ROUNDUP | FEBRUARY 2021
Things to do, things that have happened, things we think you should know about, all rounded up like a flock of event sheep.
This 35-year-old veteran of the arts festival scene had to steady the ship at short notice – with a lot of ship to steady – in 2020, but pulled it off with a successful week of livestreams and suchlike. Obliged to stick on this path for ‘21, this year’s Hay will run from Wed 26 May-Sun 6 June, with the full lineup to be announced in late April; some 200 names are promised, however, as well as focus on a variety of relevant anniversaries. The most recent – one year since George Floyd’s murder and subsequent protests – is to be considered in the form of a “festival conversation”; taking a longer view, 2021 also marks 300 years since the first British prime minister. An introduction for this edition of Hay is the Jan Morris lecture, a tribute to the pioneering writer who died last November.
Another flagship of the Welsh art landscape has also announced it’s ‘going virtual’ for now – fair warning, there’s a few more of these in this roundup still. The ninth edition of Artes Mundi, the UK’s largest contemporary international art prize, can be viewed online as of Mon 15 Mar, with the winner of this biennial award announced on Thurs 15 Apr. The six shortlisted artists [pictured, top] are Firelei Báez, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Meiro Koizumi, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Prabhakar Pachpute and Carrie Mae Weems; many of the aforementioned will be unveiling new work at the March opening. In due course, it will also be available to view in three Cardiff galleries – National Museum, Chapter and G39 – but opening dates are dependent on Wales’ return to Tier 2 restrictions.
Enjoying its 15th edition this year, Tafwyl aims to promote the Welsh language and its attendant culture through a programme of live music and other artforms. For 2021, the fest’ll be trebucheting themselves into its regular venue, Cardiff Castle, on Sat 15 May and doing its best to make you feel like you’re there with them; as well as bands and suchlike there’ll be literature, talks, kids’ activities and even catering (specifically, discounts on local foodie businesses you can order to your door). The lineup is currently TBC, but it’ll all be streamed via AM, the Welsh culture-centric app, which you can download here.
Beyond The Border, subtitled ‘Wales’ international storytelling festival’, is another biennial institution of the nation’s countryside. Most recently based at Dinefwr Castle in Carmarthenshire, next month it’ll be hosting the first of six Casglu, or ‘gathering’ sessions via its website. These sessions began last year, with the aim of having dedicated storytellers share and develop ideas online; this particular ones will serve as dialogue between Welsh storytellers and peers from Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. This has been partly facilitated by the British Council’s grant scheme, Working Internationally.
Writers On The Moon is an international project, devised by Astrobotic in partnership with NASA: literature is selected to be placed in a time capsule and sent to the moon as part of the Lunar CATALYST program, where they’ll be deposited forever, or until someone blows the moon up. A Newport writer named Des Mannay [left], informally known as the ‘Hooligan Poet’, is going to be among the chosen scribes – if you can’t see his name on the list in the link, it’s because he’s there as part of Elizabeth Wolf’s anthology, Persian Sugar In English Tea, with a Farsi translation (which you can listen to a reading of here) of his poem Stoned.
With frontman Mike Peters having already lit up February with a Love, Hope, Strength livestream concert (as reported in 10 Things To Do last month), north Wales rock ambassadors The Alarm have announced latest album WAЯ just days before its release on Fri 26 Feb. Furthermore, the band say that before the first week of 2021, WAЯ didn’t even exist as an idea, let alone a recording, but was written, taped and studio-polished with unusual haste, then pressed to vinyl by a fully analogue cutting house. Among the album’s 10 songs, whose titles suggest a war-based concept of sorts, is a cover of Massive Attack’s Safe From Harm featuring Skindred vocalist Benji Webbe.
Fri 26 Feb also sees the unveiling of LGBTQYMRU, a magazine from the people who organised the Welsh ‘Virtual Pride’ last July. Calling itself “free, fully bilingual, digital, queer and quarterly”, it’s edited by Bleddyn Harris and has additional ‘community editors’ in north, mid, south, west and south-east Wales. Familiar names among the contents of its inaugural issue [left] include Gareth Thomas, Ivor Novello, H from Steps and Nia Griffith.
Annual LGBT+ film festival, the Iris Prize, has been awarded a handsome £195,330 from the National Lottery Community Fund, and will put this grant into a Wales-wide project that carries on the work of a previous venture, Iris In The Community. Over three years, the plan is to create and launch short films looking at LGBT+-related issues in Wales, working with 10 community groups across the country and holding acting, filmmaking and scriptwriting workshops. Meanwhile, the next Iris Festival is scheduled for Tue 5-Sun 10 Oct, hopefully in person after 2020’s edition was another event condemned to video link.
Thirty-two-year-old athlete Rhys Jenkins is currently preparing for an epic endurance challenge to take place this summer, with the start date TBC but with a goal of completion in under 30 days. It will include not only a run from John O’Groats to Lands End, but the scaling of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales. Jenkins, who lives in Penarth, has previously broken records for running the Welsh coastal path – captured in a documentary, a trailer for which is here – and, as well as his own training, is also looking to crowdfund £10,000 for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, an anti-child abuse organisation.
Nathan Scott-Howe [pictured above], a Welshman normally found working at Cardiff’s New Theatre, has written and self-published his debut novel. Simply Charming is a retelling of Cinderella’s story from the perspective of Prince Charming; he first had the notion nearly a decade ago while living in Japan, and it’s influenced by his background at Disney, where he realised that the prince is afforded relatively little biographical detail in the various Cinderella iterations. So he decided to fill in the gaps, and this book is the result, with proceeds going to Great Ormond Street hospital and Macmillan Cancer Support.