Writers used to love libraries. Maybe they still do. I learned to love the old Carnegie-bequeathed Bridgend library, opened in 1907 in Wyndham Street. In 2013 I published a letter supporting the campaign to turn it into an arts centre.
Looking back, for me it was either the reading room or the poetry shelves in the old library. My mother would have asked me to look at the biographies, especially of the ‘Bloomsbury set’, with whom she was fascinated. Or astronomy.
She taught me the names of constellations as we lay in the frost puzzling over a torchlit star atlas. The brickred blink of Beetlejuice steadied our spinning heads. But in those days science and history seemed like work to me. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.
No, it was poetry I browsed, usually hardback, although I remember a paperback Peter Redgrove. Gradually I began to take out Welsh language collections, as I tried to improve my feeble grasp of the language. None of the poetry was popular, the Welsh especially ignored.
Yet studiously, I attempted translation of whole poems. Maybe this is an indication that Welsh was a foreign language to me, although I didn’t feel that way. It was more like the ache of an amputated limb. So I puzzled over Bryan Martin Davies, Dafydd Rowlands, Nesta Wyn Jones – anybody who didn’t look too daunting on those sparse shelves. Einir Jones was a favourite with her anorexic lines.
Years passed. It’s now May 2015, and, yes, an arts centre has, heroically, been created in the old library in Wyndham Street. To some it is ‘Carnegie House’, to others ‘Ty Carnegie’. But let’s all raise a glass to its success. This arts centre is the best thing to happen to the town of Bridgend for many years, a beacon amidst derelict pubs and fast food outlets.
I took part in one of the first events, along with writers Rhian Edwards and Jonathon Edwards, on March 19 2015. On September 25, my novel, ‘Limestone Man’, published by Seren, will be launched, with musician Peter Morgan providing interpretation of five sections, playing moog synthesiser and ableton push, and myself reading.
Indeed, a new catalogue of events, including drama, performance, art, textiles, music and literature is now being prepared. Find details of Carnegie House on Facebook, Twitter, www.carnegiehouse.co.uk or 01656 815757.
Many people have worked tirelessly for this art and culture hub to open. They include Tracy Evans, Rhian Edwards and manager, Leanne Edwards. It’s vital we give it our support.
Robert Minhinnick 3.5.2015