Wales, the Gregynog Press, Dylan Thomas and Baritones

Literary Tourist in Wales

Before heading off to Wales for a sneak preview of what that principality had in store for literary tourists the following year (2014), I took an inventory of what I knew about the place: Dylan Thomas of course: grew up in Swansea, lived in the coastal village of Laugharne, baritone, had a tempestuous marriage, died in New York, drank a lot. Tom Jones, baritone, drank a lot, tempestuous marriages, hairy chest. Richard Burton, baritone, movie idol, Taming of the Shrew, tempestuous marriages, drank a lot. Hay-on-Wye, leeks, and the Gregynog Press.

The team at Visit Wales did a superb job touring us around, rounding out my limited knowledge of the territory. Part of that rounding involved my interviewing people about Dylan Thomas for The Biblio File podcast. Annie Haden for instance.

She’s a tour guide who specializes in the poet. With over 20 years experience in the tourism sector, she uses an easy to listen to story-telling technique which keeps her charges both awake and informed.

I caught up with her at Morgans hotel in Swansea, Thomas’s home town, to talk about poet and place. Listen here:

I also interviewed George Tremlett an author, bookshop owner, and former politician. After leaving King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon he worked for the Coventry Evening Telegraph from 1957 onward as a TV columnist and pop music reviewer. In the 1960s he became a freelance rock journalist and in the 1970s wrote a series of paperbacks on pop stars, including The David Bowie Story, the first bio of the musician.

He’s also a biographer of Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin. In Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas he argues that the poet was the world’s “first rock star.” In 1997 he published a book with James Nashold, The Death of Dylan Thomas, which claimed that Thomas’s demise was not due to alcohol poisoning but to a mistake by his physician prescribing cortisone, morphine and benzedrine when it wasn’t called for, because Thomas was actually in a diabetic coma.

Tremlett runs the Corran Bookshop in Laugharne, Wales – has since 1982. The shop is located right across the street from Browns,

the pub that Thomas frequented (frequently). In addition to a selection of used books, his shop offers tourist information and it’s where I met George to have this conversation:

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Unfortunately we couldn’t fit Gregynog Hall,

where the press’s books are printed, into our Welsh itinerary. So I decided Continue reading “Wales, the Gregynog Press, Dylan Thomas and Baritones”

Audio: Jo Furber on Dylan Thomas and why you should visit Wales


View from the Dylan Thomas Walk, Laugharne

Literary Tourist in Wales

Yes, the background voices are distracting, but what do you expect, we’re in a Welsh pub for crying out loud! Well, actually we’re upstairs at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea at a bar surrounded by revellers who have just attended a hilarious poetry vs burlesque mashup (featuring an appearance by Queen Victoria

quite an appearance,

there were even balloons)

down the hallway in the Centre’s theatre. So everyone is pretty frisky. The performance kicked off the annual Dylan Thomas Festival.

Dylan Thomas expert Jo Furber is Swansea Council Literature Officer and curator of the Dylan Thomas Exhibition. She also sits on the board of the prestigious New Welsh Review, the country’s foremost literary magazine in English.

Listen as she fields every question I hurl at her, with racing car driver reflexes and dexterity. Here is everything you need to know about Thomas and how and why to visit Wales. If you happen to love his literature and poetry, even if you don’t, you’re sure to get caught up in the enthusiasm (be sure to listen for one of the revelers offering to buy me a drink, about mid-way through the conversation).

For good measure, later on that evening, I also interviewed the then National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke. Things have died down a bit, but they’re still fairly rowdy. Listen here if you’re so inclined, as we talk about what’s unique about Welsh poetry, the oldest living language in Europe, memorability, truth, Lear’s Cordelia, Dylan Thomas’s truth and exaggeration, the Welsh accent, Carol Ann Duffy, and the importance of imagination, creativity and music in education.

Find more information on the Dylan Thomas Centre here, and on visiting Wales, here.