Category Archives: Museums & heritage

Review of Forget-me-Not at Pontypridd Museum by Roger Barrington

 

 

 

(4 / 5)

A timely reminder of the supreme sacrifice that people from the South Wales valleys made during World War 1 is reenacted at Pontypridd Museum.

Written and presented by Avant Cymru the company’s intention is to inspire the valley’ communities by recalling the past, to discuss the present and create the future.

Pontypridd Museum, itself currently showing a WW1 exhibition and its many links to the social history of the area, proves to be an ideal setting for performing this play.

The action begins by  Reverend Richards (Matthew Bool) conducting a service, which basically provides the opportunity to sing perennial favourite Welsh Hymns such as “Calon Lan” and “Cwm Rhondda” and the English hymn, “Abide with Me”. Accompaniment is provided by David Hutchings playing the fine organ in situ.  Thankfully there isn’t a collection. The Reverend then provides a brief firebrand sermon reminding the congregation forcefully and passionately about their responsibilities at this time of great social turmoil. He turns on young mother Catrin Williams who it seems had a boy aged thirteen attacking her moral behaviour,

The action continues at different locations around the museum. You witness the recruiting sergeant, (Yannick Budd),  and the issues that prevented some men from enlisting. The urging by Catrin that her son lie about being under-aged so that he could be safer fighting at The Front compared to the inevitable going down the mines.

The action moves downstairs to re-enact a scene at the Front Line, although I don’t think the men depicted would have lasted very long at that place, failing to keep their head under the parapet.

 

 

The scene is very loud which is as it should be because it was the incessant shelling and gunfire, (sounds that carried from the trenches to South-East England), that was the reason why many of the soldiers succumbed to neurasthenia, (shell-shock).

Emerging from the depths the final scene takes place at the local post office run by Emily Davies, (Cler Stephens) reveals the anxieties of families awaiting news of their loved ones from The Front.

The mixed professional and amateur actors play their characters with conviction and production values are high with realistic costumes and excellent sound.

I watched the performance in the well-behaved company of primary school children from two local schools. I noted that the boys were in their element when they were being drilled by the sergeant and at the scene at The Front, whilst the girls seemed a little nervous and distracted there but were more engaged with the Post Office scene. A nice touch was to present the entire audience with a red poppy at the end which you then pressed on to a board near the exit, so that you could pay your respects to your ancestors and remember all who had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Patient research by the production team has revealed diaries and poems that were written by local soldiers and this provided a strong connection to the audience, by its Welsh flavour.

This hour-long play is a brilliant way to convey the terrible time that any war brings to local communities particularly to children. It’s intentions are magnificent and I cannot praise it enough.

 

Roger Barrington

Continue reading Review of Forget-me-Not at Pontypridd Museum by Roger Barrington

Castle Coch Visit by Sian Thomas

Today I was fortunate enough to finally find a use that interested me for my amassing amounts of Spice Time Credits. Castle Coch: somewhere I haven’t been for, I’m relatively sure, at least ten years? Either way, last I recall of the circularly patterned cobblestones and the cubbyholes and tiny doors was when I was definitely more of a child than I am now. I remember loving it there, and I know I loved it this time, too. Seeing it when driving along the motorway had always been one thing – on your way to somewhere else and gazing up at is wondering how it fit there and why it was always such a friendly presence – but going there again was a nice change, and it felt good to traipse up and down and around the staircases and all along its little balconies, finding tiny doors to go through and seeing all the different rooms.

My favourite one was the kitchen. Roped off, of course, but still full of things I wanted to put my hands on: tiny appliances, teeny kettles, the smallest and thinnest baby highchair I’ve certainly ever seen. I think mostly, though, that I enjoy the way the rooms look: round, with small dewy windows, occasionally a lovely arc that I would find immense pleasure in cuddling down into with a book or a mug or something to watch. I wish that was something I could’ve done in that castle the most: find myself a nook to nestle in and stay there from then on.

Also, the cafe was great. Cute little tables arranged in one of the more dim castle rooms; my one slightly elevated and under a window. The cafe was full of ladybugs – which in all honesty, I thought was lovely. I was having tea and enjoying having one or two scuttle over my hand and on to the little flowers on the tables.

Visiting the castle was good, honest fun; and had me in a lot of feelings by the time I was done. Like largely appreciative, hugely valuing aestheticism (I know the castle had a purpose whatever time that may have been – but now I just think it’s so lovely to look at and wander through and if that’s the most fun I have and I’m not hurting anyone, I can’t see much bad in that).
Overall a really nice day out! Definitely a good time for any age

Party at the Park Cardiff, 28th August 2018 by Barbara Hughes-Moore

I was lucky enough to attend Party at the Park last week, a fantastic festival which featured a superb line-up of beloved stars of the 1970s and 80s at Bute Park, Cardiff. With more fantastic musical acts than Depot 2018, and none of Burning Lantern‘s Queue-Gate drama, Party at the Park 2018 is the best festival I’ve had the pleasure of attending.

Now to the acts themselves: Big Mac’s Wholly Soul Band started off the musical line-up with a brassy bang, getting the party started with energetic renditions of Living in America, Get On Up and Proud Mary.

Next, we were treated to a vibrant set by Odyssey, a group responsible for some of those best floor-filling dance hits in living memory; of that dynamic discography, we were blessed with electric renditions of Native New Yorker, Inside Out, Don’t Tell Me Tell Her, and perhaps the most iconic of an exemplary back catalogue: Going Back to My Roots.

Next up was T’Pau (aka Carol Decker), who came on to perform such hits as her joyfully synthy bop Heart and Soul, the Frankenstein-inspired power ballad China in Your Hand, and melancholic new song Run. Carol Decker’s powerful, effortless voice has never sounded better, and she had such a wonderful, natural rapport with the audience and her fantastic backing singer/ tambourinist.

Special guest Tony Hadley, of Spandau Ballet fame, performed a brilliant set that incorporated some of his greatest hits with some lively new material, backed by a tremendously talented band. As with Carol Decker, Hadley’s stadium-sized pipes have never sounded better, belting out new hits like the James Bond-esque Take Back Everything and the nostalgia-infused Tonight Belongs to Us. But there was little that could match the nostalgic heights of Gold and True, two of Spandau’s finest songs, and the near-spiritual sound of the crowd belting out every lyrical inflection, as one.

The festival closed with headliners Al McKay’s Earth Wind & Fire Experience, reuniting the band’s past members to honour the legacy of Maurice White, the group’s co-founder and co-frontman who sadly passed away in 2016. The band who brought us Boogie Wonderland, Shining StarSeptember and more brought down the house – the quality of the live music was stunning, with every singer, dancer and musician at the very top of their game.

On a non-musical note: there were at least four bars situated onsite, and a number of street food stalls that kept the queues relatively small and fast-moving. They even had a fun fair and a VIP area; and, in addition to the tent that housed the main stage, there were two other disco tents playing piped music. These were all good additions, but they often drowned out the music from the main stage unless you were right near the front.

Party at the Park 2018 in Cardiff was a roaring success – from the sheer number of high quality acts on the billing, to the ready availability of food and drink of all sorts on offer, and the beautiful location of Bute Park – roll on next year’s festival!

Depot in the Castle 2018 by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Depot, self-branded as Cardiff’s most exciting original venue, certainly earns their creativity kudos (and then some) with a whole host of events from street food socials to pop-up secrets speakeasys and, since 2017, an annual music festival at Cardiff Castle. After having reviewed the wonderful line-up, but woeful organisation, of my first festival experience (last year’s Burning Lantern Fayre), I was looking forward to seeing how Depot in the Castle (DITC) fared with their sophomore festival – and I’m happy to report that it was a roaring success!

I was incredibly impressed by just how well the event was organised. A plethora of food stalls purveying everything from posh crepes to pizzas – it was dazzling to the eyes and ears, and also the tastebuds. Unlike Burning Lantern – where I only managed to procure a Danish pastry approximately seven hours in – the availability of food on offer here was astounding. After much deliberation, I plumped for curry and chips at That Fish Guy’s stall – I was served immediately, and can only commend their efficiency of service and high quality of food. The only queues in sight were, understandably, lining up to the bar (though with the amount of staff on hand, they were fast-moving and efficient), and at the ice-cream van. Il Gelataio’s artisan ice-cream was a highlight of the day, and the best gelato I’ve ever tasted – the 30 minute queue was in part due to their status as the only ice-cream vendors of the day, and in future I’d suggest they have at least two such stalls to reduce the wait-time.

The free water was also a huge plus – I wrongly assumed that it was available over the counter, so I initially had to shell out £2.50 for bottled water (though I’m not sure why they weren’t allowed to give out lids, leaving me carrying around a precariously un-lidded bottle all day). However, once I found the free water station, it was a life-saver – especially on such a gloriously sunny day – and an idea from which Burning Lantern would have benefited.

Depot also continues my personal trend of finding the penultimate performers to be the best acts of the festival. For Burning Lantern 2017, that was Jack Savoretti; for Depot in the Castle 2018, that honour goes to The Fratellis. Their debut album Costello Music was one of the first albums I ever bought, and hearing it again – live – was a full-on nostalgia trip. Sung by football fans and angsty teens alike, their iconic song Chelsea Dagger has mass appeal in the nifty universality of its one-word chorus – and the raucous refrains of ‘do do do, do do do, do do do do do do do’ (repeat ad infinitum) understandably had the crowd in raptures. Their set was the standout of the night, and every song was a winner – from the pretty little ditty Whistle for the Choir, to the bawdy belting of Henrietta, and the scat-like sound of Flathead’s gleeful gibberish chorus that could just as well be a modern update of The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.

Sister Sledge closed the night with an absolutely sensational, stylish set, bringing the house down with iconic tunes like Lost in Music, Thinking of You and He’s the Greatest Dancer (during the latter, they even brought up two people from the crowd to dance on stage, which was a lovely touch). And it was a special treat to see these legends closing out the festival with the incomparable We Are Family.  I have to also shout out their amazing band, who filled the festival with the most amazing music. Their joy in performing was matched only by the joy of the audience.

It was a real privilege to be able to see The Fratellis and Sister Sledge performing live in Cardiff, and a real coup for Depot to have secured them for the festival. However, I must say that they were the only musical acts worth seeing at the event. Hackney Colliery Band, while highly skilled musicians, didn’t fit the tone of the festival for me. And the only other music was pumped, pre-recorded, out of the speakers. Fleetmac Wood’s remixes only lessened the original songs; and Horsemeat Disco had a great playlist, but it didn’t come close to the quality, excitement or atmosphere of live music. Say what you will about Burning Lantern (and, believe me, I have), at least they had live music across the board throughout the entire event, on both the main stage and a separate acoustic stage. Holding the festival in St Fagans also provided Burning Lantern with a bigger, more picturesque location – though setting DITC 2018 in Cardiff Castle was a real treat. Unlike Burning Lantern, DITC’s site was accessible and well-signposted, and it was most helpful of them to release a setlist and site map prior to the event that made navigating the festival easy and enjoyable.

Depot in the Castle 2018 was a huge success, from the wonderful central location to the excellent organisation, delicious food with minimal queueing, and the two stellar headliners. However, the scarcity of live music was a disappointment, and I can only hope that the overall quality of the festival will entice more artists to perform live at Depot in the Castle 2019.

Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

 

Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

Get the Chance is in the running to be named as one of Wales’ best organisations for being accessible to deaf people.

The shortlist has been announced for the Excellence Wales Awards 2018 – the annual awards run by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.

The charity’s awards recognise businesses that take steps to make their services accessible to the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss.

All organisations either nominated themselves or were put forward by a person who is deaf and has received a good service in the past year.

The shortlist is now in the running to be awarded one of four titles;

  • Service Excellence
  • Excellence in Health
  • Excellence in Arts and Entertainment
  • Excellent Employer

The awards will be decided by an independent panel, made up of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. A People’s Choice Award will be chosen by the public, to vote for Get the Chance in this category please click on the link  here.

Rebecca Woolley, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru said,

“The judging panel now have a difficult job to decide the winners from an impressive shortlist. All the shortlisted organisations prove that simple changes can really improve the lives of people with hearing loss. I hope that organisations across Wales are inspired by this shortlist and start thinking about the simple changes they can make to ensure their services are accessible to the one-in-six people who are deaf or have hearing loss.”

Guy O’Donnell, Director, Get the Chance said,

“Our volunteers produce unique content which supports Deaf audiences and artists to ensure a range of opinions are seen and read relating to sport and cultural provision. We are honoured and humbled to be shortlisted as part of this years awards.”

The awards will be held at Cardiff’s St David’s Hotel on 4 May 2018, presented by ITV Wales News reporter Megan Boot.

“How well do you know Cathays Park, Cardiff?” A research study

The Civic Centre area of Cardiff known as Cathays Park is the subject of a new piece of research by Mari Lowe and Carrie Westwater. They teamed up with Nerys Lloyd-Pierce of Cardiff Civic Society to take a walk around the space. Nerys wrote her reflections after a slightly chilly but very peaceful walk…

“I recently read Rob Cowen’s Common Ground, a beautiful, reflective book in which the author becomes immersed in the minutiae of the natural environment of the ‘edge lands’ on the outskirts of his home town, Harrogate.

Cowen gets to know this relatively small patch of forgotten land intimately: he knows its moods, feels the vibrations of the past, fears for its future.

Last week’s walk around Cathays Park made me realise how little I really know an area I would consider to be familiar to me.  Take Alexandra Gardens. I have walked through them many times,  have sat on the grass on summer afternoons, but until last week, I hadn’t noticed the Wallenberg memorial stone and tree.  The story behind it was one of humanity and heroism.

Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat, posted to Budapest in 1944, with a mission to help the city’s Jews.

Wallenberg had the authority of the Swedish government – neutral in the Second World War – to issue certificates which protected named Jews from deportation. He had carefully designed the documents to look like Swedish passports. He issued far more than the number he’d agreed with Hungarian officials, and also forged documents to protect individuals at risk.

Thanks to Wallenberg and his associates, more than 100,000 Jews were still in Budapest when the city was liberated by Soviet forces in February 1945. Tragically however, Wallenberg himself disappeared in January 1945. He was arrested by Soviet personnel, possibly on suspicion of spying. One report claims he died in 1947 at the KGB’s Lubyanka prison.

I felt immensely moved by this story, and by the human capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice.  It also set me thinking – how many other corners of my home city have I overlooked, and how many more stories will unfold if I start looking properly…”

Mari and Carrie are interested to find out how people think and feel about the Civic Centre and how they use it on a day-to-day basis. The research is funded by the Cultural Participation Research Network (led by Eval Elliot, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University Ellie Byrne, Research Associate, Cardiff University) and supported by Cardiff Civic Society and Welsh Centre for International Affairs. To find out more or to share your thoughts on the Civic Centre email: marilouiselowe@gmail.com

Nerys is secretary of Cardiff Civic Society. To find out more or to join the society visit: http://www.cardiffcivicsociety.org/

Sharing Positive Action to support Access, Inclusion and Diversity

In this article we interview a range of arts professionals to share good practice in the areas of Access, Inclusion and Diversity.

Meredydd Barker 

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a playwright, artistic director of Narberth Youth Theatre and the west Wales rep for Youth Arts Network Cymru – YANC

 Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

It begins with the young. Youth Arts Network Cymru – YANC – is doing tremendous work in this regard in the hope that as the young people involved grow older and, perhaps, make a career in the arts, best practice can spread through the industry . Then, one day, access, inclusion and diversity will not be issues that have to be continually addressed. They won’t be issues at all.

Helena Davies

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m Helena Davies, and I’m a linguist with a background in Technical Translation and English as a Foreign Language. I have a BA in Italian and Spanish, an MA in Literary Translation and I am currently preparing for my Welsh Mynediad exam in June. I moved to Cardiff from London last year, and over the last couple of months, I have been training to become a Captioner, working on producing film and TV subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. I recently received audio description training from Dr Louise Fryer, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and Audio Describer, and Anne Hornsby of Mind’s Eye, both pioneers in UK audio description. I am now looking to establish a career in Captioning and Audio Description. I dance samba de gafieira and samba funkeado, and am passionate about media and arts accessibility.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

With a strong interest in dance and accessibility, I was delighted to be invited by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales, to attend a three-day audio description training course based on the Family Dance Festival at Chapter Arts Centre. Over an intense three days, we learnt how best to audio describe dance, which is considered to be one of the hardest mediums to describe. We all concurred that “Drifter” by Jukebox Collective, featuring the talented Kate Morris, was by far the trickiest to describe. The Family Dance Festival is presented by Bombastic and Coreo Cymru, and features four short audio described dance performances in Welsh and English, with accompanying touch tours. It is a great initiative and exciting to see dance being opened up to all. The Family Dance Festival is running from 24 March to 14 April 2018

Elise Davison

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m the co founder and Artistic Director of Taking Flight Theatre Company, the company I co founded with Beth House in 2008. Before this I was an actress for 10 years, a teacher, a presenter and a facilitator. Taking Flight is an inclusive company originally set up to break down the barriers, or perceived barriers to participation in the arts. We have been integrating access tools into our work for a long time now and act as creative access consultant for many other theatres companies. We have produced over 17 tours of Wales, run many residencies and trained many facilitators in our 10 years. We have recently become a disability led organisation, as over half of our Board of Directors identify as disabled, and this is really important to us.

Currently we are touring our inclusive family show You’ve got Dragons which gently raised the issues of Mental Wellbeing in young people and accompany this with free resilience building ‘Dragon Taming’ workshops which have been created in collaboration with clinical psychologists. This is touring the whole of the UK and is a really exciting development for the company. It’s been great to find so many theatres in England keen to programme inclusive work. We are a company that seeks to nurture the next generation of theatre makers, we have taken risks with casting, with our creative access, with our marketing materials. As creatives we take risks with everything else we do so we need to be prepared to do so with regards to diversity and access. It’s great to see some of our former employees ‘take flight’ and set up on their own e.g. Sami Thorpe and Chloe Clarke of Elbow Room and we continue to wish them every success on their new adventures. TF offer support and advice when we can and do everything within our power to ensure we make our work and our process as accessible as possible. We make mistakes, we often get it wrong and we continue to learn and to develop our work and we love to collaborate…many heads are better than one!

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

Fio – Abdul is doing so much to raise the issues around the lack of diversity in Wales and is producing some cracking work. We hope to work more closely with Fio in the future.

Mess up the Mess – a ‘quietly inclusive’ company that really nurture the young people they work with creating strong, independent theatre makers with excellent ideas about access. Can’t wait to work with them again – we continue to learn from them.

Hijinx Theatre – producing excellent touring work and taking the international scene by storm, this company is changing the attitude towards in inclusive work featuring learning disabled actors. Meet Fred continues to tour across the world and the next show The Flop is sure to be another success. Additionally the academies which are now running pan Wales are a real example of the kind of training that we need to have in place to nurture the next generation of learning disabled performers. We would love to have the capacity to run an ongoing training forum for D/deaf/HOH and disabled performers and are in conversations with a number of organisations about this.

Ramps on the Moon – an amazing initiative in England which is placing disabled performers and accessible productions on main stages and in producing houses across the UK.

Stopgap Dance – they have been so generous to us over the last year, giving us advice and putting us in touch with like minded organisations and really are the leading lights in inclusive dance. Love their work. www.stopgapdance.com

WMC – Jenny Sturt is making massive changes and embracing access and inclusion in a huge way. Her drive and passions is infectious!

Yvonne Murphy – has produced some excellent all female work and is enthusiastic and determined to challenge any inequality which may lead to people being excluded from the arts.

Bath Spa and The Atrium – I’ve worked with both these organisations as a creative access consultant and have worked to integrate a BSL interpreter ( the wonderful Julie Doyle and Tony Evans) into their shows and to integrate audio description. It’s great that the Universities that are training the next generation of actors feel so strongly about making accessible work. The students have loved the process and have been inspired to think more creatively about access as a result. Long may it continue!

Creu Cymru and hynt – Still doing fab work with venues via the hynt card scheme. It’s also been great to host our 4th access symposium Wales – a diverse nation? at Theatr Clywd with Creu Cymru in Feb, such a great bunch of people attended and so many ideas were generated and will hopefully start to be put into play. As a result we are hosting free access meeting – practical access solutions at WMC once a month and the first one sold out in 12hrs! So there is obviously a want to be more diverse and a desire to be part of the conversation, we all just need to be a tiny bit braver and not worry so much about getting it wrong!

Ucan go! app – also needs a mention here – an app to help orientate blind or partially sighted visitors at theatres, it’s so great it would be wonderful to see more venues investing in this.

Adeola Dewis

Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Adeola and I am an artist and researcher working across visual arts and performance. My practice engages conceptual, performative and aesthetic notions on Carnival, ritual, folk and emancipatory performances.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I highlight Carnival as an area that exemplifies good practice in terms of inclusion, diversity and access.

Jacob Gough

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Jacob Gough, I’m Production Manager for National Theatre Wales, which in a nutshell involves the logistical planning for productions.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I would like to highlight the amazing work of companies that don’t just champion but incorporate access into their shows; companies like Taking Flight, UCAN Arts, Hijinx, Llanarth Group and artists like Jonny Cotsen amongst others. Companies and artists are doing a lot more work now to provide captioning, BSL and audio-described performances, which is great to see. Access forums are a fantastic mechanism to help organisations and artists share knowledge and learning, and a lot of new technologies are being developed that help accessibility; all of which helps develop this all-important feature of the arts.

Jafar Iqbal

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a freelance artist and arts critic. I’ve written for publications such as The Stage, WhatsOnStage and Wales Arts Review, as well as regional and online publications over the course of my career. I’m also a scriptwriter and storyteller.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I’d like to raise awareness about Where I’m Coming From, a monthly Open Mic event hosted by writers Durre Shahwar and Hanan Issa. Currently at the Tramshed in Cardiff every month, the spoken word event is aimed predominantly at the BAME population. Going to one of these events is an enlightening experience, as its attended by people who you usually wouldn’t see at other such events. It’s become a safe space for writers to express themselves in a welcoming environment and, for many of these people, the first time they’ve ever shared their creativity to an audience. A fantastic event.

Rachel Pedley Miller

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I run Avant Cymru. At Avant we aim to be acceptable creating work with audiences and delivering projects that are accessible to many individuals. In the past we have used apps such as swipe to caption our performances and we have worked in venues which are acceptable to those with mobility issues. We work with the community into raise our awareness of the needs. We also look to highlight a range of needs especially through our continual drama Rhondda Road, which is directed by Shane Anderson. Rhondda Road will be starting again in May 2019 and we would love to have a character in the show who would want to raise further awareness of the difficulties people who have a disability have accessing the arts. As a dyslexic person living with a chronic illness, I refuse to let my conditions prevent me from trying new things and will always work with audience and cast members to make the shows as accessible as possible. To date Avant have not produced one show without BAME cast members, we have also employed LBGT cast members on various projects. This has not been something that we have shouted about as we have seen our staff as the best people for the job, the fact that they identify as disabled, LBGT, disabled or from a BAME background is for them. We just see everyone that is hired as the best person for their role and we are proud that we see diverse people as equals.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think that it is important to look at each project, Consider if it is relevant to 2018. What I mean is if there is a pre-written script is it possible to make it appealing or relevant to audiences now. Because if it isn’t then Avant are not interested in producing that show.
When we have established a compelling idea we look to hire someone who has the correct skills, energy and enthusiasm to create the work. Looking for a cast member who can ply the role with the right drive, rather than worrying if they can tick a diversity box. Seeing each individual on their own merit and supporting them to make a career in the arts, or to participate in the arts should be considered on a person by person basis and implementing various tools to make work and audience opportunities accessible to all should be considered. We always evaluate after each show, so far our audiences have been happy that they have been able to access Avants work. We need to keep evolving to have more tools in place so we are able to cater for different individuals.

Yvonne Murphy

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I run Omidaze Productions. I set it up back in 2008 specifically to use drama and theatre to shake stuff up, entertain new audiences and inspire change. We make politically grounded theatre, run workshops in schools and produce annual Summer Schools for young people which give full scholarship places to those for whom economics make the arts harder to reach. Our first production and tour (Things Beginning With M) examined how women learn from each other about everything from Motherhood to the Menopause, Miscarriages, Menstruation, Masturbation, Men, Money, Marriage, Mysogyny, Media Images and Maturity. Everthing begins with M!

I am really interested in smashing down boundaries between different art forms and exploring the difference between for example a visual art installation and set design or dance and movement/physical theatre. I love to smash the fourth wall and explore how audiences behave when you break the rules, or even have none at all. I like theatre to break beyond the confines of the designated space and like using unusual public spaces to entice and spark curiousity in those who might not otherwise enter a theatre.

I use visual artists, stand-up comedians, circus choreograhers and aerialists and movement directors to help me discover what will entice new audiences into the theatre and allow text to become relevant, accessible and visceral.

I created, directed and produced the Shakespeare Trilogy (co-productions with the Wales Millennium Centre) which consisted of two all-female productions immersive site specific productions in the WMC roof void (Richard III 2015 & Henry VI 2016) a ‘gateway’ Shakespeare production which strived to reach younger audiences and used a BAME strong and gender balanced cast.

I am deeply concerned by the inequality within our society and within the theatre industry where we tell and share our stories which help us to connect and make sense of our world and what it is to be human. I therefore strive to make work which challenges myself and the status quo and attempt to raise awareness of that deeply ingrained inequality, issues of social injustice, conflict and stuff which I believe needs to shift and change through my work.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

The Young Vic did some good work on how we should think and act differently as cultural organisations when recruiting. Where and how we recruit for positions at all levels is key. Recruitment processes could be so much more creative and reach people from different sectors and walks of life. They have walked the talk with the recruitment of their new Artistic Director, Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Taking Flight have taught me so much about inclusivity in theatre and I would love to see the day when they no longer need to call themselves an inclusive theatre company because EVERY theatre company should be an inclusive theatre company.

The Clore Leadership Programme gave me phenomenal training in so many areas including governance and is striving to change the face of cultural leadership within the UK and make it more equally representative. It made me realise how key governance is and if the board of an organisation is not leading the way in challenging systemic inequality then the organisation most likely won’t be either. Any board which is truly diverse and ensures that trustees step down after a set period of 5-6 years is good practice.

Kaite O’Reilly

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi of course, please find some information on myself below,

Kaite O’Reilly is an award winning Playwright who works both in the so-called mainstream and disability arts and culture. Awarded the Peggy Ramsay award & Ted Hughes award for new works in poetry for ‘Persians’ with National Theatre Wales (NTW). A leading figure in disability arts and culture internationally, she received three Cultural Olympiad commissions and her Unlimited commission production with NTW of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ was part of the official festival celebrating the 2012 London olympics/Paralympic and created an important political and cultural precedent – the first production written from a disability perspective with an all Deaf and disabled cast performing on such a high profile national platform. She is currently touring ‘Richard iii redux’ – reclaiming Richard iii as a disabled icon and her 2018 Unlimited international commission ‘and suddenly I disappear – the Singapore ‘d’ monologues’ premieres in Singapore in May and comes to U.K. to tour in September. Her acclaimed collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ are published by Oberon. She is patron of Disability Arts Cymru and DaDaFest and publishes widely about diversity, inclusion and disability.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think it’s about changing the whole way performance is made, how, about, and with whom, it’s the content and material as much as including innovative use of the aesthetics of access. Theatre is supposed to be the study of what it is to be human and yet it still has a very narrow perspective – we need to broaden this in the stories we tell, the protagonists we create and the theatre languages we use (integrated Sign interpretation, captioning, audio description, etc).

I have written widely about what I call ‘alternative dramaturgies informed by a Deaf and disability perspective’ when AHRC creative fellow 2003-06 and 2010-2017 when fellow at International Research Centre in Berlin. We could be far more inventive – and work, like mine, had been going on for decades but is still marginalised. We need to make this central . But not just access as add-on – we need disabled and Deaf writers, makers, directors, designers, performers etc and this should be mainstream not ‘inclusive’ for brownie points.

You can read more from Kaite on this subject matter at the links below,

The Necessity of Diverse Voices in Theatre Regarding Disability and Difference

Cripping the Crip—Is It Time to Reclaim Richard III?

Chloe Philips

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m Chloë Clarke, a visually impaired actor, director and theatre maker and cofounder of Elbow Room Theatre Company in Cardiff. I have been working as a performer for 8 years and now focus on making my own work, both as an individual and with ERT partner Sami Thorpe, which champions creative access and truthfully representing disabled people within the arts. ERT is committed to producing new writing that does the same while showcasing relevant and cutting edge work.

I also work as an audio description consultant, which means I work with companies, venues and artists to integrate AD into their work through joining their devising and R&D process, or find creative ways to add it to existing work in a way that is inherent to the piece’s unique style.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

The recent discussions and debates surrounding diversity in the arts, within Cardiff and on a global scale through events like the Oscars and the promotion of the inclusion rider, are vital and long overdue. If you’re not from a minority it may not seem relevant, it may in fact feel quite uncomfortable, but we all have a responsibility to ensure that we, as artists, provide fair representation of our society through all facets of our practice, and to date we have fallen worryingly short of this. However, the very fact that these debates are taking place in our industry is a very positive sign. Now it’s time to act.

I, for one, can only speak from my own experience as a female disabled artist. As well as stipulating the need for wider and truer representation of people like me in the arts, I’d also like to highlight the importance of considering access from the outset of any project – namely the writing of a script or the start of R&D wherein a piece is being devised. Once we start committing to this idea across the board the arts will become fairer.

I will always advocate for creative, integrated access rather than ‘traditional’ methods (an attitude that I have encouraged and nurtured within many companies I have worked with over the years to great effect), as this is the best means by which access can become relevant to every audience member and not just those with access requirements. It’s wonderful that the collective consciousness is growing in this regard and that more creatives are becoming aware of the opportunities afforded them by considering access as inherent to their work – we just need more. More awareness, more action, more choice.

We still have quite a way to go to overcome a lot of the barriers faced by audiences, performers and companies, but as long as we talk AND act (and start engaging diverse people in these conversations rather than just listening to white, straight, middle class, non-disabled people talking about what ‘they’ need) the positive changes we’ve started to notice happening will gain momentum.

So, no one shut up! Let’s keep this going and hear from the diverse array of people we actually have in this industry.

Good practice (very generally speaking) is to openly discuss issues surrounding diversity rather than shying away from them because they’re awkward. In more specific terms, Graeae are the obvious UK trailblazers with regard to best practice surrounding access, particularly for d/Deaf audiences and performers. As everyone who works in disability arts knows, nobody ever gets it 100% right all the time, that’s where open dialogue needs to be continual. It never hurts to ask questions.

Gagglebabble really impressed me with their commitment to having a VI consultant involved from the outset on one of their latest of projects and their commitment to auditioning VI performers for at least one role in the show. They have taken a very natural approach to it without any hint of wanting to tick a box, and their high standards can only help to improve general perceptions of what a quietly integrated cast can do.

If all ‘mainstream’ companies could adopt the same attitude – very openly and naturally deferring to those with lived experience to guide them on best practice and having the intention of also representing this on stage, while not making a big song and dance (sorry, couldn’t resist) about it – things would move forward much more smoothly and there would be little need for drum-banging from those of us who are marginalised.

Elena Schmitz,  Head of Programmes at Literature Wales.

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Elena Schmitz and I am the Head of Programmes at Literature Wales. In this role, I am responsible for the development, effective management and operational delivery of Literature Wales’ varied programmes including high-profile projects in Community Participation; Arts & Health; International Development and Writer Development. So quite a varied role. I am particularly interested in collaboration, co-production, interdisciplinary work and in achieving social change through arts provision.

We have been running many inclusive literature community projects for a number of years, most notably the South Wales Literature Development Initiative (SWLDI) which is now called Lit Reach and has been extended further to areas in North Wales. We are also currently facilitating a number of health and wellbeing projects, including the delivery in Wales of the UK-wide Reading Friends Project, as well as our new Health & Wellbeing Funding Scheme.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think many arts organisations in Wales are exemplary in this and others can learn a lot from their approaches. Some of them have focused on access, inclusion and diversity for years and this is absolutely part of the raison d’être of the work that they do. For example, Hijinx Theatre is brilliant at co-producing high quality theatre with disabled and non-disabled artists, while Valleys Kids focuses on providing opportunities for disadvantaged families. Head4Arts has worked tirelessly in providing meaningful, empowering arts experiences to the disadvantaged communities of the heads of the valleys. NTW’s TEAM is a great model of widening access for larger arts organisations and allowing for more shared decision-making and wider reach of the organisation’s work. The new BAME community-led Where I’m Coming From collective organises regular literature events in Grangetown in Cardiff, arising from the need for more diversity in the literature sector.

Across the UK there are a number of really inspiring projects. One that I find very powerful is the Fun Palaces initiative, conceived by writer and activist Stella Duffy. At the heart of this growing and influential project lies the believe that everyone is an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in the community can change the world for the better. Fun Palaces is an ongoing campaign for cultural democracy, with an annual weekend of action every October. The campaign promotes culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture.

I think the model of co-producing work with (rather than for) communities and shaping things together is increasingly important for all arts organisations. Arts and culture that truly matters and changes minds needs to be shaped by all, not just by an elite minority.

Sami Thorpe

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m Sami, I work as a performer and also as a qualified British Sign Language/English Interpreter. I am also a cofounder of Elbow Room Theatre Company. I have a longstanding passion for inclusion and accessibility in the Arts ever since training at a unique degree course at the University of Reading; Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I thought it might help to share the dates for the British Sign Language Interpretation for the productions below over the next few months which I am providing.

All But Gone – The Other Room Theatre,  7:30pm (plus post show talk) 05/04/2018 (Thurs)

BSL video info:

Almost Always Muddy – Wales Millennium Centre
11am & 3pm, 08/04/2018 (Sun)

The Girl With Incredibly Long Hair – Wales Millennium Centre
11am & 3pm, 13/04/2018 (Friday)

Fleabag – Wales Millennium Centre
8pm, 27/04/2018 (Friday)

The Effect – The Other Room Theatre
7:30pm, 03/05/2018 (Thursday)

Rhiannon White

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a Cardiff born, Cardiff based theatre director. I mainly work with my theatre company Common Wealth but I also work on freelance stuff which has ranged from taking a circus to Gaza to making a show on a beach.

I think it was growing up in St.Mellons, Cardiff  that got me into theatre. We didn’t have very much growing up but what we did have is loads of kids to play with. I spent my childhood playing in the street, dressing kids up in my mums old clothes and on plays on in the garden. I think that’s where my DIY spirit came from in those early lessons of making the most of what you’ve got.

My company Common Wealth grew out of those roots – we were a group of people that came together to make theatre. We started with nothing, making shows in large empty buildings, without funding and with the generosity of people who wanted to get involved.

Over the years Common Wealth has grown, we’ve made work in many different places, with incredible groups of people and have worked  on shows in places like Neath, Chicago and Germany.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

Last year I completed a report called  CLASS  ‘The Elephant in the Room’s it was researched, written and performed as part of my Arts Council Wales supported Clore Fellowship (2015 – 2016) and was funded by the Arts Humanities and Research Council. The purpose of CLASS The Elephant in the room is to investigate the inherent social conditions that exist in the creative industries today; social conditions such as social class and geographic location that can influence and determine a career in the arts. It pays attention to the contradictions that play out where class is considered, and how these contradictions continue to reproduce and reinforce class divisions.

It is an auto-ethnographic study that draws from my own personal experience and combines it with interviews with others who share a similar position. It provides a personal testimony on working in a sector that is dominated by white, middle-class, males.

This report was first and foremost delivered as a live performance debate that provides a resource for theatres, artists and institutions to use if they would like to form their own discussions around the themes of diversity and class.

You can access the full report at this link

 

Common Wealth are also starting a Youth Theatre Lab in Cardiff. The aim of this youth theatre is not to play games or train to become an actor (although this might happen too.) The Youth Theatre Lab is about developing the skills to make theatre that has something to say. The YTL will be a place of experimentation – we will collaborate with highly experienced theatre practitioners, choreographers, visual artists and composers to develop important work by and for young people. The Youth Theatre Lab is  FREE but booking is required. Its or ages 13-18 6pm-8pm and starts on Wednesday 4 April.

Nickie Miles-Wildin

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Nickie Miles-Wildin and I’m a theatre maker. I’m currently Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme, Resident Assistant Director based at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I am also Artistic Director of TwoCan Theatre Company based in Gloucestershire, where I’m originally from. Alongside my colleagues Becky Andrews and Louise Partridge we set up TwoCan to promote diversity in the arts and enable D/deaf and disabled people access to the arts, something that was lacking in the county. We have a successful youth theatre and have produced work made by professional disabled actors, writers and directors.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I would highlight the work of Graeae as they have been going for 30+years and continue to push the barriers of access. They have taught me what I know and I continue to admire their work. Ramps On The Moon builds on the Graeae model and will hopefully change the views of directors and audiences as it progresses. In Wales I admire the work of Elbow Room who are challenging us all about creative use of audio description. We all fall in love with sign language (have our epiphanies) and Elbow Room are making us do the same abut audio description.

Any companies pioneered by D/deaf and disabled artists are the ones for me. We face the biggest barriers as sometimes we can’t even get into buildings to see work. Or even into training establishments. Extant, Birds Of Paradise, Fittings, Access All Areas, Daryl Beeton theatre maker, PAD Productions  are all up there as some of my highlights.

 

Breaking Out of the Box 4: ‘Wales: a Diverse Nation?’ by Emily Garside

The fourth ‘Breaking out of the Box’ symposium- a series of events to discuss the issue of diversity in Welsh Arts, took place at Theatre Clwyd on 16th February. Subtitled ‘Wales: a Diverse Nation?’ An access symposium’ the focus of the event centered on the question of how diverse are we, and what can we do to change things?

Opening the event was Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive, Arts Council Wales.  He spoke about the history of the Arts Council and Diversity- citing reports from as far back as the 90s into the issue.  He acknowledged the responsibility as  a publicly funded organisation towards diversity:

Capaldi also noted the need to do more to reach communities and the idea of ‘changing hearts and minds’. While this contribution from Arts Council Wales was welcome, and well intended it was let down by a lack of representation from the organisation throughout the day. The focus of the day around galvanising towards action, having an engaged representatives from the Development teams at ACW could really have helped the organisations present to make practical steps in their next projects towards diversity. We all know ACW funding is at the heart of the work made in Wales, and a level of practical support and real engagement on the day from the organisation would have made a huge difference to what could have been achieved. While Capaldi’s support was welcome, and his words supportive, it felt like a missed opportunity from ACW.

Following Capaldi, my own talk. Which focused on turning questions back on the audience to reflect on for the day.

Reflecting on the discussions already taking place, a call to keep talking and keep fighting through these issues

As hoped this provocation moved into an engaged discussion about the many areas that need addressing- from programming to the access needs of audiences.

Following a break we heard from Jamie Beddard, one of the UK’s leading disabled theatre practitioners,  Jamie talked through his experiences as a disabled performer.

Jamie’s experiences, and the video clips he showed of projects in England he’s been a part of showed that the sky literally is the limit for what can be achieved.

Jamie was part of a couple of amazing circus projects where disabled performers worked alongside able bodied performers with no  barriers or prejudice around what they were or weren’t expected to do. That this kind of work is possible can be an example for companies in Wales to aspire to.

Keen for the day to have some practical take-aways there were two workshops on accessibility led by Elise and Beth from Taking Flight Theatre Company. Elise took people through some simple steps to make a rehearsal room more inclusive, while Beth talked through making accessible marketing materials.

These practical elements were a really useful element of the day for the group-providing some tangible next steps that are relatively easy to incorporate and help slowly change the nature of diversity and accessibility.

Finally, the last two provocations of the day. Michele Taylor, Director for Change for Ramps on the Moon and critic Jafar Iqbal. Both proved to be a rousing call to action. Michele punctuated their talk with the repeated phrase ‘Seriously are we still talking about this?’ Sharing her frustration but also experience in creating active solutions through ‘Ramps on the Moon’ this was a non-nonsense call to get things done. And one which also called out well meaning sentiment with again, a call to concrete action.

Challenging all of us on everything from our choice of language to what we believe to be exclusivity Michele provoked passionate discussion about how we really enact change. There was also a clear desire from the room to mimic the ‘Ramps on the Moon’ initiative in Wales.

Finally Jafar Iqbal  talked about the lack of change we’re experiencing in Wales. Criticizing those at the top for a lack of action while others repeatedly shout for change.

Drawing on his own experience as a British Asian, Iqbal has often wondered if he’s in a room to ‘tick a box’ but is also conscious that he’s benefited from that in his career. And despite personally benefiting, being conscious that this approach isn’t good enough any more.

Acknowledging the recent controversies in Wales,  Iqbal talked about the need to change being felt across the sector, but a lack of action being taken. And actually giving us a fairly simple way to start solving these issues:

Further discussion in the room, following this final clear provocation was to that end- the time for talking (and social media debate) has passed and it’s time for action. The very clear notion however, was that this needs leadership. And that is something the movement for diversity in Wales is lacking. Not from those engaged in the arts, but from those organisations with the power and scope to be really influential in making change. And this remains a frustration.

Despite continued frustrations, it was a galvanizing and productive event. Connections between organisations developed during discussion and networking time and there seemed a real commitment to move forward from the event with a new sense of purpose.

Let’s hope that soon an event won’t be asking the question of Diversity in Wales but simply celebrating it instead.

The event was organised by Hynt, Creu Cymru and Taking Flight Theatre with support from Arts Council Wales. 

More information about Ramps on the Moon and the work they have done to date can be found on their website.

Emily Garside

Looking ahead in 2018 Culture, Creativity and Change!

In this article we look forward to a range of cultural highlights in 2018. Thanks to all of the creative artists involved for their own personal response.

Connor Allen, Actor and Playwright

I would have to say that one cultural highlight for 2018 that I cant wait for is Dennis Kelly’s Girls and Boys at The Royal Court directed by Lyndsey Turner. Last year I had the pleasure of watching Hamlet directed by Lyndsey Turner and it was breathtaking. So her vision partnered with Kelly’s writing can only bring great and spectacular things (hopefully!)

One for me closer to home is to see what brilliant work National Theatre Wales bring out for the anniversary of the NHS.

My personal hope for 2018 is to get my play about homelessness I have been writing, funded and performed. that would be a massive personal achievement for me.


Meredydd Barker, Playwright

I don’t plan because I like to wonder in the morning what I’ll go and see that night, but as far as theatre in 2018 is concerned, Owen Thomas’ The Wood at The Torch, Lisa Parry’s 2023 at Chapter and Maxine Peake in Beckett’s Happy Days at The Royal Exchange; those three in a very crowded field along with hoping for surprises in Edinburgh come August.

In contemporary art – whatever that means – Ragnar Kjartansson is at the National Museum Cardiff with a new performance piece (co-commissioned with Artes Mundi) called The Sky In The Room. It is a piece which will be played by a revolving roster of organists and sounds beautifully bonkers.

At some point this year I will see The Idles live because they want us to, as they say, “dance and laugh and sing in the face of adversity.” 2018 is going to need them and their beautiful clamour.

Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director, Motherlode Theatre

It seems like 2018 is going to be another great year for new theatre in Wales. Having seen a development stage of Cwmni Pluen’s next show, I’m really looking forward to seeing a final production from them this autumn. Pluen has a definitive performance style which I’m always excited to see. They’re also working in collaboration with charities during the development of the piece which I think sets a great precedent for future companies making new work. I also can’t wait to see National Theatre Wales’ Love Letter to the NHS. While the NHS is under siege from; medical companies charging them a fortune for treatment; government cuts; surgery closures; and an all time waiting list high; it’s important more than ever to support and celebrate our National Health Service in face of adversity.

My personal hope for the year is to successfully tour Motherlode’s next production Exodus. The piece was developed in Aberdare with generous support from our long term collaborators and co producers RCT Theatres and will be part of their year long 80th birthday celebrations, which includes lots of new work by exciting artists. Exodus is also supported by Creu Cymru, Bristol Old Vic, Night Out Wales and Chapter, touring to 12 venues across Wales before running in London. Gulp… I just hope we pull it off!”

Matthew Bulgo, Actor and Playwright 

I’m really looking forward to seeing Louder is Not Always Clearer from Johnny Cotsen in February. I was disappointed to miss the work-in-progress of this as part of Experimentica last year so I’m glad I’ve got a second chance.

Elsewhere, I’m really looking forward to catching The Birthday Party (one of my favourite plays) in the West-end which has a stellar cast including Toby Jones and also The Twilight Zone from American playwright Anne Washburn which is at the Almeida. Later in the year, I’m really looking forward to catching Eyam at Shakespeare’s Globe which has been written by the very talented Matt Hartley and is being directed by Wales’ own Adele Thomas.

Gareth Coles, Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru

Recently I’ve been losing myself in the acoustic EPs of the guitarist Yvette Young who also writes and performs with the band Covet. She will be releasing a piano EP early this year, and having heard some snippets, I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.

On a personal creative note, I’m hoping to develop my drawing this year. I seem to have spent most of 2017 hurriedly sketching, but having developed the habit of drawing daily, it’s time I started working on some longer and more thoughtful pieces. I have also just started playing the piano again after many years’ hiatus, so I’m hoping my rusty playing will become slightly less objectionable by the end of the year.

Simon Coates, National Theatre Wales’, Head of Creative Development

Jonny Cotsen with Mr and Mrs Clark producing and touring Louder is not Always Clearer, a project I had the pleasure of supporting the development of in its early days with NTW.

Festival of the Voice in June for more incredible vocalists and a no-holds-barred look at the power of the voice. As well as our own NHS70 Festival of course, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Nyrsys by Bethan Marlow marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

The Terra Firma Spring Tour by NDCWales including the mesmeric Tundra by Roy Assaf. EXPERIMENTICA Festival at Chapter will back again for another year of live art from all over the UK and further afield in April.

And finally I am hoping to make it along to Abercych to join one of their experimental Twmpaths with Simon Whitehead and his collaborators.

Geoff Cripps, Board Member, Theatr na Nog, Creu Cymru and musician with Allan y Fan

The Cultural Events in 2018 that I am already booked into and greatly looking forward to seeing starts on Saturday 6th January with a visit to The Old Vic to see Rhys Ifans as Scrooge in the acclaimed production of “A Christmas Carol.” Just a few days later and we are off to the Bristol Old Vic to rendezvous with Emma Rice’s “The Little Match Girl”.

At the end of January I am delighted and privileged to return to Glasgow as one of the 180 delegates to Showcase Scotland – a very important element within the world’s greatest mid-winter music festival. The five days I will spend here will definitely kick away any lingering vestiges of mid-winter blues! Don’t know yet which artists I will see/hear in total but I am pleased that in the festival’s 25th anniversary year the Showcase Scotland partner is Ireland. Still hoping that one year Wales will create something of lasting value like this event which has had such a powerful impact on the development of Scottish Artists in an international setting.

Later in March I will definitely be re-visiting one of my favourite productions of 2017 – The Old Vic’s “Girl From The North Country” – now transferred to the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End. Go see it if you think Bob Dylan is a genius, go and see it if you don’t know what all the fuss is about and marvel at what Conor McPherson has concocted.

Encouraged by my own top management I am looking forward to seeing two inspirational dance productions at the WMC in April from Birmingham Royal Ballet and May from Sir Mathew Bourne’s New Adventures.

I have yet to pick what to see closer to home in the valleys but am looking forward to visiting RCT Theatres, The Borough Theatre and Blackwood Miner’s Institute on several occasions during the year.

My personal hopes for 2018 include doing my best to ensure that Theatr na nÓg builds on the great achievements of 2017, that Creu Cymru continues to be the essential organisation for the theatres and arts centres of Wales and, on a real personal note, that my band Allan Yn Y Fan have our most successful concert ever in Blackwood Miner’s Institute on 28th March!

I am sure that every other contributor will make their feelings known about “Brexit”, “POTUS”, the “Maybot” etc. etc but I am deliberately trying to keep this light-hearted.

Let’s hope that despite everything the Arts In Wales continue to deliver life-changing experiences, uncover nascent talent, connect more deeply with their communities and audiences. Finally I hope that BBC Wales finally delivers a year-round coverage of the Arts In Wales.

Dr Branwen Davies, Playwright

My Cultural highlights for 2018 so far are:

Theatr Geneaethol’s Y Tad

Pirates of the Carabina’s Relentless Unstoppabble Human Machine at Pontio Bangor January 16th-21st

Dirty Protest’s Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock by Mark Williams touring Wales in April and May

V&A’s Frida Kahlo Making Herself Up exhibition opening in June 2018.

My personal hope is to be continued to be inspired and surprised by writers and artists pushing boundaries and creating work that moves me and reminds me what it is to be human.

Peter Doran, Artistic Director, Torch Theatre Company

On a personal level, I’m really looking forward to directing our next production, The Wood by Owen Thomas; its always exciting to tackle a new piece of writing, one never really knows if it will quite come off as expected or hoped. Giving the success we had with Owen’s last play Grav (shortly to go to New York), we have high hopes but we know that there’s a great deal of hard work in front of us. I’m also working on it with two actors, whom I’ve never directed before (Ifan Huw Dafydd and Gwydion Rhys), so that gives an extra frisson.

Elsewhere, I always look forward to Vamos coming to the Torch; Vamos are a full mask company who do wonderful work, this season they are touring a piece about the war in Afganistan called A Brave Face, one to look out for. I loved Liverpool Everyman’s repertory season last year and I’ll be interested to see if the second season is as successful – A Clockwork Orange sticks out as a highlight for me.

NTW are coming to Pembrokeshire with The Tide Whisper – theatre in a boat off the Pembrokeshire Coast; you won’t get a better or more dramatic backdrop, let’s hope they compliment each other.

My personal hopes? That the true value of art and culture is appreciated and not seen as the icing on top of the cake. It’s not a commodity that can take it’s stand in the market place and compete; it has to be nurtured, supported, fed – if not, it will wither away and die.

Tom Goddard, Artist and Criw Celf Coordinator

In a time when Netflix is elevated to the role of religion, Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan satisfies our obsession with marathon box set watching, with this ten part film series. First at last year’s Venice Biennale and the series continues now at Mostyn, Llandudno in March.

Cardiff’s James Richards, who represented Wales in Venice last year, will be bringing Music for the Gift back home to Chapter opening at the end of February.

Ragnar Kjartansson, Artes Mundi 6 nominee, will return to Wales to present a brand-new performance piece, The Sky in a Room which will feature a series of revolving local organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ.

Chapter’s Experimentica, will roll into town again in April and is always guaranteed to raise a smile and challenge in equal measure with a real range of refreshing voices and ideas from the world of live art.  NS Harsha, Artes Mundi 3 winner, will return to Wales at Glynn Vivian in Summer 2018 presenting screening printing, installation, sculpture and drawings.

Glynn Vivian will also be opening late once a month offering performance, music, workshops as well as curatorial opportunities for young people.

Simon Harris, Playwright and Director of Lucid 

It would be a bit matey of me to select 2018 highlights from Wales, so the two things outside of Wales that I’d really like to see are Chris Goode’s staging of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee which has been at the Royal Exchange n Manchester and is going to the Lyric Hammersmith. Because punk’s not dead. The other is Dead Centre’s new production at the Schaubuhne of Shakespeare’s Last Play – partly to see the work and partly to go to Berlin as I’ve never been there and I’d like to go before the world ends.

I’m a little overwhelmed by how far away we are from how I’d like things to be in 2018. There’s so much to do in so many areas, it would be easy to give in and give up. But I’m drawn to some of the determined spirits out there and so my main hope for the sector is that we move to a more productive, more innovative, less hierarchical approach to making work. I would like to see some of the fake differences between Arts Council Wales portfolio and the remaining group of artists and companies done away with. I’d like to see individuals and companies allowed to apply for larger sums and for more extended periods of work, instead of one-off projects. Most of all I’d like to some vision that can lead to the release of the amazing potential of artists in Wales and their work. Oh, and a bit more honest dialogue and a lot less self-referential, self-congratulatory bulls**t.

Steffan Jones-Hughes, Director Oriel Davies

There’s so much exciting art to see in 2018!

January sees Nova open at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. An exciting exhibition of young contemporary artists originated by the Royal Cambrian Academy. Look out for inaugural award winner Paul Eastwood, and also Catrin Menai, Rory Duckhouse, and AJ Stockwell. Aberystwyth Arts Centre- 25.1-1.4 2018

February I can’t wait to see The Sky in a Room by Icelandic Artist, Ragnar Kjartansson. The exciting performance will see a series of revolving organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ, and will run from 3 February to 11 March at National Museum Cardiff.

Photographer Mike Perry’s exhibition Land/Sea opens at Mostyn, Llandudno in March and the Ffotogallery tour continues to Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

April: the moment everyone in Wrexham has been waiting for: The opening of Tŷ Pawb, the new galleries and market and cultural centre with Dydd Llun Pawb and the launch of “Is this Planet Earth?” curated by Angela Kingston and touring later in the year to Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

June sees The Oriel Davies Open inviting artists from Wales, UK and internationally through Open Call to show work. I’m on the selection panel along with Jane Simpson (artist & Director Galerie Simpson), Matthew Collings (writer and curator), Sacha Craddack (curator and writer. TBC), and Alex Boyd Jones, Curator OD. Oriel Davies Open 2018 23 June – 5 September.

In July Liverpool Biennial is back for a tenth edition with Beautiful World, where are you? Artists and audiences can reflect on a world of social, political and economic turmoil. Liverpool Biennial 2018  Beautiful world, where are you? 14 July – 28 October

The first week of August is always set aside for Y Lle Celf at The Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru held this year at the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay

September at Oriel Davies Legion Projects (artist-curators Matthew Hughes and Una Hellewould) will explore witchcraft through curation of a group exhibition, inviting a diverse set of contemporary artistic practices to respond to key ideas around witchcraft.
Witchcraft project Oriel Davies 15 September – 7 November

October sees the opening of Artes Mundi 8 at the National Museum in Cardiff

My personal hopes are that 2018 will be a time of unleashing potential, harnessing prosperity and celebrating the power of community within society.

Paul Kaynes, Chief Executive Officer, National Dance Company Wales

Firstly the home team: NDCW are about to set off on our long Spring tour taking in all of Wales, the UK, Austria and Germany with works by Resident Choreographer Caroline Finn (in Cardiff you have another chance to see her beautiful, haunting FOLK) and the mesmerising Tundra by Marcos Morau – already an international hit. Later this year watch out for a contemporary dance-opera we’re presenting with Music Theatre Wales in October/November. It’s a beautiful work.

But what else? Artist James Richards’ mysterious work for the Venice Biennale last year is coming to Chapter in February and I’m interested in seeing again his exploration of hidden gay histories. Our former dancer and choreographer, Matteo Marfoglia, makes rich work of personal histories full of emotion and surprise, so I’ll be there for any performances. And I’ve already got my tickets for the RSC’s Cicero plays (Imperium) based on Robert Harris’s wonderful books, for WNO’s Don Giovanni in February and BBC NOW’s concert of work by Messiaen and Debussy in March. I’ll have to travel to London to see Ballet BC’s Emily Molnar new work based on works by Emily Dickinson and Jeanette Winterson: sounds intriguing. There’s a new Kate Atkinson novel coming up (always worth it) and a film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ creepy A Little Stranger. 2018 seems like it’s going to be a great year, at least culturally! Politically, all bets are off.

Angharad Lee, Theatre Director, Educator, Facilitator and Lecturer.

Cultural Highlights 2018:

2018 London International Mime Festival. Anything and everything that is shown here. Go go go…..

Personal hopes for 2018:

To finally see every organisation in Wales tackling all barriers to access, rather than relying on one or two  organisations. Saying this, we have to upskill those creating the work at grassroots level for this to be achievable, so I hope to see lots of money being ploughed into this.

I hope my production of the musical The Last 5 Years comes to fruition and tours Wales Autumn 2018 as this has access at its heart and supports BSL as a culture.

I look forward to seeing our Opera Bites event expanding a little as well as some exciting developments with our 10 Minute Musicals project come to fruition. We have a sharing of this work at Millennium Centre, February 25th, Blackwood Miners Institute, February 27th and then we are sharing it at Focus Wales 2018 which is hugely exciting for this project and all the artists involved.

There is a piece I started to develop last year with Eddie Ladd based on Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy which we hope to pick up this year. It’s a piece very dear to me therefore I hope we make this work for us. Building in this there may be another exciting collaboration with Eddie in the pipeline. Watch this space. Our work compliments each other wonderfully.

I hope to see more of my daughter this year, drink less rose wine and get back into the gym at more regular intervals. I am also hoping to renovate my kitchen and become a better cook!! I have also vowed to explore the landscape I live within this year and reconnecting with nature a little.

Bethan Marlow, Writer

2018 feels like a fresh year. There’s a lot of courage in the air, people are standing up and shouting out, dirty secrets are no longer protected and new manifestos are being drawn. I’m crossing all my fingers that this also means that we’ll see fresh and courageous cultural activity all over Wales in all languages.

Some things are already drawing my attention like Mr and Mrs Clark’s “Louder is Not Always Clearer” with Johnny Cotsen

NTW’s Sisters and Common Wealth’s “Radical Acts”. I’m excited that this year promises a lot of developmental support for creatives both new and established with National Theatre Wales’ “Creative Development” and Theatr Genedlaethol’s “Theatr Gen Creu”. And speaking of change, I’m very excited to visit the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol this year with it’s new experiment of having no boundaries which will hopefully create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of us living in Wales.

I hope we all, and I’m very much including myself here, have the courage to dig deep and create what we need and want to create this year. Not what we think people will go and see or what we think will tick funding boxes but what our guts are screaming for us to make.

David Mercatali, Associate Director, Sherman Theatre

I am hugely excited to be working with the fantastic Welsh writer Katherine Chandler and the next generation of acting talent on the world premiere of Buddy. The play is part of NEW:2018 and is a co-production between RWCMD and Sherman Theatre.My wish for the New Year would be for anyone living in Cardiff who hasn’t been to the theatre yet to give it a go!

Michelle McTernan Actor and Playwright

I’m looking forward to so many cultural delights during 2018. It starts with an R&D for my first play “Bruises” which won the Script Slam at Pontardawe Arts Centre. Then my husband Christian Patterson opens at The Donmar Warehouse in “The Way of the World”. So I’ll be off to London where I hope to take in a few more plays. Here, I’m also looking forward to seeing The Wood by Owen Thomas, Nye and Jenny by Meredydd Barker and Dublin Carol by Conor McPherson at Sherman Theatre.

My personal hopes for 2018; In light of the funding threats to my local arts centre at Pontardawe, I hope that the people who make these detrimental decisions recognise the importance of the arts and their effect on our wellbeing. I hope that communities begin to make more use of all local arts centres and that artists and creatives have the freedom and funding to encourage and inspire those that are blind to its relevance in our society today.

Sharon Morgan, Actor and Writer

Dwi’n edrych ymlaen i weld Y Tad, cynhyrchiad diweddaraf y Theatr Genedlaethol gan Florian Zeller, cyfieithiad Geraint Lovgreen ( Ar daith 21 Chwef-16 Mawrth) gyda Dyfan Roberts yn y brif rhan. Cychwynnodd Dyfan a minnau’n gyrfaoedd gyda’n gilydd nol yn 1970! Hefyd cynhyrchiad Theatr Pena – Women of Flowers gan Sion Eirian ar ol Saunders Lewis (Ar daith 1 Chwef-9 Mawrth) gyda’r anhygoel Sara Lloyd Gregory fel Blodeuwedd. Dwi am fentro i Pafiliwn Bont ar gyfer ail-gread sinematig a barddonol Mike Pearson a Mike Brookes wrth iddyn nhw gychwyn ar brosiect tair blynedd gyda NTW o dan y teitl The Storm Cycle gyda Nothing Remains The Same (15-17 Chwef), a mae nhw’n addo seddau dan do! A tan gwyllt! Mewn cynhyrchiad amserol am ieithoedd lleiafrifol bydd Theatr Gwalia yn cyflwyno Inheriting The Gods Carmen Stephens am berthynas rhwng bachgen ifainc o lwyth y Wampanoag a Cymraes, a mae’r anhygoel Dirty Protest yn dathlu ei penblwyddd yn ddeg oed gyda drama Mark Williams Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock(Ar daith 4 Ebrill- 5 Fai)

Mae son bod cynhyrchiadau newydd ar y gweill gan Mercury, Neontopia a Triongl, a gobeithio bydd Na’Nog yn atgyfodi Nye and Jennie gan i mi ei fethu yn y Metropole yn Abertileri,a pwy a wyr pa ddanteithion daw i’n diddanu pan ddaw’r Eisteddfod i Gaerdydd ym mis Awst.

O’m rhan fy hun mae gen i brosiectau gyda’r Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, Theatrau RCT a Canoe a dwi’n gobeithio bydd fy sioe un menyw am Rachel Roberts (Yn Gymraeg) yn digwydd o’r diwedd!

I am looking forward to Theatr Genedlaethol’s latest production Y Tad ( Le Pere) by Florian Zeller trans. Geraint Lovgreen (Touring 21 Feb- 16 March) with Dyfan Roberts as the father. Dyfan and I began our careers together back in 1970! Also Theatr Pena’s production Women of Flowers by Sion Eirian after Saunders Lewis (Touring 1Feb-9 March) with the amazing Sara Lloyd Gregory as Blodeuwedd. I shall venture to Pontrhydfendigaid for a poetic and cinematic recreation by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes as they embark on a three year project with NTW under the title The Storm Cycle with Nothing Remains The Same (15-17 Feb) and they promise seating- indoors! And fireworks! In a timely production about minority languages Theatr Gwalia presents Inheriting The Gods by Carmen Stephens about a relationship between a young man from the Wampanoag tribe and a young Welsh Woman and is touring Feb 26-March 24. The amazing Dirty Protest celebrate their tenth birthday with Mark Williams’ play Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock (Touring 4 April-5 May).

I hear that Mercury, Neontopia and Triongl are preparing exciting things and I hope Na’Nog will revive Nye and Jennie as I missed it at the Metropole in Abertillery, and who knows what delicacies the Eisteddfod will bring when it comes to Cardiff in August!

I have writing and performing projects with Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, RCT Theatres and Canoe and I really hope my one woman show about Rachel Roberts (in Welsh) will happen this year!

Catherine Paskell, Independent Theatre Director

I’m looking forward to loads of new original performance work happening in Wales this year, but if I had to pick only two, I would choose:

Jordan Brookes Body Of Work at Chapter on 2 June. I saw this show in Edinburgh, and Jordan was nominated for the 2017 Last Minute.Com Edinburgh Comedy Award for best show. That’s what the Perrier Award is now called, so it’s a pretty big deal and this was a pretty awesome show. It was one of the best comedy shows I saw in Edinburgh last year when Dirty Protest was there with Sugar Baby. I love Jordan’s comedy – I first saw him when he was living in Cardiff a few years ago and it was fantastic to see his work get the recognition he deserves. He’s on the performance art-end of comedy (but without being up its arse) and he’s one of my favourite weirdos.

Also, I really cannot wait for Split Britches’ Unexploded Ordances at the Wales Millenium Centre for a week this March.  Peggy Shaw is a world renowned artist and I saw her show with Clod Ensemble Must: The Inside Story ten years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe. It made an impact on me then as she transfixed a Victorian anatomy theatre with a raw story full of poetry and heart and pain and medicine and art. It’s a real privilege for us to see artists of this calibre creating original work in Wales and this experience will be a must see, or rather as it’s interactive art: a “must do”.

Rachel Pedley Miller, Artistic Director, Avant Cymru

In 2018 Avant Cymru are planning a busy year with Forget Me Not in January and Blue Scar in the summer.

We are working with Rufus Mufasa on her album launch on the 16th of January. Looking forward to working with Rufus and Unity further on Welsh Hip Hop projects.

We are also excited to see Sisters Acting Up at the Riverfront this month and Grav at the Sherman Theatre in February.

We are really excited that NTW have launched their new creative development strands, we also are excited to see ehat the NH70 project has to offer. So much is happening in Wales and we are excited to be a part of it. Bring on 2018!

Jac Ifan Moore, Director and Co-Director of Powderhouse 

Theatre
Dublin Carol – Sherman Theatre
Coming up in a few weeks at the Sherman. Connor McPherson, killer cast and directed by Matthew Xia. Come on, what more d’you want?

All But Gone – The Other Room
I’m really excited to see what Dan Jones will do now that he’s at the helm of The Other Room. This will be his first production as AD, and it’s a chance to see how he’s going to put his mark on that ambitious company.

Also…
Literally anything that’s on in London International Mime Festival,  10 Jan – 3 Feb, which for my money os one of the best times of year for theatre (don’t be put off by notions of striped t-shirts and glass boxes). Particularly looking forward to Trygve Wakenshaw’s Different Party.

Book
Tribe – Sebastian Junger
Collection of essays that span history, autobiography, anthropology and psychology. What we can learn from tribal societies, what we’ve lost, and why in the modern world we’re still craving companionship and meaning.Film

The Shape of Water – Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s latest film gets its UK release in February, and I’m looking forward to his particular mix of strangeness. Set to the bleak backdrop of 1960’s Baltimore, it’s apparently a love story between a mute woman and a water god. Yes please.

Lucy Owen, Journalist  and writer

I’m looking forward to the Cardiff Kids Literature  Festival in April this year. There will be loads of events going on and it’s a great chance to meet authors and illustrators and inspire children to pick up a book.

I am super excited that a book I’ve written for 6 – 8 year olds will be published in September too. It’s called ‘The Sea House’ and I’m really hoping children will love all the characters, particularly my favourite – a brave, sparkly little fish called Fabulous!

Marc Rees Creator and curator of installation and performance

You might have seen my crestfallen face captured on the news when it was announced that Swansea didn’t win the UK City of Culture crown for 2021? Perhaps if we’d gone with the abbreviated SUKCOC ( Swansea UK City Of Culture ) it might have been a different story?I really did think that it was Swansea’s time to shine and to quote the city’s very own big haired 80’s pop icon … we could have turned it around . However there are still exciting plans afoot and one that is very close to my heart is still under wraps till the end of January but I want to mention it as it’s certainly something that I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into in 2018.

Essentially it’s an immersive Requiem that will kickstart the Swansea International Festival 2018 – written by a twice Oscar nominated composer with a libretto by a BAFTA Cymru winning writer, sung by a world renowned choir and with a wrap around narrative led by the formidable force that is Eddie Ladd. Watch this camouflaged space.

Details will be announced on 26.01.18 via

https://www.nowthehero.wales

Alexandria Riley Actress

For 2018 I’m very much looking forward to hearing more cultural stories being told by people of a diverse background. Great things are happening already but there’s still such a way to go. ‘Fio’ are doing some amazing work right now providing opportunities for BAME actors, writers and directors to showcase work and are providing a great accessible outlet.

 

I’m involved in TWO amazing plays with full diverse teams this year. One of them which tells a story from voices we don’t often hear from.  I am working with  phenomenal actors all from diverse backgrounds and I cannot wait! The plays are wonderful and  I’m really honoured to be a part of it all! The theatres we are performing in are equally brilliant! Wales is a place of character, diversity and rich culture. So I look forward to us continuing to move forward within the arts and really show what we are made of.

Keiron Self, Actor and Playwright

I’m very much looking forward to Light Speed from Pembroke Dock, a family friendly and Star Wars friendly theatre show from Dirty Protest as part of their 10th anniversary. I have been lucky enough to have a few pieces perfomed by them and their stalwart crew and have a soft spot in my heart for all involved. I also saw an Rand D of the show and it touched a nostalgic string in my heart, it being about fathers and sons and a certain sic-fi film – essentially a taste of my youth.

I’m also looking forward to films coming out in February The Shape of Water Guillermo Del Toro’s new fantasy masterpiece about a love affair between a woman and a Black Lagoon-esque creature in Cold War America. I’m a great fan of Del Toro, especially Pan’s Labyrinth, and this ranks right up there next to them. Also in February Lady Bird is a film from Greta Gerwig, a fantastic indie actress making her directorial debut with a well observed coming of age talk between a mother and a daughter starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.

Looking forward to The Dublin Carol at The Sherman and The Wood from Owen Thomas about Mametz, my play The White Feather also about World War One is being restaged by Theatr na nÓg in the Autumn so I’m obviously and selfishly excited about that too. There are many more things to get excited about of course, here’s hoping 2018 provides an exciting buzzy year for theatre and the arts throughout Wales.

Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive, Literature Wales

I’m very much looking forward to a bumper year of culture in 2018. Many people interested in the arts in Wales will already be filling up their diaries.

One of the events I’m especially looking forward to is the National Eisteddfod (3-11 August, Cardiff), as it takes place this year right outside my office window in Cardiff Bay. For the first time in decades, the “Maes” (the festival site) will not be held in a field, and visitors will be able to come in and out as they chose, paying for each event individually. The “no-fence” Eisteddfod offers exciting opportunities to try out new activities, appealing to a wide range of audiences and celebrating the best of Welsh culture in all its forms.

For a relatively small country, Wales punches well above its weight in terms of literature festivals. As well as the world-renowned Hay Festival (24 May – 3 June), many more have appeared in recent years, including the excellent Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival (21-29 April) and the Cardiff Book Festival (7-9 September 2018). I’m particularly looking forward to the newest addition to the calendar, the Seren Poetry Festival at the Cornerstone building in Cardiff (16-18 February).

But there’s plenty to do outside the Capital, and throughout the year you’ll find literature festivals in Laugharne (6-8 April), Llandeilo (27-29 April), Wrexham (Carnival of Words 21-28 April), Llansteffan (7-10 June), Caernarfon (Gŵyl Arall – July), Penarth (July), Caerleon (Lit on the Lawn – July), Hawarden (Gladfest – September) and Cardigan (Gŵyl y Cynhaeaf – October) – to name but a few! 2018 also sees the return and 25th anniversary of the Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival.

Pembrokeshire should take the prize for being the most bountiful county, with literature festivals in Solva (The Edge Festival – 2-5 August), Llangwm (10-12 August) and Rhosygilwen (PENfro Book Festival – September). These festivals would not take place without the dedicated efforts of community activists who believe in bringing people together and sharing a love for words. And the success of many depend on their brilliant local independent book shops.

If your dream is to take part in one of these festivals as a featured writer one day, then you should consider booking on one of the courses at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre: www.tynewydd.wales. The many highlights include a Creative Writing for Welsh Learners course (16-18 March with Bethan Gwanas and Eilir Jones), Songs and Lyric Writing (9-14 April with Willy Russell and Stewart Henderson), Poetry: Writing about Life (20-25 August with Lemn Sissay, Sophie McKeand and Zoë Skoulding) and Writing a Novel (24-28 September with Louise de Bernière and Wales Book of the Year winner Alys Conran). There is something for everyone this year at this very special place.

I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of the epic 50ft mural by artist Pete Fowler on the iconic Water Tower at Cardiff Central Station. Inspired by the stories of the Mabinogi, the mural is part of the Weird and Wonderful Wales project by Literature Wales and Cadw. The work began before Christmas, but was suspended because of bad weather. The work will continue soon and remain in place throughout 2018, when visitors from all across the globe will see it when they visit Cardiff for events such as the Volvo Ocean Race as part of Year of the Sea.

The Wales Book of the Year award is set to be another great event this year, with the ceremony scheduled to take place in the summer. Announcements will be made in March – so keep an eye out on Literature Wales’ website for details. In the meantime, I was thrilled to see that last year’s winner Pigeon (Parthian Books) by Alys Conran, is being serialised in the Western Mail. Also, the Roland Mathias Poetry Evening will take place on 23 February at The Muse, Brecon, featuring John Freeman, winner of last year’s Wales Book of the Year Roland Mathias Poetry Award, with Jonathan Edwards chairing the event.

Last year the National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn, with funding from Welsh Government and support by Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers (1914-1918), created and toured a multi-lingual multi-media show on poet Hedd Wyn called Y Gadair Wag/ The Empty Chair, directed by Ian Rowlands. It premiered at Yr Ysgwrn, the poet’s home at Trawsfynydd which recently opened as a visitor’s centre. By popular demand, the hope is to tour more extensively in 2018, taking in locations throughout Wales, as well as the UK and Ireland. 2018 will see the announcement by Literature Wales of a new Young People’s Laureate, as Sophie McKeand’s hugely successful two-year stint comes to an end in spring.

2018 marks 70 years since the creation of the NHS, which was established by the great Welsh politician and orator Aneurin Bevan. It’s worth keeping an eye out for cultural celebrations of this significant milestone, including a series of productions throughout Wales by the two national theatre companies, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and National Theatre Wales.

In other art-forms, I’m looking forward to the return of Festival of the Voice to the Wales Millennium Centre (7-17 June), the Urdd Eisteddfod celebration of youth culture at Builth Wells (28 May – 2 June), the Swansea International Festival (October 2018) and the international art prize Artes Mundi at National Museum Wales (from 27 October). National Dance Company Wales’ Terra Firma tour takes place in Spring and will be well worth a look. Last year I very much enjoyed the collaborative concerts between the orchestras of WNO and BBC NOW, and I hope to catch a few this year as well. I can also highly recommend Rungano Nyoni’s debut award-winning film funded by Ffilm Cymru Wales, I Am Not A Witch, which will be out on DVD in February.

Like many others, I was very disappointed that Wales missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, having enjoyed myself immensely in France in 2016. However, this year I can kick back, enjoy the games relatively stress-free, and pick a couple of nice countries to support. Come on Iceland!

Alastair Sill, Audio Describer for Theatre

I’m really looking forward to watching Owen Thomas’ new play, The Wood by The Torch Theatre. The Wood is inspired by a true story and commemorates the centenary of World War I. Yes, I can’t wait for that one. Another highlight has to be the Festival of Voice between 7th June and 17th June, at locations around Cardiff, created by the Wales Millennium Centre. I really want to try and get down to The Other Room this year because there’s nothing else like it in Cardiff. And anything by Gagglebabble is always fantastic!

Then personally first of all, I hope I have a happy, healthy and fun year with my two boys and girlfriend. Second, I hope York City FC find promotion to the National League, the first step back to the football league. And last, I hope to record lots of funny little anecdotes from my two boys and write a children’s story inspired by their unique craziness!

Jennifer Ruth Sturt, Assistant Producer, Wales Millennium Centre

Thinking ahead to what 2018 has in store is at once terrifying and overwhelmingly exciting. This year is set to be full on, but hugely inspiring year for us at the Centre. With the launch of two new seasons of programmed work in the Weston Studio and ffresh alongside the return of our biannual international arts festival, Festival of Voice. This year, we’re creating a number of co-productions with some incredible Welsh artists and companies and I’m really proud to be part of the team helping to make them happen. As Cardiff embraces it’s title of Music City, the in-house Festival of Voice team have created a programme of work that really celebrates voice in all it’s guises and alongside an ambitious Creative Learning programme allows us to explore the positive impact of collective singing and creative expression. With just six months to go, I can’t wait for what this year’s festival has in store.

 

Personally, I’m looking forward to many more adventures in 2018 with plans to travel to New Zealand and Canada, see my best friend get married and all being well, get back out on the road and finally get a half marathon under my belt- fingers crossed.

Geinor Styles, Artistic Director, Theatr na nÓg

My cultural highlights would be anything Theatr na nÓg does – obvs… and also the things I am looking forward to seeing and then probably missing because I’ve double booked myself or completely forgotten they were on…

So if someone can remind me then that would be great…

First up is to see the genius choreographer Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at Wales Millennium Centre in April, he is without doubt the best storyteller you will see in any medium – IMHO.

The second show for me will be the hugely ambitious adaptation of Patrick Ness’s award-winning children’s novel A Monster Calls which will be brought to life at the Bristol Old Vic (31 May – 16 June) by the incredible talented director Sally Cookson. The film broke my heart, so I cannot wait to see it live on stage.

Then the show I will definitely want to see before it heads off to New York, because I missed it the first couple of times round is Grav, an amazing achievement for a theatre company in far west Wales – The Torch to get it to the stage in New York after sell out shows here in Wales and Edinburgh. Congratulations to the creative team for taking a true Welsh hero and exporting it far and wide.

Even though I hate overhyped shows, I must see Hamilton this year. I think the story is incredible and an important one to hear and see in this strange uncertain time. – even though he did the music to Moana!

The Frida Kahlo is a definite must see at the V&A exhibition in London. If I miss this then Coco by Pixar will surely satisfy my Kahlo obsession (yes, you heard it here first)

There will also be a Suffragette exhibition at Swansea Museum to celebrate 100 years of the Women getting to vote. So much has been accomplished and also so much more work to do.

I also hear that Fleetwood Mac are going to tour this year specially for my birthday, so be rude not to!

Adele Thomas, Director

The play I’m most looking forward to in 2018 is John by Annie Baker, in a new production at the National Theatre. Annie is probably our greatest living dramatist. She writes with a delicacy and a humanity that make Checkhov look positively cartoonish. Her plays The Flick and Circle Mirror Transformation are amongst my favourite evenings in the theatre, and James McDonald (who directed Circle Mirror Transformation) is directing John, which makes it doubly exciting. I can’t tell you anything about what the play’s about.

My New Years Resolution is “Avoid the Algorithm”. So much internet noise and being in the industry means that by the time you’ve read the endless marketing and faced the constant stream of twitter criticism you go into the theatre too equipped to watch the play. Imagine being in the first audience for Macbeth or The Cherry Orchard or Blasted or Machinal. You would be entering the auditorium with true openness. As an audience member you might be shocked or bored or moved to tears, but your experience would be an truly honest one, a direct and unadulterated relationship between you and the play. What a gorgeous idea

Sami Thorpe, co-founder Elbow Room Theatre Company and BSL Interpreter

Sami shares her thoughts in BSL in the video below

There is so much to look forward to in 2018. I cannot wait to see Jonny Cotsen’s ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, it’s so important to see diverse stories on the stage and, as someone who has been involved with the Deaf community for a number of years, I’m very excited by it. I’m also looking forward to the drag acts coming to Cardiff this year, especially Klub Kids’ ‘The Twisted Circus’, which I shall be fangirling all over!

My personal hope for 2018 is that as an industry we work together to continue to diversify our audiences, sharing ideas and good practice is key. Be brave, take risks, learn and grow.

Rachel Trezise, Novelist and Playwright

I’m really looking forward to seeing Dublin Carol at the Sherman studio in early February and also The Laugharne Weekend in early April and obviously I’m very excited about the new Manics’ album, Resistance is Futile, due in April. I’m one of the judges for the International Dylan Thomas Prize this year so I’m looking forward to reading lots of new fiction.

More personally I hope to make some good progress on the house I’ve been trying to build for almost two years so that I get a functional writing space back by the end of the year!

Tom Wentworth, Playwright

2018 looks set to be an exciting year. Currently I’m looking forward to two exciting pieces in Wales. Jonny Cotsen’s Louder Is Not Always Clearer – I went to an early sharing and so it will be fascinating to see how it has developed. Also Kaite O’Reilly, Sara Beer and Philip Zarrilli’s collaboration richard III redux [or] ‘Sara Beer [is/not] richard III’ – it sounds as though it will be the most amazing piece performed by one of Wales’ finest actors. Further afield I can’t wait for Simon Longman’s Gundog at the Royal Court. Simon was my mentor and has become a friend so it’s especially exciting to see his work on a big stage.

Personally, I’m looking forward to my new version of Burke and Hare being performed at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre before heading off around Berkshire on tour during April/May; plus I have a short reading at The Bush Theatre in London in March as the culmination of a year on their Emerging Writers’ Group plus who knows? (I’d also like some sleep in 2018 too!)

Nickie Miles-Wildin, RTYDS, Resident Assistant Director, Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre

I’m sat at my desk at The Royal Exchange Theatre and there’s so much that I’m looking forward to this year. Being Resident Assistant Director in this amazing building is opening up many great opportunities for me. My highlights are Frankenstein directed by Matthew Xia. 200 years after its publication in January 2018 Matthew is directing a new version by April De Angelis – a writer whose work I enjoy. (Playhouse Creatures is brilliant) Being assistant director on this show I am already in the depths of research and know that the cast is going to truly bring the story to life on our stage.

I’m also looking forward to working with the Young Company up here on their production of Mix Tape. Working closely with Matt Hassall – Programme Leader for the Young Company and composer James Frewer, Manchester will be given its own mix tape.
In the summer I can’t wait to be my alter ego Beryl as I tour a handful of festivals with Bingo Lingo alongside my co-star Daryl and his alter ego Cyril. It’s Bingo on a Paralympic Scale. The Without Walls festivals are an absolute joy to be at and to discover new work.
For me 2018 will be one of exciting creative work indoors at the theatre and a summer of amazing interactive playful outdoor work.
And Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah being part of the new ensemble company at the Globe. Hopefully we’ll see more Deaf and Disabled creatives leading the way.

Matthew Xia, Director

I’m really looking forward to making some work across England and Wales this year. I’m starting with Dublin Carol – the Conor McPherson play about an alcoholic Undertaker being confronted with the life he has lived, and the others he has broken. It’s playing at Sherman Theatre in Cardiff from the 5th of February for two weeks. I then head up to the Manchester Royal Exchange to make a brand new Frankenstein adapted for the stage by April de’Angelis before directing the premier of the Alfred Fagon Award winning play Shebeen by Nottingham writer Mufaro Makubika. The show, starring Karl Collins will be presented at the Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal Stratford East in June.

As far as things on my radar this year I’m of course hoping to catch Hamilton at some point – although not at those prices. I’m hugely excited to see what seasons of work are presented by the new Artistic Directors including Kwame Kwei-Amah at the Young Vic , Nadia Fall at Stratford East and Justin Audibert at the Unicorn. I’m very excited to see Maxine Peak play Winnie in Happy Days directed by one of my favourite directors and humans, Sarah Frankcom at the Manchester Royal Exchange. I’m also thrilled that Roy Alexander Weise is presenting work at the National with Nine Nights. Other theatres worth keeping an eye on include The Yard and The Bush.

My hopes for the year are simple – let’s try not to destroy the planet, let’s remain kind.
For some of us this seems like an easy goal.

My 2017 Cultural Highlights

Get that Chance has interviewed a range of creatives from/or based in Wales in 2017. We caught up with some of them again recently to ask them for their own cultural highlight of 2017. If you click on the links below it will take you to an interview with each contributor.

Sami Thorpe,  co-founder Elbow Room Theatre Company 

Being a part of Hijinx’s Unity Festival is a real buzz! Lots of international inclusive and accessible work taking over one public place is truly exciting.

Rachel Pedley Miller, founding director of Avant Cymru

As an audience member I still remember event  Killology at Sherman Theatre when Sion Young gestured at the end of Act 1. I nearly didn’t return for Act II, the power behind the movement still stays with me today.  Very powerful acting and directing.

On tour with Killer Cells, I sat opposite a woman at the end of one of the performances, her friend held her shoulders and we talked for an hour about her experience of loss and of having found out she too had a high level of UNK Killer Cells. The opportunity to share and come together with another individual who had experienced loss in the same way as you had, was empowering for us both – theatre making us feel less isolated in society.

Working with Ann Davies, who has been a community champion for years, who is now having her work (at the age of 65) performed  for the first time in the public domain. After years of being isolated as carer and after suffering at the hands of a dodgy home start building scheme, seeing her confidence grow and her feeling more confident, has been a happy result of collaboration.

Bethany Seddon, theatre designer

Well I’ve been on maternity leave most of the year so haven’t seen anything unfortunately but I’ve absolutely loved returning to work with such a wonderfully supportive creative team on Flossy and Boo, The Alternativity. I haven’t laughed so much during meetings or felt so at ease discussing concepts and ideas!

Gareth Coles  /  Voluntary Arts Wales Director  /  Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru

My cultural highlight of 2017 was an exhibition in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, which I returned to many times. Displayed in a darkened room, Nature’s Song: Chinese Bird and Flower Painting, was a breathtaking collection of beautiful ink paintings. As an artist myself, with a regrettable tendency to overwork my drawings and get lost in details, I learned so much about the expressive and economical use of a single brush stroke: representing shimmering leaves and blades of grass, and evoking whole landscapes.
 I would have to go for the National Theatre’s productions of Angels in America. Firstly what a dream to see such an iconic piece of theatre in such a wonderful space. Secondly, the imagery Tony Kushner writes is spellbinding and how they staggering, breathtakingly captured these images was extraordinarily. How can you not like a piece of theatre which has this line written in it?  ‘I don’t understand why I am not dead? When your heart breaks, you should die’.

Patrick Jones, Poet and playwright 

Comedy Mark Thomas
TV Motherland. People Just Do Nothing
Poetry Pascale Petit Mama Amazonica
Music Godspeed You Black Emperor Luciferian Towers
BooK The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart
Theatre Touch by Vicky Jones (Soho Theatre)

 

Emily Wilden, actor, writer and creator of Sunday Night Stories 

I’d like to mention the work of the Cardiff Fringe for continually producing accessible and exciting pieces of theatre for all.

Also Omidaze theatres production/school workshops of Romeo & Juliet, bringing Shakespeare and politics into schools and making it fun and understandable for children of all ages.

 

My cultural highlight was seeing Dirty Protests Sugar Baby at Summerhall Edinburgh. It was brilliant to experience a story so deeply rooted in Cardiff with people from all over the world.
Poetic and profane, the Jean Michel Basqiuat retrospective at The Barbican stood out. Not only were we given insight into the man and the 80’s New York art scene, the paintings had room to speak for themselves.

My professional cultural highlight (for work that I was involved in) was Disgo Distaw Owain Glyndwr Silent Disco by Light Ladd & Emberton – an entertaining and meaningful production which engaged hundreds of people, and has since been nominated for a tourism business innovation award.

My personal cultural highlight was reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet with CardiffRead – an absorbing and detailed book about a historical murder that built to an intense climax, through twists and turns, and at the end, left the reader as the judge… It was nominated for and should have won the Booker prize!

To choose one personal cultural highlight when despite all else culture has delivered so many uplifting and joyous moments in my life is invidious but (and apologies to Celtic Connections Glasgow, Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, Girl from the North Country, Rhiannon Giddens, Black RATs’ One Man Two Guv’nors and Nye & Jennie) my singular choice has to be Theatr na nÓg’s “Eye of the Storm” at Taliesin Arts Centre Swansea last month.  Inspirational, realistic, provocative and all delivered by a superbly talented cast bouncing off a superb script from Geinor Styles and a wonderful soundtrack penned by Amy Wadge.  I maybe now the proud chair of that company but this would have made it anyway on merit!
My cultural highlight for 2017 was Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide which played at London’s Royal Court – breathtaking in the way it dealt with a tricky subject matter with such heart and rigour as well as being formally inventive as three timelines play out simultaneously I both enjoyed the production at the time and have returned to it in my mind since. I hope that in 2018 I will write something half as good – the memory of it spurs me on.
My cultural highlight of 2017 was Tai Bach Panto in Port Talbot. This year was Cinderella’s Golden Ball which marked the pantos 50th anniversary. Written, produced, directed and performed by a cast of mainly steelworkers (who work their socks off for the love of it!) It brings the town together for a good old knees up. Debaucherous, anarchic and definitely not for kids – I laughed so hard my face hurt!
Alex Griffin-Griffiths in Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby by Alan Harris. Sion Daniel Young in Killology directed by Rachel O’Riordan and written by Gary Owen at the Sherman. Lastly Seanmhair by Hywel John directed by Kate Wasserberg at The Other Room.

 

Kelly Jones,  writer and theatre maker

My cultural/personal highlights of 2017 were 1) Seeing Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court 2) Being invited onto the Emerging Writers Programme at The Bush and 3) Securing funding from Arts Council Wales to research the need for a Queer Arts Collective in Wales.

My cultural highlight of 2017 is A Regular Little Houdini by Flying Bridge Theatre. I saw it at Chapter in late January and it’s stayed with me all year. Resourceful and heartwarming.
My cultural highlight of 2017 has to be an extraordinary weekend spent in Hwacheon, South Korea, in September, where I was lucky enough to watch Welsh, Korean, Japanese and Indian artists collaborate with each other and the local community, as part of our Artists’ Playground residency. Seeing all these great artistic minds swapping ideas, trying new approaches, finding common ground and different perspectives – often despite real language barriers – was awe-inspiring.
For me – Reasons to be Cheerful from Graeae – uplifting and deeply unashamedly political.  Slava’s Snow Show – always stunning – always magical! And finishing on a high with  the wonderful Likely Story’s The Giant Who Has No Heart in His Body.  Oh and I also enjoyed Flossy and Boo’s Alternativity… great to see some strong female led work and wonderful to see so much clowning!
 Joe Fletcher, Lighting Designer and scenographer
I would have a special mention for Sugar Baby written by Alan Harris and produced by Dirty Protest at Edinburgh. Also the screening of Macbeth in cinemas by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and the screening of PARADE by National Dance Company Wales on BBC4 all rather rather special!
Gavin Porter Film Maker and Clore Fellow
My Welsh highlight was RATS, written and directed by Kyle Legall, a theatre production and  director that isn’t afraid to break conventions. My national highlight was Barber Shop Chronicles at the National Theatre, an intelligent, energetic and beautifully written show.
Matthew Bulgo Actor and Playwright
My cultural highlight for 2017 was PALMYRA at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Fringe. In turn both hilarious and arresting, witty and profound.