The Guardian : From Bellow to Bono - U2 France

The Guardian : From Bellow to Bono

vendredi 21 avril 1995

Source : The Guardian

From The Guardian :

FROM BELLOW TO BONOThe UK Year Of Literature And Writing : Swansea gets eclectic

By Robert Yates

The TLS had some fun gently mocking the list of patrons for the UK Year Of Literature And Writing, currently running in Swansea. True, the list begins in a perfectly catholic fashion : Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow,Bjork, Bono and Jane Campion. It could be a cultural studies dream team. However, the point is not thatBjork is busy updating Icelandic myths, but that the festival should be, in director Sean Doran’s words, "as inclusive as possible." This means both "high-brow" and "low", and a welcome for songwriters, screenwriters and journalists as well as novelists and dramatists.

The Year of Literature is the fourth of the series of annual festivals under the umbrella of the Arts 2000scheme - 1994 was the Year of Drama held in Manchester. When the Year was awarded to Swansea, doubters wondered if the city was up to the job. Yet now, with the festival in its fourth month and, according to Doran,"just beginning to warm" the Year is shaping up to be the largest literary event ever staged, and a pretty impressive one too. Across the year, there are about 1,000 tightly-packed events, themed in 30-odd mini-festivals. Some of the themes run throughout the 12 months, including Swansea Unplugged, which features songwriters and The Swansea Fringe, a focus on "literary-biased theatre". Other themes span a few days or a week. In the next month, there are mini-festivals dedicated to - beat this for a mix - Canadian literature, crime and sea shanties. The programmes are well thought through. For instance, the jazz festival which begins next week couples writing with music ; on one evening, Michael Horovitz reads, Stan Tracey plays.

There have been problems. Last month, as a solid legacy from the festival, the national Literature Centre for Wales, Ty Llen, opened in the renovated, Victorian Old Guildhall. Most who have visited the centre agree it’s an elegant achievement, with good facilities (exhibition centre, lecture theatre, children’s play area).

However, this renovation job was a late replacement for the original plan : an ambitious, Will Alsopp-designed, literary pleasureland. As usual, local councillors were cast as the philistine villains of the piece, and the plans for Alsopp’s design foundered on the estimated pounds 14 million cost and local taste. A "lego building onstilts" was one of the comments that made its way around council chambers.

Doran acknowledges that it’s not always easy to assemble a festival with international ambitions which alsomanages to feed into the community. There are different agendas. You want to invest in getting the big names but also to make sure that collaborations with the local education authorities are working. One way ofcombining the two is to persuade visiting writers to spend some time in a school after their main event. Doranenthuses about a recent lesson given by Allen Ginsberg to a group of Swansea sixth-formers. Presumably,he was suggesting they throw off their ties and go find some visionary enlightenment.

Doran takes in good humour the mocking of his star-studded patrons list. He makes no apologies for wanting to use them as a sort of populist banner to attract non-literary types and to reflect the broadness of the festival.Besides, most of the patrons will visit Swansea. That peerless wordsmith Bono will round off an Irish festival in June. Less assured is the appearance of Jimmy Carter, the Year of Literature president, who, in additionto his other global interests, is a big Dylan Thomas fan. Local boy Thomas is not surprisingly all over thefestival ; a year-long retrospective is headed by an exhibition, Dylan Thomas : Word and Image.

Where the link with local people promises to be most vivid is through the host of Word Made Visible projects, lauched a week tomorrow. Describer as "Poems on the Underground writ large," literature will start appearing in Swansea’s streets and shops. Banana-shaped poems are planned for supermarket conveyor belts ; bits of Wordsworth will be displayed in florists and extracts from Dickens on the walls of banks. The organisers will have to be careful with their choice, Dickens not always giving approval to money-men.

Also displayed around town will be Welsh poems from the 15th and 16th centuries. Of course, a festival ofliterature in Wales can hardly avoid issues of language and culture. The approach in Swansea appears to be a measured one : give the best in both languages, avoid evangelising, and offer the top job to an Irishman. Sean Doran laughs and reckons his appointment only serves to illustrate a literary theme : "After all, I’m not the first Irishman to have to leave his country for work." To emphasise the point, he mentions the festival ofIrish writers in June. The title ? The Importance Of Being Elsewhere.

The festival runs continuously until December 31 ; details : 01792 652211

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