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Brian Jarman.jpg
AmeriCymru spoke to Welsh author Brian Jarman about his life, work and future plans.


"Brian Jarman was born on a farm in Mid Wales, the joint youngest of five brothers. He was educated in local schools and did a degree in French Studies at the LSE, spending one year teaching in a Parisian lycee.
........He lives in London with his wife Julia and regularly visits family in Mid-Wales and Cardiff (especially when there’s an international rugby match on)."

READ MORE HERE


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AmeriCymru:  Hi Brian and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a little about your Welsh background? When did you decide you wanted to write?

Brian: It’s a pleasure. I was born and raised on a farm in Mid-Wales: Lower Gwestydd near Newtown. I’m 21 years younger than my eldest brother, and 20 minutes older than my youngest, my twin brother Milwyn. The older two, David and Gwyn, carried on the family tradition of farming and we younger ones were encouraged to work hard at school and go out in the world to make our own lives. Mechanisation meant the farm could only now support my parents and two brothers and their families. Not that we were exempt from farm work. My middle brother Trevor was the first one of the family to go to university, and we followed.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to write. At infants school we were asked to draw what we wanted to do when we grew up. My friends drew trains and fire engines, but my picture showed a man writing books, one at a time.

In our teens Milwyn and I started a family newspaper. I think it lasted for three editions.

After university I got a job as a reporter on the South Wales Argus, and became Chief Feature Writer. It was my dream job. It was only much later I found the time and the courage to bring that picture to life and start writing novels.

AmeriCymru:  Care to tell us a little about your most recent novel The Final Trick?

Brian:  It’s set in Cardiff and New York, but was inspired by my time in Boston, where I worked on PRI’s daily radio programme, The World. I joined a Bridge club and partnered a formidable woman, Lilian Nagler, who taught me so much about the game. In the novel, a Journalism lecturer in Cardiff, Al Evans, moves to New York after being dumped by his wife. He comes to regard his Bridge partner Greta as one of the rudest women he’s ever met. He has a bet with his friend that there must be One Good Thing about her and he sets out to find it. It also has memories of growing up in the Rhondda, supplied by my cousin, Meryl Lewis.

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Brian Jarman (left), with brother Milwyn and niece Paula, with  grandfather, Pop, ploughing with horses.


AmeriCymru:  Your second novel The Fall From Howling Hill is set in Mid Wales. In what way does it reflect social changes in the area over the last 4 or 5 decades?

Brian: Indeed, that was one of my motives in writing it. I remember my grandfather, Pop, ploughing with horses. My grandparents’ farm, Brondolfor was over the hill from ours. There was no electricity or mains water, so it was oil lamps and a pump in the yard. My Dad use to tell stories of farm workers sleeping in a back room in the farmhouse. They were hard times but held happy memories. Our first TV was a snowy set with one channel which stood on the floor, but it opened up the wider world to us. As we were growing up the farm became increasingly mechanised, so in the end my two eldest brothers farmed it alone. I wanted to memorialise this changing world. The book was originally called Glanharan, but friends advised me to change it as people wouldn’t know what it meant.

AmeriCymru:  What can you tell us about the mystery of The Missing Room your first novel, without giving away the plot of course.

Brian: It’s based on the farmhouse I grew up in, which did have a room-sized space in the middle with no windows or doors. We used to have fun imagining all kinds of things that could be in it. In my early thirties I suffered from ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), so I had this idea of a man with a mystery illness returning to his childhood home in later life and trying to unlock the secret of The Missing Room. The front cover is a photo taken by my wife of the farmhouse - the missing room is behind the little room behind that window, underneath the gable.

AmeriCymru:  Over the years you have worked in Radio,TV and journalism. Any plans to continue working in those areas?

Brian: I now lecture in Journalism at London Metropolitan University, which I greatly enjoy, and do bits and pieces of print journalism, but my main focus now is on writing novels.

AmeriCymru:  You have lived and worked in the US in the past. Care to tell us a little about that period of your life? Any plans to return?

Brian: I lived in Boston, MA for two years when I was Managing Editor of The World, and worked for a while with WNYC in New York. In all I spent about ten years travelling back and fore between London and the US (and Wales!) which was an ideal. I was lucky enough to visit most US cities at various public radio conferences. It was a magnificent time, but now I guess I’m pretty settled in London.

AmeriCymru:  What's next for Brian Jarman? Any new titles in the works?

Brian: Yes, I’m just about to start reworking one I wrote a while back, called The Absent Friend, about a Welshman living in Tuscany who has to come to terms with his past and the incident that caused him to fall out with his best friend in London years ago. There’s another one percolating in my head, about twin brothers. One stayed farming in Wales and the other went to London to become a famous TV presenter. They haven’t spoken for 25 years. But one gets a call from the other saying he’s dying of cancer and so it’s their last chance to bury the hatchet and work out what went wrong all those years ago. (NB: this part is not autobiographical - I get on with my brothers very well).

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

Brian: It’s a great resource and one I wish I’d known about earlier. Make the most of it. In The Final Trick, Al’s girlfriend in New York researches living history - people’s past lives as passed down through generations. She takes him to Ellis Island and he’s moved by the stories of immigrants who left everything behind to come to the New World. It arouses his curiosity about his own past - his father came from the Rhondda and his mother from a farm in Mid-Wales. He wasn’t interested in their stories when he was growing up, but now he wants to find out more about his ancestors. But is it too late?

Many thanks for this wonderful opportunity.Hwyl,Brian.

HEDD WYN INSPIRES YOUNG ADULT NOVEL


By AmeriCymru, 2017-07-26

haf llywelyn.jpgA historical novel for young adults published this week has been inspired by the life of Hedd Wyn, the famous Welsh poet who fought in the First World War.

An Empty Chair by acclaimed author Haf Llewelyn follows young poet Ellis, and when the First World War arrives, he has to join up and go and be a soldier like dozens of other young men from rural Trawsfynydd. His teenage sister Anni longs to have him home again on their family farm, Yr Ysgwrn, especially after seeing the terrible effect of the war on her best friend Lora’s father.

Meanwhile Ellis is in the trenches in Belgium, hoping to make it home safely, and to win the Chair at the National Eisteddfod – the most important prize in Welsh poetry.

The novel is published as part of the centenary commemorations for World War I, and particularly to mark the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in July 1917, and Hedd Wyn’s involvement in it.

The novel follows the huge impact of the war on village life through the eyes of Hedd Wyn’s 14-year-old sister Anni, bringing the incredibly moving events to life for teenagers through a vivid voice of their own age. At the centre of everything is Anni’s relationship with her best friend Lora, and the difficult decisions the two have to face concerning family, friendship, love and honesty, as well the effects of the war on their whole community.

The original Welsh-language version of the novel (Diffodd y Sêr, Y Lolfa, 2013) is highly critically acclaimed and won the Tir na n-Og secondary fiction prize in 2014. Since 2015, it has been a set text on the Welsh Literature GCSE syllabus.

A farmer’s son from Trawsfynydd, Hedd Wyn – real name Ellis Humphrey Evans – fought in the trenches in the First World War as part of the 15th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and fought at Passchendaele in July 1917, one hundred years ago this month, and is famous for being awarded the Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, held in Birkenhead shortly afterwards.

Haf Llewelyn comes from Ardudwy and was brought up very near Trawsfynydd and Yr Ysgwrn. She now lives in Llanuwchllyn and is a full-time author. After travelling to the small town of Ypres in Belgium, she was struck by the thousands of white gravestones in the World War I cemeteries there, and what the stories of those who fought at Passchendaele might be. Her inspiration to write this novel stemmed from that trip.

‘Seeing the names and ages of the young men carved on those white gravestones in Ypres made me realise the terrible price of war’ said Haf, ‘Sometimes it's difficult for us to connect with a time that has passed, but when visiting Yr Ysgwrn, the home of Hedd Wyn, time has somehow stood still.’

‘The scale of the loss is just incomprehensible when you see those thousands of gravestones, but when you bring it all down to one story about one actual person and the people at home who loved him, it somehow seems more real’ added Haf, ‘The terrible events of July 1917 continue to cast a shadow over the home of one of Wales's best-known poets.’

An Empty Chair by Haf Llewelyn (£5.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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galar a fi.jpgA book published this week will aim to break the taboo around grief whilst offering supporting through the medium of Welsh to those who are going through grief.

Galar a Fi (Grief and Me) contains the experiences of 14 people who have been through grief after losing a brother, sister, friend, son, daughter, father, mother or lover – and the way they coped with their grief and loss. The responses to grief vary from poems, letters, diaries, essays and short stories.

The volume was compiled and edited by Esyllt Maelor, who has experienced grief herself.

The book follows Gyrru drwy Storom (y Lolfa) which was published in 2015 – a book that presented moving accounts of living with mental health issues.

‘In her preface to that book, Alaw Griffiths noted that she could not find sufficient websites or books on mental health in Welsh. And there’s very little available in Welsh about grief too.’ explained Esyllt, ‘If reading is a form of counselling, then I wanted to read in Welsh.’

‘Like with mental health, there’s a taboo associated with grief too. So this book is an attempt to give a voice to the voiceless,’ said Esyllt.

The contributions are varied – with many young people in ther midst – Luned Rhys who wrote a poem about losing her father; Llio Maddocks who wrote a short story about losing her friend, Mared; Sara Maredudd Jones who notes how important it is to talk after losing a loved one; and Manon Gravell who wrote a diary of her last holiday with her father, Ray Gravell.

Branwen Haf Williams writes a letter to her father, Derek, the author Sharon Marie Jones talks to her son Ned, Nia Gwyndaf talks to her husbans, Eifion Gwynne, Mair Tomos Ifans sees grief as being ‘in a tunnel’ and Cris Dafis conveys his deep hiraeth and longing. The other contributors are Dafydd John Pritchard, Arthur Roberts, Iola Lloyd Owen, Manon Steffan Ros a Gareth Roberts.

‘I am forever grateful to the authors for their willingness to share and in doing to opening many doors for us, the reader. I hope this book will be of help to those who need it,’ added Esyllt, ‘Whenever you find yourself turning to it, I hope that one thing stays with you through the grief and pain of these pages. That thing is love. A deep, priceless love.’

Galar a Fi (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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ADWAITH femme.jpgAdwaith release their new double A-sided single 'Femme/Lipstick Coch' through Libertinism Records on the 25th of August.

Fast rising Carmarthen based female trio Adwaith unveil their brilliant new double A-side single 'Lipstick Coch' and 'FEMME' this summer. Vividly depicting their knack for melody and sound and their ability to create a direct emotional connection with the listener. Adwaith’s brand new double A-side single heralds a beginning of a new sound for the band. Whereas previously the band painted sounds with a palette of muted sombre colours Lipstick Coch and FEMME explode with bright confident neon.

'Lipstick Coch (Red Lipstick)' is a fully charged post punk anthem in the vain of The Slits at their most immediate, an anthem celebrating youth, androgyny and love.The flipside 'FEMME' on the other hand could quite easily have been a long lost single on Postcard Records or Cherry Red Records from the mid-80s. With its jangly C86 indie pop sound as a canvas to the witty, heartfelt lyrics Adwaith discuss femininity and the sexism experienced by them as young women. This is an inspirational song from an inspirational band willing to stand up for their beliefs.

These songs are brave, creative moves both musically and lyrically for the band, yet they retain the distinctive melodic gift that is so recognisable in all Adwaith’s songs. A gift that has gained the band fast critical acclaim and extensive radio plays, most noticeably on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio Cymru and Amazing Radio.

The release of the singles come hot on the heels of Adwaith’s Maida Vale recording session for Huw Stephens in these legendary BBC studios. Their summer is full of activity including a live set on the BBC Introducing Stage at FOCUS Wales festival broadcast live on Adam Walton’s BBC Radio Wales show.

Adwaith were introduced on the BBC Introducing stage at Latitude festival as the most exciting band from Wales in decades and will finish the summer on the Gorwelion /Horizons stage at Festival No 6. In the middle of all this activity, Adwaith have managed to record their debut album, and their label Libertino believe its 'creatively ground breaking and will stand as one of the important albums from Wales alongside the works of Gorky Zygotic Mynci, Super Furry Animals and Gwenno.'

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trawsfynydd.jpgThe secrets of Trawsfynydd’s history are told anew in a new book published this week.

Traws-Olwg - Trawsfynydd a'r Ardal Fel y Bu is full of impressive photographs telling the dramatic story of Trawsfynydd. The memorable book was produced by the photographer Keith O’Brien and the community company Traws-Newid which was founded in 1998 with the aim of improving the economy, environment and social aspects of the area.

From opening the railway between Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog to establishing a military training camp on the outskirts of the village, building a dam to create Trawsfynydd Lake and building the nuclear power station - the history of Trawsfynydd area is certainly interesting.

The book is published to commemorate the centenary of the death of Hedd Wyn and the Eisteddfod of the Black Chair in the summer of 2017 and contains a foreword by the writer Dewi Prysor who’s from the area himself.

‘Many volumes have already been published about Hedd Wyn this year, but we hope with this volume to show another side to Traws, her history, culture and industry from the beginning of the last century – something that will open the eyes of the reader to this close community that has seen remarkable changes to her landscape and society over the past years’ explained Keith O’Brien.

‘One of the most interesting stories that I came across was the history of the balloon that broke free from its moorings at the Camp and flew in the direction of Bala – and the people of Llŷn thought the Germans were attacking!’ said Keith.

Cyfeillion Yr Ysgwrn – the home of Hedd Wyn, have organised a number of events to remember Hedd Wyn’s death in 2017, and Traws-Newid agreed to publish the book as a contribution to support them.

‘Every picture tells a story, and we are all part of that story’ added Dewi Prysor.

Born in Trawsfynydd, mae Keith o’Brien is a Community and Sustainability Officer at Snowdonia National Park Authority and is the chair of Traws-Newid. He is married with two daughters.

The book will be launched at 7pm at the village hall in Trawsfynydd on Friday 21st of July.

Traws-Olwg - Trawsfynydd a'r Ardal Fel y Bu (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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williams pantycelyn.jpgA book which is being published to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the birth of Williams Pantycelyn, will celebrate the contribution of the two most notable hymn-writers in Welsh history.

Flame in the Mountains draws together Professor H. A. Hodges’ published work on Williams Pantycelyn, Ann Griffiths and the Welsh hymn, together with his notes on Ann’s hymns and letters, which are published here for the very first time. Placing these hymn-writers in both a Welsh and an international context, the volume will not only be an invaluable introduction to William Williams and Ann Griffiths for those unfamiliar with their work, but will also provide valuable new insights and will be an essential tool for anyone wishing to study their work further.

Also included is Hodges’ English translations of Ann Griffiths’ hymns and letters and his translation of the celebrated lecture on her by the prominent Welsh literary critic, Saunders Lewis, which enthralled the audience when he delivered it at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1965.

A. Hodges (1905–76), for many years Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, learned Welsh in order to study Welsh hymnody. He was described by his fellow-student of Welsh spirituality, Canon A. M. Allchin, as ‘one of the most distinguished lay theologians that the Church of England has known in the twentieth century’.

A. Hodges once described himself as a ‘fortunate foreigner’ who, in exploring Welsh literature, had found himself in a ‘new world’; and he became an enthusiastic ambassador for the riches of Welsh Christian literature in general and for Williams Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths in particular. He was keen to promote them internationally and to place Welsh spirituality in an international context, and he succeeded in doing so sensitively, knowledgeably and perceptively.

According to H. A. Hodges, Ann Griffiths had a tremendous ‘spiritual vision of a distinctive quality’ and he could say of William Williams that through his hymns, ‘with their rich content of experience and their outstanding lyrical beauty, he has cast a spell over the mind of Welsh-speaking Wales which endures to this day’.

‘The hymn is one of the great highlights of Welsh literature, and the two most outstanding of all Welsh hymn-writers, William Williams (1717–91) of Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths (1776–1805), are not only giants of the literary, cultural and religious life of Wales, but are also figures of international status and significance. Professor Hodges’ writings are an important contribution to our understanding of these exceptional authors’, said Professor E. Wyn James, editor of Flame in the Mountains.

Professor E. Wyn James is a leading authority on the Welsh hymn. He has added to the volume his own edited version of Ann Griffiths’ remarkable hymns in the original Welsh, which are placed side by side with Hodges’ metrical translations. Raised in the industrial valleys of south Wales he was, until his retirement, a Professor in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University and co-Director of the Cardiff Centre for Welsh American Studies.

Flame in the Mountains: Williams Pantycelyn, Ann Griffiths and the Welsh Hymn by H. A. Hodges; edited by E. Wyn James (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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An Interview With Carwyn Edwards


By AmeriCymru, 2017-07-01

First World Exclusive English Language Interview!




For those of you who know him, Carwyn Edwards is back in Wales with his family and doing better.  He spoke with Ceri this week to update us about his recovery and future plans, and it's great to hear his voice and hear how he's doing.

Those who don’t know him, Carwyn was a dedicated, energetic force in promoting Wales in the USA for more than ten years, as the publisher of News From Wales and the World, a newsletter that went out to 30,000+ subscribers.  He inspired us and many others to celebrate Wales and Welshness.  

When he was hospitalized and the seriousness of his condition was known, his family began working to bring him home to Wales and his brother started a gofundme campaign to pay the mountain of medical expenses not covered by Carwyn’s insurance.  They still have a way to go and if you are able to help, please have a look here and consider joining us in making a donation - https://www.gofundme.com/Carwyn
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PLEASE RETWEET

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Posted in: News | 1 comments

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A beautiful new online collection of audio stories suitable for children of all ages from Beyond the Border – Wales International Storytelling Festival

In the autumn of 2016 we were really excited to announce Beyond Storytime - a way of providing families everywhere with beautifully told stories in their own homes. It is a small taste of our wonderful festival, available all the time, wherever in the world you live.

Beyond Storytime is part of Beyond The Border – Wales’ International Storytelling Festival which happens biannually in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales (The next is in July 2018). The festival has a mission to ‘…take Wales to the world and bring the world to Wales’ and we do this by showcasing the finest stories and storytellers we can find. Beyond Storytime means that your whole family can connect to your Welsh heritage from the comfort of your own home.

This online streaming service has a growing collection of stories from Wales and the wider world, told for English and Welsh speakers and carefully chosen for us by some of the best storytellers in the world, to be suitable for children of all ages…grown-ups tell us they enjoy them too. More stories will be added later so Beyond Storytime becomes a collection of treasured tales that grows and grows.

Visit www.beyondstorytime.com for a chance to hear a full story completely FREE. Having decided you like what you hear you can subscribe to the service for a whole year for just £11.95 (currently about $15 - less than £1/$1.25 a month). You can trial Beyond Storytime for three months for just £5/$6 Find out more, listen to some extracts, subscribe to the site for yourself or buy a gift subscription.

If you want to find out more about visiting our festival in summer 2018 you can contact us via our website at www.beyondtheborder.com We can help you make arrangements for families or larger groups to visit.

We welcome approaches from organisations that would like to sponsor or otherwise partner the festival. Contact us through www.beyondtheborder.com to see how we can work together.

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