Roald Dahl 100 Wales Commemorative Brochure

Page 1

An adventurous year with Roald Dahl By Ken Skates AM Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure

© Nick Treharne


Roald Dahl was the master of the unexpected - the inspired imagination of the world’s greatest storyteller conjured up a host of astonishing characters and we’ve seen some equally astonishing and fantastical events taking place in Wales this year. Roald Dahl although a truly international figure – was not immediately thought of as Welsh. I hope that has now been put to rights! One of my personal highlights was playing a part in City of the Unexpected in September – it was a phenomenal experience and I’m delighted that so many people were motivated to travel into Cardiff to witness what was a literary extravaganza. We can be proud of what was achieved - no other location hosted an event quite as spectacular as ours. The City of the Unexpected weekend was also a reflection of the whole year of celebrations across Wales; we’ve seen such a strong desire for arts events to celebrate our literature. I hope that the annual Roald Dahl Day on 13 September will give us a continued opportunity to celebrate the author and his Welsh links. Roald Dahl has featured prominently in Wales’ Year of Adventure. The landscapes, stories and heritage of the land of his birth have inspired a generation of adult and children’s stories; taking the reader on a memorable series of journeys involving fantasy, exploration, excitement and the fulfilment of dreams. From Charlie’s adventures in the Chocolate Factory to James and his Giant Peach; from the antics of the irrepressible Matilda to the tale of

the biggest and friendliest of Giants; Roald Dahl’s writing invites us into a world where anything can happen, where the unexpected is always on the agenda and where the impossible seems to be quite likely. The Roald Dahl 100 celebrations in 2016 were quite an adventure. Many of the events have been made possible through Literature Wales’ Invent your Event outreach scheme, funded by the Welsh Government, which aimed to engage the whole of Wales in reading, writing and spoken word. The Invent your Event scheme has supported over 200 events and workshops across Wales since January, engaging with over 30,000 children, young people and adults. Children across Wales took part in Land of Song, using a Roald Dahl inspired songbook to discover the joy of singing with energy and confidence. The Only Kids Aloud and Wales Millennium Centre’s Land of Song project culminated in a unique opportunity to come together in song at three simultaneous live concerts held in Llandudno, Aberystwyth and Cardiff. The Only Kids Aloud chorus also had the opportunity to sing ‘Revolting Children’ from Matilda and ‘Pure Imagination’ from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory to Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, during a visit in July. Roald Dahl’s well known collaborator Quentin Blake has brought so many of Roald Dahl’s characters alive through his illustrations. A major exhibition of his work was seen at National

Museum Cardiff. Quentin Blake: Inside Stories offered a unique insight into the origins of some of Blake’s most iconic creations. This has been one of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ most popular exhibitions. Our year-long programme has given people throughout Wales a chance to get to know Dahl better and to celebrate through song, music, dance and of course – reading, writing and spoken word. So, in 2016 as we marked the Year of Adventure and the Roald Dahl centenary, there was nowhere better to celebrate than in Wales: where the very landscape and the attractions invite us to embrace our own sense of adventure, and try activities that we’ve never tried before - to fly down a zip wire, to stretch our legs on a coastal path and to feed our imaginations within the walls of some of the world’s most impressive castles. Wales offers a lifetime’s worth of adventure that even Roald Dahl would have been inspired by. We now look forward to 2017 and to the Year of Legends here in Wales – which again is very fitting for our much-loved writer. Find out more: Cover image © Richard Swingler


“By any standards 2016 was an extraordinary year for Roald Dahl as the centenary of his birth was marked throughout the UK and indeed the world in diverse, exciting ways.

Wales took its fitting place at the heart of the celebrations - from highprofile events including co-creation of The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl experience and the dazzling transformation of Cardiff into Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected to the more grassroots but equally important activity in schools, libraries and communities throughout Wales. We are indebted to the support from 4

Welsh Government, from the key arts organisations and from individuals. No-one can be in any doubt at the end of this magical year that Roald Dahl was one of Cardiff’s most famous sons.” John Collins, Brand Marketing Director, The Roald Dahl Literary Estate

2016 marked 100 years since the birth, in Cardiff, of Roald Dahl – the world’s number one storyteller. There were gloriumptious celebrations throughout the UK and indeed the world all through 2016. It’s impossible in the space below to list everything that happened but some of the highlights included: • Groundbreaking new publishing, including The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary (OUP), Love From Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters To His Mother (John Murray), The Gloriumptious Worlds Of Roald Dahl (Carlton) and a special new edition of The BFG featuring Quentin Blake’s original illustrations. • The global release of The BFG movie, directed by Steven Spielberg. • A trail of 50 BFG Dream Jars, designed by celebrities, through central London.

• A season of TV and radio coverage on the BBC, including a major new documentary and specials on Blue Peter, BBC Breakfast and Countryfile. • On Channel 4, ROALD DAHL’S MOST MARVELLOUS BOOK, including a live Twitter vote by viewers, who chose Matilda as their favourite title. • An interactive campaign on BBC Radio Wales to find Wales’ Favourite Roald Dahl Character – in which Matilda again triumphed.

• The creation of a new immersive experience, THE WONDERCRUMP WORLD OF ROALD DAHL, co-produced by Southbank Centre, London, and Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, with the support of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

• Roald Dahl being awarded a Gold BLUE PETER Badge – the first ever awarded posthumously.

• Announcement of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as Patron of Roald Dahl 100.

• Cardiff, the city of Dahl’s birth, being transformed for one weekend into ROALD DAHL’S CITY OF THE UNEXPECTED by Wales Millennium Centre and National Theatre Wales.

• Chelsea Flower Show launch of David Austin’s official Roald Dahl rose, which is poised to raise £100,000 for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. • Theming this year’s Summer Reading Challenge in UK libraries THE BIG FRIENDLY READ. Over 800,000 children took part. • Two major exhibitions of Quentin Blake’s artwork for Roald Dahl’s books – THE BFG IN PICTURES (originated by The House of Illustration and now touring the UK) and INSIDE STORIES (at National Museum Cardiff).

Find out more: @roald_dahl

• Parties in schools, libraries and bookshops throughout the UK, US and globally to mark Roald Dahl Day.

• Innovative theatre and dining experience, DINNER AT THE TWITS, coproduced by Les Enfants Terribles and ebp, garnering rave reviews. • Celebrations throughout the year at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. • A new TV animation of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes by Magic Light (coming to the BBC for Christmas 2016).


Spreading magic and mischief all over Wales By Lleucu Siencyn Chief Executive, Literature Wales

You can imagine Roald Dahl himself saying Willy Wonka’s words: “Come with me/ and you’ll be/ in a world of pure imagination”. Open any of his books and you will quickly be immersed in a world of imagination and adventure. A world full of defiant animals, audacious orphans, cruel aunts, and one friendly giant. Between the covers you will find poetry, made-up words and a dazzling use of language. We take it for granted that everyone knows that Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff. However, when discussions began a few years ago about how we could celebrate the centenary of one our greatest writers, very few people I spoke to knew of Dahl’s Welsh origins. This made the centenary celebrations in Wales even more significant; we needed to re-claim the world’s best-loved children’s author as one of ours. 6

Luckily, the Welsh Government were quickly on board, and offered financial support to deliver a year-long, national programme of events in 2016. It was important for all involved in the planning of the centenary that this would become a Wales-wide celebration. To make sure this would happen, Literature Wales came up with Invent your Event. This was a new funding and outreach scheme offering financial support for organisers to celebrate Roald Dahl 100, and ran parallel to Literature Wales’ successful Writers on Tour scheme. A complementary outreach programme with a focus on social inclusion was also delivered by Literature Wales and its partners, making sure that people of all ages and backgrounds were given the opportunity to take part in the celebrations. The Invent your Event scheme was made up of three strands, or “chapters”, each one aimed at a specific type of literary event.

Chapter 1 of Invent your Event offered financial support for larger festivals and events, residencies and extended programmes of activity. Some of Wales’ leading arts and cultural organisations received funding from this Chapter, including: Hay Festival; The National Eisteddfod of Wales; Oriel Davies, Newtown; Galeri Caernarfon; Urdd Eisteddfod; North Wales International Music Festival; Beyond the Border - Wales International Storytelling Festival; the Stephens and George Charitable Trust Spread the Word Children’s Literature Festival in Merthyr Tydfil; Swansea International Festival; RawFfest – a new national youth arts festival; and Velvet Coalmine in Blackwood. Family-friendly activities inspired by Roald Dahl were also organised by Denbighshire County Council; Gwynedd Council and Palas Print Bookshop, Caernarfon; Caerphilly Arts Development; and Techniquest in Cardiff Bay. Chapter 2 supported smaller one-off events, and many organisers booked one of our specially commissioned “off-the-shelf” events led by some of our best writers and artists. These events included workshops and talks by popular children’s writers Bethan Gwanas, Angharad Tomos, Dan Anthony and Sarah KilBride; as well as spoken word poets such as Mab Jones, Rufus Mufasa and Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Sophie McKeand. These are all highly experienced practitioners who know how to communicate and enthuse audiences of all kinds.

In Chapter 3 we worked with our partners to make sure the centenary celebrations were as inclusive as possible. At Literature Wales we believe that literature belongs to everybody, and can be found everywhere – and Roald Dahl is the perfect catalyst for sharing this mission. In all his books he champions the underdog and celebrates the unconventional. He allows us to believe that anything is possible, no matter who you are or where you were born. We held sessions at Parc Prison in Bridgend, Cardiff City Football Club, the Wafer Factory in Merthyr and residential care homes in north Wales and Newport. We worked with young carers, cubs and scouts, Gypsy Roma Travellers, young adults with learning disabilities, and Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Although inspired by Roald Dahl’s books for both children and adults, many of these workshops combined literature with a range of other disciplines. They included lantern-making, science exploration, comic book creation, biscuit-making, film animation, clowning and beatboxing. Literature is the ideal spring-board for a number of other creative channels. So, from Anglesey to Abergavenny, Caernarfon to Caerphilly, Newtown to Newport, this has been a truly Waleswide celebration. We have re-introduced Roald Dahl to people of all ages in a way that allows them to engage with his work using their own creativity and imagination. Reading is one of the most magical acts – as soon as you open a book you are transported to a new world of adventure and imagination. Roald Dahl belongs to all of us – and this year, all over Wales, he was found everywhere.

Find out more: @LitWales @LlenCymru

Find out more:


Invent your Event

Chapter 3 of Literature Wales’ Invent your Event outreach scheme used the magic of Roald Dahl’s words to inspire creativity amongst people of all ages across Wales. Projects concentrated on social justice policies, working in specific areas and with targeted groups to encourage engagement and inclusion. Groups included: Pioneer Areas, Communities First, Asylum Seekers and Refugees, Young Carers, NEETS individuals, older people in residential homes, Mental Health Service users, Prisons, Gypsy Roma Travellers, and young adults with learning disabilities. Literature Wales places literature at the heart of the well-being, literacy, employment and skills agendas to ensure it is seen as a vital part of a balanced, engaged and healthy life.


Project highlights: Majoricalistic Mischief March Location: Wrexham Participants: Families in Communities First areas The so-called traditional nuclear family was rarely portrayed in Roald Dahl’s books. This project celebrated families in all their shapes and sizes. Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Sophie McKeand, and artist Rhi Moxon, worked with families from Wrexham to explore their surroundings using Dahl’s imagination as inspiration. Together they created a treasure trail as part of the Wrexham Street Festival.

Daubscribblish Doodlesagas Location: Parc Prison, Bridgend Participants: Prisoners and their families Prisoners and their families from HMP Parc in Bridgend worked with illustrator Sarah Edmonds and storyteller Michael Harvey to create a beautifully illustrated, giant, foldout story book. The project wove together performance, creative writing and visual arts to develop creative skills and confidence among adults and children alike. Get Creative with Football Location: Bridgend and Cardiff City Football Club Participants: Dads and lads This project was inspired by Roald Dahl’s recollections of visiting Cardiff City Football Club as a young boy,

Creating Giants with GISDA Location: Blaenau Ffestiniog Participants: Vulnerable young people aged 14 - 25

and experiencing the magic of a football match for the first time. Dads and lads worked with poet Mike Church and Literacy Co-ordinator for Cardiff City Community Foundation, Tom Knight. The film Inspiration, My First Match was then created with the help of Carter Films, in partnership with Ffilm Cymru Wales. It was screened to over 13,000 people during half time at the Cardiff City v Leeds match.

art created by the older people. The project linked with Age Cymru’s cARTrefu programme, which aims to improve access to quality arts experiences for older people in residential care.

Champions of Memory Location: Caernarfon and Newport Participants: Older people in residential homes

‘Many years ago, Merthyr made the finest biscuits in its mysterious biscuit factory’. So begins the fantastical biscuitpicture animated film created by employees of OP Chocolates, their families, and members of Merthyr’s Young People’s Writing Squad. The interactive story and biscuit animation workshops were held at Merthyr Libraries with poet Mike Church, Head4Arts and Breaking Barriers.

Older people in residential homes, many with early onset dementia, worked with poets Martin Daws and Patrick Jones, musician Dan Amor and artist Ailsa Richardson. The project explored memories, using Boy: Tales of Childhood, Going Solo and James and the Giant Peach as starting points. These memories were collected through poetry, music and

Merthyr and the Wafer Factory Location: Merthyr Tydfil Participants: Employees of OP Chocolates and Merthyr Writing Squad

A project in partnership with GISDA, who offer vulnerable young people in north west Wales the opportunity to improve their quality of life so they aren’t disadvantaged because of poverty. The group worked with author Bethan Gwanas and graphic designer Ceri Redman on the theme of giants. They took part in creative writing, illustration and graphic design sessions, which enabled them to bring their ideas alive on the page. Clowns and Twits Location: Monmouthshire Participants: Young adults with learning disabilities “You’ve got to be stretched”, said Mr Twit. The art of clowning encourages us to play, have fun, be vulnerable and outrageous. This project enabled participants to enter into the spirit of Roald Dahl’s characters and words, bringing them to life through physical movement. The project was led by performers Clare Parry-Jones and Denni Dennis and supported by Theatr Ffynnon. Find out more:


Roald Dahl’s City Of The Unexpected By Wales Millennium Centre & National Theatre Wales


The vision was to stage an event that took the city by surprise; a series of spectacles and unexpected performances, from the very intimate to the astonishingly big. The programme of events wouldn’t be made public in advance, and there would be no conventional sharing of his stories. Rather, Cardiff itself and its communities would become the stage, and its streets and iconic buildings transformed into the City of the Unexpected. This was the vision for what became Wales’ biggest ever arts event.

© Farrows Creative

The fact that Roald Dahl was born and spent his early years here in Cardiff is remarkably little known beyond diehard fans. On the week of his centenary, Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected, produced by Wales Millennium Centre and National Theatre Wales with director Nigel Jamieson, not only put the city firmly on the international map; it also reclaimed our beloved son in spectacular style. It was an experience the whole city would remember for a generation.

© Farrows Creative

Participation was key to the event’s success. In April 2016, a call-out was made for an extraordinary community cast, including choristers, dancers, Morris Minor drivers, bald men, magicians, brass bands, excavator drivers, firemen, circus artists, aerialists, rock-climbers, grandparents, children and a performing mouse. The response was overwhelming, and the producers set about organising a series of rehearsals of a scale never seen in Wales before. New skills were learnt, selfconfidence boosted and friendships forged. Thousands of children the length and breadth of Wales created their own dream jars to be displayed at the event. More than 5,000 people took part; as members of the Ministry of the Predictable, Save the Peach campaigners, hula hoopers, a mass choir and countless other colourful characters that appeared as if from nowhere.

Here’s what some of those participants said of the experience: • “Thank you for giving my inner child permission to perform” • “Magical, colourful and unruly… I felt young again” • “Restored my faith in human nature” • “The sense of community was palpable” • ”Such a lovely experience… it was beautiful to be able to play like that.” And it wasn’t just the public – professionals took on roles, from Police Officers, members of the Fire Service, even the First Minister, Carwyn Jones. Genuine, meaningful and playful participation from a diverse, enthusiastic and committed cast.

© Dan Green

If you weren’t one of the 300,000 people in Cardiff on the 17-18 September 2016, or who watched the highlights on BBC Wales’ documentary the following week, here’s a flavour of what you missed; a 7-meter peach arriving, unannounced, on Wood Street, and huge crowds following its journey to Cardiff Castle for a grand

civic welcome; a mischievous fox chased by farmers across the city centre, dodging their pitchforks with parkour, acrobatics and even a nail-biting tightrope walk; a boy called James being pulled from the peach, along with a ladybird who later married the Head of the Fire Service in a lavish ceremony at City Hall; intimate readings of Dahl’s work by some of his best-loved fans, in surprising locations across the city; a great pyjama picnic in Bute Park, in which the fox performed a miraculous escape from certain death, before the huge peach took off into the distance, and so, so much more.


Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected surprised and delighted huge crowds throughout the weekend; here are just a few examples of their reactions: • “Absolutely stunned by the performance from everyone! I’ve only lived in Cardiff for 2 years and I was so proud of seeing the whole experience and proud to live in Cardiff. As for the picnic; wow!! Blown away!” • “I may be 67 but [this] was far and above the very best Cardiff has done.” • “I laughed, cried, danced and sang and came away feeling uplifted and so happy” • “Amazing, enthralling and magical entertainment for free.” • “Words cannot express how amazingly magical this whole weekend has been. My children and I have all cried tears of joy and sadness - we really didn’t want it to end… it would have made Roald proud.”

© Craig Kirkwood

It trended on Twitter and was talked about on BBC Breakfast, in the New York Times and on BBC Radio 6 Music. Jaw-dropping pictures of the peach and the crowds were published in newspapers across the world; in the Sunday Times, the Sunday Mirror and the Sydney Morning Herald. Above all, this extraordinary celebration has proven conclusively that there is a very real appetite for large-scale arts events here in Wales – a desire to take part, to watch and engage. It marks a significant watershed moment in Cardiff’s growing confidence on an international stage, and better still, has shown what a wondrous, ambitious and unforgettable event the city itself can produce, on a par with any public performance you’d see the world over. After 2016, more than ever, it feels as though anything is possible. © Dan Green

Find out more:

© Richard Swingler © Farrows Creative


© Farrows Creative

“ “


An array of events, exhibitions, happenings and grassroots activity have taken place across Wales throughout 2016, delivering a year packed with gloriumptious treats and surprises for everyone.


Š National Museum Cardiff

Roald Dahl was one of the world’s most inventive, mischievous, and successful storytellers. As his country of birth, Wales is proud to have played a special part in the Roald Dahl 100 celebrations.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories National Museum Cardiff Quentin Blake: Inside Stories celebrated the work of one of the world’s most important and bestloved illustrators. Best known for his illustrations in the books of Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake’s work is recognised worldwide. This exhibition gave a unique insight into the origins of some of Blake’s most iconic and popular creations.

Adventure is just a Page Away National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Land of Song Wales Millennium Centre and The Aloud Charity

Pages from Roald Dahl’s original manuscripts (on loan from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre), including James and the Giant Peach, were on display at The National Library of Wales as part of their Adventure is just a Page Away exhibition.

Primary school children across Wales took part in Land of Song, using a Roald Dahl-inspired online songbook to discover the joy of singing with energy and confidence. The Land of Song project culminated in June with three simultaneous live concerts held in Llandudno, Aberystwyth and Cardiff.

Hay Festival

Roald Dahl on Film Film Hub Wales and Chapter Arts Centre The Roald Dahl on Film season was jam-packed with interactive screenings, thrilling cinema experiences, workshops and more. Across Wales and the UK, audiences delighted in ‘Scratch ‘n’ Sniff’ Matilda, and screenings of the highly anticipated 2016 release of The BFG.

Hay Festival celebrated Roald Dahl 100 with a range of special programming, including Dahl’s Most Villainous Villains, in which top authors Francesca Simon, Steven Butler, Philip Ardagh and Andy Stanton argued for their favourite villain under the supervision of Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell; and Roald Dahl fans, wordsmiths and wannabe writers swashboggled their way through the wonderful writing of the world’s number 1 storyteller in The Word Wizards’ Guide to Roald Dahl. Supported by Invent your Event.

© Nick Treharne

Over 3,000 school pupils have visited or attended workshops linked to the exhibition, and nearly 1,000 people took part in illustration and writing workshops over the summer holidays, including many Communities First family learning groups.

Devising Dahl Wales Millennium Centre and The Aloud Charity Classes from five primary schools in Cardiff, Swansea, Caerphilly, Holyhead and Rhyl took part in sessions with artists Caryl Parry Jones and Ed Holden to create their own Roald Dahl inspired songs. This literature and music project included the young people writing lyrics, recording their songs and performing for their fellow pupils and parents.

© Mary Perez


New plaques unveiled in Llandaff National Eisteddfod The Eisteddfod Maes in Abergavenny was alive with the stories and magic of Roald Dahl. Readings, workshops and performances took place in unexpected and unusual places, including a suitably giant peach! Budding illustrators delved into their innermost imaginations with artist Bethan Clwyd and actor Gareth Potter entertained with readings from The Twits. Visitors to the maes also enjoyed a specially-commissioned Roald Dahl-inspired treasure hunt. Supported by Invent your Event. Splendiferous Science Techniquest, Cardiff Bay Ever wondered if there was an easy way to find a golden ticket? Can you move objects with your mind like Matilda? Can bubbles really float downwards like they do in the BFG? We found out the answers to these and more in Techniquest’s splendiferous new science theatre show. Supported by Invent your Event. The Enormous Weekend Gwynedd Council and Palas Print


This new theatre in education show for KS2 primary school children was created with the specific aim of encouraging children to read. The audience are introduced to Alf - a colourful, intriguing character who LOVES to read. Alf shares with the children his love of reading, and reveals the adventures that happen to him when he starts to read. His absolute favourite author is Roald Dahl and he introduces his top 5 Dahl books in a fun and interactive way. Script by Bardd Plant Cymru, Anni Llŷn.

The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl Wales Millennium Centre, Southbank Centre and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre A magical and interactive journey to discover the secrets of a writer beloved by children of all ages. Visitors to Wondercrump learned about Roald Dahl’s extraordinary life and the surprising inspiration for his most famous characters and stories. The tour featured unique items from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre archives.

Dahlightful Stories Competition Welsh Books Council Children in Wales were invited to write their own Roald Dahl-inspired adventure story for this exciting and adventurous new creative writing competition for children in Years 3 to 13. Leading authors Phil Carradice, Horatio Clare and Dr Elin Meek judged the entries. The winning and shortlisted entries will be published in an anthology.

© Victor Frankowski

Caernarfon town centre played host to a weekend full of creative and fun activities for children and families inspired by the works of Roald Dahl. Children created their own Welsh giants with author Bethan Gwanas, scribbled with Huw Aaron, and got crafty building their own enormous crocodiles. Supported by Invent your Event.

Roald Dahl: Imagine That! Welsh Books Council and Mewn Cymeriad/In Character

The Llandaff Society co-ordinated the unveiling of four plaques, by the Deputy Head of Mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, London, Ms Ragnhild Imerslund, on buildings in Llandaff that have a historic association with Roald Dahl. There were two blue plaques, one for his birthplace at Villa Marie and the second one for his home at Cumberland Lodge (now the nursery of Howell’s School). The former sites of the two schools Roald Dahl attended, Elm Tree House and the Cathedral School, were also commemorated with plaques in the schools’ colours.

Wonderman Gagglebabble & National Theatre Wales with Wales Millennium Centre

© Nick Treharne

Wonderman, a play with music adapted from Roald Dahl’s Stories for adults, was performed at Cardiff’s Tramshed in September, opening on the very day of Dahl’s centenary. A unique take on Roald Dahl’s early short stories for adults, this brand new production combined original music, a cracking live band, grisly plots, soaring imaginings and thrilling twists and turns, all injected with a wicked sense of dark humour. Roald Dahl Day Royal Visit

Find out more:

Roald Dahl on Film © Guest Who

As Patron of Roald Dahl 100, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, was treated to a flavour of the activities taking place in Wales. Also present at the Cardiff visit, was Roald Dahl’s widow, Felicity Dahl, and official biographer, Donald Sturrock. Her Royal Highness met poet Rufus Mufasa, who had been working with children from Grangetown and Cadoxton Primary Schools to create rap and spoken word pieces inspired by Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes; and Welsh singer and songwriter, Caryl Parry Jones who introduced a rehearsal of pieces from Devising Dahl featuring pupils from Windsor Clive Primary School, Ely. The Duchess was among the first to see ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine Machine’ one of the installations created for Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected. The visit culminated in a stunning performance from children from the Only Kids Aloud Chorus led by Tim Rhys-Evans.

The biggest ever global celebration of Roald Dahl’s birthday! Schools, libraries, bookshops and community groups across Wales and around the world celebrated 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl. At the same time, the hugely popular Dahlicious Dress Up Day was marked in schools across the UK in support of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

Plus, Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival, The Urdd Eisteddfod, the Radyr and Morganstown Festival, The Big Friendly Read, Cardiff University Roald Dahl Centenary Conference, Swansea International Festival, Cardiff Metropolitan’s Fantastic Mr Dahl Conference, ‘No Book Ever Ends’ at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Gladfest, The Edge Festival Solva, North Wales International Music Festival, Velvet Coalmine in Blackwood, the Stephens and George Charitable Trust Spread the Word Children’s Literature Festival (Merthyr Tydfil), Llangollen Fringe Denbighshire, Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra’s ‘Concert of the Unexpected’, and RawFfest to name only a few…


Roald Dahl: Cardiff Boy? By Professor Damian Walford Davies

Half a mile north of Llandaff at the Danescourt roundabout, take Danescourt Way and follow it round to Rachel Close and the graveyard of St John’s church. At the west wall of the churchyard is a granite wheel-head Celtic cross, pink-brown in colour. It’s an unabashed statement, marking the grave of Harald Dahl and his beloved daughter Astri. The ashes of Harald’s wife, Sofie Magdalene, were also scattered here. Roald Dahl’s official biographer, Donald Sturrock, writes that the monument may symbolise ‘a public commitment the Dahl family had made to the Welsh soil in which they had put down their roots’. 18

It was King Coal that brought Roald Dahl into the world on 13 September 1916 in a splendid new house that still stands in Fairwater Road, Llandaff. It was the hustling, globally connected port of Cardiff that brought his father, Harald, from Norway via Paris to Wales at some point in the 1890s to set up a shipbroking firm that kitted out the world’s merchant fleets. Though no one could claim that he had hawser grease and coal dust in his veins (the closest he got was playing as a child on the floor of his father’s offices in Bute Street), Roald Dahl is the product of the south Wales industrial boom. After the untimely death of his first wife, Harald married a fellow-Norwegian, Sofie Magdalene, and the family moved to Tŷ Mynydd, Radyr (pictured right) – a massive pile, demolished in the 1960s, at the centre of an idyllic farm estate. Dahl would spend the rest of his life seeking to recapture this time and place. The death of seven-yearold Astri, and a few months later, of her broken-hearted father, signalled a return to affluent Llandaff and to a smaller, but still distinguished, villa – Cumberland Lodge (now the nursery of Howell’s School). The illustration by Quentin Blake on the cover of Roald Dahl: Wales of the Unexpected (University of Wales Press) shows Dahl in the uniform of Llandaff Cathedral School, looking up with openfaced inquisitiveness at his older self, with the cathedral spire acting as a kind of sightline for the young boy’s gaze, up to his six-foot-six, global-brand future. Although the young Dahl’s home in Llandaff was Norwegian and English, contributors to Wales of the Unexpected emphasise that he must have attuned himself to the frequencies of Welsh speech and to the distinctive shapes of Welsh culture. These elements of diversity and difference would also condition his writing in inescapable, if not always explicit, ways.

In Quentin Blake’s drawing, the adult Dahl looks like an English countryman – a persona he embraced after establishing himself in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. And yet, Dahl always conceived of himself as an outsider and was never really naturalised by the English literary establishment. Moreover, his first major publishing successes were in America, where he was sent as a dashing Assistant Air Attaché – and British intelligence agent – after crashing his Gloster Gladiator in the western desert of Libya in September 1940. Dahl was from the very beginning a complex cultural hybrid, the product of a mix of cultural identities and paradoxical attachments. A crucial figure in his early life was a gardener called Joss Spivvis (real name, Jones – more than that we do not know), who was the Dahls’ gardener at Cumberland Lodge and who took Dahl to watch Cardiff City play at Ninian Park on Saturdays. In a biographical essay published in 1987, Dahl recalled how Joss would hold him enthralled with the tale of his 19

first terrifying descent as a boy down the mineshaft of a Rhondda Valley pit, caged in the industrial Welsh dark, dropping at speed to the seams where the roof was held up by pit props known as ‘Norways’. What the young Dahl got from Joss was a sense of terror, excitement, cultural and linguistic difference – and the spellbinding power of a narrative rooted in everyday, as well as fantastical, things. Tellingly, the description of the descent into the mine that Dahl gives in his essay had already appeared in Dahl’s work, in almost exactly the same form, in the description of the descent of the great glass elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964). One must look hard for the presence of Wales in his work, but it is there. Dahl himself tells us in Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) that after being caned by the headmaster in the Cathedral School for the famous ‘Great Mouse Plot’ in Mrs Pratchett’s sweetshop (now a blue-plaqued Chinese takeaway) and being sent away by his outraged mother to a prep school in Weston-super-Mare, he used to align himself towards home each night, ensuring he faced his family across the Bristol channel in Wales. The description at the 20

beginning of James and the Giant Peach (1961) of the young boy, incarcerated in the house of his horrible aunts, recalls that act of Welsh homing: James looks back yearningly towards his dead parents’ house, over a rich pastoral landscape that recalls the Dahls’ estate at Radyr. In The BFG (1982) we have the narrative of an outsider – a giant at home neither in his own giant world nor in human society, in which he inhabits margins and shadows. He speaks a creative, hybrid language that he calls ‘terrible wigglish’ – which immediately brings to mind the Wenglish with which Dahl would undoubtedly have had some contact as a child. The BFG goes on to tell how this outsider learns to speak ‘proper’, and how he is accepted into the English cultural establishment by the Queen of England, no less. What we glimpse here is Dahl’s reflection on his own cultural move away from Wales and his complex Welshness – from perceived ‘margins’ to English ‘centres’ of culture (centres to which he never quite got access, as we have seen). What Roald Dahl: Wales of the Unexpected sets out to demonstrate is that – to quote Dahl’s famous statement about secrets – Wales is to be found in his work ‘hidden in the most unlikely places’. Images: © RDNL, courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Roald Dahl: Wales of the Unexpected, edited by Damian Walford Davies, is available from University of Wales Press:

A huge number of organisations and individuals in Wales and beyond came together to ensure that the magic of Roald Dahl’s words were celebrated throughout Wales during 2016.

• • • • • • • • • •

Welsh Government Literature Wales Roald Dahl Literary Estate Wales Millennium Centre National Theatre Wales Arts Council of Wales Welsh Books Council National Museum Wales National Library of Wales Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

• The Norwegian Church Arts Centre

• • • • • •

National Assembly for Wales The Aloud Charity City of Cardiff Council British Council Wales The Llandaff Society The Radyr and Morganstown Society

• • • • • • • • •

Chapter Arts Centre

• • • • • • •

Rily Publications

Film Hub Wales Into Film Film Cymru Wales Hay Festival The National Eisteddfod of Wales

• Sophie McKeand - Young

People’s Laureate for Wales

With special thanks to the libraries, schools, museums, bookshops, art centres, cultural organisations and societies across Wales that have contributed to the phizz-wizzing Roald Dahl 100 celebrations.

Urdd Gobaith Cymru Cardiff Harbour Authority Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity BBC Wales S4C TramShed Cardiff

A full list of organisations and partners supported via Literature Wales’ Invent your Event funding and outreach scheme can be found on

• Illustrations by Sarah Edmonds • Design by Yogi Communications

Creo University of Wales Press Anni Llŷn - Bardd Plant Cymru (Welsh-language Children’s Laureate)

• Cardiff University • Creative Cardiff