Roger Stennett: An Interview


Roger Stennett has spent his life writing and creating. He speaks to Living Magazines about his life, his career – and his decades of poems, plays, and TV shows

“I’ll have a latte please. Oh! No! I’ll have a hot chocolate. I haven’t had a hot chocolate in years. How lovely. Back in the homeland and I’m having a hot chocolate.”

Roger Stennett is a man of many words. Countless numbers of fans have read and absorbed those words, filtering into the consciousness of generations. His work has been showcased in books, in film, and in theatre.

He’s in Cardiff to promote his new book, Cloud Cuckoo Land.

“The phrase Cloud Cuckoo Land is to be found in Aristophanes’ comedy, The Birds, which was first performed in 414 BC,” says Roger. “It was a literal place in the clouds. These days of course, the meaning has fallen into contemporary language to mean unrealistic plans.”

For Roger, his life plans were almost laid out in front of him since his childhood. Although he’s lived in a village near Bristol for decades, Roger is a Cardiff boy through and through. His father, the entertainer Stan Stennett, was a well-known face, not only around north Cardiff, but internationally.

“I grew up in dressing rooms. At one point in my childhood, my best mate was a chimpanzee. As a kid, Dad was often working around the country. I remember I’d stand at the window and watch him as he went away, often for long periods of time.

“Whitchurch was a wonderful place to grow up. There used to be an old metal roundabout on Whitchurch Common and we’d spend hours playing there on endless summer days.

“Aged five, the family moved to Heol Madoc near The Philog until the age of 12 when we moved to live upon Rhiwbina Hill.

“There were very few cars on the roads back in those days and as a kid, we’d play in the Wenallt or in the streams that flowed through the village.

“I went to what was Whitchurch Grammar School back then. We had a wonderful history teacher by the name of Malcolm Thomas. He was from west Wales and was a zealot for any form of Welsh history.

“We were also encouraged to read a lot of poetry back then too. We were exposed to a lot of the famous names that would have an influence on me during my later years.”

Roger with his Dad, Stan

Roger went on to read History at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

“Actually, it wasn’t my first choice,” admits Roger. “Technically it was because I’d decided to read History on the Monday. On the Tuesday, I had decided to read English. Wednesday saw me change my mind and I was doing Archaeology. Thursday came around and I was reading Political Studies but by Friday, I was settled on History and that was that.”

Roger excelled at Cambridge, not only in his academic studies, but also in his extra-curricular activities.

“I was a British Schools Champion,” he smiles. “I was an international athlete and even held the Welsh high jump record at one point. At university, I became a Cambridge Athletics ‘Blue’ and a life member of Hawks Club (Cambridge University) and Achilles Club.”

Poetry was in Roger’s blood, and as a young man, it became his passion.

“All the girls took an interest in a poet back then so that was an added bonus. I had started writing in the footsteps of the protest culture – people like Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsburg, both cultural icons, incidentally, that I’d go on to meet. It was the poetry of Dylan Thomas though that really captured my attention.

“He always fascinated me, both as a poet and as a person. He was a misunderstood, unmade bed of a man. The words of his final telegram read: ‘On my way to Hollywood.’

“Of course, he never quite made it there. He was dead before he made the age of 40 and since then, I feel that Wales has quietly disowned him a little. He was no more of an alcoholic than others who are in the public eye these days. You can’t sanitise him but similarly, you can’t not be influenced by him. I know I was.

“For more than 40 years, I have been planning a film drama project inspired by an opera Dylan Thomas was planning with Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. I’d often talk about it with Dylan’s daughter, Aeronwy, when we were published by the same press in the 1970s.”

Roger’s late teens and early twenties were dominated by the poetry he was producing. He published his first book Just A Matter Of Time in 1976.

“There was then this long gap before I ever wrote poetry again – maybe forty years or so while I worked as a dramatist.”

Those four decades saw Roger write for an eclectic range of productions – from Sooty to The Royal Shakespeare Company.

“I spent many years teaching creative writing to postgraduate level at British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, and drama schools such as The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and The Royal Welsh Academy.

“For several years, as part of my family production company, The Stennett Company, I helped to run and programme two 365-seater regional theatre and cinemas in Tewkesbury and Hereford.”

Roger’s childhood had given him the background he needed to flourish in the entertainment business but that wasn’t enough.

“I also trained to become a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist.I saw hundreds of therapy clients in private practice alongside my writing work.”

He also became a black belt and British Aikido Board Martial Arts Instructor. But it was poetry that Roger was eventually drawn back to in more recent times.

“It was when Covid hit that got me back into poetry. The theatres had all closed down and opportunities in radio and animation had all dried up. It was during those times that I picked up my pen and started writing poetry again. There was one moment where I’d written a poem and realised that I still had it in me. It had never left.”

Roger’s latest book is published in July

Today, Roger lives outside of Wales, but is still able to cast his eye on the place he still calls home.

“I live overlooking the Severn Estuary and look over at the homeland. I still write daily, especially to my Roger Stennett Poetry Page on Facebook. I love to write about people, about life, about nature. They’re the things that have been important to me and still are.

“History and conflict has often been a theme of my work too. One work of mine is called Out of the Sun and as part of the research, I spent time with fighter pilots, listening to their stories. My Dad was a pilot so I spent a lot of my time in the air but for this script, I spent 8 hours sitting alone in an idle B17 bomber. It was incredible to absorb the plane’s silent and untold tales.”

“As for the future, my creative genes have also been passed down to my son Sam, who plays in the gypsy jazz quartet, The Schmoozenbergs (,” he adds.

His story told, Roger stands and unfurls from the sofa. He picks up his bag and bids his farewell.

“It’s good being home,” he smiles. “I have a few friends I need to go visit before heading back over the bridge,” he says, and disappears out into the summer sunshine.

Like the smudges of cream still smeared inside his empty hot chocolate mug, Roger’s left a mark on a place he is still proud to call ‘home’.

Roger’s latest book, Cloud Cuckoo Land is available in book shops or priced £12.99.

His other book ‘Forty Poems For Dylan Thomas’ is available from




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