Chance encounters

Author and Books & Print participant Ben Gwalchmai shares his thoughts on how REACT has offered him new opportunities to develop his work

At REACT we hope that by bringing together curious, enthusiastic people from a range of backgrounds, we can create a space for serendipitous encounters that create new opportunities. This was certainly the case for Ben Gwalchmai and Anthony Mandal, both working on different projects as part of our Books & Print Sandbox.

In this post, Ben outlines how REACT has created a new pathway for him to develop and showcase his own work as a poet and author.


“As the Associate Producer of a Books & Print Sandbox project, Book Kernel, I never thought I'd be curating an exhibition. In Cardiff. For Cardiff University. About death.

Yet that's exactly the kind of opportunity that being in a REACT Sandbox makes. Something great is bound to happen by getting so many interesting people together – at my first Sandbox event, the REACT producer Jo Lansdowne introduced me to Anthony Mandal who's working with Slingshot on the Jekyll 2.0 project. We discussed many things and bonded over our shared research into the 19th Century. My début novel, Purefinder, comes out this year and so we quickly descended into discussing the oddities and strangenesses of Anthony's research focus and an era that's been a part of my life since 2009.

REACT meant that we'd see each other every so often and share a relaxed chat or two and these conversations would spark many an idea. One of those ideas was a crossover of something Anthony had been working on and my ongoing intrigue with Victorian representation – the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration (DMVI).

For the Before I Die festival, organized by Cardiff University, I'm curating an exhibition of illustrations and images taken from the DMVI and my own research. We're combining texts from my novel and newly written pieces for the festival with the illustrations and images from a great resource for researchers and creatives alike.”


The exhibition will run at Chapter, Cardiff from May 11th until May 21st.