Richard Burton expo image
A brand new exhibition on Richard Burton’s life reveals the man behind the headlines - the husband, father, reader, writer and passionate Welshman.

Becoming Richard Burton, opening at National Museum Cardiff on Saturday 21 November, follows the remarkable story of how Richard Jenkins, the boy from Pontrhydyfen and Taibach, Port Talbot, became Richard Burton, the international star of stage and screen.

The free exhibition, which is a partnership between Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and Swansea University, will feature Burton’s diaries, papers and personal objects on display for the public for the very first time. The items have been loaned to the museum by the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University.

Other highlight objects loaned for the exhibition include costumes worn by Burton on stage in the Shakespearean performances that launched his career and later as Hollywood star in Cleopatra, the film that changed his life.

To coincide with the physical exhibition, there will also be a digital exhibition on the museum’s website from mid-December. Produced by Focus Group, a design and creative agency based in Cardiff and Edinburgh, the digital exhibition will be updated with key stories and items on a regular basis. This signals a change in how the museum will approach future exhibitions, and it hopes to build on its digital offering.

Amgueddfa Cymru’s Director General, David Anderson said: “It is indisputable that Richard Burton was and remains a national icon. We couldn’t have told his story without the support of the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University and we’re grateful to Sally Burton for sharing her personal collection.

“This is the first exhibition to examine his life in full and tell the story of how a young boy from humble beginnings in south Wales became the most famous Welshman of our time, and serves as an inspiration of how this wonderful country punches above its weight.

“Museums and galleries play a vital role in ensuring the wellbeing of our nation and I’m proud that Amgueddfa Cymru has been able to realise this exhibition in the difficult circumstances that the pandemic continues to present us.”

Professor Martin Stringer, pro-vice-chancellor of Swansea University, said: “The Richard Burton Collection at Swansea is the most comprehensive source of primary information to date about Burton's life and work, and the Richard Burton Centre is a leading interdisciplinary research in the field of Welsh cultural studies. Swansea University is delighted to have loaned items and to have contributed our expertise to this exhibition which will give visitors, and those accessing the exhibition online, an insight into the deeply cultured, widely-read, intellectual man Burton was.”

Sally Burton, Richard Burton’s widow, donated many of the objects to Swansea University in 2005, creating the Richard Burton Archive. Sally said: “Richard made a massive journey from Wales to the world stage. There was something quite extraordinary about him which was apparent from an early age. I think everyone who met him felt it.  People were drawn to him. It was a magical quality which he also knew he had but he didn't quite know what it was. One thing he did know was that he had to pursue it, knocking down barriers as he went. Sometimes he would say, 'what is it about me?'. I believe this exhibition, and here I must thank everyone involved, will enable us to explore some of those intriguing answers.”

A digital collection of manuscripts and photographs related to the Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas will soon be available online thanks to an international collaboration.

Manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks, drawings, financial records, photographs, proofs, and broadcast scripts of the famous Swansea-born poet, whose works include the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, and the play Under Milk Wood, among many others, will be made available worldwide through a collaboration that includes the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas, Swansea University, and the Dylan Thomas Trust.

“This initiative promises to deepen our understanding of Dylan Thomas’ creative process and lead to new insights into his poetry and other writings,” said Stephen Enniss, Betty Brumbalow Director of the Harry Ransom Center. “We are grateful for this collaboration with Swansea University and grateful, too, to the Dylan Thomas Trust which has made it possible for us to share the collection with his readers everywhere.”

Collections related to Dylan Thomas are held by multiple institutions internationally, and the Ransom Center holds the world’s largest collection, which includes manuscripts, letters, and photographs that trace the origins of his major works and the evolution of a young writer. This project involves digitizing everything in Thomas’ hand, from letters and manuscripts to sketches and works of art. The collection also features notebooks, screenplays, radio broadcasts and radio plays.

Thomas was born on 27 October 1914 in Uplands, Swansea, and died on 9 November 1953 in New York City. During his lifetime he wrote many great poems, including Fern Hill, The Hunchback in the Park and, of course, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. He also is well-known for writing the play for voices Under Milk Wood, and the collection of stories, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.

“The Dylan Thomas Trust is delighted to partner with the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas and Swansea University in order to realize this ambitious and hugely significant project,” said Hannah Ellis, Thomas’ granddaughter and Manager of the Dylan Thomas Trust. “The digitised archive will help people to further understand the meticulous craft that my grandfather put into his work.”

Swansea University’s Richard Burton Archives holds the ‘lost’ fifth notebook, working manuscripts of the poems Unluckily for a Death and Into Her Lying Down Head, and rare proof copies of several of his works. Its annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, one of the most prestigious international awards for young writers, is awarded to the best published literary work in the English language written by an author aged 39 or under.

Peter Stead, founder and president of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, said: “Dylan Thomas’ spell-binding words and performances conquered London and North America and identified him as one of the most influential writers of the mid twentieth century. The Prize established in his name has captured the imagination of writers internationally.”

Professor Martin Stringer, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, said: “As the custodians of some significant material relating to Dylan Thomas, and reflecting our commitment to increasing the role of Thomas’ work in education, we are honoured to be part of this collaboration that seeks to make the world’s largest Dylan Thomas collection more globally accessible.”

By the end of next year, an online repository of Thomas materials housed at the Ransom Center will be available to the public through a digital collections portal on its website for use by researchers and for the enjoyment of Dylan Thomas enthusiasts around the world.

Creativity Fellows Photos
Two artists have been chosen for inaugural Creativity Fellowships, Swansea University’s Cultural Institute has announced.

Kaite O’Reilly, a playwright who works in disability arts and mainstream culture, and Peter Matthews, a visual artist whose work straddles the performance and the conceptual, will take up their one year Fellowships next month. 

Created by writer and Professor in Creativity Owen Sheers, the Creativity Fellowships are an exciting new initiative that offers two professional artists the chance to engage with and explore cutting-edge academic research at Swansea University. Each artist will have 12 months to immerse themselves in a chosen research project, before creating new works of art to be unveiled in December 2020.

Winner of the Ted Hughes Award, playwright, radio dramatist, writer and dramaturg Kaite O’Reilly will be working with Prof. David Turner on the Disability and the Industrial Revolution project at the College of Arts and Humanities.

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year Peter Matthews, a visual artist who specialises in creating paintings alongside or under the oceans of the world, will be collaborating with Dr. Ruth Callaway on her Swansea Bay bioscience research, Changing Coasts.

‘Becoming one of the inaugural Creativity fellowships is an immense privilege and pleasure,” said Kaite O’Reilly, “I’ve been making plays about the lived experience of disability for many years and I’m immensely excited about continuing this work with an historical perspective, bringing light to these past lives so long left in the darkness, unspoken and unsung.’

‘I am delighted to have been chosen to be one of the two Creativity Fellows at Swansea University,” Peter Matthews commented. “I will be collaborating with Dr. Ruth Callaway as we explore how the visual arts and marine biology overlap and find a creative symbiosis when coupled together as two subjects of study and enquiry. I am really excited to get out on the beach and start drawing!'

The Cultural Institute was inundated with applications from the moment the fellowships were announced, making shortlisting an incredibly difficult challenge. After careful deliberation however, Kaite and Peter were chosen by a judging panel consisting of Prof. Owen Sheers, Dr. Sharon Bishop (Swansea Science Festival), Prof. John Spurr (Head of Arts and Humanities), Prof. Liz McAvoy (English Literature & Creative Writing) and Karen MacKinnon (curator of Swansea's Glynn Vivian Art Gallery).

Owen Sheers said, ‘I’m so pleased to be getting these Fellowships off the ground with two such talented and exciting artists. I hope they and their academic partners will have a fascinating year of collaboration and exploration, which also promises to be a powerful engine for furthering a vibrant conversation between the sciences and the arts at the University and in the wider community.’

Professor David Turner commented, ‘I am thrilled at the prospect of working with Kaite O’Reilly to bring the histories of disabled people to life. Kaite’s commitment to empowering disabled people through the creative arts will provide new and exciting ways of connecting the struggles of disabled people in the past with the experiences of people today.’

‘I am exceptionally curious about working with Peter Matthews,’ Ruth Callaway said, ‘His art and my research are so strongly linked to the sea that we have this common interest to start the conversation while having entirely different approaches.’

The start of Kaite and Peter’s fellowships will be marked with a public event on Friday 15 November in which both artists will talk about their work and their approach to the fellowships.

Both Kaite and Peter will engage with Swansea University students, staff and the local community through free workshops at various points in the Fellowship, details about which will be released in due course. 

Friday 15 November, 6.00pm – 7.30pm, Taliesin Create, Swansea University

Reserve your tickets for the public event with the Creativity Fellows

Rediscovering Swansea Hub Image

A free family fun day all about Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose is to headline this year’s Swansea University's Being Human Festival hub, and visitors are welcomed to climb aboard for fantastical adventures on the high seas.

The event will feature talks, performances and wandering minstrels and there will be the chance to create a Tudor play, dig for buried treasure and learn fascinating facts and sinister secrets about life on board this infamous ship and much more. There will also be the opportunity to visit an exhibition of treasures from the Mary Rose, which brings to life the fascinating world of the Tudor warship and its crew which was lost in battle in 1545.

It all begins at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, on Saturday 16th November, at 11am until 3pm with talks at 11.30am and at 12.30pm.

The Being Human Festival, the UK’s national celebration of the humanities, is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.  The Swansea hub will be delivered by the Cultural Institute at Swansea University in collaboration with a range of partners from the Swansea Bay area.

The Festival, which runs from 14th November to 23rd November, will have the theme of Rediscovering Swansea: from land to sea, and includes a full programme of creative activities, performances, workshops and discussions. Event topics range from Pinocchio reimagined in a modern western society, the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes, the sinister world of assassination throughout the ages, to Swansea’s influential industrialist Vivian family.

The Being Human Festival programme will also feature the prestigious Annual Richard Burton Lecture.  Welsh composer Rhian Samuel will share her experiences as a composer of classical music in the USA and the UK in her lecture, entitled ‘Now I Become Myself: a Woman’s Voice in Music and Poetry.

The lecture, hosted in partnership with Swansea University’s Richard Burton Centre, will be at the Great Hall at the University’s Bay Campus on Wednesday 20th November at 7pm until 8.30pm.

In the lecture, Rhian will be reflecting on the past when women composers were an extreme rarity, to discussing how much more prevalent they are today and how this change has enriched our culture. She will be joined by soprano Siân Dicker who will be accompanied by Kristal Tunnicliffe on piano for a performance of Cerddi Hynafol (Ancient Songs), settings of three medieval Welsh texts apparently by women, and the song ‘Before Dawn’ set to a poem, ‘Mourning to Do’, by American May Sarton.

Dr Elaine Canning, the Cultural Institute's Head of Cultural Engagement and Development, said: “We are delighted to be hosting a festival hub as part of Being Human 2019 and wish to thank the festival organisers for giving us this exciting opportunity to bring our research into the community once more."

Learn more about the event programme.

Max Porter & Lanny

Max Porter, the winner of the 2016 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for his internationally-acclaimed debut novel 'Grief is the Thing with Feathers' , will join Dr Francesca Rhydderch at Swansea University to discuss and read from his globally anticipated, Booker longlisted second novel, Lanny.

The event will take place at the Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University, Singleton Park, on Wednesday 9th October at 7:30 pm and will include a Q&A and book signing.

Max Porter's novel, 'Grief Is the Thing with Feathers', won the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Sunday Times/Peters, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year, the Europese Literatuurprijs and the BAMB Readers' Award, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize.

His latest novel, Lanny, has been longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize. Intriguingly described as Under Milk Wood meets Broadchurch, Lanny is a story of a child, a family, a village and a community and the tales they tell down the generations. Reminiscent of Dylan Thomas' all-seeing 'First Voice' in the fictional village of 'Llareggub' - the reader learns the unique perspective of Dead Papa Toothwort, an ancient shapeshifting spirit who observes and feeds on village life. 

Lanny has received widespread praise, and acclaimed author Maggie O’Farrell has said: ‘It’s hard to express how much I loved Lanny. Books this good don’t come along very often. It’s a novel like no other, an exhilarating, disquieting, joyous read. It will reach into your chest and take hold of your heart. It’s a novel to press into the hands of everyone you know and say, read this.’

The event is held in partnership with Swansea University’s Cultural Institute and Cover to Cover Bookshop.

Tickets for the event are priced at £8 and £5 for students.
The Taliesin Box Office can be contacted on 01792 602060.

Buy tickets at the Taliesin Box Office.

On Friday 17th May, postgraduate students in Creative Writing were joined by literary agents, published alumni and professional actors for a day of celebration and inspiration.

Thanks to agents Lucy Morris (Curtis Brown Book Group), Hannah Griffiths (All3Media) and Tristan Kendrick (Rogers, Coleridge and White) for beginning the day with helpful insights, tips and conversation, chaired by Professor Owen Sheers.

literary agents day 2019

We were then joined by four highly successful Creative Writing alumni who have all enjoyed recent publication of their work. Many thanks to Rhys Owain WilliamsRebecca John, Jane Fraser and Wendy Holborow for reading and speaking to our current crop of Creative Writing postgraduates.

Dr Francesca Rhydderch, Director of the MA in Creative Writing, said: 'The publishing industry is extremely competitive and challenging, and by offering our students an opportunity to meet with agents face to face we are confident that once they graduate they will feel equipped to pursue the business side of writing with professionalism and flair. 

‘Our Writers' and Agents' Day also gave current students the chance to hear about the field from the point of view of alumni who are now award-winning, published writers.' 

Writers' Day
‘Overall, this was a day of celebration as well as education, and the Creative Writing teaching team would like to thank the Cultural Institute for making it happen, Professor Owen Sheers for hosting the event so brilliantly, the agents and writers for taking time out of their busy schedules to come and visit us, and last but not least, our current students who have engaged so fully this year with all that our MA in Creative Writing has to offer.'

Swansea's MA in Creative Writing is renowned for the broad opportunities it offers its students, from fiction in all its forms, through creative non-fiction and into the various genres of writing for performance -- stage, screen and radio.  Every year, Swansea's MA students have the opportunity to see their own work being performed by professional actors in our Rough Diamonds event. This year Rough Diamonds was combined with Writers’ and Agents’ Day and the evening event in the Taliesin Theatre was a stunning success.

Rough Diamonds 2019
Swansea's Director of Creative Writing, Professor D.J. Britton commented: ‘To see impressive excerpts of plays from thirteen new writers was like a feast of all that's good in new performance writing.  The sharp commentary they provided on contemporary life was both compelling and entertaining -- a fantastic end to a fantastic day.’

Special thanks to Dr Francesca Rhydderch and Professor D.J. Britton from the 2018-19 cohort of MA Creative Writing students.


To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, the custodians of the Prize, Swansea University, have announced for the first time that five guest judges will be joining Chairman Professor Dai Smith CBE and Professor Kurt Heinzelman in selecting the 2020 winner of the world’s biggest prize for young writers.

The guest judges boast an incredible line-up of literary talent including the award-winning writer and founder of Jaipur Literature Festival Namita Gokhale, author and 2011 winner of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize  Lucy Caldwell, the British-Ghanaian writer, poet and critic Bridget Minamore, celebrated writer and presenter of BBC Radio 3: The Verb Ian McMillan and national arts and culture journalist Max Liu.

Professor John Spurr, Swansea University, said: “This is a very special year for the Prize, as Swansea University celebrates its centenary and the Prize is in its 15th year,  and we are delighted to have such distinguished literary figures joining the judging panel. We look forward once again to a stimulating longlist and shortlist representing the best in young writing around the world.”

The judging panel will be tasked with choosing the best published literary work, in the English language across genres, including poetry, novels , short stories and drama, written by an author aged 39 or under.

Previous winners have included: Guy Gunaratne for In Our Mad and Furious City (2019), Kayo Chingonyi for Kumukanda (2018), Fiona McFarlane for The High Places (2017), Max Porter for Grief is the  Thing With Feathers (2016), Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (2014), Claire Vaye Watkins for Battleborn (2013), Maggie Shipstead for Seating Arrangements (2012), Lucy Caldwell for The Meeting Point (2011), Elyse Fenton for Clamor (2010), Nam Le for The Boat (2008) and Rachel Tresize for Fresh Apples (2006).

The longlist for the Prize will be announced live on the 24 January at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival in India, followed by the shortlist on the 7 April and Winner’s Ceremony held  in Swansea on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May.

More on the judges