Cymru & I Authors Announced

01 May 2023 | Inclusive Journalism Cymru

One of our aims when setting up Inclusive Journalism Cymru was to support Welsh writers and ensure that the true richness of Welsh identity was fully represented in our media. That’s why we were delighted to partner with Seren Books to commission “Cymru & I”, a collection of essays to do exactly that.

We gave writers the opportunity to get their voices out there, to pitch their ideas on the theme of Welsh identity and experience in its broadest sense, to be shared, read, recognised and celebrated – and paid fairly too. 

When we put the call out back in January 2023 we did not expect such a high volume of responses – 40 in total, a quarter of our members. We received such a rich, diverse mix of stories, demonstrating that we have a high calibre of writing talent here in Wales and proving all we need is the right platform and incentive to get these voices heard. Choosing just ten final pieces was incredibly tough – we want to assure those writers who weren’t successful that this was by no means a reflection of your writing skills or ability. In the end, it came down to curating the right mix of themes, making sure the book flowed and that a variety of identities were showcased. Because the quality of submissions we received was so impressive, we’re exploring the possibility of releasing another collection in the future, so do keep an eye out. 

In the meantime, let’s take a moment to congratulate our ten successful authors. Each one demonstrated a unique take on Welshness, shone a light on the multitude of influences and contradictions that make up national identity, and pitched their ideas eloquently and with flair. Here’s an introduction to each author and a brief outline of what their chapter will address. 

We hope you’re excited as we are.

Alys Roberts

Alys is currently a PhD student at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Struggling with dyslexia, she has always had a rocky relationship with writing. In school she favoured anything which avoided any possible embarrassment over her spelling and grammar. Only with a formal diagnosis, and then subsequent support, did she begin to enjoy writing. She now writes every day and is passionate about communicating ideas in relatable, accessible and inclusive ways. Her current research and writing explores ideas of identity, nation and nationalism in Welsh educational spaces.

Alys’ experience of dyslexia, language, and education in Wales is what her essay will aim to explore. She will look back at how she feels dyslexia impacted her education, but also how education in Wales supported and nurtured the specific learning difficulty in unexpected ways. The intersections of language, culture and dyslexia will be considered and how being dyslexic affected her self-expectations and the expectations of those around her. Sharing examples of the frustration but also the success she has faced due to her neurodivergence, she hopes this essay will allow readers to appreciate and empathise with the experiences people with dyslexia face every day.

Anthony Shapland

Anthony’s work as a writer, filmmaker and artist all overlap, but editing is a good unifying description, joining stuff together to build narratives. Non-fiction and fiction combine, starting from a sense that the world is constructed in the same way – constantly evolving and always temporary. He is currently working in short-form and novella. He’s interested in how he builds on a significant connection with where he grew up, Bargoed, a teenager in a landscape of massive upheaval during the 80s. He tries to write – accurately – about hidden stories, where it is perhaps doubt, rather than certainty, that is the default.

As a teen in South Wales in the 80s, coming out (or living out) was complicated. Decriminalisation of homosexuality was in ‘67, but the following twenty years saw persecution intensify. Political, religious and moral judgement, HIV, the age-of-consent and the added cruelty of Section28 inhibited information available to men to talk about what was happening to them. Communities, family and tradition, plus the fear of being ostracised caused many men – in hope – to enter marriages, ultimately harming them, their families, and an often-overlooked generation of children. Anthony’s essay will draw from lived experience, aiming to foreground less heard, complex lives.

Bethany Mcaulay

Having recently graduated, Bethany is now an independent bookseller in Hampstead, London. Prior to this, she grew up in North-East Wales, in the coastal town of Rhyl. The ideas presented in her writing about her hometown have been incubating for the last five years, since she departed and began to re-evaluate the preconceptions she held about her sense of entitlement to a claim of ‘Welshness’, as well as broader notions of culture and inclusion within this locality. This is, excitingly, her first endeavour in the field of journalistic non-fiction. However, she has written several plays, and has self-published two collections of photography and poetry. 

Bethany’s essay will examine the phenomenon of the faded seaside resort town within Wales, largely abandoned and impoverished following a decline in domestic tourism. Using Rhyl as its central example, she will evaluate how the town’s historically embedded cultural relationship with nearby English communities, as well as socioeconomic stigma, have resulted in Rhyl’s alienation from surrounding Welsh communities. She will ask, ultimately, if Rhyl and its residents are estranged and excluded from what it ostensibly means to be Welsh. How can towns such as these negotiate their place within a new and potentially independent Wales?

Debowale Omole

Debo tends to describe himself as a little bit restless and a little bit of an idealist. He’s intrigued by different cultures, the nature of faith, mental states and how these drive human relationships. In his idealist head, he dreams of the whole world getting along, though he’s aware it is not always the reality. Writing about how we as humans respond to people different from us and why we do so is his way of finding answers to the question of “Why can’t we all just be friends?” 

Debowale’s essay will explore the hidden struggle for acceptance that many immigrants face. The reader will journey through the impact of prejudice on migrants’ mental states through the lens of an African father trying to help his children make sense of their heritage and identity while fighting to stay true to his convictions.

Gosia Buzzanca

Gosia is a writer working across genres to create immersive, rich and texturally unique pieces of work touching on themes of motherhood, childhood, class, memories and belonging. She was recently selected by Literature Wales to be a part of the (Re)Writing Wales course held at Ty Newydd Writing Centre in March 2023. She is also the winner of W&A Working-Class Writers’ Prize 2022. Gosia graduated with a distinction from a Creative Writing MA and is currently working on a memoir as well as her debut novel. 

In her essay Gosia wants to explore the idea of home, language and memory. Being raised in Poland, moving to the UK at 19 and eventually settling in Wales has distorted her idea of what home is. It will be a sensory essay, with plenty of food, nature, and scent descriptions. She also wants to write about the relief of coming back to Wales after spending some time away and how, even though she might never feel like she belongs, Wales is a sanctuary to her, a breath of relief.

Dr Hanin Abou Salem

Hanin is a warrior on a quest to make our world a just place for all. She uses her expertise in International Law to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable and often forgotten people in our societies. She also fearlessly tackles social injustices head-on by challenging stereotypes, defending freedom of speech, and advocating for women’s empowerment, gender equality, refugees, and homeless people. 

Hanin’s essay will examine the housing crises, cost-of-living crises, homelessness, youth gangs, refugees, and radicalism in Wales. These deeply interconnected issues are all pressing concerns that have a significant impact on the lives of people in Wales. Her essay will provide a unique insight that will address the underlying causes of these challenges and identify potential solutions

Kelechi Ronald Ikpe

Kelechi is a medical doctor with a deep interest in writing. His dream has always been to be able to write or create pieces that people will read again and again. Over the years, he has explored writing in various forms including flash fiction, articles, product reviews, fiction, and short stories, though most of them are unpublished and a few self-published. He has also contributed to academic research, journal publications and peer reviewing journal articles. He would love to write about everyday life experience and also create a medical thriller series like his colleagues, Robin Cook and Michael Crichton. 

Kelechi’s essay will chronicle his journey to the United Kingdom as an international student. A lot of people come to the United Kingdom to study, but their challenges are rarely talked about. His essay will focus on coming to a new land and trying to fit into the system. He will also talk about depression, racism, discrimination, and lack of support. His story will explore the theme of hope as that is what drives most of us, especially new immigrants, people from a BAME background, and finally give some inspiration to readers through his success story.

Laura Mochan

As well as being a mother to one wonderful young man, Laura works as an Assistant Manager for a local Welsh charity and writes for Nation.Cymru on a freelance basis. She also runs a local writing group and together with her fantastic little team, she puts anthologies together of local writers’ work for charity; the books are titled ‘Merthyr, They Wrote’. She hopes to continue writing positive stories about the local community, bringing awareness to local projects, highlighting issues and promoting local talents and achievements.

Laura’s essay is about a town with a long history of castles, battles, legends, sacrifice, being a giant of the industrial revolution… and how it fell. She will explore the aftermath through the years up to the present day, and discuss the unfair representations the town and its people regularly receive via mainstream media.

Mo Jannah

Mo made a bold leap from his work with young offenders and youth services to a vibrant career in broadcast television. His unwavering passion for storytelling has been a driving force behind his success, and  he has been increasingly involved in creating and producing some of the most popular formats for national and regional broadcast platforms. As he ventures into the literary world, Mo is excited about the new challenges that await him and the opportunity to continue telling stories in new and creative ways.

In this essay, Mo will explore and celebrate the fluidity of identity within a Welsh context. He will examine its rich cultural heritage through the stories of those who descend from this multicultural legacy. Ultimately, the essay will argue for a nuanced and multi-faceted approach to identity that goes beyond simple physical characteristics and recognizes the complex and fluid nature of the self.

Tia-zakura Camilleri

At 18, Tia is an early-career creative and storyteller who aims to amplify the voices of marginalised communities through the avenues of poetry, journalism and theatre. Her passion for writing stems from early encounters with her father, Jason Camilleri, who introduced her to conscious hip-hop from a young age. Tia has freelanced as a journalist for outlets such as ITV Wales, Welsh Agenda and Xcellence Magazine. Through her associateship with Fio, Tia has developed her creative writing focussing on cultural politics and her experience as a black woman in Wales. Currently, Tia is creating a spoken-word led documentary called ‘Unloc’d’ exploring her journey with afro hair and hopes to publish a poetry book in the future. 

The one time Tia has ever truly felt Welsh was standing on the peak of Pen Y Fan looking across the landscape of the Brecon Beacons. Since then, she has climbed the mountain with her father almost every month. Using her experience of ‘climbing black’, she will explore the diversity issue of hiking and the intricacies of Welshness, celebrating the beautiful Welsh scenery and how many people from the global majority miss out from this and are missed from Wales’ cultural landscape.

Cymru & I will be published by Seren Books later in 2023. We are also exploring similar opportunities in Cymraeg. Watch this space.