Literary Events, Places and Opportunities.....
The town famous for its books! There are millions of them and they’re everywhere. The castle, the cinema, the fire station and alleyways are all book shops. It also hosts the annual Guardian Hay Festival in May/June which has placed the town well and truly on the world literary map. An exciting philosophy festival is also run alongside and complemented the hay Festival - How the Light Gets In Festival. It takes its name from Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem' - ‘ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’. The Hay Festival Winter Weekend is a convivial mix of storytelling, jazz, shopping and socialising.
National Eisteddfod of Wales
The National Eisteddfod of Wales is one of the great festivals of the world, attracting over 160,000 visitors every year. An eclectic mixture of culture, music, visual arts and all kinds of activities for people of all ages, there’s something for everyone on the Maes (the site of the Eisteddfod) during the first week of August every year. It's a travelling festival which belongs to the people of Wales – wherever they live, and this is an integral part of its appeal. The festival visits areas in north and south in turn. It can be traced back to 1176 when it is said that the first Eisteddfod was held, under the auspices of Lord Rhys, at his castle in Cardigan. There he held a grand gathering to which were invited poets and musicians from all over the country. A chair at the Lord's table was awarded to the best poet and musician, a tradition that prevails in the modern day National Eisteddfod.
The language of the Eisteddfod is Welsh and everything is held in Welsh. But, there’s a warm welcome for everyone on the Eisteddfod Maes – whatever their language! There’s translation equipment available for the Pavilion, and there’s plenty of information available to help everyone to have a week to remember.
Alexander Cordell (1914 – 1997) was inspired by Wales’s emergence as the first industrial nation to write a series of novels that vividly describe the lives of the South Wales miners and ironworkers during this period of rapid and unprecedented change. ‘Rape of the Fair Country’, the story of a family of ironworkers and the rise of Chartism set in Blaenavon (now a World Heritage Site) became a global best seller. The book is part of a trilogy which follows the fortunes of the Mortymer family as they move from the ironworks in Blaenavon, to rural Carmarthenshire, where they become involved in the Rebecca Riots, moving on to working the canals in the Neath valley which are superseded by the advent of the railway.
'Beyond the Border' - Storytelling Festival (Biennial)
Beyond the Border is dedicated to promoting understanding of the world's pre-literature and oral traditions. On the first weekend in July, this unique festival brings together some of the finest storytellers and tradition bearers from around the globe to perform in the magical surroundings of St Donats Castle on the South Wales Coast. Begun in 1993, the Festival was the centre-piece of a Wales-wide month of Storytelling as part of the UK Year of Literature in 1995, since when it has regularly attracted several thousand attenders from all over Wales and the world, and has been accompanied by a programme of community outreach work taking storytellers into schools, hospitals and community centres across South Wales. Innovative in its programming, accessible in presentation, culturally diverse in its scope, Beyond the Border is now regarded as the finest festival of its kind in Britain.
Tŷ Newydd National Writers' Centre
Housed in the last home of Wales’s great Liberal Prime Minister, Lloyd George, Tŷ Newydd is one of the loveliest historic houses in the Snowdonia National Park, set in exquisite, wooded surroundings, looking out over Cardigan Bay, between the shapely hills of Eifionydd and the sea, and with the mountains of Wales ranged round the horizon. Year round the Centre runs courses for poets, novelists, script and screenwriters, playwrights, and many other genres. For the inexperienced there are Starting to Write courses and a variety of courses for more experienced writers. It also offers retreats for writers who need peace, time and space to progress their work. Periodically Ty Newydd hosts a weekend festival – ‘a weekend of words mixed with food, drink, music, walks, art and good company’.
Literature Wales is the National Company for the development of literature in Wales. It includes The Welsh Academy - the society for writers in Wales, and Tŷ Newydd Writers’ Centre. It runs a wide range of events, courses, and competitions including Wales Book of the Year, the National Poet of Wales, Writers on Tour funding scheme, writing courses at Tŷ Newydd, Translators’ House Wales, the BayLit and Tŷ Newydd festivals and Young People’s Writing Squads.
National Library of Wales
The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth is considered to be one of the world's greatest libraries, and its international reputation is certainly something that all Welsh men and women are intensely proud of. It's considered to be the premier source for Welsh genealogical research, and a warm welcome is extended to all visitors from around the World to take advantage of its unparalleled research facilities. Interesting facts:
• As a copyright Library, the National Library receives a copy of every publication in the UK and Ireland - every book in whichever language on all subjects, magazine, journals and even telephone directories.
• The Library naturally specialises in Welsh and Celtic material (and has been the preferred home of many Breton authors) but also houses collections from all over the world.
• All in all, the Library receives 90,000 publications a year.
• There are more than 2,000 letters written by David Lloyd-George to his wife and 3,200 to his brother William George housed at The National Library.
• The Library holds a copy of the first ever recording of The Welsh National Anthem in 1899.
• The Library's collection includes four and a half million books, 1.2 million maps, 700,000 photographs, 40,000 paintings, over 150,000 hours of Welsh television programmes, film and sound archives
• The Library holds over 1300 books, letters and recordings by or about Dylan Thomas. It has recently purchased Dylan’s last unfinished poem, Elegy, written in America.
The library offer free weekly tours for individuals and groups. With prior notice, they can offer tours in French, German and Italian, also free of charge.
A typical tour could include:-
- attending a weekend literary and cultural festival or attending two or three days of a longer festival (a comprehensive list of these has been provided in the previous section).
- bespoke writing workshops and or seminars/lectures provided exclusively for the group by appropriate poets, writers, subject experts.
- Visits to places (built and natural environment) with strong associations with Welsh writers led by an expert guide
Opportunities to enjoy other aspects of the Welsh cultural experience which might include:
- listening to a concert by a Welsh musicians or a choir, or an opera performance by the Welsh National Opera or attending a play by a Welsh author, at Sherman Cymru theatre
- visiting a gallery displaying the works of Welsh artists and craftspeople such as the recently renovated Oriel Mostyn Gallery in Llandudno, or the brand new Ruthin Craft Centre
- gaining an understanding of Wales as the world’s first industrial, for example at the World Heritage Site in Blaenavon
- being introduced to the Welsh language e.g. through a workshop at the Welsh Language and Heritage Centre at Nant Gwytheyrn
See the itineraries section for a sample literary itinerary
Dylan Thomas - the Welsh Poet factfile