Dylan Day - a celebration of the work of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas - is a great idea for a number of reasons. Firstly it's always a good idea to celebrate art and literature. In a world full of Trump, May, Brexit, Syria and conflict, it's a very good idea to remind ourselves of the real reason we are all really here. For the sweet, satisfied moments of family, friendship, kindness, vision and imagination. I can’t remember who said a civilised society is only measured by the success of its arts, but as someone from a very working class, impoverished background, I can absolutely attest how the arts in its most general form can be life changing. A bloke or woman with a pen can literally change lives for the better.
But it's also good that those behind Dylan Day - and I feel involved even though it wasn't my idea - are doing it for all the right reasons. A while ago, having written The London Literary Pub Crawl script, I produced ‘Under Milk Wood’ on the 60th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ death in the very pub where he met his wife. And it was a joy, as a result of this production, to later meet Dylan’s Son-in-Law and his Granddaughter, Hannah. And a joy when the beautiful Welsh Cultural VIP Cerys Matthews, an OBE, no less - turned up to buy a ticket and loved the show. Even though Cerys and her family had to sit on stools behind the bar as all the seats had sold out.
And there's the rub. I created an acclaimed version of Dylan's ‘Play For Voices’ that attracted Welsh Cultural Royalty and had people moved to tears in our tiny pub non-theatre space. But the first time I saw it was a school production my younger sister was in and I didn't understand a single word! It was the same the first time I came across Shakespeare.
And that’s the real reason these festivals are important. Their potential to reach out to people who might not engage with the arts or feel that it’s for them. Like me. And most of the people I grew up with on our council estate housing project. It is. It really is. If you find Dylan Thomas’ poetry a bit dense, then let me tell you, because I now know - you are not alone. But the lovely thing about a festival is that it should, if properly promoted, allow non believers to take a punt. If you find Dylan difficult, forget the poetry and look at what else he wrote. His prose - some of his short stories - are hilarious! Give it a go! I’ll find some links to his collected stories and put them on the London Literary Pub Crawl website. And listen to some of our Dylan podcast radio shows on the site.
The more I learn about Dylan the more convinced I am that he was a genius. As we know, a lot of famous writers were from very privileged backgrounds. And Dylan’s Dad was no slouch. But the big D was completely focused on being a writer. He wanted it. Arguably, he needed it. But he did it largely himself, though hard work and determination and never went to university.
It’s interesting, that any artist who didn't attend the great Oxbridge universities seems always to be snubbed early on in their careers. Including Shakespeare, although he was a bit earlier, of course. And that’s the great thing about celebrations like Dylan Day. Our pub crawl is designed to look at Dylan Thomas the man in London, and his contemporaries.
So forget the privilege and forget the University. Find the man and you will find the genius. That's my idea anyway. Especially because I want you to buy a ticket!
Posted by Nick Hennegan. Posted In : Nick Hennegan