Dylan Thomas Centre
Literature and Trauma
Literature and Trauma is a community creative writing project run by Swansea Council’s Dylan Thomas Service, which builds on the Dylan Thomas Centre’s longstanding relationship with local refugee communities.
In the early 2000s, after Swansea became a “dispersal area”, we began working with displaced people, launching anthologies of creative writing by refugees, asylum seekers and local people, and holding celebratory community events.
Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we began more sustained engagement with organisations including Swansea Asylum Seekers Support Group, African Community Centre and City of Sanctuary, and most importantly with displaced people themselves.
As a result, the Literature and Trauma sessions began in 2017, led by Cameroonian writer Eric Ngalle Charles; his personal experience of displacement and asylum proved crucial in providing a safe space for participants to express themselves.
As a friend, or as a family now, we just try to encourage people to come to this project to share their story if they want. I like to tell people what we’ve been through. We have lots of problems in our life, but still we are here now. We have a chance to speak in front of people. Before that I was nervous. But Eric always told me, ‘It is only you that can tell your own story to other people’.
During the Literature and Trauma sessions, people tell their unique stories through poetry and prose. Holding the workshops in our Learning Space ensured provision of play facilities for any accompanying children, thereby allowing their guardians to focus on their writing, while free bus tickets removed the barrier of travel costs.
The resulting work has featured in cultural events, local media, and been read on BBC radio.
The workshops deliver clear social impact, enabling attendees to feel part of the wider community, to access cultural venues and orientate themselves in a new city. Our venue has become a focal point and safe space for a committed and gifted group from this often-neglected community.
Having had the opportunity to work closely with asylum seekers and refugees, we are now working collaboratively to expand on these opportunities.
Our new Blooming under the Tall Tales project, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, will focus on working with asylum seekers, refugees and community organisations to develop family programmes around our collections.