Thursday, 10 May 2018

Llandeilo Lit Fest 2018
Llandeilo is a town situated in the beautiful Towy valley and at the end of April, it hosted a four day literary festival. The festival had a full programme of literary events running from Thursday 26th to Sunday 29th April. There were readings, discussions, workshops and literary talks taking place in venues across the town. As well as a picture quiz and guided tours, the Lit Fest also hosted a two day book fair in the Civic Hall. Here are some of the excellent talks I attended and just a few points about each one:

Genre, Ghosts and the Gothic by Carol Lovekin.
Carol talked about genre as a 'descriptor', a tool for marketing and finding where  books fit. Not something she thought too much about when she started writing her novels, at the launch of her second book, Snow Sisters, her writing was described as being Welsh Gothic and more recently as 'lyrical Gothic'. There is a poetic quality about her work. Her writing fits into magical realism where there's a blurring of the lines between the possible and the factual, yet it remains firmly rooted in reality via her female protagonists. Through a temporary suspension of disbelief, the ghosts in her books are real, having characters of their own. The highlight of the talk for me was hearing Carol read excerpts from Ghostbird and Snow Sisters.

Dysfunctional families in Contemporary Fiction by Sara Gethin.
Sara's debut novel Not Thomas is a story of one such family where a five year old boy, Tomos, lives with his teenage mother who is a drug addict. Having taught in areas of poverty and extreme deprivation, Sara explained that Tomos is based on a range of neglected children, and it was his character that came first, before the plot. She'd been told of a child waiting at a window watching other children leaving for school. He knew then that was his time to go, too, and that image never left her. The character of Rhiannon, his mother, was based on a girl who died of a heroin overdose in her teens. We were treated to Sara reading excerpts from the novel, taking us right into the world of Tomos.

Crime and History by Thorne Moore.
Even though 'crime fiction' is relatively recent, there has always been crime in literature. Thorne made the point that where there are laws, there will be crime when those laws are broken. Often in stories, there will be moral lessons about human nature, too. She outlined the crimes in some well known novels. Crimes that happen in a moment can impact on events to come. There is often a domestic side to crime. Setting in a novel is important and houses, especially, often bear the footprint of the people who lived there. There is often a touch of the past on the present. These latter points made me think of Thorn'e's wonderful book, A Time for Silence, where Sarah seeks to unravel the dark secrets of Cwmderwen.

The Green Hollow by Owen Sheers.
Owen Sheers talked about The Green Hollow, the book version of his film poem of the same name that was aired on 21st October 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. He explained the work that went into the project, interviewing the people of Aberfan, to paint a picture in words of small scenes, small experiences and what each individual went through. The three part structure of the work covers Before  - children then and now as adults reflecting back, During - the rescuers and outside voices, After - the survivors, moving on, Aberfan now. Like the film, the book is written in verse and the rhythm, rhymes and half rhymes came alive as Owen read poignant excerpts to the audience.

The Suffragists by Judith Barow.
Judith explained the difference between the Suffragettes and the Suffragists. Millicent Fawcett was one of the latter and the first woman to recently have a statue erected in Parliament Square. Her campaign for votes for women was through peaceful means. The Suffragettes and Emmeline Pankhurst took a more militant approach. We learned about women as political prisoners, going on hunger strike, being force-fed and receiving horrific treatment. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave women over the age of thirty, and with some property, the right to vote but it was another ten years before the suffrage movement achieved its aim for all women to have the vote. In A Hundred Tiny Threads, the main character Winnie gets involved with the local suffrage movement and Judith ended her talk by reading relevant excerpts from the novel. 

Thank you for reading. I hope you have enjoyed these few snippets of each excellent talk. Have you been to a Literary Festival recently? Who did you see? I'd love to hear about it. Thanks.

You may also follow me on @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Jan. I'd 'like' it except that I don't have a blogspot account so I can't, but I'm glad you managed to cram so much into the weekend. Good stuff!

    1. Thanks, Thorne. The weekend was excellent with such a variety of speakers.

  2. Thank you so much for mentioning my session, Jan. I really enjoyed Thorne Moore's talk too but didn't have the chance to go to any others so I appreciated reading your round-up. Llandeilo is a great town for a lit fest, isn't it? I'm looking forward to Narberth Lit Fest & Book Fair in September next.

    1. I have only been able to give a hint of the full talks, Sara, but they were all excellent. Yes, Llandeilo is ideal for an event like that.

  3. It sounds like an excellent festival, Jan. I loe the idea of genre as 'descriptor' - a means of finding a book in a certain place. Authors who write outside the usual boundaries must find their books shelved in all kinds of unlikely places. It was interesting to read summaries of writers I have 'met' here on your blog.

  4. Just spotted that I didn’t answer your post, Sue. So sorry. Thank you for your interesting comment re - ‘ genre’. I always feel I ‘know’ people who appear on your blog, too.