Arts Council of Wales | Tony Bianchi
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Tony Bianchi

Tony Bianchi is remembered by Dr Phil George, Chair of Arts Council of Wales. 04 Jul 2017

Tony Bianchi

All of us involved with the work of the Arts Council of Wales are deeply saddened by the death of the writer and critic, Tony Bianchi.

Tony was formerly a creative and stimulating Director of Literature at Arts Council of Wales where I first knew him when I served on the Literature Committee and the Grants to Publishers Panel. He brought an extraordinary mix of interests and insights to the role.

He was at ease with both advanced critical theory and discussions of football tactics – his passion for the game being typical of his deep Geordie roots and expressed in the rich accent of his homeland.

From that background in the English North East, he also brought with him a profound fellow feeling for the industrial culture and politics which had developed in the coalfields and steel areas of Wales.

But Tony’s sense of Wales was diverse and inclusive. He was an astonishingly accomplished Welsh learner who understood the rural cefn gwlad, Welsh-speaking industrial communities and council estates and also the establishing of the language and its literature in urban Wales.

His literary achievements in his adopted tongue were remarkable. He won the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize at the Flintshire National Eisteddfod 2007 with his novel Pryfeta and the Prose Medal at the Montgomeryshire National Eisteddfod in 2015 with Dwy Farwolaeth Endaf Rowlands. In addition to his novels and short stories, he was also a poet who wrote fine englynion.

His written criticism and his conversation about literature were alike in their energy, acute perception and passion for ideas. In fact, Tony was fuelled by a love of ideas and was, I’m glad to say, an unapologetic intellectual. He had an argumentative and tenaciously moral intelligence allied with a subversive, playful imagination. And he was sharply funny at the expense of the processes of religious repression and guilt, though his particular insider experience from his upbringing was Catholic not Welsh Calvinist.

But he was supremely an enthusiast. He loved cycling and walking in the mountains, rolling his tongue over the pleasures of the light, the weather and the shape of the hills.

We’d bump into each other buying and relishing the bread in a superb Cardiff baker’s shop or in concerts of choral music where we shared a passion for Renaissance polyphony and for Bach.

Wherever you met him and whatever turn the conversation took, you could warm your hands at the fire of his delight, including his delight at absurdity. What a gift and what a loss, for us but so much more for Ruth and the family.

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