Best of 2021: A selection of cultural highlights from the last 12 months
As we finally say goodbye to 2021 the great and the good of Welsh culture – and some of the Nation.Cymru gang – share their cultural highlights of the last 12 months.
Genod Gwych a Merched Medrus 2 by Medi Jones-Jackson, published by Y Lolfa is a fun collection of female role models for girls and young women and I really hope that we’ll get to see an English language version very soon.
Magie des Lesens [The Magic of Reading] edited by Annemarie Stoltenberg and published by Reclam Verlag explores how books comfort, provoke, nurture, and inspire us in sometimes the most unexpected ways – it really resonated with me, bringing back childhood memories of how I came to love books and reading.
I thoroughly enjoyed the quirky humour of the Netflix series Dix Pour Cent [Call my Agent] which offered much needed armchair travelling to my favourite city, Paris, alongside some belly-laugh moments.
Helgard Krause was appointed Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales in April 2017. Originally from Germany and multilingual, Helgard has a wealth of experience in academic, professional, illustrated and trade publishing. From 2010-2017, Helgard was Head of the University of Wales Press (which is owned by the University of Wales). Helgard is a member of the Learned Society of Wales and in 2020, was invited to join the prestigious Gorsedd of the Bards for services to the arts in Wales.
There was so much great music this year – Sufjan Stevens and Angelo D’Augustine, The Weather Station, Bicep – but the highlight for me was Jon Hopkins’ immersive, ambient electronic record ‘music for psychedelic therapy’. Spacious yet intimate, it’s filled with sounds from nature, and was perfect for some autumnal bike-rides along the River Taf! Check out the affectionate ‘Sit around the fire’ if you’re in need a warm hug.
One of the most affecting documentaries of the year for me is the soulful Lead me Home on Netflix – a short cinematic doc about the homeless calamity taking over the West Coast of America. I spent a couple of months shooting in California this year, and the humanitarian crisis has never been worse, with often much blame placed on the individuals on the street. This film corrects that and provides a little humanity and grace for them. It’s powerful stuff.
Closer to home, Janire Najera’s photography exhibition Atomic Ed was a real highlight. It opened as part of the Diffusion Photography festival at awesome Cardiff arts venue CULTVR. Atomic Ed unveils the journey of Ed Grothus, an outspoken anti-nuclear activist from New Mexico. Janire combined archival documents, photographs, spoken word and moving image to guide us through the nuclear history of the US. The show was inspiring and shocking in equal measure and felt very timely.
Jay Bedwani is a Cardiff based filmmaker specialising in character led documentary. Jay’s short films have played in over 40 international film festivals. His last short, STRETCH, premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival and was awarded best short at the Wales International Documentary Festival in 2019. His first feature documentary, Donna, follows the story of a well-known transgender elder in San Francisco, and is released in spring 2022. He’s currently in development with his second feature, Fridays with Barry.
Bethan Mai Morgan Ifan
The world opening back up again did not have me racing for any big, sparkly cultural events. Having become semi feral during lockdown after not long having moved out of the city to start a life by the sea before the world changed, I gravitated more towards the simple things taken for granted- the people and places close to the heart that were abruptly forbidden.
One such place is Caffi Lolfa in Porth Tywyn. A little gem of a place in a small seaside town in Carmarthenshire.
So much more than a caffi, It is a creative hub and hosts nights like Poems & Pints, evenings with local makers and exhibitions of different artists. The food and croeso there are works of art in themselves.
One of my cultural highlights was seeing the exhibition Hidden Danger by the photographer Ryan Woods, from West Wales School of Art there. He caught the beauty and rawness of the local area in his work, giving them a twist of Old Hollywood with his statement pink and blue washes. The photographs seemed to capture the naws of the local outdoors, the very places that had been sustaining our souls during those most unusual times.
Until 2021 there wasn’t one single public statue in Wales commemorating the achievements of Welsh women.
Monumental Welsh Women has a mission to erect statues to five great Welsh women, the first, Betty Campbell, was unveiled recently, Elaine Morgan’s statue should be finished in 2022 and one for Sarah Jane Rees has been commissioned.
There are few statues representing actual women anywhere … excluding royalty, mythological and allegorical figures, there are 120 in the UK. 50 of the 1,500 or so monuments in the London depict specific women, double are animals.
As we tear down the statues of tyrannical men, colonialists, slavers and war mongers, let us replace them with worthy women. Let us follow the theme of International Women’s Day 2022 and #BreakTheBias and let’s use women sculptors.
dinahvagina is Chair of the Women’s Art Association Wales – celebrating the art of Welsh creatrixes past and present.
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