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Category: Book News


By AmeriCymru, 2016-11-08

alunthebear.jpg Robat Gruffudd, the founder of Y Lolfa publishers and co-founder of Lol magazine, reveals all in private diaries written over the last fifty years that are published for the first time ever this week.

Lolian is a collection of ‘eccentric and too honest’ diaries that Robat Gruffudd kept since the sixties. It contains a mixture of humours ancedotes, provoking comments and memories about the twists and turns working in the pubilshing industry and meetings with authors and beyond in Wales and in bars on the continent. As a language campaigner since his early years, Robat goes into detail about his work with Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Cymuned, Dyfodol i'r Iaith – and a campaign where he refused to speak English. Also discussed are the Trefechan bridge protest and the campaign to establish a daily Welsh newspaper, Y Byd .

The diaries include response to events and an ‘unofficial’ yet original portrait of life in Wales over the last fifty years.

His Jewish and German background is also illustrated – as well as the prosecution suffered by his family in Germany, which was the basis of the successful book written by his brother Heini, A Haven from Hitler, which won Book of the Year (as Yr Erlid ).

‘There are funny stories about plenty of people here and that’s what I’m afraid of! What will they say when they see their names in print? But the diary form asks for complete honesty,’ says Robat, ‘If you’re not honest then what’s the point? Although I may leave the country for a month or two after publication!’

But Robat Gruffudd says he never intended to publish the book originally.

‘These are personal diaries that I kept for my own amusement’ he explains, ‘I never intended for anyone else to see them. Unfortunatley, I gave in and this is the result’.

The diaries are published before the 50 th anniversary of Y Lolfa which will be celebrated next year. The book delves into the publishing world but Robat emphasises that this is not an autobiography nor the history of Y Lolfa per se.

‘We will be celebrating Y Lolfa’s birthday soon. Watch this space for news of a big party and a range of other events!’ says Robat.

The book is launched officially on Friday the 25 th of November at 8pm at the Llew Du (Black Lion) in Talybont. The academic Simon Brooks will be in conversation with the author followed by live music from Tecwyn Ifan.

‘I will be gone after the event!’ says Robat, ‘before people get a chance to read the book!’

Lolian by Robat Gruffudd (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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alunthebear.jpg Welsh football fans have come together to celebrate the success of the Welsh football team at the Euros in a new book that is published this week.

Merci Cymru is a collection of essays and articles to celebrate and remember the Wales football team’s success this year. The book was written by fans, commentators and some of the game’s biggest names including Dylan Ebenezer, the former player and academic Laura McAllister and poets Aled Gwyn and Rhys Iorwerth.

The book depicts the buzz in the games, on the streets, in the fanzones, on the couch and in the pubs and offers a very vivid impression of a very special time in the history of Welsh football.

The volume was edited by the author and jouranlist Tim Hartley and includes contributions from Tim himself as well as his son Rhys who also plays for the supporters’ team.

‘This book is a record. A record of events that some of us never imagined we would experience in our lifetime.’ said Tim Hartley, ‘But the fact remains, the Wales football team played in the finals of an international tournament .’

‘It is thanks to the effort of a small group of footballers from a small nation – and in the eyes of many people before this feat – an insignificant nation. They say ‘its only a game’ – but no. They also say that the journey itself and not the arrival is what matters in life. Not this time’ added Tim.

The book will be launched in a special event to celebrate the Wales team’s success at Chapter centre in Cardiff at 7pm on the 11 th of November before the game against Serbia.

Merci Cymru (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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5 Welsh Crime Writers

By Ceri Shaw, 2016-09-20

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With Autumn closing in what better way pass the time than with a good book? For aficianados of crime fiction a good murder story is the ideal for whiling away the dark evening hours.  Check out our selection of Welsh crime writers from Canada, the USA, Europe and Wales itself. Happy reading! :)

Andrew Peters

Andrew Peters in blue suit

AmeriCymru spoke to Welsh crime fiction writer and roving guitarist Andrew Peters:-

" I was born in beautiful Barry on June 21st many years ago. That''s the longest day of the year ("Bloody felt like it too" Mrs GE Peters) so I have always yearned for the sun. After looking for it in vain in the UK, I toured the world as a guitarist and finally settled in Spain in 2004. "

Read our Interview with Peter here


Stephen Puleston


AmeriCymru: Hi Stephen and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What was the first thing you wrote and what attracted you to crime fiction writing?

Stephen: My first thing attempt at writing seriously was a general fiction novel. And my second novel was a political thriller based in London and Wales in the pre-devolution era. Luckily neither ever generated any interest from agents or publishers.

Read our Interview with Stephen here


Delphine Richards

Delphine Richards


The Seedy Side Of Life In Rural Wales

''A friend is a good egg, even if they are slightly cracked - blessed are the cracked for they shall let in the light''

Read our Interview with Delphine here ...



Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen is the award winning writer of the Constable Evans mysteries set in the Snowdonia Mountains of Wales. Apart from the Constable Evans series, Rhys has written many other novels and children's books, including many best-selling titles. She has also written some historical sagas and TV tie-ins. She currently resides in California and spends her winters in Arizona. AmeriCymru spoke to her about her work and future plans.

Read our Interview with Rhys here


Cathy Ace

Welsh crime writer Cathy Ace


Cathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, worked for decades in marketing communications, and migrated to Canada in 2000. Bestselling author Ace is the 2015 winner of the Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery (for The Corpse with the Platinum Hair). AmeriCymru spoke to Cathy about her life and writing.

Read our Interview with Cathy here


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Travel writer John Harrison among longlist of nine for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing

New Welsh Review , in association with the University of South Wales and CADCentre, is delighted to announce the longlist of nine travel nonfiction essays for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing. Both new and established writers based in Wales, England and Ireland are in the running for the top prize including the award-winning travel writer John Harrison.

The Prize celebrates the best short form travel writing (5,000-30,000 words) from emerging and established writers based in the UK and Ireland plus those who have been educated in Wales. The judges are New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies and award winning travel writer Rory MacLean.

Gwen Davies, editor of New Welsh Review said: ‘This prize has gone from strength to strength in its second year with an increased number of entries and an excellent standard of writing. Branching out from our previous theme of nature, this year’s longlist of travel nonfiction sees a move towards the political.’

Virginia Astley (Dorchester, England) Keeping the River

Evan Costigan (Kildare, Ireland) West Under a Blue Sky

Hannah Garrard (Norwich, England) No Situation is Permanent

John Harrison (London, England) The Rains of Titikaka

Gerald Hewitson (Holyhead, Wales) Oh my America

Julie Owen Moylan (Cardiff, Wales) Anxiety and Wet Wipes on Train Number Four

Nathan Llywelyn Munday (Cardiff, Wales) Seven Days: A Pyrenean Trek

Karen Phillips (Pembrokeshire, Wales) Stranger Shores

Mandy Sutter (Ilkley, England) Bush Meat: As My Mother Told Me

Davies continues: ‘Such essays follow the progress of a pioneering school from its refugee-camp origins in Ghana; a Nigerian domestic scene where subtle and interdependent racial and class issues are seething under a tight lid; the rise and fall of the pre-Columbian city of Tiwanaku in Bolivia and the underground (and underwater) currents of Mayan culture in the Yucatan, Mexico. In gentler pastures, meanwhile, language, geography, history, culture, religion and philosophy are given room to reflect in pieces that champion the humble Thames-side lock-keeper, the etiquette of the Trans-Siberian station pitstop; silence and spirituality on a Pennsylvanian Quaker residency, and the highs and lows of the grand narrative on trek through the Pyrenees.’

For more information about the long listed writers please visit the website here: http://www. longlist-1 /

The shortlist will be announced at an event at Hay Festival on 1 June 2016 ( 3-4pm ) and the winner at a ceremony at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff on 7 July 2016 ( 6-8pm ).

First prize is £1,000 cash, e-publication by New Welsh Review on their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint in 2016, a positive critique by leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at WME, as well as lunch with her in London. Second prize is a weeklong residential course in 2016 of the winner’s choice at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Gwynedd, north Wales. Third prize is a weekend stay at Gladstone’s Library in Flintshire, north Wales. All three winners will also receive a one-year subscription to the magazine. In addition New Welsh Review will consider the highly commended and shortlisted nominees for publication in a forthcoming edition of its creative magazine New Welsh Reader with an associated standard fee.

New Welsh Review have today also launched their Best Travel Book Poll inviting readers around the world to vote for their favourite all time travel book in the English language. A longlist of 20 titles have been selected by co-judges Gwen Davies and Rory MacLean with nominations from the students of the University of South Wales and librarians across Wales. The public can now vote for the shortlist and winner which will be revealed on 1 June and 7 July respectively.

For more information visit http://www. best-travel-book-poll /


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There are just two weeks left to enter the New Welsh Writing Awards 2016: University of South Wales Prize for Travel Writing. The prize celebrates the best short form travel writing from writers based in the UK and Ireland and those based worldwide who have been educated in Wales. The word length is 5,000-30,000 and the closing date is midnight 3 April. Entry is free.

First Prize:

•  £1,000 cash, e-publication by New Welsh Review on their New Welsh Rarebyte imprint in 2016
•  a positive critique over lunch with leading literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes at WME

Second Prize:

•  a weeklong residential course in 2016 of the winner’s choice at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre

Third prize:

•  a weekend stay at Gladstone’s Library

All three winners will also receive a one-year subscription to New Welsh Review. In addition New Welsh Review will consider the highly commended and shortlisted nominees for publication in a forthcoming edition of its creative magazine New Welsh Reader with an associated standard fee.

Find out more at and you can watch our call for entries video here:
In addition to the writing prize, New Welsh Review is giving readers a chance to nominate their favourite travel books in their Best Travel Book Poll.

Find out more here:

To nominate your favourite travel book email us at marketing@newwelshreview , tweet us @NewWelshReview using the hashtag #NewWelshAwards or add a comment on Deadline for nominations is midnight 3 April 2016.

We will reveal the longlist on 20 April and will be inviting the public to vote for the shortlist and winner which will be revealed on 1 June and 7 July respectively.

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New Welsh Review - Wales Foremost Literary Magazine

New Welsh Review  was founded in 1988 as the successor to The Welsh Review (1939-1948), Dock Leaves and The Anglo Welsh Review (1949-1987) and is Wales’s foremost literary magazine in English, offering a vital outlet for the very best new fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, a forum for critical debate, and a rigorous and engaged reviewing culture. New Welsh Review Ltd is supported through core funding by the Welsh Books Council and hosted by Aberystwyth University Department of English and Creative Writing. The magazine’s creative content was rebranded as  New Welsh Reader in May 2015, with reviews moving entirely online.

AmeriCymru spoke to New Welsh Review/Reader editor, Gwen Davies about the re branding and the magazines future direction.


Gwen Davies AmeriCymru: Hi Gwen, and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What is the New Welsh Review? How would you describe its mission statement?

Gwen: New Welsh Review , is a literary and cultural magazine working across Wales with eleven publication dates in different formats including print, app, epub and online, through the media of text, photography, video, audio, graphic poetry and animation. This national magazine with international readership and horizons has contributors including Terry Eagleton, Michael Longley, Patricia Duncker, Stevie Smith, Jem Poster, Richard Gwyn, Rory MacLean and Tessa Hadley. Our USPs are that we publish newcomers alongside established writers, are highly professional, develop the work of students and emerging writers, and that we pay contributors. We rebranded in May 2015 to publish creative work and literary essays in the New Welsh Reader (print, app and epub formats), and to publish reviews and comment in the New Welsh Review (online only).

AmeriCymru: Where can American readers go to read more or subscribe?

AmeriCymru: With regard to the recent name change / re branding...what is new in Welsh Reader? Has there been a change of focus?

Gwen: The emphasis, noted above, of creative work in New Welsh Reader, has been appreciated by readers who perhaps aren't so interested in reviews or like to get their reviews more quickly online. Our readers tell us that highlighting our creative work – poetry, creative nonfiction, short stories, novel previews, illustration, photography, graphic books and longer literary essays – in this way gives this type of work more status and room for contemplation, which print, in particular, favours. Publishing eight online supplements of reviews and comment allows us to respond more quickly to new books and topical issues without worrying about the production process. These supplements are published under the old umbrella, New Welsh Review. This move, of course, also saves money in a climate of public funding cuts.

AmeriCymru: What, for you are the highlights of the latest edition of New Welsh Reader?

Gwen: As it happens, am American contributor, Peter E Murphy , whose essay is a fictionalised family memoir about  his family's connections to Wales. His father and grandfather, longshoremen Eddie and Teddy Murphy, were billeted together in Newport and Belgium during the Normandy landings. Teddy was a nasty piece of work and Eddie was a tall-tale-teller of the first order. Other highlights in our autumn edition are former British serving officer Daniel Jones' story about an Afghanistan posting, and newcomer Crystal Jeans' dirty urban story about how a mother's sexual fantasy of Bukowski propels her to seduce the local alcoholic tramp: 'I lean over to my knicker drawer and pull out a condom. Bukowski wouldn't use a condom. Or he would, but right at the end he'd yank it off, sink his d*** back in and say, "You can have my seed and like it, you w****.' But you can take something too far.'

AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about the New Welsh Writing Awards program. Are there any upcoming publication plans? What will be the theme for next year?

Gwen: To elaborate on the rebranding you mentioned above. We rebranded around the term 'New Welsh' since that encapsulates all our work, and we have further sub-brands of the  New Welsh Writing Awards which this year ran under the banner of writing for nature and the environment and was sponsored by WWF Cymru with further support from CADCentre (a software company working with early school leavers) and writing centres Ty Newydd and Gladstone's Library in north Wales.

The Awards' USP is that it celebrates essays or books of at least 10,000 words and part of the prize is publication in Kindle ebook form. Our fourth brand is New Welsh Rarebyte which is our new ebook imprint and publishes the winner of our writing award, this year (publishing on 15 October) 26-year old Eluned Gramich's Woman Who Brings the Rain , A Memoir of Hokkaido, Japan. It's available for pre-order internationally here as a Kindle ebook via Amazon. We are currently seeking sponsors to run next year's Awards, either from commerce or from education as we are looking into the possibility of combining work on the Awards with a university placement programme that would give experience to students, either with a literature background or in business or marketing, to work on a large event such as running a prize and ceremony. We hope that we will get enough funding next year to run an extra category, so that would be nature and the environment as before plus memoir. The prize should interest expats with a Welsh connection as our Terms & Conditions welcome international entries by people who were born in Wales or educated here.

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

Gwen: The publishing climate for journalism is very hard as we are hit five times over by the change in reading patterns caused by the internet, ie people accessing free stuff; writers having become willing to publish their work for free, thus undermining their own value and that of  curated publications who see payment as part of the professional service they offer; the democratisation of the internet which, despite its many positive points does undermine the old hierarchy of choice and curation which publishers offer; the feedback and sense of community offered to writers by social media which used to be provided by magazines and authors' societies, and, finally, the current British austerity climate which has led to public funding cuts in the arts as elsewhere. We really do feel, in respect of our current mix of subscriber-exclusive and free-to-view content, that we are sucking it and seeing. We don't know how things will develop, how much will people pay to read in future in a world in which originally only very few of the big newspapers opted for the paywall model.

At New Welsh Review, however, we have been working creatively to track down alternative funding sources. Mainly this has been with the institution in which we are physically housed, our host and sponsor Aberystwyth University, to create a student work placement scheme producing a multimedia programme that provides us with audio and visual features, clips, reviews, interviews and creative showcases that exercise the students' skills in research, presentation, camerawork, editing, performed reading, animation, graphics, getting on with authors and working as a team as well as being responsive to an editor's demands and real-time deadlines. This relationship gives us a home and allows us to pay and develop the skills of a greater range of contributor. For the university, it ticks their employability boxes. To AmeriCymru I would humbly ask: does anyone want to sponsor an exciting Awards scheme and/or work with us to replicate our student placement model over the pond? Last year, during the Dylan Thomas centenary, many Americans learned of or visited the many beautiful west Wales locations associated with the poet. In Aberystwyth we are just down the coast from Laugharne and New Quay. If you would like to sponsor or develop any of the ideas outlined above to further strengthen the links of Wales and the US, and to put our mutual traditions of great writing on both our maps, contact me at editor[at]

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  War theme for autumn edition of New Welsh Reader

New Welsh Review   was founded in 1988 as the successor to The Welsh Review (1939-1948), Dock Leaves and The Anglo Welsh Review (1949-1987) and is Wales’s foremost literary magazine in English, offering a vital outlet for the very best new fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, a forum for critical debate, and a rigorous and engaged reviewing culture. New Welsh Review Ltd is supported through core funding by the Welsh Books Council and hosted by Aberystwyth University Department of English and Creative Writing. The magazine’s creative content was rebranded as   New Welsh Reader in May 2015, with reviews moving entirely online.


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Mechanics by Jo Mazelis An excerpt from ''Mechanics'' - an original short story by Jo Mazelis, appearing in eto 3 due for publication, early March 2017.

Charlotte had the advantage of a free right hand, while Georgina had to either struggle with her left hand, or use her right, but first she had to wriggle to free it from the press of her sister’s body which ruined the effect of their unusual appearance. This was how their mother had instructed them to do everyday things; as if they were a single entity with only two arms, but four legs and two heads. They had also been trained to speak as one, saying in perfect chorus, ‘Hello, how do you do? I do believe that the weather is improving, don’t you think?’ In order to make these seemingly spontaneous and simultaneous speeches they had rehearsed multiple variations along with a series of subtle gestures that communicated which phrase should be uttered. It was Georgina who usually took the lead in these transactions with the world, but Charlotte could at times be singular in transmitting different choices that made for bizarre conversation. For example, only days before the leader of the local town’s council chamber had asked the girls if they enjoyed the rolling hills and lush pastures of that part of Wales, Georgiana twirling a finger through a glossy ringlet, signalled that they should say, ‘Why, thank you kind sir, everything has pleased us greatly!’ But Charlotte had petulantly (as much as sneezing can be petulant) sneezed three times, which was the code for, ‘Our dear mother wept bitterly over it and cannot be consoled!’ Georgina sensing the comedy in this answer took a deep breath before they spoke the words in unison together. The council leader was taken aback, ‘Is she an invalid?’ he asked. To which the girls replied, somewhat mysteriously, ‘It is said there are two ways to milk a cow.’ After that they took their leave with haste as both were stifling a great fit of the giggles as the poor man tried on such a variety of expressions in quick succession in his confusion and grew redder and redder in the face until they thought he might suffer an apoplexy.

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PENfro Book Festival

Thursday 12th - Sunday 15th September, Rhosygilwen

The PEN fro 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 Samantha Wynne Rhydderch appearing at this years event? What are the main attractions?

Derek: This year the festival begins with a concert on Thursday 12 th 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 , Branwel l, 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 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: .  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!

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This year is the 50th anniversary of the start of Dusty Springfield’s solo career. The iconic singer, who for millions was the definitive pop diva, launched her first solo hit record ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ in 1963. Celebrating this fact is a new play by Derek Webb called ‘Call Me Dusty’.

With Jessica Sandry in the title role, the play attempts to disentangle myth and facts, and begin to understand the very complex character who was Dusty Springfield. She was born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien – a shy, chubby, Catholic convent girl. Her mother was Irish, her father an accountant, she was brought up in West London and from a child was in love with the cinema and music: longing to be an actress like June Haver or a singer like Peggy Lee.

In 1960 she became part of the very successful trio called The Springfields with her brother Tom and his friend Tim Field and together they were the first British group to succeed in a big way in America.

But by 1963 she had decided to go solo and the legend that was Dusty Springfield was truly born. Many times voted Best Female Singer, Dusty Springfield achieved enormous worldwide fame. Loving soul music, she was largely responsible for bringing Motown to the attention of a UK audience. A perfectionist who refused to compromise in the pursuit of the ultimate pop record, Dusty Springfield effectively was the producer on many of her recordings. And, while shy privately, she was often outspoken publicly. In 1964 she was one of the first to stand up against apartheid in South Africa and a few years later, she was to famously declare herself gay – something few would have dared to do at the time.

Despite the fame and success, however, Dusty’s personal life was full of drama and tragedy. Not only did she find her sexuality at odds with her Catholicism, but drugs and alcohol took their toll, and increasingly she began to self-harm.

'Call Me Dusty' explores the dichotomy of the quiet, shy private person and her alter ego with her extravagant black mascara and backcombed hair; while at the same time celebrating the music which still ranks amongst the best of its kind. Not for nothing is Dusty Springfield heralded as the finest white soul singer ever.

Jessica Sandry, who plays Dusty, is in the new series of Stella with Ruth Jones on Sky TV and her numerous stage appearances have included portraying another singing legend, Doris Day, in the acclaimed show Being Doris Day which toured nationally. Playing her manager Vic Billings and other characters is James Scannell whose stage credits include Romeo & Juliet, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Hamlet, A Christmas Carol , Romeo & Juliet, and Of Mice and Men . And playing Dusty’s secretary Pat Rhodes and other characters is Jayne Stillman, whose credits include Varya in The Cherry Orchard , Miss Ronberry in The Corn is Green and Emilia in Othello .

The play covers the time from when she first decided to reinvent herself as Dusty Springfield to a period in the early 1970s when she had seen the meteoric rise in her career begin to falter and decided to move to the US. Dusty herself in fact tried several times to reinvent herself, and achieved a reawakening in her fortunes and discovered a brand new fan base in the late 1980s when the Pet Shop Boys asked her to sing on the No 1 hit ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’. Dusty Springfield died of breast cancer in 1999 just short of her 60 th birthday.

Call Me Dusty is produced by Ignition and plays at the Swansea Grand on September 11 th and 12 th before touring to Ammanford, Abertillery, Monmouth, Cwmbran, Barry, Newport, Cardigan, Milford Haven, Worcester and Llanelli.

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