Cabinet Secrets and German Jazz Halls to Steampunk and Corner Shops
Stories and reminiscences from the past to the future filled Aberaeron’s Memorial Hall as the second Gŵyl Lyfrau Aberaeron Book Festival brought over 25 authors, poets and performers to the town this month.
Opened by Aberaeron’s Mayor, we were suddenly in the jazz halls of Stuttgart as Rhiannon Ifans delivered the headline talk on her National Eisteddfod Prose Medal winning novel Ingrid. Former cabinet minister Lord John Morris, in conversation with former S4C and BBC reporter Alun Lenny, then revealed how he squeezed the first ever government grant towards the Eisteddfod from Prime Minister Harold Wilson, following a long walk around the falls at Devil’s Bridge. Quoting from his new memoir, Cardi Yn Y Cabinet, he asked for £75,000 but settled for £50,000 after Wilson warned: “Don’t pitch it too high, or the Treasury manderins will kick it out.”
Ceredigion MP Ben Lake presented the inaugural ‘Llyfr y Flwyddyn Aberaeron Book of the Year’ to Megan Hayes for her capture of what he described as: “an important and influential period of Ceredigion history” in ‘Cows, Cobs and Corner Shops.’ This bilingual investigation of the dairymen and women from rural Wales who established London’s milk trade, beat Gail Honeyman’s UK best seller ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ into second place with another local book, Ifor Lloyd’s ‘Derwen’ coming third.
Audiences were strong for all the set-piece events, featuring writers working in both the Welsh and English languages. Especially the Welsh crime writer’s panel of Alun Davies, Geraint Evans and Meleri Wyn James and Sunday lunchtime’s interview of Ifan Morgan Jones, author of ‘Babel’ the first Welsh language steampunk novel, by comic thriller writer Daniel Davies.
Organisers Dr Niki Brewer and Karen Brewer of Gwisgo Bookworm, Aberaeron’s independent bookshop, explained: “The ethos of the festival is to promote current writing and writers of Ceredigion and west Wales, in every genre, with a strong bilingual focus. We have an unrivalled wealth of talent on our doorstep that is making an important and increasing contribution to the literary world. The festival aims to celebrate and promote existing work and encourage the development of new writing.”
The youngest authors present were pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Aberaeron who read from their own community publication and there were also children’s workshops and presentations delivered by Huw Davies, Medi Jones-Jackson, Sharon Mari Jones and Colin R Parsons.
A series of adult workshops included Aberarth and Llanarth Bookclubs, Dr Jacqueline Jeynes on travel writing, Annette Ecuyere on dialogue in fiction and Kathy Miles on poetry. Kathy also headlined the Friday night poetry session at the Monachty Hotel with Chris Armstrong, Jackie Biggs and Karen Gemma Brewer.
Henfynw’s E M J Foster previewed her forthcoming Brexit influenced novel ‘Home?’, L E Fitzpatrick launched the fourth novel in her Reacher sci-fi series ‘The Rising Fire,’ and there were readings from Adam Somerset, Alys Einion, Derek Moore, Wil MacMillan-Jones and a special memorial reading of the late John M Hughes’ poem ‘At Ynys Las.’