Using creative writing to engage the public in Welsh language culture and enrich the cultural life of Wales
Submitting InstitutionSwansea University
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
The Unit's creative writing has had an impact on Welsh language culture
by means of:
1) public engagement, especially at Wales' largest cultural festival, the
National Eisteddfod, including a best-selling novel which won the Daniel
Owen Memorial Prize (2009), a commemorative poem which won the Chair
(2010), and a historic appointment as Archdruid of Wales (2012), the first
time a woman has held this prestigious position. Such engagement is
described below as `invaluable and striking'.
2) supporting a number of fora which are culturally essential to
cultivate a minority language such as Welsh, including diverse festival,
institutional and reader groups, from the National Library to smaller
learned and literary societies across Wales, as well as contributing to
Welsh-medium programmes on S4C and BBC Radio Cymru.
3) commemorating the lives of two national heroes, the academic Hywel
Teifi Edwards and the rugby international Ray Gravell. Both were well
known broadcasters and admired by many across the nation who mourned their
In 2005, Associate Professor Christine James won the National
Eisteddfod's prestigious Crown competition at the Eryri and District
National Eisteddfod for her collection of poems, `Llinellau Lliw'
(Coloured Lines) [R1]. The poems were inspired by some of the most famous
works of art at the National Museum, Cardiff, along with works of art in
other galleries and museums. All three adjudicators, who included
Professor Emeritus Derec Llwyd Morgan and Dr. Jason Walford Davies,
unanimously praised the series of `polished and exciting' poems.
Each poem responds to an artistic artifact, but develops its own
perspective and imaginative world. The adjudicators praised especially the
poet's `enterprising ingenuity and informed perceptiveness'.
In 2009, having already won the Prose Medal in 2006, Associate Professor
Fflur Dafydd won the prestigious Daniel Owen Memorial Prize at the
National Eisteddfod (held that year at Merioneth and District), for her
novel Y Llyfrgell (The Library) [R2]. In writing the novel,
Dafydd drew upon her own experiences as a researcher at the National
Library of Wales, though in terms of creative writing, research here must
be understood in terms of the work involved in creating plot and
character, finding the correct style and searching indeed for the correct
word, as the novelist transforms an original idea into a work of art. Y
Llyfrgell was lauded by one adjudicator of the competition,
Professor Emeritus John Rowlands, as `a highly unusual novel',
who noted that the theme of digitising national memories (archives and
literatures) was most relevant today but that the novel's success was due
to the author's vision being turned into such a compelling story.
Describing the author as `extremely inventive', he compared
Y Llyfrgell to a Greek tragedy.
The other two items by Fflur Dafydd which form part of this impact case
study are the lyrical concept albums, Byd Bach [R3] (Small
World, centred around places in Wales) and Ffydd Gobaith Cariad
[R4] (Faith Hope Love, a partly-commemorative album, featuring well known
Welsh figures as subjects). Byd Bach is a concept album and `a
valuable and impressive contribution to the genre ',
to quote Craig Owen Jones of Bangor University. [Barn 563/4
(December/January, 2009/10), p. 77.] Ffydd Gobaith Cariad
similarly is thematic in structure and another example of `complex
and sophisticated writing inspired by a theme'. It
includes several commemorative songs (including `Ray o'r Mynydd', an elegy
to the broadcaster and former rugby star, Ray Gravell). Literary in style,
its lyrics are presented with translations into English, and vice versa in
the case of the adaptation into Welsh of a poem by Owen Sheers.
In 2010, at the National Eisteddfod (held at Blaenau Gwent and the Heads
of the Valleys), Professor Tudur Hallam won the prestigious Chair
competition for his strict-metre poem `Ennill Tir' (Gaining
Ground) [R5], commemorating the life and vision of Hywel Teifi Edwards,
the Eisteddfod's chief historian and a much loved public scholar and
broadcaster in Wales. The three adjudicators were unanimous in their
decision to award the Chair to Professor Hallam and in their appraisal of
the poem's outstanding literary merits. Idris Reynolds said of the awdl
(C7): `It's a poem that appeals to the heart, is timely and
will stand the test of time'. The chaired awdl is
unique for its commemorative nature at the National Eisteddfod, though it
is not a traditional elegy. Its originality stems from its narrative and
dramatic quality, employing birds as characters, with strong reference to
Dafydd ap Gwilym's work.
All items have been praised for their originality, drawing upon
years of craftsmanship and study.
References to the research
(R1) Christine James, `Llinellau lliw', Cyfansoddiadau a
Beirniadaethau: Eryri a'r Cyffiniau (Llys yr Eisteddfod, 2005), pp.
37-45; reprinted in Christine James, Rhwng y Llinellau
(Cyhoeddiadau Barddas, 2013).
(R2) Fflur Dafydd, Y Llyfrgell (Y Lolfa, 2009).
(R3) Fflur Dafydd (Composer), Byd Bach (Sain, 2009).
(R4) Fflur Dafydd (Composer), Ffydd Gobaith Cariad,
(Sain, 2009) [with translations provided].
(R5) Tudur Hallam, `Ennill Tir', Cyfansoddiadau a
Beirniadaethau: Blaenau Gwent a Blaenau'r Cymoedd (Llys yr
Eisteddfod, 2010), pp. 18-23; reprinted in Bethan Mair (ed.), Hoff
Gerddi Coffa Cymru (Gwasg Gomer, 2013).
Evidence of quality:
`Llinellau lliw', Y Llyfrgell and `Ennill Tir' were all awarded
the Eisteddfod prizes unanimously by three adjudicators, and praised for
the original nature of the creative work.
Christine James' `Llinellau lliw' was part of the RAE return in 2008
where all output items from the UoA were assessed as being above 2*.
In 2009 Y Llyfrgell also won the Max Boyce Literary Award in
Welsh (with Rachel Trezise winning the award for literature in English).
In 2010, Fflur Dafydd won the Best Female Artist Award in Radio Cymru's
Rock and Pop Awards, and Byd Bach was nominated in the best album
Copies of the albums can be provided by the University on request, or
samples of tracks can be obtained at http://www.myspace.com/fflurdafydd
Details of the impact
As Saunders Lewis once noted (The Banned Wireless Talk,
(Caernarvon, 1931), pp. 4-5), a minority language such as Welsh must be
cultivated by original artists if it is to do more than simply survive.
Otherwise, `[i]ts literature will become entirely second-hand and
fifth-rate ... something worse and more tedious than the death of a
language'. In writing literary texts praised for their originality,
James, Dafydd and Hallam have engaged with readers, listeners and viewers,
working with several festivals, institutions, societies and groups
integral to Welsh language culture.
Public engagement at the National Eisteddfod
In respect of the first impact noted here, the Chief Executive of the
National Eisteddfod (C1) has stated that: `the National Eisteddfod
promotes the Welsh language and its culture like no other event. The
main literary ceremonies are at the heart of the festival, and the
office of Archdruid is essential to its success, promoting the
Eisteddfod throughout the year. The support from these three
artists from Swansea University in recent years is therefore striking
and invaluable to Wales' largest cultural event.'
Only writers who have won the Crown, the Chair or the Prose Medal
competitions at the National Eisteddfod can be elected as Archdruid of
Wales. During the REF census period, Christine James had
previously been part of the Gair am Gelf (A Word about Art) project in
order to raise money for the 2008 National Eisteddfod at Cardiff, during
which she was also resident poet in Y Lle Celf (The Arts Space). However,
since her `historical' election as Archdruid in 2012 - the first woman and
the first academic to hold this position - James has engaged with the
public by means of talks to various cultural groups across Wales, from
Cardiff to Talsarnau, addressing both female and mixed audiences, but
mostly visiting areas where Welsh is not the main communal language. She
herself learnt the language and as reported by BBC Cymru/Wales her vision
is to reach out to diverse communities. She was also the subject of a
special edition of Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Canmol on S4C (28.4.13)
and a special feature on BBC Radio Cymru (28.7.13).
When Fflur Dafydd won the Daniel Owen in 2009, the highlights on the day
attracted 44,000 viewers on S4C, which included an interview with Fflur
Dafydd. Similarly in 2010, when Tudur Hallam won the Chair competition,
the Eisteddfod's highlights of the day programme was viewed by 49,000
people. Both ceremonies were also broadcast and televised live. Interviews
and reports appeared in numerous national and local papers. Hallam's awdl
was included in the festival's Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau,
published by the Eisteddfod. As emphasized above, these ceremonies are
integral to the Eisteddfod's programme and public appeal.
Engaging with the National Library of Wales
In 2011, James contributed a poem on one of the treasures kept at the
National Library of Wales, translated into English and published in a
book, 26 Treasures: 4 National Museums, 104 Objects, 62 Words
(2012), and online at http://www.26treasures.com/wales.
James promoted the project on Pethe on S4C, and in July 2013 was
commissioned by the National Library of Wales to write a new poem for the
Four Ancient Books of Wales Exhibition, while another of her poems,
already published in Rhwng y Llinellau, has also been selected to
feature in the exhibition. These projects consolidate the creative link
between the UoA and the National Library formed by Fflur Dafydd's Y
Llyfrgell. The novel and Byd Bach were the subject of a talk
and song event by Dafydd at the Library (27.11.2009), and the subject also
of Y Sioe Gelf (22.11.2009), produced by Cwmni Da for S4C and
filmed at the Library. Published by Y Lolfa of Tal-y-bont, Y Llyfrgell
quickly became a bestseller. Wales Literature Exchange selected the novel
for its Bookshelf. This entailed international promotion and an author
interview in Transcript Magazine, subsequently translated into
French and German for an international audience. Literature Wales invited
Dafydd to host a literary tour of the National Library (13.7.2012).
Contemplating the novel's popularity, the National Library's Press Officer
(C2) has stated that `Y Llyfrgell has brought the National Library to
the forefront of people's minds in a new and exciting way, and the
literary tour at the Library proved a great success, allowing us to
respond to the public's interest in the novel's relationship with the
building. Such tours, along with exhibitions such as the Four Ancient
Books and projects such as 26 Treasures, allow us to present our
collections to new audiences.'
Working with diverse institutional and reader groups and Welsh-medium
Y Llyfrgell, produced by Y Lolfa of Tal-y-bont, became the
bestselling Welsh-language book for August 2009 and September 2009 (a
reprint was necessary within a month of its publication). It subsequently
won the Fiction Bestseller Award at the Trade Publishing Awards 2012,
having sold 3,738 copies. Sales figures, however, cannot convey how Fflur
Dafydd's work bridges the gap between literature and music. (Details of
media appearances and past live performances are listed on Dafydd's
web-site.) According to BBC Radio Cymru's editor (C3): `Fflur Dafydd is
one of BBC Radio Cymru's most played artists. Her work is an important
contribution to the musical content of the station's programmes, but the
Welsh language itself is also enriched through her songs.' In June
2012 she was invited by the world-renowned Telegraph Hay Festival to
launch Ffydd Gobaith Cariad in a special concert there at the
Sound Castle, supporting Cerys Matthews (C4).
James' numerous talks, since her appointment as Archdruid were mentioned
above. Both Dafydd and Hallam too, following their Eisteddfod success,
visited diverse groups to discuss their work, with audience numbers
varying from 10 to 90, including Welsh-medium schools, literary groups and
dinner or cultural societies, from Bangor University to Clwb Cinio
Glannau'r Llwchwr (Loughor Dinner Club). Both have also appeared on
television and radio programmes (e.g. Heno, Pethe, Dei
Tomos), including Dafydd's 3 Lle, produced by Apollo for S4C
(21.3.2010). Since winning the Chair, Hallam as Prifardd (Master Poet) has
also adjudicated for a number of local literary festivals and schools (the
Chaired Eisteddfod of Hendy, Bancffosfelen, Tumble, Llandyfaelog, Ysgol
Gyfun Gŵyr), helping organisers `to attract competitors from afar'
as stated by the Secretary of the Tumble Chaired Eisteddfod (C5).
One of the largest audiences was at Cymdeithas y Llan a'r Bryn
(20.10.2010), the literary society established by Hywel Teifi Edwards in
Llangennech, the subject of `Ennill Tir' [R5]. The poem commemorates a
much loved national figure and prominent campaigner for the Welsh language
— a theme also present in Fflur Dafydd's Ffydd Gobaith Cariad,
including the tribute song to Ray Gravell performed at a special tribute
and sell-out concert, `Cofio Grav', at the Lyric Theatre, Carmarthen
(2.3.2008) (C6). The song was subsequently translated and performed in
English on BBC Radio Wales (2.6.2012). Both men were truly Welsh greats
and subjects of public commemoration in the media and in their
Idris Reynolds (C7) noted that ``Ennill Tir' is a beautiful tribute to
a giant of a man who gave so much to the Eisteddfod and to the nation',
and reference to the commemorative value of the awdl was made by
Hywel Francis, MP, in a parliamentary Early Day Motion (8.9.2010) (C8).
Work on an anthology of commemorative verse, Hoff Gerddi Coffa Cymru,
commenced in 2012, published by Gwasg Gomer (2013), and as stated by the
editor, the awdl was the `stimulus' for that book (C9).
Collectively the three artists here have engaged with a variety of fora
in Wales, enriching the lives of readers, listeners and viewers of Welsh
texts, programmes and events, as evidenced by qualitative quotations and
quantitative figures above. This engagement is truly diverse, ranging from
national festivals and televised interviews attracting large audiences, to
supporting the smallest cultural groups, who are nevertheless important to
their community's Welsh language culture. In the REF census period, all
three authors have developed their role as academics whose creative
writing impacts on the all important task of cultivating the cultural life
Sources to corroborate the impact
(C1) Chief-Executive of the National Eisteddfod, in relation to
engagement at the festival
(C2) National Library of Wales Press Officer, in relation to events at
the National Library
(C3) Editor of Radio Cymru, in relation to the albums on air
(C4) The Telegraph Hay Festival, (event no. 345): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9217118/Hay-Festival-2012-Music-is-king-of-the-castle.html
(C5) Secretary of Tumble Chaired Eisteddfod, in relation to adjudicating
at the Eisteddfod
(C6) `Cofio Grav': http://news.bbc.co.uk/welsh/hi/newsid_7270000/newsid_7272800/7272878.stm
(C7) `Beirniadaeth Idris Reynolds', Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau:
Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Blaenau Gwent a Blaenau'r Cymoedd 2010
(Llys yr Eisteddfod, 2010), pp. 12-17.
(C8) The Early Day Motion: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/701
(C9) Editor of Hoff Gerddi Coffa Cymru, in relation to the
anthology's inspiration for the book
(C10) S4C's viewing figures: http://www.s4c.co.uk/abouts4c/viewing/c_archive.shtml