The artistic and cultural exchange between Wales and North America has always been strong. From the Welsh Quakers’ settlement in Pennsylvania in the 1600s, through the great Welsh American choral events of the 19th and 20th centuries, to today’s flourishing colony of Welsh actors in Hollywood – the Welsh have made a significant contribution to the cultural life of the USA and Canada.
Welsh Culture in the USA
An exhibition of paintings by British artists from the National Museum Wales entitled 'Pastures Green & Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape’ toured the USA in 2016. Iconic photographs of well-known rock bands and musicians from the seventies and eighties by New York photographer Chalkie Davies - originally from Wales - has been on show in 2015 at National Museum Wales.
The movie 'Set Fire to the Stars' starring Elijah Wood and Celyn Jones was released in cinemas in the USA in 2015. Filmed in Wales but set in New York and Connecticut, the film features Dylan Thomas’ first of four poetry-reading visits to the USA where, in the 1950s, he became an overnight sensation and a celebrity poet. Also currently making a big splash with screenings in the USA is the film 'Jack to a King' – the amazing rags-to-riches story of Swansea City Football Club and their rise from near bankruptcy to the British Premier League thanks to the dedication of their fans.
Sir Karl Jenkins’ music is sung by choirs throughout North America and Jenkins appears at Carnegie Hall every year for a special celebration of his work on Martin Luther King Junior Day. Opera star Bryn Terfel regularly appears in leading roles at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and actors Damian Lewis, Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Sheen, Rhys Ifans and Andrew Howard can regularly be seen in major TV series and movies in the USA.
North American people making a mark in Wales
North Americans are also making waves in Wales. The Dylan Thomas International Prize for Young Writers, an annual literary prize launched in Wales in 2006, has been won four times by American writers: Elyse Fenton, Maggie Shipstead, Clare Vayne Watkins and Joshua Ferris. Wales’ Artes Mundi international prize for contemporary visual art was won, in 2014, by Theaster Gates an American Social Practice Installation artist who lives and works in Chicago.
A hotspot for US Filmmakers
Wales has become a location hotspot for US film-makers due to its wide variety of beautiful scenery, the opening of Pinewood Studios Wales and the BBC’s Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff, and its proximity to London. Russell Crowe, Chris Hemsworth and Kirsten Stewart have all filmed in Pembrokeshire for the movies 'Robin Hood' and 'Snow White and The Huntsman'.TV programmes popular in America like Sherlock and Doctor Who are filmed and produced in Wales.
In recent years Wales has become very popular with US film and television producers. With the world-renowned Pinewood Group having a studio facility in Cardiff and the brand new state-of-the-art Wolf Studios Wales currently hosting the television adaptation of 'A Discovery of Witches' for Sky TV.
Dragon Studios near Bridgend has also hosted the Turner television drama 'Will', based on the early life of William Shakespeare. Prior to that, the Paris Barclay directed series 'The Bastard Executioner' (written by Kurt Sutter) used the site and built an extensive medieval village set complete with its own castle on the backlot.
Guy Ritchie's 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' filmed key sequences in Snowdonia National Park in north Wales and the latest in the Transformers franchise also chose to shoot the final action sequences of 'Transformers: The Last Knight' in a disused quarry in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is home to the BBC’s long-running sci-fi Doctor Who begins a new series with the first female Time Lord in its history, played by Jodie Whittaker (star of Broadchurch). Hartswood Films also filmed the latest series of ‘Sherlock’, with parts of Cardiff standing in for central London.
North American Welsh Heritage
North America has its own vibrant Welsh community. The Welsh diaspora in America began in the 17th-century peaking during the 19th century and today there are over ten million people in the USA and Canada with Welsh surnames. Many Welsh North Americans still treasure their Welsh heritage and actively help to preserve the rich traditions through joining Welsh societies and organisations, by celebrating St David’s Day, organising events, festivals and eisteddfodau, and hosting choirs and entertainers that visit from Wales. The North American Festival of Wales is held annually over Labor Day and attended by numerous delegates from the USA and Canada. Ninnau and Y Drych is a monthly newspaper servicing the Welsh-American community with news and articles about Wales and North America.