Welcome to our latest round-up of all things Dylan Thomas. We’ll be looking back at the second International Dylan Thomas Day in May, and at the award of the 2016 Dylan Thomas Prize. We’ll also look at exciting new acquisitions for Swansea University and the British Library, and at the launch of a major new Dylan Thomas website. The last few months has also seen Hollywood A-lister Jack Black portray Dylan Thomas on stage, and we’ll reflect on how Iggy Pop, Manic Street Preachers, and The Rock have quoted Dylan’s words.
2nd International Dylan Thomas Day
May 14th marked the second International Dylan Thomas Day, a day supported by the Welsh Government and Literature Wales to celebrate the life and work of Dylan Thomas. The day began with a spectacular recreation of the ‘Dylan Day’ logo by sand artist Marc Treanor on the beach at New Quay, Ceredigion, where Dylan lived for a time during the 1940s. You can watch a video of the creation of the artwork here. Events took place across Wales, and in England, Australia, Italy, USA, and Argentina. Fishguard in Pembrokeshire hosted a two-day Dylan Thomas festival, and there were guided walks in Cornwall.
In Swansea, Lighthouse Theatre recreated Dylan’s Return Journey and launched a new app of the walk. Newly acquired Dylan Thomas manuscripts were on public display for the first time at Swansea University, and the university’s new Great Hall was the venue for the 2016 Dylan Thomas Prize ceremony. In London, the British Library received a newly discovered memoir by Dylan’s Laugharne GP, and in the evening the Wheatsheaf Tavern in Fitzrovia was the venue for the launch of the paperback edition of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, edited by John Goodby. Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman was commissioned to write a Dylan Thomas inspired piece; watch here.
‘Dylan Day’ was very well supported on social media, with a three month build-up on Facebook and Twitter leading to #DylanDay trending in the UK on Twitter for much of the day. You can view some of the twitter highlights here.
Discover Dylan Thomas
A highlight of ‘Dylan Day’ was the launch of the new Dylan Thomas official website . The site is the brainchild of Dylan’s granddaughter Hannah Ellis, and is the official site for the family of Dylan Thomas and the Dylan Thomas literary estate. The new website explores Dylan’s life, work and places, and has links to comprehensive resources. A new logo (see above) for the website was designed by Royal Mint lead designed Lee R Jones, and this has been incorporated into the associated Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest pages.
2016 Dylan Thomas Prize
The winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize was announced as Max Porter, for his “extraordinary feat of imaginative prose”, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, published by Faber. The ceremony took place in the Great Hall at Swansea University’s new Bay Campus on May 14, International Dylan Thomas Day. Entries are now open for the 2017 prize.
Swansea University Acquisition
Swansea University was also the venue for an exhibition of newly acquired Dylan Thomas manuscripts. The working drafts of the poems ‘Unluckily for a Death’ and ‘Into her Lying Down Head’ were purchased by the University at Sotheby’s in New York, and went on show to the public for the first time. Actor Celyn Jones gave a fine reading at the launch of the exhibition on ‘Dylan Day’. The manuscripts will be housed in the University’s Richard Burton Archives alongside the ‘lost’ notebook that was acquired by the University in 2014.
A previously unknown memoir by Dylan’s Laugharne GP has been donated to the British Library. The 26-page memoir by Dr David Mendelssohn Hughes of Laugharne portrays Dylan as ‘shy and retiring’, but is more critical of Dylan’s wife Caitlin. The document came to light when former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams attended a college reunion. He recommended the documents be shown to leading Dylan Thomas authority Professor John Goodby who in turn arranged for them to be deposited at the British Library.
Actor Gareth Thomas, best known for his role as Blake in the 1970s BBC sci-fi drama Blake’s 7, died on April 13th at the age of 71. Thomas played Mog Edwards in Sir George Martin’s 1988 production of Under Milk Wood.
The author and former drug smuggler Howard Marks died on April 10th at the age of 70. One of his final projects was the recording of five Dylan Thomas poems to music; they were released on vinyl by O Genesis Records on National Record Store Day.
Carla Lane, the television writer known for successful sitcoms including The Liver Birds, Butterflies, and Bread, has died at the age of 87. Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was read at her funeral by former Brookside actor Dean Sullivan.
For information on forthcoming events please see our Events page.
The recent stage adaptation by Lucy Gough of Dylan’s unfinished novel Adventures in the Skin Trade has been published by Bloomsbury.
Roald Dahl: Wales of the Unexpected edited by Damian Walford Davies, and published by University of Wales Press, includes Walford Davies’ essay “Dahl and Dylan: Matilda, ‘In Country Sleep’ and Twentieth-century Topographies of Fear”.
Ugly, Lovely: Dylan’s Swansea, Laugharne and Llansteffan of the 1950s in Pictures is published by Parthian Books on November 1st. The book, edited by Hilly Janes, will feature photographs taken by Ethel Ross. It will also include Dylan’s little-know script Lunch at Mussolini’s, which has been in Ethel Ross’s possession for many years.
Volume Two of the Blackheath Counter Cultural Review is now out and includes Dylan Thomas related pieces by Jeff Towns and Mab Jones.
The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, edited by Professor John Goodby, was 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 due out from University of Wales Press later this year.
The illustrated maps of Dylan Thomas inspired walking trails that first appeared in Graffeg’s 2015 book A Dylan Odyssey have now been issued as sets of trail cards.
Dylan Thomas has his own section in Mark Rees’ The Little Book of Welsh Culture, published by The History Press.
As we are often asked for reading recommendations, we’ve recently drawn up a Dylan Thomas suggested reading list.
Radio, TV & Film
Gruff Rhys’ soundtrack to the 2014 Dylan Thomas film Set Fire To The Stars is released on vinyl, cd, and download, by Finders Keepers Records on September 30th.
Love Somehow, a short film about Caitlin Thomas, directed by Kate Cheeseman, has been released and is being screened at festivals. The film was adapted from the one-woman show The Same Boat by Phil Bowen, and was shot on location in Laugharne. It stars Sally George as Caitlin, and Gruff Rhys Jones as the voice of Dylan. Watch the promo and find more information here.
Newly released British film Golden Years opens with a quotation from Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle.
There is no positive news about an eventual release date for Dominion, the film shot in 2014 starring Rhys Ifans as Dylan Thomas. The imdb entry for the film shows a release date of 2016, but in an Evening Standard interview with co-star John Malkovich it was claimed that the film may never be released due to financial difficulties.
American singer-songwriter Darryl Purpose has included a Dylan Thomas inspired song on his latest album Still The Birds. The song, Prince of the Apple Towns, is the first single from the album and has an accompanying video.
Dylan watch on TV & Radio
On National Book Lovers Day (August 9th) the BBC tweeted a photograph of a young girl reading Under Milk Wood with the caption ‘How to get the kids into reading when they’d rather play #PokemonGo’.
The Thomas scripted propaganda film about the blitz on Coventry, A City Reborn, has been screened on Talking Pictures TV. The channel specializes in archive programmes and is available on freeview and other services.
The Royal Mail have installed a commemorative Dylan Thomas stamp plaque on the postbox that appears on the set of Pobol y Cwm.
Dylan’s Laugharne writing shed was a finalist in the Shed of the Year competition, and featured on the Channel 4 programme Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year.
Dylan featured in the BBC Radio 3 documentary An Explosion of Geraniums – The International Surrealist Exhibitionof 1936 presented by poet Ian McMillan.
John Goodby appeared on BBC Wales News talking about the newly discovered memoir of Dylan’s former GP.
The Dylan Thomas Sound Project were guests on the BBC Wales Wynne Evans show talking about their Dylan Thomas inspired music.
Horror and ghost story specialist radio show Fireside Mystery Theatre have produced a podcast of Dylan’s lesser know story The True Story.
In The Papers
The Telegraph and other papersreported on the newly discovered GP memoirs; The Guardian and other papers reported on the Dylan Thomas Prize; Hannah Ellis wrote about her grandfather for book industry website Bookbrunch; Tracey Thorn wrote about the Laugharne Weekend for the New Statesman; The Guardian‘s Joanna Moorhead reflected on the eightieth anniversary of the International Exhibition of Surrealism in her piece on the Scottish National Galleries’ Surreal Encounters Exhibition. The South Wales Evening Post reported on the trend for visitors to leave ‘gifts’ at Dylan’s grave at Laugharne, and the same paper also reported that Dylan’s former Mumbles drinking haunt The Antelope could re-open before the end of the year. The South Wales Evening Post also reported on a letter sent by former US President Jimmy Carter to fellow Dylan Thomas fans after they’d stayed at the Birthplace in Swansea. Jeff Towns’ Dylan’s book bus featured in The Guardian, and in GQ magazine’s list of cool things to do this summer.
Jack Black as Dylan
Hollywood A-lister Jack Black became the latest actor to portray Dylan when he joined other actors for a stage reading of Melissa Berton’s award-winning play ‘Dylan’ at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Read our blog post.
Iggy Pop doesn’t go gentle
Veteran rock legend Iggy Pop has recorded a reading of Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Watch the video here.
Manics pay tribute
The Manic Street Preachers displayed quotes from Dylan’s works at their recent gig at Swansea’s Liberty Statdium. Read our blog here.
John Cale & Michael Sheen
At Cardiff’s Festival of Voice actor Michael Sheen joined veteran rocker John Cale on stage to perform a reading of Dylan’s And Death Shall Have No Dominion.
Letters of our lives
A letter from Dylan to his wife Caitlin has been used as part of an appeal by the Royal Mail. The public have been asked to submit letters to ‘Letters of our lives’, a collection being made to mark the services’s 500th anniversary.
Two portraits of Dylan by the late Swansea-based artist Gordon Stuart are being restored for the first time in sixty years. The portraits are part of the extensive collection of Dylan Thomas material held by the University at Buffalo in New York.
Chelsea Hotel room
Plans have been announced to commemorate the site of Dylan’s former room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. The hotel has been closed for some time whilst refurbishments are taking place following changes of ownership.
A slate portrait of Richard Burton has been installed at it’s new permanent home, The Great Hall at Swansea University’s new Bay Campus. The portrait, by mosaic artist Ed Chapman, was unveiled by Burton’s daughter Kate.
The Rock not going gentle
The actor and wrestler Dwayne Johnson, who fights under the name ‘The Rock’, quoted Dylan’s Do Not Go Gentle on his Instagram feed. The post received over 640,000 likes. Johnson has over 65 million followers on Instagram.
Owen Luder’s Bookshelf
Leading British architect Owen Luder chose Under Milk Wood as one of the 5 books on his bookshelf for The Holborn Magazine.
“Dylan Thomas and Under Milk Wood was important as it is the play about Laugharne the Welsh town introduced to Owen by (wife) Jacqui and loved by both of them. Jacqui when visiting Laugharne with her mother in 1961 said one day she would own a cliff top house there. In 1995 Jacqui and Owen bought Craig-y-Don”.
Dylan Thomas made me want to be a writer
American novelist Jay McInerney told Literary Hub about the influence Dylan Thomas had on his writing aspirations.
“the first book that made me want to be a writer was the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas. I read “Fern Hill” in an anthology in eighth grade English class and I was knocked out by the musicality of Thomas’s language—and probably by the extravagance of the sentiment”.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl we’ve written a blog piece that looks at Dahl’s love for Dylan’s work.
Swansea Council poster
Swansea Council have paraphrased Dylan’s words to promote a Safer Swansea campaign to reduce noise. Thanks to Lizzie Marshall for the image.
DT American Poet Prize 2017
Swansea born poet Peter Thabit-Jones has been asked to co-judge the 2017 Dylan Thomas American Poet Prize.
A 1947 Michael Ayrton sketch of Dylan, ‘Dawn at Gravesend’, was offered with an estimate of £1500-£2500 at Modern Art Auctions of Scarborough ; a 1936 letter from Dylan to Elfriede Cameron was offered at Forum Auctions and fetched £2000, and a sketch by Dylan on Gargoyle Club headed paper was offered by Rogers Jones of Cardiff and made £1500.
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