News | Gillian Clarke's Letter to Ken Skates AM

News | Gillian Clarke’s Letter to Ken Skates AM

July 11th Update

Gillian Clarke has published a letter to Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates AM detailing her disagreements with the Panel of the Independent Review of Support for Publishing and Literature in Wales. Clarke, who was Welsh Poet Laureate from 2008-2016, lists the inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the report in relation to their findings on the Ty Newydd writing centre in North Wales, of which Clarke is co-founder and president. In the statement, Clarke writes that

I am more proud of Tŷ Newydd and its record running writing courses for schools and adults than of anything else I have achieved for writers in Wales. Members of the panel did not visit Tŷ Newydd, or talk to the staff working there, or contact me, its inaugurator and President, or speak to me as National Poet of Wales for the previous eight years.

Wales Arts Review understands that Clarke is one of several high profile Welsh writers who have submitted letters to the Cabinet Secretary’s office voicing concerns about the robustness of the Review, Chaired by Professor Medwin Hughes.

Wales Arts Review itself sent a letter to Ken Skates in late June raising its concerns over the Panel’s outdated and superficial understanding of digital literature. Many of the same points were made in Gary Raymond’s article of last week.

Clarke’s statement, published today on the Literature Wales website, can be read in full here.

It comes soon after a series of strongly-worded responses from Arts Council of Wales, Literature Wales, and a statement from Literature Wales Chair Damian Walford Davies, who cited “a wholly unacceptable incident at the Panel interview with Literature Wales officers on 23 June 2016 – for which I [DWD] demanded an apology for the failure of a Panel member to adhere to professional standards.”

Both ACW and Literature Wales have now stated that they have submitted fully evidenced extensive responses to the Review to the Welsh Government.

 

July 10th

The Arts Council of Wales have today published a response to the controversial Independent Review of Support for Publishing and Literature in Wales. The statement says that ACW debated the Review at its board meeting on Friday and are “deeply disappointed with the quality of this report”. The statement goes on to say that a full and detailed response has been forwarded to the Welsh Government, but goes on to make three points ACW feel are important to make “here and now”.

They are as follows:-

1. Significant changes are proposed to the delivery of activities currently managed by Literature Wales. We are not convinced by the suggestion that these should be transferred to the Welsh Books Council. The Books Council has many strengths, but the report contains no assessment of whether these particular changes are likely to work. This single solution is advanced with no evaluation of its benefits and no assessment of its value for money. This is a poor basis for proposing such radical change.

2. The report does not present a balanced view of the activities, achievements and competence of Literature Wales. The report chooses to present Literature Wales as an organisation teetering on the brink of crisis, unfit to receive public funding. We categorically disagree with this opinion.

Literature Wales receives significant Arts Council funding, so we naturally have a vested interest in seeing the organisation succeed. But we also have a responsibility to the Welsh taxpayer as stewards of public funds. We had provided the review panel with a careful and rounded view of our analysis of the challenges faced by Literature Wales and the progress that it was making to grow and develop activity. This was not reflected in the report.

3. We offered the Panel a number of observations on a more integrated approach to supporting the Publishing and Literature sectors. These included comments on how funding might be organised and distributed differently in the future. We were therefore dismayed to see the report suggesting that we were advocating a merging of the Arts Council and Welsh Books Council. In fact our original submission to the panel ruled out just such a suggestion.

This comes just four days after the Chair of Literature Wales, Damian Walford-Davies, published an extremely strong response to the report, which also made public for the first time an account of “a wholly unacceptable incident at the Panel interview with Literature Wales officers on 23 June 2016 – for which I [DWD] demanded an apology for the failure of a Panel member to adhere to professional standards.”

You can read the whole of Walford-Davies’ statement here.

And the whole of the Arts Council Statement here.