To Wales and back

It’s not often that something totally meets, and exceeds, your expectations.

I went to Hwyl on St David’s Day yesterday, run by the Green Man Festival it was held at Cecil Sharp House in Camden Town. It was a day of literature and music and was a celebration of Welsh culture.

I’m not often one for such events because I get a bit worried I’ll be tarred and feathered as an Englishman at the door, but these fears were allayed when a text from my Dad revealed that my Great-Grandfather was Welsh…I thought I felt an odd sense of belonging amongst these incredibly friendly and boisterous people.

I saw the poet Mab Jones perform a selection of her very fine comedy poems, and despite warnings of language of the fouler variety the parents in the room decided to keep their children in the room. We weathered the odd flurry of language very well as an audience and Mab, with her extremely unique and charming manner, enthralled us with whimsy to mask the seriousness of her message. She took women’s rights, nationhood and self-confidence by the scruff and insisted we listened.

The Gentle Good illuminated the day further with some absolutely epic tracks from their album The Gentle Good + Y Bardd Anfarwol which follows the story of Li Bai, a Chinese poet from the Tang dynasty and is sung in Welsh. I’ve never heard Welsh sung, beyond a Super Furry Animals track, and it really does bring something special. The beauty of music in a different language is that you can let the words flow over you and carry you on their journey. It was exceptional and I bought the album which I’ve now listened to and wholeheartedly recommend.

The highlight of the running order for me was writer Rachel Trezise who I consider very much to be the voice of the disenfranchised in Britain, and obviously Wales from where she hails, today. I first came across her book Dial M For Merthyr many moons since and have followed her work since. She does an excellent line in majestic short stories which don’t just speak to you but rather grab you and scream in your face and tell you to take a look around at the world and to consider your place and what you can do to better your situation and that of those near.

As I am a fan of spoken word artists it is also easy to understand why I was thoroughly excited to see Joe Dunthorne, writer of Submarine, read some of his stories. His first was an adventure piece where the audience dictated what came next, and the second was an uncomfortably thrilling and grounding piece about a band that got a new drummer.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mab, Gareth (The Gentle Good), Rachel and Joe during the day and to a person they were encouraging, kind and positive people who very much pulled up a seat at the table for this writer and I can only thank them.

Now, go check out:

Mab Jones

Rachel Trezise

The Gentle Good

Joe Dunthorne

and the delightful The Dylan Thomas Guy with their words on wheels bookshop.

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