Hard to believe, given the number of festivals that Wales currently hosts, that there was an age when the only game in town was the National Eisteddfod. Food festivals, jazz festivals, story festivals, drama festivals, face painting festivals? Nope. And literature festivals? What on earth could they be? Wales didn’t know. That was until 1988 when Norman Florence and his ebullient son Peter came along and founded the Hay Festival. In its wake came others including the Welsh Academy’s festival in Cardiff. Suddenly there were gangs of poets in the urban streets, novelists on platforms and fictioneers in halls signing shed-loads of their books.
The Cardiff Festival brought writers and writing to the centre of the Capital. It was engaging, entertaining and expensive to run. Its street-wise offspring is the biennial Bay Lit Festival. Slick, sharp and innovative. It uses a multiplicity of venues spread across the fizz and flash of Cardiff Bay.
This year’s fest runs over the long weekend of the 28th to the 30th of October. Its theme is the shock of the new. “What will the future look like? How do we get there? What’s holding us back?” This isn’t just a festival of stuff on stage where the audience just listens but a rush of events and activities where festival-goers can actually join in. At BayLit you can perform on stage, start your own fanzines, send poetic text messages and thoroughly enjoy yourself. You can also argue about literature’s future. You can do that in the company of Dragon’s Eye presenter Adrian Masters and the editors of Raconteur magazine.
The Welsh Underground (and, yes, there was such a thing, once) gets a special issue of Angel Exhaust magazine. Co-editors John Goodby and Andrew Duncan will launch this at an event where academic lecture meets raging sonic performance. Can this still be poetry? It once was and in woken-up Wales once again is.
Parthian’s Bright Young Things, all four of them, will read from and talk about their 2010 novels. Jon Gower and Llwyd Owen will discuss the trend for new novels to get two bites of the cherry – first in Welsh and then the following year in English. Can the market stand it? With such blatant repetition is there any artistic point?
At the new library there’ll be a poems and pints night. The astute among this column’s readers will have spotted that the library isn’t in the Bay and doesn’t have a bar. But we’ll let that pass.
Y Glêr will present an evening of twenty-first century cynghanedd; Hannah Silva, Liam Johnson, Ceri Elen and Rufus Mufasa will push performance’s boundaries, and the Mabinogi will get re-worked by Owen Sheers, Gwyneth Lewis, Russell Celyn Jones and Niall Griffiths. There’s much more. Check www.academi.org for details.
A version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail. #167