Siôn Eirian: 1954-2020

Manon Eames, Co-Chair of the WGGB Wales Committee, pays tribute to playwright, poet, scriptwriter and WGGB stalwart Siôn Eirian
Sion Eirian

I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of my friend and colleague Siôn Eirian, playwright, poet, scriptwriter, inspirational and steadfast supporter of writers and the WGGB in Wales, who has left us following a short illness, aged 66.

Siôn, along with fellow writer Gareth Miles, was instrumental in establishing the Wales Committee in the mid-1980s, and was ever present in meetings and at many negotiations, including the writing of the first contracts between writers and S4C/TAC (of which he never forgot a clause).

Siôn passionately believed that every nation should strive to create an environment in which artists in general, and writers in particular, could flourish and develop, and actively engaged in efforts to achieve that end. He was committed to helping to both expand and support a community of professional writers in Wales, in both English and Welsh, and gave endless hours of time to the cause.

His fine brain, his charm, his wit, his political and professional integrity, as well as his kind and generous support for other writers are irreplaceable. There are many writers in Wales today who have Sion to thank for their own journeys in Welsh writing.

Siôn was not only hugely talented and charismatic, he was also a bit of a firebrand, particularly in his younger years, but committed to his political beliefs and willing to challenge and expose the Establishment, if necessary, throughout his life, on many levels. He was also a lot of fun. There are many in Wales who will have been remembering and sharing stories this week of adventures and escapades with this gentlest of poetic wild souls. In 1978, not surprisingly given his prodigious talent, he was the youngest ever winner of the Eisteddfod bardic Crown, at the age of 24, for the series of poems Aman Bach. In the same year he was appointed Theatr Clwyd’s first resident playwright.

He wrote in English and in Welsh with equal grace and finesse, and his work crossed many boundaries and media, including original work and adaptations for theatre, television and radio. His stage plays include Kipper, the musical  Nia Ben AurWastad ar y Tu FasEpa yn y Parlwr Gefn, Garw (which in the 2015 Wales Theatre Awards won four awards including the Best Playwright in the Welsh Language), The Woman of Flowers and Yfory and but for the current closure of theatres, his play Fienna would have toured this autumn 2020 and his last play, Byd Dan Eira, next year.

For TV he created and wrote the series Mwy na Phapur NewyddBowen a’i BartnerY GlasPen Talar and many episodes of Pobol y Cwm. His screenplays include Gadael Lenin, which won a BAFTA Cymru, a Writers’ Guild Award and the Audience Prize at the London Film Festival, and Noson yr Heliwr (A Mind to Kill). His published works include the anthology of poems Plant Gadara and many adaptations/ translations, including Dros Bont Brooklyn (A View from the Bridge), Arolygydd y Llywodraeth (The Government Inspector) and the groundbreaking novel Bob yn y Ddinas, which depicted Cardiff lowlife in the late 1970s. Its subject matter and themes widened the possibilities of Welsh language fiction, paving the way for other writers to explore the urban experience.

For all his success, Siôn was a modest man, and never stopped learning, never stopped “trying to get it right”. He would research meticulously, revise and rewrite tirelessly. Sion’s voice was unique, his talent was unique, and his humanity unquestionable. There has quite simply never been anyone like him in Wales, and no one will ever replace him. This is another huge and tragic loss for the artistic community in Wales, and he will be massively missed. The committee sends its deepest condolences to Siôn’s wife of 40 years, Erica, his brother Guto, and the rest of the family.

Nos da Siôn, a diolch o waelod calon.
Byth yn angof.

Image: Erica Eirian