Imagining History: Wales in Fiction and Fact

Online Conference 12-13 November 2021

Imagined histories in the form of historical fiction, films or television programmes are often at the heart of how we think about our national and personal identities. Historical narratives based on ‘fact’ have always shaped our thinking about our nation, our communities and ourselves but they are often partial, fragmentary or distorted by particular vested interests.

Historical fictions can allow us to re-imagine those narratives, filling the gaps and silences in recorded history. They can help us to imagine alternative histories as well as new futures. This conference will explore the ways in which such fictions exist in a complex and sometimes contentious tension with mainstream historiographies. Book here.

Keynote Panels

  • Y Castell Siwgr: Wales and transatlantic slavery – Angharad Tomos’s novel Y Castell Siwgr tells the story of the transatlantic links between Penrhyn castle and the plantations of Jamaica. To discuss the novel and explore the wider issue of slavery and its connections to Wales, Angharad is joined by Professor Chris Evans (University of South Wales), Audrey West and Marian Gwyn (chair, Race Council Cymru). Also includes a reading from the novel by Mirain Iwerydd.

  • The Welsh in Ukraine: Fact and Fiction - the story of Merthyr-born John Hughes and the city he founded in Ukraine inspired both the three-part television history series Hughesovka and the New Russia and Catrin Collier’s trilogy, The Tsar's Dragons. Dr James Phillips (Llafur) talks to novelist Catrin Collier and Colin Thomas, the director of the television series.

  • Raymond Williams Panel: Turning History into Fiction – the influential work of theorist and historical novelist Raymond Williams, author of People of the Black Mountains, will be discussed by historian and writer Rhian E. Jones, Williams’s biographer, the historian and novelist Professor Dai Smith, and Professor Daniel Williams (Swansea University). Chaired by Professor Diana Wallace (University of South Wales).

  • How Green Was My Valley (BBC, 1975-6) – Join us for a screening of an episode of the BBC adaptation of Richard Llewelyn’s 1939 novel set in the Victorian period (by special permission of the BBC). With an introduction by actress Sue Jones Davies (who played Angharad Morgan in the BBC series) and historical contextualisation by historian Professor Angela V John. UPDATE: Due to concerns about the upcoming changes in Covid restrictions this event will no longer take place in person. It will now take place online. If you have booked for the main conference, a link for this event will be sent to you via email so there is no need to book for the event separately.

See the full draft programme here
Book here

Interactive Creative Writing workshops

In these interactive workshops, Creative Writing specialist Barrie Llewelyn will demonstrate some of the strategies that prose writers use to create characters and settings which capture a reader’s imagination.  Participants who are interested in either writing historical fiction or teaching creative writing will have the opportunity to read examples, discuss tactics and create scenes of their own. These workshops must be pre-booked by adding them to your Eventbrite booking.

Booking Details

Book here for this free online conference. Tickets for in person events are limited to comply with Covid safety regulations. For more information contact Professor Diana Wallace and/or Dr James Philips.

Exhibition: Imagining History: History in Fiction and Fact

At Oriel y Bont, Treforest Campus, University of South Wales, open weekdays from Monday 1 November to Friday 17 December 2021.

The opening event is on Friday 12 November, 18.30 – 20.30. Places are limited to comply with Covid safety regulations. Please book via the separate Eventbrite link if you wish to attend.

The paintings, installations, photographs, sculptures, stories, and films on display, chosen from the USW Artworks Museum Collection, as well as works on loan from other collections, artists, or writers, are all to a greater or lesser degree unreliable. They reveal the ‘fictioning’ process we employ either to reflect or reset national and personal identities in the attempt to have our histories told and retold.

The exhibition includes work by Susan Adams, Iwan Bala, Judith Beecher, Elizabeth Bridge, Jack Crabtree, Morag Colquhoun, Ivor Davies, Ken Elias, Geraint Evans, Tom Goddard, Rachel Jones, Naomi Leake, Kate Milsom, Paul Reas, Andre Stitt, Daniel Trevidy, Dawn Woolley and others.

Organisers and Sponsors

Organisers: University of South Wales, Association of Welsh Writing in English, Llafur / Welsh People's History Society, Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive Wales, and Pontypridd Museum

Sponsors: The event is kindly supported by the University of South Wales, the Learned Society of Wales, Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive Wales, and Llafur: the Welsh People’s History Society.

Imagining Histories sponsors