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THEATRE by Ffion Jones
Chaperoned like lame sheep

The Gathering/Yr Helfa was a promenade performance commissioned by National Theatre Wales (NTW). Having spent three years observing farm life at Hafod Y Llan farm, an Upland Hill farm at the foothills of Snowdon near the town of Beddgelert, Louise Anne Wilson’s production The Gathering/Yr Helfa takes some of the key aspects of Upland Sheep farming as thematic and aesthetic material for her site-specific promenade production.

I had forgotten how different the geology of north Wales is to the landscape of my home in central Wales. The drive through Beddgelert and towards the Nantgwynant Valley to where we began our promenade, was littered with spat out mounds of rock; a landscape carved out by glacial activity beyond the scope of my imagination. In fact, this landscape is epic, oppressive and at the same time, invigorating. To conceive and produce a site-specific promenade performance in such a landscape was ambitious to say the least...


LIBRARIES by Owen Donovan
Fighting back against closures

When was the last time you, or someone you know, used a public library? Odds are – if the figures are correct – it was quite recently. According to a recent National Assembly committee inquiry into public libraries, over the last decade library visits in Wales have risen by 11%, standing in comparison to a 5.3% decline in England. Now, that’s an unremarkable statistic in itself. However, when you consider the impact austerity is having on both local authority and Welsh Government budgets this level of engagement with libraries is quite an achievement. It underlines just how valued and important libraries are to communities across Wales. They’re so valued that, in some communities, the prospect of losing their local library as a result of cuts has prompted strong protest. Local authorities are obliged to provide public library services via the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1963. However, despite this responsibility, library funding isn’t ring-fenced...

MUSIC by Dai Griffiths
Reviewed: the latest by Manic Street Preachers, Gruff Rhys, Gwyllt and Bür Hoff Bau.

Listening seriously to the Manic Street Preachers after years of background listening at most, one is impressed by the conceptual ambition and range, the attention to visual presentation (ah, those name-dropped, modern-classic quotations: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Mayakovsky, Marinetti), the Welsh internationalism (‘Europe’ in this case, with the album recorded in Wales and Germany – how Planet can you get?) and, best of all, the lively musical sound-world unerringly identified for each song (think ‘Kevin Carter’). This is achieved by the now-familiar, closed-shop division between Wire’s words, and music created by Bradfield and Moore, but realised on record by a packed dugout of arrangers, producers, engineers, instrumentalists and, increasingly and prominently so, additional solo vocalists. The bad news starts with Wire’s lyrics, in their broad reluctance to recognise rhyme as song’s standard meeting-point for words and musical cadence, creating instead a series of prose statements. The words also hardly develop within the song/poem, beyond an occasional sense of verse and chorus: a second verse is a further set of prose statements. Enter Bradfield and Moore, whose music imposes shape upon the lyrics, famously allowing jagged edges in the word-music relationship, with some excruciating examples to be found on this album (for example, ‘repeated ima-ges of ene-mies and friends’ in ‘Between the Clock and the Bed’).

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