Cardiff celebrates Roald Dahl’s centenary

The author of Charlie's Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl. Picture: CC

The author of Charlie’s Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl. Picture: CC

Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival will host a special discussion to celebrate the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth this year. The event will be held at Cardiff University later today. It will examine the crucial place of Wales in the imagination of Roald Dahl and untangle his complex relationship with Cardiff and Welsh culture, language and history.

From 1943 until his death in 1990 Roald Dahl wrote books which delighted and captivated young audiences around the world.

James And The Giant Peach began life as an off-the-cuff bedtime story for daughters Olivia and Tessa. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, too, is still regarded fondly by a new generation of readers.

Together with illustrator Quentin Blake, he formed a unique partnership which brought his works to life on the pages of 19 titles. He was named the UK’s favourite author in 2000.

Roald Dahl books are loved among kids as well as adults. Photo: CC

Roald Dahl books are loved among kids as well as adults. Photo: CC

Roald Dahl, known as ‘the world’s number one storyteller for children’, was born in Cardiff’s Llandaff suburb, on 13 September 1916 to Norwegian parents and spent his early years in Cardiff. It was his mother Sofie, an accomplished storyteller, who sparked the young Dahl’s imagination and appetite for words.

The writer experienced great pain at an early age, when his father Harald and elder sister Astri died when he was only three.

Aged seven, the writer began his schooling at Llandaff Cathedral School. It was while he was a pupil there that he got the inspiration for some of the many characters he used to write about in later life. His only happy memories of his schooling are relayed in Boy – those of the local sweet shop. Many believe it was his trips to that store which sowed the seeds for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory as he and four best friends gazed through the shop window at jars of sweets.

During his time at Llandaff, Roald and his friends staged “the great and daring Mouse Plot” – involving a local sweet shop whose owner inspired the creation of one of his favourite characters, the miserable and dirty owner Mrs Pratchett, and a dead mouse.

In 2009, a blue plaque was unveiled to mark this site of the sweet shop as the place that inspired ‘The Great Mouse Plot’. Now a Chinese takeaway, the shop was immortalised in the late author’s memoir ‘Boy’.

Mrs Pratchetts sweets shop, now a Chinese take away in Llandaff. Photo: CC

Mrs Pratchetts sweets shop, now a Chinese take away in Llandaff. Photo: CC

Roald Dahl Plass, the historic Oval Basin lock, is a public space in Cardiff Bay. “Plass” means place in Norwegian, a nod to the acclaimed writer’s roots (both of Dahl’s parents were from Norway) and to the Norwegian seafarers’ church which stands nearby.

Welsh Labour Party councillor, Russell Goodway said: “What better way is there to pay tribute to one of Cardiff’s best loved personalities than naming the bay’s entertainment arena after him?”

Dahl and his sister were christened at the nearby sailors’ church, where their parents had worshipped and the author become its preservation trust’s first president in 1987.

The Oval Basin is linked to Harald Dahl’s dock life. His father, who settled in Cardiff in the 1880s, founded there the Aadnessen & Dahl ship-brokering company. He was buried at nearby Radyr after his death.

Cardiff County Council decided the venue should adopt Dahl’s name as the Welsh capital’s cultural renaissance continues at Cardiff Bay.

Roald Dahl plass in Cardiff Bay. Photo: CC

Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff Bay. Photo: CC

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