In this guest post Dr Elaine Canning, Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities, Swansea University offers a special insight into ‘Rediscovering Dylan’: a programme of events curated specially for Being Human 2014 which celebrate the life and works of Swansea’s most famous son, Dylan Thomas.

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Dylan Fever

‘To begin at the beginning …’   What better place to start as we hit ‘Dylan fever’ this week, in which the world recognises and celebrates the centenary of the birth of the iconic poet Dylan Thomas through performance, dance, film, poetry recitals, exhibitions, book launches, conferences and lectures? Following our international ‘Dylan Unchained’ centenary conference at Swansea University, our very own academics will be leaving UK shores to take Dylan to academic and public audiences in Texas and New York, while the wonderfully innovative ‘Dylathon’, a non-stop 36 hour reading of Dylan Thomas’ works conceputalised by  Olivier Award-winning Michael Bogdanov, takes place at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.

Why ‘Rediscover’ Dylan?

So why ‘rediscover Dylan’ during the Swansea University strand of the inaugural UK Festival of the Humanities? The Dylan Thomas centenary year has demonstrated on a global scale that literature, and more broadly, the Arts and Humanities, continue to make invaluable contributions to society, captivating different age groups from an array of backgrounds. It is precisely this concept that lies at the heart of our series of events for this year’s Festival. The work of Dylan Thomas will act as a focal point through which to fuse literature, theatre, music and art, exposing the public to accessible and fresh perspectives on his life and work.

Our programme of activities, spanning the whole of festival week, will take place at various venues in Swansea for a variety of audiences – from school children to the general public. Swansea-based (and therefore contributing a strong Welsh dimension to the national programme) but with a multidisciplinary and multilingual agenda to profile the international appeal of Dylan Thomas, we’ll strip back, re-create, interrogate and critique Dylan. With the generous support of our partners – Taliesin Arts Centre, Dylan Thomas’ birthplace, Welsh Fargo Theatre Company, Literature Wales and of course the Being Human festival itself – our PhD students, academic staff and academic/literary friends will showcase our Dylan Thomas ‘brand’ in the heart of the community.

What to Expect

What can you expect as we ‘rediscover Dylan’? The week will begin with a public seminar by the distinguished T James Jones on translating Under Milk Wood into Welsh followed by a public lecture by Professor Tudur Hallam on Dylan Thomas and Welsh poet and nationalist Saunders Lewis. Our world authority on Dylan Thomas, Professor John Goodby, will launch his centenary edition of the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2014). This new edition contains recently discovered material, looks at Dylan’s work in a fresh light and takes us to the beating heart of Thomas’ poetry.

Later in the week, we’ll be transported to the world of Tom Dylan, the fictional creation of PhD  graduate Liz Wride, by the Welsh Fargo Theatre Company. Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, directed by award-winning playwright D.J. Britton, is a hilarious play set in the here and now telling the story of the unfortunately named Thomas Dylan whose 18th birthday falls on the same day as the Dylan Thomas centenary and who is living with his Dylan-obsessed parents at Dylan’s birthplace.

Ugly, Lovely Town

In partnership with Literature Wales, we’ll be visiting local schools to bring Dylan-inspired creative writing workshops to young children before our week culminates with ‘Dylan Live’ -a bilingual performance tracing Dylan Thomas’ trips to New York through jazz, beat poetry, hip-hop, spoken word and film and featuring Professor Daniel Williams.

Thus, we’ll join our national partners in celebrating and showcasing ‘being human’ through our Dylan Thomas-inspired research from ‘the ‘ugly, lovely town … crawling, sprawling … by the side of a long and splendid curving shore’.

‘Rediscovering Dylan’ is one of many programmes of events taking place during Being Human which take humanities research off university campuses and out into the hearts of their surrounding communities. For updates on the latest Being Human news follow us on Twitter @BeingHumanFest, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. Don’t forget to sign up to our e-newsletter too!