Venues in Wales
There are many opportunities to enjoy - and participate in - the live literature experience in Wales. Aside from opportunities to catch major names discussing and performing recent work at the key festivals of the literary calendar, such as Hay, The Dylan Thomas Festival and, more recently, the Laugharne Festival, regular events take place throughout the year in venues both large and small in Wales, which feature a lively mix of readings and talks by both emergent and well established writers.
In the Capital, the Wales Millennium Centre, the Chapter Arts Centre and the Norwegian Church have all established excellent reputations for delivering high quality literary events boasting many of Wales’s leading poets and fictioneers. In the West, the Boathouse in Laugharne remains one of the most picturesque and atmospheric settings to hear live poetry in Wales. The Aberystwyth Arts Centre has also played an increasingly key role in providing a platform for writers in mid-Wales, and its bookshop hosts a number of book and magazine launches throughout the year with entry to many events normally free or very modestly priced. In the North, Galeri in Caernarfon and Theatr Harlech also offer a strong and varied programme of live literature throughout the year. As well as highlighting the achievements of Wales’s leading lights, many of these venues also provide opportunities to enjoy new writing from the stars of tomorrow, too.
In addition to the major arts venues, readings and talks take place all over Wales at the local level, which means that wherever you are in Wales, it’s fairly likely that there’s something going on in your area. Library, arts and community centres continue to play a key role in promoting the live word, and many of their events are supported by Academi’s Writers on Tour scheme, which remains committed to bringing the best of Welsh literature to audiences across Wales. If you’re looking for high quality readings, talks, Q and As and opportunities to workshop your poetry or fiction with some of Wales’s finest names, then chances are you’ll find it locally at little or often no cost.
But as with the wider UK, live poetry and fiction in Wales is no longer limited to these more traditional settings. Pubs, clubs, cafes and art galleries are just as likely these days to be playing host to smaller scale but nevertheless high quality events – and they’re particularly important outlets for new writers seeking to find an audience for their work and hone their skills. While many excellent major venues, such as the Dylan Thomas Centre, offer some opportunities for open mike, you’ll generally find the largest opportunities at the grassroots level. Smaller nights, run by local organisers (not for profit but out of the goodness of their heart), place a very firm accent on new writing. Some organisers dedicate entire nights to the unpublished through open mike or longer slots for talented newcomers, while others may provide an open mike session prior to a reading by a paid seasoned pro. More recently, Academi has launched its Night for the Unpublished series of events which showcases the cream of the upcoming crop and also offers open mike slots for both poets and fictioneers at venues across Wales.
If you’re seeking to get plugged into the literary scene, it’s very important to attend these events. Show your support, keep live word alive and create some opportunities to get your work heard. Remember that many events, such as the Poetry and Pints night in Merthyr, supported by Academi, are free, or require only a very nominal sum – a few pounds – to attend. If you think you’re ready, sign up for an open mike slot and have a go yourself in a fun and supportive atmosphere. Become a part of the scene and you’ll find you’re improving your prospects of an audience for your own work, not to mention making contacts and - very often - some good friends. There’s no shortage of culture or contact to be made out there. You just need to connect with it.
If you want to discover what’s going on, then there are many ways to find out about events in your area. Visit the What’s On page on Academi’s website regularly to find out about both ad hoc and regular poetry and fiction nights in your locality – and do remember to subscribe to the Academi e-newsletter which will keep you updated on upcoming live literature highlights. Most major arts venues also provide free email newsletters to keep you up to date with their future programme – so be sure to join their list. And don’t forget that joining a writers group can be a particularly good way of connecting with the scene – many writers groups actually play a key role in organising events themselves, and it’s much easier to stay in touch with the culture if you’re part of a community. But, most importantly of all, do visit your local library. In addition to publicising their own events, they’ll also advertise events across your area on their noticeboards, along with other information, news and opportunities of interest to creative writers.