Remembering Llareggub

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the boathouse at Laugharne

Outside Wales and a few suburbs of New York is Dylan Thomas that well known, respected or even known about? The Welsh poet who was born 100 years ago this year and there will be celebrations – principally in Wales – but in other places as well to remember and enjoy his life and writings.

His drinking is as legendary as his writing. I remember being in New York back in 2003 when there was a large celebration held by the Welsh Tourist Board as it was then in memory of his death 50 years previously. And that was held in a bar frequented by Thomas and a good time was had by all. Is it any wonder then that a cartoon by Jonty & B as part of the Popular Culture series showing Thomas as the face on Thomas the Tank Engine was actually captioned, “Thomas – the Tanked Engine!”

If any person names just one of his works it is likely to be Under Milk Wood and already running at the National Museum in Cardiff is Peter Blake’s Llareggub: Peter Blake illustrates Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. At Laugharne Castle in Carmarthenshire where Dylan Thomas wrote The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. Cadw (the Welsh heritage custodians) is installing new interpretation, including a Cabinet of Curiosities, working with Literature Wales and other partners on the Dylan Odyssey literary tours as well as running an education project with local schools, which will culminate in a Festival of Poetry and Film in the summer to celebrate and build on the legacy of Dylan Thomas.

Thomas was born in Swansea so naturally celebrations will occur in the city as well. There The Dylan Thomas Centre has a permanent free exhibition of Thomas memorabilia and items surrounding his life and his work. It is there that you will find some of the strangest items like the doors to the shed from Thomas’s home at Laugharne which were saved from a skip in the 1970’s and a death mask, his only known painting and some of his sketches. From May to August this year, of four of Dylan Thomas’ prized poetry notebooks, on loan from the University of Buffalo will be on show. Dylan sold them to the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1941 so the university is also mounting a centennial exhibition.

At Laugharne itself, is the boathouse where the poet lived for the last four years of his life. It is now a heritage centre containing audio visual presentations, original furnishings and memorabilia, a themed bookshop, tea room, viewing platform and terrace. The town has almost become a shrine to the man and virtually any day of the year you will find tourists wandering around ticking off the places connected to their hero.

The main celebrations may be in Wales but interest is much wider.

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