Wales Arts Review 2.20 is our Newport Special, an issue dedicated to the cultural and creative life of The Review’s birthplace and hometown. It is a city of remarkable character and energy, a city of 140,000 people, whose artistic and political achievements are often overlooked. Here Wales Arts Review offers an unprecedented insight into one of Wales’ most culturally and historically significant urban areas.
Ben Glover introduces the edition with his essay on the political history and legacy of Newport, and explains why such a rich history of radical activism was a result of Newport’s character, not happenstance, in ‘Port in a Storm: A History of One City’s Radicalism’. Craig Austin presents what must challenge for the honour of being the definitive article on the modern history of Newport’s music scene and nightlife, looking at the ’80s punk scene through to the present live music venues, in ‘Oh, Newport, My Lionheart: 30 Years of Music and Nightlife in the City of Cider and Steel’. In celebration of the marvellous output of the renowned photography course at Newport’s University Wales Arts Review is proud to publish a selection of images that have made up the Newport Survey over the years, an on-going photographic project that illustrates the life of the city, in ‘101 Years of Photography at Newport’. Phil Morris looks at the life, work and landscapes of one of Newport’s most iconic writers, Caerleon’s Arthur Machen in his essay, ‘Far Off Things: Arthur Machen, the Mystic of Gwent’. Senior Editor Gary Raymond has compiled a Newport ABC, a personal reflection on his hometown that endeavours to give a heartfelt examination of Newport’s rich culture. We also have a series of profiles of some of Newport’s most successful and prominent groups, companies and artists around at the moment, including Pentalk, Mrs and Mrs Clark, Tin Shed, Alex Reynolds, and Dino Rovaretti. We have a brand new poem from award-winning Newport poet Paul Henry, whose ‘The Dog in the Reeds’ evokes the Glebelands, here paired alongside his classic homage to Newport’s political past in ‘Newport East’. Rajvi Glasbrook Griffiths, who came to Newport several years ago to study, found it difficult to settle until she discovered the artistic ebullience of Newport’s various ‘scenes’. In ‘Coming to Newport’ she describes her discovery, and love for, her adopted city. Adam Somerset takes a look back at Ann Drysdale’s Newport travelogue, Real Newport, and finds one of the finest examples of the series. And Dylan Moore reviews Eddie Butler’s recent BBC documentary Welsh Towns: Newport.
Our new fiction this issue, commissioned in partnership with the Rhys Davies Trust, also has a Newport edge to it, Linda Ruhemann’s ‘Fear’.
But it’s not all about one City this issue, and Wales Arts Review, as ever, has been stretching its legs around the rest of the country. Several of our editors and writers were experiencing the festival season in the last few weeks. Gary Raymond and Elin Williams were at the Green Man Festival near Crickhowell. Elin Reviews the festival from the punter’s point of view, and Gary looks at the place of an event like Green Man in the modern festival-saturated world, in ‘Traditions of Our Age: Green Man 2013’. We were also at the reborn Brecon Jazz Festival. Steph Power reviews Courtney Pine, Zoe Rahman and others, whilst Peter Gaskell had the privilege of catching the John Surman Trio at Brecon Cathedral.
And in addition, we even have some more reviews. Georgia Carys Williams looks at Jemma L King’s début poetry collection, The Shape of a Forest, recently announced as a nominee for the Dylan Thomas Prize. And Carl Griffin managed to catch up with Ms King for an interview shortly after that announcement was made. Jon Gower finds a literary masterpiece as he continues his journey to review the complete series of the Library of Wales titles, with Glyn Jones’ The Valley, The City, The Village. And finally Elin Williams reviews the new summer family production from Theatre Iolo, Mark Williams’ Here Be Monsters.
Illustration by Dean Lewis