New Welsh Writing Awards 2019: Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting

New Welsh Review is delighted to announce the longlist for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2019 which this year sought entries across two categories: the Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella, run in association with Aberystwyth University, and the Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting, which was made possible thanks to the generous support of long-term subscriber Richard Powell.

Now in its fifth year, the Awards were set up in 2015 to champion the best short-form writing in English. Last year, the winner of the Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection was won by Ed Garland for Fiction as a Hearing Aid, which New Welsh Review will publish as the nonfiction book Earwitness on 19 September 2019.

This year, in the dystopian category, the settings range from Britain in the 1800s to the twenty-second century, from an archipelago-bound London to a military research base in rural Wales. Characters in these dystopian novellas face conflicts from identity theft or being abandoned by their parents, to being the last human left alive on the planet – or so they thought….

 In the Rheidol category for writing on Welsh settings and themes, the Awards attracted a strong field of both fiction and non-fiction, varying from an epistolary account from the 1700s, to a memoir of growing up in Zimbabwe and on a Ceredigion smallholding, to a story set in interwar Cardiff. We ascend slate-quarry faces with 80s oddball postal dole-claiming rock climbers in Snowdonia, while elsewhere in the longlisted entries we learn about the gaps between generations and the current state of identity politics in contemporary Wales. 

New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies and the award-winning author Cynan Jones judged the Awards with help from students from Aberystwyth University's Department of English and Creative Writing.

Congratulations to our longlisted writers below, in alphabetical order by author surname:

MARILYN BARLOW - The Smallholding I Knew (Non-fiction, author based in New Quay, Wales)

This personal memoir centres on finding a new home in Ceredigion but also explores the author’s origins in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the political and economical changes there which made people of European origin unwelcome. It discusses at length the way in the author found sanctuary on a smallholding in Wales and improved it to support the needs of local wildlife and within a philosophy acutely aware of the globe’s over-population. It asks the crucial question, ‘How might one define home and how can that be reconciled with a world of constant change?”

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Marilyn Barlow was born and educated in Zimbabwe when it was still wild and wide. She put herself through University in Switzerland, spending nine years in academia both sides of the desk. In England, she worked in marketing for a computer company learning IT while pursuing studies in psychotherapy and philosophy. The unbearable noise and pollution of the south east drove her to move to a smallholding in Ceredigion with her partner. The wonder of nature and beauty, reflected in her art and writing, have informed her choices and desire to raise awareness about population, wildlife and the planet.


MARK BLAYNEY -The Devil Next Door (Fiction, author based in Cardiff, Wales)

In 1938 Cardiff, an artist who reworks paintings in order to make them more up-to-date is summoned to an armaments factory where the owner is unimpressed by her handiwork on his portrait. As war clouds gather, the memory of a traumatic incident that makes her unable to leave her house leads her to question the work she is doing. There's also something very strange going on with her unfriendly neighbour. But the post boy thinks he can come to her rescue, if she'll only let him. 

Photo Credit: Paul Musso / Hay Festival

Photo Credit: Paul Musso / Hay Festival

Mark Blayney is a writer and journalist living in Cardiff. He won the Somerset Maugham Award for his short novel Two kinds of silence and has received a Wales Media Award for his journalism. Third story collection Doppelgangers and poetry Loud music makes you drive faster are published by Parthian. Mark is a Hay Festival Writer at Work and has been longlisted for the National Poetry Competition. He’s published regularly at The Interpreter’s House, Agenda, The Lonely Crowd, Poetry Wales and more. www.markblayney.weebly.com   @markblayney

CAROL FENLON – Letters from Dr Fowler (Fiction, author based in Skelmersdale, England)

A fictional epistolary account of Sarah Jacob, eighteenth-century Welsh Fasting Girl of Camarthen, written from the viewpoint of a contemporary English doctor Robert Fowler. The story explores the political and medical beliefs of the time, focusing on the emerging ascendency of science over folklore and faith. It also highlights the opinions of Londoners regarding rural cultures. Dr Fowler is an exponent of the latest ideas in medicine, specialising in matters of nervous anxiety. His letters illuminate his interest in Sarah Jacob following a visit to her home while on holiday. Although he evidences medical curiosity, his interest is also piqued by the parallel with his own sick daughter, Evangeline. Tragedy attends both families but the story ends on a note of hope. 

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Carol Fenlon's writing is heavily influenced by place and history. Her novels and short stories are set in the landscapes of West Lancashire, Liverpool and Wales. Carol’s first novel, Consider The Lilies, won the Impress Novel Prize in 2007 and her latest novel Mere was published in 2018 by Thunderpoint Publishing. Carol is an alumni of Edge Hill University's Creative Writing Department and remains a member of their Narrative Research Group. When not writing, she indulges in textile crafts and is a keen local historian of her home area Skelmersdale and Lathom.


PETER GOULDING - On Slate (Non-fiction, author based in Thetford, England)

One rainy spring, the author and his climbing partner walk up from Llanberis to the Dinorwic slate quarries. They are reminded of those who previously climbed this shattered landscape. Stevie Haston led with a climb named Comes the Dervish. Others followed, having nothing better to do than pursue obsessive vertical movement while claiming the dole by post. The artist Johnny Redhead put up harrowing lines while wearing lycra, in the face of opposition from local security guards. All of this followed hundreds of years during which quarrymen supported their local communities with their wage packets while the owners got rich. The quarrymen were the first climbers; though what they climbed would not be named but rather blasted off the following day for roofing slate which would travel the world. 

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Peter Goulding is a climber from the north of England who obsessively pursues vertical movement in the slate quarries of Dinorwic. He has spent most of his working life in pubs, kitchens and building sites.  He now lives in rural Norfolk, where he is writing Slatehead, a punk history of the north Wales climbing scene.



ELIZABETH GRIFFITHS- Closing the Gap (Non-fiction, author based in Lincolnshire, England)

This essay collection combines memoir, biography and writing on place and nature. Its title touches on several kinds of 'gap': that in life experiences between generations, the psychological one within individuals, that between Wales and England and for those existing between countries and languages; the gap between the spiritual and worldly dimensions explored by poets such as Waldo Williams, and that between ourselves and nature. As well as identifying these spaces, the collection suggests some of the ways these are bridged, for example, through creativity in the case of poets and writers; through a deep connection with families and communities as experienced by the memoirist D. J. Williams or through Waldo's vision of 'brotherhood', and through a deeper immersion in nature by living closer to the land or appreciating the special qualities of trees such as ancient yews. The collection ends with the author’s own experience of finding ways to close the gap between her subjective sense and the world around her, through writing, being in nature and the practice of meditation. 

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Elizabeth Griffiths grew up in west Wales, and currently lives on the east coast in Lincolnshire. She attended St David's School (formerly the Welsh Girls' School) in Ashford, Surrey, and studied Latin at St David's University College, Lampeter. After training as a journalist on the Barry and District News, she returned to her native Pembrokeshire to focus on her own writing, and earned a living running a guest house and gallery near St David's, among other things. Recently she has been developing her writing on Welsh themes and places while completing a part-time MA in Creative Writing at Swansea University.


RICHARD JOHN PARFITT - Tales from the Riverbank (Non-fiction, author based in Penarth, Wales)

Newport has always been a terminus for the nomadic working class of both past and recent times. Forever economically depressed and an unemployment black spot - it is the first township you hit coming over the Severn crossing and the last one heading out. ‘Tales from the Riverbank’ is a remembering of a specific location and people. It considers the history of a mostly emigrant community at this time of identity politics and Welsh cultural reawakening. Myth and memory are evoked through stories told and centred around the impermanence of a river that flows past the castle and under the bridge. All persons mentioned in the essay are real and everything they said or did is based on documented evidence or personal interview. 

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Born, raised and educated in south Wales, Richard John Parfitt has published in the Portland ReviewPan Magazine, and Blue Tattoo, as well as writing non-fiction articles for the academic journal The Conversation and elsewhere. As a musician and songwriter he has worked with many artists, and as a founder member of the 60ft Dolls, was part of the so called 'Cool Cymru' brigade of the 90s. He has worked in Higher Education since 2008 and is currently Course Leader for Music at Hereford College of Arts.  



SARAH TANBURN - Hawks of Dust and Wine (Fiction, author based in Penarth, Wales)

The land of Wales is stirring, redefining the old ways to meet the new order. The country is improverished, shackled to an uninterested England, dependent on niche businesses and scattered innovation to survive. Adar Llwch Gwin, the mythical hawks of dust and wine, are reborn, hatched from eggs found after centuries. Their finder keeps them imprisoned and they are used as a gene bank to improve the racing hawks of wealthy foreigners. Adain is a young daughter of the awakening land and a superlative bird trainer. She discovers the captive Adar and accepts her mission to free them. She marries the man who owns the hawks and bears his son. It takes years but she finds a way both to set them free and exact revenge. But she too must pay a high price. This story could only take place in the hills of Wales. ‘Hawks of Dust and Wine’ asks us to consider what Wales might be, how we take our stories forward rather than back, and what value we put on our future. It explores how complicated love might become in the conflicts between desire, family and freedom, and it gives us an enchanting heroine. 

Photo Credit: Rebecca Cresta

Photo Credit: Rebecca Cresta

Sarah Tanburn lives just outside Cardiff, having moved to Wales in 2015.  Her novel in progress, Who is William Brown, was longlisted for the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival Prize. The essay Platinum & Salt will be in the upcoming anthology Women on Nature (Unbound). Switzerland featured in National Short Story Week in 2012. Shorts, including The First Taste, Blessed are the Peacemakers andThe Ocean is My Lover, have been published online and in print. Partition appeared in [wherever] magazine and December: Dusk, in the Ink Sweat & Tears poetry webzine. Sarah is studying for a Creative Writing PhD at Swansea University.