Invent Your Event
Spreading magic and mischief all over Wales
By Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive of 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. 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 Wales-wide 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.
Invent your Event was funded by the Welsh Government and supported by the Roald Dahl Literary Estate. The Roald Dahl 100 Wales celebrations formed part of Welsh Government’s Year of Adventure.
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