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Flanders and Wales

1 November 2017

Flanders and Wales

The Welsh and Flemish experience of the Passchendaele campaign is under the spotlight at a free event in Cardiff Bay this month.

In a unique mix of history, literature, music, and art, the symposium brings together historians, writers, poets and leading arts practitioners at a special event sponsored by Cardiff University, the Government of Flanders and the Welsh Government on 9 November.

The military experiences in Flanders Fields and the little-known hosting of Belgian refugees across Wales will feature in a day commemorating one of the bloodiest campaigns of the First World War and its wider social and literary context.

Also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele ran for four terrible months in 1917. The Allies began the assault from the Ypres Salient in July. The 105-day campaign would claim more than 2,000 casualties daily, with men and horses drowning in the mud amid sustained rainfall not seen since the previous century.

A day short of the centenary of the end of the campaign, the symposium opens with an address from the Presiding Officers of the Welsh National Assembly and the Flemish Parliament.

The day features eleven sessions ranging from Welsh Soldiers and their Identity on the Western Front to Conscientious objectors in Wales during the First World War. Cardiff historian Dr Toby Thacker begins with Passchendaele in History and Memory.

Participating historians are Toby Thacker (Cardiff), Christophe Declercq (Leuven/UCL) Hugh Dunthorne (Swansea), Aled Eirug (Swansea) and Gethin Matthews (Swansea). Local historians John Bradshaw and Toni Vitti share their findings about refugee experiences in the north and south (Laugharne and Rhyl respectively).

From the Arts, Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre Writer in residence Peter Theunynck and Gregynog Festival Artistic Director Rhian Davies and National Poet of Wales Ifor ap Glyn also lead sessions, culminating in the moving Letters Home from Welsh Soldiers on the Western Front.

The free public event marks the end of a series of collaborative projects between the Government of Flanders and the Welsh Government. It began with a Welsh Service of Commemoration in Flanders on 31 July 2017, a century to the day since the onset of the campaign.

Flanders and Wales takes place at the Pierhead, Cardiff Bay on 9 November. Places at the symposium are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis via online registration.