It Was 40 Years Ago Today

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Winner of the David Bradby TaPRA Award for Research in International Theatre and Performance 2011.

postcard project


If you have any information on performance in Wales that could be of use to the project, please get in touch!

Whether you are an artist who has made performance work in Wales, or an audience member who once witnessed a performance (voluntarily or involuntarily!), we would be pleased to hear from you.
Any material will be of interest - from actual pieces of documentation to vague memories of events caught out of the corner of one's eye.


Project Director:
Heike Roms
Research Assistant (2009-2011):
Rebecca Edwards
Dept Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University

Professor Heike Roms
Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies
Aberystwyth University
Parry-Williams Building, Penglais Campus
Aberystwyth SY23 3AJ, UK
phone: (+44) 1970 - 621911 (direct)
departmental secretariat: (+44) 1970 - 622828
fax: (+44) 1970 - 622831

Steering Committee:
David Alston, Arts Council of Wales
Ifor Davies, Cardiff
Sioned Davies, Cardiff University
Arwel Jones, The National Library of Wales
Adrian Kear, Aberystwyth University
Mike Pearson, Aberystwyth University
André Stitt, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff

Funded by:

AHRC logo with link to website

Each year the AHRC provides funding from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. Only applications of the highest quality and excellence are funded and the range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please see our website

Aberystwyth University Logo and link to website

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What's Welsh for Performance? Beth yw 'performance' yn Gymraeg?

"It was forty years ago today...":
Locating the early history of performance art in Wales

The Project

This major research project charts the emergence and development of performance art in Wales during the 1960s and 1970s. The project asks how such a detailed survey can further our understanding of the manner in which performance art as an artistic movement of international reach was realized within a specific local context during its formative years.

An incomplete timeline of performance art in Wales 1965–1979: [more information]

  • 1965: The first “Happening” is staged in Cardiff by the newly appointed Director of Studies at the city’s art school, Tom Hudson, with the participation of a range of guests, including Jean-Jacques Lebel, Philip Corner, Jeff Nuttall, Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and a two-hundredweight Vietnamese pig.

  • 1966: John Latham sets a column of books on fire in his Skoob Tower Ceremony in front of Bangor Art Gallery.

  • 1967: Students of Cardiff’s College of Art undertake performative colour experiments on the streets of the Welsh capital.

  • 1968: Fluxus comes to Aberystwyth, Destruction in Art comes to Swansea and Yoko Ono does not come to Cardiff and instead sends a large photograph of herself to be displayed in front of the expectant crowd that had gathered at the National Museum of Wales.

  • 1969: Keith Arnatt disappears slowly into the ground in his photographic milestone of conceptual art, Self-Burial or The Disappearance of the Artist, shot at his home in Tintern.

  • 1970: Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra, a collective of improvisational musicians, organise a tour through the village halls of Anglesey.

  • 1971: The Cyclamen Cyclists (i.e. Shirley Cameron, Roland Miller and members of Bath Arts Workshop) appear in Swansea Docks, clad head to toe in pink, ‘Singing Dancing Fighting Reciting Going Coming Loving Laughing Riding Playing’.

  • 1972: Performance art ‘symposia’, featuring staff and students from Cardiff School of Art, are regularly held at the National Museum of Wales.

  • 1973: Artist-run Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff celebrates its first anniversary with an ‘edible rainbow’ (Peter Kuttner), ‘an evening of british rubbish’ (The Alberts Dance Orchestra featuring Bruce Lacey and Jill Bruce) and a ‘technicolour striptease’ (Natural Theatre Company).

  • 1974: Experimental theatre work is developing in Cardiff (including local companies Cardiff Lab, Keith Wood, Pauper’s Carnival and Moving Being), thanks to an active network of venues including the newly opened Sherman Theatre, the Casson, Llanover Hall and, above all, Chapter, which throughout the seventies establishes itself as the home of Moving Being, Cardiff Laboratory Theatre, the Keith Wood Group (later Highway Theatre), Diamond Age, Pauper's Carnival and Red Light Theatre.

  • 1975: Cardiff College of Art institutes its ‘Third Area’, following tutor John Gingell’s experiments with performance in the context of his teaching at the College and at Barry Summer School since the early 1970s.

  • 1976: Ian Hinchliffe and Neath-born Rob Con (i.e. Robert Conybear) take their street events to public spaces across Wales, performing in pubs, market squares, during a snowstorm in the Brecon Beacons and in sea mist in Harlech.

  • 1977: A week-long exhibition of international performance art at the Royal National Eisteddfod in Wrexham, featuring European artists Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, Patrick Ireland, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Nigel Rolfe, and others, is overshadowed by the interventions of Welsh artist Paul Davies, who uses performance to protest against the marginalization of the Welsh language.

  • 1978: Nigel Rolfe follows his infamous Tower performance at the Eisteddfod in 1977 with Red Tower a year later in Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre.

  • 1979: Shirley Cameron and Roland Miller collaborate with writer Angela Carter on a monumental performance installation, Noughts & Crosses - The History of Western Civilization, to see out the decade.


For more information on the project click here.