As Wales Arts Review goes to publication, news has reached us of a major new leisure and tourism development in south-west Wales, set to bring tens of millions of pounds of inward investment and over 650 new jobs into the area. American media conglomerate ConuMax Entertainment and Australian construction firm ExCelt will break ground, next spring, on a 250-acre resort in Laugharne, complete with five-star hotel, estate of private holiday homes and a state-of-the-art digital theme park, which locals are already calling DylanLand. The enormous success of the year-long Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations in Wales has convinced ConuMax executives that the proud nation is the perfect host for its first venture into ‘site-specific vertical integration of creative content with a dynamic experiential heritage interface.’
A press and media conference is scheduled for November 10, following the close of the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival, but in an early statement ConuMax CEO Ben Weinberger stated, ‘We are very proud to have secured full literary, image and “life” rights to Dylan Thomas, and our amazing team of digital imaginators are working on a number of exciting ways to incorporate the poetry and life of the great man into, quite literally, breath-taking experiences that will delight his millions of fans.’ Rhodri ap Gwylim, Chair of Welsh Media Studies at Prifysgol de Fythau hailed the news as ‘the best thing to happen to Wales since Katherine Jenkins’ adding, ‘Well, Dylan is a rock star isn’t he? By which I mean to refer to our Dylan of course. This is the first I’ve ever heard of a writer’s life and work being turned into a theme park, it is quite unprecedented in global pop-culture!’
Full details of the DylanLand rides and shows are yet to be released, but Wales Arts Review has learned that they will feature the very latest in animatronics and computer generated imagery. Visitors to the Portrait of the Artist Pavilion will be taken on a virtual tour of 1940s Soho courtesy of 3D goggles, which will not only project the topography of wartime London but also replicate Dylan’s increasing stages of intoxication as they accompany him on one of his legendary pub crawls. On the northern side of Cwmdonkin Square, which will lie at the heart of DylanLand, ConuMax imaginators will build a replica of Swansea’s Uplands Tavern that will be twelve times larger than the original to accommodate over a 1000 guests per seating. The Dylan Dining Experience will consist of a bowl of cawl reengineered from Dylan’s mother’s old recipe by Heston Blumenthal. While diners consume their cawl and choice of Coca-Cola beverage they will be waylaid by ranks of Dylan impersonators, professional actors hired to cadge pints of beer from park guests and tearfully read aloud rejection letters from poetry magazine editors.
Facing the new Uplands Tavern will be the Under Milk Wood Dome under which a cast of robot actors will perform the ‘play for voices’ in a 24-hour loop. Visitors can stroll along the synthetic cobbled streets of New Llareggub in the presence of a strikingly life-like animatronic Richard Burton, who will reprise his role as First Voice approximately 4386 times a year. Imaginator Team Leader, Texan Bob Gertz, says: ‘The Welsh can’t seem to get enough of this play and now they can see it all year round in perpetuity.’
A purpose built multiplex cinema will be erected to host an annual Dylan Thomas Film Festival. The 2015 programme is to be themed The Films That Dylan Watched and What He Thought About Them, and will largely consist of the entire oeuvres of Myrna Loy and The Three Stooges. Festival coordinator, Tim Sprocket of Cymru Film Wales, claims that these films ‘reveal to us Dylan as a man of the people, a “people’s poet” if you like. He watched a surprising amount of rubbish, exercising very little discrimination.’
A new theatre building will also go up to house a spectacular musical extravaganza based on an half-completed shopping list that has only recently been unearthed in the Dylan Thomas archive at the University of Texas in Austin. There has been some speculation that Welsh National Theatre would devise a three-year residency from this shopping list, but the company has reportedly rejected the proposal as ‘a little gimmicky for us’ so What Da Funk Dance Collective from Merthyr will step up to create a ‘hip-hopera’ based on assorted grocery items tantalisingly entitled Boiled Beef and Carrots.
Such large-scale building projects will no doubt bring hundreds of construction jobs to the region. As will a new electric tram system, featuring cars built along pre-war designs but with carbon neutral engines, which will connect Laugharne to Swansea via a direct metro-line. Tram-loads of tourists will be taken from DylanLand to the city on special guided tours of the poet’s birthplace and boyhood haunts. In further good news for the local unemployed, Wales Arts Review understands that local authorities are to initiate a pilot scheme to help jobless youths find work in the tourism industry. ConuMax plan to recruit gangs of Welsh teens to hang around on street corners across DylanLand, clothed in period dress and tasked with playing children’s games from a bygone era. The sight of cardy-wearing boys in long shorts playing conkers will no doubt reassure tourists who might otherwise be alarmed by the inescapable presence of young people with nothing better to do in Swansea. City councillor Pugh Watkin has publicly lauded this public-private partnership with ConuMax, saying, ‘I can think of nothing better than getting these kids off our streets, where they take all kinds of skunk and whizz, and putting them back out on those same streets to play patty-cake and hopscotch.’
Sources close to the Labour leadership of the Welsh Assembly Government expressed their delight with this prospective boon to the economy of Wales. A spokesman explained, ‘Clearly our existing policy of bribing multinationals to locate their companies to Wales with egregious state aid and suppressed wages has failed to deliver prosperity. We should therefore abandon our commitment to outdated notions of restoring manufacturing industry in Wales and build a new economy based on the manufacture of mythology and the commodification of our past.’
The Welsh e-learning Tsar, Debi Price-Price, has also welcomed the ConuMax development as ‘an imaginative step towards a future Tech Cymru.’ ConuMax will provide free tablets to every schoolchild who visits DylanLand. ‘Most children’s first encounter with Dylan is typically in the form of one of his books, which is problematic on many levels as the book format has no relevance to their multi-screen lives,’ Price-Price claimed. ‘So we developed an app in collaboration with ConuMax imaginators and Grime star Dizzee Rascal. Now kids can have ‘Fern Hill’ rapped at them at the press of a touch-screen.’
DylanLand will open to the public in time for its seasonally-themed ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ opening Yuletide spectacle in December 2016, which ConuMax choreographers and lighting-show designers have promised will have ‘all the excitement of an Olympic closing ceremony’. In deference to post-Scottish referendum nationalist sensitivities Her Majesty the Queen has tactfully declined an invitation to open DylanLand and its adjacent Heron-Priested Shoreline Housing Development. The search to find someone who would represent modern Wales was led by organising committee member Morgan Morgan-Morgan. ‘We considered a number of literary heavyweights as candidates but plumped for Cerys Matthews instead due to her proven cross-over appeal,’ explained Morgan-Morgan. A representative of Matthews said that the ‘Road Rage’ star was thrilled to be selected as the Queen of DylanLand, ‘Cerys thinks DylanLand is the best thing to happen to Wales since she nearly won I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’
After twelve months of Dylan centenary celebrations, the Welsh can now look forward to decades of Dylan-related activities. With the endowment of a ConuMax Centre for the Study of Dylan Thomas Studies there need be no detail of his short life to remain unexplored and undiscussed.
Dylan Thomas was unavailable for comment.
Richard Redman is a world-renowned ‘Dylanologist’ whose book Near Encounters with Dylan by Those Who Never Met Him will be reprinted by Dragon Books just in time for Christmas.
original illustration by Dean Lewis