The creative spirit of Dylan Thomas is alive in Fitzrovia

By Nikki Shaill

Since joining the Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia festival team just three weeks ago, I’ve delighted in discovering the creative community and lively neighbourhood that lies between the busy streets of Tottenham Court Road and Warren Street.

Man holding oil painting.

Hassan, an artist from Art Fitzrovia collective, previews one of his art works inspired by Dylan Thomas’s poetry that will be exhibited as part of Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia festival.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting members of collective Art Fitzrovia, discussing Dylan Thomas with them and seeing sneak previews of art work that they are creating in response to his poetry to be exhibited at the festival.

From a whistle-stop tour of Fitzrovia’s historical and literary landmarks on my first day as festival manager, I sensed that the neighbourhood was something of a hidden gem. That there was much more to the area than initially meets the eye if you rush through and don’t take time to linger a little longer along the alleyways and grid of streets around Fitzroy Square.

I can’t wait for the festival to help the area sparkle and shine a little more light on the lingering creative spirit of the area. With over fifty events and festivities taking place — Dylan Thomas will once again bring riotous fun and explosions of poetry to Fitzrovia’s streets, shops and pubs for all of London to enjoy.

My Fitzrovia tour on my first day was led by Jason Morell, the festival director, and it was a sneak preview of the theatrical pub walks which are being created especially for the festival weekend. One of several new commissions and dramatic debuts during the festival, different Dylans will lead you through the streets, like ghosts sharing Fitzrovia’s secrets. Follow in the footsteps of Dylan and Caitlin from pub to pub (stopping for a drink or two along the way, naturally).

Whether speaking to local business owners and pub landlords, or meeting local artists and residents, I’m relishing my recent taste of the spirit of Fitzrovia. I look forward to discovering further the diverse delights that Fitzrovia has to offer through the Dylan Thomas tinted glasses that the festival will offer. Fitzrovia is casting a bit of a spell on me; from the fast changing facades and developments of the business districts, to the lasting mark of bohemia and creativity that is still detectable in the area — like the beer stain marking the map of our festival logo.

Whether you join us for a talk or a walk, a dance or a drink, a feast or a film, you’ll be able to discover a little more about how both Dylan and Caitlin Thomas have left their lasting impression on the area in a cultural cocktail of different ways.

I hope that both local long-term residents and those yet to discover the magic of this neighbourhood will join with us to celebrate the riotous spirit of Fitzrovia. We’ll look back at the traces that Dylan has left on the area whilst looking forward to how future investment in the neighbourhood can keep the area’s unique creative spirit alive, as the festival raises funds for local charities and community organisations.

If you’d like to share your own unique insights into Fitzrovia and help welcome people to the neighbourhood , we’re looking for volunteers and stewards now. Please contact volunteerdtfitzrovia@gmail.com to volunteer.

Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia runs from 20 to 26 October 2014. The full programme and tickets (prices start from £6) for all our Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia festival events are available to book now at dylanthomasfitzrovia.com.

Nikki Shaill is Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia festival manager.

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