Wednesday, 14 March 2018

More stick for Gary Raymond and LW

A few days ago I took issue with Gary Raymond on his rather weird piece on the Assembly Culture Committee deliberations on publishing and literature in Wales. He had it in for the Medwin Hughes Panel and its pronouncements and recommendations, and seemed to think that Literature Wales is the place where all the bright young things reside and where all the imaginative thinking is going on. Now Richard Davies of Parthian Press has weighed in, using some very forthright language.......

BLOG Richard Lewis Davies
NWR Issue 116
In the Goldfish Bowl

Although I don't agree with everything that Richard says, I do agree with most of it.

I agree that by and large there has been " a diversification and deepening of talent, resources and approach " in Wales during the past 15 years or so. I also agree that "there has been development and there have been opportunities for writers and a professionalism of the publishing culture with a deepening of the skills base." Many of the books published in Wales nowadays certainly look good -- every bit as good as the books published in London ..... what is less certain is whether anybody actually wants to read the majority of them!

Richard takes issue with Gary Raymond on whether the past was very grubby and the present is less so. In my view it is still pretty grubby -- and although Richard does not say this explicitly, he clearly feels that all is not well with the Welsh literary scene. Like me, he expresses his sadness at the apparent demise of the Welsh Academy and its failure to express itself -- on behalf of Welsh writers -- when the Medwin Hughes Panel was seeking responses from all sectors of the literature and publishing industry.

Quote: "There is a duplication of resources within Welsh literature. More money could be given directly to writers. We could work out how to make the best of the national treasure that is Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre without losing a small fortune. The writers and publishers could organise ourselves more effectively."

Quote: "And this comes to another point that both reports (the original and the summary) do seem to have missed. Where are the writers? Why aren’t they representing themselves and having a say? I know all the organisations will say they are representing writers but at the actual business end of influencing and making decisions about the culture of writing, the writers of Wales are largely apolitical or absent. The Welsh Academy/ Yr Academi Gymreig used to be a writers’ institution that had conferences and had a policy. Even when it merged into the Academi it was still a writer-led organisation, publishing magazines in Welsh and English and holding an annual conference. But once it became subsumed into the aspirations of a national company in the form of Literature Wales, the energy seems to have dissipated and it’s been reduced to putting up the occasional plaque and adding the occasional fellow to boost its diminished esteem. There was no comment from anyone at the Academi about the failure of the Chair of Literature Wales, Damian Walford Davies, to meet with a committee looking into literature in Wales for the Welsh government. Everyone else who was asked made time. Literature Wales is an organisation representing writers funded by the Welsh Government for the people of Wales through some of the taxes they pay. If the Chair couldn’t support the organisation at such a time he should have resigned..........

That's a pretty direct criticism of Literature Wales and its Chairman for failing to defend the interests of Welsh writers before the Review Panel.   Before the Assembly's Culture Committee they spent nearly all of their time defending Literature Wales and seeking to question the qualifications of the Panel members.  That was all pretty grubby, and the Minister, and the Assembly Culture Committee, said so directly.  Will anything change now that Prof Walford Davies is coming to the end of his tenure as Chairman?  We shall see.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The "Writers of Wales" database

Every self-respecting writer wants to promote her / his career and enhance book sales -- and one of the most useful weapons in the armoury is the entry in the writer's database.   The Society of Authors operates a very good one, available as a benefit of membership.  My entry is probably typical, and can be seen here:

The beauty of a database of this type is that writers can ensure that the world has access to up-to-date information about them and their books; that publishers can search for appropriate writers for any publication projects which they may have in mind; that writers have an easy way of communicating with each other; that journalists and other media people can pick up relevant information about individuals; and that the organizers of literary festivals, book clubs and cultural / arts societies of all sorts can browse through the database and find the "right" writers for speaking slots which they may be looking to fill.   There are probably other benefits too......

Until quite recently, the Welsh Academy managed and maintained a database called "The Writers of Wales."  The trouble is that over the years it got bigger and bigger, and started to incorporate many people who were not really writers at all.  Members of the Academy were not very good at updating their entries, and rumour has it that many writers failed to inform the Academy that they had died.  Very inconsiderate.  When Literature Wales took over the management of the database (arising from the "understanding" between the Academy and LW) they told me that there were around 3,000 entries on the database, although the Welsh Academy had only around 600 members.  I fully understand that something needed to be done.

Apparently a revision and redesign of the web-based database was in hand, but then suddenly in August 2016 it disappeared from sight.  There was no consultation with Welsh writers, and no advance notice.  One day, the website was up and running, and the next day it was not.  Enquiries elicited the response that staff were working on it, and that it would be replaced on the web with something better designed and more relevant.  Eighteen months have passed, and there is still no sign of the revised web site.   Writers have not even been asked for their key personal information and publications lists.  The suspicion has to be that Literature Wales has no intention to refresh and republish the database -- and indeed they have said to a number of Academy members:  "It doesn't matter very much really, since when we get requests for speakers  or writers for school visits (for example) we always give the most appropriate names!"

Just think about that for a moment.  This means that transparency has disappeared, and so has impartiality.  As of now, the staff of Literature Wales (who are no doubt very pleasant and well-meaning) have complete control over the public appearances and indeed the future prospects of Welsh writers.  Without anybody knowing anything about what goes on behind the scenes, they can ignore some writers and promote others.  Upset them, and they will extract their revenge.  Say nice things about them, and they will put you on their "favourites" list.  Patronage is encouraged, and dependency takes the place of independence and self-esteem.  Writers are demeaned and power is transferred to staff members who may or may not have written anything publishable in their lives.  The potential for favouritism and corruption is so large in this situation that writers have every right to feel insulted and enraged.    I am amazed that LW staff and directors appear not to have noticed just how dangerous this scenario is -- and amazed that the Arts Council, the Medwin Hughes Panel, and the Assembly's Culture Committee have not homed in on it.  Does it worry the Minister?   Who knows.......

The ball is in your court, Literature Wales -- get that database updated and published NOW, before even more damage is done to the reputation of literature in Wales.

Entry for "Writers of Wales" database, August 2016 -- which has disappeared, along with the entries for all other writers in Wales.......

Publisher Email: greencroft4@mac.comAuthor Website:

Brian John is a prolific author with 90 books to his name.  He was born in Carmarthen in 1940 and brought up in Pembrokeshire. He is married and has two grown up sons and two grandsons. He studied at Haverfordwest Grammar School and at Jesus College Oxford, where he read Geography and obtained his D Phil degree for a pioneering study of the Ice Age in Pembrokeshire. He then worked as a field scientist in Antarctica and spent eleven years as a geography Lecturer in Durham University. He has travelled widely in the Arctic, Antarctic and Scandinavia. In 1977 he and his family moved to a smallholding near Newport in Pembrokeshire, and for the last 30 years he has made his living as a writer and publisher.

He is also actively involved in a number of environmental and community organisations, and is one of the founders of the PENfro Book Festival, held at Rhosygilwen in September every year.
In addition to his books (authored and edited) he has published hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics, and among his publishers are Corgi, Collins, Pan, Orbis, Aurum Press, HMSO, Longman, David and Charles, Wiley and Edward Arnold. His published output includes university texts, walking guides, coffee table glossies and books of popular science. Many of his titles have been published by Greencroft Books, and have covered topics of particular interest to readers in Wales - for example tourist guides, books of local jokes, and a series of books on local folklore and traditions. His latest non-fiction titles are The Bluestone Enigma and Ghostly Tales from Pembrokeshire.
In 2012 he won the Wishing Shelf Children's Book Award for his children's tale entitled The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest.

In recent years he has been working on a series of novels (The Angel Mountain Saga) set in his own home area and focussing on the life and times of the Mistress of Plas Ingli, 1778 -1855. The series has received wide acclaim for its narrative skill, its strong sense of place and its historical authenticity. On Angel Mountain is a Welsh best-seller, having now sold over 36,000 copies. The latest novel in the series is Conspiracy of Angels, published in April 2012.  In 2016 he launched a new literary tourism initiative with the label "Martha Morgan Country"  - designed to promote NE Pembrokeshire and to encourage fans of the saga to visit many of the key locations from the stories.  The project has a leaflet and a dedicated web site:

Brian is also in great demand for talks and discussions on creative writing and small-scale publishing. You can contact him through his publishers, Greencroft Books on: 01239 820 470.

Selected Publications:
(all still in print)

On Angel Mountain (Greencroft Books, 2001; Corgi 2006)
House of Angels (Greencroft Books, 2002; Corgi 2006)
Dark Angel (Greencroft Books, 2003; Corgi 2007)
Rebecca and the Angels (Greencroft Books, 2004)
Flying with Angels (Greencroft Books, 2005)
Martha Morgan's Little World (Greencroft Books, 2006)
Guardian Angel (Greencroft Books, 2007)
Pembrokeshire Coast Path (National Trail Guides) (Aurum Press, 2012)
The Rocks: Geology of Pembrokeshire (Abercastle Publications, 1980)
Echoes and Shadows (Greencroft Books, 2008)
The Bluestone Enigma (Greencroft Books, 2008)
Sacrifice (Greencroft Books, 2009)
The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest  (Greencroft Books, 2010)
Conspiracy of Angels (Greencroft Books, 2012)
Acts of God (Greencroft Books, 2014)

Contributed to:
The Winters of the World (editor) (David and Charles, 1979)


Conspiracy of Angels (Greencroft Books, 2012)
In the year 1810, following Martha’s return from voluntary exile on the Isle of Skomar, a black man is shipwrecked on the shore of the island. He dies from his injuries, but two strange and powerful objects find their way into Martha’s hands. Shortly afterwards, she meets a freed black slave, and she agrees to become involved in a secretive anti-slavery movement. At first all goes well, but then things run out of control as she desperately tries to stop a brutal campaign aimed, ironically, at her own enemies. Inexorably she is drawn into a shadowy world inhabited by politicians, aristocracy and assassins -- and it emerges that the security of the state itself is at risk. This is a tightly constructed tale with many unexpected twists and turns. The key characters will be familiar to followers of the Angel Mountain Saga, but marching through the pages of the story are others who are considerably larger than life -- including the famous dandy Beau Brummell, the portly Princess of Ebersdorf, a black villain called John Wesley Jumbie, and General Sir Thomas Picton, who has been cursed, and whose days are numbered.

Acts of God (Greencroft Books, 2014)
The story is set in East Greenland during the Cold War. The story follows the fortunes of several groups of people whose destinies are intertwined.  There is mounting tension between the Americans and the Soviet Union. In 1962 the members of a scientific expedition become the unwitting guinea pigs in a series of grotesque experiments in an arctic wilderness.  At the same time the members of a small Inuit community are evicted from their traditional hunting grounds and are forced to leave their village.  One "Act of God" follows another.  As the death toll mounts, the explorers are too intelligent and too inquisitive for their own good.  They uncover a multi-national conspiracy and realize -- too late -- that an implacable enemy with limitless resources will not allow any of them to survive.  The author hesitates to call this a Cold War Thriller himself,  but accepts that others may well want to call it that……

Friday, 9 March 2018

Gary Raymond tries to say something or other about Welsh literature

Today there is a very strange article in Wales Arts Review by Gary Raymond, the presenter of a BBC Radio Wales arts programme.  I think we can take it as a sort of establishment response to the Assembly's Culture Committee Report just published -- and part of the ongoing concerted campaign to diminish and denigrate the work of the Medwin Hughes Panel.  It's a very strange article, and I really don't know what he is trying to say.  The journal editor's attitude is obvious enough, since she wrote in the preamble to the article:  ".........the publication of the Senedd’s Culture Committee report seems to put The Hughes Review out of its misery at least for the time being....."  A bit mean-spirited, to say the least.   Here is the key info:


The second half of 2017 was a difficult time for the organisations charged with the nurturing of the Welsh literary landscape The Independent Review into the industry proved controversial, prompting a Welsh Assembly enquiry into the fallout. As the publication of the Senedd’s Culture Committee report seems to put The Hughes Review out of its misery at least for the time being, Gary Raymond asks if its worth debating some home truths about how the Welsh literary industry operates.

As for the article itself, we'll ignore the long preamble and then get to the meat of the matter.

Here  is an extract:

Over the last year or so a cloud has hung over the literary industry in the form of the Independent Review of Support for Publishing and Literature in Wales, commonly known as The Hughes Review (as it was chaired by Professor Medwin Hughes). This week the Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has finally published it’s response to that report, and the furore it kicked up back in July 2017. The whole debacle has been a tiny speck on the national fabric, but stands for something much more culturally significant. The Hughes Review should stand as the final push of the old way of things in Wales. It stands now only as a monument to the corruption of a noble process by vindictive influences, but also as a porthole into the battlefield that is the Welsh literary landscape. It is a battlefield that will be most likely unfamiliar to any Welsh writer under the age of 30. And probably more fabled if you’re under 35. But over that, then you know what I’m taking about, even if you’ve never fought on it.
You can read the Committee report here, in its mercifully concise 34 pages. It’s a good read, and it cuts the Hughes Review down to size, in all but the starkest terms rendering it and the £14,000 it cost to produce it a waste of everybody’s time. It also goes some way to be balanced and tries very hard to emphasise the independent panel have simply failed in their honourable intentions to do right. It has no intention of “impugning the integrity” of the panel members. The Committee may be shocked to learn (maybe not, I don’t know) that a cursory knowledge of how literature in Wales works would make these “honourable intentions” extremely unlikely.

It's impossible to read that tirade without getting a real sense that this particular writer has no time at all for the Hughes Panel or its Report. ("............a monument to the corruption of a noble process by vindictive influences..." What on earth is that supposed to mean?)

Then, having slagged off the Hughes Report, he goes on to say: "The literature industry in Wales is a spitting swirl of conflicting interests, clashing egos and jagged vendettas."   He then gives chapter and verse, in a whole paragraph.  That all sounds familiar enough to those of us who watch the literary scene in Wales. And sure, something needs to be done about it.

But Gary is wildly adrift in his suggestion that "the old way of doing things" is the problem, and that the Hughes Panel was a part -- or a symptom -- of the old order.   He fails to recognize that there are major problems with the new order too, and that these are the problems that the Panel was trying to address.  Why does he think there was such a violent response to the Panel's recommendations?  Let me explain for him that the very aggressive response came from people who have allowed Literature Wales to drift into the "red risk" zone, who have been criticised for poor governance, who have connived in the disappearance of the Welsh Academy,  and who have allowed LW to drift into all sorts of areas where there have been clear overlaps with the functions of other bodies.  A body which spends 75% of its income from public sources on its own in-house expenditures when it should be supporting literature across Wales clearly needs some proper scrutiny.  These and many other matters are not the responsibility of "the old guard"  -- they are down to the inadequacies of the present generation of directors and employees, and probably the failure of due diligence by the Arts Council as well.  And the Hughes Panel was perfectly justified in drawing attention to the situation, and in asking the Minister to do something about it. 

Will the Minister do anything?  I doubt it.  The Culture Committee has just kicked the whole issue into the long grass, and there is no prospect of the ills that affect the industry being dealt with any time soon.


A reminder about what author Jasmine Donahaye said about LW not so long ago: "Literature Wales has had this coming for a long time. It’s been poorly managed and poorly governed, and its accountability to its funding body, the Arts Council, has been woefully inadequate. Perhaps the review panel ran out of vituperation after its condemnation of Literature Wales though, for precious little is saved in the report for the Arts Council, even though it is the Arts Council that has allowed Literature Wales to operate with apparent risk to public money...........Many writers have clearly felt increasingly alienated from Literature Wales and the direction it has taken."

She's not the only one to say things like this. If Gary had bothered to read the comments submitted to the Hughes Panel, he would have discovered a very wide disquiet with the organization which he seems so determined to protect.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Literature Wales seeks new Chair and Directors

Lit Wales, that rather strange body with fingers in a good many pies, is undergoing a considerable revamp.  Whether this has anything to do with the close scrutiny associated with the Medwin Hughes Panel Report is unclear -- but Chair Damien Walford Davies is going, and maybe some of the current board as well.  The current directors are Kate North, Justin Albert, William Ayot, Eric Ngalle Charles, Elizabeth George and Angharad Wynne.  As we all know, one of the criticisms of the Panel centred on poor governance, and of course this was not exactly a ringing endorsement of the activities of the Chairman and the Board of Directors.

Anyway, new blood is being sought -- although it is unclear whether the Board of Directors will be kept the same size or expanded.  Get your application forms filled in now, folks!

Recruitment of Chair and Directors for Literature Wales Management Board  

Literature Wales, the National Company for the development and promotion of literature in Wales, is looking for a dynamic and inspiring individual to lead the organisation as Chair.  It is also seeking to appoint new Directors to join its Management Board.

Joining our Board in 2018 will mean that you will actively shape the future of the organisation as it frames its new Strategic Plan for 2019-2022.

Literature Wales is a forward-looking organisation which thrives on change and responds positively and directly to challenges. We are looking for people who want to contribute to building a better society and ensure that literature is a voice for all. We are looking for strong advocates who share the vision and values of the organisation, and who can help shape the next phase of the organisation’s development.


Literature Wales is seeking its second Chair, as the distinguished poet and academic Damian Walford Davies is due to step down in Spring 2018 in accordance with the mandated length of office set out in the organisation’s Articles of Association.
The ability to communicate in both Welsh and English is essential for the role of Chair.


Literature Wales’ Board of Directors represents a broad sector and includes a range of expertise, experience and voices. We particularly welcome applications from young people and individuals who represent protected characteristics. In this current recruitment process, priority will be given to applicants who demonstrate knowledge of and/ or experience in at least one of the following areas:
Legal & HR
Development and Business
Children & Young People
International Networks
Communications & PR

Literature Wales is a bilingual organisation and a positive attitude towards the Welsh language is essential for the role of Director.

Closing Date: Monday 12 March 2018, 12.00 noon

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Welsh literature and publishing -- the situation just became even more chaotic......

Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Assembly Culture Committee

Previously we have commented on the dealings of the Assembly's Culture Committee, which had been asked by Minister Ken Skates to review the findings of the Medwin Hughes Panel on the support mechanisms for literature and publishing in Wales.  I bet the Minister wishes he had just gone ahead and made some decisions, since the situation has now become incredibly messy -- and it looks as if it will drag on for many months yet.  Nobody will be satisfied..........

I had a sense from the deliberations of the Committee that they were moving towards a position of "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" -- and I think my supposition was probably right.  They are now being critical of the Medwin Hughes Review Panel, critical of Literature Wales (especially its leadership) and generally unhappy with virtually everything.  The Committee wants further analysis of the suggestion that many of Literature Wales's functions should be transferred to the Welsh Books Council.  Quote from the BBC Report:  "The committee now wants the Welsh Government to publish all relevant documents and the minutes of the independent panel's meetings."  This could drag on for many months yet -- to the further detriment of the literature and publishing industry in Wales.

I'm a bit mystified by the reference to the Panel's observations on the "decline of the publishing industry" in Wales.  That was not my reading of the Panel Report -- it certainly stressed that the industry was CHANGING because of changing technology and social trends, but change does not mean decline.

Then we have this:

The report also quotes committee member Dawn Bowden, who called into question the public funding that is given to literature and publishing by the Welsh Government.  The Labour AM said during one evidence session: "I get the distinct impression that we've got a sector here that's rife with factionalism, rivalries and jealousies that, quite frankly, leaves me wondering why the Welsh Government's even bothering to finance some of these organisations."

This is a matter which received inadequate attention from both the Medwin Hughes Panel and the Culture Committee.  As I have said many times before on this blog, the "subsidy culture" which pervades the literature and publishing scene in Wales MUST be addressed, because nobody is effectively demonstrating that the largesse pushed in the direction of both writers and publishers in Wales provides real value for money to taxpayers.  The conspiracy of silence over the appallingly low level of SALES of supported books is a disgrace, and somebody needs to say so.

It looks to me as if the subject of the Medwin Hughes Panel Review is being pushed into the long grass.  It's all profoundly discouraging.


Literature review fails to convince culture committee
6th March 2018

A saga over a critical report into publishing and literature in Wales has taken another twist.

A controversial independent review last summer claimed Literature Wales was unfit to receive public funding or was in danger of collapse.

But the Assembly's cross-party culture committee has now found "little evidence" for that conclusion.

It also says a proposal to transfer responsibilities to the Welsh Books Council needs further analysis.

AMs expressed concern the debate had overshadowed important issues.

Literature Wales was created in 2011 to promote and develop reading and writing and had an income of about £1.2m in 2016.

The Welsh Government-commissioned review, led by Prof Medwin Hughes, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, described the organisation as "lacking the skills and experience" to spend public money.

Economy Minister Ken Skates, in response last summer, had been minded to accept the recommendations.

The review included proposals that several responsibilities would transfer to the Welsh Books Council instead, including the Wales Book of the Year award,bursaries for writers and literary events.

New Culture Minister Dafydd Elis Thomas has since said that the award will remain with Literature Wales for this year at least.

He has been waiting for the committee's report before giving the Welsh Government's official response to Prof Hughes's report.

Literature Wales' head had claimed the review was a "dud", filled with "inaccuracies".

Arts Council Wales was also critical of the review, calling it "deeply disappointing".

The committee's own examination of the review has now found:

"Further critical analysis of the benefits and implications" of the transfer of responsibilities from Literature Wales was needed and it was "not convinced" that the practicalities and costs have been thought through.

Analysis of the decline in publishing in Wales was "insufficient" and raises more general concerns about the review panel's evidence base.

Committee chairwoman Bethan Sayed said they were "uncomfortable" at the way in which the debate around the review had been framed and were "not convinced" by some of the evidence.

While AMs found no evidence to support the suggestion that Literature Wales was unfit to spend public funds, the committee was critical of its leadership.

It said Literature Wales' "overly defensive response" to the report did not cast the organisation in a good light or contribute to "a mature debate on the future of the sector."

The report also quotes committee member Dawn Bowden, who called into question the public funding that is given to literature and publishing by the Welsh Government.

The Labour AM said during one evidence session: "I get the distinct impression that we've got a sector here that's rife with factionalism, rivalries and jealousies that, quite frankly, leaves me wondering why the Welsh Government's even bothering to finance some of these organisations."

But the committee praises the integrity of the review panel although in its conclusions it says its work was flawed due to an "absence of analysis" on the decline of the publishing industry and emergence of literature on digital platforms.

The committee now wants the Welsh Government to publish all relevant documents and the minutes of the independent panel's meetings.

Prof Hughes, when he gave evidence to the committee, said he had "observed a lot of arrogance" in the criticisms following his review.

But he also told assembly members they would be "shocked" by some of the accounts he was given of the industry.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Audio sample

I have just discovered how to use the audio player on the Martha Morgan Country web site!  I have copied just a little snippet from the WAV files kindly sent by WF Howes.  You can listen to it by going to the base of this page:

The narrator is Leanne Masterton.  Enjoy!

Friday, 2 March 2018

Publishing in Paradise

I'm grateful to the Welsh Books Council for the provision of figures relating to grant aid in the publishing sector in Wales. Here is the information provided:

Welsh-language Books Published 2016/17
Total (WBC Grant-aided in brackets)
Programme Publishers (Children) 143 (80)
Programme Publishers (adults) 93 (68)
Individual Publishers (Children) 77 (16)
Individual Publishers (Adults) 38 (26)

TOTALS       Of 351 titles published, 190 were grant-aided

English-language Books Published 2016/17

Total (WBC Grant-aided in brackets)
Revenue Publishers (Children) 13 (12)
Revenue Publishers (Adults) 59 (52)
Individual Publishers (Children) 20 (5)
Individual Publishers (Adults) 132 (31)

TOTALS      Of 224 titles published, 100 were grant-aided

This is all very instructive.

When we look at Welsh-language books, we see that the big six publishers (called Programme Publishers) are much more dependent on grant aid than the smaller publishers. In the children's book market, 80 out of 143 titles published by the Programme Publishers were grant-aided, and in adult books 68 out of 93 titles were grant-aided. In the children's books market, the smaller publishers were much more prepared to take commercial risks, and only 16 out of 77 titles were grant-aided. That's quite a surprising figure. Adult books in Welsh from the small presses were also heavily supported -- with 26 out of 38 titles grant aided.

Turning to English-language books, we see a much more dramatic dependency on grant aid from the five Revenue Publishers (the big ones -- Gomer, Honno, Seren, Firefly and Parthian) to the extent that they appear to be virtually averse to taking any commercial risks at all. The figures speak for themselves -- 12 out of 13 children's books are grant aided, and 52 out of 59 adult books are grant-aided. The smaller publishers are more prepared to take risks -- only 5 out of 20 children's books are grant-aided, and grants were only awarded to 31 adult titles out of 132 published.

I'm not surprised that Welsh-language publishing is heavily grant-aided; it does, after all, involve a much greater commercial risk than publishing in English.

I'm also not surprised that the small presses are commercially more adventurous than the big ones, and since many of them publish only one or two titles a year they are probably not geared up to filling in elaborate grant application forms and dealing with all of the extra monitoring and reporting requirements insisted upon (quite rightly) by WBC. So they just get on and publish things, just as small presses in England do -- in the hope that they will sell, and that they will not lose money.

But I'm shocked at the degree of "grant-aid dependency" that exists among the larger Welsh publishers. Out of 308 titles published by them during the year, 212 were grant-aided. That's no less than 69%. Is it really the case that the larger publishers are convinced that more than two thirds of their published titles are doomed to be loss-making and therefore require grant aid in order to be published? A more likely explanation of this phenomenon is that the larger publishers have developed a business model in which grant aid is a key component. They have learned to fill in the application forms and how to maintain "good practice" as far as WBC is concerned -- and since book sales do not seem to matter, the default position is that virtually every book considered for publication needs to demonstrate its ability to make a loss. Just think about it -- it is a truly extraordinary situation. As Martin Rolfe noted some time ago, "WBC turn down applications which, when costed, show that no loss is forecast to arise.”

Martin has shown that on average subsidised Welsh-language children’s books sell around 1000 copies, that subsidised Welsh-language adult’s books sell around 700 copies; that subsidised English-language children’s books sell around 1,000 copies; and that subsidised English-language adult books sell around 1,100 copies. I recall the Medwin Hughes Panel drawing attention to an average sales level of around 800 copies for all subsidised books in Wales. Should we, as taxpayers, be satisfied with those figures? I suggest that we should be considerably disgruntled.

On the matter of costs, let's look at some of the figures which we can extract from the tables in the WBC Annual Report for Year 2016-17.

232 Welsh-language titles were "supported" at a cost of £449,063 with assumed average sales of 831 copies (those are actually the sales of 2014-15 titles after two years of market exposure......). The average grant per title was £1,935. This probably reflects the large proportion of "small" children's books in Welsh, and small print runs.

According to "The Bookseller" the five big Revenue (English-language) Publishers received £250,000 in the tax year 2016-17. It seems that 74 English-language titles were published with grant aid totalling £301,248. Also, 25 author advances (totalling £42,000) were paid, and 21 marketing grants were paid. 48 titles were published by the 5 "revenue publishers" at a cost of £248,798 -- ie £5,183 per title. Individual grants to smaller publishers totalled £52,450 for 26 titles, working out as £2,017 per title. The average grant across all 74 titles was £4,070 per title. The very high average grant per title to the larger publishers probably reflects larger print runs and more ambitious publishing projects including glossy hardback volumes.

Overall, the publishing grant aid programme from the WBC has expended over £750,000 during the last tax year on the support of 306 titles -- representing an average grant of £2,450 per title. The grants are more than adequate to pay for the full production costs of books designed for the Welsh market, which will generally have print runs of perhaps 1,000 copies. This means that Welsh publishing is effectively a risk-free enterprise, for those publishers who are supported within the system.

As I suggested a couple of months ago, we need to focus much more sharply on value for money.

Apart from the "average sales figure" for Welsh-language books published in 2014-15 (831 copies) there is no indication anywhere in the WBC Annual Report of how successful any of the published books has been. Some might say that sales figures are "commercially sensitive information" -- but that information should most definitely not be treated as confidential where the full publishing cost of a book has come from the public purse. We now know that WBC does collect and collate book sales figures. We must hope that the figures represent REAL sales, excluding free copies, review copies and returns, for those titles that are grant aided. I cannot see that any of the publishers in receipt of subsidies would object to full disclosure of their sales figures; if they want these sales figures hidden because they are embarrassed by them, they should not be publishing those titles in the first place.

There is a transparent grant application process for publishers, but who decides which authors will be commissioned to write things, and which ones will receive publishing advances from WBC? Are those monies returnable if and when books become successful, or if they fail to get into print?

All in all, the "success" of the Welsh publishing industry seems to be measured simply by counting the number of books produced, with no account taken of either market demand or actual sales figures. Publishing is a commercial business, and if publishers cannot be bothered to work out what demand there may be for the titles they publish, they should be required to carry the full commercial risk themselves, instead of publishing (at the taxpayer's expense) a stream of titles which very few people want and hardly anybody reads.

I suggest that in publishing, as in other sectors of the economy, “value for money” must be quantified in some way, rather than being measured qualitatively by something as vague as “cultural value” or worthiness. This is actually quite a big issue, and it deserves to be discussed.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Welsh Academy -- can it be brought back to life?

Out of the blue, following a number of posts on this blog about the apparent demise of the Welsh Academy -- and following heavy criticism from members on social media -- Chairman Tom Anderson has just written to all members inviting them to attend an EGM in Aberystwyth on 14th April 1018.   About time too, since members and fellows have heard NOTHING from the Academy since a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Literature Wales in 2015 and since the "Writers of Wales" database was taken down from the web in the summer of 2016.

The thunderous silence has presumably occurred because the Management Board has been completely inactive.  If they have held any meetings, we know nothing about them.  But why such apathy from a group of intelligent and experienced writers?  A reminder of who they are:

Tom Anderson (Chair)
Dylan Foster Evans (Deputy Chair)
Lucy Christopher
Catherine Fisher
Delyth George
Matthew Jarvis
Jo Mazelis
Dafydd John Pritchard
Gary Raymond
Eurig Salisbury
Rachel Trezise

These good people were not elected by the members -- presumably they volunteered to do their duty, or were simply invited to  join the Board.  But who did the inviting?  Just one of many mysteries........

In the Academy's very strange constitution, 

1.  there are no provisions for membership involvement in the nomination or election of Board or committee members or anything else;  

2.  there are no provisions for the payment of annual subscriptions (in spite of which membership subs are collected annually by Literature Wales on behalf of the Academy -- under false pretences?);

3.  there are no provisions for reporting Board or committee minutes or decisions to the membership;  

4.  there is no bank account, and no guarantee that membership subs and other income are ring-fenced  by Literature Wales;  

5.  there are no provisions for the keeping or auditing of annual accounts or for communicating these accounts to the members;  and

6.  there are no exclusive membership benefits.  

So in my view the Welsh Academy is a cosy little club set up rather a long time ago by a group of well-meaning writers -- and which now tries to present itself as something else.  It is completely dominated by Literature Wales, which has in effect taken over most if not all of its functions while extending its reach and building up its power base.  The trouble is that Literature Wales is not a democratic membership-based organization either -- its dealings with writers are based on the principle of patronage, with non-elected officers exercising power in many different areas with minimal scrutiny either from the LW Management Board or from Arts Council Wales.

Let's hope that when the EGM takes place, there will be a good turn-out of writers who believe that the Welsh Academy has a real role to play as an organization devoted to promoting the interests of writers in Wales.  In order to achieve that, it appears inevitable that the links with Literature Wales will have to be severed; that the Constitution and Memorandum of Understanding with LW will have to be scrapped; that the current Committee / Management Board will have to be dissolved; and that a completely new group of people will need to take control of a process of transformation.  There does not need to be any acrimony in this process:  I believe that it can all be done amicably and constructively, with the support of the old Academy Board, the staff and Board of LW, and the approval of Arts Council Wales as well. And finally there will have to be ELECTIONS.........!!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The future of literature and publishing in Wales -- decision time

Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas

After all the fun and games of last summer (relating to the contents of the Report of the Medwin Hughes Panel) and the scrutiny by the Welsh Assembly's Culture Panel, it is rumoured that Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas will shortly be announcing his decision on what will happen next. This all relates to the future organization and funding of literature and publishing in Wales. Ken Skates (the Culture Minister at the time) said that he was minded to accept the main recommendations of the Report, which included the emasculation of Literature Wales and the transfer of additional responsibilities to the Welsh Books Council instead.

Now, however, Lord Dafydd has the Culture portfolio, and he might be more favourably inclined towards Literature Wales keeping many of its functions. On the other hand, Ken Skates is still his boss, and politicians who are in government do not like changing their minds or having their minds changed for them. So if Lord Dafydd decides to support Literature Wales and the status quo, that would involve a great loss of face for his boss. My guess is that there will be some sort of fudge, with LW allowed to remain in existence but with most of its functions transferred. "Literary Tourism" will almost certainly be transferred to Visit Wales -- and maybe some staff will move over as well. Some will no doubt be made redundant, since "economies" will inevitably include job losses.

Watch this space.........

To give some background, here is an extract from te Welsh Government ptress releaseof 14th June 2017.…/170613-review-in-to-support-for-publis…/…

Review into support for Publishing and Literature in Wales

Economy Secretary, Ken Skates has received the independent review into Welsh Government support for publishing and literature in Wales.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Ken Skates: “Given the significant weight and compelling nature of the evidence received, I am minded to accept the main recommendations and the Welsh Government will now work with the relevant organisations to implement them.”

Quote from release: ………..One recommendation is that the Welsh Government should seek agreement from the Welsh Books Council to take on some of Literature Wales’ current functions, including Book of the Year (aiming to increase its commercial impact), bursaries, literary events and Writers on Tour and provision for children and young people.

The Review from the Medwin Hughes Panel is here:…/publishi…/support-for-literature-review/…

Ken Skates

The Llanwnda Bible and the French Invasion

This is a rather charming story which I missed when it came out in January.  The tatty Llanwnda Bible is now getting some TLC after being unpleasantly abused in and around Llanwnda Church in 1797, when French troops were in occupation.    Many pages were torn out of it to help with lighting fires, and other pages were used for "unmentionable things" including toiletary requirements.........  let us charitably assume that the French soldiers (many of whom were convicts and mercenaries) were unable to read Welsh, and were therefore unaware that they were desecrating a Bible!

Why are we mentioning it here?  Well, the Last Invasion figures very prominently in "On Angel Mountain",  and Martha strode into battle herself, capturing five French soldiers.  David and Billy, of course, were involved in a skirmish near Llanwnda itself.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Is the Welsh Academy breaking the law?

In the past, I have posted a number of comments on the sad demise of the Welsh Academy, which is the "writers society" originally set up to support the writing community in Wales.   For many of the 600 members, the web-based writer's database was the most valuable "perk" of membership, and was in itself worth the cost of the annual subscription.  Sadly, the Writers of Wales database was suddenly removed from the web, without any consultation, in the summer of 2016.

You can find out all about the Welsh Academy here:


Some of my concerns about the organization have been expressed here:

Suddenly things have taken a more serious turn, and two members of the Academy have asked, in a closed Facebook group, whether the organization is breaking the law by taking membership subs under false pretences, while providing no exclusive benefits to members.   It is, as far as we know, still accepting cheques and direct debit payments for membership subs in the knowledge that it is providing no membership benefits.    Full members pay £20 per year, and retired members £10 per year.

To make matters worse, it now appears that the organization has no bank account, since cheques are required to be made out to "Literature Wales" -- with whom the Academy has a 2015 "Memorandum of Understanding."

To make matters even worse, the Academy issues no financial accounts or statements to members, and has no mechanism for the scrutiny or approval of accounts since it holds no AGM.  So members have no idea what is happening to the money belonging to the organization -- apart from a statement to the effect that 50% of subscription income (up to a maximum of £2,500 per year) is passed across to Literature Wales for "services provided."

To make matters worse still, a scrutiny of the Academy's Constitution shows that there is no provision in it for the collection of annual subscriptions, so it appears that it is acting unconstitutionally in collecting any subscriptions at all, either on a one-off or continuing basis.

And since there is no democratic process by which members can elect management board members or officers, and no AGM, none of us who are long-standing members can do anything about it. And the months are ticking by since the web site and database suddenly disappeared.  Eighteen months and counting.......  we might as well assume that it has gone for good.

So we return to the key question -- is the Welsh Academy (with the active involvement of Literature Wales) breaking the law by collecting membership subs in the full knowledge that there are no benefits of membership?  And should it refund all monies collected from members over the last two years?

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The mystery of log lines

Some nice instructions re log lines.  A pity that the chap who wrote these words does not seem to be very good at sorting out his singulars and his plurals........

Been doing some serious research on log lines, and found lots of fascinating info. Here are some of the log lines for famous films:


The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.


The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.


Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny Curran, eludes him.


A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.


A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.


A cop has to talk down a bank robber after the criminal’s perfect heist spirals into a hostage situation.


Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.


A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.


A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.


Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.


An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.


Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.


Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.


During the U.S.-Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.


With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.


Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble.

RUSHMORE – A precocious private high school student whose life revolves around his school competes with its most famous and successful alumnus for the affection of a first grade teacher

THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS – A press agent, hungry to get ahead, is pushed by a ruthless columnist to do cruel and evil things, and is eventually caught in the web of lies that he has created.

BIG NIGHT – Two very different brothers promote their struggling 1950s New Jersey Italian restaurant by inviting Louis Prima and his band to take part in a sumptuous dinner there.

..... and is this the most boring log line ever?  But still it got made into a successful and rather charming film.....

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY – An Iowa housewife, stuck in her routine, must choose between true romance and the needs of her family.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Trying to get a caravan moving........

This is interesting, and illustrates just how difficult it is to get a new series (in this case a comedy series) moving in Wales -- even when a star like Matthew Rhys is on board.  Raising money by crowd- funding is really hard work, and it appears that in this case it was quite hard to raise even £7,000 or so.  Lets hope they now have the cash they need to get the pilot made and broadcast......


Matthew Rhys has made a pilot of British comedy drama series “Down the Caravan,” which sees “The Americans” star play a philandering and soon-to-be-dead caravan site owner in Wales.

Wales has emerged in recent years as a major U.K. production hub; “Sherlock,” and “Doctor Who” are both made there. In terms of comedy-drama, James Corden and Ruth Jones’ Wales- and England-set comedy “Gavin and Stacey” was a big hit in the U.K.

Now Rhys, who is Welsh, will star in another comedy project with a connection to his native land. Playing Dai Hyatt, he appears alongside Jan Anderson, seen recently in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” who plays an employee at the caravan site.

Rhys is best-known for his starring role in FX’s espionage thriller “The Americans,” for which he garnered an Emmy nomination. He has also appeared on TV in “Brothers & Sisters” and “Death Comes to Pemberley,” and guest-starred in HBO’s “Girls” earlier this year.

Jerry and Kay Lockett’s Wales-based indie Happy Campers Productions made the crowd-funded pilot of “Down the Caravan” and will produce the series, which was written by Kay. Welsh actor-director Sara Sugarman (“Mr. Nice”) will direct. It does not have a confirmed broadcast or streaming partner, but is close to sealing a deal with a major British player.

“Down the Caravan” opens as Rhys’ character dies following vigorous extramarital relations, opening up a series of events that take in the local town, the caravan site, and a cast of characters including Maxine Evans (“Stella”), Sarah Harris-Davies (“Dim Ond y Gwir”), and Vas Blackwood (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”).

Although dead, Rhys will appear throughout the show’s run if it is picked up, as it transpires that he recorded a series of messages before his death. He will also executive produce the series. Cheryl Davies Keatley will produce and Jerry Lockett will be an associate producer.


Another call for more home-grown Welsh TV drama

Obviously some people are feeling rather sore about the lack of funding for a new comedy show pilot......  but the call for greater investment in WELSH drama is not new, and one hopes that the powers-that-be are listening.

Invest more in film and TV made in Wales, actor says

By Nia Medi

BBC Wales News
30 January 2018

More money needs to be invested in home-grown film and television by the Welsh Government, an actor has said. 
Julian Lewis Jones' plea is backed by TAC, which represents the independent TV production sector in Wales.
The government has put £12m into Welsh productions since 2012, but has invested £15m in companies based outside Wales during the same period.
The Welsh Government said investments in those external productions in Wales had brought £100m to the economy.
The actor fears unless the government invests in Welsh projects, Wales will become little more than "a receiving house" for outside companies in the industry.
Lewis Jones is currently filming a pilot for a prospective TV series with Hollywood star Matthew Rhys called Down the Caravan.
He told BBC Radio Cymru's Post Cyntaf programme: "Welsh Government do tend to give money to companies from outside Wales to come in and work in the country."
He said Down the Caravan had had to rely on crowd funding and private investment.

'Madness and stupidity’

Iestyn Garlick, chairman of TAC, supported the Anglesey actor's call.
"It is extremely important that we produce and make our own productions. It is madness and stupidity that the Welsh Government would refuse to fund a production like Down the Caravan.
"Companies would come to Wales anyway. I can't see that we need to pay them to come.
"I can't see how attracting companies from outside Wales is important to our creative industry's strategy. We have our own creative industry.
The Welsh Government says its investment in productions made in Wales has boosted the nation's economy by more £100m in the past five years.
A spokesman said "Without our investment it is very unlikely that these companies would have come to Wales. That is why attracting non-Welsh companies to Wales is a key part of our Creative Industries strategy."

Saturday, 27 January 2018

The gaps in the story

For most of 1832, nothing much happened in the story of Martha's life --but in December of that year Martha started to keep a record of events that was to end up as "Rebecca and the Angels".  In December she was minded to describe the death of her beloved Owain Laugharne (in 1825) and then the death of her dear friend and mentor Joseph Harries, in February 1826.

In some ways the gaps in the story are crucial, in allowing events to "accumulate" for future description and analysis.  And the big things in Martha's life were so dramatic (and often traumatic) that she could not possibly have coped with them if they had come upon her in an unremitting stream. So in her life she did have -- thank goodness -- quite long periods during which life quietly plodded on, with the routines of the household and the farm undisturbed by anything unduly dramatic.  The reader, too, needs periods of calm between the great tempests which afflict Martha..............

And for me, as an author, the gaps are also important as devices.  Fred Nicholls, who taught me English language and literature in Haverfordwest Grammar School and later became a good friend and fellow author, said to me once:  "Never kill off a good hero or heroine; but if you have to, be sure to leave some good gaps in the story."  That advice has come in very handy, since having killed off Martha (twice!) I was able to respond to requests for further stories by writing "Sacrifice" and "Conspiracy of Angels" and slotting them into a long gap in the middle of "Dark Angel" -- during which time Owain was missing presumed lost.  That was a ten-year gap, most of which remains to be filled.  There are other gaps between 1797 and 1805, between 1822 and 1832,  between 1833 and 1837, in 1838, and at various other times too.

When I next feel the urge to write about Mistress Martha, there is sure to be a convenient gap waiting to be filled.......

Friday, 26 January 2018

Fantastical memorials

There's great pleasure to be had in fantastical tombs -- there was quite a fashion for them in the seventeenth century.  Above we see the Howard memorial in Rudbaxton Church; then in the middle the Lort tomb in Stackpole Elidor Church;  and then below we see the Margaret Mercer tomb in St Mary's Church, Tenby.

The Howard tomb takes the prize for having the most skulls, and the Lort tomb takes the prize for having the most children.......

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Wales gets even darker.......

This is a nice puff for Welsh TV drama, linked to a promotional piece devoted to the start of "Requiem" which will be on BBC1 as from the beginning of February.  As usual, the theme is "dark drama" following on the success of "Hinterland" (which has now came to an end, reputedly because of funding difficulties).  Everything is relative, and a "successful" TV series does not necessarily make any money unless it is a real blockbuster......

But it has to be good that programmes are being made in Wales, and that Wales is being developed as a production hub with a pool of skilled cameramen, lighting and sound people,  and all the other folk who make up the teams needed for big projects.  Gethin Scourfield, who was one of the key people working on Hinterland for Fiction Factory, and who is now acting head of commissioning for S4C, refers to "... the buzz around Wales as a new centre for exciting and risk-taking television" --  and that's great.  The more confidence there is in Wales and further afield about the TV dramas coming out of the country, the more likely it becomes that the "Angel Mountain" project will come to fruition earlier rather than later.......

Forget Scandi: the natural home of dark drama is Wales now

Otherworldly landscapes, experienced TV crews and state support are giving the country a dramatic leg-up

Sarah Hughes

Sun 21 Jan 2018

Requiem, which starts early next month, tells the story of a young cellist (Lydia Wilson) who becomes drawn into a decades-old mystery involving a small Welsh community and a missing child. Its unusual blend of horror, crime drama and supernatural chills could only have been achieved by shooting in Wales, said its Australian creator, Kris Mrksa.

“I’d had the kernel of the idea for Requiem for years but no clear idea where it took place,” says Mrksa. “I knew the story needed to feel really removed from the urban world and we also thought about the north of Scotland or Cornwall, but the Welsh landscape was so inspirational and so otherworldly that I realised this was the only place this kind of story would really work.”

The show’s director, Mahalia Belo, agrees the Welsh countryside near Newport provided the ideal inspiration for Requiem’s meld of horror and psychological suspense. “This piece is quite a strange mixture of genres and there’s something about the landscape that really lends itself to that,” she says. “The energy felt right.”

Nor is the six-part drama the only series to be making the most of Wales’s combination of otherworldly landscapes and experienced on-the-ground production crews. Sky Atlantic’s historical epic Britannia used Gower’s Rhossili Bay and the Henrhyd Falls in Powys to stand in for Celtic Britain; the BBC sci-fi thriller Hard Sun was filmed in Anglesey; and Channel 4’s adoption drama Kiriwas filmed in Cardiff. Wolf Studios Wales, a vast new production studio in Cardiff Bay, is home to both Sky One’s new fantasy series A Discovery of Witches and the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

The global success of series such as Hinterland/Y Gwyll, recorded in Welsh and English, has led to a growing interest in Welsh drama. The Port Talbot-set Bang was recently shortlisted for a Writer’s Guild award. The Eve Myles-starring Keeping Faith/Un Bore Mercher will air on BBC Wales this year, having already been shown on Welsh language channel S4C.

“I think there’s a real confidence here right now,” says Ed Talfan, co-creative director of Severn Screen, the production company behind Y Gwyll and Craith. “Hinterland has shown that you can think local and hit universal, which is really liberating. It proves that you can take a risk and the interest is there.”

The deal with Bad Wolf, the production company headed up by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, has seen the Welsh assembly lend the company £4m in exchange for increased investment in the country from television companies such as Sky, the BBC and HBO and the creation of Wolf Studios Wales.

“The idea is to take a proactive approach to attracting funding and investment in Wales, particularly in the creative sector,” says Ken Skates, the Welsh cabinet secretary for the economy and transport. “There’s a real opportunity to carve out a very distinctive creative industry in Wales and one which is recognised around the globe.”

Ron Jones, executive chairman of Welsh production company Tinopolis Group and chair of the Creative Industries Sector Panel, agrees. “The film and TV sector has grown strongly in Wales over the past five years, directly as a result of a determined Welsh government strategic decision,” he says. “Bad Wolf’s ten-year slate of productions can only strengthen the long-term sustainability of the industry.”

Tranter, the former BBC head of fiction, stresses that the Bad Wolf deal is intended to revitalise the Welsh economy as much as attract new talent, allowing Wolf Studios Wales to employ local people in everything from costume design to carpentry. “The aim is to make people aware that working in television is not simply about being in front of the camera or holding it,” she says. “We have the chance to put in place a long-term programme that isn’t just about attracting talent to Wales but also about developing skill sets from a young age that could benefit both the community and the local economy.”

It is important too that the buzz around Wales as a new centre for exciting and risk-taking television doesn’t obscure the success of smaller productions. “It’s great that we have these big deals coming in from outside Wales,” says Gethin Scourfield, acting commissioning editor for S4C drama. “But crucial too that home-grown talents can take advantage of the new interest in Wales as a production hub and continue to create interesting, innovative shows that promote Welsh culture and interests.”

The six-part series Requiem starts on BBC One on 2 February at 9pm.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Pentre Ifan and the moon

A fabulous image of Pentre Ifan and the moon, posted by Dai Winn on Facebook.......

Martin Shipman interviews Lleucu Siencyn.

Wales Online has published a podcast interview between reporter Martin Shipman and Lleucu Siencyn, the Chief Executive of Literature Wales. Most of it is about Lleucu's "literary life", but inevitably the conversation turned to the Medwin Hughes Panel and the big debate about

the future of literature and publishing in Wales.

I quite agree with some of the things that Lleucu says in the podcast, but I do not agree with her that the debate encouraged by the Minister on the future funding of literature and publishing in Wales was "an unfortunate episode" and something that "wasn't needed." In my view ALL efforts from Welsh Government ministers to encourage debate and to assemble views on specific topics are to be applauded -- we would all be pretty disgruntled if all policy was determined behind closed doors without any consultation within the affected sector.

So yes, the appointment of the Medwin Hughes Panel was a good idea, and it was perfectly proper that the Panel sought opinions and factual evidence from within the industry and from the public at large. It's a bit disingenuous of Lleucu to say that the Panel's report "created divisions which weren't there....." As she must know, the divisions have been there for years, on many different issues -- and if you don't believe that, just look at the comments from respondents as published in the report. Disquiet has been expressed about the subsidy culture, about duplication of effort between WBC and LW, about patronage, about the gravy train, and about the tendency of LW to stray into areas that should be none of its business. So the Panel Report, and the Culture Committee deliberations on it, have given a good shaking to an industry that has suffered for years from a variety of ills. As the Panel pointed out, there has been complacency and an unrealistic sense of entitlement from an organization (LW) which has been spending 75% of its funding in-house. That really is not good enough.

Lleucu needs to accept that the industry needs to be reformed, and that LW may have to accept that the bulk of the reforms will be within its own organization.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Creative Industries in Wales

The Gospel of Us -- one of the great success stories.  But why is "the story of us" still not treated as a priority?

This statement was put out in November, probably in response to the negative press comments about the Pinewood Studios fiasco.    That, and the revelations about Bad Wolf, have suggested that taxpayers monies were not being very well spent in this sector, and that "due diligence" testing left something to be desired.

So this is to some extent a reassurance exercise, designed to flag up the £100 million apparently spent in Wales during the creation of 10 films over the past 5 years.  I wonder where that figure came from?  And where was the money spent?  Who were the main beneficiaries?  Maybe we will see the figures one day........

It;s interesting that the Ministers flag up, yet again, the strategy "to promote Wales internationally as a destination for high end TV and film production."  But once again they have missed the opportunity of stating, on the record, that it is also a priority to work with the film and TV sector to promote Wales and to tell its story to the nation and to the rest of the world, thereby enhancing our sense of identity and pride.  Why should that be such a problem?

Written Statement - Update on Creative Industries in Wales

Last updated 15 November 2017

Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport and Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport

We are writing to update Assembly Members on the opportunities to build on existing advantages to increase productivity and growth in the Creative Industries Sector in Wales. Over the last 5 years, film and TV productions shot in Wales and funded by Welsh Government have spent in excess of £100m in Wales. This is investment into local economies, providing hundreds of Welsh businesses and individuals with high quality work. The introduction of commercial funding via the Media Investment Budget in 2014 provided an additional boost to the industry and has funded ten productions and one games project to date.

These included Their Finest, which saw excellent box office takings and received a warm reception from critics, and Journey’s End, based on the famous World War One play by R C Sherriff, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film
Festival and had its gala screening at the London Film Festival last month.

For a number of years, our strategy and delivery of support for the Creative Industries Sector has focused on the provision of funding through grants, loans and commercial investments, to deliver strategic priorities including:

• a collaboration agreement with Pinewood, including the Media Investment Budget;
• bringing high value film and TV to Wales through Welsh Government financial incentives; and
• funding of high value digital media projects.

These priorities have been accompanied by logistical support for productions through the Wales Screen service, and a push to develop a range of studio facilities along the M4 corridor between Chepstow and Swansea. In particular, the new Wolf Studios Wales in Cardiff is now home to the first Bad Wolf production and they have a future pipeline of productions that will spend at least £108m in the Welsh economy.

Industry growth continues to change the creative landscape and we are now working towards delivery of our manifesto pledge to provide a more holistic approach to the sector. Our new model of flexible and bespoke support will ensure appropriate mechanisms are in place for commercial business growth in a fast paced creative industries environment.

We will help prioritise and accelerate sector growth through:

• skills and supply chain development;
• improving networks and access to specialist industry-led advice;
• better exploitation of social media and digital platforms for service provision; and
• improving creative businesses’ ability to create, retain and exploit their intellectual property in the Welsh economy.

One of the changes to the landscape has been a commercial-based decision by Pinewood to withdraw from third party fund management, and therefore from its Media Investment Budget role. This has presented us with the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of our collaboration with Pinewood to better serve the industry in Wales.

Whilst the full terms of our new agreement are in confidence, it means that Pinewood remains fully committed to operating the studio in Wentloog and is continuing to promote Wales internationally as a destination for high end TV and film production.

We are proud of Welsh Government’s partnership with Pinewood. Having such an iconic brand in Wales has been invaluable for the Welsh film and television sector, helping us to elevate Wales as a premier production location and giving Wales a global advantage over other regions.

We will continue to build on this success, to deliver an even stronger Creative Industries Sector for the future.