Writer in residence for the Brecon Beacons National Park
18 October 2022
Dr Rebecca Thomas, Postdoctoral Fellow of the British Academy, has been appointed the first Welsh language writer in residence of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Her project will run for a year and respond to the climate and nature emergencies.
The project, run in partnership with Hay Festival and Black Mountains College, is structured into two parts. First, Rebecca will write a novel for children in collaboration with local school pupils. The novel follows the fortunes of King Arthur as he awakens from his slumber and returns to Cadair Arthur (one of the historical names of Pen-y-Fan), discovering a very different world to the one he is familiar with.
The second part of the project will be a series of essays responding to various locations across the National Park. The essays will weave together some of Rebecca's experiences of exploring the area with a discussion of the history of the landscape and the changes expected to be seen in the future.
Rebecca said: “By coupling the past, present and future of the landscape, the writings will contextualise the nature and climate crisis and underline the challenges and opportunities. This means spending time exploring the Park, learning more from experts about these specific areas.”
The National Park has an important place in Rebecca's heart. She regularly climbed Pen-y-Fan when younger, and has recently discovered the park afresh, finding that roaming the beacons is beneficial to her physical and mental health. The time she spends there inspires her to write about present day crises. An example of this is her book 'Cribo’r Dragon's Back' which is based on a walk in the Black Mountains and considers linguistic changes in the area.
In starting the project, Rebecca emphasises the importance of the arts to society today. Although her first creative project was a historical novel (Dan Gysgod y Frenhines), she found the potential to address contemporary themes with her portrayals of active female characters. She said: “When I was younger, creative writing was a way to escape into another world. But increasingly now I see its potential as a way to contend with the problems of the 'real' world — both personally and publicly.”
“Literature can help us understand the world around us — and to challenge the systems of that world. It is vital that we do not lose sight of that when looking at the problems of the present day. The opportunity offered by the National Park is therefore a very valuable one, and I am really hopeful that the initiative will be a success.”