Monday, 31 January 2011



Butetown, Fri 28 Jan 
Wales Millennium Centre: the space is in a nocturnal semi-darkness. We are ushered through customs and immigration, provided with boarding passes and sent on to have our identity photographs taken by stern staff who scold us for impertinence, stating: ‘No scarves. No smiles. Control yourselves.’ Suitably dressed down, we depart Glanfa Hall for our “ships” following announcements over the tannoy. Outside we pass characters singing by an oil drum – ‘sitting on the dock of the TIGER bay…’ – to join the fleet of taxis waiting to take us on our onward journeys through Butetown and its history.
Accompanied by friends and strangers, our taxi drivers deliver us the next and best chapter of the story as they chauffer us through the sights and streets of Butetown. The site-specific theatre happens both inside and outside the cab. Inside, the narrative unfolds like a radio play: A Yorkshire man called John is sent on a wild goose chase whilst looking for his birth father whom he has never met. Outside, illuminated scenes from both 1940s Tiger Bay and the radio story come to life amidst a modern day Butetown reality. We hear of the close-knit mix of multi-racial communities – the Welsh, the Somalis, the Yeminis and Greeks that all orginally inhabited the area – where everyone knew each other and each other’s business. It is shown in stark contrast to the modern state of affairs – Butetown divided, a mosaic community split up, bulldozed over or hidden away behind new flats and the concrete promenade of Lloyd George Avenue. It is a poignant piece, reminding us of the stark contrast of colourful old Tiger Bay and commercial Cardiff Bay today, but also pointing fingers at a larger social problem; that of disappearing communities and disconnection.
Outside the taxi cab, teenage boys shoot dice on the pavement, mothers push prams and gossip, and an unwitting public also become characters in this moveable stage. As our enjoyable visual and aural feast of a taxi ride comes to an end we discover that John’s father, affectionately nicknamed Old Tiger Bay, has died. We arrive at the Coal Exchange for the wake. A young couple hug each of us enthusiastically as we enter and thank us for coming. The vicar hands us a copy of a letter that John’s father had written to his son. The audience is then left to wander around aimlessly, a little lost, as we wait (and wait and wait) for the rest of the staggered taxi journeys to finish and for their passengers to disembark; the earlier momentum of the show having petered out before we even have chance to send off Old Tiger Bay with music ranging from divas to dancehall.
The writers have done their research: The stories used in The Soul Exchange are based on stories and characters collated from local residents, while members of the local community have volunteered to play minor roles from Welsh nans to immigration officers. On community involvement the project scores highly but in the use of amateurs its production strengths weaken. At the end of the show, in the hall of the Coal Exchange, the audience and cast join together to attempt to dance The Butetown Slide in rhythm. Unfortunately, much like the disparate parts of the rest of the show, while NTW may congratulate itself in briefly reconnecting the community, creatively the whole never quite manages to get back in step.

BYT: 'writers of this calibre'

'writers of this calibre'

Planet Magazine has reviewed the Bright Young Things titles in their brand spanking new edition (no.201). Harri Roberts had this to say about the books...
On Tim Albin's shiny shiny cover designs:
They say never judge a book by its cover but... 'it's hard not to comment on the stylish and attractive manner in which these titles have been packaged.'

On Tyler Keevil's debut novel Fireball:
'Indeed, in all respects, this is a truly accomplished novel: funny, gripping and touching in turns, with a conclusion that continues to resonate long after the book is over. Keevil's skill as an author is everywhere evident: in the quirky dialogue, the lucid prose, and the skilful interweaving of multiple and non-linear narrative strands. This is clearly a novelist to be reckoned with.'

On Susie Wild's debut collection of short stories The Art of Contraception:
'The watchword in this collection is variety, Wild approaching her subject from a diverse range of narrative voices, viewpoints and structures. Underpinning this literary ventriloquism, however, is the distinctive and unifying voice of Wild herself: amusingly quirky and darkly humorous, yet always ready to identify and sympathise with the loneliness and sense of loss that pervades the lives of her characters.'
'The Art Of Contraception is well worth the read. If Parthian can continue to unearth writers of this calibre, then its new imprint will definitely be one to follow.'

On Wil Gritten's debut travelogue Letting Go:
'Letting Go is a diary of a drug- and alcohol-fuelled stomp around Latin America. Written with disarming (sometimes alarming) honesty, this is no ordinary travel book, but an almost confessional account of how close, as the blurb puts it, 'letting go' can come to 'losing it'. Yet despite the often painfully personal nature of its contents, this is a consistently entertaining book that is in no way self-indulgent.'

On J.P.Smythe's debut novel Hereditation:
'Where the novel is strongest is in the historical sections chronicling the story of each generation of the Sloane family - almost invariably a story of Gothic depravity. Told in bold outlines and a starkly terse style, the effect created is akin to that of fairy tale.'
[Incidentally, this is in contradiction to James' review in The Spectator's book blog: 'The episodic flashbacks to Sloane family history are, I’m afraid, very much the weak part of the novel.' Who is right? You tell us.]

So, thanks Planet :) 201 also contains great essays by Gerry Feehily on 'France and the Roma Question' and Jane Aaron on 'Gender and Welsh Writing in English'.

Friday, 21 January 2011


Exhibitions, conferences and reopenings. Happy Arty New Year. Buzz keeps you in the know with the new shows and the creative changes in Swansea.
1. Elysium Gallery Moves Home
The revered artist-led space Elysium Gallery in Swansea opened the doors to its third venue in Swansea last Friday. The gallery has moved to a new home across the road from their old Mansel Street space, next door to Dagwoods. The opening night of their new exhibition – Kelly Gorman: The Television travels on a Boat to me – was packed with well-wishers, as you can see in the photo slideshow on the gallery blog.
Kelly Gorman is an American Mixed Media Artist who is currently living and working in the United Kingdom. She received her Masters in Arts Degree in Fine Art from the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, United Kingdom and her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Atlanta College of Art in Atlanta, Georgia USA. You can visit Gorman’s exhibition of vintage scrapbooks and quirky collages at Elysium Gallery, 31 Craddock Street, Swansea SA1 3EP until 5 Febuary. Opening hours 12-5pm Wed-Sat.
With the next 18 months of shows already booked in, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of their programme of events.
2. Twice as MAD
Robyn (left) and Alfie outside their MAD shop
Following their recent fire-bomb attack, the MAD (Music Arts Dance Swansea) charity shop also reopened their doors last Friday with a relaunch night and exhibition. M.A.D’s aim is to further the professionalism of Musicians, Artists and performers in Swansea.
They work with and are supported by Swansea Council, The W.A.G, SCVS and Communities First. See their Facebook photo gallery for more images.
The shop has an installation space out back, while the main retail area doubles as an exhibition space for local artists. MAD also offers:
- FREE Wi-Fi
The MAD Shop, 4 Mansel Street, Swansea SA1 5SE
3. Ffilm 2
Opening at 7pm tonight (Friday 21 January), the Glynn Vivian are screeening Ffilm 2, the second of three seasons of exhibitions presenting a wide range of recent film and video in various spaces across the gallery. Their focus on film will run until April 2011 and includes well known and emerging artists from Wales and across the UK.
The rolling programme of works have been selected from commissioning organisations and collections across the UK including Film and Video Umbrella, the Arts Council Collection and the British Council Collection.
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Alexandra Road, Swansea SA1 5DZ
4. Emergence-Eginiad @ Taliesin
“What might the future look like if artists could change the world?”
Saturday 29 January features a one-day creative, interactive conference for people working in the arts in Wales, hosted by Taliesin Arts Centre. Network, share ideas, ask questions and get tools for a more sustainable practice.
Tickets: £15 (freelancers / £25 (organisations).
5. You may have missed…
The Brunswick Presents: My favourite Swansea boozer The Brunswick has a new exhibition of work up by Bill Chambers, Printmaker; Chris Harrendence, Illustrator; and Paul O’Donovan, Painter. Go along and have a pint and a perusal. The show runs until Saturday March 12th 2011. The Brunswick, Duke Street, Swansea.
The Power of Poesie: Welsh artist, Derek Couturier has returned to painting in recent years and is fascinated anew at its potential for expression. “Abstract painting is now a major area of experimentation,” says Couturier. “Without external references I find that abstract imagery can speak of things beyond imagination, of things yet to be articulated. It has a spiritual dimension that is utterly compelling.” His exhibition runs at the Ceri Richards Gallery, Taliesin Arts Centre until Sat 12 Febuary.
FREE entrance to all the exhibitions listed above (apart from Emergence).

Thursday, 20 January 2011

BYT: Eating My Words

Eating My Words

Life Poem

Just a quick note to say that I've written a new Mslexia post.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

MS: Eating My Words

The Mslexia Blog

Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead

New Year, New Start. There are all manner of changes of the guard afoot across the UK…
Scotland now has a female National Poet in Liz LochheadShe succeeds her friend Edwin Morgan, who held the post from 2004 until his death in August 2010. At today’s announcement Liz said: “I am as delighted as I am surprised by this enormous honour, which I do know I don’t deserve! Nevertheless, I accept it on behalf of poetry itself, which is, and always has been, the core of our culture, and in grateful recognition of the truth that poetry — the reading of it, the writing of it, the saying it out loud, the learning of it off by heart — matters deeply to ordinary Scottish people everywhere.”
In Wales the literary journal New Welsh Review has made a great choice in their appointment of publisher, editor and translator Gwen Davies as their new editor, taking over the helm from the poet and cultural commentatorKathryn Gray. Kathryn’s last issue is out soon. Gwen’s first job was in 1985 as a writer/editorial assistant on Planet the Welsh Internationalist. They have recently appointed Jasmine Donahaye as editor so Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and Planet all remain run by women. Academi boss Peter Finch would agree that blokes no longer hold sway here.

My poem 'Life' featured in the edible journal Poetry Digest
My poem 'Life' featured in the edible journal Poetry Digest
Personally I have been getting excited about putting words (poems, fiction) on things other than paper. Poetry on Sticky TapePoetry on BagsPoetry on Clothes. Extracts from your favourite books on your very own skin. That sort of thing. Expect unusual merch stalls at my gigs throughout 2011. As such it was an utter delight to have a poem of mine featured in the latest issue of Poetry Digest, an edible journal run by the lovely poet and Poetry Library employee Chrissy Williams, who I’ve known since my undergraduate drama society days. I went up to London for the launch at The Bell in Aldgate on Sunday, did a mini reading and got the pleasure of literally eating my words. They tasted good. Tim Wells, editor of that ace fanzine Rising (responsible for printing my first published poem in adult life) was in attendance as was Kirstin Irving, editor of Fuselit. Chrissy has a poem in the excellent latest issue of Horizon Review, which is also well worth a look at.
The month of love is just around the corner. As such I am teaching a free Academi worshop on Love Poetry for the 21st Century at their Glyn Jones Centre on Tuesday 8 Febuary between 7 and 9pm. Bookings have also begun for literary and arts festivals across the year. To coincide with the launch of my Kindle Single ‘Arrivals’ (the novella from The Art of Contraception) I shall be appearing at the Laugharne Weekend (April 15-17) and Hay Festival and I am keep to attend a whole lot more including the new Cheltenham Poetry Festival at the end of March.
Finally, I’m rooting for Pascale Petit in this week’s TS Eliot Prize announcement. Listen to her read Little Deer and What The Water Gave Me on the Today Show – or read her ‘Making a Poem’ piece in the latest Mslexia.
About Susie:
Susie Wild is a freelance journalist based in South Wales. She is one of Parthian's Bright Young Things and her debut collection of short stories, The Art of Contraception is out now. As a poet she performs regularly, and publishes here and there, including the recent Bugged book. She likes good live music, Old Man Pubs, patterned tights, hair dye and avocados.