Proposed cuts of over £440,000 in funding for Welsh publishing would seriously compromise the country’s literature for both adults and children, and in both the Welsh and English languages.
The Welsh Government proposes a 10.5% cut to the annual budget of the Books Council of Wales, which includes a £273,000 cut to publishing grants.
Falling further behind
The acting chair of Cyhoeddi Cymru / Publishing Wales, Ashley Drake, says: “At a time when 30% of Welsh children live in poverty, and child literacy in Wales is the worst in the UK – with the latest PISA report showing Wales falling further behind the OECD average – such drastic cuts will mean fewer books published for children in Wales. The Welsh Government’s wish to improve the poor levels of child literacy won’t be achieved by denying children the books they so desperately need.”
“The Welsh Government has also committed itself to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050. But how can that aim be achieved if the budget to publish books in Welsh, for children and adults, is being slashed? This cut will also be disastrous for many Welsh publishers who are now facing a potentially large black hole in their companies’ budgets during incredibly difficult economic conditions.”
Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success. There is a verified link between reading and escaping poverty.Scottish Book Trust
Peter Gill, managing director of Cardiff and Llanelli-based publisher Graffeg, says: “Cuts in publishing support in Wales will mean we’re less able to take risks by commissioning young writers and illustrators. These young people are the future, the next generation of storytellers of children’s books, new literature, television programmes, film scripts, and digital content. Cuts in publishing budgets will result in fewer opportunities for our creative industries in education and entertainment, which regularly mine the literary talent of Wales that is initially published in books.”
A disaster for Welsh publishing
Originally released in Welsh as Llyfr Glas Nebo by Ceredigion-based publishers Y Lolfa, The Blue Book of Nebo won the Yoto Carnegie Medal in 2023. This was the first time a translated book won the prestigious award in its 87-year history, generating worldwide publicity. The book has now been published in seven languages and is an excellent example of how publishers use grants to nurture talented Welsh writers. This enables them to create wonderful books that can take the very best of Wales to readers around the world.
Penny Thomas of Caerphilly-based Firefly Press notes that the proposed 10.5% cut comes on top of an effective 37% cut after a decade and more of standstill budgets. “Welsh publishing has punched above its weight time and time again. Only last year The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros won the Yoto Carnegie Medal, the highest accolade in children’s and young adult publishing in the UK, in the face of competition from huge multinational publishers. This book, translated from Welsh, would not have been published in the UK without the funding it received.”
Thomas added: “Books for adults and children promote literacy, empathy, mental health and wellbeing, and cultural understanding. Reading for pleasure in childhood has been shown to be the single most important indicator of a child’s future success. To slash what is already a small budget producing huge results would be a disaster for our literature, our authors and illustrators, and the Welsh publishing industry, and [would be] a false economy.”
Aspects of Welshness
Manon Steffan Ros, the prize-winning author of Llyfr Glas Nebo / The Blue Book of Nebo, supports the plea for a rethink of the proposed cuts. She commented that “Welsh publishers are a key part of our culture, education, and creative economy, and are frankly doing miracles with the budget they have. Cuts to this budget will have a long-lasting and detrimental effect.”
“There will be so many brilliant books that don’t see the light of day. So many readers deprived of books that really speak to them. So many authors not given the opportunity to write and publish and develop their careers.”
“Everyone should have access to books which represent them, books that have characters that reflect their lives. Cuts to Welsh publishers will make this so much more difficult. There are so many different ways to be Welsh. And the Welsh Government has a responsibility to ensure that all those aspects of Welshness are represented within our literature.”