Literature Wales Statement, 11 July
On Wednesday 5 July, Literature Wales submitted to the Welsh Government an extensive response to the Independent Review of Support for Publishing and Literature in Wales, chaired by Professor Medwin Hughes. Literature Wales was invited by Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates to submit its response following a meeting between Literature Wales and Welsh Government officials on 22 June.
The submission identifies the numerous factual errors, inconsistencies, misrepresentations, contradictions and omissions that compromise the integrity of the review. It also poses a series of robust questions, asking the Welsh Government to consider whether the Panel has provided a fully informed and impartial analysis of the publishing and literature sector, and whether it has fulfilled the terms of its brief. The Cabinet Secretary has invited Professor Medwin Hughes to respond to the submission in a face-to-face meeting with Literature Wales.
An independent review of the Welsh Government’s support for publishing and literature in Wales would have been a timely and valuable opportunity to evaluate – and enhance – the vitality and effectiveness of a multifaceted and culturally significant sector. Since its creation in 2011, Literature Wales has led on a democratised agenda of literary creation and engagement (with a specific focus on working with individuals and communities at risk of exclusion) and has long called for a better-connected sector. It therefore awaited the findings of this review with anticipation. It is unfortunate that this opportunity has been missed owing to the significantly flawed nature of the review.
The recommendations presented by the Panel are based on incorrect evidence of Literature Wales’s own remit and programme of work. The review contains misleading and inaccurate accounts of Literature Wales’s governance, as well as its willingness to interact with the Panel. The Chair of Literature Wales offers further detail in a separate statement.
The criticisms the Panel levels at Literature Wales’s governance are unsubstantiated. Documents contradicting these claims, supported by evidence presented by the Arts Council of Wales, were made available to the Panel. Literature Wales reports to a variety of external organisations, trusts and foundations and its independently audited accounts are presented annually to Companies House, Charity Commission and Arts Council of Wales. Since its inception in 2011, no concerns have been raised by these organisations regarding Literature Wales’s transparency or rigour.
Literature Wales’s remit and full programme of work have been inaccurately presented by the Panel. Information regarding Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre is incorrect and out of date, and the report does not include a balanced consideration of many of Literature Wales’s most successful projects. These include: National Poet of Wales; Bardd Plant Cymru; Young People’s Laureate for Wales; literary tourism activity including Land of Legends; international projects such as Barddoniaeth Colled | Poetry of Loss and International Dylan Thomas Day; Her 100 Cerdd; and outreach engagement work in disadvantaged communities.
The year-long celebration of Roald Dahl’s centenary in 2016 is also overlooked. With additional funding from Welsh Government, Literature Wales supported a major programme of activities throughout Wales, engaging over 40,000 people and supporting over 130 writers and literary practitioners to deliver activity. One of Literature Wales’s Roald Dahl-inspired outreach projects took place at Parc Prison, Bridgend and won a prestigious Arts and Business Award recently (23 June).
With these omissions, and in its definition of literature as that which is published in book form alone, the Panel reveals a limited view of the sector that excludes thousands of writers and numerous contemporary literary forms e.g. graphic novels, digital forms such as #instapoetry, spoken word artists and songwriters. Literature Wales strongly challenges this narrow definition of literature and will continue to enable a diverse, innovative and inclusive literary sector.
Literature Wales was heartened to receive confirmation of the Cabinet Secretary’s confidence in the organisation’s ability to deliver successful programmes and initiatives on behalf of Welsh Government. Literature Wales’s vision is that literature belongs to everybody and can be found everywhere, and this belief continues to underpin all of our work. We will continue to work creatively with a wide range of partners to ensure that literature, as the most democratic of all art forms, continues to be a voice for all.
Literature Wales is awaiting a formal response from the Panel’s Chair (at the invitation of the Cabinet Secretary) with regard to the concerns raised.
Salary Costs: The review states: “The Panel was surprised to identify that 75% of LWs’ budget was spent on its own staff’s salary costs” (p 63). This analysis is incorrect and the actual figure is 44%-47% for 2016-19, as presented in the budgets shared with the Panel. This is also consistent with the past three financial years, 2013-16.
Governance: Literature Wales reports to a variety of external organisations, trusts and foundations and the organisation’s independently audited accounts are presented annually to Companies House, Charity Commission and Arts Council of Wales.
Literature Wales has also been a delegated Lottery Fund distributor since 2015 and has been subject to detailed scrutiny by Welsh Government during the application and delivery process for initiatives such as Dylan Thomas 100, Roald Dahl 100 Wales, and Land of Legends. Its Articles of Association are approved by Companies House and the Charity Commission and reflect their advice and governance best practice.
Meeting between the Panel and Chair of Literature Wales: See statement (of 6 July) from the Chair of Literature Wales on this matter:
Literature Wales in numbers:
In the financial year 2016 – 2017 Literature Wales:
• Engaged with over 101,000 adults and 45,000 children and young people from across Wales.
• Worked in all 22 local authorities in Wales
• Awarded a total bursary fund of £70,000 supporting 20 writers
• Reached a potential online audience of over 3.7 million through Wales Book of the Year
• Received over 16,600 page views (on National Poetry Day) on the Her100Cerdd blog with a potential social reach of 1.67 million
• Supported 421 literary events, workshops and talks through its Writers on Tour funding scheme
• Worked with over 500 writers across all activities
• Fundraised over £200,000 in additional project grants