No, I’m not referring to audio books here! A visit to Wales Millennium Centre’s fantastic music festival, where you can see and hear an excellent selection of Welsh talent entirely for FREE – yes, you read that right: for FREEEEEE! – prompted me to think more closely about using all the senses in one’s writing. If you can positively hear the swords clashing when looking at the picture right now, you’ll know what I mean.
The one I often neglect is the “audio” aspect, which is created in the reader’s mind when they read things like
“Humming his latest tune, Bite me and I’m yours, Willow’s dad bit into the waitress’ neck with gusto, ignoring her screams and pleas for mercy”…
or when you present readers with a woodland scene in your fantasy novel, where birds tweet or wind howls around an old barn.
When singer Blanche Rowen performed some medieval songs from England, Wales and France here in Cardiff this week, I realised how sophisticated these ancient “rustics” hopping about in a medieval Breugel landscape really were, not at all what we imagined them to be. It’s not until you listen to such music that you really “get” what those people were about, something that can be reflected in one’s writing, fantasy or reality-based historic.
Follow that up with a visit to your local museum – or if you are truly privileged and live in Cardiff – with a bus ride to St Fagans Museum and you’ll be leaving with a fantastic array of ideas both music and historic displays have given you.
Hang on, I promised you a blog post about St Fagans Museum and here it is!
This amazing open-air museum is already the most popular heritage attraction and ranks as one of Europe’s finest. Go there on a warm and dry summer weekend or one of their event days and you can hardly move for the crowds arriving by the coachload. Every year some 600,000 people visit the museum and now, thanks to National Lottery Funding and amazing amounts of private investment, there will be lots of fantastic changes happening at the museum.
Eventually, visitor numbers would simply overstretch the current buildings and facilities, so the museum is going to expand their present buildings and give us exciting new exhibits like the early medieval court of a famous Welsh prince and
The museum occupies the beautiful grounds of the St Fagans Castle, which dates back to the late 16th century and is a gorgeous manor house the generous Earl of Plymouth donated to the people of Wales.
In the near future there will be a full blown Celtic village with round houses, and a much enhanced historic landscape that links all the historic buildings together in a better way than it has up to now.
The site spans 100 acres of parkland, so you can spend all day there, strolling from the castle’s secret walled gardens into the woodland areas and discover more than 40 historic buildings that span several centuries of Wales’ tempestuous history.
This is what Elisabeth Elias, president of Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales), had to say about the exciting times ahead: “I believe that this project will create a Museum that is of truly international significance, and will be a gateway to other cultural destinations across Wales – a Museum for all the people of Wales and the world.”
As an author whose work is inspired many historic events and heritage in general I’m especially happy that Llys Rhosyr, a site in Anglesey, North Wales, will be reconstructed and erected on the museum’s grounds.
The great hall dates back to 1200 AD and features nine-metre high stone walls and a thatched timber roof, so quite a challenge for archaeologists to recreate.
For young people and school children this will be an amazing new feature of the museum, as schools and community groups from across Wales – probably eventually from across the world – will for the first time ever be able to stay overnight at St Fagans to experience what it must have been like to live in 1200 AD at a princes’ court.
Apparently, the most popular buildings include St Teilo’s colourful church and a terrace of six iron-workers’ houses from Merthyr Tydfil, but for me it’s always been Oakdale Workmen’s Institute from Caerphilly, which was built during the First World War and was made possible because workmen would contribute out of their meagre earnings so that everyone in their community could get an education.
Given that miners and their families were effectively working for slave wages that is such an amazing achievement, I feel extremely moved every time I enter this lovely Art Nouveau building.
You can find out more about St Fagans and the events they hold throughout the year here:
(photographs copyright Maria Thermann, source of animation: heathersanimations.com)