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An Irish Dylan festival, not just a lot of blarney; LAND OF LITERARY GIANTS TO CELEBRATE OUR OWN GENIUS.

Byline: ROBIN TURNER

NOT content with celebrating famous writers of their own like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and WB Yeats, the Irish are now holding a three-day festival devoted to the works of Dylan Thomas.

Next month's Dylan Thomas Literary Weekend in County Clare is expected to raise tens of thousands of much-needed euros for the local economy.

It is being held on the rather tenuous grounds that Francis Macnamara, the father of Swansea-born Dylan Thomas' wife Caitlin, once lived in the Falls Hotel and Spa in Ennistymon, County Clare, where the event is being held.

But tourism expert Anne Haden, who with husband Geoff runs the Dylan Thomas House (birthplace) attraction in Cwmdonkin Drive, Uplands, Swansea, says she has "no problem" with Dylan Thomas being feted across the Irish Sea.

The burgeoning Dylan Thomas "industry" is estimated by Swansea Council to be worth some pounds 3.5m a year to the city's economy but Mrs Haden says the Falls Hotel weekend will only add to tourism in Swansea.

She said: "This is a fantastic advert for the life of one of Wales' greatest exports. We are not only famous for rugby, football and choirs - a short little man from Swansea proved he was a brilliant writer and a great character and became renowned across the world.

"Those who go to this literary festival in County Clare and become fascinated by Dylan will no doubt want to come and see where he was born in Swansea and that can only be good for us. What we should be doing is putting trade stands up at the festival to let people know there is plenty going on in Swansea to remember this writer of ours."

Thomas' London-born wife Caitlin, who died in 1994 aged 80, had a strong Irish background.

According to Joanne Clancy, organiser of the County Clare Dylan Thomas festival: "The Dylan Thomas link with the hotel is that the original Ennistymon House was owned by the Macnamara family.

"Thomas himself did not live in Ennistymon at any stage but his wife Caitlin did. Her father Francis was the person responsible for transforming the manor house into a commercial property, what we know today as the Falls Hotel and Spa.

"This literary weekend (May 18-20) focuses not only on Dylan Thomas' inspiring work, but that of his contemporaries and those who continue to be inspired by him.

"The festival will enable fans of Dylan Thomas to celebrate his connections with Ennistymon, and to learn more about the man who is known the world over for the passion and love of life he infused in his poetry and prose."

The event will feature lectures, poetry recitals, a documentary screening, and a history tour outlining Ennistymon's connections to Thomas and other poets, including Irish language poet Brian Merriman.

The keynote lecture will be delivered by Dylan Thomas biographer and journalist Andrew Lycett.

There will be Welsh involvement with Robert Minhinnick, the award-winning Welsh essayist and poet, being amongst the contributors who also include poet and painter Jo Slade, Dublin poet and playwright Clairr O'Connor and Limerick writer Paul O'Mahony.

Barbara Faulkner, chair of the Clare Tourism Forum, said: "Cultural tourism is becoming increasingly popular throughout Ireland and Britain. In County Clare, we are particularly fortunate to be associated with numerous worldrenowned poets, writers, artists and musicians."

Swansea-based Dylan Thomas expert Jeff Towns, who collects Thomas papers and writings, said: "I remember when the hotel was creating a Dylan Thomas room they asked me for some memorabilia which I sent on the grounds I would get a free night there.

"I never took it so now might be a good time to go!

"I don't think the Irish event will harm what's going on here and in many ways could create some new Dylan fans in Ireland.

"We get people from all over the world coming to Swansea to visit Dylan's roots and I have been encouraged to hear politicians in Cardiff discussing ways of making sure we go big on the Dylan centenary in 2014.

"It's also true Caitlin Thomas had a strong love for Ireland. She was born in London but her father's links to the Irish arts scene led her to meet Augustus John, then Dylan himself. After Dylan's death she travelled in Ireland to discover her roots.

"Once, Dylan was commissioned by the Picture Post to write on the annual Irish Puck Fair and he took Caitlin and they had a great time drinking and eating but he did not deliver his piece to the magazine... typical!"

CAPTION(S):

* Falls Hotel, County Clare, where Caitlin's father Francis Macnamara used to live Dylan Thomas with his wife Caitlin. She was born in London but her father Francis Macnamara lived in the Clare manor house
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 11, 2012
Words:795
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