Following our invitation to pool ideas for how to safeguard Welsh national interests after the Leave vote, Ffion Jones draws on her experience as a sheep farmer and film-maker to offer proposals for the future, arguing that if farmers are not part of the dialogue for how to adapt agriculture policy post-referendum, this could decimate whole cultures and landscapes.Read more
Dan Evans argues there is an urgent need to re-think political education in schools in order to rejuvenate a dysfunctional Welsh democracy. He presents new research into how schoolchildren conceive of politics in Wales and beyond, putting forward that civics teaching should be as much about critical thinking and instilling values as improving political literacy.Read more
Congratulations to Polly Manning who has won the 2017 Planet Young Writers’ Essay Competition. In her essay, she tells the story of why she transferred from Oxford University to Swansea University after only nine days among the dreaming spires. She argues how higher education in Wales should present a progressive alternative to the cult of the Russell Group and the embedded privilege it represents.Read more
Following widespread discontent with Wales’s travel infrastructure, Zoë Brigley Thompson contributes the first article in a new series in which writers and artists will respond to different stretches of Wales’s rail network: those of the past, those of the present, and tracks as-yet unlaid. What does our experience of train travel tell us about nationhood, inequality, the need for connectivity ̶ and escape?Read more
T. Robin Chapman on the life and work of one of Wales’s most perceptive writers, who died in July. In his second and first languages, Tony Bianchi challenged literary orthodoxies and narrated the fragmented lives of a post-industrial society, and is also remembered for his wonderful company.Read more
Tony Brown argues that the fiction of Thomas Morris represents a ground-breaking contribution to the tradition of the Welsh short story, and that it has not had the attention it deserves. His recent collection is rooted in Caerphilly, giving voice to a contemporary malaise of insecurity and alienation, and he’s due to return to the streets of his hometown for a forthcoming novel.Read more
Frances Williams reviews a recent drama, Sherman’s Gods and Kings on the experience of bi-polar disorder, and a National Theatre Wales app, I’ll Sing a Song, developed to help facilitate choirs for people with dementia. She argues how the arts can shed light on life-changing illness, and also how the complexity within these conditions can be evaded by arts organisations’ community engagement branding, which is particularly problematic when health services are facing cuts.Read more
Six years ago, my partner and I inherited a house and within it, thousands of books. In some rooms they were stacked three deep, tottering on makeshift, cobwebbed shelves. Choosing which to keep (and add to the thousands of my own) and which to get rid of, and how, has been fearsomely tough. There are hundreds that no-one wants, even for free. A second hand book dealer advised me to use them as woodburner fuel. I mentioned the idea on Twitter, and was engulfed by outrage.
My writer neighbour Jay Griffiths helped me accept the need for radical exorcism with the observation that books are soul-food, and just as we wouldn’t keep mouldy bread, neither should we clog our lives with festering books. They are living entities, not artefacts to idolatrise.
Despite (perhaps because of) the all-too evident problems of concentration and attention span in the digital age, the physical book is having something of a renaissance; UK sales were up 9% last year. That’s hugely welcome, of course, but we must still resist their fetishisation. In these reviews, we visit the full gamut, from books that appear to have been a bolt-on extra too far or which haven’t been edited sufficiently, to vital translations of texts ancient and contemporary, and new publishers playfully celebrating the printed book’s heft. We are perhaps entering a new book age. But to accommodate that, we must keep clearing space.
Mike Parker (www.mikeparker.org.uk) is an author, broadcaster and proud Planet regular. He is currently writing On the Red Hill, a search for the queer rural.