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DO NOT GO GENTLE FESTIVAL | LIVE REVIEW

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Do Not Go Gentle

DO NOT GO GENTLE FESTIVAL | LIVE REVIEW

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Various venues, Swansea, Fri 3 – Sat 4 Nov

Any festival which “aims to be the kind of celebration of the arts that Dylan Thomas himself would have enjoyed” is holding the bar either very high indeed – and/or, extremely low, accessible, and with many drinks available, as Thomas would have liked his bar, presumably. The venues involved with Do Not Go Gentle are therefore suitably well-liquored, offering every spirit, good wines, strong ales, cocktails, and even tea – although venue The Last Resort did not actually serve this, but the barmaid, understanding this writer’s need for a brew made one in her own cup, free of charge. This, then, is the spirit of Do Not Go Gentle – raucous, perhaps; riotous, at times; but basically good and decent, as shy poet Dylan himself was, I reckon. This is a festival with heart as well as art.

I see many people I know here, which adds to the chumminess of proceedings. We wear our wristbands with a sense of belonging and an endless series of half-smiled ‘hellos’ to friends and familiar strangers as we march up and down High Street and Wind Street, between venues The Last Resort, Cinema & Co., Unit Nineteen, The No Sign Bar, and back again.

Some of the acts are familiar to me, but many are not, and it’s that balance between providing support and a platform to local artists, and an influx of fresh voices, outlooks, and energy, which I and many others find appealing. And so, alongside South Wales musicians Junior Bill, Jemma Krysa, and Joe Bayliss, and poets such as Susie Wild, Emily Blewitt,  and Peter Finch, are guests like Attila the Stockbroker, Luke Wright, and Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer. These latter three are also poets, and it’s that focus on poetry, particularly poetry in performance, which I think Dylan would have loved and lauded.

Of the poetry, there are group sessions with Poets on the Hill and Uplands Poetry Collective, as well as solo readings from the touchingly honest Oliver James Lomax and, my personal festival favourite, the clever, wry, and humorously self-mocking Brian Bilston.

Do Not Go Gentle 2

As always, there is some fantastic music at DNGG. I enjoy Adwaith’s set very much, their song Lipstick Coch staying with me for some time after their set is done; Rufus Mufasa, too, provides a poetry and words spectacular, with loop pedal effects and powerful vocals, which both myself and the crowd cannot help but be impressed by. Adwaith recently did a session at Maida Vale, they tell us, whilst Rufus, on the same evening as her set, is featured on Adam Walton’s show on BBC Radio Wales – two facts which show that this is a festival with its finger firmly on the arts and culture pulse.

There is also comedy at DNGG, this time from Tony Law, who I have seen and enjoyed countless times, and the renowned Phil Kay; plus political satire in the form of Francesca Martinez’s ‘Brexit Britain’. Several of the poets and musicians, in fact, played or recited work with a political stance, and this, again, confirmed me just how vital the arts (and this festival) can be in giving space for the expression of anger, unrest, and defiance.

Unsurprisingly, then, Do Not Go Gentle is an annual arts and culture festival which resolutely refuses to do as its name suggests; and, as I drink the last of many beers at the end of the second evening, I can feel the ghost of Dylan himself nodding his curly-haired approval of it all.

words MAB JONES

photos SWANSEA 2021

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