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a welsh wander.jpgOn 26th July 2016, Tom Davies left his home in Presteigne. Nine weeks later he arrived home, having walked the 1,100-mile perimeter of Wales, raising £6,700 for Alzheimer`s Society.

Now his newly published book, A Welsh Wander – An Epic Trek Right Around Wales, is his heart-warmingly open and honest story, bursting with facts about places along his route. With vivid descriptions and photos of stunning scenery on the Offa`s Dyke Path and Wales Coast Path, Tom describes magical wildlife encounters, bizarre anecdotes, random and life-reaffirming generosity from strangers, and even a few dark moments when he felt like he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

‘During my years of teaching, my maternal grandma developed Alzheimer’s and while in the middle stages of the disease, passed away very suddenly. Two years later, my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with vascular dementia,’ explained Tom, ‘Seeing two people who I love very dearly afflicted by such a personal and confusing illness inspired me to begin fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society.’

It was for this reason that Tom had the idea for his challenge – to circumnavigate his home country in one go, carrying everything he needed to survive in his loyal backpack, Wilson,. 1,100 miles, two months away from home, a £1,100 sponsorship target and a daily online blog called Tom’s Welsh Wander that would become far bigger than he ever dreamed possible.

‘Each night, I would sit in a quiet corner of a pub, or a bedroom, or my tent, and pour my heart into my blog,’ said Tom, ‘It became a friend in whom I could confide my every thought, feeling and emotion, and that is why I have decided to share it now.’

Tom’s blog hits eventually climbed to over a staggering 26,500 and his fundraising reached a total of £6,700 – well above his original £1100 target. His journey also drew the support of one famous follower, TV presenter and Welsh meterologist Derek Brockway.

‘I first heard about Tom and his Welsh Wander after his mum got in touch with me in August 2016. She told me all about her son’s challenge to walk the whole perimeter of Wales and raise money for charity’ said Derek Brockway. ‘My dad suffered from dementia, Tom’s grandmother died of Alzheimer’s and now his grandfather has developed the illness too. I decided to offer my support and join him on part of his trek of a lifetime, to help raise awareness of this terrible condition.’

‘Tom is a proud Welshman who loves his country and his love of the Welsh countryside, its beauty, history and magical wildlife really shine through in his writing,’ added Derek, ‘It has been a pleasure for me to get to know Tom and one day I hope to follow in his footsteps and complete my own Welsh Wander!’

‘My Welsh Wander has been the single greatest experience of my life. I’ve seen so many breathtaking sights, had some incredibly special moments and battled through some tough ones too,’ added Tom, ‘‘I hope it will inspire people to explore the countryside on foot and to learn new things about the area they live in as well as making want to visit other corners of the incredible country that is Wales!’

The book also includes practical tips and checklists for anyone thinking of taking up long-distance walking.

Offa’s Dyke National Trail Officer Rob Dingle said, ‘For anyone planning to walk around Wales, the Offa’s Dyke Path or who just wants a good read about one person’s walking adventure, I would highly recommend that you have a read of Tom’s A Welsh Wander.

Tom Davies grew up in a close farming family in Presteigne, developing a love for nature and the great outdoors. While at Bangor University studying Primary Education, he joined the Mountain Walking Club, becoming treasurer and a leader, and spent most weekends taking groups into Snowdonia. After graduating, he spent four years teaching. He is now combining his love for teaching and the great outdoors by working as an outdoor activities instructor.

The book will be launched in Presteigne in late June in the company of Tom Davies and Derek Brockway.

A Welsh Wander – An Epic Trek Right Around Wales by Tom Davies (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

Posted in: New Titles | 0 comments

ylolfa.jpgThe mid-sixties was a period of protest and fun a young man Robat Gruffudd took advantage of the new small offset printing process to produce cheeky, colourful material for the Welsh youth of the time. He had produced the first issue of ‘Lol’, a satirical magazine, with a friend while at Bangor University, before settling in Talybont, where his new wife, Enid, was a teacher at the primary school.

‘It was an exciting and hopeful period, but I was lucky too. Talybont turned out to be the perfect location - a friendly, cultured village right in the middle of Wales’ said Robat, ‘Ceredigion too has provided us with talented authors and staff, and we were lucky that the Welsh Books Council, who have been very supportive, were nearby as well.’

Now the publishing and print company is celebrating 50 years in the industry and is by now Wales’ most prolific mainstream publisher, producing over 80 titles a year. It has a turnover of more than £1m and employs 20 full-time staff. With more than 700 authors on its books, including broadcaster Huw Edwards and prominent sports personalities such as Nigel Owens, the range of books includes Welsh language tutors such as Welsh is Fun, which has sold over 250,000 copies, fiction and biography, books of Welsh interest for the tourist trade, and several series of original, children’s books by home-grown authors and artists.

‘We’ve always supported local authors, artist and designers because this is a way of supporting people’s livelihoods. Publishing is an industry and we are very proud that we’ve built up a sustainable, small business providing proper, professional jobs in a Welsh rural area.’ added Robat.

The company is now run by Robat’s two sons, Garmon who is Managing Director and Lefi as Director of Publishing. The company has been particularly successful with its Welsh language fiction list, having won Welsh Book of the Year three years in a row.

‘We’re well known as publishers but we’ve always printed our own books, enabling us to control both costs and quality. But this means we can also offer a competitive general print service. We now have a high-tech five-colour Komori B2 press, a perfecting (two-sided) press for bookwork, and a Xerox digital press for short runs’ said Garmon.

‘But machinery by itself is of no use without skilled staff to operate them. The main reason for our success over the last half century is the quality of our staff, and their skill and depth of experience both on the printing and publishing sides of the business.’ he added.

Print is run by production manager Paul Williams of Aberystwyth, ‘Being relatively small enables us to provide a really good, personal service and we pride ourselves that customers who come to us very rarely leave.’

Paul joined Lolfa from Cambrian Printers. Around half the company’s turnover comes from its printing side and it prides itself on its fast, friendly service.

A book festival, Bedwen Lyfrau, will be held between 10 and 4pm on Saturday the 20th of May at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Y Lolfa’s 50th birthday party will be held at Marine hotel, Aberystwyth at 8pm.

INVITATION: Printers and publishers Y Lolfa celebrate 50 years in business Saturday, 20 May, at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth. Local Assembly Member and Presiding Officer, Elin Jones, will open the proceedings followed by live bands.

‘The party is going to be really huge as we’re inviting everybody. There’ll be plenty to enjoy, musically and otherwise.’ said Fflur Arwel, the company’s marketing manager.

‘We’ll be showing a new, anniversary ‘mural’ design by local artist, Ruth Jên, as well as our new, mobile friendly, website. Y Lolfa was the first Welsh-language publishing company to have a website and we want to stay in front of the queue technically and creatively’.

CONTACTS: Garmon Gruffudd, Paul Williams, Robat Gruffudd, Fflur Arwel all at 01970 832 304 or via their emails: garmon@ylolfa.com, paul@ylolfa.com, robat@ylolfa.com, fflur@ylolfa.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In a world dominated by large corporations and bureaucracies, Y Lolfa believes that ‘small is beautiful’ in publishing as in life. It was André Gide who said: ‘I like small nations. I like small numbers. The world will be saved by the few.’

Posted in: Book News | 0 comments

passchendale welsh.jpgOn July 31st 2017 two large-scale ceremonies will take place to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War – the Battle of Passchendaele. Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium will be the venue for the international ceremony and a few hours later the Welsh National Memorial at Langemark will be the site of the Welsh national event.

The very word ‘Passchendaele’ has become a byword for the suffering of the Great War. A remorseless slog by Allied soldiers through mud and rain, by the time the battle ended on 10 November 1917 hundreds of thousands of men on both sides lay dead or had been wounded.

The Welsh at Passchendaele 1917 by Dr Jonathan Hicks is a significant new interpretation of the Great War battle for the Passchendaele Ridge, telling the story of the battle through the words of the soldiers and airmen who were actually there.

The author has trawled through regimental histories, war diaries, family histories and archives to compile this detailed account of the part played by Welsh men and women, and those who served in the Welsh regiments, in this enormous and historic conflict.

Beginning at 5.30 am on the morning of 31 July 1917, the British Army launched an enormous assault on the strongly-held German positions. Simultaneously, the Welsh battalions began their attack at Pilkem Ridge. Second Lieutenant Stephen Glynne Hughes described what he saw that morning;

‘At daylight we could see Pilkem Ridge literally heaving up and down – the whole ridge was boiling – we saw the Guards leave the trenches – walking slowly and laboriously over ‘no man’s land’ – one moment you would see a number of men – then a blanket of an exploding shell would hide them – clear away – and the stragglers marching on. The German prisoners could be seen struggling and splashing through the shell holes – some being hit by their own Batteries.’

The author’s own grandfather fought at Passchendaele, and using first-hand accounts and photographs gathered over a period of several years, he allows the men and women who were there to tell their stories.

Dr Jonathan Hicks is an award-winning military historian and novelist, and his meticulous research provides new insight into this famous battle. He has previously won the Victorian Military Society’s top award for his book on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 ‘A Solemn Mockery’, and was awarded the Western Front Association Shield for his book ‘Barry and the Great War’.

Dr Hicks is also a member of the Welsh Government’s First World War Centenary Programme Board and sits on a variety of other committees advising the government on the centenary of the Great War. He also writes crime fiction featuring the military policeman Thomas Oscendale, and both his novels ‘The Dead of Mametz’ and ‘Demons Walk Among Us’ have drawn widespread praise.

His 2016 number one bestselling work ‘The Welsh at Mametz’ recieved critical acclaim including from the Western Front Association who described it as ‘excellent’.

Dr Hicks has dedicated The Welsh at Passchendaele 1917 to his grandfather Ernest Hicks, whom he never knew, and all the other men who fought ‘in that terrible battle’.

The Welsh at Passchendaele 1917 by Dr Jonathan Hicks (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is out now.


welsh mining valley.jpgA new memoir published this week paints a vivid picture of life in the South Wales Valleys during the 1930s, and evokes the strong community spirit of the valleys in that period.

In A Childhood in a Welsh Mining Valley, author and ex-Congregational Minister Vivian Jones recounts with great warmth his childhood in a working class family within the community of Garnant, a small mining village in Cwm Aman, Carmarthenshire.

In those inter-war years, times were hard, labour was back-breaking and money, leisure time and material luxuries were in very short supply, but it’s clear that what joys people did find were really valued. As well as hymn-singing and preaching festivals attended by multitudes, there was the fun of the annual chapel daytrip to the seaside, when elders let their hair down and rolled their trouser-legs up. There was the chance to devour classic adventure novels such as Robinson Crusoe and The Three Musketeers, bought as a series from the News Chronicle. And there was the local people’s love of the cinema whose construction they themselves had funded.

‘The raising of the Workmen’s Hall was a stunning political statement for its day, a statement made by the organised working men of the community. It was a statement about the shape of things to come, the direction of the community’s life, and the readiness and ability of the working men to guide it.’ explained Vivian Jones, ‘It was a statement all the more powerful for being made at a time of very, very great hardship for them. Paid for by Union funds put together by subscriptions from miners’ wages over time, it cost £12,000, in 1927 – just one year after the General Strike of 1926.’

‘The underlying theme of this autobiography is the seemingly understated pride in the integrity and decency of these people and their culture,’ said Professor Hywel Francis, formerly professor in adult continuing education at Swansea University ‘and it shines through the powerful descriptions of family, work and community life, which created strong bonds of fellowship and solidarity in an era long before the divisive and fractured consumer society of today.’

A wealth of lively and humorous anecdotes bring the detail of this time, place and culture vividly back to life. Vivian’s autobiography is also a graphic explanation of how his family, community and chapel roots in the Amman Valley in the rural Welsh-speaking anthracite coalfield of West Wales created his reflective outlook, what he calls ‘my basic philosophy for living’ which shaped what he went on to do in life. These were the origins of his ‘radical bent’, his emphasis on community spirit and his concern for individual integrity. From the little boy described in the book, Vivian Jones grew up to be Minister of several Congregational Churches in Wales before leading the Plymouth Church, Minneapolis, USA for 15 years and then retiring back to South Wales.

Vivian’s principal motivation in writing this autobiography originally was to give an account of his humble yet proud Welsh origins for his American congregation, which he served from 1980 until 1995. ‘Most of the immigrants to Minnesota came from Scandinavia. Coming from a background so different to the vast majority of them, it seemed fair to me that the congregation I served had a right to know something of the influences that had shaped the mind of the preacher they listened to graciously Sunday after Sunday, so I wrote this book,’ explained Vivian.

‘Now, years later, the book has resurfaced, and it seems to me that the contents might give to some Welsh people my age the pleasure it has given me of retrieved memories,’ explained Vivian. ‘I would also hope that it would give my children and grandchildren a more rounded view of where they have come from, and that it could help young Welsh people at large to understand a little better how completely the world of some of us has changed in our lifetime.’

‘These reminiscences will preserve for posterity a way of life – a thoroughly Welsh way of life, both in language and culture,’ added Huw Walters, formerly Head of the Bibliography of Wales Unit, National Library of Wales.

A Childhood in a Mining Valley by Vivian Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

Posted in: New Titles | 0 comments

Matt Guy - Welsh Chef Extraordinaire!


By AmeriCymru, 2017-04-17



matt guy at monmouth.jpg



AmeriCymru: Hi Matt, care to tell us a little about your Welsh background and when you decided to become a chef?

Matt: My father Phil guy is from llanberis the foot of snowdon and works in the electric mountain my mother is from Deiniolen and a office administrator... they both moved in together in Deiniolen where they had me and two other sons, Justin also a chef and Simon who is a camera man for BBC Wales. I always wanted to be a chef from a very young age and I managed to get an apprenticeship at a hotel down the road from my village I was 15 and I was filmed for a Welsh television programme called pentre ni it was a programme about my village from where I came from and followed a few characters from the village. They followed me leaving school into the world of hospitality I loved it. I was junior chef of Wales in 2004 and was tipped by a north Wales news paper to be the next big thing in the industry.

I then left the hotel and went on my travels around the uk and France learning different skills from different chefs. As a fluent Welsh speaker from a small little village in Wales it was quiet daunting going out to the bigger areas but loved every moment of it and made sure that everyone heard how much I loved being Welsh.

AmeriCymru: In 2015 you became Head Chef at the Miners Arms? What can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding your appointment?

Matt: I became the head chef through a lengthy process, I was one of thousands to appear on the show called chefs on trial. During the week I was one of nine contestants trying to win the job. We were put through challenging challenges from skill test to working a full service and even an interview from the well respected Alex polizzi the hotel inspector. The programme was watched by millions aired on the BBC.

The experience of the competition was incredible and using some brilliant local produce from the area was amazing. Unfortunately things did not go to plan and was a whirl wind of a year. I am thankful for the experience and I learnt some valuable life lessons

AmeriCymru: Where and when can people catch you on television (s4c)?

Matt: I'm normally on prynhawn da in the afternoons at 2pm on s4c, on here I am part of a team who creates day time entertainment including cooking some great dishes that family's can do together and also easy and reasonable price for them.

AmeriCymru: Do you have any recipes on YouTube you would like to mention?

Matt: I have a few recipes on YouTube through the Welsh tv show with more yet to come, most of them are on Facebook and my business Facebook page here are some links

https://m.facebook.com/foodmattguy/

https://www.facebook.com/PrynhawnDaS4C/videos/1317405858326584/

Even though I cook lovely wholesome dishes on my television clips I am known for my fine dining skills

AmeriCymru: Does your culinary repertoire include traditional Welsh cuisine/dishes?

Matt: I do have a range of Welsh dishes that I use but I have to say my favourite Welsh ingredient is laverbread I used this in a few competitions as well.

Hay smoked loin of lamb served with laverbread risotto , baby carrots and a red wine.




Laverbread risotto



  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 rashers streaky bacon (rindless), diced
  • 1 leek (white only), finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 100g fresh or canned laverbread
  • 3100g butter
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large saucepan with the olive oil over a moderate heat, add the bacon and cook for 1 minute until just cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the leek and garlic to the pan, sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the rice to the pan and mix it so that it is coated by the oil, cook for 1 minute.stir in a couple of ladles of boiling stock, stir with a wooden spoon until the stock is absorbed. Keep on adding ladles of stock until all the stock is absorbed into the rice. The rice should be moist and tender, with a little bite (not mush). Stir in the laverbread and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked bacon. Cook the risotto for a few minutes.Gradually mix in the parmesan then butter until melted and well combined. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season to taste. Serve at once.

laverbread risotto.jpg



AmeriCymru: Do you think that traditional Welsh cuisine is sufficiently recognized or promoted worldwide?

Matt: I would love for our cuisine to be highlighted a little more as we have great produce and producers who care about what they do.

On my travels I have found that there is a lot of people who think we are a lot like England but when I introduce them to flavours and ingredients of Wales they are blown away.

We might be small but we are a great country and we are getting more known with thanks to our sporting heroes helping us along the way

AmeriCymru: You have an event coming up in June. Care to tell us a little more about that?

Matt: I have a few events on this year but the one I am more excited about will be the kegworth food festival which I am helping to organise. This is going to be a great day held on the third of June, we will have food producers from the area including some great local talent competing and demonstrating, majority of the funds raised will be going to the local air ambulance charity.

http://www.nwleics.gov.uk/pages/whats_on/2017/06/03/one_kegworth_family_fun_day_and_food_festival

https://www.facebook.com/events/232427777167292??ti=ia

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

Matt: My message to anyone I speak to is live your life don't hold back and aim for your dreams you might get knocked down a few times but get back on and one day you will get there, and where ever I will be in the world I will always have Wales and the Welsh language in my heart.

I have been knocked down over and over again but still got myself back up there I have had some great experiences from schools, colleges, people's houses, the Eisteddfod and many more festivals. I will never stop enjoying what I do.

I really enjoyed doing this interview I hope you enjoy reading it

Matt guy



matt guy 3.jpg

Posted in: Cuisine | 0 comments


ani glass.jpegAmeriCymru: Hi Ani and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. I think many people will be excited by the impending release of your EP. Care to introduce "Ffrwydrad Tawel" for our readers?

Ani: ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ is named after one of Wales’ leading contemporary artists Ivor Davies' major exhibition Silent Explosion/Ffrwydrad Tawel held at National Museum Cardiff in 2016. Ivor's use of colours and the Welsh language to express international dilemmas and frustrations really resonated with me and his work, not only visually, really inspired me. I had spent a few lost years in London and eventually returned home to Wales – the songs are about this journey and of the time spent reconnecting with my language and culture.

AmeriCymru: I wanted to ask you about some of the tracks on the E.P. starting with the first 'Y Newid'. This includes the lyric line:- "change happens underground when you're digging in the dark" and features a vocal sample from Ray Davies' 2014 speech at the Yes Cymru rally. What, for you are the political and personal dimensions of this track?

Ani: I wrote this song as a tribute to Ray who was a peace campaigner, activist and a devoted member of Côr Cochion Caerdydd (Cardiff’s socialist street choir which my Mum is also a member of). The lyric you referenced refers to Ray's experiences of working down the mines as a boy, of his introduction to the unions and subsequent lifelong fight for workers rights. Having known Ray my entire life and learning of his past, it demonstrated to me how it’s possible for the worst in life to shape you in a positive way. For me, the boundary between personal and political is blurry, that is, if it exists at all.

AmeriCymru: 'Dal i Droi' (Another Day) Clearly an intensely personal track. I guess everyone who leaves Wales experiences hiraeth at some point. Is that the driving force behind this song?

Ani: This song is about the loss of a loved one, but also symbolises loss in every sense of the word; a yearning for a time gone by. The concept of time is a reoccurring theme in my work - that notion of knowing and eventually accepting that it's something we can't control.

AmeriCymru: What does 'Cariad Cudd' (A City Sleeps) suggest about modern day Cardiff and its past?

Ani: When I moved back to Cardiff I became very interested in its past. Like many post-industrial cities, it represents a place and a people neglected by the powers that be. Cardiff’s Tiger Bay was often described as a cultural melting pot and although this area was demolished in the 60s to make way for redevelopment, you can still just about hear the echoes of her colourful past rattling around between the walls of the last few remaining old buildings.

Cardiff has changed a lot over the past few years - it certainly seems more vibrant and exciting and, dare I say, more cosmopolitan. There does appear to be an increasing amount of inward investment, a lot of positive developments but some questionable ones too. For example, the musical heart of the city is Womanby Street, one of the oldest streets in Cardiff which houses most of our small venues. It has recently come under threat due to noise complaints and new development proposals for hotels and residential dwellings and, if pushed through, will more than likely mean these venues will eventually have to close. Having lost most of the pubs and clubs in the Bay, we don’t want this to happen to Womanby Street as it would be a loss for the whole city. So we're up for the fight!

AmeriCymru: I know this question has probably been asked many times before but how responsive are largely English speaking audiences to Welsh songs and lyrics in the UK today?

Ani: Strangely enough, I’ve played far fewer gigs with only Welsh language bands on the bill. I suppose there’s an added element of curiosity with English speaking audiences but generally speaking and from my experience there isn’t much difference. I often think that audiences are underestimated, we’re far more open to new or different things than we give ourselves credit.

AmeriCymru: Where can our readers go to purchase "Ffrwydrad Tawel" online?

Ani: It will be available to buy on 21 April from www.recordiauneb.com

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us more about the release party at the Clwb Ifor Bach?

Ani: For homegrown bands, Clwb Ifor is the place you want to play. It’s seen as a milestone - our very own Wembley (albeit much much smaller!) so I’m looking forward to playing there again. Dyl Goch, who directed my video for Y Ddawns, will be providing live visuals, electronic artists Twinfield will be supporting so all in all it’s promising to be an exciting night. I’m really looking forward to it!

AmeriCymru: Any plans to visit/perform in the USA?

Ani: I was fortunate enough to spend some time in New York last year and it was so fantastic. It really was a one of those life-altering experiences; the scale of the place, the wealth of culture and mix of people was just mind blowing. I would love nothing more than to go back! We’ve just started looking at our ancestry and it appears that some of our family moved to America towards the end of the 19th century so I’m really looking forward to finding out more about that! The last time I played in America was during The Pipettes’ North American tour in 2011 so it would be fantastic to return. Soon I hope.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Ani Glass? Any new recordings/gigs/projects in the pipeline?

Ani: I have a lot of gigs coming up of the next few months which will keep me busy. I have a few ideas in mind of what I’d like to do next but I might just wait to see where the wind takes me.

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

Ani: Keep an eye out for new releases on Recordiau Neb!



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PLEASE RETWEET

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Posted in: Music | 0 comments

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dafydd prys.jpg AmeriCymru: Hi Dafydd, care to tell us a little about your Welsh background and the reasons for your move to Seattle?

Dafydd: Hello, and thank you very much for letting me write a little bit about my time here in Seattle, and hello to everyone reading.

I was brought up in Wales in an idyllic fashion just outside Aberystwyth, there must have been something about the place as I stayed there to study theatre at the University of Wales. Since graduating I’ve worked in the fields of theatre, TV, and mostly publishing and content creation.

The reason for moving to Seattle must be ingrained in my work, somewhere in the cracks where those creative industries meet, loose like brethyn, clanking around in my head. I guess it starts with storytelling, as all good stories do! Stories are tremendous and good storytellers are among my absolute favourite people, but I’ve also been inspired by that void in the centre between story and person where descriptions, narrative and dialogue become manifest in the minds’ eye. Which is a long way to write that I’ve come to develop interactive products, or more specifically video games, that seek to celebrate, promote and bolster Wales’ vast mythology and history. I am going to create a video game that places our folk tales, history, culture and mythology centre stage. Which is, if you ask me, about time we present our own stories to the world rather than having other cultures wrap them up and show them back to us, busted up and malformed.

How many of us have had to grit our teeth through yet another Hollywood extravaganza that shred the sails of our mythology? The Hollywood Reporter posted an article detailing that Disney are considering revamping their animated ‘classic’, The Sword in the Stone, in the same manner as the recent Beauty in the Beast i.e. as a live action flick, and genuinely, a little piece of my heart floated away like one of Terry Gilliam’s animated suicidal leaves. But it’s not just Disney, it’s other film companies, the BBC, and renowned authors that are knowingly using the mythologies to their own ends, usually uncoupling them from their cultural history. But specifically The Sword in the Stone is an absolute travesty to the legacy of the Mabinogi and seriously questions how mythologies should be treated by those that do not sympathise with that culture.

AmeriCymru: Was it that bad?

Dafydd: For anyone that doesn’t know, the film follows the story of the young ‘king’ Arthur but portrays him in the manner that English Revisionists and French Romanticists portrayed him: Camelot, the sword in the stone and being king of England and all that guff. In itself, that’s not too troublesome, Arthur was a cool dude, many have borrowed him. The problem is within the film they entwined whole sections of the expanded Mabinogi, for example the shapeshifting chase of Taliesin, or Gwion Bach. None of this would be a problem if general audiences were aware of the Mabinogi and where they came from and what they represent but they don’t. And all of a sudden there it is, right in front of you, Arthur is king of England and parts of the Mabinogi are English, or worse, British in the modern political sense. A massive part of our culture and mythology are wiped out, our stories, they’re gone, assimilated by cinema, a drive-by culturing. If you have no stories, you have no past; where do you come from, what do you dramatise for your children? The words and sounds that vibrated your geography thousands of years ago, none of that is connected to you anymore, you are voiceless.

AmeriCymru: Do you have a plan to ensure that those voices are heard?

Dafydd: The third rule of thermo dynamics will tell you that everything that exists will one day perish: I’m fine with the end of existence, I just draw the line at theft. That’s what myself and some very talented friends are going to do (I call them friends , they are decades-old veterans of the video game industry, amazing musicians and extremely talented artists), we’re going to stop the (mostly unknowing) leaching of our heritage, we’re going to reclaim it, stamp it with the red dragon, celebrate it, share it and we are going to make people curious. We’re going to make new games and new friends.

You might be able to tell I’m somewhat passionate about this stuff...

AmeriCymru: How do you think that the medium of video games can be used to promote an awareness of, and interest in, Wales and Welsh Mythology?

Dafydd: Video game enthusiasts are extremely comfortable when devouring content that ascribes to fantastical elements or narratives that allow flights of fancy, or in other words, to walk in another person’s shoes. They are also however an extremely sophisticated bunch, when they want to be, as people generally are, and are very open to new histories and mindsets. Add to that a voracious audience who can never seem to have enough of fantastical elements (just look at the bestseller lists and TV such as Game of Thrones) and you have a ready-made bed of support for our mythology. So you’re already looking at a sizeable number of people that would be interested, crumbs, if Disney are looking at reinventing their fantasy genre you KNOW you have the numbers for it.

My intention is to fully bake our culture and our history into this experience, not just the characters of our legendary past but the people of our present. I want people to hear the real voices behind these characters, I want them to see the little corner of the planet that Wales rests and the men and women on top of that, and I want it to play a full part in reclaiming our own heritage. When you own a history then your future can be as bright as you want it to be. Now I’m not claiming for one second that Bendigeidfran, for example, is historical, but he represents a history of a people, and of storytelling, like an arrow through time straight into your head or my heart. With Easter coming up I fully sympathise with Christians when they imagine the body and blood of Christ in the Communion, it’s a direct line, in a way, through time to something that is precious to them. That’s how I view the Mabinogi and all the glorious characters within, it doesn’t just call out through history, it lives today in the way that I think about things and view the world. If it doesn’t exist then we are different people, which is no bad thing in and of itself, but as I have a view of it from personal development, as many Cymry do, then it is imperative.

When people are knowledgeable on any given subject they make better decisions around that subject. If more people know about Wales, that’s good for Wales. We’ve got to increase visibility and tap into this enormous market, especially considering our tourism industry is pushing the Year of the Legend.

Also, speaking plainly, there would be no Western video game RPG experiences (such as Dragon Age, Skyrim, The Witcher) without the Mabinogi. In all but name those things are The Mabinogi, that is a cast iron fact and it’s about time we started getting some credit.

Add onto that that Wales literally looks like most fantasy tropes: mountains, frozen lakes, caves, rolling upland, staggering beaches, some trolls in the pubs. We should rebrand Gwynedd as Mabinogiland! So I’m certain the tourism people will be (very) happy with me. I will be baking in real world locations into the experience.

I expect a bronze leek, signed by Carwyn, on my mantelpiece.

AmeriCymru: Do you have any initial ideas/concepts that you would be willing to share with us?

Dafydd: I can certainly tell you that our finest storytellers will be utilised as vocal artists and really exciting musicians from Wales will be involved, parts will be live action, with documentary-like elements. We have some solid ideas, but the problem is – and it’s a really great problem to have – where do you start?

The Mabinogi is awesome, right? One minute there’s a space/time conundrum with Pwyll unable to catch Rhiannon on a horse, she consistently stays the exact same distance away (the answer: just ask her to stop, a none too insignificant vision of gender relations) the next she’s forced to carry guests into their home on their back because she’s been framed for the murder of their son (spoiler alert).

We will be isolating the elements appropriate for a sophisticated interactive experience, otherwise it would be a MASSIVE undertaking. But foremost it absolutely has to be fun, it cannot be slow and sluggish and it can’t be too difficult to navigate. Then you look to reduce the components: does the narrative drive the experience or does the interaction unpeel the story? Will the visuals call out to recognisable elements that users are comfortable with or comb against the grain and arrest those expectations. These are among the many major questions we are looking at as interactive artists.

Thankfully I am currently under the wing of some amazing people who have such drive, enthusiasm and grace and they are helping me navigate these early few years in a new industry. They have worked on similar projects in the past and know what they’re doing. I will owe them a great debt. Literally. They’re very expensive. (If they are reading this is a joke of course.)

The easy answer to that was ‘no’.

AmeriCymru: Of course there is an online game ( Mabinogi ) which at least nods its head in the direction of Welsh Mythology. What do you think of this game? Will your project be in any way similar?

Dafydd: While it’s called Mabinogi it has nothing whatsoever to do with Welsh mythology. You’ll have to ask Nexon (the publishers) why they decided to use that name. They dip into Irish mythology somewhat, but that’s as close as it gets. And this is one of the problems that I’ve recognised, developing video games is a very narrow field, you have to have a range of skills, training and experience to even consider it. It’s highly unlikely that anyone in that field will have sufficient knowledge to be able to treat subject matter such as under-represented cultures’ mythology with the sophistication that matter deserves. Hopefully that’s where people like me come in. I may have to have a conversation with Nexon regarding that branding.

AmeriCymru: Over what time scale do you hope to bring this project to fruition?

Dafydd: I am aiming for the winter of 2019 or spring 2020 but really it’ll be done when it is done.

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

Dafydd: Yes we are looking for investors, I have some detailed financial profiles for anyone looking to invest in our project. If you want to be a part of reclaiming, celebrating and making visible Wales’s heritage and culture in the minds of millions then please do give me a call. Video games cost money but are lucrative in the long-term. I am not ashamed of the fact that along with our lofty goals, profits will follow based on competitive benchmarks for similar products.

Also, Cymru am byth.



CONTACT DAFYDD PRYS: @dafprys on twitter


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highlights from welsh history.jpgWe ‘must use Welsh history as a means of giving the Welsh more confidence in the world today’ – this is the message that is emphasised in a new book published this week by Y Lolfa publishers.

Highlights from Welsh History by Emrys Roberts is a brand new history book that shines new light on Wales. It gives a concise yet comprehensive overview of Welsh history from the Brythonic period to the present day, whilst presenting a new and alternative portrayal of Welsh history – with the emphasis being on the nation’s successes and strengths.

The book contains many revelatory facts about Wales including that she produced a man ‘probably more responsible than Charles Darwin for developing the theory of evolution’ and a woman who was ‘at least as responsible as Florence Nightingale for developing the nursing profession’. Also reveleaed is the way that Wales was the world leader during the early Industrial Revolution; contained the world’s first industrial town; and was home to the world’s first steam train.

‘Our small nation of some three million people have a past of which we can be immensely proud’ said the author, Emrys Roberts, ‘It pays sometimes to look in the rear-view mirror and I believe that if only the people of Wales were more fully aware of our past – our history, our story – it would give us much greater confidence in facing – and building – our future’.

He was inspired to write the book – in both English and Welsh, after a friend of his confessed that during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 that he ‘did not feel very Welsh’ and that he ‘did not know much about Wales’ either.

‘Wales has made a huge contribution to the world but very few people are aware of it – even people in Wales itself’ added Emrys, ‘And that’s why I wrote this book. To give us confidence as a nation’.

Emrys Roberts was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, in 1931. He began to learn Welsh when his family moved to Cardiff during the Second World War. He secured an honours degree in History in the same year as he was President of the Students’ Union at University College, Cardiff, and has lectured in American and Welsh History at the college’s Extra-Mural Department.

He was Deputy President of Plaid Cymru in the late 70s. He was sent to Cardiff prison in 1952 for refusing to join the British armed forces after MPs in Wales voted against conscription during a time of peace. He was placed in the cells under Westminster after intervening and disrupting a debate from the public gallery.

Highlights from Welsh History by Emrys Roberts (£3.99, Y Lolfa) is available now. A Welsh version has also been published, titled Ein Stori Ni – Golwg Newydd ar Hanes y Cymry.

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