Category Archives: Event Coverage

Collecting Old Books

The collection so far

Antique dealers collect old books because they’re valuable. And some artists collect old books because they can be altered– scribbled on and cut to make new works of art. I’m collecting books for something different. I’m getting married in September and I’d like the table decorations to be book-related. So far my fiance seems willing too. 

This has become an excuse to dive into as many old bookshops as possible and I suspect I have more than enough books for the day. I’m hoping we can find a nice bookshelf to put them on when we move in together after the wedding.

But next I need to come up with a way of displaying them on the day. I’ve seen several clever ideas on the internet, but I’m not sure if they’re practical. If people are eating and drinking it might be better to have them in a basket which can be placed elsewhere if they start to get in the way.  If anyone has any suggestions let me know.

This Christmas my future mother-in-law very kindly gave me some old books as a present. Apparently she was going to give them to me separately at another time, but my fiance said I’d really like them and she should wrap them up.

An elephant on the front cover of The Jungle Book

He was right, they were just from the charity shop but I loved them. They were one of my favourite presents that day, books last longer than chocolate or bath salts and even clothes.

Now I’ve caught the collecting bug it’s hard to stop popping into the Oxfam book shop, or looking up my favourite titles on eBay to see if I can get a good copy. Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you look at it, I’ve yet to bag a job as a journalist so I can’t splash out on too many….


Eddie Butler @ Waterstone’s

Sports commentator Eddie Butler was at Waterstone’s last Saturday signing copies of his book: The Greatest Welsh XV Ever. This was good timing. Rugby fans were in Cardiff to see Wales play Australia at the Millenium Stadium. Eddie arrived at Waterstone’s at 11.30 am and left at 1 pm. He must have popped across the road to watch the match because he was on air for the BBC by 2pm. Unfortunately Australia won by 24-18.

Made in Wales

I have been enjoying a new series of films on BBC2 called Made in Wales

There are six films in the series and each film is written by a Welsh writer, supported by a film production company called It’s My Shout.

It’s My Shout has been nursing artistic talent since 2003. The film-making process begins at the the start of each year, when the company puts an advert out, looking for 10 minute long scripts. Anybody can submit their work, the idea is to encourage people of different ages and backgrounds.

Last year 80 scripts were submitted, giving executives from BBC Wales and It’s My Shout plenty to read. The six successful writers were paired with a BBC scriptwriter, to help them to perfect their script for production days in August.

Production days are busy, with 15 professional crew members, 100 trainee crew members and 100 young actors spread across the six films. The writers work with the directors to finalise details, including costumes and the film location. At the end of filming It’s My Shout holds an annual awards ceremony, to celebrate the completion of each project. Sweet 16 was named as the best film at this year’s ceremony in early November.

This year most of the writers were aged 30 to 40, but the company is expecting entries from young writers for the next year. “There has been a particular interest from students who participated this summer as a member of the crew, and we’re talking to more colleges to try and encourage students to reply,” said Kylie Cornelius-Rees, projects manager.

Last week Media Wales interviewed Leyla Pope who directed Love Struck, the third film to be shown this month. Ali Blowden Jones wrote the script for Lovestruck, which is based on an old Welsh tale called Llyn y Fan Fach. In the original tale a beautiful lady living in a lake marries a young man from Blaen Sawdde, Llanddeusant. There is only one thing he must avoid, he must not strike her three times.

Ali and Leyla’s adaptation takes place in a school playground, placing the story of a young boy in love into a modern context. It captures the awkwardness of a first romance. Some parts are charmingly funny and others, which touch upon issues of bullying and loneliness, have a sadder tone.

The films are ten minutes long and will be available on BBC iPlayer until Dec 20.

John McGrath @ The Crunch Festival

John McGrath is the artistic director for National Theatre Wales. At the Crunch Festival he spoke about the history of the company and the work it has done so far.

National Theatre Wales was set up in 2009 and celebrated its first production in March 2010. From the beginning the company was inspired by two other theatre groups, National Theatre Scotland and Genedlaethol Cymru, the Welsh language national theatre.

It was National Theatre Scotland which developed the concept of a theatre without walls. Instead of building an actual theatre they performed everywhere and anywhere. This gave them flexibility, they were able to take their work to places that might have been neglected otherwise. It was the model which National Theatre Wales also opted for.

At the beginning McGrath and his team found it difficult to pinpoint what it meant to be a national theatre. In the end they decided the notion of place rather than nation was more appropriate. “We asked the question what does it mean to be here in this place together?” McGrath said. “That automatically opened up a different conversation. It didn’t assume who is or isn’t Welsh, it assumed that the people who gather in a place are of that place and maybe have something to share and learn from each other.”

The team was also inspired by the Welsh tradition of participatory performance and were keen to use this in some way. “There is a huge tradition in Wales of amateur performance, in the choirs, eisteddfords, in the Welsh language but also in places like the South Wales mining valleys where the miners learnt eveything from socialist theory to opera,” said John. “That tradition of art as something which you take place in is very deeply embedded in Wales”.

The end result of this discussion was a project called The Theatre Map of Wales. In one year through theatre McGrath and his team would map Wales. They put on 12 shows, a different show in a different place each month. And as a finale they produced a thirteenth performance, The Passion. This was staged in Port Talbot and starred Michael Sheen.

This 72 hour performance featured in the national press and helped to change the image of Port Talbot, seen by outsiders as heavily industrial and unattractive. The play began with a baptism scene in the sea and ended with more than 12,000 people standing round a roundabout watching the crucifixion. “They were watching partly because Michael Sheen is a famous Hollywood actor, partly because it was a fantastic performance and partly because over 1000 local people were characters in this show. People turned out to see people they knew perform, but as it continued they got caught up in the story,” said John.

During John’s talk he went through each project which National Theatre Wales undertook. Each show was fascinating in its own way. In Barmouth the company staged the story of a woman called June, who lost her husband in the second world war. In Bute Town, Cardiff, the audience was taken on a taxi ride and watched scenes from the play unravel on the street. And in Bridgend, a town with high rates of teenage suicides, the team worked with young people to perform a play staged in a local rock club.

On top of this National Theatre Wales has worked to create a community online, something which increases their outreach even further. “Getting to know communities is a challenge,” said John. “You need to spend time there, it was almost a year before some productions were produced. The online aspect was  really important to us because it means that anyone can join in discussions.” Details of next year’s performances are also online.

The Crunch Festival @ Hay on Wye

Yesterday I went to the Cruch Festival at Hay on Wye. Now that I’ve visited Hay on Wye I can’t wait to come back next summer for the town’s main literary festival.  I loved the atmosphere of the festival camp, there were lots of little tents dotted around and each one had a different smell or sound coming from it. I’ve made a short video to give you a snapshot of the day.

The first track is by gbauley.
The second track was recorded at the festival.


Storify is an online tool that lets you gather websites, tweets and pictures from across the internet and arrange them in one place. By doing this you can put your own version of events together.

I’ve had a look at what’s happening on the Welsh literary scene and created a storify to show this. You can usually embed your storify into your blog. Unfortunately in my case this changes the design of my blog.

Click here to see my work on the Storify website instead

Owen Sheers @ Cardiff Library

Owen Sheers is a novelist, poet, journalist and now a screenwriter. In 2008 he published Resistance, a story set in the place where he grew up, the Black Mountains of Abergavenny. Recently, with the help of director Amit Gupta, Owen turned Resistance into a film. This was the reason for his visit to Cardiff Library last week.

Resistance was orginally inspired by the auxiliary movement. Secretly formed during World War Two, this movement was Britain’s last defence. In the event of a German invasion civilian volunteers would hide underground and carry out acts of sabotage. This nightmare comes true in Resistance as German troops invade Britain. In the Welsh valley of Olchon Sarah Lewis, the protagonist, wakes up to find the men from the village are gone, including her husband.

The official trailer for the film

“I was always fascinated by the idea of these women waking up and going through a trajectory,” said Owen. “Perhaps they were initially proud of their husbands for being in this last ditch attempt, but then thought ‘oh you actually left us at the time of the invasion’. I’m fascinated by that sense of unknowing and ambiguity. Had the husbands only meant to go away for one night, or are they away because they are still fighting?”

During the men’s absence a German troop led by Albrecht Wolfram stations itself in the village. Winter falls and the village becomes shut off from the rest of the world. With nobody else to help them through the winter some women in the village become close to the Germans. But when the Spring comes this uneasy alliance causes problems.

In the book and the film we never see the men return, instead the topic of resistance is explored from a different, almost quieter, persepctive. “I was genuinely in the same position as the women, I don’t know what the men were doing either,” said Owen. “I did want to write an anti-war novel, but not by having my characters experience battle. I wanted to allow them to walk down the paths that this war had led them in the last five years and in doing so that would reflect on the war, without being in the heart of it.”

In detail: Owen talks about the film-making process

Working in the film world was a new experience for Owen. On the one hand the film’s small budget allowed Owen and the rest of the staff creative freedom. Without a big film company pressuring them they were able to make the film the way they wanted. But they also had less time to shoot. The film had to be made in 5 weeks, meaning that the crew were working a 6 day week. The screenplay for the film went through at least 8 drafts before it was ready.

“As a writer what’s interesting is setting yourself challenges,” he said. “When I tried to condense the story of Resistance onto 90 pages of script I found myself frequently engaging with the poet much more than the novelist. Poetry and cinema are much much closer than prose and film. It’s something about the condensed nature of the two forms, they’re both primarily visual and they’re both metaphoric.”

The decision to adapt Resistance began when Owen met Amit in New York. Now their film will be showing in just over 2 weeks, on November 25. “Before he went home I gave him the novel and said give me your honest opinion as a film maker,” said Owen. Amit read the novel on the plane and called him straight away to say yes. Now Owen has plans to work on another original screenplay with the producer Vaughan Sivell, as well as helping to adapt Welsh author Tiffany Murray’s novel, Diamond Star Halo, into a film.

In detail: Owen talks about the release of Resistance in cinemas