Alasdair Roberts, arts, Beth Orton, Dylan Thomas, Joe Boyd, John Cooper Clarke, Kate Tempest, landscape, Laugharne, Laugharne Weekend 2013, Martin Rowson, music, Nick Drake, Owen Sheers, Phill Jupitus, poetry, Wales, Welsh Rugby Union
Amazingly the sun shone again for what I think of as my personal festival, The Laugharne Weekend, now in its 7th year. It has certainly led a charmed existence at an inauspicious time of year and in an out of the way place but it always lives up to expectations.
As always there was a strong female line up from Beth Orton (who I managed to get a ticket for against the odds) to Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent and Tracey Thorn (which I gave a miss to). I was not able to attend so many events this year because of family commitments but I usually steer a poetry/music course and avoid the comedy/celebrity route. I would have liked to hear Peter Blake, who I know has been working on illustrating Dylan Thomas for some years, but there was plenty more Dylan Thomas mythologising going on.
I also unfortunately missed seeing Martin Rowson, although he left a trail around town. Dylan Thomas can still cause trouble.
A Welsh Food Fair in the castle added a few original touches as well as an opportunity to wander around in the sunshine and admire the views in between seeing events in the marquee in the castle garden.
Kate Tempest, who has just won the Ted Hughes Poetry Prize, was on there in a performance poets slam with Phill Jupitus aka Porky the Poet (enjoyed by John Cooper Clarke as well as a packed tent). She was well able to hold her own with rambling, intense, emotionally charged discourses alternating with his comic, punchy, short bursts.
A very different sort of poet, Owen Sheers, has however had an unlikely past year as Artist in Residence to the Welsh Rugby Union. If I had realized this was what he would be talking about I probably would not have gone to hear him, as I am even less interested in most sport than in comedians, but in fact it was quite fascinating. Covering everything from his moment of being alone in the ‘transformative space’ of the Millennium Stadium on New Years Eve to trying cryogenic therapy, while writing poems for the match programmes and going on tour in Australia, he brought the sensibility of a poet to the experience and to the book Calon – A Journey to the Heart of Welsh Rugby which resulted from it. I enjoyed his story of the banners on opposite walls in the team’s training ground reading ‘Yesterday is in the past’ on one side and ‘How do you want to be remembered’ on the other!
Seasoned by Owen Sheers
published in The Times on the day of Wales v England Match
April is the cruelest month, or so the poets say,
for us though, it was Autumn did the damage.
Thinning our wood with felled trees,
breaking our limbs in its storms.
As we entered winter’s days
frost ran against our grain,
black with December rain.
But just as a coppiced trunk
confronts its cutting with growth,
and saplings will thicken into oaks,
so the torn muscle knits itself stronger
and the broken bone will heal itself firmer
to ready their bearers for the invitations of spring;
for the flexing of our boughs, the spreading of our wings.
I started my weekend’s musical strand with Joe Boyd and friends, in a Nick Drake tribute version of his Chinese White Bicycles travelling occasional show, featuring readings from his White Bicycles memoir of his days as a record producer (notably of Incredible String Band and Nick Drake of course) interspersed with songs from whoever happens to be available, Robyn Hitchcock for one. This version is to celebrate the imminent tribute CD of Nick Drake songs, called Way to Blue.
Robyn Hitchcock started off with the Robin Williamson song Way Back in the 1960s. Katell Keineg did a stunning version of my favourite Nick Drake song, River Man, recording here.
Peter Paphides, joined in conversation with Joe Boyd about his recent Guardian article on the influence of Nick Drake’s mother Molly on his work, followed by Charlotte Greig/Williams, musician, author (and as it happens wife of the Laugharne Weekend organiser John Williams), doing one of Molly’s songs How Wild the Wind Blows. The Parasite song done by Robyn Hitchcock ended this delightful tribute.
Beth Orton (who had done a Nick Drake tribute song in a Joe Boyd event a few years ago) appeared later that night, sometimes accompanied by her American husband, musician Sam Amidon. This was a lovely, intimate, fairly gentle set, mainly featuring her recent back to nature Sugaring Season CD, with the track Poison Tree, using lyrics from a William Blake poem, as her literary contribution. She was happy drinking tea from the selection of teapots available in Laugharne Millennium Hall!
My final musical outing was to the Congregational Chapel, to see Alasdair Roberts, suitably spartan and austere and appropriate for the Sunday night.
‘Highly allegorical, historical and Biblically literate, Alasdair Roberts can make Nick Cave seem like a picnic, PJ Harvey a pyjama party.’ as Ben Graham said in a review in The Quietus of his latest album, with songs about the highland Clearances amongst others. There has just been another piece there on Alasdair’s favourite albums, an interesting selection.
He seemed in sombre mood with affecting memorials to friends recently died.
This weekend manages to keep its own distinctive flavour, mainly I think due to the organisers following their personal taste to a large extent, which luckily happens to coincide with this member of the target audience, at least as far as the music goes.
- Nick Drake week is coming; Vashti Bunyan added to NYC tribute at Joe’s Pub (brooklynvegan.com)
- A Nick Drake Tribute (newyorker.com)
- LISTEN: Lisa Hannigan Covers Nick Drake (thequietus.com)
- Showbiz: Welsh literary festival at Laugharne kicks off with ‘most consistently good’ line-up ever (walesonline.co.uk)
- Badgers damage Dylan Thomas cemetery (bbc.co.uk)