally a biennial award, the Dylan Thomas Prize is now awarded annually. Last year's winner was Lucy Caldwell, who achieved the accolade for her second novel The Meeting Point.

2011 Dylan Thomas Prize winner Lucy Caldwell

2011 Dylan Thomas Prize winner Lucy Caldwell

The prize is open to all published authors aged 18 to 30 writing in the English language. Entries can be submitted from anywhere in the world and must be submitted by a publisher, editor, literary agent, or, in the case of film scripts and stage plays, by the producer.

Entries must be received by 31 May 2012. The longlist for the prize will be announced in July and the shortlist in September. The prize will be awarded in Dylan Thomas' birth place Swansea on 9 November, the anniversary of his death.

For more information visit

Wonder Chamber at Ffotogallery

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 09:53 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The latest exhibition at Ffotogallery explores the relationship between science, museology and art.

Wonder Chamber is a solo exhibition of work by Wales-based artist Dr Karen Ingham, who is also a reader in Art, Science and Technology Interactions at Swansea Metropolitan University.

Piece of Mind Mask, 2010 © Karen Ingham

Piece of Mind Mask, 2010 © Karen Ingham

Ingham's work explores how scientific ideas and processes inform contemporary image making. This exhibition at the Penarth-based gallery brings together various bodies of work that she has created over the past decade.

The exhibition plays with the idea of the Wunderkammer, and how diverse and bizarre items on display in museums centuries ago were divided into a standard classification system.

One of the key ideas in Ingham's practice is to play on and subvert the way objects are collected, archived and displayed in science museums, putting them in the service of contemporary art.

The Eye of the Lens, 2010 © Karen Ingham

The Eye of the Lens, 2010 © Karen Ingham

Wonder Chamber runs at Ffotogallery at Turner House, Plymouth Rd in Penarth until 14 April 2012.

Karen Ingham will give a talk about her work and the exhibition on Thursday 22 March at 6.30pm. The event is free but booking is essential, so for further details visit

Vernon Watkins, Swansea's other poet

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 10:55 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2012

This weekend's Sunday Feature on Radio 3 explores the life and works of Vernon Watkins, a Swansea poet and member of the Kardomah Gang often overlooked as 'the friend of Dylan Thomas'.

In the programme Swansea's Other Poet, which will broadcast this Sunday 11 March, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams will present a portrait of Watkins, a poet he regards as one of the 20th century's most brilliant and distinctive yet unjustly neglected voices.

Vernon Watkins, photographed in 1948

Vernon Watkins, photographed in 1948

Vernon Watkins was born on 27 June 1906 in Maesteg, south Wales. His father William was a manager for Lloyd's Bank, and his work meant the family spent time living in Bridgend and Llanelli. William Watkins was eventually transferred to a Swansea branch and the family settled on the Gower Peninsular.

When he was 10, in 1916, Vernon Watkins spent a year at Swansea Grammar School before being sent to Tyttenhanger Lodge, a preparatory school in Sussex. From September 1920 he attended Repton, a public school in Derbyshire where, aside from studying and the development of his poetic and linguistic abilities, he developed a love for tennis and cricket.

Watkins read modern languages (French and German) at Magdalene College, Cambridge from October 1924 but the analytical nature of academia proved disappointing and he left after just one year.

Banking and breakdown

Denied the means for a trip to Italy to write poetry by his father and with little other professional ambition outside of poetry Watkins followed in his father's banking footsteps, becoming a junior clerk in Cardiff in 1925.

However, two years after his entrance into banking the mundane, adult world of work - a world away from the romantic idyll of studying and writing poetry in his final years at Repton - proved too much for Watkins. He suffered a mental breakdown following a return visit to his former school, and entered a nursing home in Derby.

Watkins later referred to his breakdown as a "revolution of sensibility". On his return home to Gower he was transferred to the St Helen's branch of Lloyd's in Swansea so that he could be cared for by his family at home. He went on to serve as a bank clerk for over 40 years in Swansea, retiring in 1966.

Dora Polk, in her book Vernon Watkins and the Spring of Vision, states that Watkins regarded his banking career as his sole means of income. "Never expecting to gain recognition in his lifetime, much less to support himself, by his writing, he successfully managed to meet the competing demands of his life... by the simple expedient of remaining content with a routine job".

The published poet

Watkins dedicated his evenings to writing and meticulously polishing his poetry. In 1941 Faber, the pre-eminent publisher of the period, published Watkins' first volume of poetry, Ballad Of The Mari Lwyd, just months before he embarked for service in the Royal Air Force.

He served in the RAF from 1941 to 1946 during World War Two. During his time in the RAF Intelligence, stationed at Bletchley Park, he met his future wife Gwendoline Mary Davies. They married in London in October 1944. Dylan Thomas, Watkins' close friend whom he had first met in early 1935, was supposed to have been Watkins' best man, yet failed to turn up to the church.

Watkins' second poetry collection The Lamp And The Veil followed in late 1945, with a third, The Lady With The Unicorn, published in 1948.

The Death-Bell (1954) was awarded the Poetry Book Society's first choice accolade. Five years afterwards in 1959 his fifth collection, Cypress And Acacia, was released and Affinities (1962) was the final collection published during his lifetime.

Watkins was made a Fellow of Royal Society of Literature in 1951, and received an honorary D.Litt from the University of Wales in 1967. In 1953 he was awarded the Levinson Prize by Poetry Chicago and in 1957 won the inaugural Guinness Poetry Award for his poem The Tributary Seasons.

He also received travelling scholarships in both 1952 and 1956 from the Society of Authors, plus from March to June 1964 he was - for the first time - the visiting professor of poetry at the University of Washington. In 1966 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature from University College, Swansea.

In 1967 he was offered another spell as visiting professor of poetry at the University of Washington, this time a year-long post. Sadly, however, Watkins died of a heart attack on 8 October 1967, during a game of tennis shortly after his arrival in Seattle to take up the post.

Watkins' legacy

Roland Mathias says in his book Vernon Watkins: "The Times of 11th October, in reporting his death in the United States, revealed that he had been one of five or six poets who were being seriously considered for the Poet Laureateship left vacant by the death of John Masefield."

Watkins was buried in the churchyard of his parish church in Pennard, Gower.

Vernon Watkins memorial at Pennard church. Image copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

Vernon Watkins memorial at Pennard church.
Image:, copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Following his death Uncollected Poems (1969), Selected Verse Translations (1977), The Breaking Of The Wave (1979) and The Ballad Of The Outer Dark (1979) were released, collated from a vast selection of his unpublished poems.

According to the programme details for Radio 3's Swansea's Other Poet, "Kathleen Raine believed Watkins to be 'the greatest lyric poet of her generation', and TS Eliot and Philip Larkin were both admirers. Given such appreciation, the reason why Watkins' poetry slipped quietly into the shadows is something of a mystery."

The programme, presented by Dr Williams, himself a published poet, will explore why Watkins undeservedly remains such an unfamiliar entity to many.

Sunday Feature, Swansea's Other Poet can be heard on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 11 March at 7.45pm, and for seven days after transmission.

Related links

Further reading

  • Vernon Watkins, Roland Matthias (University of Wales Press, 1974)
  • Vernon Watkins and the Spring of Vision, Dora Polk (Christopher Davies, 1977)

Remembering Terry Nation

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 16:20 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2012

This Friday, 9 March, marks the 15th anniversary of the death of screenwriter and novelist Terry Nation, the creator of one of Doctor Who's most terrifying enemies, the Daleks.

Terry Nation with a robot from the series Blake's 7

Terry Nation with a robot from the series Blake's 7

Terry Nation was born in Llandaff in Cardiff on 8 August 1930. A keen reader at school, he started writing from an early age and appeared in local stage productions.

Nation left his job as a salesman at his father's furniture factory and moved to London when he was 22 to pursue a new career.

As his wife Kate told Nicola Heywood Thomas in a Radio Wales Arts Show special about Terry Nation, first broadcast in June 2010:

"He wanted to be involved in anything to do with showbiz. He went to a local drama group and stomped around the stage being an actor, he played truant for one whole term to go to the movies every afternoon!

"He tried stand-up comedy but his reviews were so incredibly awful he had to give that up. But somebody said, "you're bad, but your material's great", so he just stuck to the writing, which he had always done as a young man."

Nation's attempt to forge a career as a stand-up comedian was flawed due to his poor stage delivery, but he approached the agency Associated London Scripts, ALS, when he learnt that they were looking for emerging comedy writers.

The company's founders included Eric Sykes, Alan Simpson, Ray Galton and Spike Milligan. After Nation provided Milligan with a script for The Goon Show he was commissioned to write a new 13-week comedy radio show, All My Eye.

Terry Nation (right) and Dick Barry, with a script for All My Eye taken in May 1955

Terry Nation (right) and Dick Barry, with a script for All My Eye taken in May 1955

From this initial breakthrough Nation worked with many comedy stars of the day including Frankie Howerd, Terry Scott, Ted Ray and Harry Worth, and helped write more than 200 radio programmes before moving into television.

In 1963 Nation was still predominantly writing for comedy shows when he got the call inviting him to write a new children's science fiction television show. At the time he was working with Tony Hancock but the two fell out after an argument leading to Nation's dismissal and, realising he was out of work, he changed his mind and took the plunge on the new series. It was called Doctor Who.

The series introduced one of the Doctor's most fearsome extraterrestrial enemies to viewers. The Daleks, created by Nation and designed by Raymond Cusick, were an instant and enduring hit with viewers. The Daleks also brought Nation considerable wealth, as his agent Beryl Vertue had shrewdly negotiated a joint copyright deal with the BBC.

Terry Nation pictured with Daleks in 1973

Terry Nation pictured with Daleks in 1973

In an archive clip featured in the Radio Wales Arts Show special, Terry Nation spoke of his inspiration for the movement of the Daleks.

"I'd seen the Georgian State dancers on television just that very week, and the girls wore long skirts touching the floor that made a marvellous movement of gliding across the floor, and I thought 'that's the movement I want for my monsters'."

Commissions for Sixties television series came flooding in after the success of Doctor Who, such as The Avengers, The Baron, The Persuaders!, The Champions, Department S and The Saint.

Sir Roger Moore, star of The Persuaders! and The Saint, commented on working with Nation's material: "I was always glad to work with Terry's stuff. He had good structure and he wrote with humour. It wasn't difficult to learn his dialogue, things are easy to learn when they are well-written. Noël Coward was like that; to do Coward is very, very easy - to learn the dialogue - because it flows, and Terry could do that too."

Terry Nation with the former Doctor, Tom Baker

Terry Nation with the former Doctor, Tom Baker

In the 1970s Nation wrote his first novel, Survivors, about the aftermath of a pandemic disease which destroyed nearly all of mankind. A commercial success, the book was adapted for the screen by the BBC with three series broadcast between 1975 and 1977. A remake was also produced in 2008 starring Max Beasley, Julie Graham and Paterson Joseph.

Blake's 7, another project for the BBC, brought more success in the late 1970s and early 80s. The programme, about a group of criminals on the run from the totalitarian Terran Federation which ruled much of the galaxy, ran for four seasons.

Paul Darrow, who portrayed Avon in the show and who also appeared in the Arts Show special, said: "Blake's 7 was so clever because it was the first series where you had a hero who was an anti-hero. I thought it was the Magnificent Seven in outer space."

In an interview in 1972 Nation spoke frankly about his work: "I yet have to write something of which I am pleased. I really would love to write a play for me, that I would enjoy.

"I have never, ever sat and watched anything I've written without a sense of embarrassment and a sense of failed achievement. It happens to be up there on the screen but it was never the way I intended, it was never as successful as I hoped it would be."

Nation and his family moved to California in the 1980s as he was commissioned to write a pilot show for Columbia called The Young Arthur.

In the following years he pursued his career in America and worked for Paramount, Columbia, 20th Century Fox and MGM. He wrote a number of pilot scripts which failed to reach the screen, though he contributed to the television series MacGyver, A Masterpiece Of Murder and A Fine Romance.

Nation suffered from ill health in his later years. On 9 March 1997 he died from emphysema in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles aged 66.

Related links

Welsh actor Philip Madoc dies aged 77

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:24 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2012

Welsh actor Philip Madoc, famous for stage and screen roles including The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, has died aged 77 after a short illness.

The Merthyr Tydfil-born actor starred in many hit television dramas such as Doctor Who and A Mind To Kill, as well as one of most famous episodes of Dad's Army in which he played a captured U-Boat captain.

Arthur Lowe and Philip Madoc in Dad's Army

Arthur Lowe as Captain George Mainwaring and Philip Madoc as a captured U-Boat captain, in Dad's Army's famous 'Dont tell him, Pike' scene

Browse a photo gallery of images from Madoc's career and contribute your thoughts and tributes to the late actor on the BBC Wales News website.

Watch this archive clip of the late Philip Madoc in 1978 BBC series Hawkmoor, about the adventures of 16th century Welsh folk hero Twm Siôn Cati.

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Marc Evans and Owen Sheers at Filmclub literacy day

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:14 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2012

Today not only marks St David's Day in Wales but also World Book Day, the annual celebration of books and reading.

Earlier this week school children from across Wales took part in a literacy and film event, Mission Possible, with Welsh stars Owen Sheers and director Marc Evans at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Owen Sheers, Leighton Andrews and Marc Evans at Mission Possible

Owen Sheers, Leighton Andrews and Marc Evans at Mission Possible

Organised by education charity Filmclub, children learnt about film and film reviewing from the star guests at the event, who also included writer Grahame Davies and Welsh children's poet laureate Eurig Salisbury.

The pupils who attended, from 13 different schools across the country, enjoyed a free screening of Fantastic Mr Fox, adapted from the novel by Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl, plus workshops in review writing in English and Welsh. The day culminated in a ceremony with awards for some of the students.

Marc Evans' latest film Hunky Dory is released tomorrow, 2 March, and stars Minnie Driver and rising Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard.

Sheers, who is currently immersed in the world of rugby and Six Nations as he is the artist in residence with the Welsh Rugby Union, said, "Watching a diverse selection of films at Filmclub broadens a child's horizons, introducing them to new ideas, cultures and creative influences.

Filmclub members and Owen Sheers in a review writing workshop

Filmclub members and Owen Sheers in a review writing workshop

"Following the film with a written review is a fantastic way to deepen and enhance this experience. When we write we think, and in having to shape a written response to the film the children will be encouraged to develop their own critical abilities, making the film experience as a whole increasingly active rather than passive."

Human windchime art project for Cardiff

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 09:30 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2012

An interactive art installation that will act like a human windchime, creating sounds in reaction to the movements of passers-by, is being planned for Cardiff city centre.

The idea is the brainchild of Neil Cocker. Although he's worked for many a year in the creative industries this project will be his first foray into the creation of an artistic installation.

I recently talked to Neil about the project, which came about, by his own admission, partly by accident.

Neil's idea for the project started with a chance conversation with Emma Price, an art consultant who works with organisations to commission art work in the public realm.

"I was chatting to Emma about interactive art and, because my background is in music, interactive audio art in particular. I was showing her a couple of videos of examples of things that I like."

This eventually led to Cocker pitching an idea for an audio artwork installation project to the board of the commissioning body, Land Securities and Capital Shopping, who jointly built and run the new shopping complex St Davids 2 in Cardiff.

The project recently got the green light, and the plan is for the audio artwork to be installed on the underpass between the two parts of the shopping centre on Hills Street, just off The Hayes.

Though the details for the project are very much subject to change at this early development stage, as Neil mentions on his website discrete rows of sensors will be installed across the thoroughfare, with each being assigned a different sound; "probably using a major pentatonic scale, so that every note will sound pleasant and harmonic with every other."

By walking under the sensors people will interact with the installation, whether they're aware of it or not, as their movements will trigger different sounds. The theory is that passers-by will act like "a human breeze that creates a wind-chime of beautiful sounds. The busier the underpass, the heavier the 'breeze'."

Hills Street, Cardiff. Photo: Neil Cocker

The green rows show where the sensors could be installed. Photo: Neil Cocker

Although not an artist by profession, Neil said that during his pitch he tried to convey that he was interested in "bringing a small moment of joy to the day of anybody who interacts with the artwork".

"I think sometimes we can get a bit blind to static art," he said. "With something interactive, even if you interact with it unintentionally, it can make a difference.

"I'm keen for this to be an interactive artwork both while in situ but also as part of the creation of it. But also it's an ongoing creation, as there's scope to upload different sounds, whether that's different sounds for different times of day or different times of year. There's loads of ways in which people could interact with it, and there's no reason why we couldn't have people from all over the world contributing sounds."

The interactivity element is key to the installation. "Because I'm not 'an artist' and because I'm not necessarily creating something that people would look at and appraise in an artistic sense, there didn't seem to be any point in creating something other than interactive and accessible. I don't have the artistic background or ability to make something that people could appreciate from afar.

"I just want to create something cool that makes people smile. There's no other artistic agenda. If people can walk through on their way to work on a miserable morning and smile for a few seconds at the sounds of chimes or tinkling bells, that's job done as far as I'm concerned."

I'm no artist either, but I can't think of a more heart-warming, positive philosophy to have.

Neil is looking for potential collaborators with the relevant technical skills to help him get the project off the ground. For more information and to keep up-to-date with the project, visit Neil's blog,

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