Unreliable witnesses

History, as we know, is full of unreliable witnesses. The stories that are passed down to us often have more to do with who is doing the telling – and who has the power – than what really happened or who was really involved. Much is lost in the telling; some stories are simply never told. It can take years, centuries even, for assumptions and received wisdoms to be challenged and corrected. 

At Monty Lit Fest, we love to discover untold stories and to look at history in different ways. And, this year, we have a whole host of sessions that ask us to adjust our perspective or even just learn things for the first time. 

Sally Coulthard, for example, is a woman on a mission. She wants to make sure that we celebrate the daily routines of the peasants, farmers and craftspeople who shaped Britain but whose stories are largely untold in the historical record. 

By showcasing 100 countryside objects – from farming tools and children’s toys to domestic objects and strange curios – she reminds us that the things we leave behind provide a connection that no document can match, and shows how these remnants of the past reveal fascinating insights into an often-forgotten way of life. Hear from Sally in conversation with Gavin Plumley on Friday 7th June at 7.00pm

And who knew that at the beginning of the Second World War, Gwrych Castle (yes, the I’m a Celebrity… Gwrych Castle) was home to two hundred Jewish children who had escaped Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport. These children and their adult guardians were there to establish a Hachshara, a training centre intended to prepare them for the dream of establishing a Jewish homeland after the War. 

In his book, Escape to Gwrych Castle, local historian, Andrew Hesketh, tells the story of these refugees, the community they built and the relationships they forged with the local community. It shines a light on a piece of Jewish and Welsh history that has thus far gone largely under the radar. 

It’s not unusual that the unreliable witnesses of history of have been men, overlooking or downplaying the contribution that women have always made to the way we live. Perhaps that’s why so many of us have never heard of one of the most significant and prolific Welsh artists of the twentieth century: Ray Howard-Jones. 

In his new illustrated biography, David Moore wants to right that wrong, countering the three-fold neglect that Ray has suffered from being a woman; being a predominantly figurative artist, and being Welsh. David will be telling us more in conversation with Festival favourite, Frieda Hughes, on Saturday 8th June at 12.00pm

Even when you’re on the winning side, history doesn’t always tell the whole truth. Consider, asks historian Nathen Amin, the fact that the seemingly more English than England Tudors had their origins in rural Wales. Henry Tudor might have been unknown in the halls of English power, but in Wales he had long been championed as the Son of Prophecy, a national messiah who would free his oppressed people from their misery. Why, then, are the Welsh roots of the Tudors so frequently overlooked? 

Our history sessions are always popular, so book your tickets now to help us challenge those unreliable witnesses and uncover stories that need to be told and preserved for future generations. 

Tickets are all sessions are available online, or in person at The Montgomery Bookshop or Ivy House Café in Montgomery.