2017 Programme & Speakers

Friday 9 June 2017

Walking in the Footsteps of RS Thomas
10:00 – 12:00 at St. Hywyn’s Church

Starting at St Hywyn’s Church, this easy walk leads to the old vicarage by the ‘secret’ path that RS took to avoid the tourists! There will be stops along the way for the reading of selected poems. The quiet road back to Aberdaron offers views of Anelog mountain. Sturdy footwear essential. Led by Susan Fogarty, Poetry Reader Limited to 15 people. Fully Booked.

‘Let me not love thee, if I love thee not’: RS Thomas, George Herbert and the Church
14:00 – 15:30 at Sailing Club

A discussion of Thomas’s poetry in the light of the work of the great seventeenth-century devotional writer, George Herbert, for whose poems Thomas had deep admiration. What can the lyric artistry and lively faith of this poetic forebear tell us about Thomas’s own poetry and belief, as well as his relationship with the Anglican Church in which both he and Herbert were priests? Helen Wilcox, Professor of English, Bangor University. Fully Booked.

Stations to the Untenanted Cross – A Poetry Pilgrimage
20:00 – 21:15 at St. Hywyn’s Church

Participants walk in candlelight from place to place in St Hywyn’s Church. Poems by RS Thomas will be read at each ‘station’ with time for personal reflection and meditation. Led by Susan Fogarty, Poetry Reader Limited to 20 people. Fully Booked.

Saturday Afternoon 10 June 2017

Thomas and The Church in Wales ‘Yr Hen Fam’
10:30 – 12:00 at Aberdaron School

RS Thomas was nothing if not a turbulent priest. His relationship to the Church in which he served all his life – a Church that had been disestablished in Wales only a couple of decades before his first curacy – was a deeply troubled one. This talk will explore some of the reasons for and ramifications of that conflicted relationship, paying particular attention to its implications for his poetry, both early and late. M. Wynn Thomas is Professor of English, Swansea University. Fully Booked.

Dr. Rowan Williams
13:30 – 15:00 at Aberdaron School

At the time of publication Dr Williams was unable to provide details of the particular subject on which he will speak. Fully Booked.

In Conversation – More Questions and Answers?!
15:30 – 16:30 at Aberdaron School

Chaired by Tony Brown. An opportunity to raise wider questions and points of discussion with Helen Wilcox, Wynn Thomas, Rowan Williams & Mark Oakley. Fully Booked.

Saturday Evening 10 June 2017

“The Minister” by RS Thomas a Verse Drama for Radio
19:30 – 21:00 at St. Hywyn’s Church

First performed and broadcast in 1952 and the centenary year of 2013 ‘The Minister’ tells of a young Nonconformist Minister’s encounter with his chapel community in the Welsh moors. With 4 actors and musical interludes. Fully Booked.

“Prelude to Pilgrimages”

Short musical introduction with cello & piano to ‘Pilgrimages’ an orchestral composition by Ellen Davies. Written in 2016 inspired by three RS Thomas poems. It is hoped that the full work will be premiered in Bangor Cathedral in 2018. Fully Booked.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Communion Service
09:00 – 10:00 at St. Hywyn’s Church

Rowan Williams is preaching, he and the Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, will concelebrate the Eucharist. All are welcome, whatever your faith or none Refreshments after the service. [Bilingual]

‘Taking Thomas with Me’: RS Thomas and the Collage of Faith Today
13:00 – 14:30 at St. Maelrhys Church in Porth Ysgo

“I started reading the poems of R. S. Thomas at the age of 18 and, without being too dramatic, they have been life-vests that have kept me bobbing in the sea, keeping my head just above water, ever since.” Rev’d Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral Venue: St Maelrhys Church, Porth Ysgo, 3 miles from Aberdaron. Fully Booked.

Fish, Chips and Poetry Please!
18:30 – 21:00 at Sblash

Open-mike poetry for all. Read your favourite poem, or put in a request for someone else to read it. Pay for your own dinner.Bring your own bottle. Gluten free batter! Fully Booked.

An Exhibition of Art inspired by The Minister
Throughout the Festival in St Hywyn’s Church

Speakers at the 2017 Festival. From left: Mark Oakley, Helen Wilcox, Tony Brown, M. Wynn Thomas, and Rowan Williams

Helen Wilcox

download-helen-wilcoxHelen Wilcox is Professor of English at Bangor University. Her main area of research is English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, (on which she has published more than a dozen books and over a hundred articles), including devotional poetry, Shakespearean drama, and the work of early women writers. She is a leading authority on the work of George Herbert, whose poems she has edited for Cambridge University Press (2007/2011/2016). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

M. Wynn Thomas

wynn-thomas-swansea-acM. Wynn Thomas is Professor of English and Emyr Humphreys Professor of Welsh Writing in English, Swansea University. A founding director of the specialist research centre CREW, he is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Learned Society of Wales. The latest of the more than twenty books on American poetry and the literatures of Wales he has published is The Nations of Wales: 1890-1914, and his 2013 study RS Thomas: Serial Obsessive was shortlisted for the Book of the Year Prize. Made responsible by R. S. Thomas for his unpublished estate, in 2001 he published a posthumous volume of the poet’s poems under the title Residues

Rowan Williams

archbishop-rowan-websizeRowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (2002-2012), is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. A distinguished theologian, author, churchman, Welshman and poet, highlights of his career are: Doctor of Divinity degree, Oxford; Fellow and Dean of Clare College, Cambridge; Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Oxford; Bishop of Monmouth (1992-2000), and Archbishop of Wales (2000-2002). In his book The Poems of Rowan Williams (2002), his tribute to the memory of R. S. Thomas titled “Deathship” opens with lines that capture RS in retirement, living in a cottage overlooking the sea: “The last years, words from a window / smoothing the sea, / the iron back and forth / to probe the fugitive wrinkles”

Mark Oakley

image-1-mark-oakleyMark Oakley is Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and responsible for the educational and outreach work of the Cathedral. He served as Rector of St Paul’s, Covent Garden (the Actors’ church); he is Deputy Priest in Ordinary to HM the Queen, and a Visiting Lecturer at King’s College, London. His writings and broadcasts explore poetry, spirituality, and human rights. His books The Collage of God (2001) and The Splash of Words (2016), in which he quotes RS Thomas several times, echo in his topic for this festival.

To see him talking about his latest book: The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry visit

Tony Brown

tony-brown-cropped-websizeTony Brown, Professor Emeritus in the School of English at Bangor University and Co-Director of the R.S. Thomas Study Centre. He has published extensively in the field of Welsh writing in English. He was the founding editor of the journal Welsh Writing in English: A Yearbook of Critical Essays (1995-2007).

Publications on R.S. Thomas extend over some thirty years and include R.S. Thomas (U. of Wales P, 2006 & 2013) He and Jason Walford Davies published R. S. Thomas’s Uncollected Poems (2013) and Too Brave to Dream (2016)

Susan Fogarty

susan-fogarty-websizeSusan Fogarty, Ministry Warden for the Bro Enlli Ministry Area in the Diocese of Bangor, has facilitated RS Thomas events in Aberdaron since 2012. She has devised a unique prayerful meditation: Stations: A Poetry Pilgrimage which has been presented in churches in the UK and the U.S. She leads groups on walks and retreats during which she reads Thomas’s poetry in the landscape which inspired him. Articles by Ms Fogarty have been published in The Church Times, Faith & Freedom and Christians Aware. She is a Founder of the RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society.