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Welsh folk music and readings mark Dylan Thomas centenary in Buenos Aires, Trelew

Welsh writer Owen Martell.
By Andrew Graham-Yooll
For the Herald
The centenary of the birth of poet Dylan Thomas will be celebrated in Buenos Aires and Trelew over the next three days in the most appropriate way: with the sound of a Welsh-folk music and the readings of a Welsh writer.

This evening, at the Centro Cultural San Martín (7pm), and tomorrow in the Sala José Hernández (8pm) at the Book Fair in La Rural, will be for the listening to the voice and instruments of the Fernhill folk band — named after the lament over lost youth and recollections of freedom , Fern Hill, written in 1945 by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953). On Friday, the event will be presented at the Verdi Theatre in Trelew. This will mark the close of the Poetry Festival that is part of the 40th International Book Fair.

The tour is courtesy of the British Council which is leading the international programme for the centenary. The process involves presenting the programme in five countries, Canada, United States, India and Australia, apart from Argentina. The idea is to note the links that Dylan Thomas had with these countries, notably with Canada and USA, and which Wales has with all of them. Argentina seems the most obvious choice in view of the Welsh settlement in the Chubut valley. But the idea in the planning is to promote contemporary writing in Wales, alongside the Dylan Thomas celebration.

The Fernhill music band, formed in 1996, is made up of the voice of Julie Murphy, Christine Cooper on fiddle, Ceri Rhys Matthews on guitar, and Tomos Williams on trumpet. Fernhill is considered one of the best folk music groups in Wales.

Wales as a country has been celebrating the centenary since January, and promotional tours overseas have been taking place since then. In Argentina the tribute will be presented by writer Owen Martell, 38, who was born in Exeter, England, but grew up in South Wales, at the unpronounceable town of Pontneddfecham.

The musicians and writer were all looking a little washed out yesterday at their hotel on Avenida Las Heras. However, Owen Martell spoke to the Herald to say that the centenary events included poetry readings, music, performances, “all manner of cultural manifestations. My involvement is part of that. I’ll be performing with Fernhill in the celebration of Dylan Thomas.” He will be reading different parts of Dylan Thomas’s work to the accompaniment of Fernhill’s music. Martell has worked with Fernhill in Wales and the rest of Britain and in performances in Brittany.

Owen Martell, at one time a BBC reporter, has had three books published in Welsh, and one novel, written in English. His first book, written while still a student, was published in 2001. His last book has been translated into French and German, as well as Serbian and into other European languages. Some of his short stories have been translated into Macedonian.

Martell will be discussing his own writing at meetings with writers in Buenos Aires and Trelew. He described the journey south to Chubut this weekend as special, “because Patagonia has always been part of my make up as a Welsh writer. Patagonia is something we know about from very early on.” He described this journey as, “an opportunity to promote writing in the Welsh language as a whole.”

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