Wales arts review 2013: Making waves on stage and society

Jamie Barton was one of five finalists on Sunday night
Image caption Jamie Barton was one of five finalists for BBC Cardiff Singer of the World

It has been a year of celebration and commemoration for the arts in Wales.

There have been large cultural events, like Womex and the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh, as well as individual exhibitions, dramas and performances that have all made a significant contribution to Wales' cultural reputation.

Debates about funding have also resurfaced, while it has been a year of expansion and relocation for a number of media organisations.


Bedwyr Williams represented Wales at the international contemporary art fair, the Venice Biennale. His installation, The Starry Messenger, took the terrazzo flooring of the venue's floor as a metaphor for the cosmos, and invited visitors to challenge their sense of scale and their place in the universe.

Image caption Sir Peter Blake produced illustrations for the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival

The Swansea-based photographer Andrew Morris won the first Wales International Young Artist Award. His pictures of the empty homes of people who had died beat four others shortlisted by the British Council Wales for the inaugural competition. As well as a £500 prize, Morris's work will be displayed at some of the British Council's network of offices around the world.

The National Eisteddfod's prestigious gold medal for fine art was awarded to Josephine Sowden, a video artist whose work shows the artist covered in mud, and muttering broken phrases. But the decision to award her the prize was criticised by the Welsh language pressure group Dyfodol I'r Iaith as the words in her video were spoken in English.

Sir Peter Blake's "Llaregub" exhibition of illustrations from Under Milk Wood became the first official event of the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival, marking next year's centenary of the poet's birth. The work was the result of a long-standing fascination with Thomas's play for voices.

The destruction of art in Newport attracted criticism from supporters of the city's Chartist mural. Its demolition was condemned by the actor Michael Sheen, who said "the political system has let us down" after the council pressed ahead with the mural's removal.


Rhian Edwards scored a hat-trick at the Wales Book of the Year. As well as taking the main title, the poet from Bridgend also took home the individual prize for poetry and the people's choice award.

The Welsh writer Dannie Abse announced his latest collection of poetry was likely to be his last, as he celebrated his 90th birthday.

Image caption Poet Danny Abse said he expects the collection of work published for his 90th birthday will be his last

There were also commemorations of the centenary of the birth RS Thomas, who became one of Wales' best-known writers as well as a fierce campaigner for the Welsh language.

Another Thomas born in 1913 was remembered by a loyal following. Gwyn Thomas became as well-known for his books as his chat show appearances, and was immortalised on screen by Anthony Hopkins.

A royal visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall opened the Hay Festival, with Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, spy novelist John le Carre and actress Miranda Hart among the star attractions. The illustrator Sir Quentin Blake also appeared, sharing his memories of working with Roald Dahl.


Womex, the world music expo, brought thousands of international delegates and a host of musicians to Cardiff. The opening concert included performances by Cerys Matthews, who was the event's artistic director.

American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition as it celebrated its 30th anniversary year. She also won the competition's separate Song Prize, and beat finalists from Italy, Croatia, Argentina and Ukraine to win the main event.

Image caption Georgia Ruth won the Welsh Music Prize and was one of the local stars of Womex

Georgia Ruth won the Welsh Music Prize, securing the votes of the competition's jury for her album Week of Pines.

There were concerns about arts funding from two of Wales' most influential figures - the composer Karl Jenkins and the artistic director of Welsh National Opera, David Pountney. Jenkins said Germany had become a more cultured society than the UK because of its decision to increase funding of the arts, while Pountney said that without financial support for cultural institutions, we risk "turning back into animals".

Britain's hopes of winning Eurovision this year rested with Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler and her song Believe In Me. But the audience failed to listen to her plea, and at the competition in Malmo, Sweden, she finished 19th out of 26 entries.


A dispute over royalty payments for Welsh language musicians flared up at the beginning of the year, and did not come close to a resolution until the final few weeks of 2013. Eos, which represents the broadcast rights of hundreds of composers and publishers, failed to reach an agreement with the BBC over the value of its repertoire.

Image caption The dispute between Eos and the BBC was settled by a copyright tribunal in December

It resulted in the music being absent from the airwaves for six weeks from 1 January, forcing BBC Radio Cymru to change its schedule and playlist. A copyright tribunal that was designed to settle the dispute heard the arguments from both sides in September, eventually announcing in December that the BBC should pay Eos a fee of £100,000 a year for a licence to broadcast its music. The sum is significantly less than the £1.5m that Eos had hoped for.

A milestone birthday was celebrated at Good Morning Wales, BBC Radio Wales' flagship breakfast news programme, which marked 50 years of broadcasting in October. It has been on the air, in one form or another, since 1963.

Ruth Jones and Michael Sheen took home some of the big prizes at the Bafta Cymru Awards, but there was controversy when the wrong nominee was announced as winner of the News Coverage category. On the night the Bafta was given to the BBC's Welsh language news programme, Newyddion, but days after the ceremony it was revealed that ITV News Cymru Wales had actually been chosen by the judges. Bafta blamed a clerical error and apologised.


BBC Wales announced it was selling its Cardiff headquarters and will seek a new site in the city. ITV Wales was also on the move, revealing it will move operations from Culverhouse Cross to a smaller site in Cardiff Bay.

Media Wales, which owns the Western Mail and WalesOnline, reported large growth in the numbers accessing its websites. Digital editions of its newspapers were also launched for tablet computers.

Radio listeners in north east Wales and parts of south west Wales began to receive local services on DAB digital radio for the first time this year. But listeners in mid and north west Wales are still waiting for the high-quality service to be rolled out across the whole of the country.


The Edinburgh Fringe provided a number of Welsh theatre companies with an international platform, and favourable reviews from the critics. National Theatre Wales' revival of The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning got five stars, while some of the festival's stand-out performances included Cardiff's NoFit State Circus's production of Bianco and the drama I'm With The Band, which was co-produced by Wales Millennium Centre and Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre.

Meanwhile in Cardiff, the winner of the first Wales Drama Award, Katherine Chandler, saw her provocative production Parallel Lines staged to critical acclaim by the Dirty Protest theatre company.

Image caption Aberfan disaster survivors said they were not consulted about Children of Mine

There was controversy when a play about the Aberfan disaster attracted criticism from some survivors, who said they had not been consulted by the team behind Children of Mine. The play's creator Mark Jermin defended the production, which went on to have a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Concerns emerged about Sherman Cymru's plan to tackle an £800,000 overspend on its redevelopment. The theatre said finances had improved, and that it had dealt with cost issues.

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