Saturday, 30 September 2017

Carningli Lodge and Plas Ingli

As everybody knows, the inspiration for Plas Ingli came from the ruin on the edge of the common that goes by the name of Carningli Lodge.  It's probably a "ty unnos" cottage, built before 1830, occupied until the First World War, and then abandoned. 

I've annotated this Bing Maps image which shows features in great detail -- partly because it is a winter image.  There are two ruined collages here, together with a cluster of strange little enclosures, and an old field pattern.

Although this area is on private land, it's classified as "access land" -- so walkers are free to walk over it and do their own exploring, so long as they do no damage.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Breaking News: Wales Book of the Year removes ban on self-published books

Sometimes a firm yet polite letter to the powers that be, pointing out the absurdity of something or other,  has the desired effect.  I have been upset for many years now about the fact that self-published titles were banned from entry for the Wales Book of the Year awards -- quite unlike the rules that apply to similar competitions in other parts of the UK.  So I wrote in July to Literature Wales, to Minister Ken Skates and to others who are key players in Welsh literature to complain about the self-publishing ban -- on the grounds that it was illogical, discriminatory and out of tune with modern publishing practice.

The eligibility criteria had included this as Rule 6:  All books entered MUST be “published by an established publishing house, which is here defined as a house that publishes a list of titles by a range of authors and distributes its books through recognised booksellers. Self-published books are not eligible.”

Suddenly, that rule has disappeared!  In the 2018 competition, self-published books may be entered.  So thanks are due to all concerned.  This is not of much use to me personally, since I don't have any new titles, but the rule change will be of particular help to poets, many of whom do publish their work via their own small publishing imprints.  I hope some of them will take advantage of the rule change, and get their entries in before the deadline on 1st December 2017.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Apostle and Requiem

Here is some more info on the film called "Apostle" which will be screened by Netflix next year.  It stars Michael Sheen and Dan Stevens -- and most of the shooting was done in the early summer in the Port Talbot area.

Released info:  Netflix has acquired the global distribution rights to period revenge thriller Apostle, written and directed Gareth Evans, with Michael Sheen, Lucy Boynton, Bill Millner, and Kristine Froseth joining the cast along with previously announced Dan Stevens, who was attached to the project early on. Filming is schdeuled to begin in April, with XYZ Films, Severn Screen and Evans’ One More One Production producing.

"We know Dan Stevens's character’s sister is kidnapped and ransomed by a cult, and as you might expect from a protagonist in a Gareth Evans movie, the cult will soon learn that they messed with the wrong guy’s family. Based on this new casting info, I’d wager Boynton is going to be playing the sister, and I can easily imagine Sheen chewing some scenery as a charismatic cult leader."


 Lydia Wilson, the star of "Requiem"
The other big production this year is "Requiem" -- a six-part series shot in the Newport (Gwent) area and in Dolgellau in the summer.  Interestingly, BBC Wales has nothing to do with this one -- the commission has come from BBC1 instead.  So it is guaranteed a network showing on the BBC.

BBC/Netflix show Requiem now filming on location in Wales

 25 March 2017.
Requiem, a new series commissioned by the BBC and co-produced by New Pictures and Netflix, has begun filming in the Welsh city of Newport. Funding has been provided by The Welsh Government, ensuring that the project stays and hires locally.
The Welsh Government’s Media Investment Budget (MIB) has an annual reserve of GBP30 million, and will provide funding for productions that incur at least 50% of their principal photography within Wales.
The MIB can be stacked with the UK high-end TV tax relief, which offers a 25% rebate to programmes with an expenditure of at least GBP1 million per broadcast hour. A film variant of the rebate is also available to productions that spend a minimum of 10% of their budget locally.
Detailing the decision to finance the project, Welsh Government Economy Secretary Ken Skates explains: “our growing success in the TV and film production industry is helping to promote Wales globally and highlight the talent and skills base that we have here. Attracting productions of this calibre to Wales is a sector priority and brings direct and indirect benefits to the economy, to local communities and to the film and TV sector.”
The six-part series will unravel the life of a young cellist named Matilda, who in the wake of her mother’s suicide, embarks on a journey to Wales to discover the truth about her past.
The show’s Writer and Creator, Kris Mrksa adds: “Requiem is the show I've always wanted to make. To be making it with the team at New Pictures, and for the BBC and Netflix, networks that I so greatly admire, really is a dream come true.”
Lydia Wilson will star as Matilda, alongside Joel Fry, James Frecheville and Clare Rushbrook, with Mahalia Belo directing the series.
Wales recently hosted filming of the American television series, Will. Detailing the early years of William Shakespeare, the project was shot at Dragon Studios.


A SUPERNATURAL thriller filmed in Meirionnydd this month will be released to a global audience.
Between 17 and 21 June, the town will be awash with TV crews and acclaimed actors as a new BBC/Netflix drama is filmed in Dolgellau.
Requiem, a taut psychological thriller with subtle supernatural undertones, is set across Wales and features Star Trek Beyond actress Lydia Wilson, playing Matilda, as her life is turned upside down following her mother’s inexplicable suicide.
In the wake of the tragedy Matilda begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself, embarking on a quest that leads her to a Welsh village – “a place haunted by its own past, where the secrets she uncovers threaten to unravel her very identity”.
Requiem is commissioned by BBC One and co-produced by New Pictures – famous for The Missing and Indian Summers – as well as Netflix.
Online streaming service Netflix will debut the series globally outside of the UK.
Midge Ferguson, location manager for New Pictures, said: “With the kind help and support of Gwynedd County Council, Dolgellau Town Council, the Dolgellau Partnership, local businesses and North Wales Police, I have spent the last few months gradually putting arrangements in place to enable us to come and film in the beautiful town of Dolgellau this month.
“The filming is for a new six-part drama commissioned by the BBC called Requiem which is a dark, psychological supernatural thriller.
“The majority of our filming is taking place in south Wales, but Dolgellau’s character and setting offers us a look that we could never achieve anywhere else and will work wonderfully for the story.


New Welsh drama from S4C and BBC Wales

 One of the stills from "Hidden"

 Eve Myles, star of "Keeping Faith"

 Jacob Ifan, star of "Bang"

There has been a lot of coverage over the last few weeks for the slate of new Welsh drama in the pipeline, most of it jointly commissioned by S4C and BBC Wales.  Here is some of the media coverage:

KEEPING FAITH --  Carmarthenshire

BANG  — Port Talbot

HIDDEN --  Snowdonia

"Hidden"involves Ed Talfan and Gareth Bryn, who were key players in Hinterland, and Severn Screen (Ed's company) is in charge of production.

By the look of it, all these are "gritty" police dramas, with more than a few similarities with Hinterland-- Welsh Noir is clearly on a roll!  Obviously "Bang" will be the urban one, with the others set in the countryside.  All three productions are bilingual.  So Welsh drama is doing quite well at the moment, with the work spread out among a number of production companies, directors, producers and distributors.  That can only be good -- and of course BBC Wales has been endlessly hassled over the past year by the Welsh Assembly to make a much greater commitment to the telling of Welsh stories. In that respect Rhodri Talfan Davies (the head of BBC Wales) is delivering on what he promised.   But there does not seem to be a great deal of variety in these projects, and you can only push the "Welsh Noir" genre so far.  And there are ongoing concerns about the low budgets available -- are any of these projects adequately funded and do they have strong prospects of foreign sales?  Only time will tell.......

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Next phase of the Welsh literature battle

 Prof Wynn Thomas and Helgard Krause speaking for WBC

Lleucu Siencyn and Prof Damien Walford Davies speaking for Literature Wales

The Culture Committee of the Welsh Assembly is meeting today, and is taking evidence from a number of witnesses -- including Lleucu Siencyn and Damien Walford Davies for Literature Wales and Wynn Thomas and Helgard Krause for the Welsh Books Council.   From the live reporting on the BBC web site, it looks as if the WBC reps are being very diplomatic indeed, whereas the Lit Wales team has decided that aggression is the best form of defence.  They are really going after the Medwin Hughes Committee, and making all sorts of accusations about the manner in which the Panel Report  was compiled.  It seems to me that some of their comments are very inflammatory, and will not win them any friends within the committee.  Anyway, we shell see how it all maps out.......

Monday, 11 September 2017

Jones Minor Prophet

 Tycanol Wood, a place of magic and enchantment, but also a place of terror and death.  Some of the most dramatic episodes from the Saga occur in this place of mossy stones and gnarled oaks......

Another of my favourite characters from the stories -- this time Amos Jones, the hero of "Flying with Angels."

Amos Jones, preacher and prophet

Amos Jones, itinerant preacher, minor prophet and last great love of Martha’s life, is another character of whom I am very fond. He is, like Wilmot Gwynne, a product of his age. Wilmot comes from the white heat of the industrial revolution, and Amos comes from the white heat of religious fervour, as a man intent upon spreading the gospel and saving souls.  He is an unlikely lover, for he and Martha have a wide social gulf between them, but they make immediate and easy contact when they first meet, and in some ways Martha finds him similar to her great friend and mentor Joseph Harries.  Both Joseph and Amos are fiercely intelligent, radically inclined and lacking in respect for the establishment.  They have a similar sense of humour, and speak in a way which Martha finds attractive.  They are also instinctively drawn to fight against injustice and to help the poor.  Maybe Martha has learned some lessons from her relationship with Joseph, which might have developed further had it not to been for his determination to  hide his love, and to protect her from the challenges that would have accompanied an inappropriate marriage.   Martha never says this directly to her diary or to anyone else, but maybe, as she felt drawn towards Amos emotionally, she thought  “To hell with convention!  Now I am going to live dangerously! “   And live dangerously she does.

One of the reasons why Martha and Amos are drawn together is their shared awareness of the world of the supernatural - and that is of course one of the reasons why Martha and Joseph have a natural empathy for one another.  But Amos combines a familiarity with ghosts and the other residents of the spirit world with a firm Christian conviction and devotion to his calling as a pastor and itinerant preacher.  In an age when many of Martha’s acquaintances specialize in self-indulgence, Amos specializes in self-denial and seems to take pleasure in suffering.  This makes him into an ascetic or prophet, and it makes him a very unlikely companion for Martha, who is not particularly religious and who has a long history of conflict with the church and with various rectors over tithe payments and other church matters.  But Martha has already had a flirtation with Methodism, and maybe she is excited by the idea that she might learn more about the nonconformist community and its system of beliefs as a means of self-improvement.  She has had conflict with the Baptists before, but she does not set out in Flying with Angels to fight with these good people or to humiliate them.   I have tried to portray Martha in this story as a more mature and tolerant figure than she was in her younger days, and as a person who genuinely wants to support Amos in his chosen and difficult calling.

The core episode in Martha’s relationship with Amos, namely the episode in which she seduces him in Tycanol Wood, is one of the most crucial episodes in the whole of Martha’s life story.  What follows next, tragic and gruesome though it is, leads on to high drama and considerable comedy in the big meeting in Brynberian Chapel. In a book such as this it is always very difficult to juxtapose horror and comedy so closely, and I faced a challenge in writing it down.  I am not sure that I have got the balance exactly right, but it was fine fun to try!

Like most of the other men in Martha’s life, Amos is essentially a tragic figure, involved in a loveless and unconsummated marriage and trying to find contentment and even salvation through good works, preferably a long way from the home that he has set up with his frigid wife.  Martha gives him happiness, and a good deal of pain as well.  He loves Martha with an intensity which he has never experienced before, so that is a sort of fulfillment for him.  As the story unfolds Amos realizes that it is his destiny to sacrifice himself in order to save Martha from those who have put a price on her head.  He does make the ultimate sacrifice, having arranged things in such a way that his friends are powerless to stop him.  So, as pointed out in Chapter 9 of the last book, he is a Christ-like figure who is too good to be allowed to live in an evil world.  He has many weaknesses,  and Martha is much stronger than he.  His destiny is to attract enemies who feel threatened by his goodness, and to suffer an unpleasant death at the hands of vicious men.

(An extract from "Martha Morgan's Little World")

Saturday, 2 September 2017

On the servant's staircase

One of the more moody photos from the gallery.  Taken on one of the staircases at Rhosygilwen......

Photo:  Steve Mallett
Model: Rhiannon James

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Dastardly Moses Lloyd

 I hope Dyfan Dwyfor doesn't mind me using his pic here, but he is a pretty well 
perfect fit for the part!

Moses Lloyd, servant and murderer

Moses Lloyd, the villain of On Angel Mountain, is the disinherited third son of the old Squire of Cwmgloyn.  He has a very murky past, which is gradually revealed as the story unfolds.   He has a gigantic grudge against the world in general, and against the Morgan family in particular.  He has upset his father and alienated his own brothers, but he refuses to admit to his own shortcomings and blames  Martha and her family for his own miserable station in life.  He feels that he has gentry blood in his veins and that he therefore deserves respect from those around him whom he considers to be inferior.  They give him no respect, apart from the respect which is accorded to all of the servants at the Plas who know their jobs and who work hard, and as time passes his resentment grows deeper and darker.

He has committed truly sickening crimes against the Morgan family, and before the story starts he has already killed six people. He lives in a state of denial regarding all of his crimes, considering that the Plas Ingli fortune is rightly his, and that murder and arson are somehow justifiable as part of his strategy to take possession of it.  He stays at the Plas only because he is quite determined to drive the family away from the house and to dig up the treasure which he has buried in the ground.  He has a hatred of hard work and an instinct for a life of debauchery, and although he despises the labouring class he is happy enough to drink with those who belong to it and to be involved in petty crime in the disreputable taverns of Newport.

He is probably mad even at the very beginning of the story, but he is not unattractive, and at first Martha is quite intrigued by him. He has striking eyes and strong features, and a bronzed and fit body.  He is also well educated and well spoken. He is attractive to women, and he knows it. He believes that he is much more handsome and more cultured than David, Martha’s husband, and therefore expects that it will not be too difficult to prise her away from the man to whom she is married.  His problem, and indeed his tragedy, is that he then falls in love with Martha and becomes obsessed with the idea of possessing her. When she rejects him, and ultimately humiliates him in front of all of the inhabitants of the Plas, he flees, cursing the family that has given him shelter and work, and swearing that he will have his revenge.  He also swears to himself that he will possess Martha, if necessary by force.  With insane logic he also decides that he must cut Martha’s face in order to destroy her beauty and thus destroy the source of her power over him.

Moses may or may not know that Martha has worked out for herself the extent of his evil, and he certainly underestimates the strength of her character.  He cannot tear himself away from the Plas, and so he stays in the vicinity, living on and off in Martha’s cave while he awaits an opportunity to fulfill his appalling ambition. The final scene of On Angel Mountain was a very difficult one to write, because I had to portray a pregnant woman in extreme danger and a man who is brutal and deranged - and who might sound rational but is actually quite mad.  The explicit descriptions of the brutal sexual assault in the cave took me a very long time to get right,  but on looking back I’m reasonably content with it.

Once Moses has been dumped into the cleft in the rocks by an exhausted Martha, he is gone but by no means forgotten, for the experience leaves Martha deeply scarred physically and mentally. She hates Moses for what he has done and what he has tried to do to her, and indeed she admits in her confession that she killed him intentionally, that she knows no remorse and seeks no forgiveness.  But later her hatred is ameliorated to some degree when she discovers something about his childhood. There is madness in the Lloyd family, and Martha discovers that when Moses was young he was subjected to extreme cruelty by his father, and had expectations dumped upon him which he could not possibly fulfill.  Whether a childhood destroyed by abuse is sufficient to excuse the villain’s abominable behaviour is down to the reader to decide.