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The WOW factor; From musicians and actors to directors and artists,Wales has its fair share of emerging talent. Karen Price names seven people who are set for success in 2014.

Matthew pictured in the foreground PICTURE: PETE VOELKER THE ACTRESS Name: Rachel Redford Age: 23 From: Penarth Background: While growing up, Rachel had dance lessons and was inspired by her actress mother Jennifer Lewis whio played Hazel Griffiths in Pobol y Cwm. While studying drama for her GCSEs and A-levels, she realised that she wanted to follow the acting path. After studying at Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) she made her professional debut in Sherman Cymru's It's A Family Affair in October - three months after graduating. A month later, she played a leading role in Dirty Protest's drama Parallel Lines. Plans for 2014: Rachel will be making her big screen debut in the feature film Posh, which is about the first-year students of Oxford University's infamous Riot Club. Directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education), it stars Sam Clafin, Holliday Grainger, Max Irons and Douglas Booth.

On acting: "I love the fact you're telling a story. I get very excited for the audience as well as myself. And I like the fact that you're able to explore things which you wouldn't do in everyday life. In Wales, theatre is really on the up. There are some amazing new writers, directors and theatre companies. I want to be a part of it." Hopes for the future: "It changes so much but a real dream would be to be in a period drama, which would be amazing. I'm very passionate about new writing so I just want to find new things. With Parallel Lines, the role came out of nowhere and I wanted to play it instantly."

THE OPERA SINGER Name: Rebecca Afonwy-Jones Age: 35 From: Lives on a farm near Montgomery Background: Rebecca was a member of the Welsh National Youth Opera and BBC National Chorus of Wales as well as a founding member of Tim Rhys-Evans' mixed choir Serendipity. Following a degree in English literature and history, she did a post-graduate course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama before further studies at London's Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She later landed a young artist contract with Scottish Opera and made her professional debut singing the role of Carmen. She later worked with Opera North and last August became an associate artist with Welsh National Opera.

Plans for 2014: After understudying as Countess Geschwitz in WNO's Lulu earlier this year (she performed the role on the last night) she was given her 12-month contract. She sang Anna Kennedy in one of the Tudor operas (Maria Stuarda) this autumn. She will be singing Flora in La traviata during the spring tour and has two smaller roles in Moses und Aron.

On opera: "I'm a farmer's daughter and my mum would say I could sing before I could walk but opera was not something on our radar at all. While working as a medical secretary at the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff I would go to a lot of the opera dress rehearsals. It's now wonderful to be in a revival of one of the productions I saw (La traviata)."

Hopes for the future: "Being part of WNO's trilogy opened my eyes to the bel canto repertoire so I'd really love to do some of those meaty roles. I would also love to sing Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlos as it's really thrilling music. In the near future there are some Mozart roles I'd love to do such as Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito."

THE ARTIST Name: Andrew Morris Age: 22 From: Swansea Background: Andrew studied photography at Swansea Metropolitan University and has already shown his work in a number of exhibitions. Last month he was named winner of the inaugural Wales International Young Artist Award, beating competition from four others. The award is run by the British Council Wales, and judged by some of the country's leading art experts. Plans for 2014: As well as showcasing his work at the British Council's network of offices around the world, Andrew is preparing for his first solo exhibition at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff in March. On photography: "As a young boy I always found myself to have a camera in my hand pointing and shooting. As I got older and moved on to college I found it becoming more of a passion. There are a number of photographers who I admire and have been able to take influence from over the past few years, one of them being Phillip Toledano and his body of work Days With My Father. I found myself always drawn back to looking at that set of images."

Hopes for the future: "I just want to be able to work full time as a photographer and make a living out of doing something I love."

THE WRITER Name: Daniel Tyte Age: 32 From: Cardiff Background: After studying English at University of Liverpool, Daniel focused on music journalism. A visit to a psychic on a trip to New York for work in 2008, propelled him to write a novel.

Plans for 2014: His short story, Onwards, part of a collection called Rarebit, will be published by Parthian Books this January. It includes 21 contemporary tales from Welsh writers. The voice in the story gives the reader directions around a city. In March, his debut novel, Half Plus Seven, will be published as a lead title, also by Parthian. The late coming-of-age tale of redemption is about jaded PR man, Bill McDare, who seeks meaning and love in his life and addresses past, present and future along with a misfit cast of mystics, tramps, bar flies and copywriters. On writing: "We're bombarded with information 24/7 from every direction. My brain whirrs non-stop with characters, conflicts, situations and sub-plots and these can get lost if I don't get the time to shut everything else out and have a date with a blank page and a pen. I can write pretty much anywhere, from Copenhagen cafes to the 18 bus to Ely, although when I get deep into it I can often end up missing my stop. My literary heroes include everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to a local lad by the name of Roald Dahl."

Hopes for the future: "I'm cautiously optimistic that a Hollywood mogul will buy up the rights to Half Plus Seven and I'll be living on Mulholland Drive by the fall. Pipe dreams aside, I'm in the early stages writing the 'difficult second novel'. Loosely, it's a love story based on the opportunities and obstacles thrown up by Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity. Like when you think of someone you haven't thought of for years and then they text you, that kind of thing. It happens to all of us and yet we struggle to explain it."

THE MUSICIAN Name: Matthew Hitt Age: 26 From: Pentre, Rhondda Background: Matthew began playing guitar with school bands before joining Welsh rockers Kids In Glass Houses. After moving to New York in August 2011, the Cardiff University English graduate, met three fellow musicians in the Lower East Side pub Welcome To The Johnsons - Drowners were born. Fronted by Matthew, they rehearse in a studio next door to the pub. Kaiser Chiefs drummer Nick Hodgson discovered their demos which he remastered and put out on EP. Now signed to New York label, Frenchkiss Records, they worked with Gus Oberg, who produced an album for The Strokes, on their forthcoming debut. Earlier this year, they supported chart-topping Brit band Arctic Monkeys when they toured America.

Plans for 2014: Matthew looks set to be one of the big successes in the music industry in 2014. There's much excitement surrounding the upcoming release of Drowners' debut self-titled album, which is out in America and Europe on January 28. The band will be touring the East Coast of America and there are dates pencilled in for London, Paris and Berlin in February. They're also booked up for the high-profile Coachella festival in California in April.

On music: "I think I was 12 when I started playing guitar as I was obsessed with The Monkees and Elvis. Our inspirations include The Buzzcocks and The Smiths. I love performing as it gives me the excuse to hang out with my friends. I enjoy songwriting because it feels like you're trying to work out a puzzle. I get inspiration from just walking around New York and eavesdropping on people."

Hopes for the future: "I hope people respond positively to the album and that we can keep touring. It would be nice to say my job was playing guitar."

THE ACTOR Name: Matthew Aubrey Age: 25 From: Port Talbot Background: While he initially planned to do an apprenticeship at Port Talbot's steelworks, after failing to get the grades he needed, Matthew focused on his love for drama, which he studied at college in Gorseinon. He was later a student at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff but left early to appear in the BBC One drama Framed. He later appeared in the BBC two-parter Birdsong alongside Eddie Redmayne. He made his stage debut when he played Albert in the critically-acclaimed War Horse and has also spent a season at the RSC and appeared in National Theatre Wales' The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning and The Passion with one of his acting heroes - fellow Port Talbot-raised actor Michael Sheen.

Plans for 2014: One of Matthew's highlights for the new year will be making his debut with Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Birmingham Repertory when the companies tour with the RSC production of Ian McDiarmid's A Life Of Galileo. On acting: "I got into it because I was having a laugh with my mates. I try to take it as seriously as possible but not let it control my life. It's just amazing to be paid to go on stage in front of people and play around with my mates and be inventive. It's the best job in the world when it's going well." Hopes for the future: "My plan now is to get a part in a film and hopefully that will happen in the next year. But I'm just happy to be working and making a living out of acting."

THE DIRECTOR Name: Rachael Boulton Age: 29 From: Cwmbran Background: Rachael was studying A-level drama when she got her first taste as a director - directing a production of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. She later studied at East 15 acting school where she did both acting and directing. After landing a place on National Theatre Wales' emerging directors' scheme, she worked on Rachel Trezise's debut plat Tonypandemonium at the Parc & Dare Theatre in Treorchy earlier this year. She's also been honing her talents with Wales Millennium Centre's development programme Incubator.

Plans for 2014: She will make her directorial debut when her first full-length piece, The Good Earth, is staged at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff from April 14 to 17. The drama features a cast of five and was developed as part of Incubator.

On directing: "I love being in a room with a group of actors and finding new ways of telling stories. Most of the stories that really excite me have a lot of heart and humility - you don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's about making an audience care. I've still got so much to learn but right now for me it's less about the concept and more about how you tell a good story that's relevant to people. Most of the stories that excite me a real life ones."

Hopes for the future: "My ultimate ambition is to establish myself as a director who tells really good stories so that people want to work with me. It sounds very simple but that's it. I would love to direct something for National Theatre Wales. To come back to your homeland and work for your national theatre is just incredible. Other companies which excite me are Complicite and Frantic Assembly - companies that work with an ensemble."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 27, 2013
Words:2003
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