Treasure Island – Pantoland

It is not often that I take the decision to put a Tivyside review of panto on my blog, but I have been persuaded by the enthusiasm of certain cast members to share it on their face-book pages and I do hope that as many people as possible will see it and maybe on another occasion make the effort to go and enjoy a production by this immensely talented bunch of village people.

Treasure Island – Cilgerran Players.

From the moment the excellent Sarah Moore put a foot on the stage as Dame Sally Forth at the annual Cilgerran panto, the audience knew they were in for a good time and began answering back without a second thought.  Treasure Island was a courageous move, breaking with more traditional titles and going for an original choice for a change, but under Amanda Wells’s direction this brand new entertainment, had a joyfully traditional daft panto plot, and some welcome new characters for the audience to laugh at and argue with. The Cilgerran Players have a wealth of talent evidenced by quality acting throughout, right down to the very youngest with the chorus of lost pirates and Spot the dog, played with an insouciant comedy by Bradley Martin.

Also worthy of mention among the teenage members of the cast were Jake Caswell as Ben Gunn and Theo Blackburn as Jack Forth both of whom shone in their own parts, showing real acting ability and additional musical skills. Thomas George made a first-class Jolly Roger, especially in his moment of miming Freddie Mercury with credible relish, and Jim Hawkins and Mary Forth the young lovers, ably played by Charlotte Wallond and Leah Kitson James, sang sweetly, looked lovely, and contributed the essential romantic element.

Amongst the adult parts Andy Wallond did a great job as the devious Long John Silver, holding his own against the overtures of the insistent Dame and the two of them were aided in keeping the audience laughing by several others who have a natural talent to cause mirth on sight, Mark Chandler as Israel Hands, Jan Garner as Blind Pugh and Silas Blackburn as Squire Trelawney whose double act with Doctor Livesey and his ear trumpet played by Reuben Wells, was hilarious. It must however also be said that the Cilgerran players do have advantages that  stretch beyond their acting capabilities and that is why they make such good ensemble productions. Congratulations should go to Sue Bains for the marvellous costumes, especially those of Dame Sally Forth, and, to  all the backstage team from sound and lighting, to the team who painted and created the super set with the pirate ship sailing in, and other clever devices. Such fun for the audience, and it looked like just as much fun for the cast.

London and Sean’s Lament

I love to hear of a local artist taking their work to a wider world so I was genuinely pleased to hear that Sean Vicary’s short film ‘Lament’, is now showing in London at the Standpoint Gallery with several others in  (Un)Natural Narratives. Lament, was originally shown in Cardigan, at the Small World Theatre, and I wrote about it at the time for the Tivyside. Even now two years later I have a clear memory of moments within the film which made me catch my breath, or provoked a yearning for something, perhaps a lost landscape or perhaps simply a vanished youth, a lost part of the self.

The film was made as a collaborative piece with musician Ceri Rhys Matthews, and is an evocative and beautifully crafted animation, lifted to an even more affecting experience by the haunting musical element.  Sean Vicary explains that he was inspired to make it in part to capture how deeply his early years of living on the borders of England and Wales in Shropshire had affected him. His awareness of a far away land beyond the hills clearly coloured his childhood dreams, and though it was later in life that he moved to Wales, his awareness of its proximity and its call had been with him throughout his growing years. An early Welsh poem Canu Heledd, offered him a profound insight into the land where he was brought up.  The poem tells the story of the defeat in the 7th century of the Welsh king Cynddylan, and the fall of Powys. It describes a ruined land, a slaughtered royal house and the rich Powys lowlands lost forever to Wales, and thereafter recognised as a part of Shropshire The film itself has a poetic structure, with a rhythmic thread and repetitive symbolic visual language. Its theme could be likened to Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill, where the adult poet looks back and both celebrates and grieves his lost youth. The visual impact of Lament lies in its combination of  images of the natural environment, with the use of animation to depict the fragility of life, and the gradual decay that occurs inexorably around us. The lament, is the wail that comes across time from the ancient poet, and equally from the bereaved in any age. The whirling trees, the uplifted totems, the dancing skeleton and the throbbing core, or heart,  all speak of the ‘unbearable lightness of being’ and the inevitable aptness of  the aphorism ‘in the midst of life we are in death’.

Small Scale Tour – Brief Book Review

Small Scale Tour by Caroline Ross, published by Honno .

I loved this book. Started it Friday evening and finished it late Saturday night. True, I did little else in that thirty or so hours. Even as I ate I held it up at eye-level, keeping my meals as clean and simple as possible, avoiding greasy fingers on the text whilst urgently staying abreast of the character at the heart of the story. Ham(as in Noah’s son), is ‘resting’ from the stage whilst working twelve hours a day at the corner shop of Mr Majit Khan where in the evenings after a day’s toil, his employer likes a ‘chinwag’ with his intelligent shop assistant, who has acted in Shakespeare albeit a long time ago.  Ham’s life is hard, but he maintains as far as possible a positive outlook, and in his sympathetic treatment of others, and his respect for his employer, the reader builds a genuine sympathy for him and perhaps hopes that with the turn of a page something wonderful  will happen for this ageing and once-was RSC actor, and he might be restored to the kind of life and work he loved. Then Ham begins to write a screenplay about when he first became an actor, tasted love, and lived with a bunch of other, enthusiastic thespians. So the turn of the page brings not the future, but the past with all its attendant joys and pains, fuel for the play which is not coming along as well as the ‘chinwags’  ‘Thesp’ says Mr Khan ‘from which comes ‘thespian’, is an Afghan word,’ and it is apparent that in his world most of civilisation arose from the land he once loved but escaped from, Afghanistan.

Caroline Ross tells a magical story in thoughtful and elegantly readable prose. She describes the early days of Kicking Theatre, and with each chapter that takes us back into that past where Ham learned to act and found love, we experience him as a young man. The fifty year old in the shop of the Afghani proprietor is a ghost of the Ham that was. The story is full of the goodness of one human being to another, touching scenes are hidden and stumbled upon like cherries in a trifle.  Here and there, the prose moves into play format, and it becomes less easy to follow so the  purpose of these passages is hard to fathom. There is a troubled playwright within the story, so it can be seen to have a reflective connection, and it allowed Dionysus an active role, but it was hardly required to achieve meaning or add substantively to the essence of what is a well-told story with a tight and credible plot. Also reading something contructed as a play is not easy for everyone. For those with a background in theatre, there is a familiarity to this form, which they may enjoy, but for those who do not ever read scripts it is not that straightforward. That aside, I loved it and will watch for her name again.

Another Book Completed

So another book of mine has been completed and has gone up on Kindle to be available for the world to read. The excitement that comes with putting out a new book will never leave me. This one is my seventh and in a way it is the one I have found the biggest challenge and the most fun and certainly it has been more confusing than I anticipated when I began writing  it :The Case of the Matching Charms, is its title and it’s written, I hope, for kids a bit older than those who read The Dreamstealers Trilogy (published by Y Lolfa 2003-2006). Those books were intended for kids 8 years old and upward. I think I see this as being more like 13years and upward.

Arianne Lexicon is the heroine of this book, the first in an intended series. At age sixteen she does not know what she wants to do with her life, but she is fascinated by puzzles and mysteries. She becomes a detective more by accident than on purpose. Her parents are antique dealers, and she lives with them above the shop. Her best friends also live above their parents’ businesses, Nick from the chip shop, and Joy from the phone and IT shop. These two are invaluable in being around when she needs them.

I wrote the book in a way quite unlike any of my former novels which I have always planned. This one came without planning. I started it and had no idea where it would go, and it seemed to find a direction on its own which was so unexpected, at moments, that I kept thinking perhaps I ought to sit down and make an outline plan, in my usual way. But this was an experiment in following rather than leading the story. So I wrote as though I was reading, or as though I myself was looking for clues, and what would come next. This was scary sometimes because I did think I might never finish it. I learned about ‘writer’s block’ because at one point I ran out of ideas and the book came to a sudden halt very close to the final chapters. It was as though the freedom I had experienced had become a handicap. I had no ‘outline framework’ to look for in my files, which I would normally have and I could not even tell whether there was a happy ending. Then one day, after weeks of looking at it, and attempting to start other things, I got a brainwave and went back to it, and it wrote itself to the end. This experience has meant that I feel very protective of this particular book. It was written spontaneously and am interested to see whether it has worked, and people who read it like it. Image

This is the cover image, dreamed up and created by Jacob Whittaker to whom I communicated some of the items in the plot.

Draw Breath

Draw Breath, the new exhibition at Oriel Mwldan, by acclaimed artist Stephen West, offers through the medium of dramatic drawings, a powerful statement about the lungs of the planet, executed with immense skill and magnetic vigour.The effect of the dark line drawing, used to create the deep tangle of branches and leaves on ash trees, now currently dying in their thousands, stirs the mind to acknowledge the dark threat in the underworld contained in the loveliness of the woodlands. There is therefore more to the current exhibition than the surface images which when focussed upon, and breathed in, illustrate a further understanding of the concerned, artistic mind of Stephen West. West’s recognition that the trees are the lungs of the planet, and that without them we are lost, is carried in these images of trees. They are not all of them images of The Ash, there are others including a dramatic Fallen Beech, and then, surprisingly the viewer faces a series of pictures entitled ‘Committee Meetings’ where it seems that all the characters depicted are in the act of talking or shouting at one another. These satirical drawings are neither realistic nor abstract, but there is a sense in which the level of reality tells a story, as in Bwrdd Europ, and spectacularly in his take on Picasso’s Guernica?’ His style appears initially to be loose and lively, maybe even a little wild, but the composition and the structure, are in fact very strong and controlled. The small crowd that gathered for the opening were obviously impressed. Artist Eleri Mills, who travelled some fifty miles for the show, commented on the work. ‘It has an energy that is thrilling,’ she said. ‘But there is also something essentially classical about it.’

Alan Hewson, Project Director, Chapter Arts, Cardiff,  gave the opening talk to the invited viewers, and said that he has known West as a committed artist, ‘He has a deep dedication,’ he said. ‘and works with a fluency and skill which is admirable.’

West describes himself as a ‘drawyer’, a term coined to describe someone making work through the medium of drawing and his work can be seen between now and 25 January in Oriel Mwldan open daily. For visual experience of his work  and to hear Stephen talk about his work see Jacob Whittaker’s film on Culture Colony.

What follows, with the permission of Alan Hewson is the talk he gave to open the show, perceptive and instructive,  and certainly worth a read!

DRAW BREATH

 I was delighted to be asked to open Stephen’s exhibition. I have known Stephen for over twenty years, both as a committed artist and also an able and imaginative arts administrator.  I say committed artist as I know the difficulty of trying to maintain your own practice as well as earning a living. It takes a dedication, persistence and courage.

 The range of work in Stephen’s exhibition is wide, from the deeply personal to issues of national and global significance in which he conveys his skill as an artist or as he prefers it a drawyer and he clearly expresses himself  through his drawings with great fluency and skill 

I mentioned the deeply personal and the title of the exhibition gives a clue-Draw breath refers to a time of recovery and recuperation.    With Stephen it was a response to the Glaucoma he had and the threat to his sight.  It gave him a desire to work from nature and enjoy the delight of simply looking.

It is sad but true we take things for granted and only when our health is threatened by disease do we really appreciate the amazing value of life. But you can be respond in a positive or a negative way and in Stephen’s drawings he has chosen to celebrate the life around him.

But at the same time as celebrating life he also shows that everything is vulnerable.

Draw Breath also refers to respiration of trees inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen contributing to making this planet habitable for life.

 His series of trees shows with great skill and vigour the beauty of the ash tree but at the same time it is a reminder that the ash like the oak, larch and other species is under grave threat from disease. Many remember the devastation of Dutch elm disease over thirty years ago and the millions of trees that were lost. We face that againwith this being part ofthe impact of Global trading making it much easier for diseases and insects to travel, carried in plants, in crates and containers. According to the Forestry Commission the UK has had as manytree  diseases in the last 10 years as in previous fifty – another unexpected and unwelcome downside of the unfettered global market and a reminder how vulnerable and fragile is the world we inhabit.

It’s particularly poignant in Wales not only because of the ash trees link to the Welsh Bardic tradition but also through the work of David Nash the sculptor who has focused for 40 years on working with wood, with the Ash Dome being one of his earliest and most famous works and this too must now be under threat.

The threat to ash trees is from fungal spores spread by plants imported from  Europe.

But it is not only the devastation of nature that we see for as the spores invade and destroy the trees so mankind can destroy like spores. In 1937nazi planes swarmed into Spain to create the massacre at Guernica whichPicassso turned into one of the most compelling symbols against the horror of war.  Stephen uses this work for a stepping off point to explore its powerful imageswhich have now become  archetypes embedded in our unconscious.

 On a smaller and more insidious stage Stephen uses his wit and draughtsmanship to explore the bane of all those involved in the arts, the committee. Stephen says ‘I  consider the power of the cultural committee can be another threat – this time to our art institutions.’

 Drawing on my 35 years in the arts in Wales I hesitate to say that the satirical view of committees was drawn from Stephen’s personal experience but it’s true that the committee seem to be an intergral part of the arts landscape.  A lot of time and energy can be wasted as Stephen shows in his drawings of the meetings consuming as he puts it ‘the precious oxygen in their often pointless chattering’. In his career in Arts Administration I am sure he has longed for the end of such meetings and to be out in the woods and fields drawing as I have.

But I feel that in some ways it is not just the committee itself that is at fault but lack of  different voices within that committee.  Not just within in it  but in the wider sphere- Wales has not been well served either in the print media or on television on coverage and debate about the arts and those external and internal voices are an answer the power of the committee.

The committee in its best form is a symbol of the democratic process-  Winston Churchill said ‘democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time’- dicatorships brings certainty – there is one truth, one belief, democracy is shambolic and untidy  and uncertain but so are we as people and if we have to put up with wasted time and effort if we want everyone’s voice then that’s how it should be.

Stephen’s art, as I said at the start, encompasses the deeply personal and the global and he shows his consummate skill in using his art to encourage us to meditate on the seamless link between our own experience and the world we inhabit.

Recurrent Magic

A Recurrence of Magic Jewellery.

I have written a number of books. For children; The Dreamstealers Trilogy, which was published in Wales by Y Lolfa. Then historical novels; A Court in Splendour and The Bardic Monk, published by Llanerch Press, a small press in Somerset who happened to like my work. I have never had any success with mainstream publishers but I can acknowledge that my subject matter is maybe a bit obscure. Whether it is or not, one of the things I have noticed, looking back at my published and unpublished work is a noticeable recurrence that intrigues me because I did not actually see it at the time.

The presence of jewellery as a means of performing magic appeared in my first attempt at a novel. The thing I have about jewellery is more complex perhaps than I myself understand. I do wear it, and I do like it, and I do own a lot of worthless tat in the jewellery line. I have never ever yearned for gold or diamonds or any other precious stones. The real McCoy, as seen on aristos and celebs past and present, leaves me cold. It all looks rather boring and stiff, added to which I might lose it. My tat, on the other hand, which is made of tin and gilt, glass, plastic and leather,is eminently loseable, and in terms of accessories offers some genuinely varied embellishment. Neck chains, ear-rings, brooches, pendants, bracelets; I wear them all. Why I would write about them having strangely active properties, is however, something of an enigma to me. Perhaps it is merely that I have a paucity of imaginative ideas, and the jewellery has been handy once so maybe it will be again. Except that it does not happen like that.

In The White Tower, a historical/fantasy/novel originally written during the 1970s, the heroine is gifted a charm bracelet, which she discovers conceals magic properties. When she rubs the charms they act to alert members of a spell-circle to come together. In Shapeshifters of Cilgerran, part 2 of the Dreamstealers, a brooch from the cloak of Manawyddan, one of the demi-gods from the Mabinogion, reveals itself, to contain all the spells in his Defnydd Hud or Materia Magica. He only has to finger the brooch and rub it lightly to find the spell he wishes to perform. In my latest novel Arianne Lexicon, Teenage Detective : The Case of  the Matching Charms, a charm bracelet appears again. In this story (forty years after The White Tower) it is both the mystery and the solution, magic realism not magic occultism, antique silver, found behind the radiator in the maths room which contains hidden clues. What it is important to stress is that in none of these instances have I thought back to the previous occasion. Every one of them has suggested itself at the time of writing, and each time arisen as something original, how can I not know I have done it before? But genuinely, there has been no awareness of repetition at the time. Only in retrospect, and only this time, since finishing Arianne, and going back to do a rewrite on another unfinished work, rediscovering the never published manuscript of The White Tower, soon to be completed as The Girl Merlin. It’s all very odd. I wonder if, as with dreams, other people will see connections here which elude me.

For Lovers of Dusty

At Theatr Mwldan recently  ‘Call Me Dusty’ a new play about the seventies diva, was performed. The theatre was crowded, evidence of how many people found her interesting enough to discover more about her life. Unfortunately, as the play showed, it was not her life that many fell in love with.It was her voice. Her life was not a happy tale of success and creative joy. It was a sad journey through manic-depression, and a lack of confidence in herself which meant she never trusted in her success and popularity. The review that went in the Tivyside follows, and includes the couple of sentences which were edited out because of the length. 

Call Me Dusty

Call me Dusty, a drama based on Dusty Springfield’s career years, performed at Theatr Mwldan and written by local playwright Derek Webb, was well received by the capacity audience.  Jessica Sandry who took the role of Dusty, gave life to the immense likeability of Dusty from an early age. Her eagerness to please, her charming smile, and her masked shyness, were all apparent from the beginning; as indeed was her ambition. She knew from an early age that she had a ‘voice’, and was very much swayed in the long term by  her love of American music, Tamla Motown, soul and the blues. Alongside Jessica Sandry, two other extremely talented and proficient actors, Jayne Stillman and James Scannell, created between them a host of characters, including parents, management team, the press, and others who were important at different points in her career. Their capacity to bring in a new voice, and a new face were a real testament to their abilities.With the development of the play, the sweet young girl began to display her other less attractive qualities. These were again captured extremely well and with the kind of conviction necessary to carry the audience along with her and bring some understanding to the fact that she was almost certainly seriously bipolar, a condition referred to as ‘manic-depressive’ in those days, and something which we know today afflicts many creative people, performers among them.

There was a lot to love about Dusty, and about the play itself. The stage was cleverly used to present a variety of locations, and the use of archive footage of Dusty herself on the high rear screen, provided some of the most electrifying moments in the play. Hearing again those songs from the sixties and seventies; from Island of Dreams, whilst she was in the Springfields, and later right up to the work with the Pet Shop Boys, her voice still has a quality which is right up to date.

From the charming young girl to the over the top, gorgeous blonde diva with the great bank of blond beehive, and her eyes thickly blackened with liner, shaders and mascaras, it was Dusty Springfield’s voice that everyone loved, and no doubt it was that which brought out such a large and enthusiastic audience at Mwldan, and wherever the play has been produced. The saddest part of Dusty’s life made up the content of the second half of the play and somehow there it lost the momentum built up in the earlier part. Essentially there was more of a ‘telling’ of her life, rather than the action of the earlier scenes. The description of her illness, and her sensitivities was told by others, and somehow rather drawn out. A pity that the wonder of her voice was not the image the audience came away with, but the sad image of a woman in distress struggling to come to terms with losing her fame. Otherwise this was a really successful drama about one of the great singers of our times.

Cardigan Town Bardathon

So, what is a bardathon? It is a week-long celebration of Shakespeare, read by anyone who wants to be sponsored to take part from whatever bit of WS’s work they are most keen on. From 8am-8pm daily, an empty shop in the town has hosted the attendance of people of all ages, to read in either Welsh or English from the Greatest of the Bards. The sponsorship is  to raise money toward refurbishing the gym, in the local school Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, or Cardigan Senior School. That the town should respond in such a positive and successful way, has taken some by surprise. After all, how many people get round to reading a bit of Shakespeare in their spare time?  Well, all week, every day, they have come and read. Single readers had the benefit of a lectern and if they did not feel confident to do it aloud, they could in fact read sotto voce  because the point of it was not that there should always be an audience, but that the bard should be read continually throughout the week. Yesterday the whole of Macbeth was read, during the early evening, by members of Cardigan Theatre,  the local amateur dramatic society, all experienced readers, who gave an impressive turn. Today some of them were in again joining together with friends,  to read King Lear. I was there, in the small part of Cordelia. Jeffrey Summers, who read both Macbeth himself, and Lear,  was brilliant, and an inspiration to some who had never read aloud before, encouraging them to have a go, and bringing a feeling of confidence to the occasions. Many of those who read entered into the feeling of the readings, and this made it really interesting and exciting. The entire week’s readings have been overlooked by the presence of a school governor, or other volunteer and with their commitment, the whole thing has gone without a hitch. Everyone who has been in any way involved in it has found it to be an inspiring experience. The money raised has been beyond expectation and the potential for giving is not over, contributions will doubtless still be arriving  during the next week or two. The school need to have a gym in which the pupils feel good about enjoying physical pursuits, and this has been what the whole week has been toward. What a unique fund-raising opportunity, and how surprisingly popular it turned out to be. Serious congratulations are due to those who came up with the idea.

Morag Colquhoon’s Exhibition

Exhibition at Mwldan

The new exhibition of work by Morag Colquhoun, showing at Oriel Mwldan opened last Saturday with a brief discussion between the artist and fellow artist Rabab Ghazoul. Attendance for opening events is never high but there was a better than usual interested gathering who came to hear what was said, and to be amongst the early birds to see the show itself. Ghouzal has been a mentor to the artist and has encouraged Colquhoun, being instrumental in the artist developing her work. The show returns to the recurrent themes of energy and entropy which the artist has been interested in, and has worked with in previous exhibitions.

At first sight of this particular show, there is the look of a laboratory in the way the exhibits are displayed. Detailed objects of apparent, fragile plantlife, linked to and backed by curves of painted glass, sit together  in clear glass cubes atop high wooden stools made for the purpose.  These stools with their precious contents, stand in rows, neat and straight, down the centre of the gallery, and for a moment it is possible to imagine that a microscope and a bunsen burner might be seen just around the corner. In fact of course there is no such thing. There are manipulated photographs, and videos and this is by no means a laboratory. There is however, a leaning toward the experimental involved when we realise that under close scrutiny, the delicate plantlife is not all that it seems, but it is in fact a series of minutely observed sculptures, modelled by Colquhoun in beeswax before setting them in harness to the glass pictures. The infinite care and skill in the detail captured in the wax plant modelling is breathtaking, and this is not a new concept for artists. It was, in fact popular during the Victorian era along with the painted glass. The title of the show is Energia, and involves seeking to display the energy of the world in its natural form within an original manufactured context. Alongside the exhibits of the wax models with their glass panels, is a video of a journey, a delightful journey by car with a simple Welsh lesson being instructed as progress continues capturing the ceaseless journey we take, recycled again and again on our personal voyage through life.

The exhibition is open daily at Oriel Mwldan until 30 November.

 

Dylan Thomas and The Pubs

The following review is written for publication in the Tivyside newspaper which serves the area around Cardigan in West Wales. The paper has a long reputation of always allowing a space for book reviews. Tradition says that many of the Tivyside’s readers are the kind of people who enjoy a good book, and especially one which talks of their land, their sport or their history. Even better if it written by someone they know or have encountered locally.  This is why when book reviews became relatively rare in  weekly papers, The Tivyside  continued to offer space for local writers and publishers to tell the public about their material. But systems change, and there is now a prospect that the full review cannot always be fitted in to the available space in the Tivyside. By placing it here, I hope that many people who would normally look for a review in the Tivyside, will take the time to come and read it here

Dylan Thomas – The Pubs by Jeff Towns, ( chairman of the Dylan Thomas Society).

Making a gentle assault on the long-time assumptions surrounding one of the most celebrated of poets from Wales and his relationship with pubs, is at the core of the latest book from Y Lolfa by Jeff Towns, the long acknowledged leading authority on Dylan Thomas. Towns has studied all aspects of the poet’s life and in The Pubs, he reviews the places where DT spent his days, and no doubt sometimes, his nights and what their attraction was; what drew him to them, beyond the obvious, the booze.

This is a beautiful book, to handle as well as to read;  a neat, hard-back with an attractive dust jacket. It feels more generous and yet less intimidating than a full-scale biography, bursting with the kind of slip-stream detail, that is eclectic, touching, funny and surprising by turns, so that one feels that one can actually imagine being in the pubs with the great man himself.

These pubs, in Swansea and Gower, Laugharne and London,  New Quay and New York, are each like a small country in themselves. They are distinctly individual, and each brings with it its own cast of characters, with whom Dylan Thomas delighted in friendship. The impression when following him from somewhere like the Fitzroy Tavern in London, to the Black Lion in New Quay, and back  is that he created for himself a larger, more extensive world in which to share exchanges, and in which to enjoy and relish those he might meet. He simply loved language, and was a storyteller because he was a good listener. Towns says ‘It was in these very pubs that Dylan would meet the people who would inspire so much of his work.’

There are plentiful small anecdotes, which are a joy and tales that one may have heard before, but never like this, in context. Conversation thrived in the pubs during the first half of the 20th century, moments of family history, insane barflies, queens of the sofas, and all surrounded by poets, musicians and artists. Something about that, about hearing the story in connection with where it occurred is what makes this new. Towns’ idea in short is to make us look anew at what the attractions of the pub really were to Dylan Thomas, and to measure his need for social company, an inbuilt audience, and the warmth of food and drink, against the image of him falling over  permanently drunk, a womanising, bohemian pained-poet stereotype.

Illustrated throughout by Wyn Thomas whose tantalising water-colours, capture the many pubs through which Dylan travelled adds an enormous quality to the book. They bring each building in its setting to life and in shades which surprise and add character.

The book is a special limited edition of 500 signed copies. It cries out to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone, not only by those  with a steadfast and uncompromising love of Dylan Thomas and his work.

 The Pubs, is possibly one of the most interesting, and certainly one of the most informative, of the books ever written about the locations of the social life of Wales’s most celebrated poet, Dylan Thomas, accompanying him and his friends as it does, through the many pubs with which he had made a personal connection, at some point during his lifetime.

The Pubs published by Y Lolfa is on sale price £19.99 (signed limited editions only)

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