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Cardiff’s Eisteddfod Successes

11 August 2011

There can’t be many couples who have, between them, won the National Eisteddfod Chair, Crown and Prose Medal.

But that’s the claim Cardiff husband and wife T James Jones and Manon Rhys can now make

Manon Rhys web

Credit:BBC Cymru Wales

T James (or ‘Jim’) Jones, an Associate Lecturer at the School of Welsh, made Eisteddfod history four years ago when he added the Bardic Chair to the two Bardic Crowns he won in 1986 and1988.

Now his wife Manon, a former lecturer at the School,, has added to the family trophy collection by winning the Prose Medal at this year’s Eisteddfod in Wrexham. Just to keep it in the family, Jim, the present Archdruid of Wales, presented her with the Medal.

This year’s Prose Medal was awarded for a work of up to 40,000 words on the theme of rebellion. Manon, who taught creative writing at the School of Welsh for over ten years, won the Medal for her novel Neb Ond Ni (loosely translated as No-one But Us). The story tells of the relationship and understanding between two children who have special needs, but who have to fight to be accepted in a society obsessed with ‘normality’ and the ticking of boxes.

Manon said: "The novel is based in the late 1970s, a time when the special needs of these children were not properly or adequately assessed. I have tried to get inside their heads to prove that they are lively, sensitive and highly intelligent children."

Adjudicator Grahame Davies said: "This is a skilful, polished writer, who grasps the emotion and the intellect, who is a master of dialect, and who trusts the imagination of the reader."

Manon added: "Normally the Archdruid is not informed of the winners of the main literary competitions until the previous day, but in my case he knew as soon as I did. Having him present the medal added to the excitement of the day."

School of Welsh graduate Rhys Iorwerth followed in Jim’s footsteps as this year’s winner of the Bardic Chair. Rhys Iorwerth won the Chair for his series of nine poems telling a modern urban love story, written in the strict cynghanedd metre form. The series traces the story from its beginnings, through separation, to a possible rekindling. Rhys, who has a BA and an MA from the School of Welsh and now works in the National Assembly’s Research Service, was praised by the judges for "his emotional subtlety, conveyed in brilliant instinctive cynghanedd which crackles and lights up the sky like fireworks."

Other Cardiff successes included Llŷr Gwyn Lewis, a Cardiff graduate now studying for a PhD in Cardiff’s School of Welsh and the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, who won the Emyr Feddyg Scholarship awarded to an author whose work has not been published hitherto: the £1,000 scholarship will pay for tutoring to help Llŷr complete his first novel.. Llŷr also won the first prize for a poem in vers libre.

Mathematics undergraduate Garmon Rhys won the Richard Burton Prize for acting. Meanwhile, the 2011 Learner of the Year Prize went to Kay Holder, a student at the School of Welsh’s Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Welsh for Adults Centre. Originally from Penarth, Kay now lives in Dinas Powys. Her interest in Welsh language and culture was sparked at the 2008 Eisteddfod, held in Cardiff.

Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh, said: "We are all delighted with the School’s success at this year’s Eisteddfod: winning four major awards is a huge achievement. Creative writing, taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, is an acknowledged strength within the School, while the Learner of the Year Award reflects the excellent work being undertaken by our Welsh for Adults Centre. We have certainly set the bar high for next year’s National Eisteddfod which will be held locally, in the Vale of Glamorgan."