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Dylan Thomas: A literary crisis in Swansea?

The Swansea-born poet still receives literary acclaim (Photo: Chris Drumm)

Question: What do Michael Sheen, Russell T. Davies, Cerys Matthews and Carol Ann Duffy have in common?

Answer: a) They’re Celtic  b) They have a way with words  c) They’ve each signed a letter in support of Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Centre d) All of the above.

The actor, writer, singer and poet, respectively, have put their names to a letter calling for the Dylan Thomas Centre to be safeguarded amidst fears for its future.

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is a supporter of Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre (Photo: Maggie Hannan)

Currently the home of a permanent exhibition – ‘Dylan Thomas: Man and Myth’ – on the Swansea-born poet’s life, as well as hosting a rich arts-based programme, the Centre has welcomed scores of visitors, including renowned literary figures, through its doors.

Now Swansea Council has embarked on a joint venture with the University of Wales to turn the Centre into ‘a 21st Century hub of culture, academia and business’ – but many of the Centre’s supporters believe the minutiae of this plan have not been made clear.

Rumblings that the exhibition could be moved or downgraded, or that the Centre might close altogether, have resulted in over 200 names calling for it to be run by trust.

Swansea Council insists the exhibition will remain in place, with a spokesperson stating: “The Dylan Thomas Centre is not threatened with closure.

“A joint venture alongside the University of Wales will allow us to secure its future during these difficult economic times when finance is limited.

“We are working very closely with our partners to make sure that the Dylan Thomas exhibition is refreshed and improved.

“The current proposal is that the exhibition will remain at the centre permanently, although we are jointly working with the University of Wales on the fine detail.”

But Nigel Jenkins, a poet and lecturer at Swansea University, is among those worried about the Centre’s future.

“There have always been rumours about the Centre’s prospects, but since late 2010 the whispers and murmurs have swirled disturbingly, fuelled by an apparent reluctance on the Council’s part, in spite of several opaque if not contradictory press releases, to come clean about their intentions for the building, its programme and its 22 members of staff,” he wrote.

“Those involved in the changes that are undoubtedly underway in how the Centre should be run in the future should state their intentions clearly.

“If the Council is determined to unburden itself of the Dylan Thomas Centre, one possible way of doing so – if the current rumoured plan comes to naught – would be to invite interested parties to form a trust to run the Centre, in the same way as a trust was formed to run Swansea’s refurbished Leisure Centre.

“Among them would be many of the well over 200 writers, artists and long-time supporters of the Centre who have launched a petition in its support.”

The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth (Photo: Simon Harriyott)

Ironically, this debate has been cast into the spotlight as plans are being laid for the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ birth in 2014.

The timing has not gone unnoticed by Nigel Jenkins, who drily points out: “The city is surely going to look a little bizarre, to put it mildly, in the eyes of the wider world if it is seen to have abandoned the Dylan Thomas Centre on the eve of this major national and international celebration.”

Swansea Council, however, says it is “making serious and significant preparations for the Dylan Thomas centenary.”

Thus, it remains to be seen exactly what the future holds for the Dylan Thomas Centre.

Perhaps it’s worth referring back to Dylan himself, who, through his poem ‘In my Craft or Sullen Art’, describes a poet who writes for the love of his art rather than material gain.

‘In my craft or sullen art… I labour by singing light… not for ambition or bread… but for the common wages… of their most secret heart,’ he wrote.

Many would argue it is worth bearing this ethos in mind when deciding the fate of this popular and well-loved literary haven.

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About Emily Gadd

ITV Wales Online Journalist

Discussion

One thought on “Dylan Thomas: A literary crisis in Swansea?

  1. Have the political heavyweights of Swansea forgiven Dylan Thomas for his words …

    “… Wales is the land of my fathers. And my fathers can have it.”

    … an odd lot politicians.

    Posted by John Tyler | April 2, 2011, 2:08 pm

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