Aug 31, 2010

Night Of The Living Bards ( Left Coast Eisteddfod ) - Thursday 7th October 5-12pm, Buffalo Gap, Portland, Oregon


The Event

5.00 pm - 7.00 pm
Showing of S4C production 'Other World' ( Y Mabinogi ) 2002 ( 1hr 44mins )

"On his eighteenth birthday, Lleu's world is shaken by the news that he is adopted. On the same day, his friend Rhiannon thinks that she may be pregnant, and Dan, who lives in his big brother's shadow, is as scatty as ever.

They all put their problems aside for the day when they come together to celebrate Lleu's birthday. Venturing on a boat trip along the coast they suddenly see a change in the water. They realise that, on May Eve, they have found the golden doorway to the Otherworld, which can be seen shining deep beneath the waters.

Being an independent and stubborn girl, Rhiannon doesn't think twice before plunging into the sea, and the other two are not far behind. As they swim deeper and deeper and get closer and closer to the golden gate, they are transported many centuries ago to the incredible world of the Mabinogi.".....more

"The musical score is arranged by John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground, in conjunction with the National Orchestra of Wales.

Ioan Gruffudd (Hornblower, The Forsyte Saga), Matthew Rhys (The Graduate stage adaptation), Jenny Livsey, Daniel Evans, Phillip Madoc, Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) and Paul McGann (Withnail and I) are just some of the famous names who have contributed to the film.".....more

7.00 -7.30 pm Readings by Featured Authors at the Wordstock Festival

Niall Griffiths, Harrison Solow, Chris Keil, Peter Griffiths

World Premier Niall Griffiths will be reading for the first time from his forthcoming book in the 'New Stories From The Mabinogion' series. Niall was commissioned by Seren ( one of Wales' leading publishing houses ) to write a modern adaptation of two tales from the ancient text:- 'The Dream of Macsen Wledig' and 'The Dream of Rhonabwy'. The resulting title 'The Dreams of Max And Ronnie' will be published in mid October. Advance signed copies will be available for purchase at the event together with other titles from the series. The project is introduced in the following terms on the Seren website:-

"In this series commissioned by Seren, the old tales are at the heart of the new. Each author reinvents a story in their own way: creating fresh, contemporary tales that speak to us as much of our own world as of events long gone."

7.30 -9.10 pm Left Coast Eisteddfod 'Live' Poetry Competition

A live poetry competition for which we will be looking to recruit 10 contestants. There will be no restrictions on narrative style or content although competitiors must tell a story of some kind. Each contestant will have 8 minutes at the mic and there will be a first prize of $250 and a second prize of $100. There will be no registration fee although all competitiors will be required to pay the standard $6 dollar admission fee. You need not be a member of Americymru to attend or compete. If you wish to compete please email to arrange.

9.20 -11.00 pm Left Coast Eisteddfod 'Live' Narrative Competition
A live narrative competition for which we will be looking to recruit 10 contestants. There will be no restrictions on narrative style or content although competitiors must tell a story of some kind. Each contestant will have 8 minutes at the mic and there will be a first prize of $250 and a second prize of $100. There will be no registration fee although all competitiors will be required to pay the standard $6 dollar admission fee. You need not be a member of Americymru to attend or compete. If you wish to compete please email to arrange.

11.00 -12.00 pm Halley Weaver Portland's very own 'Zero Emissions Harpist'

...will be performing selections from The Mabinogion Suite and other works.

The Venue

Aug 25, 2010

An Interview With Lorin Morgan-Richards

Lorin Morgan-Richards is a composer, author, illustrator and purveyor of finely crafted dark humor handmade books. He is a direct descendant of Welsh American poet Robert Dennison Morgan. Lorin will be appearing at our booth at Wordstock on October 9th- 10th. He will be presenting a limited edition print of 'The Goodbye Family in Wales' to the first 100 visitors to the AmeriCymru table on both days. Be sure to arrive early! The location of our booth can be found here ( booth 620 ) and samples of Lorin's work can be found in the slideshow at the bottom of this page.

AmeriCymru: Your latest book is titled 'A Boy Born From Mold'. Care to give our readers an idea of what they will find between its covers?

Lorin:  Diolch Ceri for allowing me the opportunity for this interview and giving me a chance to share my passion. 'A Boy Born from Mold and Other Delectable Morsels' is my second published book through my small press, A Raven Above Press, which encompasses dark humor short stories with pen and ink illustration. Readers often call my books 'Gothic Fairytales' because they are reminiscent of Victorian Era moral stories.

'A Boy Born from Mold', my title story, reveals a mysterious boy named 'Rune' who lives in a basement, after having been hatched from an old forgotten family quilt. His neighbor upstairs is a lost little girl who seeks knowledge about her family's heritage. The two intersect and the story unravels so to speak.

I find it interesting the symbolism and metaphors that readers pull from this story. Some have thought of it as giving insight into some sort of Pagan beliefs. One commented it was a metaphor for the Celtic Tree of Life. The little girl upstairs represents an above plane while 'Rune' resides in the below or Otherworld, and the remaining between provides the journey towards consciousness of spirit and self interconnected. I will not say if these are accurate or intentional in any way, but obviously, the story itself was meant to fascinate adults as well as children, and like one reviewer mentioned, this story is fundamentally about finding oneself. 'A Boy Born from Mold' is just one of seven delectable morsels in the book. 

AmeriCymru: You have an interesting, perhaps unique, method of publishing your work.Can you give us a brief idea of the process by which you individually handcraft each volume and the materials you use?

Lorin:  In making 'A Boy Born from Mold and Other Delectable Morsels', I begin by gathering tools and my materials. After this, I use an Epson printer to make two sided booksheets. Both the booksheets along with the endsheets are folded into fourths and are cut to size. I then measure out and paste down cotton cloth and hinges to the first and last signatures. One by one I sew the signatures together using Irish linen thread, and these are knotted and glued. After I glue the spine, I attach a ribbon and let it dry. I then begin constructing the hardcover case. Last steps are adding the title to the spine with my foil stamp machine, gluing the pages to the case and pressing each book for several hours. Each book is signed and limited in edition to 400 copies. The bookbinding process is hard to measure in time, but once the pages are printed it takes a little over an hour for each book. Interestingly, the sewing is both the most time consuming and therapeutic part of my bookbinding. 

AmeriCymru: Is there any significance in making them limited edition?

Lorin:  In the ancient tradition of making things by hand, each book is interconnected with the author and thus has its own life principles. To further emphasize this, I made each part of a limited edition of 400 copies. However I won’t delve into the significance of the number 400.

AmeriCymru: On your website we learn that you are of Welsh and Amish ancestry. How did you become aware of your Welsh ancestry? Does it influence your work in any way? 

Lorin:  I believe dreams connect us to our ancestors and it is through creativity that we can tap into this in the conscious state. Creativity is a sort of trance that we have as artists that erases time and space. My mother's side, the Morgan family, is originally from Wales. I began questioning my identity pretty early on, but didn't understand or learn about it until I was in college when records and books became more readily available. By this time, unfortunately, my grandparents had also all passed. From here, I became heavily involved in genealogy and found in the US Census reports my direct ancestor 'John Morgan' as being born in Wales. Last year, I visited Cardiff and did more research, but found that the commonality of the name 'John Morgan' was equivalent to 'John Smith'. So my research continues. But in the meantime, I've begun taking steps to reconnect by learning Welsh and will be incorporating even more of the culture into my writing and illustrating.

AmeriCymru: You are currently working on several written projects with a Welsh linguist in Swansea. Care to tell us more?

Lorin:  In the fall, I will be releasing an audiobook of 'A Boy Born from Mold' with narration by Welsh linguist Jason Shepherd. I met Jason through 'The Learn Welsh Podcast', an informative podcast that he created and hosts every week. I am very lucky to have his talents for this project. His voice is simply stellar and his readings add a lot of charismatic dimension to the stories.

AmeriCymru: Do you see yourself as primarily any particular type of artist - painter,musician or writer?~ Do you have a favorite medium to work in and if so, what is it about that medium?
Lorin:  I am most comfortable with writing and pen and ink illustrations. My filter tends to be cut ups of what is around me blurred into my own feelings and interests of the Victorian era. I don't try to categorize myself but I do recognize my influences are a bit more macabre than usual.

AmeriCymru: What is next for Lorin Morgan-Richards? Do you have any new works in the pipeline? 

Lorin:  On September 12th, just in time for Grandparents Day, A Raven Above Press will be releasing a book entitled '13 Disturbing Postcards to Send to Your Grandparents'. This book is a lighthearted take on the mushy postcards kids send to their grandparents. I personally had terrific grandparents, but I thought it might be funny to create a book that is polar opposite to the postcards available today. I will also be releasing a miniature illustrated alphabet book that I will have finished by Halloween entitled 'The Terribly Mini Monster Book’.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Lorin:  Thanks for the appreciation and I hope that I am able to meet some of you at Wordstock in Portland! Hwyl fawr am nawr!

Aug 17, 2010

Wales at Wordstock

The Venue

As part of this year's Left Coast Eisteddfod celebrations we are presenting a panel discussion at the prestigious Wordstock literary festival ( 7th-10th October 2010 ) entitled 'Welsh Identity in Literature: From Dylan Thomas to Dr Who'. Featured panel authors include Niall Griffiths, Harrison Solow and Chris Keil. We are pleased to announce that this will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning in the OEA Performance Area at the Oregon Convention Center ( pictured left ). In addition two of our authors will be presenting workshops at the event  ( see details below ). The AmeriCymru booth, where you will find  a  wide variety of Anglo-Welsh literature for sale and signing sessions by our featured authors ( including Peter Griffiths and Lorin Morgan-Richards), will be open throughout the event. See this floor plan for our location ( we are at booth 620 )

The Authors

Check the Wordstock blog here daily for posts by our featured authors. Find details of featured authors in the slideshow above .

The Panel Discussion

Welsh Identity in Literature: From Dylan Thomas to Dr Who - 11 a.m. on Saturday morning ( 9th Oct ) in the OEA Performance Area at the Oregon Convention Center

What is Anglo-Welsh literature and why should anyone care?  As historian Gwyn Williams once famously said:- “The Welsh as a people have lived by making and remaking themselves in generation after generation, usually against the odds, usually within a British context.” For the Welsh speaking minority in Wales cultural identity is not a problem. The language defines it. For the English speaking majority, this question is not so easily answered. In Wales we see the same TV programs , read the same newspapers as our neighbours do a few miles away across the English 'border'. Wales is a popular vacation spot and in the summer months there are areas where you will be lucky to hear a Welsh accent let alone hear the native language spoken. And yet for centuries the Welsh have refused to be subsumed or absorbed by the Anglo-Saxon cultural Borg .  Welsh authors are rarely included in the English literary canon. Perhaps there is a reason for that? How does Welsh literature help to preserve Welsh identity? What lessons does this hold for others attempting to maintain an identity in the face of  cultural globalization.

From 'Mr Vogel' by Lloyd Jones - “When was Wales? Wales has never been, it has always been.” he rambled on to his next victim, Myrddin the schizophrenic, who fortunately) was asleep. “I’ll tell you something for nothing.” he said, “true Wales is never more than a field away, and true Wales is always a field away, like Rhiannons horse in the Mabinogi. Got it?” 

We asked our panelists to respond to the followowing question:- How do you think Welsh writers, writing in English, contribute to establishing a distinct Welsh cultural identitiy. Do you think there's anything unique about the Welsh experience or about Anglo-Welsh literature in this regard?  Here are their responses:-

Chris Keil - "What do you call it? Welsh writing in English? English-language writing in Wales? If youʼre not confused you donʼt understand the situation. The one constant is that cultural politics are always changing. In the last thirty or forty years the languages have inverted their relationship to each other, and Welsh is now the speech of the elite. This puts English- language writers in Wales in a new place. For me, the salient, abiding characteristic is a sort of estrangement - from England, but also from Wales; not so much embattled/romantic/heroic, as just not-signed-up: a failure (and I mean that in the most successfulsense of the word) to invest in any of the big-noting nationalisms that compete for our souls. Itʼs never a party-piece, either of dull fields and sullen rocks and angst, or of verbal tics and tricks and archness and cutesyness, boyo, look you. To invoke Mae West: “Indeed-to-goodness has nothing to do with it.”

Niall Griffiths - "Difficult to answer briefly .Let's just say that the less power London has, in every realm, the better for the UK and Europe and indeed humanity as a whole. Wales is bi-lingual, and gloriously so; being able to mediate the world through two languages is very beneficial and enriching."

Harrison Solow - "There is everything unique about the Welsh experience. I have said in various interviews about my writing about Wales that "no word equals its referent, and that the meaning of what is approximated in words lies in the shadow of them – in a different realm altogether." I believe  "there is a meaning in any experience described within a book, that cannot possibly be in the book." Nowhere have I seen this belief personified, indeed, living, except in Wales: “The Welsh have survived as a nation chiefly by cunning and reserve...they play for time, they fence, they scout out the situation, but they do not commit themselves. Those sweet smiles are sweet, but they are well under control. It is performance that greets you, polished and long practiced, played on a deceptively cosy stage set with brass pokers by the fire...” as Jan Morris says in her book A Matter of Wales. This is a mystical nation and the daily life of y Cymry remains a mystery to outsiders, some of it even to fellow Welshmen who do not speak Welsh and whose intrinsic and amorphous content is shaped by what is considered by some to be an alien form: English. My significant encounters in Wales have been with the Welsh speaking Welsh, whose intermittent appearance behind those smiles have both an I-Thou magnetism and a faint but discernable invitation; whose bland and wordless gazes bespeak the language of a somehow recognizable teulu (family) that sent me hypnotically to the Welsh Department of The University of Wales to embark on a journey of another kind: the lifelong acquisition of an ancient, bardic tongue.  But when I won the Pushcart Prize for Literature for writing about Wales, even those Welsh speakers celebrated the notion that it is possible to write about Wales in English. I'm not so sure that one can write Wales without Welsh. But one can write about it. Wales is a state of mind, or rather a state of heart. It is the scent of lanolin in the air – the hum of small cities in the loam beneath the oaks, the conviction of Celtic blood. It is an endless and sirenic song - as far from English sensibility as  it is from German or Cherokee. Sometimes I think that any story about Wales should be told outside the written word. It is only because I cannot sing or paint that I write and what I write is a word-performance. It is eisteddfod."

The Workshops

The Writing Life: A Serious Pursuit of Self Definition - Harrison Solow ( OCC room B118 Saturday 9th Oct 9-10.15 am )

In this seminar, we will address writing under a variety of conditions, about  a variety of subjects, under the guise of ourselves and alter egos, in company and in isolation.

Writing Dialogue in the Novel - Chris Keil  ( OCC room B119 Sunday 10th Oct 1.30- 2.45 )

The workshop contains lecture, discussion, examples and participation in writing, on technical characteristics of dialogue in order to intensify mood, compress/express social/emotional connections etc

STOP PRESS:  Author Lorin Morgan Richards will be joining us at our booth at Wordstock where he will be selling and autographing copies of his works throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Aug 12, 2010

A Short History of Castell Coch

Castell Coch (the Red Castle) sits proudly on the side of a hill overlooking North Cardiff and the valley that carries the River Taff.

Its fairytale appearance belies the history that the building contains in its stones. There has been a fortress on the site since the end of the 11th century when an earth and timber motte castle was built there by Norman lords to defend their land. Both Ifor Bach and Gruffud ap Rhys are two Welsh rulers of Senghennydd whose names are linked to the castle.

During the 13th century, the de Clare family, the Norman lords of Glamorgan made great gains against the Welsh in the upland regions of their disputed territory. It was during this time that it is thought the castle was reconstructed into a stone one, with a small oval courtyard with three circular towers. It was probably Gilbert de Clare (the builder of Caerphilly Castle) who added the towers in the 1280s. It is the spur buttresses at the base of the round towers that suggest it was of Norman design, but it seems that the castle was abandoned in 1316 after Llewellyn Bren led an army against the de Clares in 1316. It was never repaired and the castle fell into ruin.

By 1871, like many other castles in Wales, the castle was an overgrown ruin. Crucially however, it happened to be owned by John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute - one of the richest men in the world. The Marquess was a landed aristocrat and an industrial magnate, owing a lot of this wealth from his father who had risked a long-term strategy in building Cardiff into one of the busiest coal-exporting ports in the world. Lord Bute had a great interest in religion, medievalism, the occult, and architecture. He had already enlisted the services of William Burges to remodel Cardiff Castle in his own unique style of gothic fantasy.  

In 1872, Bute began his project of Castle Coch by asking Burges to look into the possibility of restoring the castle. Burges produced the report and work began in 1875. The castle was to be transformed into a summer home for the Marquess. The restoration was a complete one, but Burges was not to see the finished article. He died in 1881, ten years before completion of the work. His detailed drawings of the interiors allowed his team of craftsmen to complete the task without him. It took sixteen years for the castle to be transformed into the building we know and recognise today.

The castle may have an authentic medieval look to the exterior but the interiors are Victorian fantasy, richly decorated and highly imaginative. After a visit to Castell Coch, it is worth visiting nearby Cardiff Castle to see the ultimate example of the collaboration between Lord Bute and William Burges. At the time of completion, the castle represented a medieval structure, but it did have all the modern conveniences of its time - flushing toilets, central heating and a working kitchen made it habitable. Burges also left behind some justifications for his use of the conical towers, which some historians question for authenticity. Burges wanted them simply for visual effect.   

The Keep Tower, the Well Tower and the Kitchen Tower incorporate a series of apartments; of which the main sequence, the Castellan's Rooms, lie within the Keep. The Hall, the Drawing Room, Lord Bute's Bedroom and Lady Bute's bedroom comprise a suite of rooms that exemplify the High Victorian Gothic style in 19th century Britain. However some of the poorer interior decorations can be attributed to work carried out after Burges' early death in 1881. Some of the painted decoration is based on patterns found in Welsh castles. The Drawing Room and Lady Bute's bedroom have ceilings and wall paintings that are almost equal to the best achieved at Cardiff Castle.

The decoration and even the smallest details - such as the door handles and the window latches were carefully considered. Even some of the walls feature paintings of various animals, including birds, monkeys and squirrels, as well as mythological beings.

The uppermost story of the Keep Tower holds Lady Bute's Bedroom, painted in brilliant colours with gilt and mirrors lighting up the double-domed chamber.  Apart from the large bed, the furniture in Lady Bute's Room is simplistic and uncomfortable - a result of Burges determination to keep true to the medieval character of the castle.

In 1950, the 5th Marquess of Bute placed the Castle in the care of the Ministry of Works. It is now administered by CADW on behalf of the National Assembly for Wales.

Castell Coch has made numerous appearances in TV and film productions. Drivers can also spot the magical- looking castle from the M4 as they pass the Coryton Interchange.

Aug 11, 2010

Was This The Site of A Massacre?

Situated near the bottom of the Wenallt lies what is probably the biggest historical monument in Rhiwbina today. The Twmpath is a late 11th century Norman motte and is shrouded in legend and lore. Historically, the Twmpath's enduring story centres around Iestyn ap Gwrgant then King of Glamorgan, and his downfall.  

Towards the latter part of the 11th century, a group of Normans, led by Robert fitz Hamo, Earl of Gloucester, were sent by William I to suppress the Welsh in the South Wales lowlands. Legend has it that fitz Hamo sought the help of a Norman knight by the name of Eynion. His job was to forge a false alliance with Iestyn ap Gwrgant. The apparent aim of this alliance was to drive the Normans back towards Bristol and the West Country.  

At Rhiwbina, Iestyn’s and Eynion’s armies entered into battle with the Norman army in a field not far from the present day Butcher’s Arms pub. However, no sooner had battle commenced than Eynion withdrew his men and marched to Swansea. Iestyn’s army were left to defend for themselves but were hopelessly outnumbered. The dead were piled in one great mound and covered with mud. One version of the story tells that Iestyn was placed on his horse and buried upright in the mound that is known as the Twmpath. The battle was so fierce that the local stream ran red with blood. To this day, it’s known as Nant y Weadlydd or Bloody Brook. 
The Twmpath would have commanded good views of the area in its day. It can be found off Wenallt Road, a hundred yards or so south of the bridge crossing the M4, and a hundred yards or so West of Wenallt Road. You can still see the ditch around the Twmpath, but there are no visible signs of any other buildings.

The bailey of the Twmpath still stands a impressive 30 feet high, although it is somewhat overgrown these days.  

Aug 10, 2010

The Glamorganshire Canal

The once mighty Glamorganshire Canal now exists mostly in history books. Steve Strange writing for Living Magazines charts the rise and fall of the canal’s prominence, and explains where locals can go to catch up with our past .

GFDL Former tunnel of the Glamorganshire Canal
at Pontypridd, behind the Bunch of Grapes pub.
Photo taken by User:Varitek July 2005)
In 1794 a canal was opened between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil over the mountains of South Wales. This was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World at the time. Within 24.5 miles, it rose to a height of 300 metres, requiring 49 locks. When the canal was opened in 1794, Cardiff had a population of just 4000. In 1798 the canal was extended one mile seawards and included a sea lock. The total cost to build the canal was £103,600. The hills and valleys surrounding Merthyr were rich with limestone, iron ore and coal. The canal predominantly followed the route of the river Taff and was able to carry these raw materials and finished goods from the four Merthyr ironworks far more cheaply and quickly than previous mule trains. Merthyr was the largest town in Wales in 1850. It was twice the size of its nearest rival Swansea, and greater than the combined populations of Swansea and Cardiff. Merthyr’s growth was brought about by the expansion of the iron industry- it was the industrial heart of Wales.

The four great ironworks – Dowlais, Penydarren, Plymouth and Cyfartha were able to    transport their finished iron on a single barge nine feet wide and 60 feet long. 24 tons of iron could be towed by one horse, needing only one man and a boy to run it efficiently. Three round trips to Cardiff could be completed in a fortnight. Previously this tonnage required 48 horses, 12 men and 12 boys and would take significantly longer.

Despite the railway boom of the 1840s and the opening of the Bute docks in Cardiff, the canal continued to flourish. The Industrial Revolution, especially the coal boom in South Wales, saw unprecedented growth of trade on the canal. In 1858 at its economic peak the canal transported 466,983 tons of coal. Within a decade this had slowed considerably. The canal was a victim of its own success. The trade boom and subsequent congestion was the primary cause of its decline.

Richard Crawshay, owner of the Cyfartha Ironworks, had the canal built to his ironworks in Merthyr. He then vigorously opposed all efforts by the Hills, Guests and Homfreys – owners of the other Merthyr ironworks on the eastern side of the valley – to extend the canal, or allow feeders to be built. This eventually led to the setting up of the Taff Vale Railway Company by the dissident ironmasters to transport their wares to Cardiff. By 1888 the canal was owned by Lord Bute. Lord Bute planned to use much of the canal on which to build a railway. Its economic life was effectively over, although sand dredgers and timber floats carried on using parts of the canal until 1942.

Very little remains of the canal in Cardiff today. The exception is the Glamorganshire Canal Nature Reserve at Coryton, adjacent to junction 32 of the M4 some five miles from Cardiff Docks. The one kilometre stretch of the canal was lovingly restored in the 1960s. The restored canal section is the new jewel in the Forest Farm Country Park. The Country Park was established in 1992 by the Countryside Council for Wales. The Park contains a designated local nature reserve, a site of Special Scientific Interest (including the restored canal section) and an adjacent semi natural woodland, known as Longwood. The Nature Reserve is a popular location for ramblers, ornithologists, dog walkers and joggers. The spectacular kingfishers glimpsed frequently along the canal are perhaps the most enchanting of all the wildlife to be seen. Little grebe, dippers, snipe and water rail are among the varied birdlife to be found here. Along this beautiful and tranquil stretch of water can be seen the unique iron bridge, built here in 1851. It is unique because one turret is rounded, the other square. Sunny Bank River Bridge enabled the ropes from horse drawn barges to pass over the bridge without snagging. The bridge was built to allow overflow from the canal to pass into the Melingriffith feeder supplying the nearby iron works of the same name.

Remnants of the canal can be traced throughout Cardiff today, although only this mile long   section at Coryton remains intact. The popular Taff Trail cycle path, running alongside the River Taff as the canal once did, is now an energetic cycle route from Cardiff Bay to Brecon. The Taff Trail follows the old canal route in many places along its 27 mile length. The Taff, which once flowed black with coal, is now clean and rich in wildlife, including salmon and trout. The return of the fish attracts herons and cormorants to feed along the river banks.

The Glamorganshire Canal is widely credited as being the catalyst that sparked the huge growth of the City of Cardiff. This growth continues at pace today. Cardiff is officially Europe’s fastest growing capital city. Its population now dwarfs that of both Merthyr and Swansea.

The restored section of the Glamorganshire Canal provides a wonderful example of what can be salvaged from industrial decay. The canal lock and unique bridge are a fascinating reminder of our recent past and rich industrial heritage. The canal contains an abundance of wildlife and is a superb advert for the current interest in restoring sections of long derelict canals. How the Cardiff Bay Development Company must regret the filling in of sections of the Glamorganshire Canal in the 1960s. The restored waterway would have been the ideal linking artery from the city centre to the now thriving Cardiff Bay.

Nature and Language’s Revival in the Valleys Inspires Maesteg Poet

This week Y Lolfa will be publishing a new volume of Welsh poetry by a learner from Maesteg. Cerddi’r Galon by Susan May is a collection of poems which transport the reader to the old industrial valleys of south Wales, where the works now stand idle and nature can be seen at her best once more. Susan began learning Welsh in the 1990s so that she was able to converse with her mother when she was unwell, she explains,

“My mother was bedridden and no-one remained of the family’s older generation to speak to her in Welsh so I decided to learn the language with her in 1994. When my mother died I promised myself that I would continue to learn to speak and write in Welsh.”

In 2001 Susan won the Learners Chair in the National Eisteddfod with the poem Yfory, which is included in this book along with several poignant and honest poems which discuss her childhood and life and topical issues such as open-cast mining. The poems look at the scars left behind on the landscape by the heavy industries of the area,

“Three coal mines employed 3,000 miners in the Maesteg area and some of the poems look at the beauty which has returned to these valleys.”

Her Welsh tutor, Morgan D Jones, has clearly made an impression on Susan as she has written a poem especially for him and he has written the foreword for this volume. Susan May was a lecturer in midwifery prior to her retirement. In order that Welsh learners can enjoy the poems she has included a vocabulary for each one. Cerddi’r Galon is sure to enrich the experience of learning the Welsh language, and will appeal to learners of different standards and Welsh speakers alike. The price of Cerddi’r Galon, which is part of the Golau Gwyrdd (Green Light) series by Y Lolfa, is £4.95.

Aug 9, 2010

David Western's Portland Eisteddfod Lovespoon: Dave is done!

David Western's Portland Eisteddfod Lovespoon: Dave is done!: "Well, I think I am just about done. I had a good day yesterday and managed to get most of my part seen to. There might be a couple of..."

Remembering Campbells’ Steamers

Image by w:User:Dave souza
License CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5
The Bristol Channel has always been a unique place.The Channel is both wide and spacious compared to other British seaports. It breathes clean unfettered air but takes the full fury of the south- westerlies rolling in from the Atlantic. The Bristol Channel also holds the distinction of having the second highest rate of tidal fluctuation in the world.

So when P&A Campbell took the decision to set up a permanent excursion operation in the Bristol Channel in 1888, they faced many varied and difficult challenges. Early competition was fierce too with local excursion companies realising the potential of the Channel’s offerings. 

Campbells built their first ship in 1891- the Ravenswood, as a rival to the popular Waverley, being run by Edwards and Robinson. The two ships faced off for several seasons, both vying for the increasing trade walking down the gangplanks from the coastal ports and piers. Matters came to a head in 1892 when the two ships collided racing to be the first at Weston Pier. Campbells were deemed to be at fault in the ensuing court case but immediately seized the initiative back by purchasing two more steamers - the Westward Ho and the Cambria. The arrival of the Britannia in 1896 saw the inevitable collapse of local rivalry and gave Campbells the chance to forge full steam ahead.

By the turn of the new century, the Bristol Channel had been truly opened up as a place of opportunities. Sailings to new and unusual destinations were posted up on billboards at piers and harbours around the Channel. Summer expeditions on comfortable steamers were drawing thousands to the coasts and the introduction of the Glen Avon and the Glen Usk only served to bolster Campbells’ burgeoning popularity. 

Pleasure steamer outings soon came to a prompt halt however in an event that heard the sound of summer’s light chatter turn to the dull thunder of guns.

Campbells’ steamers were quickly requisitioned by the Admiralty when war broke out in 1914. The Barry found herself ferrying troops in the Dardenelles campaign. Several of the fleet had been sunk and some were in such bad shape that the scrapyard was their only destination. The Waverley was scrapped soon after returning to her home port of Bristol. The dark clouds eventually lifted and in 1919, the Bristol Channel was once again alive with the sounds of whistles and the splash of paddles on water.

The interwar years were generally regarded as Campbells’ high summer in the Bristol Channel. There was great stability in the composition of the fleet and the choice of days out that the ships could offer was inspiring. 

1939 once again saw the steamers returning to wartime duties, including the epic deliverance at Dunkirk. Many of the fine ships saw their final days fighting the Nazi machine - Devonia ran aground and broke her back; Brighton Queen was sunk by an air attack and the Brighton Belle struck a wreck and sank. The second Waverley and Glen Avon were also lost in action, and Cambria and Westward Ho were scrapped once hostilities had ceased. 

Image by Arthur Webster
The post war era ushered in a period of ambition - the Bristol Queen and the Cardiff Queen were launched in 1946. These two magnificent ships majestically plied the rivers and waters of the Bristol Channel just as the tide of enthusiasm was beginning to recede from pleasure cruising. 

The early 1950s was a testing time for Campbells as the rise of the motor car was beginning to take its toll. The Ravenswood saw out her last season in 1954, Cardiff Queen in 1966, and Bristol Queen sadly following in 1968 when she set sail for her very final sailing to the breakers in Belgium.

Campbells struggled on with various motor vessels including MV Balmoral, before it too finally succumbed to the economic pressure and the Channel finally fell silent in 1980. It seemed that the Bristol Channel would never hear the beat of paddles on water again. However, in 1974, the Scottish arm of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had bought paddle steamer Waverley for the sum of just £1. Looking to increase her financial horizons beyond the Clyde where she was based, they brought the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world to the Bristol Channel for a few weeks in early 1979. She was received with great delight.

The return of Balmoral in 1986 was equally as inspirational. After searching fruitlessly for many years for a support ship for Waverley, Balmoral had been found laid up in Dundee as a failed floating restaurant. 

After a lengthy refit, Balmoral arrived back to open up a new era in coastal cruising, and with the Waverley, now brings back old memories to the older enthusiasts, and new experiences to younger generations.

For more information, visit

Aug 8, 2010

An Interview With Mared Lenny of 'Swci Boscawen'

AmeriCymru: Can you explain to our readers what the name 'Swci Boscawen' means?

Mared: Swci means tame lamb in welsh.Something rather cutesy.Boscawen is a wild flower and also a place in Cornwall.I thought they sounded nice together and the name just stuck.

AmeriCymru: How long have you been involved in the Welsh music scene?

Mared: 14 years! I started in bands when I was 12 and kept it going amazingly! I haven't a clue how...

AmeriCymru: You have performed in he US before. Care to tell us a little about that? Do you have any plans for future visits?

New York has always been a place I go frequently to play gigs,do some filming or just visit friends.It's been great to me and I always try and go at least twice a year although I havent been for a lot longer now.The pangs are indeed coming back.

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us a little more about your new label Tarw du?

Mared: It is absolutely fabulous.Gruff Meredith who runs it has worked so hard to make it professional and slick.We're lacking good solid welsh music labels today and I really hope Tarw Du does really well.It deserves to.No longer will you have to walk into a little welsh shop and talk family gossip before you can purchase a Swci cd!

AmeriCymru: I know its an overworked question but who would you describe as your main musical influences? Who are you listening to currently?

Mared: Im a hardcore Blondie fan.And I am obsessed with pop music at the moment.But all in all,anything floats my boat.

AmeriCymru: What are some of your favorite places and must see/experience things in Wales?

Mared: West Wales is my part and I don't think you can beat it for looks.There's something maddening about Wales where you spend lots of time wanting to get the hell away from it but the moment you do the "hiraeth" kicks in and all you want is to be there! Oh and the people,I like how you can't get away with anything because you will be put in you place faster than lightning.

AmeriCymru: 'Adar y Nefoedd' is an extremely moving and powerful ballad. Can you tell us what inspired it?

Mared: It's a song about a fair few people that I have known or known of that are no longer with us.I got frustrated with people being forgotten so I wanted to try and write something that at least was a nice tribute.It came out all right I think!

AmeriCymru: Tell us about your new Super Single and how it came about

Mared: Music has been stale lately and I wanted to brighten 2010 up with some pure,unapologising pop.It's my secret bikini hit that I want people in Ibiza to go mental to!

AmeriCymru: What's next for 'Swci Boscawen'?

Mared: Recovery unfortunately.6 days ago I was diagnosed with cancer so I have to get through this particularly difficult time with some sort of dignity when all I want to do is gig and have fun!

AmeriCymru: Where can people go to download or purchase your songs?

Mared: Amazon,I tunes,etc i think! give google a little click...

AmeriCymru: Any further message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Mared: Just keep the welshness up.The world is filled with us and it's pretty awesome how we get around isnt it?

Hope everyone enjoys the Portland Eisteddfod and thanks for the interview!

Diolch Ceri,


Aug 1, 2010

Keeping Up with the Joneses -yn y Gymraeg: A Taste of the Welsh Language

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As part of this years Left Coast Eisteddfod we are pleased and proud to announce the following event. For full details visit the Portland Central Library event page here:- Keeping Up with the Joneses -yn y Gymraeg: A Taste of the Welsh Language

"In this fun, activity-based course, you will be able to do what Welsh stars Catherine Zeta-Jones & Tom Jones CAN'T do - you’ll be able to speak the language of Cymraeg (Welsh)!

In this 2 hr taster course, forget dictionaries or taking notes, instead you’ll be meeting new ffrindiau(friends) and sharing gwybodaeth(information) about your interests. This is an activity-based experience that is so enjoyable you won’t even know you’re learning! Expect to participate, experiment and most of all to have fun!

In this class we’ll also be:
**having a laugh and a go at pronouncing Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

**storytelling – enjoy reading some of your favorite Jumbo Fairy tale books in Welsh.

**listening to englynion and other styles of Welsh poetry."

About the teacher: To California native Diana Manzanilla, discovering Cymraeg was a fluke. Yet, the language instantly captivated her, causing her to leave home and family for the beautiful green valleys of Wales. She spent 2 years in that glorious land - the first spent learning Welsh and the second spent teaching Welsh to adults using the same methods you’ll experience in this course.

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