The weekend of 1st-3rd November saw the Do Not Go Gentle festival bringing a rich array of music and words to Uplands for its second year, and it is safe to say that despite the wind (I swear I stopped to rearrange my hood at one point and ended up in Somalia), this did nothing to dampen the spirit of Swansea’s music and literature lovers.
And what a city of music and word-lovers we are.
“To begin at the beginning”, as the famous Swansea bard once said, Dylan Thomas’s own granddaughter Hannah Ellis opened the ceremony officially at 5pm Friday November 1st at Dylan Thomas’s birthplace, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive. And that’s when the party kicked off.
The line-up this year saw performances from the eccentric yet hilarious Phil Kay and Wales’ finest and funniest ladies Mab Jones and Clare Ferguson-Walker (though I unfortunately missed their performance at Mozart’s on Friday night, I have had the privilege of seeing Mab Jones do a feature last year in Swansea and was lucky enough to watch Clare go on to win the I Slam Therefore I Am competition in Wexford, Ireland, this year). Danish pop-art project Eggs Laid By Tigers wowed the crowd in Mozarts with the magic of Dylan Thomas’s words set to psychedelic rock music to create something truly unique and truly powerful which brought the spirit of Dylan into the modern day. Other popular highlights included a special question and answer session with director of smash Welsh comedy Twin Town director Kevin Allan, who revealed—much to the excitement of fans—that he is to direct a film version of Under Milk Wood.
In amongst the buzzing music scene, standout performances came from Paper Aeroplanes who played to a full-capacity audience, Dylan Thomas Prize-winning author Rachel Trezise chatting with the brilliant Tyler Keevil, Count Bobo and the Bullion and a beautiful solo set from Joyce the Librarian (I went home and downloaded the album and have played it in my car all the way to uni). The prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize, now in its 6th year, saw young writers selected by Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, Guardian literary journalist, Nicholas Wroe, Hay Festival founder Peter Florence and musician and BBC 6 music presenter Cerys Matthews giving us a taste of their work at the festival. The winner will be selected on 9th November, always an exciting annual event.
I was lucky enough to take part in a special poetry event at Uplands Market on the Saturday along with local writers. To bring poetry to everyday, bustling market life was a really different yet eye-opening experience and even though the weather was horrendous and my fingers by the end were a shade which can only be described as Smurf chic I was delighted to see poetry making its way into a totally different environment and to see people stop, listen and engage with the spoken word. I also read with Howl later on at Mozart’s (sober on a Saturday afternoon; a bizarre experience when a Howl reading is usually fuelled by pre-Sin Savers vino) to a pleasantly-sized audience, breaking up the vibrant, toe-tapping folk acts with Dylan Thomas’s favourite thing: words (though judging by his letters, beer and reading Agatha Christie in the bath came pretty close).
With so many more acts that I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to see but other attendees enthused about, the Do Not Go Gentle Festival’s aim was to be “a festival Dylan might have liked”, involving “cosy and atmospheric venues, great acts and the lovely people of Swansea who first inspired him to write all those years ago”.
I think that aim was met, exceeded and has brought a whole community together through the magic of music and literature. For that, all of the acts, volunteers, venue owners and organisers can only feel proud. If you want to know where I’ll be a year from now, I’ll be drunk on music and literature somewhere in Uplands.
by Natalie Ann Holborow