Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4 this week featured Les Barker, who is from Manchester and has learned Welsh to a very high level. Here’s the programme blurb:
Tired of living next to his noisy neighbours, Les Barker opted out of urban Manchester and moved to North Wales. “Although I’d spent half a lifetime an hour’s drive away, I’d never heard of Hedd Wyn. Or any other major figure in Welsh history or literature, apart from Max Boyce and Dylan Thomas.” So Les began to learn…and learn…and learn…..
“After toying briefly with ‘Teach Yourself Welsh’, I went on a four-day course in Denbigh; Craig Jones was the tutor. Over the summer I did a couple of week-long courses in Denbigh, initially with another Mr Jones, but he went off sick and was replaced by a Mrs Jones. Wales is full of them.”
“Being a beginner is frustrating. After a lifetime of being fluent, I suddenly had the vocabulary and grammar of a three-year-old.” But Les persevered, and is now a serious performer on the Welsh poetry scene, and one of the organisers of this summer’s Eisteddfod. Chris Ledgard meets Les as he makes last minute preparations for the festival.