Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Illustrating Films, Tolkien, Skeletons and Hay Mela – the Last Day!

Hay Mela musicThe fun part of stewarding at Hay is that you never know what to expect. The venues change each day, some events get cancelled, and new events are organised. Day 6 began with another delicious cooked breakfast, and the discovery that two of our events had been cancelled – leaving gaps in the afternoon and an early finish, so I decided to try stewarding in a different venue…    Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward Day 5 – Nazis on Drugs, the Mabinogi and Live Music

hay festival steward - meDay 5 of stewarding at the Hay Festival began very well, with an early start in the catering tent for a cooked breakfast. Stewards get a free meal for each session they do, and if you’re camping, a free (cooked or whatever you prefer) breakfast is just the thing to start your day. This was followed by a solid hour of comedy (The Early Edition) with Marcus Brigstocke, Carrie Quinlan and Andre Vincent, taking a look at the news and poking fun at all sorts, including socks and Jeremy Paxman’s underpants…    Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward Day 4 – Friends, Enemies and the Rabble

rhiannon hooson poetMy fourth day of stewarding at Hay began with a much-needed sugar rush in the form of a Danish pastry. It’s incredible how exhausting it is, and yet so addictive as well. The queue management is a real art, and it gets complicated sometimes, with queues overlapping queues and stampedes for the book tent – the most manic of which was the stampede for Neil Gaiman. The day continued with a rather depressing event about dementia, a smattering of politics and an unexpected new event with Tracy Chevalier…    Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward Days 2 and 3 – Truth, Lies, Fake News, Fact and Fiction

Tracy EminMy second day of stewarding at the Hay Festival continued in a whirl of crowds, queues and high winds, with Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, from Russian punk band Pussy Riot (both fascinating in different ways), followed by a late night traipse back to the tent and an early start the next morning for the hilarious Andy Hamilton, followed by a real mix of events including Tracy Emin…    Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Days 1 and 2

hay festival flagsThere’s something unique about the Hay Festival, apart from its size and global reputation; it is such a mish-mash of culture, politics, literature, comedy and even some music – all concentrated down into something quite intense. I stewarded last year and found the experience addictive – the thrill of waiting for the next event to start, wondering how full it will be, discovering new authors you’ve never heard of… So here I am again, stewarding, camping and breathing in the literary air of Hay.    Continue reading

Reflections on Edward Thomas 100 & National Poetry Writing Month

Glyn Edwards poet

Glyn Edwards

National Poetry Writing Month is over at last, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cosied up on the sofa listening to the autumn storms, thinking April seemed a long way off. It was back in October that I began to plan a series of events for #EdwardThomas100, to mark the centenary of the World War One poet, and to make Cardiff University’s incredible archive collections more visible to the public. It’s been an exciting few months, and it’s hard to believe it’s all over, so here are some reflections on the experience…    Continue reading

Poetry & Music at the Abergavenny Writing Festival

Rufus Mufasa (2)The Abergavenny Writing Festival began last year, but I wasn’t able to make it, so I was determined to get to at least one of their events this year if at all possible. Life is busy! But I managed to get to the grand finale – an event which combined music and poetry. It was a beautiful drive up into the Welsh hills, to the Kings Arms Hotel, where we sat in a cavernous room with unusual acoustics to hear from some talented local musician-poets.    Continue reading

Verve Poetry Festival Highlights – A Celebration of Diversity

Geraldine Clarkson

What I enjoyed most about the recent Verve Poetry Festival (first of many, I hope) was the fact that it embraced poetry in all its guises, from the academic to the experimental, the hilarious to the downright ridiculous. We had spoken word at its most ostentatious, the big names and the new faces, plenty of opportunities to hear about the writing process, and workshops on themes as varied as ‘taking risks’ and performance technique…    Continue reading

Poetry – for loss, absence and bearing witness…

isobel dixonOn this – the final day of the Verve Poetry Festival, we have just been treated to a memorable showcase of four poets from Nine Arches Press, whose writing is both poignant and moving, unafraid to face up to the difficulties of life and the pain of loss. All the poets agreed, in their discussion afterwards, that poetry is an essential tool for “bearing witness” in the world, that it’s important to be truthful, allowing emotion to come through in your work…    Continue reading

A Feast of Poetic Delights at the Verve Poetry Festival

Dan Simpson

Last night I feasted on poetic delights of all kinds at the Verve Poetry Festival, which is beautifully pink and exciting… hosted by the many-layered Waterstones Birmingham store. I’ve never seen so many poetry enthusiasts in one space before! We had readings from Mona Arshi, Kim Moore and Katrina Naomi, followed by a full-on spoken word Dice Slam with Apples and Snakes, featuring poets from around the UK, and a rather unusual judging method… Continue reading

The Hay Festival on a Budget – A Survival Guide for Stewards

hay festival steward lanyardHaving never been to the Hay Festival before, I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit in May 2016, but I decided to sign up for the stewarding role, as I had a very limited budget. It was an incredible, addictive experience and I will certainly be going back again this year.

Before going, I decided to do a bit of research online, to see if anyone had written about what stewarding was really like. But there was very little information out there, so here is my own survival guide for stewarding at the Hay Festival, which I hope will be useful for others…    Continue reading

Cardiff Poetry Experiment

poetry experimentExperimentation is at the heart of all art forms, and poetry is no exception. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the ‘Cardiff Poetry Experiment’ events, run by Cardiff University’s School of English. I was greeted at the wrought iron gates of Wyndham Arcade by the magical password ‘poetry?’ and allowed inside. The venue was Wyndham Tea Rooms (sister of Waterloo Tea Rooms), where you can get the best cuppa in Cardiff (though they were serving other drinks too).    Continue reading

Poetry Review – The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America

Book - The Other TigerIt is strange to hear someone reading a poem in another language (a language which you don’t understand at all) and then to hear that same poem read again in your own language. There is a sense of building anticipation, as you hear the emotion behind the words, with particular intonations that seem to stand out… Yet the meaning must come later, inevitably with a sense of both satisfaction and loss, as no translation will ever convey the strength of the original…    Continue reading

Topsy-Turvy Twelfth Night Celebrations

topsy turvy twelfth nightIn the tradition of Twelfth Night, the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule presides over games and festivities where, for one night only, the world is turned upside down. Amanda Rackstraw, in the guise of Befana (the Italian ‘Christmas Witch’ who brings gifts) organised this unique spoken word / musical / storytelling event, in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières, as a fabulous, topsy-turvy finale to the Christmas season…    Continue reading

Lit Fest Highlights of 2016

beowulf storytelling

Telling the tale of Beowulf

This has been an incredible year for literary festivals and events. There are many moments that stand out, from the simple pleasure of sitting in a warm room listening to someone read a good story, to the buzz of meeting new people, seeing new places and trying new things. Highlights must include my first ever visit to the Hay Festival, and hearing well known writers such as Tracy Chevalier, Sebastian Faulks and Simon Armitage discuss their work. But there are three festivals that really stand out for me, as I look back over a year of literary events….     Continue reading

Collective: Eight Poets and Eight New Poetry Collections

Poet Tracy Rhys

Tracy Rhys

What’s the collective noun for poets? Perhaps ‘a plethora of poets’, or ‘a stanza of poets’? My own favourite is ‘a pub-full of poets’ (they tend to gather in pubs). Whatever the word, we had eight of them reading their work at this new event, entitled ‘Collective’, organised by Christina Thatcher (whose own debut collection will be published in 2017). It was not held in a pub, for once, but in the retro café / bar Little Man Coffee Company, on a night so foggy that Sherlock Holmes would have felt very much at home…    Continue reading

How to Get Your Novel Published – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

novelsLast month I attended a workshop organised by Cardiff Book Festival on how to get published. We heard from Hazel Cushion (founder and managing director of Accent Press) and Richard Davies (director of Parthian), who each provided a fascinating insight into the publishing world. We also heard from Gary Raymond (author of novel For Those Who Come After) about his personal experience of publication. Each of them brought a different perspective and gave us some practical advice.    Continue reading

How to Write a Novel – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

how to write a novelI’ve always wanted to be an author, ever since I was very young and discovered what the word meant, but for some reason, I’ve never thought of it as anything more than an unattainable dream. The Cardiff Book Festival has changed that. There were two workshops, one which focused on how to write a novel, and another on how to get published, which inspired me to see it as something that could be done – a genuine possibility.    Continue reading

Performance Poetry for Black History Month

Eric Ngalle Charles

Eric Ngalle Charles

Cardiff’s Central Library has recently begun holding regular Open Space events for writers to perform their work or hold a book launch. These are free to attend, and a great way for writers to reach a wider audience. This month’s Open Space featured four local poets, in celebration of October’s National Poetry Day and Black History Month. The event was well attended, and included musical elements as well as the spoken word.    Continue reading

The Magic of Medieval Poetry – Simon Armitage Translating Pearl

Medieval Poem PearlSpeaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Simon Armitage admitted that, when translating the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, someone literally had to take it off him, before he would allow it to be finished. “Translation is addictive,” he explained, “and much easier than writing your own poetry, because you can concentrate on it for longer, and it’s far less open-ended”. He added that “working with poets from the past is like tracing family members or finding ancestors; it’s like harmonising, like singing along to the Beatles in the car, two voices together.”    Continue reading

Made in Roath – A Community Festival of Arts & Culture

The Bard of Ely

Made in Roath is a local community arts festival which began eight years ago and has grown into something not to be missed. Roath (aka The People’s Republic of Roath) is an ever-expandable quirky area of Cardiff which even has its own alternative ‘Actual History Museum’. The festival involves art in all its forms and this year, despite a nasty autumnal cold, I managed to get along to some of the spoken word / performance events, which were as fascinating and unique as ever.    Continue reading

Apples, Lyrics & Elves: Highlights from the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Tracy Chevalier book signingLast night I caught a fleeting glimpse of the magical white-tented world that is the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Passing through, from Coventry to Cardiff, I was only able to attend three events, but each one was thoroughly enjoyable. With a similar set up to the Hay Festival, including an almost identical bookshop tent, the same (though fewer) toilets, and extortionately priced refreshments, there was an air of familiarity that was somewhat comforting.    Continue reading

Witticisms, Wine & Welsh Writing

Writer Jasmine Donahaye

Jasmine Donahaye

If I was more of a wine drinker, I would certainly appreciate the complimentary refreshments on offer at the Cardiff branch of Waterstones for their regular literary events. Last Thursday’s event was not as packed as I’d expected, considering the fact that, not just one, but six incredible Welsh writers were there to read their work. It was a celebration of the Wales Book of the Year Award (all the writers being current or previous winners) featuring Thomas Morris, Kate Hamer, Patrick McGuiness, Jasmine Donahaye, Jonathan Edwards, Philip Gross and Rhian Edwards.    Continue reading

Self-Publishing Success & the Launch of Paragraph Press

Joe Evans, succesful writerOn a drizzly autumn evening it was a relief to step inside the Little Man Coffee Company (a quirky, retro and super friendly venue) for a night of entertainment and insight into the world of self-publishing. The highlight of the event was hearing from Joe Evans, successful full time writer (author of the Young Adult Science Fiction series – The Seckry Sequence), who began his career, after being rejected by every agent and publisher in the UK, by self-publishing his first book on Kindle.    Continue reading

Poetry at g39

poetry Tom SinclairLast Friday I attended a free event organised by local poet Mab Jones as part of the ‘tu fewn, yn cynnwys ni’ (‘Does that include us?’) festival at g39, an art gallery in an old warehouse. The festival explores themes of access, inclusion, empathy and diversity. I’d never visited this venue before, but it’s a vast cave of a space with plenty of room for exhibitions and workshops. Actually it felt much more like an informal gathering than an official event, with dim, atmospheric lighting and a random assortment of seating.    Continue reading

A Cardiff Poetry Launch with Bare Fiction

annette c boehmThe brilliant thing about being involved in a local writing group is that you get to hear about all the literature related events taking place in your area. The downside is, sometimes you can’t go to all of them. You’d think that summer would be a time to wind down and take a break, but the open mics, book launches, and general literature celebrations seem to have racked up a notch this month. Determined to make the most of this glut in events, despite feeling tired, I attended the Cardiff launch of Annette C Boehm’s collection, The Knowledge Weapon, on Sunday evening. She won the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition of 2015, which was judged by Andrew McMillan.    Continue reading

Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival

beowulf storytellingI had never been to Beyond the Border before, despite recommendations and the fact that it’s only a short drive from Cardiff. So this year I decided to go. It was a magical experience, and you can read all about it in my article on the Wales Arts Review website. Beyond the Border are fundraising for the next festival, which will be in July 2018, so quite a while to wait, but worth it! If you’d like to donate – visit their website.

 

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Ledbury Poetry Festival – Celebrating Diversity

Daljit Nagra reading poetry

A week after the UK voted to separate itself from the EU, people gathered in Ledbury to enjoy poetry from all over Europe and further afield. I attended the festival for just one day, and the highlight was a Versopolis event, which included poets from Britain, France, Germany, Croatia, Norway and Austria. Versopolis is an organisation which gives European poets the opportunity to reach new audiences, having their work translated and performing at festivals. The festival was, of course, planned long before the referendum took place, and yet it seemed like every aspect of it was designed to celebrate diversity, encourage cross-border collaboration and create links with Europe and other parts of the world.    Continue reading

Poets on Tour: Carol Ann Duffy and friends

Shore to Shore Poetry AnthologyWhen I discovered that not only Carol Ann Duffy (UK’s Poet Laureate) but also Gillian Clarke (former National Poet of Wales), Jackie Kay (Scottish Makar) and Imtiaz Dharker, were going on tour together, and would be in Monmouth (only a short distance from home), there was no way I could miss this incredible line up.    Continue reading

Celebrating Culture – Looking to the Future

Coleridge in Wales eventJust as the UK decides to divorce itself from the rest of Europe, the arts and culture scene in Britain has never been more international or multi-cultural. I know many artists and writers are horrified by the way this referendum has turned out, and fearful of yet more funding cuts, but I am sure that, no matter what happens over the coming months, they will continue to create work that shocks us, makes us think and helps us to make sense of the world around us.    Continue reading