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Chester Lit Fest – Clare Dudman

October 26, 2010

Yesterday lunchtime I took some time out from the day job to go and see Clare Dudman’s talk at the Forum Theatre (also forgot my camera, so boo, no photos!)

The talk, entitled “The Miracle in the Desert – the Secret History of Britain’s Most Audacious Colony” told the story of the 1860s Welsh colonisation of Patagonia that Clare deals with in her fictionalised historical tale “A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees”. This is based on Clare’s own research which she gathered first hand by travelling to Patagonia and interviewing descendants of the original settlers.

I was absolutely captivated by this account, which was illustrated by source photographs, Clare’s own photographs and interspersed with readings from her atmospheric novel. She also showed a short film detailing her research in Patagonia, which I found genuinely moving.

My main reaction was real admiration at Clare’s dedication to her research and also her confidence to go travelling alone to such a remote place in order to speak to people close to her subject. Her own personal interest and evident love for the story made it a very personal account. It’s so important that this kind of community-level, cultural history is being remembered, just like the Welsh language is now being revived instead of lost. It is similarly incredible and heartening to learn how people overcame such adversity and that people today are keeping alive their traditions and memory.

I hope to eventually write a little review of “A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees” here (it has been added to my reading pile!) but in the meantime you can visit Clare’s website here.

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