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Friday, July 7, 2023

Eisteddfod recreates Dylan Thomas broadcast of 70 years ago

* Actor Celyn Jones reads Dylan Thomas's reflections on the 1953 Llangollen Eisteddfod.

* The audience around the Dome stage. 

* Dylan Thomas makes a broadcast for the BBC.

A famous radio broadcast by legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas about Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has been recreated to mark its 70th anniversary.

The reading this afternoon (Friday) by actor, writer and director Celyn Jones formed the centrepiece of a mini-programme of events to celebrate the literary magician’s 15-minute masterpiece on the BBC’s Home Service about his visit to Llangollen in 1953.

The vivid verbal images conjured from the Dome stage form an enchanting and unforgettable picture of the unique event and were delivered in his deep, resonant voice.

Back in 1953 year the late Queen Elizabeth II also attended the Eisteddfod shortly after her Coronation.

The festival had been established six years earlier under the dark shadow cast by the Second World War as a way of promoting peace through musical harmony and dance.

According to the Eisteddfod’s executive producer Camilla King, they were particularly keen to celebrate the anniversary of Thomas’s memorable broadcast.

She said: “Although sadly Dylan Thomas died in New York a few months after his visit to Llangollen, his priceless legacy will live on because he is rightly regarded as one of the literary greats.

“We felt it was particularly appropriate to remember not only his brilliant broadcast but also the wider canon of his work which turned him into a superstar poet.”

The commemorative activities included a presentation by Prof Chris Adams, vice chair of the Eisteddfod and a member of its Archive Committee, who revealed the poet was paid the princely sum of 20 guineas for his endeavours.

Prof Adams said that Swansea-born Thomas had “generated verbal images of the early Eisteddfod whose power resonates to this day”.

It was all the more remarkable, he said, because locals recall he had spent a lot of his time in Llangollen in the pub, with the Wynnstay Hotel (now The Three Eagles) being a favourite watering hole.

That was borne out by the late Aneirin Talfan Davies, the BBC producer who was despatched to Llangollen to keep an eye on Thomas, who accompanied by his wife, Aeronwy and their daughter, Caitlin.

Talfan Davies, who was himself a talented poet, later told how Thomas had spent the week “wandering aimlessly through the streets of Llangollen, with the odd half hour spent in the eisteddfod tent and many hours in the  bars of the town’s pubs.”

He also described the poet’s way of working which involved “writing notes on cigarette packets, and the panic on the way back to Cardiff when Thomas feared he had lost the material”.

Thankfully, the notes came to light in the nick of time and the finished, finessed piece has been described as a classic example of his genius with words.

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