REVIEWS OF 'THE DRAGON ENTERTAINS - 100 WELSH STARS'

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Meic Stephens, The Western Mail Magazine, January 2001

Lastly, another book published by Wales Books, The Dragon Entertains (13) by Alan Roderick, a highly-readable reference work listing 100 of the most famous Welsh stars of stage, screen and radio, from The Alarm to the TV comedian, Ronnie Williams.

The list is a roll-call of the theatrical talent that Wales has produced over the last century: Ivor Novello, Tommy Cooper, Donald Houston, Donald Peers, Emlyn Williams from among the dead.

And Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Bryn Terfel, the Super Furry Animals, Harry Secombe, Kenneth Griffiths, Victor Spinetti and Max Boyce among the gloriously alive and still performing.

It also includes fascinating information about the Welsh connections of stars like Glen Ford, Bob Hope, Rolf Harris, Griff Rhys Jones and Petula Clarke.

This is the book to reach for the next time someone tells you that Wales has not nurtured any great talent in the world of entertainment and showbiz.


THE WESTERN MAIL, NOVEMBER 17TH 2001

ENTERTAINERS WE CAN TAKE PRIDE IN

SHOWBUSINESS: MANY TALENTED PERFOMERS LEAVE WALES, BUT THEY REMAIN ICONS, SAYS A NEW BOOK (reviewed by James Pritchard)

For a nation of less than three million people, Wales has a musical and theatrical heritage which is second to none. And despite the fact that many of our most talented performers decide to leave for the bright lights of London or the lower taxes of the USA, Wales should still be proud of its icons.

That is the message of a new book, 'The Dragon Entertains - 100 Welsh Stars' written by Newport schoolteacher Alan Roderick. The book, due to be published next week, contains biographies of 100 high-profile performers who have either been born in Wales or have close family links with the country. And it contains more than a few surprises.

Although all the usual suspects are included - Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Max Boyce, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton - there are also some names not usually associated with Wales. Bob Hope is included by virtue of a Welsh mother, as is actor David Jason, Del Boy in 'Only Fools and Horses'.

The book also reveals that Stoke City supporters have adopted Delilah as an unofficial club anthem, Monty Python's Terry Jones was born in Colwyn Bay, and Cardiff'-born comic Griff Rhys Jones considers himself a bogus Welshman.

Professional Aussie Rolf Harris is also listed thanks to his Welsh parents and a grandfather whose portrait of Viscount Tredegar can still be seen at Tredegar House in Newport.

The fact that there is hardly a corner of the world where the impact of Welsh performers and artists has not been felt is something that Alan Roderick feels we should all take great pride in. "I may be biased but for such a tiny nation Wales has produced Oscar-winning actors, marvellous opera singers, internationally acclaimed popular singers and television stars. When we are compared to Ireland and Scotland I think we have produced amazing people and we should take pride in that."

He says that although many of our performers are still forced away from Wales, by lack of performance spaces and recognition, that should not be used as an excuse to ignore them. "I think we should cherish these people" he said.

"For so long the only heroes we had in Wales were Owain Glyndwr and Aneirin Bevan, but people like Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Tom Jones and all the rest are valid as icons. In an ideal world it would be good if these performers felt able to stay in Wales and make a living, but in the meantime we should not resent what they have achieved. They are all representatives of Wales and for a nation with an at times uncertain view of itself they can provide valuable role models for the next generation of stars who will look at them and say, yes, I can do that, too."

The Dragon Entertains - 100 Welsh Stars is published by Wales Books and will be available in bookshops from next Thursday.

Tommy Cooper

The king of comedy who was to inspire an entire generation of performers was born Thomas Frederick Cooper at 19, Llwyn Onn Stret, Caerphilly, on March 9, 1922. His father had been a poultry farmer near Caerphilly but the family moved to Exeter, where Tommy grew up, when he was still a young child.

Tommy became interested in conjuring at the age of nine when an aunt presented him with a box of magic tricks and at the age of 13, when still working as an apprentice shipwright in Hythe, Kent, he performed his first magic show.

After a spell as an entertainer to the troops he hit the big time and became best known for his lunatic comedy shows, featuring rambling anecdotes and magic tricks which never quite worked. Although he died after collapsing on stage on April 15, 1984, Tommy Cooper remains one of the nation's favourite comedians.

Bob Hope

The comedian who will forever be associated with America, golf and entertaining the troops was born in England to a Welsh mother.

His mother, Iris Towns, was from Barry and used to sing in the local music halls before she met Englishman William Hope, who she married on April 25, 1891. The couple lived for many years at 12 Greenwood Street in Barry before moving to Newport and then to Eltham in Kent where Bob, their fifth son, was born.

Five years after the birth the family sailed to America where Bob, who had been sung Welsh hymns at his mother's knee, was to become a household name as a comic, film star and singer.

Jonathan Pryce

One of the UK's finest actors and performers, Jonathan Pryce was born in Holywell in north-east Wales on June 1, 1947.

Educated at Holywell Gramar School, he had a turbulent time at school but after leaving he took a drama course and managed to get a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Since training he has worked in a string of award-winning productions, from his first part in the Terry Griffiths play, 'The Comedians' in 1977 to Broadway appearances of Miss Saigon and even acting the villain in the James Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Comes'.

Super Furry Animals

Gruff Rhys, Huw 'Bunf' Bunford, Guto Pryce, Cian Ciaran and Daf Ieuan have been together as a group since 1994 and are one of the most eccentric, eclectic and talented groups to have emeged in Wales in the last decade.

The Super Furries formed in the crucible of the North Wales Welsh language music scene but it was when Gruff Rhys moved from Bethesda to Cardiff that the band started to receive wider recognition.

They are the first band to have had a Welsh language album in the Top 20 with their most recent, Mwng. As proud patriots, they have told their record company that they will not work on St David's Day.


NINNAU (USA) Review by Peter Williams February 1, 2002

It is a celebration of Welsh talent 'in all its vibrant variety'. With so many Welsh personalities active in the world of entertainment, the author has given us one hundred autobiographies in which he captures the essence of each subject's life in a nutshell.

Most of your favourites are here, from the most well-known movie actors such as Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Milland, Sian Philips, and Petula Clark, to the lesser-known such as Peter Karrie, star of West End musicals; Rupert Davies, BBC personality, and Ronald Lewis, tragic actor: from contemporary heart thron Ioan Gruffudd to past stars such as Lyn Harding and Ivor Novello.

This wonderful book shows to the world the astonishing range of so many Welshmen and women prominent in the entertainment field. Lavishly illustrated, it is a veritable goldmine of information about your favourite Welsh personalities.


A favourable full-page review also appeared in The News of the World, 26th November 2000, and a two-page spread featured in The South Wales Argus , November 16th, 2000

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