South West Wales

Students' Richard Burton diary film to get premiere

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Media captionAn extract from the film details how students retraced the steps of the young Richard Burton

A film based on the diary entries of the late Welsh actor Richard Burton will get its premiere on Tuesday.

More than 40 college students used his original writings to show what life was like in 1930s Port Talbot through the eyes of a global icon.

They learned about Burton's rags to riches story, and how he had to sell manure to afford to go to the cinema.

The project received £34,000 National Lottery funding and the film will be shown at Nidum Arts Centre in Neath.

Image caption "Burton's stardom left a huge legacy for the town"
Image copyright Richard Burton Archives Swansea University
Image caption Original writings from the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University

Burton was a prolific diarist, and wrote more than 400,000 words in pocketbooks and desk diaries until just before his death aged 58 in 1984.

As part of their research, the students visited landmarks that were important to the young Burton and watched films which were showing in cinemas at the time.

They learned that in order to have enough money to go to the cinema, Burton had to collect newspaper wrappings for his fishmonger aunt and sell dung for fertiliser.

The students also interviewed people who knew Burton, and those who were inspired by him, including Port Talbot actor and Hollywood star Michael Sheen.

Image copyright Julian James
Image caption The Neath Port Talbot College students outside Burton Taylor studio
Image copyright Kai Hughes
Image caption The project saw the students learn technical skills such as video recording

It is hoped their film will not only become a lasting resource for the community, but may also lead to a regular celebratory event to promote the area's creative talent - past and present.

Dominic, 16, who took part in the project, said: "There are so many episodes in Richard Burton's life that became turning points, each taking him in a different direction.

"It has made us think about the turning points in our own lives, and how we deal with them."

Eirwen Hopkins of Swansea University, who leads the Burton@14 project, said: "The young people quickly realised that some people in Port Talbot have little idea of the real man, despite hailing from the same streets as he walked.

"Burton's stardom left a huge legacy for the town, but the town also impacted strongly on him.

"His private diaries have reconnected local young people with the history of personal, social and artistic change that is right on their doorsteps and rekindled their own creativity in the process."

Image caption Richard Burton as Arthur in Camelot

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