PENfro Book Festival
Thursday 12th - Sunday 15th September, Rhosygilwen
The PENfro Book Festival is an annual event celebrating the quality and diversity of writing in Wales today, recognising the contribution of local publishers and booksellers, and encouraging more people to enjoy the wealth of books Wales offers....Read More
AmeriCymru: Hi Derek and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. Care to tell us a little about the history and background of the Penfro Festival?
Derek: This is the third year of the PENfro Book Festival. It was the brainchild of local author Brian John, who was Chair for the first two years. The intention then, as now, is to celebrate writing in Wales today, providing a platform for writers and encouraging the public to appreciate and enjoy the wealth of wonderful writing in the country. It was never designed to compete with the likes of the Hay Festival, but rather to have a smaller, more intimate feel: warm, welcoming and very friendly – very much in the spirit of Pembrokeshire!
For the first couple of years the festival was held over two days, but this year it has been extended to have two evening performances in addition. A programme of writers’ workshops was introduced in 2012 and this is now an integral part of the festival.
AmeriCymru: Who will be appearing at this years event? What are the main attractions?
Derek: This year the festival begins with a concert on Thursday 12th September – Hungarian Dance: the Concert of the Novel. Having played to rave reviews, the concert features Jesscia Duchen reading extracts from her bestselling novel accompanied by the music which inspired it. It promises to be a unique experience and one not to be missed.
Friday evening is a poetry evening hosted by local poetry group, the Cellar Bards – together with three other groups, Red Heron, the PENfro Poets and Haiku and Hipflasks. The winners of the first PENfro Poetry competition will also be announced by guest judge Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, and the evening features a performance by poet Tim Wells.
During the day on Saturday, there are a number of Writers’ Workshops covering subjects including ‘getting started’; poetry; using new media; biography; freelance journalism and screenwriting.
We also have a couple of events for children held at Small World theatre in Cardigan. Award-winning storyteller, Daniel Morden will be telling tales from the Odyssey and there is a special Children’s Circus workshop at lunchtime with a performance in the afternoon.
We are enormously proud to have for our Saturday evening event not only the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, but the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke! This is a tremendous coup for the festival and will I’m sure ensure PENfro a place on the literary map.
Sunday is a full day of events starting in the morning with Peter Lord discussing his new book, Relationships with Pictures, describing, using fifteen pictures, the evolution of his own sense of self.
That’s followed by Jim Perrin and Mark Charlton. Jim is best known as a rock climber and prize winning travel writer, but he has debut book of short stories A Snow Goose about to be published. He will be in conversation with Mark Charlton author of Counting Steps.
Swansea born Amy Dillwyn was a remarkable woman and novelist. Considered to be an eccentric with unorthodox and iconoclastic views, she published six novels, as well as being a regular, though anonymous, reviewer for the Spectator. And she’s the subject of an event with Dr Kirsti Bohata who discusses Dillwyn and her classic novel, Jill in conversation with Janet Thomas.
Then there’s a Welsh language event with Grahame Davies in conversation with Ceri Wyn on Alcemi Dŵr – The Alchemy Of Water – an illustrated book about Welsh lakes, rivers, shorelines and waterfalls, featuring the poems of Grahame Davies and Tony Curtis and the photographs of Mari Owen and Carl Ryan.
Daniel Morden makes a reappearance with his Dark Tales from the Woods, for which he won the Tir na n-Og Award . His latest publication is Tree of Leaf and Flame, published by Pont Books in 2012 which also won the Tir na n-Og Award. His stories are broadcast regularly on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Choice TV.
Then, at lunchtime, we have three local authors talking about their books in our Meet the Authors spot: Liz Whittaker''s book The Bardic Monk tells the tale of how Henry II of England, in thrall to tales of King Arthur, travels to a remote corner of Wales to meet with a shrouded monk of no name. Pembrokeshire, often referred to as ''Gwlad yr Hud'' (the Enchanted Land), is home to a rich and diverse collection of tales; and in Pembrokeshire Folk Tales Christine Willison has gathered many of these tales together in an enchanting book. Glen Peter''s latest novel The Lucknow Ransom again features beautiful widow Joan D''Silva with a cast of colourful characters inspired by Glen''s youth in the dwindling Anglo-Indian community.
After lunch there’s a choice of events. In ‘What Makes a Good Read’,New York Times best-selling author Paula Brackston, Francesca Rhydderch and Katherine Stansfield discuss their latest books in conversation with Richard Davies. While author/illustrator Jackie Morris will talk about and read from the latest book that she has written and illustrated called Song of the Golden Hare.
Finally, wrapping up the day, we have The Pembrokeshire Murders –the story of Operation Ottawa, the cold case detection of John Cooper for two Pembrokeshire double killings – with Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Wilkins and ITV News reporter Jonathan Hill.
And Lucy Gannpn - one of the UK''s leading TV screenwriters talks about her career and writing for television with Susanna Capon. Lucy''s credits include the new series of Frankie, Soldier Soldier, Branwell, Lewis and the award winning The Best of Men.
All day on Sunday, we also have our trade fair with up to 30 stalls – booksellers, publishers, authors and others offering an enormous variety of books and other related items. A great place to browse where you’re sure to find something of interest. While next door, in the Orangery, you can have a snack, a cup of tea or coffee, or a full lunch.
Rhosygilwen house and statue
AmeriCymru: Can you tell us something about the venue?
Derek: The festival is held in the spacious grounds of Rhosygilwen – a beautiful stone built mansion built in Gothic style with magnificent gardens. Many of the events are held in the house’s large Conservatory with others in the lovely spacious octagonal summerhouse. The major events and the trade fair are held in the superb Oak Hall with its exquisite hammer beam roof and wonderful light.
AmeriCymru: What are your plans for the future of the Festival? How do you see it developing in years to come?
Derek: The festival I think has now started to establish itself well as part of the Welsh literary scene, but I hope that we appeal to the man and woman in the street just as much. I certainly don’t want the festival to be in any way elitist, but to add to the enormous joy which people can get from books – and books of all types and in all forms. Celebratory and fun, that’s what it should be! We are already planning for next year and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has agreed to speak and read poetry in our Saturday evening slot. So it’s all really very exciting.
AmeriCymru: Where can readers go to purchase tickets for the event?
Derek: Tickets for each event can be bought on the day or evening concerned, but some such as the Saturday evening event are selling fast, so best to book now! They can be bought on line on the website: penfrobookfestival.org.uk. There is a Festival Pass available for the Sunday too, which gives entry to all events all day for just £10. Beat that for great value!