I’m the Coordinator of International Dylan Thomas Day. I’m also a poet, a writer, a journalist, a creative writing tutor, a rambler, a grumbler, a drinker of wine, a fan of karaoke, and a baker of various cakes which I invariably end up eating most of myself. These are all things I love doing. It’s Valentine’s Day, so this is my link to that. And Dylan Day, too, is something I love working on: encouraging others to put on events; putting artists and writers, and venues and organisers, in touch with each other; marketing the Day; and a thousand and one other things which will result in the most fantastic Day possible this Sunday 14th May.
Set on the anniversary of the first ever performance of Under Milk Wood in New York, 1953, Dylan Day will be in its third year this time around. The number of events has grown quickly, from 24 in the first year to 50 in 2016, with events taking place across the UK, as well as in New York, Milan, Perth, Sydney, and Patagonia. Dylan’s Great Poem, the youth competition linked to the Day, engaged young writers from as far afield as Mumbai, Miami, Auckland, and Johannesburg last year, too. It truly is a global celebration of the poet’s life and work; it is also a good day to celebrate words in general and, if you love them, as I do, to express that feeling in some way. You could attend an event, of course (there were everything from new raps and apps, to sand art and promenade walks last year) or you could take a walk, visit the Birthplace or the Boathouse, read a poem or, if you are feeling a little bit more daring, even try writing one!
This year, Dylan’s Great Poem will be replaced by a new poetry writing competition, aimed at the same age group – anyone between 7 and 25 – but there’s nothing to stop you taking part as well! Entitled ‘Love the Words’, more about this exciting comp, a collaboration between Discover Dylan Thomas.com and International Dylan Thomas Day (which is a Literature Wales project) will be announced at the beginning of March. All I can really tell you at the moment is that you won’t need any pens or paper to take part in the writing! Which is great for those of us who are a little bit too full of cake to be bothered with that. Or, for those of us who struggle with getting started. As a tutor, I often hear people say that they ‘can’t write’, but this isn’t true – you’ve just got to make a start, write something, anything down, and then cross out, change, and edit the words afterwards. But with Love the Words, as you’ll see, there won’t be any crossing out required. It will be great fun, and really extremely easy to take part.
As a poet, of course, I do ‘love the words’, both of Dylan, many other writers, and in and of themselves. They are quite magical things. We all know that words contain great power; that with a single word we can disappoint another, or encourage them; that they possess the ability to hurt, heal, or inspire. They can be a rally cry to ‘rage, rage’, or they can transport us back in nostalgia to a time when we were ‘young and easy under the apple boughs’. I studied Dylan’s work at university and it’s the visual quality of his work that I perhaps enjoy most of all: his images, of flames burning, lightning striking, owls by altar-light, apple boughs and a ‘sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea’. You can really see all of these in your mind’s eye. No wonder so many film-makers find the poet’s work intriguing!
As well as all of the things I am above, I suppose I am also a frustrated painter – as a child, I wanted to be an artist, first and foremost. Another reason that I love working on Dylan Day is that it allows an opportunity to engage with creativity from a visual perspective. There may be copy to write, press releases to piece together, etc. but there is also the matter of the logo for the Day, the poster, and as well as this other elements which lend themselves more to a visual approach. We live in a visual age, I think – which is a great testament to the power of Dylan’s work, in that it still remains extremely popular, in a time when poetry does not usually get onto the bestseller lists (sigh!) – but this means you need to engage people through images as well as through words on their own.
Sand art at New Quay by Marc Treanor, commissioned and supported by Literature Wales
I’m therefore excited that both this year and last year I got to scout for suitable artists to create the images and items associated with the Day. In 2016, the logo was designed by North Wales artist Jonathan Edwards, who has somewhat of a cult following and who has created work for, amongst others, the Guardian, Mojo, Q, and the Glastonbury Festival. This year, I approached an artist I have been following for some years on social media to see whether they were free to undertake the work. Fantabulously (it’s a word! Love the Words, especially the made-up ones!), they were. So, I am very, extremely, absolutely, delightedly pleased to announce that the official Dylan Day artist for this year will be:
Jago lives in Cornwall and is the illustrator of over 50 children’s books and some magazines, as well as a TV show or two, some logos and also album covers. Recently he participated in a series of exhibitions, and signed prints of his work are now available in galleries around the UK. He is, however, perhaps best known for his work with New York Times Bestselling author Sally Lloyd-Jones. Together, their books have won a stack of awards and sold more than 2.6 million copies!
I’m really excited to have Jago onboard and look forward to sharing his wonderful work with you in early March, when the logo, poster, first wave of events, and Love the Words competition, will all be dramatically revealed. Thanks to the expertise and opinions of Dylan Thomas fans in the Dylan Thomas Appreciation Society on Facebook, this year’s poster will contain some very interesting items indeed!
Until I can say more, then, please just carry on with the things that you love, whether they be cakes or cars, karaoke or cracking really bad jokes! Oh, and have a lovely Valentine’s Day ♥ If you’re lucky, perhaps it has been a day spent with a sweetheart but, whether or not, I do hope that it is filled with many other things that you love.
Find out more about International Dylan Thomas Day, here: http://www.literaturewales.org/our-projects/international-dylan-thomas-day/
Make sure to follow the hashtag on social media up to and on 14th May: #DylanDay
You can also like the Day on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dylan-Day-Dydd-Dylan-867753153285008/ and follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DyddDylanDay
For more about this year’s official artist, Jago: https://jago-silver.squarespace.com
And for Mab, go here: https://bananamab.wordpress.com
Mab Jones – February 14 2017