Stage – Laugharne
The first ridiculous thing about it is its name. Laugharne starts with the word ‘laugh’ but is pronounced as one syllable, ‘Larn’, despite having an absurd 9 letters. I asked my audience in the Millennium Hall if they could think of another place that could match that. ‘Luton’, shouted one woman, failing on all counts.
Then there is its location; it sounds like it should be in Ireland but my train ticket took me to Swansea, then Carmarthen where I was picked up and driven the last fifteen miles to the village-sized town. It is situated beautifully on the estuary of the River Taf and, unless you are planning to drown yourself in the quicksands or your Satnav is badly awry, you do not pass through it on the way to anywhere else – ‘We never had evolution in Laugharne,’ explained one local.
If the name rings a bell that is because it was, for several years, home to Dylan Thomas and his family, and is thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub, which the Welch poet describes in Under Milk Wood.
As a teenager I was obsessed with Thomas’ boozy lyricism so I was intrigued to hang out there
The meagre population is swollen frequently by visitors to the festivals that take place in Laugharne every year. Which is how I found myself there 2 weekends ago as part of a series of events which referenced some anniversary of Thomas and included Keith Allen talking conspiracy theories with David Icke and Phil Jupitus DJ-ing in the local pub.
Like Llareggub (‘bugger all’ backwards – good gag Dylan) the town is full of colourful characters; in the space of about 2 hours I met a man who installs Richard Branson’s billiard tables on his island of Necker, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction who gave me a fag, Roy who sits in the same spot in the same pub every day from 10 til 5 and another wild-haired dude who claimed, quite plausibly, to be 700 years old.
I spent a happy hour sitting in ‘the boathouse’, where Thomas lived and wrote from 1949 until his untimely death in new York in 1953, explored the large crumbling castle that gazes out towards the ocean and conducted the following conversation with a man in the graveyard where Dylan is buried.
Old lady: Good morning
Me: Good morning. Though, technically, that should be ‘good afternoon’.
Ol: Really? What time is it?
Me: Five o’clock.
The day after my show (very well thanks, since you ask) I rose at dawn and sat on a bench overlooking the broad watery sands and sky. I was immediately accosted by a woman with a clipboard doing a survey which posed the question, ‘how could your stay have been improved?’ My only thought was, ‘by not having to answer a questionnaire when I just want to enjoy the view.’
In the end I was pleased to be heading to London so I could find some peace and quiet at last. Festival season is upon us – make sure you get to at least one before the leaves start to fall.
Photographs Copyright Emyr Young