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pen bar lag

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LLywelyn b. 1258 (Wales’ last sovereign prince) fought over the Old Castle where we hold The Good Life Experience each year. And on this auspicious site we offer some of the rich and diverse literature, dance and music makers of Wales.

It all happens in a tent called Pen Bar Lag (the Welsh for our home, Hawarden, is Pen ar Lag. Perhaps translating as 'head of the lake') . It’s hosted by punk legend and John Peel favourite Anrhefn’s Rhys Mwyn, and Brecon’s wonkiest and most wonderful book shop and cafe, The Hours’ Nikki and Leigh.

DENISE JOHNSON  /  ALFFA  /  BLODAU PAPUR  /  GWILYN BOWEN RHYS  /  LLEUWEN  /  MEI GWYNEDD  /  DAN LLYWELYN HALL  /  RUFUS MUFASA  /  GLOVE  /  STUART MOXHAM  /  PENTANNYN  /  PON BRO  /  MORUS ELFRYN  /  PAPUR WAL  /  LOS BLANCOS  /  AND MUCH MORE

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THE ACTS

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GWILYN BOWEN RHYS

It's so exciting when doors are thrown wide open and talent rushes through to wider acclaim. We are delighted that Gwilyn Bowen Rhys is going to be singing at the Good Life in the tiny but perfectly formed Pen Bar Lag tent/bar so catch him before he goes stratospheric .

A few minutes in the company of his sonorous vocals and you’ll see why he is up for British Folk Singer of the Year this year for BBC Radio 2.

 
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LLEUWEN

An extraordinary and trilingual artist, singing in Breton and Welsh. LLeuwen is an internationally renowned and acclaimed jazz vocalist and songwriter, whose current project is inspired by and rooted in the blues of old Welsh country hymns.

Expect the unexpected.

 
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BLODAU PAPUR

Fans of soul and blues might want to mosey on down to Pen Bar Lag to catch this young band BLODAU PAPUR (paper flowers), grab a pint and sit and wonder, and think at times of Amy Winehouse and other soul singers that just move you. Front person Alys Williams will do just that.

 
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ALFFA

Blues rock duo from Llanrug, North Wales. First ever band to hit 1 million streams on Spotify with a song entirely in the Welsh language. Album on its way September 2019.

 
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PON BRO

Into cajun music? Head to Pen Bar Lag for a MARDI Gras party at 9pm on Saturday with Pon Bro: an acoustic trio who pump out traditional cajun, two steps, waltzes and cajun blues.

You’ll be left wondering how Louisiana swamp music sits so naturally with Gwynedd roots, in Flintshire fields... hoe down anyone?

 
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RUFUS MUFASA

From mentoring Finnish beat poets to educating through hip hop, Rufus Mufasa is a pioneering artist, lyricist, rapper, performance poet and trained scriptwriter. Rufus recently launch a solo album, Fur Coats From The Lion’s Den, dubbed a cultural highlight by Wales Arts Review, and was shortlisted for two music awards. She brings her passion for words and their power to The Good Life 2019: catch her at the Pen Bar Lag stage; expect talks touching on working in prison, trilingual experiments and inter generational projects.

 
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MEI GWYNEDD

One of the great wave of musicians forming the maelstrom of artists in Cardiff in the ‘90s, some of whom’s members went on to plough in force over the Severn Bridge to surge into UK consciousness. First heard as part of Beganifs, then Big Leaves, with brother Osian in mega band Sybrydion, Mei then became a player in legendary Rhys Ifans' band ‘Y Peth; Mei never deviates from the the best melody driven guitar anthems and it’ll be a total pleasure to hear him in the intimate surroundings of Pen Bar Lag.

 
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DEWI PRYSOR

Don’t miss meeting a living legend. Native of Trawsfynydd, Dewi is a throwback to those wild poets who inhabited these islands centuries before us, but whose feet are firmly in the 21st Century. His memoirs about EURO 2016, where he followed the Welsh national football team through France, are a hoot and this adds to his cannon of five other novels and four history series for S4C. Oh! He also translates UK cartoons for Welsh language TV.

 
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MANON PRYSOR

This one is unmissable, especially if you have a passing interest in languages, history, script writing and performing arts and theatre. Acclaimed Welsh actress Manon Prysor will lead you through the playing fields of CYMRAEG as she specialises in learning through theatre. Her film, theatre and TV credits include ‘Hedd Wyn’, ‘Pobol y Cwm’, ‘Rownd & Rownd’, Craith 2/Hidden 2 and Cimera Circus Company.

You’ll be in expert hands: Manon was Performing Arts Lecturer at Trinity College 1996-1999 and is currently Welsh tutor with Bangor University, Anglesey Youth Theatre and Lead Creative in schools in Gwynedd, Anglesey and Conway. Add working alongside CADW (WALES’ official HISTORY department) to boot.

 
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DENISE JOHNSON

According to Primal Scream’s bass player, "Denise has that kind of voice that sounds like a band on its own. It’s to do with a presence, so having Denise on stage with that voice, it’s fantastic to play to."

You’ll know her soaring, soulful voice from the Mercury Prize winning ‘’Screamadelica’’, she’s also sung with Ian Brown and New Order and, at Pen Bar Lag, Denise will be sharing tracks with us. Hear songs from her debut acoustic album including some of her native Manchester’s most iconic tunes. It’s due for release later this year, so we’re early to this very special party. Find Cerys down the front.

 
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JEB LOY NICHOLS

Another living legend graces the stage of Pen Bar Lag. A true Pied Piper of music, his collection and compilations of soul and country are second to none, and many follow in his wake. Cerys loves playing songs he’s nudged her way for her 6Music show! And as for his own music and voice which you’ll hear in these intimate surroundings? Think JJ Cale on a summer’s day and you’ll be swimming in the right waters. Born in Wyoming, raised in Missouri, blossomed in New York then later London, his songs portray a life well lived... wise, warm and deep . A remote small holding in the Welsh hills is where Jeb now calls home, and where he continues to write, enjoy art, release records, have exhibitions and plant trees.

 
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ROBERT MINHINNICK

How to write the songs of the heart? Poet, author and essayist, Robert Minhinnick has the key to this secret. A record three time winner of Wales Book of the Year (1995, 2006 and 2018), 2 time winner of ‘Forward Prize for Best Poem’, Robert's work was also shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize in 2018. He also works as a translator and is joint founder of the charities Friends of the Earth Cymru and Sustainable Wales / Cymru Gynaliadwy. Come and hear him talk about his work and bathe in the beauty of words.

 
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DAN LLYWELYN HALL

Spend time with the youngest artist to have officially painted a portrait of the Queen. Hear him talk about his work, influences, dreams and future projects in the warm confines of Pen Bar Lag. An old school creative, watching Dan at work across different disciplines feels like an art form in itself. A little wild, a little poetic and a lot of heart. Recipient of the Sunday Times Young Artist of the Year in 2003 , Dan went on to feature in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in 2009. He painted the Queen in 2014.

 
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GLOVE

"Their eyes are painted blue with thick make up. They are tribal and wild. They are dancing on the bones of Rock n Roll. Wild poets. Shamanic dancers with a new beat that you can dance to as well and they somehow turn the room of random punters into an ecstatic party with a brand new sound. Glove are going to make a lot of noise. Get into them now before everyone else does!” John Robb - Louder Than War.

Currently exploding onto the Manchester music scene, Glove have supported Gang of Four & ILL. Expect pounding drums and guitar that sounds both primal and post-apocalyptic, this is one thrill ride you will not want to miss. Listed as Best New Band of 2019 by HeraSays and Louder Than War.

 
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STUART MOXHAM

Young Marble Giants founder Stuart Moxham appears exclusively for The Good Life Experience this year. This man changed Pen Bar Lag’s host, Rhys Mwyn’s life (ask him for the whole story...). Alongside brother Phil and Alison Stratton, Stuart formed Young Marble Giants in 1978. They were a ‘70s band looking to the future, ditching bothersome drumkits and adopting synthesisers and rhythm generators. Today Stuart has gone solo, and found his own voice and lyricisms beyond the Young Marble Giant's formula. And he's here to share them with you.

 
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CHRISTOPHER MEREDITH

We’re delighted to welcome award-winning novelist, poet and translator, Christopher Meredith. His groundbreaking first novel, Shifts, is regarded as a modern classic, and he’s been invited to give talks and readings across the world: Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and the USA. Born and raised up in Tredegar, he has been a steelworker, a schoolteacher and a university professor and now writes full time. Here’s your chance to come and see him in the idyllic and intimate surroundings of The Good Life Experience.

 
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PENTANNYN

Pentennyn, a CEILIDH folk quartet, mainly singing and playing songs and melodies from the Welsh tradition but also from other origins. Expect lively arrangements of familiar and new dance tunes as Pentannyn are an expert, multi-instrumental twmpath/barn dance/ceilidh band.

 
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ANELU: AIM HIGHER

Mountaineering leader, Stephen Jones, is based in the heart of Snowdonia and is passionate about sharing these magical heights with all. His experiences have led him from his native Ogwen Valley to the Swiss and French Alps, Norway, Central America and beyond. Hear him talk about his life and work as former Royal Marine and Military Ski Instructor, Rock Climbing Instructor, indoor and out; and initiatives offering adventurous activities for under 18's for schools, youth groups, scout groups and families. A fluent Welsh speaker, Stephen is keen to promote the Welsh language, history, attractions and communities of Wales and Snowdonia in particular.

 
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MORUS ELFRYN

Award-winning recording artist for Sain records, Morus Elfryn is an integral and important player in Welsh music history. He is one part of the 'Dyniadon Hirfelyn' and this is a very rare live appearance, following a BBC visit to Rhys Mwyn’s radio show, which reignited mass love and interest. Come see him at Pen Bar Lag!

 
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CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES

Professor Llusern ( MAGIC) / Magi Ann Party ( WELSH LESSONS) / Disgo Distaw (SILENT DISCO).

The great Professor Llusern (aka professor Lantern) will return to Pen Bar Lag bringing his magic and very different Punch and Judy Show. Plenty of fun and laughter whatever your age. We look forward to seeing you there.

A story and song session using the world famous, Lottery award-winning Magi Ann apps! Learn and sing a few Welsh songs with Magi Ann herself. Led by Menter Iaith Fflint a Wrecsam, there’s a warm welcome to polyglots, monoglots and all ages.

Great Welsh language music from the '60s, '70s and beyond in this rather special Silent Disco session.

 
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Patrick Jones + John Robb

Patrick Jones is the poet whose words skewer these dark political and social times with a powerful humanity and emotional soul power. The older brother of Manic Street Preacher’s Nicky Wire, Jones was a key influence on the band in the early days musically, lyrically and direction wise and you can hear echoes of the Manics in his words. For this album he has teamed up with legendary music writer and Membranes frontman John Robb who provided the soundscapes to back up the words. Robb scored swooping, epic and melancholic pieces to match the mood of the poetic polemic in a diverse and powerful state of the nation address that captures the Broken Britain nervously stumbling towards Brexit.

Patrick Jones: Patrick Jones ‘Live small, think skies’: Poet, author, playwright, activist, music maker, currently Writer in Residence with The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales, worked with Literature Wales, Mind Cymru, The Samaritans, Welsh Refugee Council, Gwent Arts in Health, Velindre Hospital and The Big Issue on various writing projects for health and well being. New book out 2019 : My Bright Shadow Rough Trade Books.

John Robb: Award winning journalist, musician (Goldblade and Membranes), author and activist who's written bestselling biographies on the Stone Roses, the Charlatans, Punk Rock, Manchester’s music scene… founder of pop culture magazine LOUDER THAN WAR, contributor: Melody Maker, Sunday Times, Observer, Guardian, Independent, Big Issue, BBC 1, 2 , Radio 6 etc. Famously was first to interview Nirvana and coined the word BRITPOP. New book 'The Art Of Darkness' out September 2019.

 
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PAPUR WAL

Papur Wal are a bilingual slacker/art rock band, originally influenced by the 90s American alternative Indie scene. Following in the footsteps of their heroes, Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Monkey, their sound is harmony laden , with weirdly tuned guitars, wandering melodic bass-lines and innovative drum beats. Their last 12 months have been breathtaking: on the road and releasing three singles and an EP which garnering exuberant support from BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and BBC Radio Cymru. Come see them while you can.

 
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LOS BLANCOS

"With a record collection in love with the left field American alternative scene of the early '90s Pavement and Brian Johnstown Massacre... this band is raw, immediate and relevant, a balm to a breaking world" - Libertino

Take a hint of the drunken passion and abandonment of The Replacements and The Lemonheads mix with Carmarthenshire wit and spirit and the guiding hands of Kris Jenkins (aka Sir Doufus Styles: SFA, Gruff Rhys, Cate La Bon, H Hawkline, Gulp), and you’ll see how Los Blancos triumphed at the Live BBC Radio broadcast from Focus Wales Festival, the Green Man Festival and Huw Stephens’s monthly sessions at The Social in London. In short, a band whose mystery needs to be fully explored.