Welcome to the winter 2018/2019 Dylan Thomas news round-up.
Fern Hill Memorial Stone
The newly restored Dylan Thomas memorial stone in Cwmdonkin Park was unveiled by artist Glenys Cour on November 9th, the 65th anniversary of Dylan’s death. The stone, which is inscribed with lines from Dylan’s Fern Hill, was designed by Dylan’s friend, the sculptor Ronald Cour, and was first unveiled on the tenth anniversary of Dylan’s death in 1963. Funding for the creation of the memorial came from Caedmon Records, the company founded by Barbara Holdridge and Marianne Rooney, who made the first recordings of Dylan reciting his own work. The restoration of the memorial was a joint venture between the Dylan Thomas Society, Heritage Lottery, the Dylan Thomas Birthplace, and the Friends of Cwmdonkin Park.
The annual wreath-laying at Poet’s Corner in Westminster abbey took place on November 17th and was once again very well attended. Prayers, readings, and music celebrated Dylan at the Abbey, before more relaxed celebrations continued at the Wheatsheaf in Fitzrovia.
Life in the UK Test
Facts about Dylan Thomas appear in the latest Life in the UK Test. Dylan is one of only three poets to be included, alongside Robert Burns and William Shakespeare. The test must be passed to satisfy one of the requirements for anyone seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK or naturalisation as a British citizen.
Dylan also ranks in the top ten most popular, and best known, poets in the UK according to statistics supplied by the global public opinion and data company YouGov. Find out more about how they calculate their results here.
Glynn Vivian Exhibitions
Dylan Thomas was at the forefront of recent exhibitions at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. Dylan Thomas: Music of Colour ran from September to February, and brought together work from the gallery’s own collection and the collection of the Dylan Thomas Centre, illuminating the relationships and dialogues between poetry and art. Artists and writers represented included Vernon Watkins, Alfred Janes and Dan Jones. Sir Peter Blake: Collages and Illustrations, which ran from December to January, was staged to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Friends of the Glynn Vivian, and included Sir Peter’s illustrations from Under Milk Wood.
Ballet Cymru ACCIW
Ballet Cymru toured with their new production Dylan Thomas – A Child’s Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs. The work is set to music by Cerys Matthews who also narrated the performance. Cerys performed live at some of the tour venues.
Professorships & Honorary Degrees
British pop artist Sir Peter Blake has been appointed a Professor of Practice by University of Wales Trinity St David. Sir Peter’s 30-year long project to illustrate Under Milk Wood has been on show at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea.
Welsh actress Gwenyth Petty, one of the very few surviving cast members from the 1954 BBC radio production of Under Milk Wood, has been awarded an honorary degree by Swansea University.
The President Tweets
Donald Trump included a phrase from Dylan’s Do No Go Gentle Into That Good Night in a tweet about US border security. It’s likely that President Trump was quoting from political commentator Patrick Buchanan’s CNSNEWS column where the same words were used.
November saw the death of leading Dylan Thomas biographer and writer Paul Ferris, at the age of 89. His 1977 biography of Dylan Thomas has been the standard work for many years and will have introduced many of us to the colourful life behind Dylan’s writing. Ferris went on to skilfully edit The Collected Letters of Dylan Thomas, shaping the rich treasure trove that has only recently been re-issued. He also wrote a biography of Caitlin Thomas, and his screenplay for the 1978 BBC television biopic of Dylan Thomas helped produce one of the finest on-screen portrayals of Thomas, by Ronald Lacey. Ferris was not just a Dylan Thomas specialist, his varied subjects for biographies included Sigmund Freud, Huw Wheldon and Richard Burton, and he wrote novels and non-fiction. He wrote for television, and served as radio critic at The Observer for thirty-five years. His most recent book Gower in History: Myth, People, Landscape was published in 2009. Paul Ferris set the standard for study of the life of Dylan Thomas and will be much missed.
Perry Miller Amato
American film maker Perry Miller Amato died in September, at the age of 97. Her directorial debut was the 1968 documentary Dylan Thomas – The World I Breathe, for which she was awarded an Emmy. She went on to become the first woman winner of the coveted Directors Guild of America Award, which she won for her 1977 documentary on Georgia O’Keeffe. Watch Miller Amato talking about her Dylan Thomas film here.
Robert Blythe, the prolific Port Talbot born actor perhaps best known for his role in the popular Welsh sitcom High Hopes, died in November, at the age of 71. Blythe played Dylan’s father in A Poet in New York (2014), and also had a part in the The Mouse and the Woman (1980) which is loosely based on Dylan’s short story of the same name. An accomplished theatre performer, he played Organ Morgan and Lord Cut Glass in the National Theatre’s 1995 production of Under Milk Wood.
Windsor Davies, perhaps best know for his role as Battery Sergeant Major Williams in BBC sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, died in January, at the age of 88. Born in Canning Town, London, he returned with his family to the Ogmore Valley in South Wales at the age of nine. He took up acting in his early thirties, making his stage debut in 1961. His West End debut was in the 1970 Mayfair Theatre production of Under Milk Wood, and he appeared in the same work the following year at Sadler’s Wells. His third appearance in the play was in Sir George Martin’s 1988 production which was released as an LP.
Reading Dylan Thomas, edited by Edward Allen, is a new collection of essays, described as ‘a distinctive combination of cultural history, close reading, and critical theory.’ Published in December 2018, by Edinburgh University Press.
Literary Landscapes: Charting the Worlds of Classic Literature includes a chapter on the landscapes of Dylan Thomas by Tony Earnshaw. Published by Modern Books in October.
A forthcoming title to look out for is America, Aeronwy, And Me: Dylan Thomas Tribute Tour by Peter Thabit Jones. An account of Peter’s 2008 reading tour with Dylan’s late daughter Aeronwy. Published by The Seventh Quarry Press, it’s expected in Spring 2019.
Professor John Goodby and PhD student Adrian Osbourne of Swansea University have announced that they have signed a contract with Bloomsbury for a book about Dylan’s recently discovered fifth poetry notebook. Expected in 2020.
Dylan Thomas specialist Jeff Towns has turned his attention to another poetic Thomas, and has edited Edward Thomas & Wales, a new title from Parthian. The book “offers a fascinating re-evaluation of Thomas’s writing. Bringing together for the first time the prose and poetry centred in Thomas’s ancestral land of Wales, it explores the `Welshness’ of Thomas’s work and of Thomas himself.” Edward Thomas was the subject of a 1949 broadcast by Dylan, and poems by Edward Thomas where included in some of Dylan’s recitals.
Dylan Thomas appears as a character in Alan Glynn’s latest novel Under The Night, and Tom Nancollas’ new history of the lighthouse Seashaken Houses: A Lighthouse History from Eddystone to Fastnet takes it’s title from Dylan’s poem Prologue.
Radio, TV & Film
The award winning short film adaptation of Dylan’s short story The Outing, directed by Cian Llewellyn, has a new website. The film also won further honours when it was awarded Best Short Comedy at the the Wales International Film Festival.
Dominion, starring Rhys Ifans as Dylan Thomas, has still not received a UK cinema release, and there have been no recent updates on any likely release.
Dylan Watch on TV & Radio
Episode 5 of the new BBC Wales TV comedy Tourist Trap, starring Sally Phillips, included a gentle dig at Dylan Thomas tourism. Dylan was mentioned in Radio 4’s Book of the Week adaptation of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, and he was mentioned again in the last episode of the Book of the Week adaptation of Sally Bayley’s Girl with Dove. Jeff Towns appeared on Cerys Matthews’ 6 Music show to discuss his new book on Edward Thomas, and the programme included a rare recording of Dylan discussing Edward Thomas.
The Ford Mustang advertisement featuring extracts from Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night that we mentioned in our last news round-up was subsequently banned by the Advertising Standards Agency for encouraging unsafe driving.
In the papers
Dylan’s Laugharne writing shed featured in an article on writer’s cribs in Paris Review, and a travel piece on walking in Dylan’s footsteps in Swansea was in The Guardian. The Times list of 50 best autumn days out suggested a visit to the Boathouse at Laugharne, and the same town featured as a Great British Break in the same newspaper. Former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell chose Under Milk Wood as part of his Culture Fix in The Times, and the same work was chosen by Australian writer Zoe Norton Lodge as one of the Books That Changed Me in the Sydney Morning Herald. Meanwhile The Scotsman reported that Dylan Thomas had made the top ten in a list of addresses inspired by great poets, and the San Diego Reader chose Especially When The October Wind as their Poem of the Month. The Daily Mail printed an extract from A Child’s Christmas in Wales in the run up to the festive season.
Dylan got a mention in an article about the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson in The Spectator, and in an article in the Irish Independent it was noted that Johnnie Depp ‘quotes Dylan Thomas.’ The Toronto Sun featured a travel piece on Dylan Thomas in Wales, and the New Yorker featured an article on literary pilgrims visiting the White Horse Tavern. The Daily Mail included Dylan’s Birthday Walk at Laugharne in their list of 10 Most Wonderful Winter Walks and the Irish Times included Dylan Thomas in an article about running mantras from literature. The Sun included Dylan’s And Death Shall Have No Dominion in a piece on Remembrance Day poems. The Guardian reviewed Northern Stage’s production of Under Milk Wood, and in the The Times ‘Supervet’ Noel Fitzpatrick revealed that he found solace from bullying in the work of Dylan Thomas. Former Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, paraphrased Dylan Thomas in a column on Brexit for Bloomberg Opinion, and on a considerably lighter note John Barrowman revealed to Hello Magazine that he owns a flat In London where ‘Dylan Thomas once lived’.
Swansea University PhD researcher Adrian Osbourne has written an interesting blog piece about the darker origins of Under Milk Wood.
Another interesting blog came from the Harry Ransom Center, who are currently in partnership with Swansea University to digitize their respective archives of Dylan Thomas material.
Rollie McKenna 100
The 100th anniversary of the birth of Rollie McKenna, the American photographer who took some of the most iconic images of Dylan’s later years, was celebrated on November 15th. An ongoing project to celebrate her work continued in her home base of Stonington, Connecticut.
Nicky Wire Exhibition
The first solo exhibition of art by the Manic Street Preachers’ Nicky Wire took place at Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, and included some Dylan Thomas inspired works.
Lin Manuel Miranda discovers Under Milk Wood
Award winning American actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was in Wales filming for the forthcoming BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, shared a heartfelt appreciation of Under Milk Wood on twitter. The creator of smash hit musical Hamilton tweeted “I read Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas this morning, between scenes at work. Now I feel like my soul has a belly full of soup. Gatdamn, (Wales). That’s one heluva writer you produced.”
Actor Edward Fox read A Child’s Christmas in Wales as part of a fundraising evening for the National Brain Appeal at St George’s Church in Queen’s Square, London.
Dylan Thomas Centre
The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund announced an award of £118,850 to the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea for a project to imaginatively interpret its collection in order to engage with young families. The centre will offer intercultural family learning activities on and off site, as well as a volunteer programme and training opportunities.
The Eli Jenkins pub in Cardiff, named for the character in Under Milk Wood, has reopened after a refurbishment.
In Swansea, a former favourite drinking haunt of Dylan’s had been revived as a new bar. Formerly a public house, The Three Lamps featured in his stories Old Garbo and Return Journey. Dylan and his words feature in a mural in the bar.
An update on the protracted and controversial refurbishment of the Hotel Chelsea in New York can be found here.
The 5th annual International Dylan Thomas Day will be celebrated on May 14th. Why not join one of the many events or find your own way to celebrate?
On May 16th the 2019 International Dylan Thomas Prize will be awarded at a ceremony at Swansea University.
For other forthcoming events visit the www.discoverdylanthomas.com website.
Andrew Dally – January 2019
Categories: Arts News