Thursday, 24 March 2011

Bigger Than The Beatles

Come Together sang the Beatles in 1969 and we’ve been trying hard ever since. There are some great joinings out there. S4C and the BBC, Egypt and Libya, Spain and Gibraltar, Concord and Concorde, fish and chips, the Tories and the Liberals, Bradford & Bingley and Santander. John Lennon when he wrote that song from Abbey Road had in mind acid guru Timothy Leary’s Come Together campaign to oust Ronald Regan as governor of California. Lennon wanted revolution but Leary lost.

Back in Wales we have our own versions of togetherness. Plaid and Labour, Gwynedd and Anglesey, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the University of Wales, Swansea and Neath (now almost one city), Cardiff and Newport, still ten miles apart but from the Welcome to Newport signs on the road leading east from St Melons you wouldn’t know. It’s a Welsh thing, I suppose, because when you are small, as most things are in this country, then joining with someone else will make you bigger. The bigger the better. In a place where small has been beautiful for a lifetime that’s a revolution in itself.

The coming together of Ty Newydd, Wales’ National gem of a centre for writers and Academi, the literature promotion agency is something that’s been in the back of administrator’s minds for at least a decade. If the aim is to provide both consumers and creators of writing with a country in which to flourish then administrative slickness, financial security, and strategic clout become desirable options.

From April this year these two vital organisations will join together to become Literature Wales. In simplistic terms this means one web site, one ticketing agency, one place to call for literary excitement, access and advice.

Strategically this will ensure that that literature in Wales will now benefit from a truly national and rival-free delivery. From well-funded festivals in places where they’ve previously not been. From a commercially sponsored and completely restructured Wales Book of the Year. From free student and young people’s membership to Wales’s august Society of Writers. From a campaign to bring writers, reading and writing into the heart of communities that have previously felt themselves denied, disparaged or ignored. From a truly unified striding of Welsh writers on the international stage and a bringing to Wales of the writers of the world. To a knitting together of the loose threads of our culture, making theatre talk to poetry, linking health care to literature and putting our writers and their work in public places from the Cardiff Bay Barrage to the lighthouses off Anglesey.

Literature Wales, with the able support of the Arts Council, will put our literatures right where they need to be, make them enviable, accessible and enjoyable. Best of all Literature Wales will make them glow.

An earelier version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail. #190

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