Ceri Shaw



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Paul Steffan Jones has been a regular and much valued contributor to this site for many years. Recently he has posted a series of poems which address the covid crisis and his reaction to it. AmeriCymru spoke to Paul about his recent work and how Wales is faring in the ongoing pandemic. The individual poems discussed below are linked from the interview but if you want to browse more of Paul's work please go here:- Paul Steffan Jones Author Page.


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AmeriCymru: Hi Paul and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. Many of your recent poems have been focused on the current Covid pandemic. Do you think that the British government has handled this crisis well?

Paul: My opinion is that the UK Government has made many mistakes in dealing with this crisis which ultimately have added to the casualty list.  We were slow to enter lockdown, there have been major issues in the supply of Personal Protective Equipment to health and care workers, we were lethargic in setting up testing and the Government did not immediately protect elderly residents and staff in care homes.  In short, virtually everything that could have gone wrong has. There has been a lack of honesty and transparency from the Cabinet. About the only positive response was the Job Retention Scheme where the Government effectively became the employer of millions of workers.  In my view their general incompetence and laziness has allowed many thousands to die.  A selection of people from the hamlet in which I live could have done better....

AmeriCymru: Has Wales fared any better (or differently) to the rest of the British Isles?

Paul: Wales seems to be adopting a more cautious attitude towards the relaxation of lockdown rules leading to a feeling that its Government is being more protective of its citizens than its English counterpart which appears to be more economy-led.

AmeriCymru:  In your work, The Platitude Attitude we find the following line: 'Ground Control to Captain Tom' repeated twice at the end of the poem. Care to explain the Captain Tom reference for an American audience?

Paul: Captain Tom is Captain Tom Moore.  100 years old, a World War Two veteran of Burma and India who raised over £32 million for the National Health Service by doing a 100 lap walk of his garden.  He is an inspirational figure at a time when our leaders were lacking in this quality.  His selfless act illustrated how revered our NHS is but also the widely held realisation that it has been underfunded by the Government for a decade and therefore not necessarily at the best starting point for a pandemic. 

AmeriCymru:  Is The Platitude Attitude a poem of hope or despair (or both)?

Paul: Both.  We have to move from despair to a better place. We have to remove a Government that thinks that 54,000 dead is a success.  The crisis has illustrated how venal, corrupt and uncaring it is.  But it has also shown that ordinary people have rediscovered a sense of community and worked together to mitigate some of the issues thrown up by the pandemic.  I think that the break up of the United Kingdom is more likely as a result of the crisis and the way in which it has been mismanaged.  The improvement in the environment is a source of hope and one we ought to continue.

AmeriCymru: You seem, in common with a number of his colleagues, to have a low opinion of the current British Prime Minister. What in particular inspired Amen , your equally humorous and vicious adaptation of 'The Lord's Prayer'?

Paul: I don't think the Prime Minister is up to the job.  I believe the current Cabinet is the most untalented since 1938, chosen to push through a no deal exit from the European Union and little else.  Our leader is a stranger to the truth and guilty of protecting the job of his chief adviser when he clearly broke lockdown rules that he helped draw up. I thought the Lord's Prayer was an appropriate vehicle for that poem as it is well known and Boris Johnson has such an inflated opinion of himself that such a satire was irresistible. 

AmeriCymru: What particular event inspired your harrowing poem Remember the Young ?

Paul: This was a fairly early event as the figures were mounting up and panic had set in.  It struck me because it was such a tragedy that a young child had died of a disease that we were told mainly affected older people.  As the crisis worsened, the humanity of the tragedy shone through in individuals' tales. The loneliness of a Covid-19 death must be overwhelming and to lose a child in this manner must have been doubly heartbreaking.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment? Any new publications imminent?

Paul: I am working on new Coronavirus poems but am undecided what to do with them when complete.  I am still working on the Gwaelod project with the artist Chris Rawson-Tetley and we are currently considering putting out a publication of the work. I am also still writing for the George Orwell-inspired project Room 103.

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

Paul: Keep safe and believe in a better world. Thanks for reading my work.

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South Wales’ coal industry is world famous, and north Wales’ slate industry is recognised thanks to the Slate Museum in Llanberis as well as numerous publications celebrating its history. But what about the lost ore industry in mid Wales? Ioan Lord, author of a new bilingual book on the subject,  Worn by Tools and Time: Ore from Mid Wales  (Y Lolfa), hopes to bring attention to the history and the importance of the industry and its workers through his descriptive text and brand-new photographs of the underground world created centuries ago.  

“The fact that such a small number of people – both local and nationally – are aware of the ore industry in mid Wales is one of the main reasons behind the book,” said Ioan Lord. “I hope that this will lead to more sites being safeguarded and protected. So many have been destroyed and landscaped over the years, it is important to try and save the remains that still exist. After all, they are monuments to hundreds of men, women and children who laboured in these places up to 4,000 years ago and continuing to destroy the remains is an affront to their memory and lives.”  

Worn by Tools and Time: Ore from Mid Wales  chronicles briefly the history of the ore industry in mid Wales and its role in Britain’s metal industry. The history of the industry, the people, the society and work conditions are told through photographs as well as archival and modern diagrams. The book contains stunning underground scenes which have not been seen before, with artefacts, tools and original material also recorded.  

“Whilst researching I had the most incredible experience. I read the memoir of one of mid Wales’ last miners, which was recorded on tape in the 1970s. Following this, my friends and I went to try and find his old work site, as he had mentioned the details on the tape. We managed to dig through a large collapse at the entrance to gain access, the first time that anyone had been there for over a century. All the tools were still there; hats, shoes, tobacco pipes, a lunch box, and even their footprints in the mud on the floor. Linking these things with the old miner was thrilling”, said Ioan about his work.  

Ioan believes that the reason that the history has been largely forgotten is due to a combination of it coming to an end more than a century ago (1870s –1910s) and the fact that the population who worked in the industry was relatively small.  

“When the ore sites closed, the majority moved to work in the coal mines in south Wales. But when the coal mines closed, as well as being more recent and as a result the population was a lot larger, there wasn’t any work for the workers to move to. The result was that the ore industry in mid Wales was forgotten. Before the Industrial Revolution the mid Wales ore industry was well-known over Britain. This was one of the first industries to close because of cheap imports from abroad, but because it was surrounded by bigger industries which were still succeeding (coal, slate) it slipped quietly away.”  

This is the first book to include such a wide variety of new underground photographs, which record all the ‘newly discovered’ sites that have not been seen for over a century. Many of the underground photographs in this book were taken after weeks of careful digging and searching, in order to gain access to these time capsules, where tools were left where they were by the people in the previous age, and not a soul has seen the items since they were left.  

Ioan Lord was brought up in Cwm Rheidol, near Aberystwyth, which is located in the middle of an old ore site in mid Wales. His interest developed from a young age, as he explored the area and saw the old ruins of the ore industry. Ioan Lord is now studying for a Doctorate at Cardiff University in the Welsh History and Archaeology Department. He is Director of the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust and the Cambria Mines Trust. He lives in Cwm Rheidol.  

Worn by Tools and Time: Ore from Mid Wales   by Ioan Lord (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Popular illustrator and artist Valériane Leblond has written her first book for children, as well as painting the images that bring the story to life.  The Quilt  (Y Lolfa) is a beautifully illustrated hardback offering a message of hope which is sure to also strike a chord with many adult readers in these difficult days: when things look bleak, remember that happy times will return. 

The story follows a little girl who lives with her parents on a farm near the coast, around the turn of the twentieth century. Times are hard and the family decides to emigrate to America, raising the fare by selling all of their possessions except for a black and red quilt lovingly hand-made by the mother. The little girl feels homesick and sad at times, but the memories of love and home contained in the quilt help her overcome this and adapt to her new life. 

“I’ve been interested in quilts and quilting since I was a teenager, when my mother made me a quilt. Since moving to Wales, I’ve painted and read a lot about the craft of Welsh quilting, which is unique,” said Valériane. Traditionally, Welsh quilts are of a simple patchwork design, with more emphasis on the stiches and thread patterns. “The most interesting fact for me is that these quilts were made when opportunities for women to work and earn were very limited. Also, if you look closely, it’s much more than a craft – it’s an abstract fine art!” 

Praise for  The Quilt :

“[Valériane Leblond’s] first book as author and illustrator is a glorious production which conveys a message of hope... I loved the muted palette and Leblond’s portrayals of Wales, Liverpool and the New World.” Caroline Sanderson,  The Bookseller  

Valériane Leblond is a French author, illustrator and artist. Books illustrated by her were shortlisted or won the prestigious Tir na n-Og children’s book award for five years running from 2015. She now lives in an old farmhouse near Aberystwyth with her sons, several cats and too many chickens.  

Suitable for children between 4 and 8 years old. 

The Quilt  by  Valériane Leblond   (£5.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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...the unknown world is in truth, about us everywhere, everywhere near to our feet, the thinnest veil separates us from it, the door in the wall of the next street communicates with it.

'The London Adventure', Arthur Machen

... I saw a star shining over our valley, a keyholeful of light, telling me I was home.

'The Water Music & Other Stories', Glyn Jones

It is always a pleasure to welcome a major talent to the Welsh literary scene and 'Keyhole', by Matthew G. Rees clearly establishes the author's claim to this title. The 18 stories in this collection are set in various locations in Wales although mainly in Carmarthenshire and the Marches. They all exhibit magical and supernatural qualities and exemplify the author's fascination with the 'liminal' or, 'that territory where the known and the unknown meet and interact.'. In this respect his writing is reminiscent of the work of one of his literary heroes - Arthur Machen. Indeed this collection is published by a small publishing house in Newport, Gwent (Three Impostors) which specialises, amongst other things, in reprints of old Machen classics.

Matthew has worked at various times as a journalist, teacher and night shift cab-driver. He also has a PhD in creative writing from Swansea University and is the author of two  plays. He was raised in Gwent, the Welsh border country, an area rich in myth and legend. He has said that - "It's a place where you constantly find yourself stumbling across strange stories, that aren't always myths,...".

All the stories in this collection have a mythical, spellbinding quality to them. Consider the tale of Rhys the inhabitant of a remote Welsh farm - Yr Hollt. His dedication to his hobby (flower pressing) attracts the attention of some visiting local gypsies or migrant workers. Their presence is never really explained but they do have magical powers which are revealed to Rhys with tragic consequences. One detects the influence of James Frazer here, but with an ironic savage twist.

As one might expect a collection like this is filled with bizarre and eccentric characters. In 'Sand Dancer' we meet Jobey whose obsession with Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall amongst others betrays an almost pathological reverence for the popular music and mores of a bygone era. Whilst metal detecting on a local beach he is granted an opportunity to realise his dreams in a most unexpected fashion.

In 'The Lock' we are treated to a cautionary, almost moral, tale concerning a property developer who revisits his youth by taking a narrow boat excursion on the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. He panics as his surrondings become, by turn, unfamiliar and threatening. In the closing scene nature, 'red in tooth and claw', exacts punishment for his depredations and a primitive justce is served. 

The above short account may give the impression that all Rees's stories lead to a ghastly denouement, and many of them do, but there is also humour and pathos in these pages. In 'Dragon Hounds' two mythical beasts are invoked to resolve a love feud in an old peoples home. The darkly humorous manner in which they render their assistance is one of the many fine passages in this collection.

These superbly crafted and extraordinary tales delight in many ways not the least of which is the vivid description of the Welsh countryside, villages and farm interiors. Coinsider the following . In 'The Press' we read that:- "My parents first brought me here when I was young. As a small boy I was drawn to the heavy black range in the kitchen (that I was forbidden to touch). To me it was a train, inexplicably lodged in the walls of the house, yet of the kind an old man like Rhys would surely catch." Another tale opens with the following evocation of an overcast evening on a Welsh beach:- "Conger eel sky, thick, endless and monger slab-heavy on the shore."

In conclusion this is an exciting debut from a major new talent. These stories never fail to delight and intrigue and we have no hesitation in recommending 'Keyhole' to anyone with a taste for fine writing and exquisite story telling. You will not be disappointed!

The third #SingForWales anthem sing

By Ceri Shaw, 2020-06-07

Introducing Cardiff's very own 'Tiny Trumpeter Steffan Raynor Owen and Sing For Wales event anthem coach Gwenno Dafydd. This will be the third time that the anthem is performed worldwide to thank everyone for the part they have played in Wales during the covid crisis.

Gan gyflwyno 'Trwmpedwr Tidli Twt' unigryw Caerdydd, Steffan Raynor Owen sy'n cyfeilio i anogydd anthem digwyddiad Sing For Wales Gwenno Dafydd. Hwn fydd y trydedd tro i'r anthem gael ei fferfformio led-led y byd i ddiolch i bawb am y rhan mae nhw wedi ei chwarae yng Nghymru yn ystod y cyfnod cofidus.

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Today we are extremely pleased to announce the launch of our first Welsh language email course on AmeriCymru. The course, which will last for 10 weeks, consists of a series of emails with exercises, links to resources etc which will enormously increase your knowledge and mastery of the Welsh language.

Intended for absolute beginners the course aims to provide students with sufficient vocabulary and grammar to understand and participate in very basic Welsh language conversations. There will be follow on courses which will build on this foundation.

The price for this course is only $10.00 and, whilst the course emails will arrive at the rate of one per week, students are free to devise their own schedules and work at their own chosen speed.

If you have been following our Welsh Word of the Day feature on Facebook, Twitter or AmeriCymru you will by now, be familiar with the setup and layout of the Croeseiriau Cymraeg course materials. Whilst Croeseiriau Cymraeg was developed with the auto-didact very much in mind, many of our readers have pointed out that a structured course would also be useful. We agreed, and have for some time been working toward this day.

As the course develops there will be opportunities to incorporate homework assignments and (hopefully) online student meetups. With this in mind we are advising students to join the Grwp Y Gymraeg on AmeriCymru which will act as an informal support group.

The course is ideal for people who have not yet made the commitment to join a full time program of study and would like to develop some vocabulary and basic knowledge of the language before doing so. If this sounds like you then look no further.

Sign up for Croeseiriau Cymraeg Email Course 1 here:-


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Vote For Welsh Artist Nichola Hope!

By Ceri Shaw, 2020-05-23


98380482_275547447155522_1847212270904410112_n 1.jpg A bit about me..

I am an artist of Welsh and Irish Nationality, born in Cardiff and living and working in South Wales and London. In 2006, I became a visiting artist for Welsh National Opera where I developed an interest in using drawing and paint as a medium to depict movement and theatricality. In 2019, I was given access to draw natural history specimens at Museum Wales. My work is inspired by figuration, our relationships with the animal world and human condition. I am a published illustrator and have exhibited widely across the UK and abroad.

I'm delighted that my Tansy Beetle, watercolour has been shortlisted for Wildlife Artist of the Year. My work is one of 159 artworks selected from an incredible 1,200 entries from across the world. All the work is for sale and 50% of the proceeds are donated to help protect precious wildlife. The ‘Facing Extinction’ category celebrates vulnerable species at risk of extinction, capturing their behaviour and importance in striking imagery. They may be gone tomorrow if we do not act today.

My artwork, people can vote for this for the People’s choice award here: https://davidshepherd.org/wildlife-art/artwork/tansy-beetle/

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The exhibition usually runs in Mall Galleries, London but has launched online today due to the pandemic.

My website and social media http://nicholahope.com Instagram @thedrawingeye Twitter @thedrawingeye Facebook @thedrawingeye

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West Wales Hip Hop collective 'Culture Vultures' have teamed up with lead singer of Welsh Music Prize winning Post-Punk band Adwaith. Hollie Singer joins the group on vocals and galvanises the collaboration between both Carmarthen based artists.

Reflection (ft Hollie Singer & Dai Pump$) suceeds in painting a not so obvious stereo typical tourist board image of Wales, with its dark gritty visuals and serious topics that address opiod and social media addiction. Filmed in Cardiff the video could be described as Celtic Noir, a bleak but realistic view of isolation and confusion amongst youth in Wales today.

Reflection is taken from Culture Vultures new album WOTW:One (Way Of The Winger) released through West Wales diy collective Winger Records.

The track does not obviously sit in any genre With Hollie coming from Post punk/indie rock Welsh language band Adwaith and the Vultures having a very eclectic approach to making rap music that encompasses influences far and wide, have a listen to the album to get a better understanding off this  www.wingerreords.com

WOTW: One On Spotify  https://open.spotify.com/album/0IM8sj06QugE8St5VMXpuq

Online Links for Culture Vultures:

Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/3ChysAVEy3O2VavkVgx5n2/about
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SquawkResidents
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/squawktownresidents/
Soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/culture-vultures

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