St Catwg in South East Wales: Making Wales’s early Christian and pagan cultures visible

    Impact: Cultural impacts

    Description of impact

    Through a multi-faceted research project Professor Kevin Mills’ work has brought to a wider audience the ancient stories of St Catwg / Cadoc, an early contender for patron saint of Wales. His poetry collection, Stations of the Boar, and co-authored play, Cadoc and the Drowned Boys, engage with the traces of St Cadoc that persist in the landscape of South East Wales as names whose meanings have been lost. This work helps to make these traces intelligible again in their intriguing blend of Christian, pagan, mythological, political and geographical forms, contributing to a greater understanding of Wales’s national histories.

    How did your research contribute?

    Stations of the Boar is a twenty-five page poetry pamphlet published by Cinnamon Press in 2016, as the winner of their poetry pamphlet competition for 2015. The poems emerge from Professor Mills’ long-term engagement with the textual and interpretative residues of Christianity and build on his engagement with, and distinctive development of, interpretation theory, established in three monographs, numerous articles and chapters, as well as his most recent poetry collection Zeugma. Zeugma includes a sequence of poems, ‘Swansongs’, which takes its inspiration from St Cadoc. This collection explores issues related to place, space and narrative in poems whose mise-en-scene ranges from ancient Mesopotamia to contemporary Wales.

    Cadoc and the Drowned Boys (R 4) is a play based on an episode from the Norman Life of Saint Cadoc. Written by the multi-award-winning dramatist, director and actor, Vic Mills, and based on Kevin Mills’ research, it incorporates poems from Stations of the Boar, and includes a new short sequence of poems written by K.Mills specifically for the drama. A small, semi-professional theatre company was formed by V.Mills and K.Mills in order to facilitate the production. ‘Contemporancient Theatre’ employs three young professional actors, and a stage manager. Its focus on bringing together ancient stories and contemporary life emerged from K.Mills’s poetic practice and V.Mills’s theatre work. Performances of the play at Blackwood Little Theatre and seven churches named after St Cadoc in south east Wales were funded by University of South Wales Humanities Research.

    Everyone who attended the plays was given a free copy of Saint Cadoc: History and Legend – a pamphlet written by K.Mills to summarize his research and to offer members of the general public an account of what is known of Saint Cadoc’s life and work. It includes a number of stories from the Norman hagiography as well as a digest of the historical evidence.

    Professor Mills’s journal article ‘Plot and Tell: Story, Secret, Place’ sets out to delineate a new understanding of the relationship between space and place. Drawing on an episode from the Life of Saint Cadoc and other stories relating to the same location, this essay argues that Paul Ricoeur’s term ‘emplotment’ can be used to mediate between the Kantian understanding of space and our experiential awareness of place. Coining the term ‘intertopicality’ to render the irreducible relationality of place, the argument exploits the temporal and spatial meaning of words such as ‘plot’ and ‘tell’ in order to translate Ricoeur’s term from the discourse on time to that on space. Place is thus argued to schematize space through the medium of narrative. Mills also delivered a keynote lecture on this research, ‘Plot and Tell’, at the annual symposium, ‘Storytelling and Place’ (2017), of the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, USW.

    Together this body of work examines the contemporary relevance of ancient stories to the understanding of place in contemporary culture. The themes of Professor Mills’ research include the relationships between place and narrative, and between storytelling and geo-hermeneutics. His work aims to elucidate, too, the extent to which narrative functions as a mode of interpretation: the ways in which the shaping of stories encodes ideological, critical and / or personal perspectives. Mills has also explored the relationships between space, place and narrative in two further essays: ‘Broken Hallelujah’ (R.6), which won the inaugural M. Wynn Thomas Prize in 2012, is a creative-critical response to the religious revival in Wales (1904-5); ‘After Carson: Reading as Anacolouthon’ - co-authored with Professor Alice Entwistle of USW - reads the work of Belfast writer Ciaran Carson using spatial, place-specific strategies and protocols discovered within his texts

    Who is affected?

    Local communities and areas associated with Cadoc.
    Creative industries, arts practitioners and theatres in Wales, particularly Blackwood Little Theatre.
    Churches associated with St Cadoc in southeast Wales and their congregations.
    Museums (eg St Fagan’s) and local history groups (eg Gelligaer Historical Society.
    Impact date20152020
    Category of impactCultural impacts
    Impact levelIn progress