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Thursday, 2 October 2014
Words, Woodbines and Milk Wood, by Sally Jack
Woodbines and Milk Wood
By Sally Jack
have been many references to 1914 this year, with words such as war,
destruction, slaughter, and suffering unfortunately mentioned all too
is right we mark the centenary of World War I and consider the effect these
events had on our ancestors’ lives. However, it is also nice to be involved in
something a little more joyous associated with that particular year. On the
opening day of Leicester’s unique Everybody’s Reading festival,the Sied Ysgrifennu ar Daith (Dylan Thomas
Writing Shed) rolled into town and opened its doors to the life of one of the
UK’s most inventive writers, Dylan Thomas. This replica of his writing shed is
on tour around the country, marking another centenary as 1914 was also the year
of Thomas’ birth.
egg-shell and chocolate tones on the outer walls invite you in to a bright
space packed with detail, a snapshot of the life of this well-loved writer from
Wales and the place where Thomas wrote perhaps his most famous work, Under Milk
Wood. Toffees on the table, empty bottles, books everywhere and an ashtray
full of Woodbines tell their own stories. Copies of Dylan’s notes in his neat
hand layer his desk, pictures and writing are tacked on the walls; I loved
seeing his lists of words, looking for rhymes and rhythms as he brainstormed
the letter ‘b’ in this instance. Pictures of friends are stuck haphazardly
around his desk: W H Auden, Edith Sitwell, Louis MacNeice. Not bad as
networking circles go. I asked about the significance of some of the pictures -
famous paintings of crowd scenes, photos of locals in different countries. “He
loved people,” I was told.
Thomas was also a lover of language and to celebrate the centenary of his
birth, we are all invited to contribute a made up word to the Dictionary for
Dylan. Visit www.dylanthomasboathouse.com/dictionaryfordylan
to take part in this brilliant idea.
was then on to the official launch of the fifth Everybody’s Reading festival at
The Guildhall.Teachers, librarians,
writers and performers gathered, all with a common purpose: to get everybody
reading, whatever it takes. Cuts to library services and the appeal of computer
games are just some of the barriers to getting children reading so it was
inspiring to hear compelling arguments by Leicester-based writers and
performers such as Bali Rai, Carol Leeming and Jess Green enthusing about their
love of reading, their points made in speech, song and performance poetry.
However, two of Leicestershire and Everybody's Reading's greatest advocates
could not attend - writers Sue Townsend and Graham Joyce both sadly died
earlier this year; their words have given pleasure and escape to millions
throughout the world.
wine coiffed and nibbles nibbled we return to Dylan Thomas and a screening of
the 1972 film of Under Milk Wood. Thomas finished writing his play for
voices just a few months before his death in November 1953 and before its first
radio broadcast in January 1954. Following a day in the life of small, Welsh
village Llaregyb, it is alive with lilting and lusty language and big, bawdy
characters. Pleasure is had from listening to the vivid dialogue or reading and
re-reading the words on the page and I can't resist how Thomas puts words
together: 'bridesmaided by glow-worms', 'Samson-syrup-gold-maned' or the imagery
of 'the town ripples like a lake in the waking haze'.
so, awash with these wonderful words, another Everybody's Reading festival has
begun. I am grateful for my ability to read and the emotional journeys books
have taken me over the years. There are many imaginative events going on
throughout the county this week encouraging everyone to read and enjoy the
magic of books. As Everybody’s Reading’s patron Sue Townsend wrote in The
Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year: “Books need to be read. The pages need to
About the reviewer
Sally is a
writer and editor based in Leicester and currently reviews for the British
Theatre Guide. She is also Media Manager of Off the Fence Theatre Company
and Upstairs at the Western, Leicester's first pub theatre. Follow Sally's
blog at www.punctualsally.wordpress.com.