Ceri Shaw



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File 23032016 12 41 19 1.jpeg AmeriCymru:  Hi Annie and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What was the inspiration for Black Dragon Crafts? When did you found the company?

Annie:   It’s a pleasure to be talking to you and thanks for being interested.
Black Dragon began back in the early 70’s, when the world was a significantly different place. My husband and I had sold most of our possessions to go on an adventure to the USA – when we got home, we didn’t really have anywhere to live and a friend volunteered us their barn in Wales. We set up a workshop and I began using the leatherworking skills I had learned in San Fransisco while he made candles.

We were invited to exhibit our wares at a show and needed a name for our enterprise: Black (because we were trying to buy a house called Llyn Ddu), Dragon (because we were in Wales) and Crafts (because that was what we were doing).

This was in 1974 and our work started to sell quite well, mostly in local gift shops and at Craft Markets. But we didn’t buy Llyn Ddu because a better place came along, then two children arrived, business expanded into shops and markets in England and we were living the dream. My leatherwork was Celtic, the kids were happy and the sun was always shining. Then in 1989 he left us. There were clouds covering the sun for a while but the world didn’t end and I had created my first Celtic bead within a couple of years. I never looked back. 

AmeriCymru:  Care to describe your workshop for our readers?

Annie:  My current workshop is the best ever. Everything started in a barn adjoining the cottage, then the weather changed and it all migrated to the kitchen table. It soon outgrew the table and I bought a big wooden shed to plant at the top of the garden. It lasted for over 10 years but the roof started leaking and everything went mouldy so I bit the bullet and built a proper building. Insulation galore, double glazed windows (with a fabulous view out of every one), green cladding, a pot bellied stove and proper workbenches. I started taking it all a lot more seriously and began winning prizes with my beads. 

My workshop is a building of two halves – I make the beads in the dirty half (lovingly called The Beadoir) and the jewelery in the clean half. 15 years on and it has settled into the landscape, green was a good choice. Visitors think it is all very well organised but it’s a busy space, there has to be some order and a plan. Having said that, I currently only have one helper and she has been with me for over 30 years, seen it all. There are changes afoot – I ought to be contemplating my retirement but I seem to be enjoying a growth spurt instead. Do I need more staff?

view from the workshop.jpeg

AmeriCymru:  What was the significance of beads to the ancient Celts? How are yours produced?

Annie:  Beads have always been used for adornment and trade, by every tribe and everywhere. Mine are unashamedly decorative and I cast them in lead free pewter.  I heat the pewter to around 350 degrees C, then  pour it into rubber moulds in a centrifugal casting machine. I fettle and file them by hand, then tumble them in a big tumbly machine to burnish and polish them.  It’s a hot, dirty, noisy, dangerous and dusty process, which involves many hours on my feet and zero romance. But I love it. To start with a 1kg stick of raw pewter and end with a batch of beads is wonderful and never ceases to amaze me. 

AmeriCymru:  What can you tell us about the range of Jewellery available from Black Dragon? How is the jewellery produced?

Annie:  In case you haven’t noticed already, I love my beads and I thread them in as many different ways as I can. I also love my gemstones, so we have developed different jewellery ranges which showcase the various styles of beads and stones. And each stone has its power or story, all carefully researched and printed on the packaging. There are massive 12mm gembeads in the Big Beady jewellery interspersed with our Globe and Bauble beads. Boxed Beady jewellery is made in many different bead configurations but mostly uses 6mm gembeads. Cwtch heart jewellery and Seren star jewellery both use mainly 6mm gemstones and you’ll find little hearts or stars dangling throughout. The agate jewellery is full of beautiful 8mm agate stones, in all of the colours you can think of. They are challenging to pair on earrings because they are all so very different but stringing the bracelets is quite therapeutic! And on it goes – with the Beady , Cyfrin , carded Beady and Dragon jewelley . Then there are little TWT bracelets    for the wee ones and even a Boy-o range   for the boys (large and small!)  As you can imagine – there are lots of components for each range, so we use our tried and trusted “templates” to make sure that the bracelets turn out the right length and the necklaces are symmetrical! 

AmeriCymru:  You also offer 'Crystalight' and 'Celtic Chakra' products for sale on your site. What can you tell us about these? 

Annie:   We’ve been making Crystalights for many years – we stopped (for a decade!) when I realized that there was a spelling mistake on the packaging!  Repackaged now, they make a perfect gift. “A cut crystal glass drop, genuine gemstones and a pewter Celtic bead...hanging at your window it will capture the sunlight and scatter glorious rainbows” What’s not to like?!

And what can I say about my Celtic Chakra jewelery?   People are searching endlessly for “wellness” and everybody loves a rainbow. Just in case you don’t know about the Chakra – the human body has seven Chakras or energy wheels and each of the genuine gemstones used in this jewelery relates to one of those power centres. Combined with the magic of the ancient Celts and threaded with hematite to give you courage, this jewelery should help to keep you balanced and energized. Try it?

AmeriCymru:  I'm sure that our readers would love to know more about the 'ORIGIN' shop in Carmarthen. Care to share?

Annie:   The Origin shop in Carmarthen is a wonderful place to go for treats and treasures, all hand made in either Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire – the old county of Dyfed. The shop is on King Street, which is in the old part of the town and far away from all of the multiple stores that you can find anywhere in anytown. On our street, most of the shops are independent and interesting – there’s an antique centre, three other galleries, a couple of nice eateries, a delicatessen, a couple of lovely gift shops, craft supplies, a smattering of charity shops plus vintage, interiors and clothing. Origin was the first Community Crafts Co-operative in Wales and was established back in in 1990, at a massive public meeting. It exists to promote local arts and crafts, to raise the standards of craftsmanship and to increase sales opportunities for local artists and makers. For my sins, I am a founder member and have been an active Director since the beginning. We all take it in turns to steward in the shop and we “muck in” to redecorate and move the displays around. We have three shop windows, changed every month, to give all co-op members their chance to shine. We have ceramics, fine art, glass, jewellery, metal, photography, sculpture, textiles, wood, slate and marbling – on two floors and all gorgeous. 

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AmeriCymru:  What's next for Annie Wealleans? Any new products or product ranges in the works?

Annie:   I’m 68 now and I ought to be thinking about retiring...but I’m not sure that I ever will. I love my work and I am very proud of my beads. I’m just an ordinary person but I have created something extraordinary – put ‘celticbeads’ into Google and there I am, top of the page. I had my first webpage in 1996 and have recently had a whole new website. You can register as a trade customer and buy for your shop, or you can buy for yourself. You can pick your preferred currency and have your own account, there’s plenty to look at and you can always ask if you can’t quite find what you want.  And my beads are gorgeous – each one with its own peculiarities and flaws but that’s what makes them special. I’m always dreaming up new shapes and designs but each one takes an age and costs a fortune, so I can’t be constantly launching new ones.  I’m currently wondering about more little pendants and maybe even some torc bracelets but that’s a whole new departure. The casting equipment in my Beadoir is all getting rather old and tired (most of it came over from Poland before the war, literally! It was used in London to create buttons and trims before I had it...but that’s a story for another day). I’m currently thinking about replacing it with something a bit more 21st century and taking on an apprentice. It would be a giant leap but this black dragon has still got plenty of fire left to breathe... and I may (brain permitting) start to learn Welsh soon. It’s kind of late, now that I’ve been living here for nearly 45 years ... but better late than never!

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

Annie:   Hey, it has been lovely talking to you! It has been a bit one-sided but still lovely. Wales joins us all and as you know, I am not born welsh but I’m certainly “honorary welsh”. It’s in my heart and I couldn’t live anywhere else now. If you haven’t been here yet then you really need to come.  My parents had their honeymoon in Tenby, just a few miles from my workshop, back in 1947, They bought my sister and I back here for many family holidays – usually camping in a leaking tent but always happy. I wish they were all still here to see the way it all turned out - me happy with my beads and still loving life on the side of this Welsh hill with my dragons.  I am,very lucky. 

Geoff Charles: Wales & The Borders

By Ceri Shaw, 2019-11-13

wales_and_the_borders.jpg A new book chronicling the life and work of celebrated Welsh photojournalist Geoff Charles (1909-2002), who captured a unique record of twentieth-century life in Wales and the Borders with his extraordinary photography. It includes 120 photographs and a biography written by a journalist colleague who knew him well. These stunning black-and-white images include the Gresford mining disaster of 1934, the effect of the Second World War on rural Montgomeryshire and the controversial flooding of the Tryweryn valley to provide water for Liverpool. They record profound social changes in rural and industrial communities, epitomising the words of famous French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

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AmeriCymru: Hi Meilir and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Care to introduce your forthcoming single 'It Begins' for our readers?

Meilir: My new single is out now and is called ‘It Begins’. It will be the opening track (if nothing changes) to my debut album ‘In Tune’ that will be released in March 2020. I have been busy recording the songs with producer Charlie Francis (R.E.M., The High Llamas, Sweet Baboo) in Cardiff. I am very excited about putting out this new music as I think, and from the reaction I’m getting, this album including the first single ‘It Begins’ is some of my best work to date. ’It Begins’ is about starting again, a new beginning, hopefully implementing the things that I've learned in life and moving forwards.

AmeriCymru: In the past you have released a series of E.P's but no album. 'IN TUNE' is due for release in March next year. What can we expect from Meilir Tomos' first album and why has it taken so long?

Meilir: I’ve wanted to make an album since I was in my late teens, one that would change the world. That was the plan. I think that sort of pressure on myself is one of the reasons it’s taken so long to get to this stage. I still have high standards but I’m a little more mature now and realise there are things in this world more important than music, sometimes. I’m more focused now on creating good art not so much changing the world. My original plan for my music release wise was to put out three E.P’s, that kind of happened and now over the past year I’ve been focused on putting this album together. I received funding from the PRS Foundation and that kick-started the project and made it a reality. Without their help there probably wouldn't be an album. Musically I’ve developed as a songwriter, there is more depth to the songs I feel. Delivering a performance in the studio is something I have improved on, nothing on the record is overdone, you know taken from take 48 or something or even take 4, the actual recording process has been quite fast with intervals of weeks in-between the recording sessions. I think that’s a good thing. I’m very happy with how the record sounds and I can’t wait to share it with the world next year. My records are very personal, This album is no different. One of the reasons they take so long for me to complete I think. There are themes on ‘IN TUNE’ that carry from my first two records; I suppose it's like a sound track to my life in a way. Some of the parts that made up the demos for this record are at least eight years old; it's been good to take a little longer over the process but it will be nice to finally complete them and let them go.

AmeriCymru: It's been a while since we last spoke and I wanted to take the opportunity to ask you about your stunning 'Arabella' E.P.  I find myself continually returning to the 'Spero' track but I have to ask ... is this a message of hope or is there a note of cynicism in that chorus?

Meilir: There is a message of hope to that song. I have had a tendency to over think things in the past and maybe worry about the outcome of things. My focus in the past could be on the few things that I didn’t like about my life. Probably not in a healthy way, when in truth, there was a lot of good things going on. ‘Spero' is about being in a place that may not be comfortable but realising that this will pass and that there is a lot to be thankful for, especially in tough times.

AmeriCymru: You are a classically trained pianist and vocalist. It has been said that you 'grew frustrated with the classical world’s artistic limitations'. What caused this frustration and what determined your present creative direction?

Meilir: I suppose this was about my determination and desire to create music rather than just to perform music. I was singing in competitions and concerts from a young age and I enjoyed it but at a certain time I really wanted to create my own music. Music that was different to what I had been doing all my life and performing how I was coached, sticking to the composers wishes was not what i wanted to do anymore. I wanted to be the composer!

AmeriCymru: You toured recently with the Joy Formidable on their European tour. Care to tell us a little about that experience?

Meilir: It was amazing. The Joy Formidable were so nice to tour with, they are lovely people. The experience really was invaluable. I had the best time ever, and I grew as a musician and a live performer on that tour. Traveling around sharing my music live, performing every night. It’s what I want to do! I learned a lot on that tour and I have changed a few things up about my live show and my set up from seeing how The Joy Formidable did things. It’s made my live show a lot smoother and better. I can’t wait to be back out on the road performing this new material live.

AmeriCymru: Where can people go to hear and buy your music online?

Meilir: ‘It Begins’ is streaming everywhere now!!! So people should be able to find it on their favourite streaming platform! You can buy the single directly from meilir.bandcamp.com here the single also has the song Glasshouse New Moons X version from the compilation for Killing Moon Records. You can also buy from all online stores such as iTunes. The pre-order for the album will be up soon on my bandcamp page.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Meilir Tomos? Any new recordings planned? Tours?

Meilir: I have started thinking about whats next, a possible EP that’s just for Piano & Voice is in the works, something a bit more stripped down than this album. I’m also starting a new electronic project with a friend. But I’m focused on this record for now and trying to make sure people get to hear it after all the hard work I’ve put in!!! There will be a tour to promote the album in the UK and I’m possibly  Ireland. So covering Wales, Scotland, Ireland & England.  With a few special shows planed in some out of the ordinary locations. It’s secret for now but will be announced in the new year!

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

Meilir: Yes, thanks for paying attention to what I do, please tell your friends about me and what I do and share my music wide if you like it!!! There is a video coming soon to Youtube it would be nice to get some follows on my channel, that’s something Im trying to build up with some more videos to come soon. Thanks for having me on for an interview… Bydd Wych X

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karl jenkins concert.jpg

"Sir Karl Jenkins is the most performed living composer in the world."

We are extremely pleased and proud to announce that Distinguished Concerts International have made available a pair of tickets for the forthcoming Karl Jenkins concert in New York at the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall on Monday, January 20th, 2020. The program includes The Armed Man with film as well as the North American Premiere of Jenkins’ latest work, Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption.  Read our (2010) interview with Karl Jenkins here

We are offering these tickets as a QUIZ PRIZE on Americymru!

Just answer the three easy quiz questions below ( answers can all be found on Wikipedia ) and send them to us at americymru@gmail.com ( all email addresses will be deleted when the competition closes ). We'll throw all the entries in a hat and pick the winner! Please email us by Monday, January 14th, 2020 no later than 9 PM ( Pacific Time ). Tickets will be ready at will call on 1/20 at the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall; the winner will just need to bring a photo ID.

Only one entry per email address is permitted. Duplicates will be disqualified. You do not need to be an AmeriCymru member or logged into the site in order to enter this competition.

If you don't win the competition, please do not despair. DCINY is very kindly offering a 30% discount code for AmeriCymru readers. The code is DCG32703 and it can be used online, over the phone, or in person at Carnegie Hall

Karl Jenkins Quiz

  1. Which school did Karl Jenkins attend??

  2. In 1972 Karl Jenkins joined the Canterbury progressive rock band .... ....... ?

  3. In which year was Karl Jenkins born?

The Music of Sir Karl Jenkins

Monday, January 20, 2020 at 7:00 PM - Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall 

DCINY presents the 20th Anniversary of 'The Armed Man, A Mass For Peace' by Sir Karl Jenkins. Maestro Jonathan Griffith leads the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International in The Armed Man with film as well as the North American Premiere of Jenkins’ latest work, Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption. 


Jonathan Griffith, DCINY Artistic Director and Principal Conductor 
Sir Karl Jenkins, CBE, DCINY Composer-in-Residence 
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International 


Jenkins: The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace  
Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the work. 
Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption

Ticket Link 

North American Premiere Tickets $20-$100! On Sale Now!  Visit CarnegieHall.org or call 212-247-7800 Box Office: 57th Street and Seventh Avenue



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The Music of Sir Karl Jenkins

Monday, January 20, 2020 at 7:00 PM - Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall

DCINY presents the 20th Anniversary of 'The Armed Man, A Mass For Peace' by Sir Karl Jenkins. Maestro Jonathan Griffith leads the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International in The Armed Man with film as well as the North American Premiere of Jenkins’ latest work, Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption.


Jonathan Griffith, DCINY Artistic Director and Principal Conductor
Sir Karl Jenkins, CBE, DCINY Composer-in-Residence
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International


Jenkins: The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace 
Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the work.
Miserere: Songs of Mercy and Redemption

Ticket Link

North American Premiere Tickets $20-$100! On Sale Now!  Visit CarnegieHall.org or call 212-247-7800 Box Office: 57th Street and Seventh Avenue



Posted in: Music | 0 comments

So You Think You Know Modern Poetry?

By Ceri Shaw, 2019-11-02

frontcover_800 1.jpg Welsh writer Dave Lewis has just released Scratching The Surface , his twentieth book, a kick-ass poetry collection that leaps off the page and thumps you in the chest. From Celtic mythology, to the African bush and 'The Matrix', through the lives of Ho Chi Minh, Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker, an abused porn star, a transgender cousin, to ex-lovers and close family this collection ebbs and flows as mesmerically as a river on its journey to the sea.

"The poems are sharp, clear, and confident. He has a clarity only a real poet possesses." - Brian Patten

"Dave Lewis’s latest collection ‘Scratching The Surface’ is an engaging and diverse range of poems. It begins with the long, often rhythmic ‘Rivers’, which gifts the lines with a sort of onomatopoeic authority. It’s almost a metaphor for what follows, a series of well-crafted poems driven by theme and form. There are start of line rhymes (You and I), prose verse (A Dream of Gawain), end of line rhyme (Christmas Dad) and every combination between. The subjects are varied, but this confident poet succeeds in melding them into a coherent and rewarding collection." - David J Costello

Dave Lewis is an award-winning writer, poet and photographer who runs the International Welsh Poetry Competition, the Writers of Wales database and publishing company Publish & Print.

To buy his latest work just visit his website – www.david-lewis.co.uk or go to Dave’s Amazon page here - https://amzn.to/2pnTkmd

Posted in: Poetry | 0 comments

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AmeriCymru: Care to introduce your new book - Dafydd ap Gwilym's Wales - Poems and Places for our readers?

John: Cymru Dafydd ap Gwilym / Dafydd ap Gwilym’s Wales is a collection of 35 poems by one of the greatest Welsh poets. The original Welsh texts are presented with facing translations in English, along with a bilingual introduction, with notes to explain unfamiliar names and words, a short essay on Dafydd’s life and poetry, and an even shorter introduction to the complex ‘strict metres’ in which Dafydd composed his poems. A unique feature of this book are the 70 photos by Anthony Griffiths showing places that Dafydd mentions in the poems. If you do not live in Wales or can not travel over much of the countryside – as Dafydd himself did – these photos give a wonderful visual sense of the land in which he lived.

AmeriCymru: Dafydd ap Gwilym is "regarded as being one of the leading Welsh poets and amongst the great poets of Europe in the Middle Ages." How would you describe his importance in the context of Welsh and medieval European literature?

John: The ancient Welsh tradition of court poetry under royal patronage was, in effect, eliminated after the deaths of the last ruling Welsh princes, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and his brother Dafydd, in 1282 and 1283 during their disastrous wars against the English king, Edward I. The royal and noble patrons of the court poets were killed in battle, executed, or, at best, deprived of their lands and wealth, while their wives and daughters were exiled to nunneries in distant parts of England. After a dark period of grief, the poets turned for support to the less prominent Welsh families who had become the intermediary officials who simultaneously administered the newly imposed English laws while they did their best to protect the Welsh people from the worst extremes of oppression. Thus, the practice of praise poetry continued, but on a reduced scale.

Dafydd ap Gwilym was born sometime in the early fourteenth century, and he himself tells us that he learned much about poetry from his uncle, Llywelyn ap Gwilym ap Rhys, constable and bailiff of the castle at Newcastle Emlyn. As poetry reasserted itself, albeit with shifting functions and purposes, Dafydd and a few other young poets began to turn towards new themes. Dafydd soon took the lead, especially as a love poet. Love poetry had been rare in Welsh tradition, though it was growing popular in the courts of France and England. Dafydd took love as his theme and adopted it to Welsh metres, creating a style that is unlike French and English courtly poetry. He and his fellow poets molded the cywydd to their new voices, embedding it in the complex set of rules known as cynghanedd (literally, ‘a singing together; harmony’). They did not invent cynghanedd, but they refined it, codified it, and made it an inextricable part of their verse -- poetry in which sound is as important as sense.

Dafydd was a master of the traditional forms of praise and religious poetry, as attested by 25 or so surviving poems. But he took the cywydd to new heights with about 120 poems that, for the most part, explore the joys and sorrows, frustration, pain, and hope of love. He casts himself in the role of the lover, especially one who is, more often than not, rejected by the object of his love, or who is prevented from reaching her because of such impediments as the weather, geography, furniture in the dark, outright rejection, or even the fact that she is married. Through this essentially comic persona, however, Dafydd expresses and celebrates the various aspects of love and the complexities of personal relationships. At the same time, with his detailed, charming and perceptive observations on the birds, animals, trees, rivers, hills and valleys of Wales, he reveals an intimate engagament with and love for the world around him. And he is equally perceptive about human feelings and foibles, often expressed with a sardonic wit at his own expense. Dafydd’s verse may not have been known very far beyond the borders of Wales, but his substantial body of innovative poetry shows him to be the equal of his more widely recognized contemporaries: in France, Guillaume de Lorris (whose famous Romance of the Rose he may have known); in Italy, Boccaccio and Petrarch; and in England, the somewhat younger Geoffrey Chaucer.


Otter [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

AmeriCymru: Dafydd has been rated as an innovative poet particularly for his use of the 'cywydd'. In what sense/s do you regard Dafydd's work as ground breaking?

John: As a more general addendum to my comments above, I would say that not only was Dafydd an important voice in revitalizing Welsh poetry after a period of severe cultural stress, he was a central figure in the expansion of the popularity of the cywydd, not only for love poetry, but for other purposes, as well. His cywydd to his patron, Ifor Hael, thanking him for a pair of gloves is the earliest-known Welsh poem of thanks, a practice that spread rapidly over the next two centuries. And Dafydd and his friends composed elegies to each other (even before they died!), demonstrating that the cywydd was also suitable for expressions of grief and mourning.

Dafydd’s superiority was recognized by other poets in his own time. Gruffudd Gryg says, “I am his disciple, he taught me,” and calls him “the hawk of chief poets.” Madog Benfras calls him “the peacock of poetry,” “the nightingale of Dyfed,” and “a good teacher of poets, more exceptional / than anyone who ever lived.”

AmeriCymru: Do you think that Dafydd's poetry is sufficiently read, understood and appreciated in Wales today?

John: Unfortunately, poetry in general seems not to be as widely read as it used to be, even in Wales, where not long ago teenagers decorated their rooms with posters of middle-aged men and women, their contemporary poet-heroes. Nevertheless, it is notable that Dafydd ap Gwilym is still recognized in Wales, at least by name, after 650 years! A small handful of his comic poems, such as Merched Llabadarn “The Girls of Llanbadarn” and Trafferth mewn Tafarn “Trouble at an Inn” are fairly well known, but he is not what you might call widely read these days. To be fair, his poetry is not easy to read – though I hasten to add that it amply repays the effort. And even reading his verse in translation can be enlightening as well as entertaining.

Personally, I think it is no less important for an educated Welsh person (Welsh speaker or not) to know the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym than it is for English speakers to be familiar to some extent with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, or Donne. 

AmeriCymru: You are an expert in medieval Welsh. Care to tell us a little about the ways the language has changed/evolved since that period?

John: With a bit of study and practice, a dedicated, fluent Welsh speaker can read the Middle Welsh prose of The Mabinogi and other early tales. There are, of course, many words that are no longer in use, so editor’s notes and a good dictionary may be necessary. The experience, I like to think, is not unlike an English speaker today learning to read Chaucer. Early Welsh poetry is more difficult for a number of technical reasons, but such is the nature of poetry. To outline changes in the Welsh language over the centuries would take more time and space than is available here, so I will limit myself to some very general thoughts. 

Every language is always changing, and Welsh is no exception. There are many today who lament theadoption, albeit inevitable,  of English words into Welsh conversation and writing, but Welsh persists even though English has been slipping into the language since the 9th century, if not earlier; e.g., punt “pound” (9c.), cusan “kiss” (13c.),  sur “sour” (13c.), hosan “stocking, hose” (13c.), cist “chest” (13c.).  Dafydd ap Gwilym himself often included English and French words in his poetry. Here are a few words of English origin that first appear in Dafydd’s poetry:  apêl “(a legal) appeal”, baban “baby”, bostio “to boast”, cloc “clock”, cobler “cobbler”, dwbl “double”, gown “gown”, het “hat”, lwc “luck”, paement “pavement”, proses “process”, sadler “saddler”, siampl “sample, example”. 

However, much greater social and cultural changes have affected the Welsh language during the past 150 years than in the five preceding centuries. In the mid-to-late 19th century most of Wales was monoglot Welsh speaking, much as it was in Dafydd’s day. But English government policy and the institution of compulsory education in English reduced the proportion of Welsh speakers overall to less than 25% during the course of the 20th century. The protests and activism of the 1950s and ’60s eventually achieved official governmental recognition for the language. Mudiad Meithrin, the Nursery (Schools) Movement begun in the 1970s was the inspiration for the establishment of Welsh medium schools throughout Wales, and today the study of Welsh is required in many schools. Nevertheless, the percentage of Welsh speakers continues to fluctuate around 19-22%, and the language remains in crisis. Official use of the language and the ability to receive an education through the medium of Welsh should at least slow down the decline, and with luck, determination, and effort it could even be reversed. The pressures from a powerful dominant culture, however, are great, so it is hard to avoid the feeling that the future of the language is precarious at best.

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AmeriCymru: In your 'Legends & Landscapes of Wales' series you have produced new translations of the most important Welsh legends and 'foundation texts' ( 'Tales of Arthur' , 'The Mabinogi' , 'Companion Tales to the Mabinogi'). What can you tell us about this series and where can readers buy the books online?

John: The three volumes that you mention (published by Gomer Press), contain translations of all eleven tales included under the mistaken title “Mabinogion” (a term I generally do not use). The first volume contains the Four Branches of The Mabinogi, the jewel in the crown of early Welsh literature, a work that everyone who comes from or feels an attachment to Wales should read. Companion Tales to The Mabinogi presents four wonderfully eccentric tales, especially “How Culhwch Got Olwen,” the earliest Arthurian tale and perhaps the most exuberant story you will ever come across, along with “The Dream of Maxen Wledig,” “The Story of Lludd and Llefelys,” and “The Dream of Rhonabwy.” Tales of Arthur gives you three tales of heroes who became important figures in the international tales of Arthur and his knights: Peredur, Owain, and Geraint. Each of these books is illustrated with about 60 photographs by Anthony Griffiths. 

A strong impetus for studying these tales for many years, and especially for presenting them anew to English readers, has been my belief that they are all serious, sophisticated works of literature that deal with timeless themes of considerable importance. Far from being stories for children, The Mabinogi, for instance, draws on its mythological underpinnings to examine unflinchingly the complexities of right and wrong, of friendship, marriage, war, and the treatment (and mistreatment) of women.

These books, plus our fourth volume, Englynion y Beddau / The Stanzas of the Graves, are available on the usual websites (though sometimes at highly inflated prices). I recommend that you order them from your local independent bookstore – or, especially if you would like a signed copy, directly from me at https://sites.google.com/site/themabinogi/contactinformation

AmeriCymru: What's next for John K. Bollard? Any new titles in the works?

John: There is no lack of projects on the front, middle, and back burners in my study, several of them in the realm of medieval Welsh prose and poetry. Whether there is to be a sixth collaboration between Bollard and Griffiths… well, we’ll see. 

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

John: Just a brief reminder from Dafydd ap Gwilym:

Cerdd a bair yn llawenach
Hen ac ieuanc, claf ac iach.

“Poetry makes happier
both old and young, sick and hale.”

More on Daffydd Ap Gwilym  Wikipedia (Cymraeg)   Wikipedia (Saesneg)

Acclaimed experimental music-maker Meilir has today announced the release of his remarkable new single. “It Begins” is available from the 8th of November 2019 via Gwdihŵ Records at all DSPs and streaming services. Produced by Charlie Francis (R.E.M,The High Llamas, Sweet Baboo) at his Loft Studio in Cardiff, “It Begins” heralds Meilir’s eagerly anticipated debut album, 'IN TUNE', due at long last in March 2020.

“’It Begins’ is about starting again,” says Meilir, “a new beginning implementing the things that I've learned in life and moving forwards. My records are very personal, one of the reasons they take so long for me to complete I think. There are themes on 'IN TUNE' that carry from my first two records; I suppose it's like a sound track to my life in a way. Some of the parts that made up the demos for this record are at least eight years old; it's been good to take a little longer over the process but it will be nice to finally complete them.”

Meilir – who earlier this year supported The Joy Formidable on their sold out European tour – is marking “It Begins” with a series of upcoming U.K. live dates, including Wrexham’s Un Deg Un Art Space (November 1st), Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net Live at Liverpool’s Handyman Pub (November 2nd), Cardiff’s The Moon (November 3 rd), and Chester’s Telford's Warehouse (November 15th). Additional dates will be announced.

Meilir Tomos is one of contemporary music’s most audacious new artists, melding expert songcraft with a fearless lyrical approach and wildly eclectic sonic sensibility. Born and raised in Flintshire, North Wales, he first made waves in his youth as a classically trained pianist and vocalist. Despite his early success, Meilir grew frustrated with the classical world’s artistic limitations, yearning instead to create something altogether his own. He co-founded cult Cardiff combo Manchuko, making their live debut with a nationally broadcast appearance on the Welsh-language free-to-air television channel, S4C.

Still, Meilir continued to feel creatively constrained and in 2009 began crafting his own unique music, creating innovative soundscapes with an idiosyncratic blend  of piano, electric guitar, voice and assorted synthesizers with such unlikely instrumentation as a thumb piano, an antique typewriter, wine glasses, even a tray full of gravel. A series of critically acclaimed singles and EPs followed, including 2009’s BYDD WYCH, 2012’s CELLAR SONGS, and the 2014 single, “Arabella,” all available now via Meilir’s Bandcamp HERE. “It Begins” follows the  2018 single, “Glasshouse,” featured on Killing Moon Records’ influential NEW MOONS VOL. X compilation, available for streaming and download HERE.



01.11 Wrecsam / Wrexham - Un Deg Un Art Space

02.11 Lerpwl / Liverpool - Handymans BBC 6 Music 'Fresh On The Net' Live

03.11 Caerdydd / Cardiff - The Moon Club

15.11 Caer / Chester - Telford's Warehouse







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