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Best of 2021: A selection of cultural highlights from the last 12 months

31 Dec 2021 6 minute read
Greek glamour. Photo Joanna Quinn.

As the year comes to an end the great and the good of Welsh culture – and some of the Nation.Cymru gang – share their cultural highlights of the last 12 months.

Joanna Quinn and Les Mills

Our cultural highlight this year has been going to our first ‘in person’ animation festival and watching our film for the first time with a live audience. It was Animasyros on the beautiful Greek Island of Syros at the end of September.

We were so totally preoccupied and paranoid about getting the correct travel docs and COVID tests that we never thought we’d actually arrive but we did and it was a dreamlike experience. After almost 2 years of lock down watching the entire Judge Judy series in our kitchen in Cardiff, to actually being on an idyllic island with marble – yes marble roads, with people from all over the world, watching international films was mind blowing.

They actually gave us a select box of our own in an amazing cinema, which was a miniature replica of the Milan Opera House. It was a reminder of just how enriching international Film Festivals are – the antithesis of everything Brexit stands for. Oh and we won the Grand Prix there too – what more could we have asked for?

Joanna Quinn and Les Mills latest animated film Affairs of the Art has been shortlisted for the 2022 Academy Awards and has already secured over 20 awards from festivals around the world. The new film continues the Beryl series, that began with 1987’s Girls’ Night Out, followed by 1990’s Body Beautiful and 2006’s Dreams and Desires. This is Joanna’s third bid for an Oscar after being nominated previously for Famous Fred in 1997 and The Wife of Bath – Canterbury Tales Part 1 in 1998.

Myrddin ap Dafydd

*English follows below*

Un o bleserau celfyddydol mawr y flwyddyn oedd gwylio Gwlad yr Asyn gan Wyn Mason (cynh. Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru) yn theatr awyr agored Glyn y Weddw yn yr haf. Y rhyddhad o gael gweld drama fyw eto… yr olygfa o Fae Ceredigion oedd yn gefnlen odidog i’r llwyfan… gweld aelodau o’r gynulleidfa nad oeddem wedi’u gweld ers misoedd… Ond yn bennaf roedd y sioe ei hun yn berl – o ran sgript, actio, canu a chodi’r ysbryd gyda delwedd gyffrous o ble allwn ni fynd fel gwlad.

Ar y teledu, y gyfres ddrama ditectif Shetland a rhaglenni Simon Reeve ar Gernyw roddodd foddhad mawr. Bu’n flwyddyn o ddarllen wrth gwrs a braf oedd ail-ganfod pleser yng ngherddi William Jones Nebo eleni a mwynhau nofelau Sara Mai gan Casia Wiliam. Eva Ibbotson oedd y nofelydd Saesneg y dois i ar ei thraws – cafodd ei geni yn Vienna yn 1925 a bu raid i’w theulu ffoi rhag y Ffasgwyr a setlo yn Lloegr. Yn ei The Morning Gift, mae’n wynebu erchyllterau Hitleriaeth ond hefyd yn dangos y derbyniad oeraidd a gâi ffoaduriaid yn Lloegr. Ar ôl cael fy machu gan y cyntaf, mi ddarllenais gryn hanner dwsin o’i llyfrau.

Cerddoriaeth? Yn dal i ddisgwyl am gael mynd i gìg byw ond ar hyn o bryd mae CD Gwen Màiri a’i threfniant i’r delyn o ddwsin o garolau Basgeg yn felys dros ben.

One of the great pleasures of the year was watching the Gwlad yr Asyn by Wyn Mason (inc. National Theater of Wales) at Glyn y Weddw at an outdoor theater in the summer. The relief of seeing a live play again – with the view from Cardigan Bay was a spectacular backdrop to the stage – and seeing audience members we hadn’t seen for months… But above all the show itself was a gem – in terms of script, acting, singing and raising the spirit with an exciting image of where we can go as a country.

On television, the Shetland detective drama series and Simon Reeve’s Cornwall programs were extremely rewarding. It has been a year of reading of course and it was pleasing to re-discover the poems of William Jones Nebo this year and to enjoy Sara Mai’s novels by Casia Wiliam. Eva Ibbotson was the English novelist I came across – she was born in Vienna in 1925 and her family had to flee the Fascists and settle in England. In her The Morning Gift, she confronts the horrors of Hitlerism but also shows the cold reception of refugees in England. After being captivated by her first, I read half-dozen of her other books.

Music? I’m still waiting for a live gig but for now Gwen Màiri’s CD and her arrangement on the harp of a dozen Basque carols are very sweet.

Myrddin ap Dafydd is a writer, publisher and chaired bard. In 2018 he was elected Archdruid of Wales. He founded the Gwasg Carreg Gwalch publishing company in 1980 and he is also a director of the Cwrw Llŷn brewery in Nefyn and of the Oriel Tonnau art gallery in Pwllheli.

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney

David Owens

Journalists love a good story.

Especially a story that has legs.

And the purchase of Wrexham Football Club by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney had the legs of a rather athletic centipede.

When news first emerged of the intention of these two moneyed actors to buy the historical old club, your first reaction was suspicion and a healthy dose of cynicism.

Was this a publicity stunt? A Case of a rich man’s plaything. Or a poorly thought out hairbrained scheme.

The pair would quickly state themselves they understood the level of scepticism surrounding their purchase.

However, what followed was a big hearted publicity and marketing campaign that you couldn’t help being swept along with.

Within the space of a few weeks through a mixture of goodwill, humour and some of the funniest viral videos to hit social media, they not only found their way into the hearts of Wrexham fans, but made everyone else fall in love with them.

Yes, there was a TV show – Welcome To Wrexham – attached to the project, but with major sponsors such as Tik Tok pumping money into the club, Wrexham AFC are now a hugely attractive prospect with a global reach.

In their wildest dreams Wrexham fans couldn’t have imagined such a situation 18 months ago. Nor, frankly, could us journalists.

What a ride it’s been.

David Owens has been a journalist for 30 years. Born and raised in Cardiff, he started out in newspapers and magazines in Wales before heading to London and Brighton where he worked on a range of publications in a variety of positions from features editor to managing editor.

He then headed back home to the Welsh capital where he worked in a number of roles at Media Wales, including senior reporter, arts correspondent and desk editor. He is the author of Cerys, Catatonia and the Rise of Welsh Pop and one of the co-hosts of the Welsh Music Podcast. He joined Nation.Cymru as Features Editor in June.

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