The top picks of ‘22: Our writers select their cultural highlights of the year
As I’ve mentioned previously, my wings have well and truly been clipped as of March 2020.
Less confidence than usual combined with the insistence of a well-meaning friend not to venture out of the house unless it’s on fire, or more recently, unless I’m wearing a mask, means I’ve not done as much this year as I’d have liked.
One event I had hoped to attend this year though, was the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron. Between 2016 and 2019, I had made a point of attending each Eisteddfod.
Amongst other things, I had used the Eisteddfod as an excuse (not that I need much in the way of excuses) to stock up on new books.
I always try to pick up copies of the works of the winners of the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize and the Prose Medal in particular.
Unfortunately, being a bit late booking accommodation for this year, I had to settle for watching events on the TV.
However, in the weeks and months since (have been trying to tackle my TBR pile in the interim) I have picked up copies of Rhyngom by Sioned Erin Hughes and Capten by Meinir Pierce Jones from Palas Print here in Caernarfon and I have to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both.
Another highlight for me came courtesy of my review of Hergest, by Geraint Evans. Evans was an author who I’d not come across before and having been so impressed by Hergest, I’d decided to search out more of his work.
So another trip to Palas Print results in me picking up a copy of Digon I’r Diwrnod, which I’m very much looking forward to reading.
Here’s hoping 2023 brings even more cultural highlights which I’ll be able to (all being well) attend in person.
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There has been an embarrassment of riches from debut and experienced authors alike this year and many books have stayed with me long after I’ve read the final page.
Perhaps because I was born and brought up on a small island and am now lucky enough to live on the Pembrokeshire Coast, The Seawomen by Chloe Timms was particularly memorable: a fiercely imaginative, beautifully written novel in which the sea itself is a character.
I’m a convert to audiobooks after the absolute joy of listening to Morgan Is My Name by Welsh author, Sophie Keetch.
The Audible Original, a feminist retelling of the Arthurian legend from the perspective of Morgan le Fay, is hauntingly narrated by Vanessa Kirby. Listening to it was an addictively immersive experience and I cannot wait for the second part.
This year, I was lucky enough to teach ‘The Art of the Short Story’ to a group of very talented MA students at Swansea University, which was an opportunity to immerse myself in short stories for several months.
Selected Shorts is a public radio show in the USA showcasing experienced actors reading short stories by well-known writers. Available in the UK as a podcast, there are countless stories superbly narrated, with barely a dud among them.
Even better, in 2022 Selected Shorts published Small Odysseys, a collection of specially commissioned stories written by such luminaries as Carmen Maria Machado and A.M. Holmes.
Closer to home, Gower based author Jane Fraser’s new collection, Connective Tissue, cemented her position as a master of the short story form. Each of her eighteen stories is a flawless jewel.
Finally, the Green Man Festival delivered a memorable 20th anniversary this year.
For me, the highlight was Mdou Moctar, a Tuareg musician from Niger dubbed the ‘Hendrix of the Sahara’.
Listening to Moctar’s desert blues as the sun set behind the Black Mountains was totally entrancing.
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The world has emerged from the pandemic a slightly wearier place, and that lassitude has shaped a lot of 2022’s cultural offerings as the era of streamed pastiche and remakings we were living in now merges with a feeling of apprehension lying just under the surface.
That sobriety is no bad thing, however, as culture reflects and externalizes insecurities that were already latent for so many in our society.
One of the literary highlights of the year for me comes at exactly this from a highly personal if tangential angle.
Pridd by Llŷr Titus is currently only available in Welsh but brings a new voice to an exploration of what is lost – and gained – in cultural moments of unravelling like our own, with the elusive fox providing an avatar both for continuity and loss.
Hopefully this (and others – Cymru Fydd by W O Roberts comes to mind) will be available for English readers before long.
The greater highlight though, at the risk of gratefully stating what has almost become a trope, is the relaunch of in-person festivals and events; from gigs and theatre to book launches and festivals.
The opportunity to wander a site, whether Tregaron’s Eisteddfod or the Abergavenny Food Festival, and to serendipitously stumble across a group of strangers listening to a poetry reading, or discussing the politics and ethics of meat, is a thing to treasure.
Even in straitened times, long may it continue.
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