Announcing the Seren Christmas Poetry Competition 2020 Shortlist

We’re delighted to announce the six poems which have been shortlisted for the Seren Christmas Poetry Competition 2020. The winner will be announced as our Friday poem tomorrow (4th December).

‘The Virgin Adoring The Sleeping Child Christ’ by Ellora Sutton

‘A Merry Different Christmas’ by Jane Burn

‘Nativity’ by Jane Simmons

‘Iktsuarpok’ by Rob Miles

‘The Winter Guests’ by Donna Gowland

‘Rudolph and the Mushroom’ by Stephen Payne

If you would like to hear each of the poets read their entries, join us for virtual First Thursday tonight (3rd December) from 7:30pm. Our shortlisted poets will be opening the open mic following our main readers Jenny Lewis and Adnan Al-Sayegh and Peter Benson. Tickets are £2.74 and available on Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/129485662101.

Struggling for gift ideas? Take a look at the Seren Christmas Gift Guide which is chock full of inspiration to help you find something for even your most difficult-to-buy-for family member. Browse the guide.

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Celebrating Elaine Morgan on her centenary

Elaine Morgan (1920 – 2013) was a pioneer. Born into a working-class family, she was the first person from her school in Pontypridd to go to Oxford University. She went on to pursue multiple careers, first as an award-winning TV writer, then anthropologist, whilst maintaining a role in political activism throughout her life. Daryl Leeworthy, author of Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen, introduces us to this extraordinary writer on the eve of her centenary.

This informative biography restores Elaine Morgan’s reputation and establishes her significant place in writing from Wales. Richly detailed it is essential in understanding the life and work of this important writer.

“A scintillating new biographical study, impressively researched and elegantly written.” – Dai Smith

“Thanks to this book… many more can take inspiration from Elaine Morgan and a legacy that spans both arts and science. In this, her centenary year, there can be no more fitting tribute.” – Carolyn Hitt

Elaine Morgan has always been a hero of mine.

I suppose I first heard her name when I was in secondary school – we went to the same one. To me it was Coedylan Comprehensive, to her Pontypridd Intermediate School for Girls; these days Pontypridd High. One of my teachers, whose own life had been so influenced by Elaine’s iconic feminist book, Descent of Woman (1972), pointed out to me that being someone from ‘our town’ studying at Oxford not only brings great opportunities but also sets you on a path set down by one of Wales’s truly great writers. A national treasure.

Elaine Morgan at matriculation, autumn 1939 – front row, second from left.
By Kind Permission of The Principal and Fellows of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

That idea of Elaine has stuck with me over the years. When I set out to research Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind The Screen, I knew that I wanted to look more carefully at her screenwriting and her contribution to our collective sense of the valleys and their people – those aspects of her career now very much overshadowed by the aquatic ape theory and Elaine’s undoubted contributions to popular anthropology. How, I wondered, did Elaine get her break at the BBC; how did she fit into an overwhelmingly masculine world; and how did she reach the top all from a desk in South Wales – a feat that seems so impossible nowadays.

Seeking the answers to those questions took me to the BBC’s written archives near Reading, a marvellous building with truly wonderful staff, where you half expect George Smiley to wander through the corridors. Out of Elaine’s voluminous files came letters sent back and forth to producers like Donald Wilson, Michael Barry, Sydney Newman, and Verity Lambert. The Doctor Who fan in me got very excited when I saw their names! Writers such as Gwyn Thomas and Dennis Potter were mentioned with casual ease. And there were occasional tête-a-tête when Elaine felt she was being undervalued – and underpaid – because she was a woman. The writer who emerged from those files was strong-willed, determined, and keen to learn. She was every bit the feminist my teachers had told me about.

The greatest finds in those files related to Elaine’s debut serial – now lost from the television archives – A Matter of Degree. First broadcast on the BBC in 1960, it told the story of the Powell sisters, and their experiences of South Wales and Oxford. Like the producers who brought it to the screen, I could not help but read an autobiographical presentation of Elaine’s life. She had always maintained that she loved Oxford, but here was the clash of cultures so familiar to me and to many others who have gone up from the valleys to those dreaming spires. Here was a kind of sequel to Emlyn Williams’s famous play The Corn Is Green (1938) but which anticipated the famous television serials of Oxbridge life, Brideshead Revisited (1981) and Porterhouse Blue (1987), decades before they were aired. This was Elaine Morgan, then, the television pioneer.

There was, I discovered, another side to Elaine, too – her politics. She grew up in a household which read the Labour-supporting Daily Herald and her own political activity took her to the pinnacle of student activism whilst she was at Oxford and into circles which included Clement Attlee and Roy Jenkins. Then she worked for the Workers’ Educational Association, just like Gwyn Thomas and Raymond Williams. As a young mother, she kept up her public activism and at one point taught for the Extra Mural Department of Manchester University. She helped to set up the United Nations Association in Burnley and led the town’s first celebrations of International Women’s Day. She even joined the Communist Party, although later returned to the Labour fold. Her radicalism had its fullest expression in a passionate belief in nuclear disarmament, in combatting climate change and humanity’s exhaustion of the planet’s natural resources, and in the campaign to ensure the survival and vibrant future of the Welsh language.

But, of course, if we are to remember one thing about Elaine Morgan on this, her centenary, it is her contribution to the women’s movement and to the self-belief that all women, regardless of their origins, can reach the top. Though she is not traditionally remembered as a historian, her television work, her radio broadcasting, her teaching, and her activism, all contributed to the active recovery of women’s collective, historical experience. In those decades of the twentieth century when Welsh women were absent from parliament, from leadership roles, from the apex of public life, Elaine Morgan stood out. She understood this and made the most of her remarkable influence.

In many respects, Elaine Morgan was the embodiment of what I like to think of as the ‘South Walian Dream’. She took the opportunities afforded her by an education which lasted for as long as she wished, but never forgot her origins. Never lost sight of the fact that she had grown up in a small terraced house in Hopkinstown. Never lost her ear for the rhythm of the valleys and their people. Alongside Gwyn Thomas, she helped to define what Wales meant for television and radio audiences all over the world. Whether as the pensioner, the playwright, the protester, the poet’s muse, or the student politician, Elaine Morgan was determined to say to her own community, to her own people, first and foremost, it does not have to be this way.

Daryl Leeworthy

Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Join us for the virtual launch of this important new biography on Wednesday 11 November at 7pm. Author Daryl Leeworthy will be in conversation with Carolyn Hitt. Register for FREE via Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/125898462691.

Seren Christmas Gift Guide 2020

It comes around every year – the struggle of finding a gift for that hard-to-buy-for family member. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the Seren Christmas Gift Guide. Refreshed for 2020, we’ve grouped together our top suggestions, old and new, across a range of interests to help make that decision a little bit easier. 

Festive Favourites

Twelve Poems for Christmas Ed. Amy Wack: £5.00

This sparkling selection of Christmas poems is the perfect stocking filler for any poetry addict. These are poems full of feeling that resist cliché, that touch on classic ‘Christmas’ themes, but bring them to life from fresh perspectives. The pamphlet opens with Pippa Little’s lyrical and tender poem, ‘St. Leonore and the Robin’, and features poems both humorous and contemplative. Small enough to send with (or instead of) a card, this is the perfect festive treat for your loved ones.

Christmas in Wales Ed. Dewi Roberts: £8.99

Celebrate Christmas the Welsh way in the company of some of the country’s leading writers, past and present. Christmas mass, the nativity play, turkey and plum pudding, the Mari Lwyd, presents, the weather, the shopping and post-festive blues are among the many subjects drawn from stories, poems, diaries and letters. Featuring R.S. Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Dannie Abse, Gillian Clarke, Catherine Fisher, Bruce Chatwin, Sian James, Kate Roberts and Leslie Norris, it’s guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Seren Christmas Books Bundles: £9.99

Take the pressure out of present buying and let us do the choosing (and the wrapping) for you. Treat yourself or someone special to one of our Mystery Book Bundles for the fantastic price of only £9.99 and we’ll send you three books from our wide-ranging and wonderful list, beautifully gift-wrapped and ready to put under the tree. Choice of fiction or poetry.

Books for Fiction Addicts

A Simple Scale by David Llewellyn: £9.99

Simple Scale David Llewellyn

A single piece of music starts a story that takes us from Soviet Russia and McCarthyite Hollywood to post-9/11 New York. A single piece of music, and two composers – one American, the other Soviet – but which of them wrote it? How did their lives cross? How were their fortunes shaped by history, and what were the consequences for those they loved? Rich in detail and atmosphere, David Llewellyn explores the points at which the personal and political meet.

The Green Bridge: Stories from Wales Ed. John Davies: £9.99

The short story has long been a popular form with writers and readers in Wales.  The Green Bridge
 collects work by 25 of the country’s foremost writers of the twentieth century in an entertaining and varied anthology. Horror, satire, humour, war, tales of the aristocracy, of navvies, love, and madness, industry, the countryside, politics and sport: these stories provide insight into the changing values of Wales and the world.

What Remains at the End by Alexandra Ford: £9.99

In the aftermath of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavia’s ethnic Germans, the Danube Swabians, were expelled by Tito’s Partisan regime. A further sixty thousand were killed. Seventy years later, Marie Kohler’s marriage is falling apart. She’s seeing someone new, an enigmatic man named David, who takes her to the former Yugoslavia to find the truth behind her grandparents’ flight to America. Ford has written a moving narrative of emigration and identity, realpolitik and relationships, and asks what happens when the truth is unspoken.

Books for Home Birds

Miriam, Daniel and Me by Euron Griffith: £9.99

When Miriam fell in love with Padraig life seemed simple. But soon she discovered that love is a treacherous business. Everything changed when she met Daniel. She was taken down an unexpected path which would dictate and dominate the rest of her life. Spanning three generations of a North Wales family in a Welsh-speaking community,
Miriam, Daniel and Me is an absorbing and compelling story of family discord, political turmoil, poetry, jealousy…and football.

The Seren Real Series: £9.99

First started by Peter Finch with Real Cardiff and now containing over 20 volumes, the Seren Real Series is a collection of psychogeographic guides that take a closer look at beloved towns and cities from all over the UK. Always insightful and full of interesting observations, made personal by each author’s connection to the place, these books discover the essence of what makes our towns and cities tick.

Walking Cardiff by Peter Finch and John Briggs: £14.99 

Join Peter Finch and John Briggs on twenty walks around Cardiff, the bustling capital of Wales. Together they visit the new and the ancient, the difficult, the undiscovered, the lesser-known, the artistic, the entertaining, the quirky and the unexpected. They criss-cross the city, informing, discovering, exploring, and enduring, reviving old routes as they go. Their journeys encompass the city’s history, and record daily life on its streets, in its parks and its famous and not so famous, buildings.

At the Bright Hem of God by Peter J. Conradi: £9.99

Radnorshire, a county rural and remote. The lives of its sparse population continue to be shaped by the wild landscape of valleys and mountains in ways that for Britain now lie in the past. Yet down the centuries Radnorshire has fascinated and inspired, as a place of contemplation, exploration, creation and retreat. Peter J. Conradi examines both his own relationship with the place and responses to it by writers from Gerald of Wales, who passed through in 1176, to the present day.

Books for History Buffs

Forbidden Lives by Norena Shopland: £12.99 

Norena Shopland Forbidden Lives

A fascinating collection of portraits and discussions that aims to populate LGBT gaps in the history of Wales, a much neglected part of Welsh heritage. Norena Shopland reviews the reasons for this neglect while outlining the activity behind the recent growth of the LGBT profile here. She also surveys LGBT people and their activity as far back as Giraldus Cambrensis’ Journey Through Wales in the twelfth century.

Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches by T. J. Hughes: £12.99

The archetypal Welsh church is not in town or village, enhanced by generations of patronage: it is the isolated, simple, evocative walls-with-roof, in a landscape often spiritually charged.  Illustrated in colour Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches encompasses a millennium of  churches around Wales. It is an invaluable repository of history, art and architecture, spirituality and people’s lives which will appeal to the historian and the tourist, communicants and those without a god.

Lime, Lemon and Sarsaparilla by Colin Hughes: £9.99

Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla is a wonderful evocation of Italian immigration in south Wales from the turn of the century to the postwar years, when the Italian café was central to life in many small communities in the Valleys. In this award-winning study Colin Hughes, himself a south Walian, explains why so many immigrants from Bardi settled in the area. Fully illustrated with contemporary photographs, and with a Foreword by the Welsh-Italian actor Victor Spinetti, it is a revealing history of our recent past.

Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen by Daryl Leeworthy: £9.99

This informative biography restores Elaine Morgan’s reputation and establishes her significant place in writing from Wales. It outlines her early days living only just above the poverty line in the Rhondda, before reading English Literature at Oxford, and examines her careers as an award-winning television writer and visionary anthropologist. Richly detailed it is essential in understanding the life and work of this important writer.

Books for Nature Lovers

Wild Places UK: UK’s Top 40 Nature Sites by Iolo Williams: £19.99 

Iolo Williams returns with a guide to his top 40 sites in the UK. From Hermaness on Shetland to the London Wetland Centre, from Dungeness in Kent to Loch Neagh, Williams criss-crosses the country. Lavishly illustrated, author and book aim to introduce a new audience to the delights of the UK, be they armchair naturalists or, more importantly, visitors to the forty sites Williams has selected. Follow up to Wild Places Wales.

Waterfalls of Stars by Rosanne Alexander: £12.99 

Waterfalls of Stars Rosanne Alexander

When Rosanne Alexander’s boyfriend Mike was offered the job of warden of Skomer Island, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions. With great sensitivity, and humour, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. Her lyrical evocation of the natural world will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape.

The Owl House by Daniel Butler: £12.99

Daniel Butler charts his relationship with two barn owls which nested in the barn of his rural mid-Wales home. In this pastoral exploration of his locale, rich in wildlife of all kinds, he roams the mountains and forests, takes trips to the coast, encounters all manner of animals and birds, and grows to understand the relationship between the local people and their surroundings. A rich and vivid portrait of one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of Britain, broad in its horizons yet full of fascinating detail.

Books for Poetry Fanatics

The Art of Falling by Kim Moore: £9.99

The Art of Falling Kim Moore

In her debut collection The Art of Falling Kim Moore writes vividly about her own life and the lives of others. She sets out her stall in the opening poems, firmly in the North amongst ‘My People’. The title poem riffs on the many sorts of falling “so close to failing or to falter or to fill”, and her experience as a peripatetic brass teacher sparks several poems. Other poems feature: suffragettes, a tattoo inspired by Virginia Woolf, and a poetic letter addressed to a ‘Dear Mr Gove’. Winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2016.

The Estate Agent’s Daughter by Rhian Edwards: £9.99

Rhian Edwards won Wales Book of the Year for her debut poetry collection, Clueless Dogs. The Estate Agent’s Daughter is her eagerly awaited second book. Acute and wryly observed, the poems step forth with a confident tone, touching on the personal and the public, encapsulating a woman’s tribulations in the 21st century. Her voice is both powerfully personal, local to her Bridgend birthplace, and performative, born to be read aloud.

Footnotes to Water by Zoë Skoulding: £9.99

Winner of the Poetry Category in Wales Book of the Year 2020, Footnotes to Water imagines a river as a transverse section, cutting through urban and rural spaces, connecting places that are themselves in flux. Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.

Regional Poetry Pamphlets: £5.00

Our new series of poetry pamphlets celebrates the beauty, history and lively everyday goings-on in four areas of Wales: PembrokeshireSnowdoniathe Borders, and the capital city of Cardiff. Each pamphlet comes with an envelope and a postcard – the perfect stocking filler for your loved ones this Christmas.

Books for Cooks

The Occasional Vegan by Sarah Philpott: £12.99 

The Occasional Vegan Sarah Philpott

This collection of 70 simple, affordable and delicious recipes is suitable for newcomers and long-time vegans alike. Sarah’s recipes are accompanied by the story of her own journey to becoming a vegan, exploring the ethical and lifestyle arguments for a plant-based diet. Illustrated with photographs by Manon Houston.

The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott: £12.99

This simple guide to eating with the seasons takes a realistic approach to shopping cheaply and sustainably and proves that the vegan lifestyle is anything but expensive. With a sections on all four seasons, dishes that can be enjoyed all year round, and menu ideas for special occasions, its the perfect kitchen companion. With beautiful photography by Manon Houston.

Books for Music Lovers

Just Help Yourself by Vernon Hopkins: £9.99 

Just Help Yourself Vernon Hopkins

1960. Britain stood at the cusp of new times. In Pontypridd, sixteen-year-old Vernon Hopkins had just found a new singer for his band: a local boy who would come to be known as Tom Jones. Just Help Yourself tells the full story of The Senators – soon to become The Squires – and their lead singer Tom Jones. Vernon Hopkins’ authentic narrative is a revealing look at the highs and lows of the music business, and of London in the allegedly Swinging Sixties. Full of gritty detail about life in Pontypridd, and with great insight into the music business, it is a cautionary tale of ambition and success. Illustrated with previously unseen photographs from the author’s archive.

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back by Peter Finch: £9.99 

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back

Peter Finch follows the trail of twentieth century popular music from a 1950s valve radio playing in a suburban Cardiff terrace to the reality of the music among the bars of Ireland, the skyscrapers of New York, the plains of Tennessee, the flatlands of Mississippi and the mountains of North Carolina. The Roots of Rock mixes musical autobiography with an exploration of the physical places from which this music comes. It is a demonstration of the power of music to create a world for the listener that is simultaneously of and beyond the place in which it is heard. It also considers how music has changed during this time, from the culture-shaping (revolutionising) 50s and 60s to the present day.

The Wellspring by Barney Norris: £12.99

Barney Norris The Wellspring

In The Wellspring acclaimed novelist and dramatist Barney Norris conducts a conversation with his even more acclaimed father, the pianist and composer David Owen Norris, on creativity, cultural identity, and how the two intertwine. Their combined experience, in two fields, in two different generations, provides a thought-provoking discussion of how a place and a culture inform the work of artists, and how England and Englishness have changed over the past half century.

Books for Horizon Gazers

No Far Shore: Charting Unknown Waters by Anne-Marie Fyfe: £9.99 

No Far Shore is no ordinary exploration of coastlines. Anne-Marie Fyfe combines travel writing, history, memoir and poetry in an intriguing meditation on the sea, that explores the unsettledness of living on the boundary between two elements. She explores countless coastlines, her own family history and the works of a number of writers for whom the coast has been influential along the way.

Crossings by Nicholas Murray: £12.99 

Nicholas Murray considers the borders he has confronted – geographic, cultural, linguistic, social, class, religious, sexual – and reflects on the influence of borders on how we think of ourselves and others. In the first section he transports
the reader to Spain and North Africa, Gibraltar,
Turkey, partitioned Cyprus, the cross roads that is Trieste, Hong Kong and Australia, and takes a trip along the Danube through the contested lands of the Balkans. In the second he explores his home patch, the border between Wales and England, providing a fascinating counterpoint to the people, customs and mores encountered in the first part of the book.

The Road to Zagora by Richard Collins: £9.99 

When Richard Collins was diagnosed with a progressive incurable disease in 2006 he decided to see as much of the world as he could while his condition allowed. The result is The Road to Zagora, a singular travel book which takes in India, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Equador and Wales. With ‘Mr Parkinson’, as Collins refers to his condition, by their side, he and his partner Flic decide to continue to travel ‘close to the land’ post diagnosis, leaving the tourist trails and visiting places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The story of their travels is collected here in a memorable journey around the world, and the self.

To Babel and Back by Robert Minhinnick: £7.99

Join Robert Minhinnick on a journey across a radioactive planet. Researching the use of depleted uranium in modern weapons, the writer follows a deadly trail from the uranium mines of the USA into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Berlin, Prague, Buenos Aires, New York, Italy, England, Finland, Canada: this globalised world is simultaneously familiar and bizarre, filled with the background noise of contemporary society yet capable of providing places and moments of utter silence. Jetlagged, culture-lagged, Minhinnick returns to his native Wales, its coastline and valleys as extraordinary as anything encountered in a Babel that might be myth or alarmingly real. Winner of Wales Book of the Year 2006.

Books for Fans of Biography and Memoir

The Amazingly Astonishing Story by Lucy Gannon: £12.99

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story is a frank and surprising look into a child’s tumultuous mind, a classic story of a working-class girl growing up in the 60s. Her Catholic upbringing, a father torn between daughter and new wife, her irreverent imagination and determination to enjoy life, mean this really is an amazing story (including meeting the Beatles).

Family Business: A Memoir by Peter J. Conradi: £12.99

Family Business is Peter J. Conradi’s multi-stranded memoir. It explores his Jewish background, his rebellious youth, his sexuality, and his relationship with the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, who became almost a second family for him. Thoughtfully composed and beautifully written, it is a classic in waiting.

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet: £12.99 

When Nula’s husband James, an Irish documentary filmmaker, becomes forgetful they put it down to the stress of his work. But his behaviour becomes more erratic, and he is eventually diagnosed as suffering from Pick’s Disease, an early onset and aggressive form of dementia. The Longest Farewell is the true story of Nula’s fight with her husband’s disease, and how this terrible time held a happy ending.

Jim Neat: The Case of a Remarkable Man Down on his Luck by Mary J. Oliver: £9.99 

Jim Neat is a remarkable evocation of the seemingly fractured life of Mary J. Oliver’s father. Tinged with the tragedy of his partner’s death and an orphaned daughter, it ranges across the history of 20th century England and Canada. Using the few documents of Jim’s life and a combination of poetry and prose, Oliver adopts a legal structure, making ‘the case’ for the worth of his life. The result is a fascinating and engaging book unlike any other memoir.

Books for Art Connoisseurs

Welsh Quilts by Jen Jones: £12.99 

Welsh Quilts Jen Jones

Welsh Quilts is an authoritative guide to the history and art of the quilt in Wales. It is the result of expert author Jen Jones’ researches into the subject and her desire to revive what had been a gloriously high-quality craft. Illustrated with beautiful images of the bold designs and intricate stitching of the quilts in her own collection, Welsh Quilts is the essential book on the subject, whether you are a quilter yourself, or simply interested in quilting heritage.

Tide-Race by Brenda Chamberlain: £9.99 

Tide-Race is a remarkable account of life on Bardsey (known as Ynys Enlli to Welsh speakers), a remote and mysterious island off the coast of North Wales. Brenda Chamberlain lived on the island from 1947 to 1961, during the last days of its hardy community. The combination of Bardsey, ancient site of Christian pilgrimage, wild and dangerous landscape, and Brenda Chamberlain, Royal Academy trained artist, results in a classic book, vividly illustrated by the author’s line drawings.

A Fold in the River by Philip Gross and Valerie Coffin Price: £12.99

A Fold in the River is the fruit of collaboration between T.S. Eliot prize-winning poet Philip Gross and the visual artist Valerie Coffin Price. Philip Gross once lived on the banks of the River Taff in Wales and his journals are the source for the powerful poems. Valerie Coffin Price revisited the walking route along the river and evolved the beautiful prints and drawings that accompany the poems. Look out for a follow up, Troeon/Turnings with Welsh-language poet Cyril Jones in January 2021.

Welsh Artists Talking by Tony Curtis: £19.99

Featuring Brendan Stuart Burns, Ivor Davies, David Garner, Robert Harding, Alfred Janes, Christine Jones, Jonah Jones, David Nash, Terry Setch and Lois Williams, this collection of interviews with artists from Wales is further evidence of the renaissance of the visual arts in the country. The ten artists talking to Tony Curtis vary in practice from figurative and abstract painters through a ceramicist to sculptors in stone, wood and metal. Their work and words provide, at once, a history of twentieth century art in Wales and a guide to making in the twenty-first century.

Books for Photographers

Living in Wales by David Hurn: £25.00 

Living in Wales is an album of one hundred and one duotone portraits of people who, in the words of David Hurn ‘have enriched my life and that of Wales.’ It is a roster of the famous and distinguished in the fields of science, business, the arts, sport, the law, health, media, politics and religion. Beautifully composed, and shot with David’s characteristic flair for detail, the photographs linger on the physicality of the person, a telling prop pushing the image towards the possibility of narrative. Here is a photographer on inspirational form.

The Living Wells of Wales by Phil Cope: £20.00 

Author and photographer Phil Cope takes us on a journey through the sacred wells of Wales, from the Anglesey to the Gwent. On his way he discovers wells in city centres and, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere – on mountainsides, in deserted valleys, on the coast, in sea caves. They include healing wells, cursing wells, and wells named for saints, Satan, witches, angels, fairies, friars, nuns, hermits, murderers and hangmen. Packed with colour photographs, including some of long-forgotten wells now rediscovered, The Living Wells of Wales is the new definitive volume on a subject gaining a new popularity.

Taken in Time by John Briggs: £14.95 

Photographer John Briggs continues his project to document change in the Cardiff docklands, revisiting the sites and people memorably recorded in Before the Deluge. In the last thirty years landmark buildings have been demolished, docks filled in, the barrage built, maritime businesses closed, and streets disappeared. In their place, a huge redevelopment scheme, gentrification, and tourism. With characteristic honesty and an eye for compelling detail, John Briggs brings these changes to a wider audience in this not to be missed book.

Books in Translation

Let Me Tell You What I Saw by Adnan Al-Sayegh, Trans. Jenny Lewis, Ruba Abughaida and others: £12.99

Let Me Tell You What I Saw is the first ever publication as a dual-language (English/Arabic) text of substantial extracts from Adnan Al-Sayegh’s ground-breaking epic poem, Uruk’s Anthem, one of the longest poems ever written in Arabic literature, which gives voice to the profound despair of the Iraqi experience. This superb translation brings the eloquent original Arabic epic to a new readership.

Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe, Trans. Elizabeth Macklin £9.99

Bilbao–New York–Bilbao takes place during a flight to New York and tells the story of journeys by three generations of the same family. The key to the book is Liborio’s fishing boat, the Dos Amigos: who are these two friends, and what is the nature of their friendship? Through letters, diaries, emails, poems and dictionaries, Kirmen creates a mosaic of memories and stories that combine to form a homage to a world that has almost disappeared, as well as a hymn to the continuity of life. It is also a reflection on the art of writing, and lies between life and fiction.

Ukulele Jam by Alen Mešković, Trans. by Paul Russell Garrett: £9.99

Miki, a Bosnian teenager, and his family are escaping the Balkan war. They live in a Croatian refugee camp, a former holiday resort on the Adriatic, but it’s difficult to adjust to their new circumstances. With the war rumbling in the background and his brother missing in a Serbian prison camp, Miki and his new friends pick up girls, listen to music and have campfire parties on the beach. Then war breaks out between Croats and Bosnians and friends threaten to become enemies. Miki wants to emigrate to Sweden, but his parents can’t face leaving behind their old life in Bosnia. 

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Zoë Skoulding wins the Poetry category in Wales Book of the Year 2020

We are delighted that Zoë Skoulding and her collection Footnotes to Water have won the poetry category in the Wales Book of the Year 2020.

In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.

 

Zoë was shortlisted for the award alongside two other titles, Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones and Fur Coats in Tahiti by Jeremy Over (Carcanet). The English-language winners were announced in a special awards programme on 31 July hosted by Nicola Heywood Thomas and broadcast on BBC Radio Wales.

Speaking about her win, Zoë said: “I’m delighted by this award, especially as Footnotes to Water is in conversation with Wales in all sorts of ways. Some of the poems grew out of dialogues with artists Ben Stammers and Miranda Whall, whose work explores Welsh landscapes through visual and performance art, while my own thinking about place and its relationships developed while I was editing Poetry Wales. I’m also glad that this award – and the shortlist – recognises the excellent work done by Seren Books in sustaining English-language poetry’s role in Wales’s cultural life.”

Amy Wack, poetry editor at Seren added: “Zoë Skoulding’s wonderfully inventive and subtly musical work remains both challenging and delightful, so pleased she has won this prize.” Lleucu Siencyn, CEO of Literature Wales, also commented that Zoë’s work “always feels fresh and new.”

The winner of English-language Book of the Year was Niall Griffiths with his novel Broken Ghost (Jonathan Cape) and Babel by Ifan Morgan Jones (Y Lolfa) was the overall winner of the Welsh-language award.

Speaking about the awards, Lleucu Siencyn said: “Wales Book of the Year is one of the highlights of our cultural calendar, and this year more than ever we are extremely pleased to be able to continue to shine a light on our incredible literary talents. Literature helps to guide us through our darkest hours, as well as bringing joy and hope to readers of all ages. Wales consistently produces excellent writers, and this Award is testament to this each year. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!”

Wales Book of the Year is an annual award hosted by Literature Wales. Other categories include Fiction, Creative Non-fiction and, new for this year, Children and Young People. You can see the full list of winners in both Welsh and English on the Literature Wales website.

 

Footnotes to Water is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Watch Zoë reading alongside the other two shortlisted poets at our online WBOTY Poetry Shortlist Reading which is now available on our Youtube channel. 

 

Guest post: Sarah Philpott introduces us to ‘The Seasonal Vegan’

Today, we publish Sarah Philpott’s much-anticipated new book The Seasonal Vegan, and who better to introduce it than the author herself.

The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott is a kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of fine food writing and beautiful photography. This guide to eating with the seasons takes a realistic approach to shopping cheaply and sustainably and proves that the vegan lifestyle is anything but expensive. As well as tasting good, these dishes look beautiful thanks to the wonderful photography of Manon Houston.

 

Season’s Eatings

I can’t think of a more apt time to write about seasonal eating. With food security at risk more than ever thanks to the Covid outbreak and Brexit (it’s still happening, in case you’d forgotten), it might be time to think about what we’re eating and where it comes from.

I started writing The Seasonal Vegan over a year ago when things were very different. I always try to eat seasonally, mainly because it tastes better, and I wanted to create recipes inspired by the different seasons.

For a while now, campaigners, food writers and chefs have advocated seasonal eating because it can have a positive impact on the environment and local communities. Now, in these unprecedented times, access to imported foods might become more difficult, and so seasonal eating is more important than ever.

You can still buy pretty much anything you want at the supermarket all year round – and fruit and vegetables tend to be ignored by panic buyers – but there are some very good reasons to eat with the seasons.

Buying seasonal produce is generally better for the environment because it requires lower levels of heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year. Eating fruit and vegetables that have been grown in the UK reduces the energy needed to transport them from other countries – 26 per cent of all carbon emissions come from food production – so eating British asparagus in May uses less food mileage than buying what’s flown in from South America – ­and, of course, it’s tastier.

Because food in season is usually in abundance and has less distance to travel, it’s also cheaper. It costs less for farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to the supermarket or greengrocer, which means that a British tomato bought in peak harvest season in August will cost less than one bought in January. And it’s not only cheaper at the big supermarkets – if you can, shopping at your local greengrocer, or farm shop can be just as cost effective. And although farmer’s markets can be a little pricier, you’ll be supporting a local business and you really do get what you pay for in terms of freshness, taste and quality.

Now, I’m no gardener (the flat we live in doesn’t have a garden) and I’ve never grown my own vegetables – not yet, anyway – but I love nature and I notice the change in the air as the months go by. Wouldn’t it be dull if we ate the same all year round? Nothing beats a warm stew with squash or beetroot when it’s cold outside, and now, at the peak of summer, we can enjoy succulent strawberries, tomatoes, broad beans and peas.

Eating seasonally is sometimes seen as inaccessible or elitist, but it really doesn’t have to be – and it’s possible to cook and eat fruit and vegetables in a way that’s  easy, inexpensive and tasty. Studies show that only 31 per cent of adults in the UK eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – with just 18 per cent of children doing the same – and that’s something we need to address.

The Seasonal Vegan isn’t about being perfect, puritanical or prescriptive about eating what’s in season, but it does celebrate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and all their health benefits – and it might inspire you to eat and cook a bit differently.

 

Recipe: Cucumber Gazpacho

Photograph by Manon Houston

 

15 minutes, plus 2 hours in the fridge

Serves 4-6

 

Ingredients

2-3 cucumbers, cut into chunks

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 slice of white bread, roughly torn

350ml hot vegetable stock

4 tsp rice vinegar

1-2 tsp tabasco sauce

1 tbsp sugar

Fresh basil

Flaked almonds

 

Method

1. Blend the cucumber, onion, garlic and bread using a food processor or a hand held blender. You should end up with a fairly smooth mixture. Tip into a large bowl and pour over the hot stock and the other ingredients and stir. Leave to cool, then when at room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours

2. Serve with toasted flaked almonds and torn basil leaves.

 

The Seasonal Vegan is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Friday Poem – ‘here we come’ by Zoë Skoulding

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘here we come’ by Zoë Skoulding which is part of the longer, multi-part poem ‘Heft’. ‘Heft’ makes up the middle part of Zoë latest collection Footnotes to Water which has just been shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2020.

In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.

 

Footnotes to Water is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Vote for your favourite book on the Wales Book of the Year shortlist to win the People’s Choice Award. Zoë’s collection has been shortlisted in the poetry category alongside Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones. Vote now

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Help Poetry Wales fundraise for the Wales Young Poets Award

Poetry Wales are raising money to set up a new bilingual competition and anthology for young people aged 10-17 across Wales and the UK, but they need your help.

In order to run the Wales Young Poets Award, which will be free to enter and have a theme of empathy, they need to raise a minimum of £3000 which will go towards prizes, judging, translation and the cost of a print anthology.

However, they’d also like to create a set of new accessible online resources that will give all students, whether in school or learning from home during the pandemic, a fair chance. These new resources will include activity plans and video lessons on writing and performing poetry, and will be designed to compliment the new Welsh national curriculum, whilst also giving priority to freelance poets who have lost income due to Coronavirus. Your support up to £6000 would help make this possible.

Any additional funds over £6000, will be put towards subsidising free entries for low-income writers into the Wales Poetry Award which launched last year.

Their crowdfunder is running until 8.59am on Friday 10th July so please donate TODAY if you would like to support the campaign and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. Help them support the next generation of poets.

DONATE

 

What your support will fund

Your support up to £3000 will fund Wales Young Poets Award, including prizes, a print anthology sent to schools in Wales, judging and bilingual translation.

Your support up to £6000 will fund the creation of freely accessible poetry resources, including activity plans and video lessons for young poets. These are designed to complement the new Welsh national curriculum.

Support exceeding £6000 will be used to subsidise free entry to Wales Poetry Award for those from low-income backgrounds, ensuring fair access for all.

DONATE

 

Why they need your help

Celebrating Independent Bookshop Week

As bookshops in Wales and England begin to reopen, we wanted to remind you of how you can support your local indie bookshop this Independent Bookshop Week.

  1. Buy a book

Many indie bookshops are working harder than ever to get books out to customers during lockdown and are continuing to sell online, over the phone or via social media as they begin to open up. Find your local indie and check how they’re selling here https://indiebookshopweek.org.uk/bookshopsearch.

  1. Support them on social media

Spread the word about the indie bookshops you love, and those you’ve supported during lockdown by tagging your favourite ones on social media. Don’t forget to tag @booksaremybag, #IndieBookshopWeek and your friends.

  1. Get involved with online events

As well as working hard to get books to you, lots of Indies are also busy organising fantastic online events with all your favourite authors. Check with your local shop to see what they have going on. You should also take a look at what At Home With 4 Indies have coming up.

  1. Encourage others to buy from Indies too

Share your love of indies with your friends and family and encourage them to buy from independent bookshops too.

 

Indie Updates

We are proud to work with a number great independent bookshops in Wales and across the UK. Here is an update from some of them about how they’re currently operating.

 

The Wellfield Bookshop, Cardiff

“We are continuing to post out orders, and in view of the Welsh Government’s announcement last Friday we are hoping to open the shop later this week. We’d like to say a huge thank you for the continued support The Wellfield Bookshop has received during these uncertain times. Hopefully, see you soon!”

The Wellfield Bookshop are taking orders over the phone 029 2036 0777 or via Facebook.

 

Book-ish, Crickhowell

Book-ish has officially re-opened today with strict social distancing guidelines in place. They are posting regular updates on their Twitter page @Bookishcrick and also offer a great online service at https://www.book-ish.co.uk/.

Book-ish are also one of the shops running regular online events through At Home With 4 Indies. Check out what events they have coming up on Facebook.

 

Griffin Books, Penarth

“We’re pleased to announce that we will reopen the shop on Wednesday 1 July. Please keep an eye on our website and social media channels for details of new opening times and the social distancing measures that will be in place.

We will continue to offer an online ordering and home delivery service beyond Wednesday 1 July. If you would like to place an order, or have an enquiry about any of our services, please email us on: info@griffinbooks.co.uk You can also contact us via our social media channels: Twitter @GriffinBooksUK, Facebook @griffinbookspenarth, and Instagram @griffinbooksuk.

DELIVERY: We are offering a FREE home delivery service within the Penarth area (excludes Sully, Dinas Powys and Llandough) and posting to customers further afield (£3.00 postal charge applies). A FREE click and collect service will be in operation from Wednesday 1 July.”

They are also running a fab series of online events to celebrate Indie Bookshop Week this week. See what they have coming up and book tickets on their website www.griffinbooks.co.uk.

 

Browsers Bookshop, Portmadog

“Following the Welsh Government’s recent announcement, Ben and I would like to advise you of Browsers intentions.

It is NOT our intention to open the building for public admittance on Monday 22nd June. We will review the situation over the coming weeks/months.

We will continue to provide online, telephone, mail and doorstep orders/collections as we have done throughout lockdown.

We would like to thank each and every one of you who has supported us and other local independent businesses in any way during lockdown and ask you to respect our decision.

Thank you, Ben and Sian Cowper.”

Get in touch with them on 01766 512066 or via Facebook @browsersbookshopporthmadog. You can also browse on their brand new website https://browsersbook.shop/

 

Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop, Machynlleth

“Gardners Books wholesalers to the independent book trade, our postman, Clive, our UPS delivery man, Rob, Books Council Wales and The Booksellers’ Association have provided wonderful support. We also continue to offer Gardners Home Delivery service. Either way, you can still browse Gardners website, order your book through us and we will instruct Gardners (very nicely) to dispatch direct to you, or to a friend, via Royal Mail. We are still dealing direct with major publishers and our good allies, Y Lolfa and Atebol, the Independent Alliance and Yale University List representative – order away!”

The bookshop is closed to visitors, but you can order books via this form or by emailing penralltbooks@gmail.com. You can also call them on 01654 700559 (10am – 12noon weekdays only).

 

Cover to Cover, Swansea

“We’ve opened the doors, and it’s been great to see your friendly faces this morning. Offers all week with Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore (@Dylanthomasguy)!

You can also order via email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and we’ll deliver with social distancing for free within 10 miles, and post further afield.”

 

Palas Print, Caernarfon

“Thank you for your continued support during these testing times, and for your patience as we sort and deliver your orders. We understand how books are a comfort, a means of escape and a way of making teaching at home fun in these difficult times. Thank you for staying at home, staying safe, protecting our communities and NHS Wales. For the time being, please continue to take care and stay at home!

If you need a book or two, or advice about books, we are happy to accept and deliver orders, being mindful of the need to do this in a safe way. You’re welcome to order online from the shop section of the website at any time. Or, email your query and we’ll reply as soon as we can.

You can phone the shop 01286 674631 between 10am and 2pm Monday – Friday, or contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We will respond as soon as we can, but please be patient as we may take up to 24 hours to get back to you. Once your parcel is ready, we will deliver or post it to you. The service provided by the Post Office in Caernarfon has been excellent throughout.”

Order online – www.palasprint.com, over the phone 01286674631, or by e-mail eirian@palasprint.com.

Palas Print are also running a number of free online events this Indie Bookshop Week, register by emailing eirian@palasprint.com.

 

Workers Gallery, Porth

“Our focus has been to create book bundles that included artist cards and locally handmade chocolates so people could support us and 3 other small and independent businesses with one purchase. We provide a free gift wrapping and messaging service – which most orders used as they were bundles sent as gifts. We imagined the recipient opening the handwritten card, unwrapping the bundle to later be reading a fabulous book while chomping on a lovely chocolate treat! Feedback has been really good. We’ve even had recipients of The Occassional Vegan bundle (sent with vegan chocs) sending us photographs of the food they made from the recipes! We’re going to continue offering the book bundles online.”

View their full range of gift bundles one their website www.workersgallery.co.uk or get in touch with them via Twitter.

 

The Hours, Brecon

“We unfortunately remain closed but are pleased that after the initial shock and panic, sleepless nights and stress-filled days, we found our feet and have managed to use the time well and wisely. We’ve had some small improvement works completed that needed to be done internally at the shop; upgraded and improved our website and made (half-whispered, hopeful) plans for later in the trading year. We’re now in the process of having customer and staff safeguarding work done at the shop including safety screens etc, and are looking forward to reopening when it is safe to do so.

We have been impressed by the First Minister and Welsh Government’s cautious but measured and mature approach to the handling of the pandemic. It has been a stressful, frightening and unsettling time for businesses everywhere (indeed everyone, everywhere) and no doubt we will all see devastating repercussions for some time yet with the Arts, Hospitality and Tourism being especially badly hit it would seem. We can only trust that the right decisions have been made at the right times here in Wales and do our very best to recover and resume trading. I would stress that that cannot happen without continued financial and other support from all the relevant bodies and sectors, should any businesses still require it – they will.

Everyone navigating the ‘new normal’ demands lots of joined up thinking, empathy and support. Pulling the plug now and just hoping things fall into place isn’t optional and we urge Welsh Government to be there now, for everyone, at this pivotal point for the Welsh economy.”

We look forward to further updates on their re-opening soon.

 

Inigo Jones Slate Works, Caernarfon

“We have not opened our shop yet but we are accepting online orders at www.inigojones.co.uk. We hope to open soon but this will depend on certain restrictions being lifted.”

 

Don’t forget you can find your local independent bookshop using the Independent Bookshop Week bookshop search

We’d love to hear what Independent Bookshops you’ve been shopping with during lockdown and what books you’ve been buying. Tag us on social media @SerenBooks.  

Guest Post: Tony Curtis marks International Conscientious Objectors Day

Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day. Celebrated on the 15th May every year, it is a day to remember those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill, both in the past and today. There have been a number of notable COs within art and literature in Wales and in this guest post Tony Curtis reflects on them.

Concerning Some Conchies: A brief survey of some notable COs in Welsh art and letters

On May 15th this year we commemorate International Conscientious Objectors Day. In my 2007 book Wales at War: Essays on Literature and Art  I found myself writing a chapter on pacifism and conscientious objectors in Wales. I was ill-prepared, but had been let down by a fellow academic and the book was past its projected publication deadline. There have been more useful sources published since then and I have more reasons to re-visit the subject having found out about my father’s court-martial in 1943. I try to deal with this in the poem ‘Pro Patria’ (From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, Seren, 2016) but I am still to be convinced that his leaving the army and brief imprisonment can be explained by the CO story some members of my family clung to.

Whatever happened, the whole thing’s been
washed away – personal feelings, the loss of face,
a Field General Court Martial
before they packed you off to Lincoln Prison
and a cell alongside the ne’er do wells,
Quakers and spivs, malingerers, wastes of space.

What is certain is that I had several writer and artist friends who really had been COs and had suffered the consequences. Two of the earliest and most valued supporters and influences on my early writing career were Glyn Jones (1905-95) and Roland Mathias (1915-2007). In 1940 Glyn had registered his objection to the war, despite the fact that, as a teacher, he would have been unlikely to be conscripted immediately anyway. He was sacked from his teaching job in Cardiff, but later found another post. Glyn’s reasons for protesting were rooted in his Christian belief. His position is an interesting contrast to that of his friend Dylan Thomas, who sent letter after letter to Glyn and others in a desperate attempt to avoid conscription. Glyn’s close friend, the artist John Elwyn (1916-97) was also a CO. In the middle of his studies at the Royal College of Art, in 1940 he objected and was directed to farm work in what was then the village of Lisvane, north of Cardiff. His paintings of Ceredigion are luminous and celebratory, as in this fitting cover to Glyn’s Selected Poems.

More determined and honest in his position than Dylan was their contemporary Roland Mathias, the poet, critic and founding editor of The Anglo-Welsh Review, who was jailed twice for his objections. Roland’s father had served as an army chaplain in the First World War and had retired before the Second with the rank of Colonel. However, Roland’s mother was a firm and unyielding pacifist who had no sympathy for army life and profoundly influenced Roland. He was adamant; the wing forward for St Helens RFC, “One scarcely expects to find a pacifist in a rugby pack”, as a glowing match report observed, absolutely refused any wartime activity that might have been seen to condone the fighting.

On the occasion of his second term of imprisonment, with hard labour, his pupils at the Blue Coat School in Reading raised the money to secure his release. For he had suffered:

Seven-square days that bleach and crack
Between the wells and balconies
And concrete exercise…

The significant Welsh language poet Waldo Williams (1904-71) wrote of the horrors of the Swansea Blitz in ‘Y Tangnefeddwyr’.  He was from a Baptist upbringing, though later a Quaker, embodied the two main strands of conscientious objection in Wales – religion and politics – as he was also a Labour Party member in the Thirties. Waldo maintained his position throughout his life; he lost his teaching job in the war, and he later refused to pay taxes to support the Korean War. He too was jailed on two occasions as a protest against conscription and National Service: “The sick world’s balm shall be brotherhood alone.” Williams was undoubtedly influenced by the poetry and politics of the older Pembrokeshire poet T.E. Nicholas.

T.E. Nicholas (1879-1971) ‘Niclas y Glais’, was a pacifist through both world wars. He and his son Islwyn were jailed on ludicrous charges of fascism in 1940. A committed Christian and Communist, a non-conformist minster who later trained as a dentist, Nicholas wrote his admired Prison Sonnets after spells in Swansea and Brixton and these were published during the war. He had also preached consistently against the Great War and would surely have been imprisoned then if he had not been an ordained minister.

In the last decade of his life I became friends with the writer and artist Jonah Jones (1919-2004) whose remarkable life has been celebrated in the Seren books An Artist’s Life and Dear Mona: Letters from a Conscientious Objector (edited by son Peter Jones). Fascinated by John Pett’s illustrations to Dylan Thomas poems in issues of Wales magazine, Jonah followed his fellow Conchie into the army as an unarmed medic in the Parachute Regiment.  He described the exhilaration and terror of jumping: “…when I jump, once I’m in the slipstream, I just ride it like a witch riding her broom.” After jumps over occupied Europe in support of the Allied offensive Jonah arrived at the Belsen concentration camp. After witnessing those horrors he said he knew his objection had been wrong.

Dear Mona Jonah Jones

The artist, collector and critic Arthur Giardelli (1911-2009), as a teacher in Folkestone, was evacuated to the south Wales valleys and there, after his sacking as a CO, was instrumental in setting up the Dowlais Settlement. After the war, Arthur moved to Pendine, then into south Pembrokeshire; he contributed greatly to the practice and teaching of art in Wales for the next sixty years, particularly in his innovative paper and shell constructions and his work for the 56 Group. His re-location to Wales, as that of the refugee Polish Jew Josef Herman, was one of the significantly positive consequences of the dislocation that war can bring.

Emyr Humphreys is one hundred and one years old this year. The pre-eminent novelist of the twentieth century in Wales, his work is predicated on a non-conformist faith which meant that he registered as a CO in the Second World War and, in common with Jonah Jones, worked on the land. He later undertook relief work with displaced persons in Italy and Egypt. For over sixty years his books, broadcasting work and criticism have reflected a commitment to Wales that is unparalleled.

Therefore prepare the stage for a decent action
Present the right alignment for a crime
International crisis is a personal situation
Prison, wall, bandage and the lime.

(‘Courage’)

Conscientious Objection in Wales may be traced from D. Gwenallt Jones (1899-1968) the Welsh Nationalist and Christian poet, who was one of the most notable COs in the Great War. Conscripted in 1917, he objected and was sent to Wormwood Scrubs and then a work unit at Dartmoor. It may be argued that this tradition and those principles informed and guided later protest movements. The arson carried out at Penrhos, at the proposed site of a bombing school by Saunders Lewis, D.J. Williams and Lewis Valentine at Penrhos in 1936 and later the Tryweryn actions and protests of 1965, are all part of the narrative of resistance in Wales to British policies.

‘Y Tri: The Three’ © Ifor Davies

So too the C.N.D. protests in Wales which included the occasion when R.S. Thomas and others sat down in the road in front of the council offices in Carmarthen town where a nuclear bunker was said to have been built. The Greenham Common fence camps of 1981-2000 which began with the march from Cardiff to Berkshire by the Women for Life on Earth group would also be a significant example of those principles of peaceful protest. The artist Ifor Davies (b. 1935) continues to explore this legacy of protest.

‘Yr Ysgrifen ar y Mur I: The Writing on the Wall I’ © Ifor Davies, 2000

There is a tradition of religious and socialist action which in the literatures and art of our country have been an important element in our challenge of self-identification. Today there is an opportunity again to reflect on COs from Wales and their continuing influence.

Tony Curtis

 

Tony Curtis is a poet, critic, essayist and expert on Welsh Art. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including his latest: From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems. He has also written volumes of critical work on poets and artists and edited popular anthologies of poetry. He is Emeritus Professor of Poetry at the University of South Wales, where he established and was Director of the MPhil in Writing for many years. He has been elected to the Royal Society of Literature and has toured widely reading his poetry to international audiences.

From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Announcing the Seren Stay-at-Home Series Programme!

Beginning on Tuesday 12th May, we will be bringing you the Seren Stay-at-Home Series – ten days of online readings, interviews and Q&As with our fantastic authors. Browse the full programme below.

Buy Tickets Here*

*All ticket holders will receive an exclusive 30% discount code to use on the Seren website. This code can be applied to any order but can only be redeemed once per user.

Date: Tuesday 12th May

Time: 7:30pm​

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Robert Minhinnick: Nia, interviewed by Jon Gower

Nia Vine is about to fulfil her dream of exploring an unmapped cave system. With her will go two friends brought up in the same seaside town. As they explore, Nia finds herself obsessed by a series of dreams that lead to a shocking revelation.

Newly longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, Nia is the latest novel from award-winning author Robert Minhinnick. Join us to hear him in conversation with Jon Gower discussing the book’s themes, its links to his previous two novels Sea Holly and Limestone Man, and to hear him read extracts from the book.

“a dizzying, yet, brilliant carrousel of delirium.” – Wales Arts Review

Robert Minhinnick is the prize-winning author of four volumes of essays, more than a dozen collections of poetry, and several works of fiction. He has edited a book on the environment in Wales, written for television, and was formerly the editor of Poetry Wales. He is the co-founder of the environmental organisation Sustainable Wales. His debut novel Sea Holly was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2008. Robert’s second novel Limestone Man is a gripping story of a man trying to connect past and present, haunted by dreams of Australia and his youth. Nia was published by Seren in 2019.

Photo credit: Marian Delyth

Jon Gower has over thirty books to his name, in Welsh and English, including The Story of Wales which accompanied the landmark BBC series, An Island Called Smith which gained the John Morgan Travel Writing Award and Y Storïwr which won the Wales Book of the Year award. He is a former BBC Wales arts and media correspondent and was for many years the presenter of Radio Wales’ arts programme First Hand.  He lives in Cardiff with his wife Sarah and daughters Elena and Onwy.

 

Date: Wednesday 13th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Eoghan Walls: Pigeon Songs

Pigeon Songs by Derry-born poet Eoghan Walls is richly detailed, densely metaphorical, and steeped in themes of love and loss. The totemic pigeon suggests both a down-to-earth physicality and an ability to astonish, to take flight. Formally adept, vividly evocative, Pigeon Songs is a collection that rewards re-reading. Introduced by our poetry editor Amy Wack, Eoghan joins us from his home to read from the collection.

Eoghan Walls was born in Derry in Northern Ireland. He studied in Wales, Dublin and Belfast, where he completed a PhD in the Seamus Heaney Centre. He was the winner of an Eric Gregory Award and an Irish Arts Council Bursary, and his work has been published widely in journals and anthologies throughout the UK and Ireland. His first collection of poems, The Salt Harvest, was published by Seren in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Strong Award for Best First Collection. Eoghan teaches creative writing at Lancaster University, and lives with his wife and daughters in a village near the sea.

 

Date: Thursday 14th May

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Ask a Poet Q&A with Kim Moore

Calling all poets! If you’ve got a burning question you would like to put to an award-winning author, this is the event for you. In this special Q&A, Kim Moore, author of The Art of Falling, will be answering your questions and offering advice on all aspects of poetry. Attendees will be able to submit questions for Kim in advance of the event which will be chaired by Seren poetry editor Amy Wack.

Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015) won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. She won a Northern Writers Award in 2014, an Eric Gregory Award in 2011 and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2010. If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. She is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University and is working on her second collection.

 

 

Date: Thursday 14th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Phil Cope: The Poetry of the Sacred Springs and Holy Wells of WalesScotlandCornwall & Ireland

Join author and photographer Phil Cope on a richly-illustrated journey through the wellsprings of Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland. Found on mountaintops, in deserted valleys, on the coast, in sea caves and even in city centres, wells have long-standing links with religion, healing and folklore, and have always been places of inspiration for our poets. Phil will share some of his favourites of these responses with us. Followed by a short Q&A.

Phil Cope is a photographer, writer, teacher, and cultural exhibition designer whose subjects have included the footballer John Charles, Paul Robeson and Wales and the Spanish Civil War. His lavishly illustrated books on wells include Holy Wells: Wales (2008), Holy Wells: Cornwall (2010), Borderlands (2013), Holy Wells: Scotland (2015) and The Living Wells of Wales (2019).

 

 

 

Date: Friday 15th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Ben Wilkinson: Way More Than Luck

Way More Than Luck is the vivid debut collection of well-known poet and critic Ben Wilkinson. At its heart is a series of poems inspired by a lifelong devotion to Liverpool Football Club. We meet former players, coaches and re-live moments of both stoic despair and wild joy, where vivid themes are adroitly enacted in poetic forms. Ben joins us from his home to read from the collection and discuss the poems he has been sharing on social media to get us through lockdown.

Ben Wilkinson was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield. In 2014 he won the Poetry Business Competition and a Northern Writers’ Award, and in 2015 he was awarded a writers’ grant from Arts Council England. He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool FC fan, and he writes criticism for The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and Poetry Review. He lectures at the University of Bolton.

 

Date: Saturday 16th May

Time: 4:00pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Nula Suchet: The Longest Farewell

When Nula’s husband James was struck by Pick’s Disease, an early onset form of dementia, her life began a terrible downward spiral. Feeling alone and consumed by grief and the demands of caring for James with little support, she turned to the care system for help. There she met Bonnie, a resident in the same home as James, and in turn Bonnie’s husband, the broadcaster John Suchet. The similarity of their plight became a bond between them and after the deaths of James and Bonnie, and some guilt-induced false starts, they eventually married. In this event, Nula and John join us from their home for an intimate discussion on the heart-breaking reality of caring for a loved one with dementia and of unexpectedly finding a happy ending.

“A cry from the heart that is a triumph of love over despair.” – Alan Titchmarsh

Nula Suchet was born in Ireland, part of a large family. After a difficult early life she became an interior designer who worked internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. She now lives in London with her husband John Suchet. The Longest Farewell is her harrowing account of dealing with her husband’s dementia and the heart-break that accompanied it.

 

Sunday 17th May
NO EVENTS

 

Date: Monday 18th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Peter Finch: Walking Cardiff & The Machineries of Joy

Renowned performance poet and author of the Real Cardiff books, Peter Finch, will read from his two most recent books Walking Cardiff and The Machineries of Joy. Followed by a short Q&A.

Peter Finch is a poet, author and critic who lives in Cardiff.  His latest book Walking Cardiff (Seren, 2019) is a collection of twenty walks around the Welsh capital, written in conjunction with photographer John Briggs. His first collection of poetry in a decade The Machineries of Joy was published by Seren in February 2020.

Peter is a former publisher, bookseller and Chief Executive of the Welsh Academy (now Literature Wales), and recipient of the Ted Slade Award for Service to Poetry 2011. He compiles the poetry section for Macmillan’s annual Writer’s Handbook and the self-publishing section for A&C Black’s Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook.  His extensive website can be viewed at www.peterfinch.co.uk.

 

Date: Tuesday 19th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

T. J. Hughes: Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches

The archetypal Welsh church is not in town or village, enhanced by generations of patronage: it is the isolated, simple, evocative walls-with-roof, in a landscape often spiritually charged.  The Welsh churches tell us about medieval times, and the Age of Saints that came before and, amazingly of the pagan Celtic times before that, which they were meant to erase.

Illustrated in colour Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches encompasses a millennium of  churches around Wales, from tiny St Govan’s tucked in its cliff-face, through ruined Llanthony to the magnificence of the cathedrals at Llandaff and St David’s. It is an invaluable repository of history, art and architecture, spirituality and people’s lives which will appeal to the historian and the tourist, communicants and those without a god. T J Hughes brings the book alive in this fascinating illustrated talk.

“A really wonderful book.” – Simon Jenkins

T J Hughes was born in Denbighshire in 1959. His lifelong fascination with Welsh culture, and with its old churches and chapels, led him to write Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches which aims to show some of the great treasures of Welsh churches, as well as explaining their very distinctive history and origins in Wales’s unique and ancient story. He also wrote the short biography of R.S. Thomas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Deputy Executive Director of the International Bar Association, which works around the world to foster the rule of law and to fight against infringements of human rights such as state use of torture, he lives in London with his wife and son.

 

Date: Wednesday 20th May

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Ask a Writer Q&A with Jaki McCarrick

Calling all writers! Join award-winning writer and playwright Jaki McCarrick for a special Q&A session. Perhaps you would like to know where she finds inspiration for her short stories, or you would like to write for the stage but don’t know where to begin? This is your chance to ask. Attendees will be able to submit questions for Jaki in advance of the event which will be chaired by Mick Felton.

Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer of plays, poetry and fiction. Her play Leopardville won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing, and The Naturalists premiered last year at the Soho Repertory Theatre, New York to rave reviews. Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio in London, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award. In 2016 Jaki was selected for Screen Ireland’s Talent Development Initiative and has recently completed the screen adaptation of Belfast Girls. Jaki’s plays The Mushroom Pickers, Leopardville and Belfast Girls were published by Samuel French in 2015. She has also had plays published by Routledge and Aurora Metro.

Her short story collection, The Scattering, was published by Seren and was shortlisted for the 2014 Edge Hill Prize. The collection includes her story ‘The Visit’ which won the Wasafiri Prize for Short Fiction.

Longlisted in 2014 for the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate, she is currently editing her first novel, set in the border area of the Cooley Peninsula, close to where she lives. Jaki also regularly writes critical pieces for the Times Literary Supplement, Irish Examiner, Poetry Ireland Review and other publications.

 

Date: Wednesday 20th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Alexandra Ford: What Remains at the End

Alexandra Ford’s debut novel What Remains at the End is wonderfully intelligent and hauntingly beautiful. It focuses on the largely undocumented ethnic cleansing of the former Yugoslavia’s ethnic German population, the Danube Swabians, by Tito and his partisan regime. Alternating between the late 1940s and contemporary Serbia, the story is told from the perspective of Marie Kholer who embarks on a journey to find out the truth about her grandparents’ flight to America. Ford speaks movingly of the personal stories that brought her to the book, and will answer questions from the audience about her research and how one can use the impulse to memoir as a way to weave a fictional tale of persuasive power.

“a deeply personal, startlingly honest, and devastating portrayal of the lasting effects of communal and generational trauma.” – Wales Arts Review

Alexandra Ford was born near Philadelphia. She earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her BA from Virginia Tech. Her writing appears in The Rumpus and No Tokens Journal, among others. She lives on a smallholding on the border between England and Wales.

 

Date: Thursday 21st May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

An Evening of Poetry with Tamar Yoseloff & Martyn Crucefix

Tamar Yoseloff and Martyn Crucefix join us from London for an exciting evening of poetry. Tamar Yoseloff’s new collection The Black Place is a dark and gorgeously multi-faceted collection that eschews the sentimental, embraces alternatives and offers antidotes to cheery capitalist hype. Martyn Crucefix’s The Lovely Disciplines is full of elegantly-crafted, intriguing poems. The ‘disciplines’ of the title encompass many of the manifestations of human love: of a child, a partner, of ageing parents, of the world.

Tamar Yoseloff’s fifth collection, A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems, was published by Seren in 2015. She’s also the author of Formerly, a chapbook incorporating photographs by Vici MacDonald (Hercules Editions, 2012) shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award; two collaborative editions with artist Linda Karshan; and a book with artist Charlotte Harker. She’s a freelance tutor in creative writing, and runs poetry courses for galleries including the Hayward, the RA and the National Gallery. She lectures on the Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry. Her sixth collection, The Black Place, was published in 2019.

Martyn Crucefix has won numerous prizes including a major Eric Gregory award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He has published 7 collections of poetry including Hurt (Enitharmon, 2010): “an exceptional ear…superbly intelligent…urgent, heartfelt, controlled and masterful.” (Kathryn Maris, Poetry London). His translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies (Enitharmon, 2006) was shortlisted for the Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation and hailed as “unlikely to be bettered for very many years” (Magma). His translation of Rilke’s The Sonnets to Orpheus appeared from Enitharmon in 2012. His translations of Rainer Maria Rilke and the Daodejing, appeared in 2016. His collection The Lovely Disciplines was published by Seren in 2017.

 

Date: Friday 22nd May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

David Llewellyn: A Simple Scale, interviewed by Nemonie Craven Roderick

In A Simple Scale, a piece of music starts a story that will range across Soviet Russia, McCarthyite Hollywood and post-9/11 New York, as the secrets of the lives of two gay composers are uncovered. David Llewellyn explores the points at which the personal and the political meet as narratives of love, death, deceit, the CIA, atomic bombs and classical music unfold. Hear David Llewellyn in conversation with Nemonie Craven Roderick discussing his Polari Prize shortlisted novel A Simple Scale.

‘Beautifully told and beautifully written’ – Philip Reeve 

David Llewellyn was raised in Pontypool and is a graduate of Darlington College of Arts. As well as his four novels for Seren he has written scripts for the BBC and several short stories. David lives and works in Cardiff.

 

 

 

Nemonie Craven Roderick is an agent at Jonathan Clowes Literary Agents. Her clients include Gruff Rhys, Toby Vieira, Simon Critchley and The New York Times (for the popular column The Stone).

 

 

 

Visit the Seren website to get your tickets*

*All ticket holders will receive an exclusive 30% discount code to use on the Seren website. This code can be applied to any order but can only be redeemed once per user.