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NWR Issue 101

Good at Self-Deprecation? Not Really. Aime Williams at London Welsh Litfest

The London Welsh Centre on Gray’s Inn Road was a real find for me on Saturday, 5 October when I arrived to cover the Litfest’s ‘Wales, Bloomsbury & Beyond’ day. As I explored the place, one of the first things I found was the name of my hometown carved on the Eisteddfod chair perched above the door to the bar. I was later told it was brought to London by its owner, a drunk Welsh journalist, in 1962.

This was the final packed day of a three day festival London Welsh Litfest, although the previous two had been evening affairs. It seemed I’d already missed some great stuff on punk music, record shops, the history of NME.

The final day, then. First up was Huw Edwards, who good-naturedly exercised his audience over viewing figures for various news formats. We learned how ITV foolishly abandoned their 10pm slot to Greg Dyke and his BBC newscasters, and wondered why 80% of the public prefer broadcast media to print comes election time.

The second panel was a tricky one, with Ifor ap Glyn (pictured above, on right], Rhian E Jones, Jasper Rees and Peter Daniels musing aloud on ‘Welsh identity’. Some types of ‘Welsh’ were tentatively drawn (Welsh speakers, non-Welsh speakers, Northerners, Southerners, those from rural Wales, those from industrial Wales, etc). Is there one solid Welsh trait we can agree on? ‘We’re good at self-deprecation,’ offered Rhian. ‘Well, not really,’ Ifor shot back.

The upstairs bar had high ceilings and odd medieval lamp fittings, which I personally think is the perfect environment for some slam poetry. Luckily, that’s what was up next. It was a real shame that the audience dribbled away to listen to John Dawes and Owen Sheers talk about rugby at this point. I guess having too many good things to fit into a day is a nice problem to have, but it would be good if things didn’t have to overlap. But perhaps next year's attendance to the whole event will be higher, and this problem will vanish.

Martin Daws, Young People’s Laureate for Wales, was our strange beat-boxing presenter, and he delivered his poems fairly enthusiastically. Performing in a similar spirit was Aneirin Karadog, who had a Scarlets-themed poem I particularly liked. A close second was his rap about tea, ‘Paneidiwch’. Rufus Mufusa, meanwhile, performed a mixture of spoken word and song. Between songs we were treated to wacky and mostly incomprehensible references to Pinocchio, but the point of one story was that incomprehensible references to Pinocchio are good things, and only ‘dickheads’ think otherwise. Both Molly Naylor and Joe Dunthorne were more traditional ‘page’ poets, and took less to the rapping, singing, and beat-boxing of the other three.

The room filled again for story-telling: Mary Medlicott and her series of Aunt Mali. Mali, we learned, was prone to coincidences and quite liked hats.

The evening, for those with the strength to continue, saw a Dylan Thomas Centenary event, DT100, featuring Owen Sheers, Thomas’s granddaughter Hannah Ellis, and Thomas scholar John Goodby.

Perhaps next year they could grab a bank-holiday weekend.


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