The last time I performed on a Bank Holiday Monday, I was 14 years old and ‘first saxophonist’ in Morriston Concert Band. This lofty position as lead on the reed wasn’t based on ability (I could barely read sheet music, and mimed playing along to most of the band’s repertoire), but instead on the simple fact that I was the onlysaxophonist. Looking back, I realise my old band mates were very kind, as it must have been painfully clear that the saxophone part was missing from many of our songs.
Sixteen years later, I’m feeling nervous about another impending Bank Holiday performance. But this time it isn’t because I’m dreading the football boys spotting me in my band blazer in Llangyfelach village fete. I’m about to read my poetry to an audience at the Hay Festival, in the ‘Writers at Work’ tent.
Writers at Work – a long-term professional development strategy for writers based in Wales – runs during the 11 days of Hay Festival, and I’ve been lucky enough to join the programme in its second year. There are 23 other writers. Some (like me) are bookless, just starting out. Others are already heavily represented in the festival’s bookshop. Writing is often an isolating act, and so programmes like these – that bring writers together to write, workshop, listen, read, chat, discuss, disagree, perform – are so valuable.
It’s always a confidence boost hear that someone likes your work, but in order to develop as a writer you also need people to tell you what it’s missing.
Rhys Owain Williams is a part of the Hay Writers at Work programme, which is a long-term development programme for selected new Welsh writers.