The Cardiff Book Festival – Highlights from 2017

Horatio Clare at Cardiff Book FestivalThe Cardiff Book Festival began last year as a brand-new annual celebration of all things literature in the Welsh capital, and this year’s festival followed in a similar vein, with a slightly stronger Welsh slant to the majority of events. On Friday night I braved the darkening skies, sideways drizzle and end-of-week exhaustion on my walk across town, to emerge inside the bright, grand foyer of the old Angel Hotel, where most of the weekend’s events took place…   Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Mabinogi by Matthew Francis

Poetry Book The MabinogiSpeaking at the Hay Festival last month, Matthew Francis described his first encounter with The Mabinogi (which he read in 1999 when he moved to Wales). “I was both baffled and fascinated by it,” he explained, “It’s extraordinary, and strange in the way it’s constructed, and it also has a strange logic.” He is not a Welsh speaker himself, and this is not a translation – he described it as a “re-imagining” of the myth, in the same way that Shakespeare drew on existing stories for his plays.    Continue reading

A Very Welsh Anthology of Young Welsh Writers

Cheval 10 anthologyA Guest Post written by Thomas Tyrrell

There is a short story called ‘Daffodil Nipples’, two different authors chose the title ‘Welsh Cakes’, and Blodeuwedd (one of the central figures of the Mabinogion) has a poem to herself. The Cheval 10 anthology definitely has a Welsh feel to it, and that’s appropriate for a collection created from pieces submitted for the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award, (for writers under 30 who live or work in Wales). But there are surprises too: a short story with the familiar title ‘Hiraeth’ turned out to be about an asylum seeker living in Wales, Martina Biavati came all the way from Italy to read her New York-set story ‘Caffe Giallo’, and Katya Johnson’s story about the French painter Cézanne won the second prize for prose.    Continue reading

A Day at the Ledbury Poetry Festival

amali rodrigo

Amali Rodrigo

I couldn’t have picked a better day for attending this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival – the sun was shining, the roads were quiet and the poetry was exceptional. I only wish I could have stayed for longer. My first event was an opportunity to ‘Meet the Poetry Editors’, followed by poetry readings from Suzannah Evans, Tom Sastry, Jacqueline Saphra, Katherine Towers and Amali Rodrigo, as well as a personal serenade from a blackbird in Ledbury’s old walled garden.    Continue reading

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