Star names descend on the home of Dylan Thomas for festival

Published: Friday 5th Mar 2010

Written by: Gareth Mahoney

t may not be on the scale of Hay, but a relatively new literary festival in Laugharne has developed such a reputation that acclaimed authors are clamouring to be on the bill. Best of Wales’ can offer accommodation for the Laugharne festival.

Final preparations are being made for the fourth Laugharne Weekend, which opens this Friday and among the big names who will be arriving in the West Wales town this year are musician Julian Cope, radio DJ Stuart Maconie, novelist Roddy Doyle and Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire. And, in what is becoming a regular event at the festival, there will be another showing of the popular movie Twin Town, starring Rhys Ifans and his brother Llyr Evans.

 Past visitors include American singer- songwriter Patti Smith, Kinks founder Ray Davies and author Louis de Bernières. Richard Thomas, co-organiser of the event, believes that Dylan Thomas’ connections with the coastal town help bring the star names to the festival. “When they realise they have a chance to perform in Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse they say ‘yes’,” says Thomas.“They may only be playing to 20 people but [the Boathouse] is a huge attraction. “The literary history of Laugharne is amazing. Everyone automatically thinks of Dylan Thomas but Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, went to Laugharne a lot and Kingsley Amis wrote The Old Devils, which won the Booker Prize, while staying at Laugharne.”

Ammanford-born Thomas had been involved with many other festivals, including Latitude, but he had always wanted to organise his own event. His uncle, Phil Richards, had run the Cross Inn pub in Laugharne from 1941 until the late ’60s and when Thomas saw an advert on TV one day which prompted memories of Laugharne, he instantly thought it would be the perfect place to stage a literary festival. The first event took place in 2007 and proved to be a success. “At the end of the first year, we realised our crazy little idea was going to work,” he says. “I’m always amazed by the people we have on the bill. Next year is already looking phenomenal. “A lot of people wanted to do this year’s festival but they couldn’t because they already had commitments but they’ve already said they want to be part of the fifth Laugharne Weekend. I think next year will be very, very good.”

 But for now he’s focusing on the 2010 event. Music collides with literature during the Laugharne Weekend. Cope, whose bands include The Teardrop Explodes, will be giving a lecture based on his best-selling tomes The Modern Antiquarian and its sequel The Megalithic European. Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan will going back to his roots for the festival, performing acoustic sets in both the Congregational Church and The Boathouse. Manic Street Preacher Wire will be in Laugharne to talk to Phil Wilding about his influences and inspirations. Folk is well represented by singer and guitarist Martin Carthy and Alasdair Roberts. Music also provides the backbone for readings from the latest books (and other works) by writers Nick Kent (Apathy For The Devil) , Clinton Heylin (Still On The Road), Stuart Maconie (Adventures On The High Seas: In Search of Middle England) and Will Hodgkinson (The Ballad Of Britain). Festival regular Keith Allen returns to host Laugharne’s Got Talent each night from The Fountain Inn. He is encouraging locals who can sing, tell jokes, play an instrument or write poetry to get involved. The winner will be featured on his forthcoming spoken word and music album. The festival takes place at a number of venues throughout Laugharne, including the Boathouse, Millennium Hall, the Congregational Church, the Portreeve, the Fountain Inn and the Community Centre. And although the festival performers are quite happy to rub shoulders with the locals during their time in Laugharne, Thomas says that residents are oblivious to bumping into any famous faces. “There was a great review I read on a website about the festival and they said it’s only in Laugharne where you could find yourself in a pub with an ex-member of the Clash, Mick Jones; a well-known DJ, Stuart Maconie; and DBC Pierre, who won the Booker Prize – and yet no-one takes a blind bit of notice.”.

 The Laugharne Weekend runs from Friday to Sunday. Weekend tickets and tickets for individual performances are on sale. For further details visit the website at www.thelaugharneweekend.com


Lisa Jones

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