The Dylan Thomas Centre
The Dylan Thomas Centre is based in Swansea and is the focal point for studies and events based around Dylan Thomas.
Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea
Dylan Thomas Centre
Entry is free to the Centre's permanent exhibition, 'Dylan Thomas: Man and Myth'
Follow the link to view the Dylan Thomas Centre pages on the Swansea Council website.
History of the Building
Opened by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter in 1995, the Dylan Thomas Centre is now nearing its twentieth year as Ty Llên: home to all things literary and cultural for the city and county of Swansea.
As we near the centenary of Dylan Thomas's birth in the Uplands area of Swansea, which is not more than a few miles from the maritime quarter's 'house of literature', it is an opportune moment to look back at the history of the building that accommodates the only permanent exhibition dedicated to Wales's premiere poet, Dylan Thomas, and simultaneously provides a platform for new and established writers.
While the centre has housed the exhibition 'Dylan Thomas: Man and Myth' for nearly twenty years, the building itself has a longer history, dating back to the 19th century.
Starting its life as the town's Guildhall in 1829, the Old Guildhall (as it is known) looked quite different to today. Built by Thomas Bowen, between 1825-1829, from designs by architect John Collingwood, the building originally had sweeping grand staircases either side of the main entrance and the building housed court rooms and smaller offices.
Beautiful as the structure was, the doubling in size of the borough through the Municipal Corporations Act (1835) meant that the building could not function to the capacity needed. Thus the decision was made to enlarge the site in 1848, with the newer version of the Guildhall completed in 1852 by William Richards to plans by architect Thomas Taylor.
As well as a more spacious building, the façade was embellished and the courtyard to the front contained a statue of the MP and industrialist John Henry Vivian, as well as two Russian canons captured during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.
The building functioned as the Guildhall until 1934 when the decision was taken to build an entirely new civic centre (which includes the Brangwyn Hall) near Sandfields and St Helen's cricket ground.
The Many Faces of the Dylan Thomas Centre
From its inception as the local town hall, through its long period as Swansea's municipal Guildhall, to its role as T? Llên, the grand Victorian building has had many roles and many different occupants.
In the late 1930s, after the re-location of Swansea's administrative centre to its new location, the Old Guildhall became a place of education and training. Its first role was as a juvenile employment centre; briefly interrupted when the building was requisitioned by the army for recruitment purposes during the Second World War.
From 1949 to 1969 the building returned to its former role in education: one section of the Old Guildhall was occupied by the Youth Employment Bureau and another part of the building became Swansea Technical School. Later, the space would house the College of Further Education (1960-1971) and was finally the annexe to Dynevor School (1970-1982) until the building closed in 1982.
In the ten plus years that the building stood uninhabited, time and neglect meant that renovations and refurbishments were much needed to restore the graffiti-covered, derelict building which was, in its heyday, described as the grandest civic structure in town.
Today: Ty Llên – 'House of Literature'
Re-opening its doors to the city of Swansea in 1995 as T? Llên ('the house of literature'), the centre was the major venue for the UK Year of Literature and was opened by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter – himself a fan of Dylan Thomas's work.
Today the centre continues to operate as home to the literature and arts programme for the city, with a busy and thriving calendar of events, which culminates in the two-week annual Dylan Thomas Festival (27th October-9th November). It also houses the only permanent exhibition on Dylan Thomas.
Over the years, the year round events programme and Festival have attracted famous names such as Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Sir George Martin, Alexei Sayle, Rowan Williams, Andrew Motion, Germaine Greer, Sarah Waters, Simon Armitage and Paul Durcan, to name a few, as well as some 'home-grown' Swansea talents.
Alongside the festivals, the centre has a yearly programme of events, houses the Young Writers' Squad – a workshop for aspiring writers still at school - and is one of the venues which showcases Fluellen Theatre Company's work. The centre regularly hosts Swansea University's Science Café and provides a regular slot for 'Poets at the DTC', in which invited guests read alongside open mic contributors.
The centre's commitment to literature and arts education means that the centre's literature officer often gives talks on Dylan Thomas's work and life to local groups, schools, as well as visitors who visit the exhibition.
Looking forward to the centenary, the Dylan Thomas Centre is planning for a busy year in 2014. As the international focal point for Dylan fans and scholars, the Centre will present an exciting year-round festival celebrating Swansea's most famous son, and showcasing the best in contemporary writing. We'll commission new work, exhibit Dylan Thomas' Notebooks, which will return to Swansea for the first time, and develop and expand our Dylan Thomas Exhibition, the Dylan Thomas Trails and our website, www.dylanthomas.com