Jul 3, 2014

Y Ddraig ar Eryr / The Dragon and the Eagle - An Interview With Colin Thomas

"Putting Welsh History on Television ~ presented by Colin Thomas
The producer/director of the U.K. Channel 4 series The Dragon has Two Tongues,  will cover the whole of Welsh history and he will compare the approach of that series – thirteen confrontations between a pair of historians with totally different attitudes to the past – with that of the BBC’s more consensual approach in its series The Story of WalesSponsored by Cronfa Ddigidol Sianel Pedwar Cymru/S4C Digital Media Ltd and Llywodraeth Cymru/The Welsh Government, The Bait Studio, Cambria." 

colin thomas
Colin Thomas

AmeriCymru: Hi Colin and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. You will be giving a presentation at this year's NAFOW in Minneapolis. Is this your first visit to the States? What is the subject of your talk?

Colin: No, this is not my first visit - I have filmed in the U.S.A. previously (for "Rebels and Redcoats" on the American War of Independence" and for "Escaping from Liberty" with Jan Morris) and also socially (once for my son's wedding to a delightful daughter-in-law from Pittsburgh). My two talks will be on "Putting Welsh history on television" and on "Making 'The Dragon and the Eagle/Y Ddraig a'r Eryr' ".

AmeriCymru:  What can you tell us about the theme and content of Y Ddraig a’r Eryr/The Dragon and the Eagle ?  

Colin: "The Dragon and the Eagle/Y Ddraig a'r Eryr" aims to tell the story of Welsh emigration to America by means of an enhanced ebook, accessible through a tablet like an iPad or Kindle Fire. Welsh migrants had to grapple with the problem encountered by migrants everywhere - how do you become a good citizen of your new country whilst also aiming to hold on to your values, your traditions and your language.  

AmeriCymru:  What can you tell us about the interactive format of the book?
Colin: The interactive format makes it possible to convey information by text, videos (one for each chapter narrated by Cerys Matthews) and interactive graphics - a tap on the screen will, for instance enable the reader/viewer to trace out the routes of those Welsh-American pioneers Morgan John Rhys and John Evans. The project, now being completed at The Bait Studio in Cardiff, will be available in both Welsh and English.

AmeriCymru:   You directed and produced the landmark Welsh history TV series "The Dragon Has Two Tongues: A History of the Welsh". Care to tell us a little about that experience?

Colin: "The Dragon has Two Tongues" series set out to tell the story of the history of Wales but aimed to challenge the notion that there is THE truth about the past and to make it clear that the same facts can be interpreted in different ways.

AmeriCymru:  What was it like working with Wynford Vaughan-Thomas and Gwyn A. Williams?
Colin: Because Wynford Vaughan Thomas and Professor Gwyn Alf Williams often profoundly disagreed, there were sometimes real tensions during filming. But both respected each other and at the end of the series Gwyn gave Wynford a copy of his book "When Was Wales?" and wrote in it "To my beloved enemy".

AmeriCymru:  Their opposing views revolve around the notions of cataclysm and/or continuity in Welsh history as a defining force. How were you affected by the debate?
Colin: We backed up the series with discussion groups and document packs containing primary sources so that viewers could make up their own minds; cataclysm, continuity - or neither option. Working on the series made me realize that, despite growing up in Wales, how little I knew about Welsh history and how important it is to understand the past that shapes our present.

AmeriCymru:  What's next for Colin Thomas?

Colin: If this project works out well, I aim to make another enhanced ebook on the history of documentary film making.

AmeriCymru:  Any final message for NAFOW attendees and AmeriCymru members?
Colin: It would be surprising if there are no errors and omissions in "The Dragon and the Eagle/Y Ddraig a'r Eryr" and I hope that members of NAFOW and AmeriCymru will help me to put them right and in that process to continue the important debate on the history of the Welsh in America.

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