Touching base

Crickhowell Literary Festival ( 2018

Just touching base (and touching bass too, as it were) after a busy week of books and music has meant fewer blog posts than usual here.

As you can see from the header photo Crickhowell in southeast Wales has just had its fourth literary festival over the last week and a bit, and I’ve been involved stewarding a few of the events. These included authors as diverse as comic fantasy writer Jasper Fforde, debut novelist Katy Mahood (whom I used to teach music in Bristol) and stand-up comedian and broadcaster Robin Ince, as well as subjects ranging from Frankenstein to dry-stone walling and poetry featuring historic characters associated with a short stretch of our local canal.

I’ve also sung in an ensemble which took part in Open Day events marking the re-opening of a 15th-century Welsh farmhouse, singing medieval songs, madrigals and commissioned choral pieces within an ambient soundscape. Refined techniques involving dendrochronology established that Llwyn Celyn‘s framework came from trees first felled in 1420, with significant additions documented around 1690; the last owners only vacated the property recently so the range of music reflected its long history. The choral singing combined with homemade instruments and the ambient sounds of sheep, birds retiring for the night and high-flying aircraft to echo round the valleys in the Black Mountains of the Welsh borders as dusk fell.

Llwyn Celyn’s medieval farmhouse
Visitors to Llwyn Celyn

Other literary matters haven’t been neglected though. I’ve completed some books which are awaiting reviews — these include Henry James’ Daisy Miller and Gail Honeyman’s bestseller Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine — and, in concert with Lizzie Ross, I’ve been helping prepare for this year’s Witch Week which this year has Feminism+Fantasy as it’s theme: look out for at least one more advance notice in the days to come!

21 thoughts on “Touching base

    1. We’re very lucky in this corner of Wales, lots going on if you know where to look for it, and aided by a sense of a rich history stretching back centuries.


      1. Yes, thanks Chris. Five beta readers at the moment, though apparently people go up to ten which seems like a lot of feedback to deal with to me! Kind of frightening, but a necessary step. Wish me luck 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I rarely go overboard with novels but I really rate this one: good plotting, a protagonist that one willingly invests in, a twist that I didn’t see coming and storytelling that for me never dragged—I wanted to know what happened next. The hype, for a change, has strong foundations.

          Sorry, I’ve given a mini-review there! Luckily no true spoilers. 🙂


  1. That house is so beautiful – reminds me of a tiny Landmark Trust property where we stayed a weekend once, St Winifred’s Well, with those gorgeous thick beams. The high roof space can make it very cold though!

    I’ve been away too. I realised a long-held ambition to visit Vanessa Bell’s house, Charleston, in Sussex, and also the astonishing Watts Artists Village near Guildford with its remarkable Arts and Crafts chapel. What an absolute gem – and I had never heard of it before.

    So the artistic well is brimming over at the moment….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly the Llwyn Celyn roof space was originally much higher, being the main double-height hall of the medieval building. The photo with the long table and fixed bench shows the ceiling inserted (with a chimney as well) around 1690 to allow an extra living space above. The 2014 edition of the Trust’s handbook has a photo of St Winifred’s Well’s interior and it looks lovely.

      Yes, we went to Charleston too in early September (though not to Guildford) and did the tour round. Sadly no photography was allowed inside but I’ve been steadily posting pics of the garden on Instagram. We also saw Virginia Woolf’s Monks House and Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst when in Sussex, and almost fell prey to Stendhal Syndrome… 😁


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