By Lleucu Siencyn
From rap to apps, the Literature Wales boss is looking forward to the diverse range of events going on this year to commemorate the Swansea poet.
Dylan and Caitlin in a New York bar, with Rose and Dave Slivka…
It’s sometimes difficult to think of a place without imagining the writer. What would Stratford-upon-Avon be without Shakespeare, or Grasmere without Wordsworth?
In Dylan Thomas’ centenary year, many places will resonate with his memory. Swansea was his birthplace, that could (and should?) have been the 2017 UK City of Culture. That honor, as we know, went to Hull. However, Swansea City Council, and many of the city’s varied arts organizations, will communicate a new-found confidence in its cultural and tourism provision in 2014…all in the name of Dylan.
The other significant place in Dylan’s life is Laugharne, a beautiful, quirky village outside Carmarthen, which hosts one of the coolest literary festivals in the UK. I also hope New Quay and the Aeron Valley will get a boost this year. New Quay — a place full of stories and scandals — inspired Under Milk Wood, and is well worth a visit.
Then there’s Greenwich Village, the liberal, left-wing, bohemian heart of Manhattan. The latest Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis, follows the life of a fictional musician as he unsuccessfully tries to make his mark in the Greenwich Village scene of the early 1960s.
Many people have referenced Bob Dylan, and some have remarked on the Welsh-sounding name of the eponymous hero. Watching the film, it’s easy to imagine the Village a decade before — when our Dylan held court there — and was one of the stars of the growing bohemian poetry scene.
This month, the Welsh Government is hosting celebratory events in New York as part of the international program for Dylan Thomas 100. One of the highlights will be a walking tour of Greenwich Village—visiting some of the locations significant to Dylan.
The original tour was co-written by poet Peter Thabit Jones and the late Aeronwy Thomas, Dylan’s daughter. It has recently been updated and has just been published as a pocket book in the USA entitled “The Seventh Quarry”, with a foreword by Dylan’s granddaughter, Hannah Ellis.
Literature Wales has collaborated with the British Council to create an app based on the tour, which will be available to download free of charge this year to all residents and tourists in New York. So if you’re heading to Manhattan this year, make sure you find time to do the tour.
You’ll find yourself outside the beautiful church where his memorial service was held four days after his death in 1953, outside the apartment of great American poet, and Dylan’s good friend, e.e. cummings.
If you can’t make it to New York this year, don’t worry…Literature Wales is bringing New York to Wales, via the electrifying new cross-media show Dylan Live, a fusion of jazz, beat poetry, hip hop and spoken word.
The bilingual 60-minute performance, funded by the Welsh Government’s Department of Education and Skills, attempts to trace the origin of hip hop back to Dylan’s visit to New York in 1952. During his visit, New York was witnessing a revolution in music with musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and others forging the style known as Be-Bop.
This was the music that inspired New York’s hip-hop movement. In 1952 Dylan recorded his poetry for the first time onto vinyl, which was released in America by Caedmon Records. No one was recording poetry before him, so did rap start with our man in America?
In the show, professor and jazz musician, Daniel Williams, offers an interpretation on Dylan’s significant influence on American music. The thought-provoking lecture will be interrupted by contemporary rap, spoken word and jazz performances by some of Wales’ leading musicians and poets, including poets, Martin Daws, Aneirin Karadog and Zaru Jonson, jazz musician Huw V Williams and hip-hop artist Ed Holden.
They’ve all been influenced by Dylan in some way or another.
An exclusive film by Ewan Morris Jones will also provide a breathtaking visual backdrop to the show.
So whether you visit his house in Cwmdonkin Drive, rub shoulders with celebrities in Laugharne, marvel at the beauty of the Ceredigion coast, or hang out in Greenwich Village; this is the year when you’ll see Dylan everywhere.