Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Literature Wales slammed in Welsh Committee Report
For some years I have been concerned about the way in which Literature Wales is run -- as a very comfortable and even complacent organization, spending public money liberally on a few pet projects and not really doing much for the writers of Wales. It seems to have no understanding of writing as a commercial activity, and it seems to be unaware of the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. On its watch, the Welsh Academy has withered on the vine, leaving Welsh writers without any effective mutual support organization. Lots of others have shared my concerns, and many of us took the opportunity of feeding in submissions to the Welsh Government Committee charged with looking into the publishing and literature industry in Wales.
After many delays (put down to the sheer weight of evidence submitted) the Report of the Medwin Hughes Committee has been published, and its assault on Literature Wales is pretty brutal. It is slammed for its complacency, its poor governance, its elitism, and its rather dodgy habit of spending 75% of its income on its own staff salaries. There is an extraordinary complaint about the fact that the Chair of Literature Wales, Prof Damian Walford Davies, apparently refused to meet the members of the Committee.
In many of the comments submitted there were criticisms of its close links with the Welsh universities "literary establishment" and its refusal to accept that there is really not much point in continuing to support, year after year, a few favoured writers who may not have anything significant to say and who have no realistic prospect of ever selling any books in a competitive market place. As far as LW is concerned, the act of writing is all that matters, indicating (to its own satisfaction) that there is a wonderfully vibrant literary culture in Wales, in both English and Welsh. Does anybody actually WANT the books that are written and published? Hmmm......
Anyway, the Committee suggests that most of Literature Wales's functions should now be taken away and given to the Welsh Books Council. Many of us would agree with that. LW is also criticised for its chaotic relationship with the Welsh Academy, which is supposed to represent the interests of Welsh writers.
The PDF of the full report can be accessed here:
Welsh Books Council recommended to take on Literature Wales' Book of the Year
Article in The Bookseller
Literature Wales to have funding cut after damning report
What will happen now? Well, Minister Ken Skates says he is minded to accept most of the Committee recommendations. There will be big LW budget cuts, staff redundancies, and (I hope) a root and branch reorganization. What will be left will be smaller and (we hope) more responsive to the needs of writers in Wales. The end of the subsidy culture and the literary gravy train operated from Cardiff HQ? Let us hope so.......