It is with great sadness that I have to report the passing of Othniel Smith. It is a huge shock and so very sad. As Secretary of the Welsh Committee of Writers Guild Great Britain for more than twenty years, Othniel was meticulous, generous, calm, intelligent, committed and thorough. He gave me, as Chair, confidence and steadfast support. As we all know, people come and go on committees, but Othniel was always, always there. Just as he was always there for many other people – colleagues and friends : always at every performance and production, contributing intelligent and thoughtful reviews to the British Theatre Guide and on his Blakeson blog, active in the union and Cult Cymru, and always an astute participant in the many campaigns and issues that have arisen over the years.
Othniel was also an artist in his own right, writing for television, radio and theatre : plays “Giant Steps” (Oval House and Chapter Arts Centre 1998, “New Welsh Drama II” – Parthian Books, 2001), “Fight Of The Century” (BBC Wales and the Sherman 2002), “See The Glory” (Talawa’s “Manz Like Me” at the Young Vic 2008); short stories and plays for BBC Radio Four – “Thank You for Talking To Me Africa” (1994), “Man Talk” (2001); as well as many episodes of the television series “The Story Of Tracy Beaker”, “Kerching”, “Hilltop Hospital” and “Tati’s Hotel”. He also directed for theatre, and had more recently gained a doctorate in Independent Film from the University of Glamorgan, making many short films including “‘Lulu Gay’ by Wallace Stevens” “‘When We Two Parted’ by Lord Byron” “‘Census’ by Lissa Kiernan” Shortlisted for the Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition at the Indie Cork Festival of Independent Cinema 2013, 2014 and 2015; “The Want Of Intimacy” Selected for Paradise Cinema at Paradise Music Festival, Victoria, Australia, 2015, “‘Census’ by Lissa Kiernan” Official Selection for the Zebra Poetry Film Festival, Minster, Germany, 2016“, ‘Jazz Fantasia’ by Carl Sandburg” Official selection for the New York Jazz Film Festival, New York, 2016. “‘When You Are Old’ by W.B. Yeats” and “‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ by Emily Dickinson” Official selection for the Miniature Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada, November 2018 and 2019
Othniel also wrote the books “Yer Blues”, “Miss Hanley’s Letter”, “Sons of Nervous Lovers”, “Gurls With Guitars” and “The True Story of my Alien Abductions: by Adrian Longton”.
Othniel’s presence will be very much missed by so many, in so many spheres, particularly in Cardiff, and he will be long remembered. Ever modest, quiet, thoughtful, and above all else, so very gentle and kind. I will personally miss him hugely, and will remember how wonderful it was when something made him laugh or smile. Heartfelt condolences to his family.
Diolch am bopeth Othniel. Cysga’n dawel cariad.
on behalf of all the Welsh Committee WGGB
We are broken-hearted at CULT Cymru on hearing of Othniel’s untimely death. He has been involved in CULT Cymru from its early days and in 2010 along with Mike Smith he participated in our Freelance Union Learning Reps. training, the first of its kind. He soon became the Writers Guild member on the CULT Cymru steering group along with officials from BECTU, Equity and the MU.
He was always kind, very generous with his time and passionate in ensuring that his union members had their voices heard in the training we delivered. Othniel regularly booked on to workshops and was eager and ready to learn something new and apply that learning to his work whether it was use of social media, building a website or learning about funding his ideas. When we ran events around Wales Othniel was always ready to help.
Othniel’s family are keen to celebrate his life and creativity when this is possible, my one regret is that he won’t be there to hear how much he was admired and respected as a colleague and friend. In our over busy lives we often neglect to take the time to appreciate the wonderful people we have around us, especially those like Othniel who offer their support quietly and without any fanfare or fuss. The one light in this darkness is that as a creative his work will still be available for us to enjoy.
Diolch o galon i ti Othniel am bopeth, nos da. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything Othniel, good night you will be sorely missed.
Rheolydd Sgiliau a Datblygiad / Skills and Development Manager
CULT Cymru / BECTU
I am deeply saddened by the death of Othniel Smith. He was a great friend and colleague. We first met a good while ago as theatre reviewers, we soon became good friends. We clearly shared a view of what made ‘good theatre’. I was so pleased to be able to present a reading of his play ‘Burned’ in 2005, one of the first plays in my On The Edge project, at the Chapter Arts Centre, script-held performances of new play writing. The cast was Lynn Hunter, Karin Diamond, Brian Hibbard and Jeremi Cockram.
He also asked me to be in a short film he made as part of his PhD, ‘The Beauty’, it called for me to sit and chat on the floor beside the urinal in a Chapter toilet! But it is that great warmth of personality that I will miss the most. It is hard to believe that he will not be sitting beside me next time I go to review a play. He was a quiet man with a lot of fun going on inside. Someone I am so pleased to have known. I can’t believe he has gone. Othniel, rest in peace
Actor, Theatre Maker and Critic
I first met Othniel through our work together with Siân Gale on the CULT Cymru union learning project, working to support freelances in the creative arts in Wales. We went on to work together in the Wales Theatre Awards, giving recognition to excellence in the performing arts and to recognise the work of critics throughout our nation. Othniel was also a valued regular contributor to Arts Scene in Wales, particularly bringing a new perspective on different performance genres such as dance and opera. His calmness, talent and generosity of personality will be sadly missed.
Arts Scene in Wales