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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Festival celebrates poet's work
Dylan Thomas
The festival marks the 50th anniversary of Dylan Thomas' death
A two-week long festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Dylan Thomas aims to increase the poet's profile in Welsh schools.

The festival started on Thomas' birthday on Monday and runs until 9 November, the anniversary of the poet's death in 1953.

This is the sixth annual festival based at Thomas' home city of Swansea and has attracted a host of talent to discuss the writer's work.

And on 31 October, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is a published poet himself, will talk about his love of Wales' most celebrated writers.

Teachers are scared of Dylan Thomas because the perception is that his work is difficult and mainly deals with sex and death
David Woolley, Dylan Thomas Centre

Thomas was born and brought up in Swansea while Dr Williams, who leads the world's 70 millionAnglicans and was formerly the Archbishop of Wales, was raised in the Swansea area.

But the celebration of the life of the hard-living poet who died aged just 39 in November 1953 in New York is planned as a springboard for other projects.

Death

David Woolley, literature officer at the Dylan Thomas Centre, the focal point of the city's cultural festivities in memory of Thomas, said: "We've done a lot of work with schools this year and we want more schools to get involved because Dylan Thomas' work isn't taught in schools as much as it should be.

"Teachers are scared of Dylan Thomas because the perception is that his work is difficult and mainly deals with sex and death.

"But we've done a lot of work with youngsters as young as eight years old which shows that Dylan's work is accessible if it is done in the right way."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
Rowan Williams will read his own poetry at the Dylan Thomas Centre

One of the festival's highlights will be on the evening, on 31 October, when Dr Rowan Williams will appear on the same night as comedian and writer Alexei Sayle who will talk about Thomas' short stories.

Dr Williams' attendance is a coup for the festival which can already boast the Liverpool poets Roger McGough and Brian Patten in its line-up as well as the veteran Welsh poet, Dannie Abse.

Thomas fans argue his legacy was largely ignored in Wales for years after his death by a literary establishment which was embarrassed by the poet's lifestyle.

The contribution of the Archbishop of Canterbury is seen as his artistic support for the work to ensure that Thomas gets the recognition he deserves in his own country, say organisers.

"Dr Williams is obviously acknowledging that Dylan is an important part of the culture of Wales," said Mr Woolley.

"The archbishop is here as a poet. He has said himself that he wants to be seen as a poet who has religious themes.

"And the same can be said for Dylan Thomas. Both in style and imagery Dylan's poetry is hugely influenced by the Bible and religious themes."




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