2018 Presenters

Daniel K Westover

Daniel Westover - RS Thomas ME Eldridge festival presenterDaniel K Westover is Associate Professor of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of R. S. Thomas: A Stylistic Biography (2011), which examines Thomas’s evolving style over six decades. Elsewhere he has explored the mutual influence between R.S. Thomas and Geoffrey Hill.  Daniel’s own poems appear in several anthologies, including The Southern Poetry Anthology, Poems of Devotion, and Imagined Greetings: Poetic Engagements with R. S. Thomas.

THE POETIC ASTRONAUT OF GOD-SPACE A discussion of R. S. Thomas’s poetic style in light of key influences, early and late. How did a late-blooming poet who began as a self-confessed ‘innocent plagiarist’ become one of the most progressive and experimental poetic stylists of his generation? Who were his influences? Where did he find models for how a complex nationalism might manifest itself in verse? And where, at last, did this poetic astronaut of God-space turn when he travelled beyond the edges of the poetic landscape and found existing maps inadequate?

John McEllhenney

John McEllhenney - RS Thomas ME Eldridge festival presenterJohn McEllhenney is a retired Methodist minister, trained historian, and lover of poetry and art, who began reading the poems of R S Thomas in 1973. He visited RS three times in the 1990s,  published A Masterwork of Doubting-Belief: R. S. Thomas and His Poetry in 2013. Recently, he turned his attention to Thomas’s wife, the artist Mildred Elsie Eldridge. This focus led to a research trip to Italy in October 2017, during which he looked at art works that Eldridge studied in Florence, Assisi and Ravenna in 1934.

“A STRANGE FEELING: FACE TO FACE WITH BOTTICELLI”  No artist is an island: she is part of the continent of art, even if, as is the case with Mildred Elsie Eldridge, she insists on working, as she writes, “alone”. This presentation places Eldridge on art’s mainland, in the British Romantic tradition of William Blake, Samuel Palmer, and their 20th-century followers such as Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious, whose works she studied in the years leading up to 1934.  The Royal College of Art travelling scholarship made it possible for her to visit Italy, to be face to face with the masterpieces of Giotto, Donatello, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. How much did they inspire her?

Sam Perry 

Sam Perry studied at the universities of Leeds and Leicester gaining a doctorate before becoming Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Hull in 2013. He has published widely in the field of modern and contemporary poetry and is the author of the landmark study Chameleon Poet: R.S. Thomas and the Literary Tradition. Sam is currently engaged in a long-term project that explores the relationship between poetry and childhood, with his most recent essays focusing upon the work of the former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, who had a deep regard for the poetry of R.S. Thomas.

CHAMELEON POET – Dr Perry’s talk will consider R.S. Thomas’s relationship with the English literary canon. It will shed light upon his early infatuation with the contents of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, his enduring reverence for the Romantics, his attraction to specific figures like Tennyson, Hardy, Yeats and Edward Thomas, and the creative dialogue he struck up with esteemed contemporaries like Philip Larkin, Geoffrey Hill and Ted Hughes.

Glyn Edwards

Glyn Edwards - RS Thomas ME Eldridge festival presenterGlyn Edwards is described by The Wales Arts Review as one of the ‘most exciting young voices in Welsh poetry’.  His first collection will be published in 2018 by The Lonely Press.  He is a co-editor of Cheval, an annual Parthian anthology comprised of submissions to the Terry Hetherington Prize, and works as a teacher in North Wales.

“AH IAGO, MY FRIEND” In his forthcoming collection of poetry, Glyn Edwards has given voices to muted members of literature.  He will share how his search to find the illusive voice of Iago Prytherch, in the dozens of poems RS Thomas dedicated to him, took him twenty years and three continents to accomplish.  Members of the audience will be encouraged to share their favourite of RS Thomas’ poems, or read any home-spun verse inspired by his work.  In his role as Trustee of the Terry Hetherington Award, Glyn will also be discussing how new Welsh writers can begin to carve out their own spaces in their country’s literature.

Susan Fogarty

Susan Fogarty - RS Thomas ME Eldridge festival presenterSusan Fogarty is a founder and director of the RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society, facilitating RS Thomas events in Aberdaron and elsewhere since 2013.  She specialises in reading Thomas’s work: engaging her audience to move through the poetry, in churches and the natural environment.  She has written articles for The Church Times, Faith & Freedom and Christians Aware.  Since 2015 she has been a Journeying leader, guiding people on walking holidays with a spiritual intent.

STATIONS: PILGRIMAGE TO THE UNTENANTED CROSS A poetry meditation by candlelight, whose roots are in the Easter tradition.  Moving over the sacred ground, connecting the words of Thomas’s poems to the iconical features inside the ancient pilgrim place, where he was inspired to write “Here on my knees in the stone church, that is full only of the silent congregations of shadows and the sea’s sound…”

A WALK WITH RONALD & ELSI : POETICAL AND BOTANICAL  A guided walk around Sarn Plas, their holiday and retirement home, through woodland overlooking the sea. Listen to the poetry that was inspired by the place and landscape.  See the wild flowers that inspired her paintings.

Côr Meibion Carnguwch  –  [Garnguwch Welsh Male Voice Choir]

Formed in October 2016 under the direction of Ann ‘Hafod’ Williams, who has performed and competed in the National Eisteddfod over many years, the choir is unique in the area drawing in young men from all around the Llŷn Peninsula.

The RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society are proud to be supporting a new generation of the Welsh tradition of Male Voice Choirs.

MORE THAN ONE POET IN ABERDARON: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN MORRIS BY RS THOMAS AND OTHERS.  Along with a repertoire of familiar Welsh songs this concert  brings back the memory of the tragic death of John Morris the village Headmaster and his pupil David Alun in 1977,  plus the joy in his poetry  set to music, recording the people, places and events around  Aberdaron over 50 years ago.  RS Thomas wrote a short tribute to John Morris in a book celebrating Morris’s Welsh poetry, Tywysog ein Cymdogaeth  published after his death.

Owen Lowery

Owen Lowery at the age of 18, was a British Judo champion who suffered a spinal injury, leaving him paralysed from the shoulders down, he still needs a ventilator to breathe.  After two years in hospital, he resumed his studies gaining a first-class honours degree in Humanities, a Masters degree in Military Studies, a Master’s degree with distinction in Creative Writing and a PhD for The Extrospective Poetry of Keith Douglas. He has two poetry collections published by Carcanet Press, Otherwise Unchanged (2012), which includes a tribute to RS Thomas and Rego Retold (2015) an ekphrastic collection in response to the art of Paula Rego. As a performer of his own poetry, he has appeared in Radio 4’s “Pick of the Week”, the Southbank Centre, the Royal National Theatre, and Lyric Theatre (Belfast) to mention but a few.

RS THOMAS FOR A NEW GENERATION:THE POET PREVAILS  Writing and performing new poems reflecting on Thomas’s recurring theme of ‘the machine’. Thomas regarded humanity’s ‘race for technology’ to be life-diminishing, self-limiting, and de-humanizing.  “I breathe via mechanical ventilation, read and write via technology, ‘the machine’ for me is life-enhancing, to rise above the limitations imposed by injury and disability”. This allows for an intriguing poetic and creative dialogue, not least since Thomas also wrote:

“………………………… But you
who are not free  to choose
what you suffer can choose
your response. ……..”     [Unvanquished 1985]

Ellen Davies

Ellen Davies - RS Thomas ME Eldridge festivalEllen Davies is a composer who is dyslexic,  making intuitive connections through pictures and music.  At Bangor University, Wales, she achieved her M.Mus Composition with Distinction. Her commissions include: ‘Tri o Lefydd’ shortlisted for  William Mathias Prize, Bangor New Music Festival; a fanfare for the opening of Colchester’s Firstsight gallery; Shugborough String Quartet  and 3 Cries Boudicca for Kaleidoscope Ensemble. Professional performances: Silent Refrain (BBC NOW 2016) The Dream of Maxen Wledig (BBC NOW 2009) and November 1918 (Ensemble Cymru 2008).

RS THOMAS FOR A NEW GENERATION:PILGRIMAGES is an orchestral composition inspired by the poetry of RS Thomas and the landscape of Pen Llŷn.  Each of the three movements relate to a different poem.  Ellen’s work draws together her own Welsh heritage, the history, culture and landscape of Wales, crystallised in the Welsh harp, which is a key feature of the work.  This is a world premiere performance by Ensemble Cymru with the Royal Harpist Anne Denholm combined with soundscape, which takes the Aberdaron Festival and Pen Llŷn into the heart of Bangor.

Ensemble Cymru

Ensemble Cymru with Anne Denholm - RS Thomas ME Eldridge festivalEnsemble Cymru are the resident ensemble at Bangor University and Venue Cymru, Llandudno. The leading chamber music performing group in Wales with a core membership of 16 instrumentalists and singers.   Established in 2002, its mission is to champion Wales’ heritage and contemporary chamber music culture, alongside chamber music from across the world to audiences in Wales and internationally.

Anne Denholm

Anne Denholm is one of Britain’s leading young harpists, an associate with Ensemble Cymru 2016 – 2018 and  Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales. She is earning a reputation for her interpretations and powerful performances across a variety of musical fields. Originally from South West Wales and of Scottish heritage, Anne received her Masters from the Royal Academy of Music in London with distinction. Anne is increasingly in demand as an interpreter and performer of new music, premiering and recording new works for solo harp since 2006.

Robert L Moran

Robert L Moran is an American composer with an international reputation spanning 50 years, for choral works, opera, chamber and ensemble music.  In 2003 he composed Three Celtic Settings for The Philadelphia Cathedral choir, using RS Thomas’s poetry as the libretto.  In 2015 he composed “The Other” for the RS Thomas Festival, using the words of the RS Thomas poem by the same title.  This will be performed for the first time in Bangor Cathedral.

Barry Morgan

Barry Morgan is the former Archbishop of Wales and a Patron of the RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society. He published “Strangely Orthodox: RS Thomas and his Poetry of Faith” in 2006.  It was after RS Thomas had retired, living in Sarn Plas, when they  met for the first time, as Revd Morgan was Archdeacon and  later the Bishop of Bangor.