The Welsh books world has issued a â€œhuge diolchâ€ to the hundreds of authors, from Philip Pullman to Sarah Waters, whose support pressured the Welsh government into a dramatic change of heart over its plans to cut funding to the Welsh Books Council.
This week saw writers and publishers come together to protest the Welsh governmentâ€™s proposed cut of 10.6% to the Welsh Books Council, which they said would have â€œa significant and deleterious impactâ€ on literature from Wales. A letter to Welsh deputy culture minister Ken Skates calling for the plans to be halted was signed by names including the national poet of Wales Gillian Clarke and the TS Eliot prize-winning poet Philip Gross, while a petition garnered more than 2,000 signatures, including those of Pullman and Waters.
After initially saying that â€œdifficult decisions have had to be made in order to protect the services that people rely on the mostâ€, on Wednesday afternoon the Welsh government changed its position, and announced that the cuts would not be going ahead.
â€œWe reviewed the position of the Welsh Books Council in view of the impact the proposed budget reduction would have on the publishing industry in Wales, in particular taking into account the implications in terms of the Welsh language, and have decided not to impose the cut originally proposed in the draft budget,â€ said Skates in a statement. â€œThis will mean the Welsh Books Councilâ€™s budget for the forthcoming year will remain at the same level as this year.â€
Poet and editor Kathryn Gray, who organised the letter to Skates from writers, hailed the news as a â€œsplendid victory for Welsh cultureâ€. â€œWe stood in solidarity as a community, and the outcome is nothing short of spectacular. We are also enormously grateful to all those who mobilised on social media on behalf of the cause. We would like to thank the deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism for listening to our concerns and commend him on a wise decision, which will allow creative endeavour to continue to flourish,â€ she said.
Novelist and academic Angharad Price, who had marshalled Welsh-language writers against the cuts, including former national poets Gwyneth Lewis and Gwyn Thomas, issued a â€œhuge diolch to everybodyâ€.
Gross, who had warned earlier this week that â€œthere is a particular boldness of imagination that is alive in the Welsh culture that needs supportingâ€, also welcomed the change of heart. â€œSuch a rapid wholehearted response from people in every corner of Welsh writing â€“ and that fact that our voices were heard by government â€“ shows what a vital part literature plays in the life of Wales and the world beyond,â€ he said.
Skatesâ€™s statement went on to say that the initial decision to reduce the Welsh Books Councilâ€™s budget by 10.6%, which campaigners said equated to a financial shortfall of Â£374,000, had not been taken lightly.
â€œThe budget settlement for the Welsh government has been difficult and budget reductions have had to be made in a number of areas. These decisions are not taken lightly,â€ said the minister. â€œHowever, we have listened very carefully to the sector and I am pleased we are able to remove the reduction in this instance, along with providing additional in-year funding for the Welsh Books Council to undertake urgent works on its headquarters and distribution centre and upgrade ICT systems. This will benefit the whole publishing industry in Wales, as well as the Books Council itself, which I am confident will continue to have a key role in promoting the publishing industry in Welsh and English and delivering our Welsh-language strategy in future.â€