Thursday, 2 November 2017

Culture Committee transcript, 12 October 2017

Dinefwr Lit Fest -- nice tents, not many people........

The transcript of the Welsh Assembly Culture Committee meeting of 12th October has now been published, and can be found here:

In this meeting the Committee tied up its evidence-taking from the great and the good of the literature and publishing world in Wales, with questions directed at Minister Ken Skates and his top officials.  This topic is dealt with from para 493 onwards.

If you look at the words carefully, it seems that the Minister is still "minded to accept" the main recommendations of the Medwin Hughes Panel by taking away the core functions of Literature Wales and giving them to the Welsh Books Council.  But he also went out of his way to praise the way in which Literature Wales has "delivered" events especially in cooperation with Visit Wales  -- more or less acting as a literary tourism agency.  I think the delivery of "literary tourism" activities is by no means as wonderful as the Minister suggests, since a lot of this delivery has been arrogant, elitist and biased.  And the "delivery" of the 2014 Dinefwr Literature Festival was pretty disgraceful, shovelling vast amounts of taxpayers money down the drain while doing great harm to other smaller festivals all over Wales, which needed LW support but did not get it.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge, and the Committee is now deliberating behind closed doors before presenting the Minister with its report.  It will be interesting to see what they say, and what the Minister will then do.

My best guess?  Literature Wales will be wound up, and its core functions will be moved across to the Welsh Books Council.  Some of the staff will be made redundant. But a new literary tourism unit will be created within Visit Wales, and some staff will move sideways into that unit.

But I'm still intrigued by the fact that neither the Medwin Hughes Panel, nor the Assembly's Culture Committee, nor the Minister, has expressed major concern on the record about the vast wastage of public money that goes into the literary / publishing industry in Wales -- subsidising writers to write books that very few people want to read, and subsidising publishers to produce volumes that hardly anybody wants to buy.  So the gravy train rolls on, with its carriages full of bursary-winning happy writers, who love the journey so much that they repeat it over and again.  At the same time we see an endless stream of books coming off the printing presses -- and with Welsh publishers protected from this horrible thing called "commercial risk."

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