Welcome to the summer 2018 Dylan Thomas news round-up.
Portrait purchased by National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery has acquired a portrait of the young Dylan Thomas by Augustus John. The painting, one of two portraits of Dylan completed by John, has been on long-term loan at the gallery, but has now been purchased with the help of charitable funds, for £214,750. The other John portrait is part of the National Museum of Wales collection. The painting will go on loan to Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in 2019, as part of the NPG’s Coming Home project, which will see 50 portraits from the national collection travelling to places they are most associated with. At the Glynn Vivian the portrait will be displayed beside Augustus John’s portrait of Caitlin Thomas.
A landmark joint project between the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, and Swansea University, to digitize their extensive archives of Dylan Thomas material and make it available for study, was announced at a dinner in March hosted by Swansea University and attended by Secretary Hillary Clinton. At the dinner, Professor Richard B Davies, President and Vice Chancellor of Swansea University said: “As well as making available to academics a previously unexplored view into the life and creative process of Dylan Thomas, this ambitious project will make the archives in Texas and Swansea available globally, helping inspire a love of literature through the power and passion of his words.”
International Dylan Thomas Prize
Zambian-born British poet Kayo Chingonyi was awarded the 2018 International Dylan Thomas Prize for his debut collection Kumukanda. Prize chair Dai Smith CBE said: “Kayo Chingonyi has an original and distinctive voice and this collection, mature and moving, shows a young poet mastering form in various ways to reveal content which is both personal and immensely relevant to the social dilemmas of Britain today”. The prize was awarded at Swansea University’s Bay Campus on May 11th.
Swansea University continued with their DylanEd education programme, which aims to give a creative voice to young people by taking Dylan Thomas and talented young writers into schools and communities. Follow the links to find out more about the winners of the Book Review Competition and the Primary Schools Competition.
International Dylan Thomas Day
The fourth International Dylan Thomas Day was marked on May 14th. Despite this being the first year without Welsh Government funding, over 50 events took place across Wales, the UK and beyond, with international events in India, France, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Poland, and the United States. Dylan’s granddaughter Hannah Ellis took a leading role in promoting the day, with the www.discoverdylanthomas.com website acting as a hub for the various events and activities. Poet Mab Jones devised and coordinated the World’s Longest Love Poem as part of the build-up to the day, receiving 100s of entries from across the globe. Once again social media celebrated the day enthusiastically, with the hashtag #DylanDay trending in the Uk for the 4th year in a row. Andrew Dally coordinated social media activities on behalf of the Dylan Thomas Estate.
After many calls over the years for an annual day of celebration for Dylan Thomas, it seems ‘Dylan Day’ has been well established and looks likely to continue on into the future. Perhaps the only black cloud on the horizon is the lack of funding which has meant much of the work of coordinating and promoting the day is being done on a voluntary basis, and it’s perhaps not realistic for this goodwill to continue indefinitely.
Discovering Dylan Thomas project
A joint project between Pen Y Bryn School in Swansea and St Mary’s Primary School in Llanelli has seen pupils taking an in-depth look at the life and work of Dylan Thomas. The pupils visited places associated with Dylan, and interviewed people associated with his legacy. The project culminated in the production of a documentary, narrated by Cerys Matthews, that was premiered at the Dylan Thomas Theatre on July 11th. The excellent documentary can be seen on Youtube. A free eBook has also been created which can be downloaded here.
Congratulations to the pupils and teachers for such an inspiring project.
Clive Woosnam, a former President of the Dylan Thomas Society of Australia, and passionate Dylan Thomas enthusiast, died on July 27th after a battle with cancer. He is fondly remembered on the Dylan Thomas Society of Australia website.
Actress and writer Helen Griffin died on June 29th, at the age of 59. She performed in a highly-acclaimed one-woman show as Caitlin Thomas, and played Mrs Willy Nilly in the 2015 big screen adaptation of Under Milk Wood directed by Kevin Allen.
Michael Rush, a trustee of the Dylan Thomas Trust, died in February at the age of 80. He was appointed as a trustee by Dylan’s solicitor Stuart Thomas, and had served in the role for many years.
The Three Lives of Dylan Thomas by Hilly Janes has now been published in paperback by Parthian.
Andrew Sinclair, who directed the 1972 big screen adaptation of Under Milk Wood, and has worked on a number of Dylan Thomas related books and projects, has published a new memoir. Storytelling: A Sort of Memoir is published by Ashgrove Publishing.
The forthcoming Literary Landscapes: Charting the Worlds of Classic Literature includes a chapter on the landscapes of Dylan Thomas by Tony Earnshaw. It will be published by Modern Books in October.
Radio, TV & Film
That Good Night, featuring the last film role for the late John Hurt, opened in UK cinemas on May 11th. The film was adapted from the play of the same name by N J Crisp with the title inspired by Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Hurt recorded a reading the poem for the film.
Dominion, starring Rhys Ifans as Dylan Thomas, has still not received a UK cinema release, and future prospects seem frustratingly uncertain. The film was reviewed in Variety.
In Bookclub, directed by Bill Holderman, Jane Fonda’s character quotes Dylan Thomas.
Feature length documentary Into the Night features a recording of Gabriel Byrne reciting Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
Manic Street Preachers have released their track Dylan & Caitlin as a single (featuring The Anchoress). Watch the video.
Poet and rapper Rufus Mufasa‘s album Fur Coats from the Lion’s Den features a Dylan Thomas inspired track, Daughters of Dylan. Read more about the track on the http://www.discoverdylanthomas.com blog.
American rock band Wax Idols found inspiration from Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night for their song Dream.
Dylan Watch on TV & Radio
Michael Portillo visited the Dylan Thomas Birthplace as part of his visit to Swansea on BBC Two’s Great British Railway Journeys, as did the author Will Self, for his Great British Bus Journeys on Radio 4. Black Country poet Liz Berry chose the opening to Under Milk Wood for her appearance on Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Dylan made two more appearances on Radio 4’s Desert Islands Discs, when David Baddiel chose Do Not Go Gentle, and radio critic Gillian Reynolds chose Richard Burton narrating the opening to Under Milk Wood. On Radio 4’s With Great Pleasure, one of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s selections was a reading of Fern Hill by Richard Burton, and comedian Elis James chose Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog for his appearance on Radio 4’s A Good Read.
On Radio 4’s Rhyme and Chime for a Chair, T James Jones discussed the influence of the Welsh language craft of Cynghanedd on Dylan’s poetry. In the edition of Radio 4’s Great Lives that featured Jim Moir discussing Captain Beefheart, an archive recording was played that heard Beefheart calling Dylan Thomas a ‘great poet’. An episode of Radio 4’s Ramblings, presented by Clare Balding, featured a walk in Laugharne that passed the writing shed and Boathouse. On Radio 2’s A Long Walk With, James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers met with Janice Long and discussed the Manic’s recent track Dylan & Caitlin.
Following the departure of character Pat Phelan in a big story on Coronation Street, actor Connor McIntyre quoted Dylan’s words in a valedictory tweet.
In the papers
The Times chose The Peaches as one of it’s 100 Best Short Stories , and in the same paper Sir Peter Blake chose Dylan as his favourite author in My Culture Fix. Dylan’s Over Sir John’s Hill was Poem of the Week in The TLS. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night made The Guardian‘s top 10 elegies list, and in the same paper Australian journalist Martin Flanagan said that Under Milk Wood was one of the two books he was reading whilst he was writing his latest book A Wink from the Universe.
Musician St Vincent selected Dylan’s Collected Poems as one of her favourite books in the NME, and in the Gentleman’s Journal Jasper Conran chose Under Milk Wood as one of the books that have inspired his work and life. Novelist and former soldier Kevin Powers nominated Dylan’s Collected Poems as one of the books that saved him in What Kept Me From Killing Myself in the New York Times.
In an interview for The Cornell Daily Sun, Art Garfunkel revealed that he listens to Dylan Thomas on his iPod. Dylan’s former home The Manor House at South Leigh was featured in Country Living magazine. Nariman Massoumi’s article on Dylan’s visit to Iran in Underline Magazine can be downloaded here. Dylan featured prominently in a travel article on Swansea in The Sun.
Under Milk Wood in Athens
An open-air production of Under Milk Wood, translated into Greek by Dimitra Siouka, was staged over three nights in Athens in July.
Famous Visitors to the Boathouse
Recent visitors to the Boathouse at Laugharne have included actors Michael Sheen and Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza Poldark).
Hay Bookstagram Festival
Jeff Towns, the Dylan Thomas collector, antiquarian bookseller, and former chair of the Dylan Thomas Society, was given the honour of delivering the inaugural Richard Booth Lecture at this year’s Hay Bookstagram Festival. You can follow the Hay Bookstagram on Instagram.
Old Vic 200 reading
As part of the Old Vic at 200 celebrations, Sophie Melville recorded a reading from Under Milk Wood. The first complete UK stage reading of the play had taken place at the Old Vic in 1954, in a production starring Richard Burton, Emlyn Williams, Sybil Thorndike, and Rachel Roberts.
The recently re-opened Half Moon in Herne Hill, where Dylan drank after watching London Welsh play rugby, has been named best pub in Greater London in the National Pub and Bar Awards. Another recently re-opened haunt of Dylan’s, The Fitzroy Tavern in Fitzrovia, has won Camra’s Pub Design refurbishment award. The fate of the currently closed Dolau Inn in New Quay is still unclear. Plans to turn the pub, known as a favourite of Caitlin’s, into a residential unit seem to have been replaced with plans to re-open it as a hotel. Hotel room doors from the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where Dylan fell into his fatal illness, have been put up for auction. The door to room 205, where Dylan was staying on his final trip, was not part of the sale. ‘Early 2019’ is the latest estimate given for the re-opening of the Chelsea Hotel, which has been closed for renovation since 2011.
Fred Perry inspiration
Dylan Thomas and Swansea are perhaps unlikely inspirations for a new clothing range from Fred Perry. The range, designed by London-based street skater and model Blondey McCoy, takes it’s inspiration from Dylan’s early poem Sometimes The Sky’s Too Bright. The launch featured a campaign shot in Swansea.
Josh Brolin Podcast
Holywood actor Josh Brolin recited Dylan’s In My Craft and Sullen Art as part of a podcast for WTF with Mark Maron (from 1:42:48).
September sees a day of celebration for Dylan’s childhood friend, the composer, Daniel Jones. Events take place at The Hyst in Swansea on September 23rd.
The annual wreath-laying service for Dylan at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey takes place on November 17th.
A highlight of the coming winter is a new Ballet Cymru touring production, A Child’s Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs by Dylan Thomas, with music by Cerys Matthews.
For other forthcoming events visit the www.discoverdylanthomas.com website.
And don’t forget it’s never too early to start planning for the 5th annual International Dylan Thomas Day on May 14th 2019!
Categories: Arts News