After a quiet start to the year the build-up has begun to the second International Dylan Thomas Day on May 14. May will also see the publication in paperback of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, the award of the 2016 Dylan Thomas Prize, and the launch of a new Dylan Thomas website. As usual we’ve seen more examples of Dylan’s words inspiring artists, writers and programme makers. In March we said goodbye Sir George Martin, the legendary Beatles producer who produced a much-loved recording of Under Milk Wood in 1988.
2nd International Dylan Thomas Day
The second International Dylan Thomas Day takes place on Saturday May 14th. The day will be launched by sand artist Marc Treanor, who will create a Dylan Thomas inspired sand artwork on the beach at New Quay, Ceredigion. There will be events held in Swansea, Laugharne, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Wrexham, Cwmbran, London, Oxford, Cornwall, Bolton, Perth, New York, and elsewhere. The award ceremony for the 2016 Dylan Thomas Prize will also take place on the day, at the Great Hall on the new Swansea University Bay Campus; and this year the general public will be able to buy tickets for the ceremony for the first time. Dylan’s granddaughter Hannah Ellis will be launching the brand new official website about Dylan Thomas, www.discoverdylanthomas.com, and in Swansea, a new app based on Dylan’s Return Journey will be launched. In New York, rap artist Baba Brinkman will be writing and releasing an original rap inspired by Dylan, and the 92Y Poetry Center will be streaming the 2014 recording of Under Milk Wood directed by Michael Sheen. Dylan’s Great Poem, the competition for young people aged 7-25, returns. More information about the day can be found at www.literaturewales.org/dylan-day/ where the official poster and social media graphics can be downloaded. There is also an official Facebook page Dydd Dylan / Dylan Day, and Twitter feed @dydddylanday.
Dylan Thomas Prize
The long-list has been announced for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize. There will be a celebration of the shortlist at an event at London’s Southbank on May 12th, and the winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Swansea University Bay Campus as part of International Dylan Thomas Day on May 14th.
Sir George Martin
The music producer and composer Sir George Martin has died at the age of 90. Internationally known for his work with The Beatles, Sir George produced a much-admired recording of Dylan’s Under Milk Wood in 1988. The star-studded cast included Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Tom Jones, Dame Sian Phillips, Bonnie Tyler, and Sir Geraint Evans; and included music by Sir Elton John and Sir George himself. A one-off stage performance of the production was mounted for The Prince’s Trust to commemorate the opening in December 1992 of the new AIR Studios at Lyndhurst Hall. In his sleeve notes for the album Sir George described the painstaking and lengthy process of recording and mixing the album “Words had to be placed accurately and with the right ambience in the stereo picture along with the music and effects. They had to be right, nothing else would do. Under Milk Wood became a way of life, winter turning to spring and spring to summer.” Sir George could perhaps have been talking about himself when he said that Dylan Thomas was “constructing wonderful pictures for us to hear”. Sir George Martin, died March 9th 2016.
For information on forthcoming events please see our Events page.
The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, edited by Professor John Goodby, will be released in paperback by W&N on May 12th.
Discovering Dylan: a Companion to the Collected Poems and Notebook Poems of Dylan Thomas by Professor John Goodby is published by the University of Wales Press in May.
Dylan Thomas is one of six writers included in Katie Roiphe’s The Violet Hour : Great writers at the end, which is published by Virago on May 5th.
Also published in May is Dylan Thomas: The Country of the Spirit by Rushworth M. Kidder. Published by Princeton University Press; originally published in 1973.
Burton at the BBC is a recent CD issue by BBC Worldwide. It features extracts of some of Burton’s recordings for the BBC including Under Milk Wood and an interview where Burton talks about Dylan.
Dylan’s Laugharne writing shed is set to feature in 50 Buildings That Built Wales, which is published by Graffeg in May. The book will feature fifty buildings and structures that have helped to create the Wales we know today. Written by architectural historian Greg Stevenson, with images by acclaimed photographer David Wilson.
Radio, TV & Film
Dylan & the Drowing of Capel Celyn by composer Michael Stimpson includes a song cycle for baritone and harp inspired by the life of Dylan Thomas. The album has been released on CD by Stone Records.
As we mentioned in our review of 2015, the complete soundtrack of the new film version of Under Milk Wood is now available on CD.
The Swansea based theatre group Lighthouse Theatre have recorded Dylan’s Return Journey as an audio download. An app will be launched on International Dylan Thomas Day.
Gruff Rhys’s soundtrack for Set Fire To The Stars was long-listed for an Oscar nomination; sadly it didn’t make it to the shortlist.
Recordings of Howard Marks reading Dylan Thomas poems to music will be issued on green vinyl by O Genesis for Record Store Day 2016 (April 16th).
John Hurt is set to star as a screenwriter facing death in the drama That Good Night, based on the 1996 stage play by N J Crisp. The title is inspired by Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
The album recording of Under Milk Wood, produced by the late Sir George Martin in 1988 with Anthony Hopkins as First Voice, has been re-released on CD.
Dylan watch on TV & Radio
BBC Two Wales broadcast the 2014 BBC adaptation of Under Milk Wood on St David’s Day.
BBC Radio 3 broadcast a live recording of Dylan’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, with narration by Richard Harrington, and songs by the BBC Singers.
There were Dylan Thomas related questions on Radio 4’s Round Britain Quiz and Brain of Britain, and Dylan’s words were quoted in the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Reluctant Persuaders.
Huw Thomas reported on the Pablo Star vs Welsh Government copyright case from Dublin for BBC Wales News.
Bishop Richard Holloway quoted Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle in his reflective look back on his life for BBC Radio 4’s Letting Go programme.
The Italian writer and creator of TV’s Montalbano, Andrea Camillera, told a touching anecdote in a documentary screened on BBC Four, about receiving the gift from his wife of two copies, 60 years apart, of Dylan’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.
A contestant named Dylan Thomas on the BBC reality show The Voice told the judges that he was named after Bob Dylan. Some kind of circularity going on there!
In The Papers
The Sunday Times and Irish Times both reported on legal actions brought by Pablo Star relating to the use of images of Dylan Thomas. The copyright case brought against the Welsh Government, and the defamation case against Gwen Watkins, were both dismissed by the judge presiding in the Dublin’s Circuit Court. The BBC News website also reported on the cases.
Dylan Thomas was mentioned in Sir Peter Blake’s interviews with both the Big Issue & the New York Times, and Irish writer Kevin Barry discussed the influence of Under Milk Wood in an interview in The Atlantic. Actress and theatre director Jill Freud recalled Dylan sleeping on her floor one night in an interview in The Telegraph, and an article in The Independent mentioned how the screenwriter Andrew Davies identified with Dylan Thomas. Australian writer Megan Jacobson included Under Milk Wood in a list of ‘Books that changed me’ in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale talked about how he turned to the work of Dylan Thomas during a period of creative confusion. “So I started thinking about where I started, in Wales, and I went back to Dylan Thomas and started writing songs about Dylan Thomas. I was trying to figure out where in my background I got lost”.
Novelist Matt Haig included Dylan’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales on his list of the Top 10 Christmas Books for The Guardian, and Dylan Thomas featured in an article on the best of Welsh writing published in the Irish Times for St David’s Day.
Archive footage of US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders reciting Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night has turned up on Youtube. “It’s very moving” Sanders said, “it’s human beings rebelling, in a sense. Standing up. Fighting death. Fighting the elements whatever it may be.” US Vice President Joe Biden quoted from the same poem during the Presidential campaign in 2012.
US novelist Don DeLillo paid tribute to the oldest books in his collection, including Dylan’s Adventures in the Skin Trade, when receiving the medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, at the National Book Awards. “Here, I am not the writer at all, I am the grateful reader” said DeLillo.
Richard Davies memorial
A memorial service will be held for actor Richard Davies at the Actor’s Church, Covent Garden, on March 18th (4pm). He featured in a number of stage and screen productions of Dylan Thomas’ work including playing Mr Pritchard in the 1972 film version of Under Milk Wood. He was a fan of Dylan’s work and had visited the Boathouse.
This Raging Light
The title of Estelle Laure’s debut novel This Raging Light was inspired by Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. She told Shelf Awareness “I think I’ve known that poem since I was about 15. Even though the poem is about other things, I sort of appropriated it. Whenever I was in a difficult position, I would just think, ‘You have to rage, you have to rage, you have to rage through.'”
Dylan’s words have been used by London based Secret Cinema to promote screenings of the Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later. Words from Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night were projected onto a London tower block.
Half Moon, Herne Hill
The Half Moon pub in Herne Hill is to re-open this summer, having been closed since 2013. Dylan used to drink in the pub which is opposite Milkwood Road, a coincidence that has led to speculation that it might have provided inspiration for the title of his most famous work.
Some news from the auction rooms. A Dylan Thomas letter (to Leslie Collier) fetched $1800 at Spinks of New York ; a BBC Under Milk Wood script fetched £220 at Bellmans, and Rogers Jones’ Welsh sale included a number of Dylan Thomas related items including a series of CELs from the 1992 animation of Under Milk Wood.
Paul Abbott on Tony Warren
Paul Abbott writing in The Guardian likened the late Tony Warren’s writing in Coronation Street to Dylan’s Under Milk Wood. “When you listen to the rhythm of the speeches, Ena Sharples talking about the price of stamps for example, it’s like an Under Milk Wood performance rattled out by a gallant fishwife.”