Interview: Lara Roberts, Dillad Tost Clothing.

NOTE: There is a Welsh language version of this article, which is suitable for learners on the Welsh language version of our website. To access this click “Newid i’r Cymraeg” in the menu above, or browse to www.defnyddiwcheichcymraeg.com 

Tost are a brand new alternative clothing company based in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. They produce a range of interesting designs across an even bigger range of products. T-Shirts, hoodies, badges – you name it, they do it.

We sat down with founder Lara Roberts for a quick chat about the company, her work and her experience with the Welsh language.

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Can you tell us exactly what Tost is?

Basically, Tost started out as just a T-shirt company, but has quickly grown in to a clothing brand, and our mission is to create unique merchandise inspired by alternative culture, street art, music and the Welsh language.

 

merchtostWhy did you start Tost? What was the main reason?

Well, I’ve always been in to alternative fashion and culture since I was a teenager. My choices were shaped by the music I’d listen to – lots of punk music, accompanied by lots of skateboarding, hair-colouring and guitar playing.  I found that there was a serious gap in the market for Welsh language clothing with an ‘alternative’ edge to it, so I decided to try to fill that gap!

 

There are lots of companies who do things like this, but you are the only company that I know of who do it in Welsh. How important is the language to you?

The language is very important to me. I was born in Swansea, I am Welsh and proud to identify as a Cymraes. I am hoping that the designs I create for Tost will reach further than just us who can speak the language, and maybe inspire others to learn, or even just to raise awareness of the language.

 

What is your story with the language?

Well, I decided to start learning Welsh at the end of 2016 because I felt that as a Welsh woman, I should be able to speak the language of my country!  I used Say Something in Welsh, watched a lot of “Pobol y Cwm” and listened to a lot of Welsh language music at the start of my learning journey.  I’m still learning, and believe I will always be a learner, however I can live my life and work through the language, and of course chat with my Welsh speaking friends over a few beers!

 

mockup-430fff02Also, you work for a famous company in the Welsh world – Siop y Pethe. Have this helped you at all when you were setting up the company?

Siop have been great, they’ve been very supportive of the idea and want to stock my designs as soon as possible.  I’d like to work alongside them to create a one-off design for their collection.

 

 

Music and art has been a massive inspiration to you. What type of things do you like at the moment?

It varies to be honest, although I always go back to listening to punk bands, usually from America!  At the moment I’m listening to The Wonder Years a lot, but I could be listening to Manic Street Preachers one day and Good Riddance the next.  Yeah, I have an art degree so art is a very important inspiration to me.  Just like with music, my favourite artists change.  Although, I’ve always been a huge fan of street art, in particular the Belgian street artist ROA.  I saw a lot of his work on the streets of Brussels when I was out in Belgium in 2016, which was cool.

 

What type of feedback have you received so far?

The feedback has been really positive.  We’ve had a lot of interest from all over the world, which is great because it means the Welsh language is spreading far and wide!

 

What are your plans for the future with Tost? Are you planning anything exciting?

I’d really like to be able to eventually do everything myself.  At the moment, in order to keep costs down I’m using an external printing company to print & send orders, but I plan to essentially have a one-woman-band where I can control every aspect of the service!  Other than that, having some sort of prescence at the Eisteddfod would be awesome!

 

Finally. How can people find out more about Tost?

It’s super easy, you can go to www.dilladtost.com and go from there!  We have hoodies, t-shirts, badges and bags.  More merchandise will be added soon!  You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using @dilladtost

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Neil Rowlands – Parallel.cymru

Creating the new online bilingual magazine parallel.cymru, by Neil Rowlands

NOTE: There is a Welsh language version of this article, which is suitable for learners on the Welsh language version of our website. To access this click “Newid i’r Cymraeg” in the menu above, or browse to www.defnyddiwcheichcymraeg.com 

Parallel.cymru is a new online magazine which provides side-by-side Welsh-English content from contributors who are working, creating, using and learning the language.Parallel.cymru is a new online magazine which provides side-by-side Welsh-English content from contributors who are working, creating, using and learning the language.
I’ve been learning Welsh in South Wales for the last four years, and after progressing through the reading resources suitable for learners, such as the magazine Lingo Newydd, translations of teen fiction such as Roald Dahl and JK Rowling, Quick Reads and books by Bethan Gwanas and Lois Arnold, I found the jump up to first language books and magazines difficult.  I looked into learning resources in other languages and noticed that many popular language pairs such as Spanish-English and French-English have parallel reading books and websites, with content laid out in both languages, side by side.

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I have experience of creating and marketing websites, and from volunteering at Welsh language centres and events I’ve got to know a few people in the community.  So in October 2017 I simply mixed these ingredients together, asked a few friends to do interviews and popped them on a simple website.  Feedback from people that I shared it with were positive, so I made the website look professional and told a few more people about it.  Over November 2017 I expanded the marketing to include Say Something in Welsh, Twitter, S4C appearances, mailouts to Welsh Language Centres and good old word of mouth.
Rather than being an ordinary blog, I’m focussing on providing first person perspective on the Welsh language world.  So people who write, run businesses, organise activities, create music and art, or simply have interesting stories to tell, share what they are doing.  This also means that each time you come to the site, there will be quality and unique content to savour.

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All the articles are organised by the level of Welsh, so that people can read simple Welsh as people speak it, standard written Welsh, or the formal Welsh as used in literature.  Providing English side by side means it is very easy to check a word or the meaning of a sentence.  In this way I hope that people can become more familiar with reading Welsh and over time improve their abilities.
Another distinguishing feature is that content will remain online- unlike magazines and other sites where exceptional and useful content disappears after the next edition is published.  So, over time parallel.cymru will grow into a corpus of how people use and interact with the language.
One of my long term goals is to provide original short form fiction and long form fiction.  Providing translations of out of copyright English texts that people are familiar with helps reading in Welsh easier. Similarly, making contemporary Welsh fiction available with an English version introduces people to Welsh literature and writers.
Other long term goals include:

  • Providing a bilingual grammar guide.
  • Publishing accessible papers from Welsh-speaking academics and postgraduate students that explains their work to a wide audience;
  • Working with Welsh for Adults tutors to provide resources for informal learning;
    Creating Spanish-Welsh or trilingual articles to support people in Patagonia.

I’m currently running parallel.cymru as a hobby in my spare time.  As all content is, and will remain, available for free, I’ve had to think about a sustainable operating model.  Many websites generate income through referrals to Amazon, but as I want to promote Welsh businesses I won’t do that.  Other websites inject advertising and auto-playing videos, but I don’t want that to distract from the unique content hosted here.Instead I will establish parallel.cymru as a charitable enterprise, prepare grant applications, and later on explore opportunities for organisations to sponsor the site in the form of a weekly post explaining their product.
However, the most important parts of parallel.cymru is its contributors and readers, so I extend heartfelt thanks to the many people who are supporting and enjoying this project.
If you have an area of expertise you would like to share or a good story to tell, then you can get in touch with me on parallel.cymru@gmail.com.
Enjoy reading!