Monday, 30 June 2014

Desert Island Books...

Image courtesy of: Simon Howden / Free Digital Photos
We're coming to the end of our Desert Island Books series now, just time for a couple more contributions before we finish...this week from Chris Buxton, Lecturer and Senior Research Assistant in the School of Fine Art, Photography & Film and CIRIC (Creative Industries Research and Innovation Centre), Dynevor Campus. 

If you were stranded on a desert island which 4 books would you like to have with you and why?
So, here's the thing, I rarely read novels. A shameful admission for a long time journalist and screenwriter, I know, but there you go. I blame my deeply tedious afternoons in 'O' Level English Literature. Actually, I did enjoy William Golding's Lord Of The Flies - hopefully, not the desert island experience you have in mind - but it was Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd that really soured me. In my defence, hearing it read aloud by a bunch of disinterested Bristolian teenagers for months on end is probably enough to steer anyone away from the delights of the classics.

Still, I am an avid reader and have a huge number of books, lots of non-fiction, lots about films, filmmakers and filmmaking. I was and am an autodidact and, in the days before the internet, books gifted me the secret knowledge I was seeking. And so, my first choice of book is one I bought as an undergraduate studying History and Sociology, David A Cook's A History Of Narrative Film. Until then, film for me was just the movies, whatever was on in the cinema or out on VHS. Cook's text book weaved a spellbinding story out of films, some that I knew and many I didn't. It drove me to investigate the many films within and sparked the passion that has driven my life ever since. I didn't really know about things like directors, auteurs, the studio system or national cinemas, before reading Cook - movies weren't something anyone I knew took remotely seriously, let alone saw as a potential career - so this was a revelation. It's hard to think of a single book that has had a bigger impact upon me than that chance purchase in Waterstone's in Bath one summer afternoon.
A similar early inspiration is Ian Christie's book, Scorsese On Scorsese, a series of interviews with the director, whose film Taxi Driver had shocked me with its power when a school friend hired it from the video library a few years earlier - on a fake ID, naturally. In Christie's book, the story of Scorsese was told in his own words. Here, I not only encountered his other work, the sublime wonders of Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Mean Streets, but discovered that he went to something called a film school and studied to be a filmmaker. Why didn't they ever tell us these sort of places existed when I was in school? And Scorsese was from a working class background, like me, so if he could do it, why couldn't I? As a one-two punch, Cook and Christie's books, both bought in the same summer, transformed my life. I still have them to this day, and their creased, dog-eared states are a testament to the profound effect they exerted over me.
I rarely read novels but I do read graphic novels. As a small child, I would read comics like The Beano and The Dandy, then progressed to British sci-fi stalwart, 2000AD. British comics of the day were inky, smudgy, black and white affairs, with just the cover and centre pages in colour, colours that usually bled into each other. American comics were a different beast, all colour with glossy covers and filled with adverts for things we could only dream of like Sea Monkeys, Crackerjack Popcorn and Hostess Twinkies. The very first American comic I bought from the local newsagent was Daredevil #168, a self-contained tale of love, tragedy and revenge. By complete chance, I had stumbled on to one of the highpoints of Marvel Comics' history, Frank Miller & Klaus Janson's run on Daredevil. Miller was yet to create his more-lauded The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300, but these works' adult themes, noir cityscapes and spectacular violence were already there in his Daredevil, collected in the mammoth Daredevil Miller-Janson Omnibus that's replaced the comics now consigned to my Dad's attic.
Now, I feel I should have a proper novel, so I will go for one of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories. Pretty much any one will do, although I particularly enjoyed Casino Royale and From Russia With Love. The Bond of the books feels a bit stiffer than Sean, Roger, Daniel et al, but he's more of bastard too, and can drink, smoke and take various pharmaceuticals for Britain. I read them all over the space of a few months, mostly on trains as I went to and from hospital visiting my mother as succumbed to ever more illnesses towards the end of her life. She was a huge fan of the Bond movies, had them on video, and when I was little, would take me to them on school holidays whenever a new one came out. So, whilst the Bond books remain thrilling page turners, there's always that sentimental link for me, that adds a further resonance.
If you could bring one of the characters to life, for company, who would you choose and why?
It would have to be James Bond, wouldn't it? If he couldn't get me off a desert island, who could? If Bond couldn't help me escape, though, Casino Royale Bond girl Vesper Lynd would be a far preferable, if potentially treacherous companion.
You can have one luxury item on the island with you…what would it be?
I would have my cat, Willow, with me. She's a pedigree Ragamuffin, bred to be affectionate playful companions, which she most certainly is. And she's certainly a luxury as she's no good as a mouser, is afraid of visitors and needs pretty much constant combing and brushing. Still, she's incredibly entertaining, very relaxing and a great listener - we all talk to our pets, right?
You are rescued and can only take one book back with you…which one would you pick?
For sentimental reasons, it would have to be my old copy of Cook's A History Of Narrative Film, even though I could probably recite whole passages of it from memory.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

2014 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway winners announced!

The winners of the most hotly contested prizes in children’s literature were announced yesterday. Kevin Brooks has won the CILIP Carnegie Medal for The Bunker Diary and Jon Klassen has won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for This is Not my Hat.

Jon Klassen seems a bit fixated on hats. He was shortlisted for the Greenaway award last year with I Want my Hat Back. Both books are excellent and good fun whatever your age, so do take a look. This is Not my Hat has a bit of a shock ending, though, so approach with care if you’re of a sensitive disposition! We should also point out that Klassen doesn’t just write about hats. In fact, he had an extra chance of winning this year as he was also nominated for The Dark, his collaboration with Lemony Snicket (of A Series of Unfortunate Events fame). Nothing to do with hats!

Kevin Brooks is no stranger to the Carnegie Medal, having been shortlisted three times before for Martyn Pig (2002), The Road of the Dead (2007) and Black Rabbit Summer (2009), so it’s good to see him finally take home the prize. Brooks has never shied away from tough issues and his books can be a gruelling read. The Bunker Diary deals with homelessness, drug abuse and imprisonment, amongst other things, and as such has caused some controversy. It’s certainly not a book for young children! Despite its bleak nature (Brooks believes that teenagers and young adults don’t always need a happy ending, and it’s patronising to suggest they do), The Bunker Diary won the judging panel over on good old-fashioned literary merit and a compelling storyline.

The Carnegie and Greenaway medals are the oldest and most prestigious awards in children’s literature. They are judged solely by UK librarians. The process of selecting the long lists started back in the autumn, with a shortlist announced in March this year. You can find out more about the awards and this year’s ceremony, including comments from the winners and judges, on the official CILIP awards website. The shortlists for both awards are below. All are available from Townhill Library, so call in and make your own judgement! You’ll find them on our New Books display on the first floor.

CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist 2014:-

The Bunker Diary, Kevin Brooks

Liar and Spy, Rebecca Stead

Blood Family, Anne Fine

Rooftoppers, Katherine Rundell

Ghost Hawk, Susan Cooper

The Child’s Elephant, Rachel Campbell-Johnston

All the Truth That’s in Me, Julie Berry

The Wall, William Sutcliffe


CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist 2014:-

This is Not my Hat, Jon Klassen

The Paper Dolls, Rebecca Cobb (written by Julia Donaldson)

Where my Wellies Take me, Olivia Gill (written by Clare and Michael Morpurgo)

The Day the Crayons Quit, Oliver Jeffers (written by Drew Daywalt)

The Dark, Jon Klassen (written by Lemony Snicket)

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf, Dave McKean (written by David Almond)

Oliver, Birgitta Sif

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Desert Island Books...

Image courtesy of: Arztsamui / Free Digital Photos
Many thanks to Angela Maddock for her amusing contribution to Desert Island Books this week! Angela is Senior Lecturer in Contextual Studies and also Pathway Leader in MA Textiles, School of Research and Postgraduate Studies for the Faculty of Art & Design...

I don't come from a family of readers. My Mum is dyslexic, my brother was and my sister is…so reading was neither enjoyed nor celebrated, though I do remember the usual classic collections, mostly works of Shakespeare, that sort of thing. These volumes display lovely pin pricks at their spines, my brother would hang his dart board in front of them. I did A level English, badly, very badly. I spent too much time swimming, playing hockey and tennis  and went to the cinema to watch Polanski's Tess so that I was able to write about it in my exam. I was not a good student. Yet in that sleepy gap between exams and my miserable results, I lay in the sun, working my way through the reading list I should have started two years earlier. In that summer I read Nabokov, Orwell, Plath, Salinger, Hardy, Solzhenitsyn, Sagan, Kundera, Murdoch…mostly depressing stuff that I found deeply engaging and the kind of book to which I am always returning - except that now I also like books that make me laugh too, Anne Tyler is a particular favourite. I also love Kazuo Ishiguro's writing, Carol Shields, Iain Banks,  Philip Roth, Toni Morrison. Those few weeks of summer were a real turning point; I can't say that I am especially well read, but I understand what books mean to me and how other people's words live inside me. Having been asked to do this, I found myself looking at the bookshelves in our home, picking up old favourites. Last night I started to reread Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea  and then dreamt I lived in that extraordinary house, swam in the sea! Well here goes…ask me next week, or even tomorrow, and this list would be very different.
My favourite four books:
John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meaney
Iris Murdoch: The Sea, The Sea
Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca
Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory
All four are books I carry in my head, Owen Meaney reduced me to tears,  Wasp Factory was so fantastically dystopian and The Sea, The Sea and Rebecca are such classic books and bring me back to water, which I love!
Which character would I like to bring to life? Owen Meaney, no contest!
What would be my luxury item? My husband reckoned I'd ask for a really good pillow, but I know that I would want a very excellent pair of tinted swimming goggles.
If I was rescued and could take only one book, oh dear! I think I would glue the pages of The Sea, The Sea inside those of Owen Meaney…I'm not good at sticking to rules!
And if you had asked me about music, I have no taste, it would be 80s all the way…

Friday, 13 June 2014

Adult Learners' Week

Tomorrow sees the start of Adult Learners' Week, which seeks to celebrate lifelong learning in all its forms. Since all of you lovely people are adult learners, we’re a big fan of lifelong learning at UWTSD Swansea Libraries! We also know that it can be tough if you’re returning to education after a bit of a break, or even if you’re going from one course to another. We hope you’ve all survived this year ok, but do take a look back at our study tips series from earlier in the year when members of library staff, and Study Support Tutor Mary Davies Turner, used their personal experience to offer some advice on academic success.

We’re not the only ones with advice to share. Learning Skills Wales have got some top tips on using lifelong learning to support your career, as well as some useful websites where you can find more help.

If you’re a mature student, we have some study skills books especially for you, as well as lots of books with more general study skills advice. For the time being , though, with exams behind you, try to enjoy the summer break!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Postcards from Hay!

                                                      Assistant Librarian, Alison Evans

The university and its library staff in particular, seem to have undertaken a mass exodus to the Hay Festival this year! Some were first time visitors, others were introducing their children to the festival, one was returning to work as a volunteer steward...and the primary motivation of others seemed to be the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch! We thought you'd like to hear what they all got up to, so here are a selection of 'postcards' from Hay...  
Helen Beale - Deputy Head of Library and Learning Resources
My initial observation of Hay this year – mud and a veritable rainbow of Hunter wellies – the highest concentration of Hunter wellies I have ever come across in one field!
Our first session Letters Live coincided with my 18 year old daughters’ first ever visit to Hay, what enticed her to join us this year? I’d like to say it was the literary element of the festival but no, it was the chance to see Benedict Cumberbatch live on stage! The queue for this event started early and was made up primarily of very enthusiastic young (and not so young) fans, some sporting rather interesting T shirts. One teenage fan tried (emphasis on tried) to engage Caitlin in conversation about her recently purchased Benedict Cumberbatch colouring book! This was a step too far for Caitlin though who went off in search of a hot drink.
Letters Live was inspired by To The Letter, by Simon Garfield and Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, to celebrate the dying art of letter writing. A group of performers read a selection of letters including the very touching letter written by explorer Robert Scott to his wife on knowing he was going to die on his Antarctic mission in 1912 and one from Elvis to President Nixon in 1970 asking if he could help the country’s fight against drug abuse.
On Saturday we went from the comic musing of the QI Elves, who knew so much lurked in beards, via Tom Hollander and Andrew Davies talking about the recently aired drama A Poet in New York, to a celebration of the poetry of Dylan Thomas with Rob Brydon and friends. Now looking forward to 2015!
Alison Evans - Assistant Librarian
Thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to the Hay Festival - heard the amazing James Lovelock and utterly engaging Charlotte Higgins. Will definitely be back. However, must remember:
1. Plan ahead and book early
2.Bring wellies
3. (Most importantly) Do not leave glasses on car seat in 'park and ride' and spend the rest of the day having to be pointed in the general direction of the stage!
Allison Jones, Library Assistant
It was with some trepidation that my husband and I jumped in the car and set off for the Hay Festival.  We are festival novices and with two children, aged 11 and 3, in hand we just didn’t know what to expect and were dreading the, “I’m bored”. 
Hayfever is the children’s programme at Hay and I have to say that the list of events was astounding.  I’m fortunate in having two children that love books and so it was very disappointing that my youngest was unable to attend any of the shows.  It does however give us something to look forward to in future years with authors such as Alison Brown, Tom Gates, Jacqueline Wilson and the 2011 – 13 Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson.
A scaled down replica of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed greeted us at the entrance.  I wouldn’t have taken a second look but my eldest sone spent a good twenty minutes looking at the various artefacts within.  The pop up shed is touring the country as part of the centenary celebrations and is worth a peep if you are in its vicinity (  I can feel a trip to Laugharne looming.
Events wise my eldest and I had opted for Anthony Horowitz, the author of the Alex Rider series, Diamond Brothers and the Power of Five.  Horowitz was giving a talk on his recent bestseller, Russian Roulette, a prequel to Alex Rider which very much focuses on Alex’s arch nemis, Yassan Gregorovitch , a Russian assassin.  In truth I had not read any of his titles and was amazed at the volume of his writing.  He spoke briefly about his script writing for series such as Foyles War, Poirot and Midsummer Murders and the complications of fitting in a murder around a commercial break but he mainly addressed the formation of his books popular with children. He gave an insight into how he meticulously created plans when sketching stories, the development of his characters and amazingly how he successfully juggles two to three projects at a time – which he believes stems off writers block.  Throughout the hour he engaged and entertained his young audience with plots on how to successfully “blow up” people!
With hindsight I would have also booked to see Michael Murpurgo. Not knowing what to expect we chose to just dip our toes into this year’s Hay.  Having the festival so close to home is amazing and will hopefully have encouraged reluctant readers to pick up a book.  Indeed having not picked up a book in five years I have just completed a novel by George Orwell!
It's also worth mentioning that I have booked some other literary events, this time plays,  for my children, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book in Aberglasney Gardens and the War Horse in Cardiff Millenium Centre.  It is great to see so much going on the doorstep this summer which doesn’t involve football!
Andrew Campbell - Head of Leisure, Events, Tourism & Sport (Swansea)
Clearly judging by the amount of UWTSD staff seen shuffling along the boardwalks last week, there were quite a few empty desks back in SA1 during the Whitsun break. This surge of literary interest was welcome and will perhaps herald a new dawn in creative assignment writing throughout the university. Well, one can but hope! For most of the week those same some UWTSD staff  and other visitors appeared weilding umbrellas, hoping to ward of unprecedented levels of rainfall. Deluges rendered the Festival site impassable at times with scenes more reminiscent of muddy Glastonbury than Hay. It was a good week for Hunter wellingtons, but correspondingly a bad week for car park attendants.
Despite the weather, some record visitor days were recorded, fuelled principally by some stellar celebrity appearances(someone please remind me in the next life to change my surname to Cumberbatch). The likes of Tom Hollander (I met a woman who had flown over from California specifically to see him deliver two readings. Hmm), Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Bear Grylls, Julia Donaldson, Mary Berry, Jennifer Saunders (I could go on....and on....) never failed to enthral their followers, who often queued up three hours in advance of performance times. Who said that popular culture was in decline?! That said, the "lesser names" on the programme often provided greater value in terms of thinking and reflection. Audiences who listened to the poetry of Simon Armitage for instance, writing about the First World War, could not have been more emotionally moved....or those who sat in on Oscar Guardiola - Rivera would have been spellbound by revelations over the coup d'etat of former Chilean President Salvador Allende. Again and as ever, the list of subject matter was so eclectic. Even ex Spurs defender Sol Campbell turned up to speak about celebrity football. Enough said.
My duties at Hay were varied, but always involved connection and conversation with those who "tipped up" for the event. For newcomers the old Vauxhall advert strapline about being "once bitten, forever smitten" holds true for Hay. Go once and prepare for a lifelong engagement. People return year after year and always want to share opinions about presentations heard. Or want to talk about real life encounters with those in the public eye, who also come along to listen surreptitiously to those on stage. Some notable ticket holders in my queue this year included Alan Yentob, Suggs (of Madness fame|), Susannah (from Trinny and)....and Tony Fadell. Tony who? (he created the iPod). Just like visitors to Hay, festival staff always seem to talk about presentation highlights as well. For the record, my 2014 choice was as follows: in third place Anthony Horowitz; in second place Margaret Macmillan....and in top spot (and I know this gets a high rating from another UWTSD member of staff, Lucy Griffiths as she was there too), Arianna Huffington. In her talk about happiness - The Third Metric, she simply inspired.
That's it from me. A few insights, a few thoughts. Just 360 days to go the next Hay Festival! Unless one wants to go the Winter Festival of course...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Desert Island Books...Children's Choices!

Aneurin & Gwennan

We decided to mix things up a bit for this week's Desert Island we've handed over the reins to the kids! Assistant Librarian Emily Hywel asked her two children Aneurin (aged 6) and Gwennan (aged 4) some friends...what books and luxury items they would choose. Some great choices...bunny rabbits and nail varnish would certainly cheer us up too! 
If you were stranded on a desert island which 4 books would you like to have with you and why?

 Gwennan & Friends:

Ella Bella Sleeping Beauty – because it all about ballet and I have a friend called Ella
Emily Brown and Stanley the Rabbit – because it has a rabbit in it
The Troll
ANY Peppa Pig books…


Batman – because it’s about a superhero of course!
Minecraft Annual
1000 Gair Cyntaf Sali Mali – so I know what things are called

If you could bring one of the characters to life, for company, who would you choose?

Gwennan & Friends:

Sleeping beauty - cause I like her dress
Emily Brown and Stanley - so we could go on adventures
The Troll - cause he’s a good cook and he cooks fish, even though he prefers goat - but I like fish


Batman or Steve (from Minecraft) - cause either of them can save the day!

You have one luxury item on the island with you... what would it be?
Gwennan & Friends:

A sleeping beauty doll (two of them chose this!)
Some of my bunny rabbits… and my nail varnish!! J


A Minecraft computer that builds things in real life so I can dig up the sand and build a base and other stuff….. (I’m sure this is allowed J)

You are rescued and can only take one book back with you … which one would you pick?

Minecraft Annual of course – but I don’t want to be rescued….