Gareth was born in 1938 in Caernarfon, moving later in life to Pontypridd via Wrexham. He came to national prominence as a political activist in the early 1960s. He was a member of Plaid Cymru, then the Welsh Socialist Republican Movement, and later the Communist Party. He was a Marxist and a central figure in the battle for equal rights for the Welsh language, in practice as well as in law.
Gareth was dedicated to creating a new socialist agenda in Welsh politics, and was a key figure in many of the non-violent direct action campaigns of the time. He was one of the founders and an early chair of the Welsh Language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, and was later a leader in the Wales anti-Apartheid movement.
Gareth was a novelist and playwright. It was fitting that he was recruited into the Writers’ Guild at a rally in support of the striking miners in 1984. By then he had already been the national organiser of UCAC, the Welsh Teachers’ Union, and was embarking on a successful career as a full-time writer. According to Nick Yapp’s The Write Stuff: a History of the Writers’ Guild, Gareth said he became a member because of the effective way the union defended the interests of its members (and even of writers who weren’t members), and because he saw it “as an upholder of civilised values in an industry and society which were becoming increasingly barbarous”.
Gareth quickly became a mainstay of the Wales committee and one of its main negotiators in the fields of television, theatre and publishing. He also represented WGGB at the TUC conference and on many other boards including Yr Academi Gymreig/The Welsh Academy. His most celebrated works, such as the film Branwen and the TV series Llafur Cariad, have been seminal political studies while his successful stage-plays Cariad Mr Bustl and Llanast! were translations from the French (of Moliere’s Le Misanthrope and Yasmina Reza’s Le Dieu du Carnage). In 2008 he won the Wales Book of the Year award for his novel Y Proffwyd a’i Ddwy Jesebel (The Prophet and his Two Jezebels). A fluent French speaker, Gareth more than any other recent writer reminded us that Welsh culture needs to be evaluated in its European context.
Gareth also raised the profile and activity of the Writers’ Guild to a much more prominent public level in Wales. In 2015 the Wales committee held a dinner in Gareth’s honour to celebrate and mark their gratitude and appreciation of his life-long service to WGGB and to writers in Wales.
He is a great loss. The Wales committee sends sincerest condolences to his family, in particular his wife Gina and daughters Elen, Branwen and Eiry.
Diolch o galon am bopeth Gareth.
Image: Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society