The Library of Wales: influencing Government Policy to benefit the Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Education and General Readers
Submitting InstitutionSwansea University
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
The publication of The Library of Wales series, of Welsh literary
works in English, was funded by the Welsh Government as a direct result of
evidence given to the National Assembly of Wales by Thomas. The evidence
was based on research carried out at Swansea University, and made the case
for bringing a neglected but artistically and culturally important body of
literature back into print. Since 2008 the series, edited by Smith, has
delivered economic benefit to its publisher; provided new content for
cultural tourism events; raised awareness of Welsh writing in English
amongst new audiences; and made new material available for educational and
[References to publications in Section 3 are given in square brackets
Context: Welsh literature in English was ignored by most schools
and universities until Welsh Devolution in 1997. M. W. Thomas and D. Smith
mapped a culturally distinct body of Anglophone Welsh literature and
argued that acceptance and understanding of the distinctive bilingual
literary heritage of Wales was the precondition of imagining contemporary
Wales, from the post-industrial South and the cosmopolitan cities of
Cardiff and Swansea, to the rural Welsh-speaking West and North. The Welsh
Government addressed the nation's neglect of its Anglophone literature in
2003-4 and Thomas was invited to give evidence to the National Assembly on
the significant cultural deficit identified by his research. He emphasized
the need to make key texts of this important heritage available for all.
Subsequently, the research of Thomas, Smith and Bohata informed the
selection of titles published in the resulting Library of Wales
series, including titles such as Brenda Chamberlain's A Rope of Vines,
Ron Berry's Flame and Slag, and Geraint Goodwin's The Heyday
in the Blood.
Details of research: Thomas's work [R4, R5] interrogated the
cultural implications of the bilingualism of Wales, while Smith [R2, R3]
specialized in the particular historical context of avant- garde fiction
produced in the industrial South. In Corresponding Cultures: The Two
Literatures of Wales, Thomas juxtaposed rare and out of print
English-language texts with literature in Welsh to illustrate Wales's
conflicted literary history [R4]. In 2003 he published Welsh Writing
in English — the only authoritative study to map and analyze a broad
spectrum of C20th Anglophone writing [R5]. This literature, he argued, is
essential to a stateless nation whose separate identity, like Scotland's,
has been for centuries substantially maintained by its writers, in the
absence of institutions.
Smith's research rediscovered the urgent leftist writing of Welsh
coalfield writers, founders of an internationally significant tradition
from Lewis Jones, Gwyn Thomas and Ron Berry to Raymond Williams [R2, R3].
He revealed that the literary experimentalism and political ideology of
the industrial areas of Wales created a cultural entity, a `South Wales'
that, according Smith is comparable to Faulkner's `South' in being `an
emotional idea' rather than just a geographical expression [R2]. Smith's
canon of South Wales writers has heavily informed the selection of texts
for the Library of Wales. Other Swansea research which contributed
to establishing the new field of study and expanding the canon included K.
Bohata's Postcolonialism Revisited: Writing Wales in English [R1].
Developed from a PhD thesis supervised by Thomas (1999-2001), Bohata's
research, informed by postcolonial critical theory, provided new readings
of Arthur Machen, Rhys Davies, Margiad Evans and Alun Lewis, raising the
profile of Welsh women writers and prompting the inclusion in the series
of In The Green Tree by Alun Lewis (letters and stories from
India) and two books by Machen.
- Thomas: Professor of English at Swansea (since 1995) and Emyr Humphreys
Chair of Welsh Writing in English (since 2008): Thomas founded CREW, the
Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales, and
was awarded an OBE for his services to the literature of Wales in 2007.
- Smith: Raymond Williams Chair of Welsh Culture, CREW, Swansea (2005 -
- Bohata: Associate Professor at Swansea (2007 - present).
References to the research
Swansea University researchers are in bold. All University of
Wales Press publications are peer-reviewed.
[R1] Bohata, K. Postcolonialism Revisited: Writing Wales in
English (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2004) pp. 212, ISBN
[R2] Smith, D., Aneurin Bevan and the World of South Wales
(Cardiff: University of Wales Press,1993), pp. 359, ISBN 0708312160
[R3] Smith, D., Wales: A Question for History (Bridgend:
Seren, 1999), pp. 216, ISBN 1854111256 specifically the introduction and
two new essays in this revised edition of Smith's Wales! Wales?
[R4] Thomas, M. W. Corresponding Cultures: the two
literatures of Wales (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999) pp.
295, ISBN 0708315313.
[R5] Thomas, M. W. (ed) A Guide to Welsh Literature, Volume
VII: Welsh Writing in English (Cardiff: University of Wales Press,
2003) pp. 348, ISBN 0708316794, including the following contributions by Thomas:
`Introduction' 1-6; Brown and Thomas `The Problems of Belonging'
165-202; Aaron and Thomas, `"Pulling you through Changes": Welsh
writing in English before, between and after two Referenda' 278-309.
Details of the impact
Numbers in square brackets refer to sources in section five.
Thomas's evidence to the National Assembly for Wales's Culture Committee
[C1] led directly to the establishment of the Library of Wales.
Using the research outlined above, Thomas argued that a great body of
literature was unavailable to general readers and students and that where
such books were reprinted `no provision [was] made for delivery or for
creating a market' [C2]. Taking as his model the Library of
America, that `great, popular monument to the literary
achievements of the USA' [C1], Thomas suggested the creation of a
`Library of Wales', which would require generous funding from the
Government. The Culture Committee duly made this recommendation which the
Government accepted with cross-party support. Smith was appointed to
create a blueprint for the project, Thomas was appointed to oversee the
development of the publishing franchise and funding arrangements at the
Welsh Books Council, and the first titles in the series appeared in 2006.
They were eagerly received on both sides of the Atlantic, including being
adopted for BBC R4 Book at Bedtime, Andrew Marr's Start the Week, and
promotions in American Barnes & Noble stores.
CREW Development of the Library of Wales since 2008
The Library of Wales is currently edited by Smith and is
overseen by Thomas in his position of Chair of the Welsh Books
Council. The publisher, Parthian Books, has an office at Swansea
University. New titles are selected by Smith in consultation with CREW
colleagues (CREW drafted a list of 100 titles for the Welsh Books Council
in 2004 during the planning/lobbying phase). Additional advice from
academics and teachers is sought, and now the series is well-established
proposals are received from the public, leading to the rediscovery, for
example, of Stead Jones's novel Make Room for the Jester, which
now has an introduction by Philip Pullman.
Impact and beneficiaries of the Library of Wales 2008-13
Since 2008, new funding worth £280,000 has been awarded to the Welsh Books
Council to develop the Library of Wales. To date 38 titles have
appeared, 25 of those published since 2008, accruing total sales of
56,000. Principal beneficiaries are: a) the publisher, Parthian
Books (major boost to turnover and profile); b) the Welsh Books Council
(the grant for the series represented a 20% increase in the annual budget
for English-language books); c) schoolchildren and university students
(all schools and public libraries in Wales have a complete set of the
series and titles are now studied in schools and universities), and d) the
public, in Wales and beyond, who have been made newly aware of the
strength and diversity of the Welsh literary heritage.
Economic Benefit for Publisher
Sales for 2008-13 total 38,700 books. Income from the Welsh Government
grant in 2008-2013 totals £250,000, with turnover for the series at c.
£75,000 per year [C3; C4]. The economies of scale generated by the series
in the period since 2008 have led to substantial strengthening of the
company's infrastructure and the series created new jobs (Manager, Editor,
Marketing = 1 FTE post) and work experience via 20 internships and 4 paid
graduate placements (Go Wales). [C3]
Welsh government funding made it possible for Parthian to experiment with
electronic publishing. In 2010, Parthian made all Library of Wales
titles available as e-books (via Faber Fiction Factory and Amazon Kindle);
e-books increased sales by as much as 25% on promotional titles. This test
case was the foundation of a very lucrative e-book strategy for the whole
Parthian list, and led to the creation of new digital initiatives by the
Welsh Books Council to support other publishers in Wales (e.g. new grants
for publishers to develop e-books and new e-pub platforms supported via
its online bookshop gwales.com) [C4].
Raising the profile of writing from Wales: developing readerships in
Wales and beyond
New audiences have been developed for Welsh writing in English by the much
higher marketing budget (£20k per year) promoting brand awareness of the Library
of Wales. All titles are available as e-books, extending reach;
point of sale stands are prominent in bookshops, cultural centres and
tourist venues [C4]. Sales for the Library of Wales are double and
in some cases quadruple the average sales for a new literary novel in
Wales: average sale for a new Library of Wales title is 1,600,
with some totalling 4,000-6,500 [C3, C4]. Public consciousness of
Anglophone Welsh literary heritage has been raised. Reader Development
Officers have used the Library of Wales titles for Reading Groups
across Wales and readers have pursued new titles in the series as they
appear. The Library of Wales as a series was chosen as the
centrepiece of a televised debate (The Sunday Politics Show,
4.11.12) on arts funding, in which CREW postgraduate students appeared
alongside Assembly Members to discuss the value and impact of the series.
Sample testimonies convey the way the series has changed people's view of
Welsh literary heritage. One reader encapsulates the value of the series
as follows: "it has been refreshing to see Welsh writing that would
otherwise have slipped me by. They have widened my appreciation
and knowledge of Welsh writing, leading me to want to read more"
[C5]. A student of literature at Durham University said "I chose to
write my dissertation on Welsh Writing in English specifically because I
discovered the Library of Wales series. Prior to that I would have had
no idea where to start with Welsh Writing in English as a literary
tradition." [C6] The writer, Rachel Trezise (who won the inaugural
£60,000 Dylan Thomas Prize for her book about Valleys life) has spoken in
public about the impact of the series on her: "I dedicated my novel
Sixteen Shades of Crazy to Gwyn Thomas. When I embarked on my writing
career I'd never heard of him, or any other writers from the Rhondda,
but because of the Library of Wales I have gradually come to
realise that the south Wales valley novel is an established tradition; a
path I'm following, not forging." [C7]
The importance of the series as a `brand' is recognized by politicians,
ordinary readers and the creative industries. Since 2008, successive
ministers have endorsed the impact of the Library of Wales by
extending the funding for the series. In 2008, the First Minister Rhodri
Morgan said of the Library of Wales that it is "One of the best
things we've supported as a government", and in 2012 the Minister
for Culture described it an `excellent way of selling our nation to the
world' [C8]. Outside Wales, readership has been expanded by
translations of some titles (into Spanish and Arabic) and the sale of
foreign rights. The series is distributed across the UK and USA, and sales
beyond Wales account for 42% of the total.
Impact on tourism and creative industries
The Library of Wales has generated spin-off events and creative
opportunities, evidenced by:
- National Theatre of Wales's successful adaptation of a Library of
Wales title, Gwyn Thomas's The Dark Philosophers, staged
nationally (2010) and beyond (Edinburgh 2011).
- Literary tours organized by national promotional agency, Literature
Wales, based on Library of Wales titles, taking place from
Soho to Rhondda. Nine different tours have run since 2008, each
averaging 40 people, plus on-line `tourists' who download maps and
reading lists. Tours generate economic benefits for the host venues,
including hire costs, catering and transport [C9].
- An established partnership (2006 - ongoing) with the Hay Festival.
This year Prince Charles was presented with a full set of the Library
of Wales during his visit to Hay.
Impact on education and ongoing Welsh Government policy
Sustaining the wider literary heritage of Wales is now seen by the Welsh
government to be a key component in creating and sustaining an ongoing
sense of modern Welsh culture and history. The Government's education
policy, the Curriculum Cymreig (Welsh Curriculum), requires that schools
educate children about the history, culture and politics of Wales. The
Welsh Government provides a full set of the Library of Wales to
all secondary schools and colleges in Wales, giving teachers new material
to help pupils understand their local and national cultural heritage. A
teaching pack was published to help teachers introduce a range of Library
of Wales titles in the classroom at Key Stage 4 and 5 [C10].
To extend the impact of literature and arts in education, the Minister
for Education commissioned CREW's Smith to undertake wide consultation and
produce a report on "Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales: An
Independent Report for the Welsh Government" (2013). The report recommends
that the Welsh Government makes `creativity', including critical
appreciation and creative practice of literature, a `core theme' alongside
Literacy and Numeracy in the Welsh curriculum, since literature is crucial
to developing an informed citizenry and an understanding of cultural
identity. This is the same premise that underpins the sustained initiative
of Welsh Government funding for the Library of Wales [C11]. The
minister will respond in the autumn of 2013, and CREW has been invited to
give a policy briefing session for National Assembly members and civil
servants on the Library of Wales, education and the future of
Welsh writing in English in November 2013.
Sources to corroborate the impact
[C1] National Assembly of Wales, `Policy Review: English Medium Writing
in Wales, 15/10/2003. Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee
CWLS(2)-04-03(p.3)' at http://www.assemblywales.org/N0000000000000000000000000013106.pdf
[C2] Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee, Welsh Writing in
English: A Review (National Assembly for Wales, March 2004), see 2.3
Classic Works, pp 19-20.
[C3] Quantative data supplied by Parthian Books, The Old Surgery, Napier
Street, Cardigan, SA43 1ED
[C4] Director, Welsh Books Council (see contacts)
[C5] Reader Development Officer, Neath Port Talbot (see contacts)
[C6] Former Durham University student (see contacts)
[C7] Author, Rachel Trezise (see contacts)
[C8] Ministerial Quotes: Morgan, 2008 in Library of Wales Franchise
Document, Parthian Books, 2011; Culture Minister Huw Lewis, 2012:
Press Release, `50,000 sales for out of print books' (Oct 2012) http://thelibraryofwales.com/node/112
[C9] Project Officer, Literature Wales (see contacts)
[C10] Library of Wales Educational Resource Pack, ISBN
[C11] Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales-An Independent Report
for the Welsh Government by Professor Dai Smith (published by the
Welsh Government in September 2013).