Literature Wales stunned at 'dud' review of its work

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Media captionProf Damian Walford Davies said there was "outrage" over the critical review

Literature Wales' head has accused an independent review of its work of being a "dud", filled with "inaccuracies".

The Welsh Government-sponsored review recommends stripping the body of most of its responsibilities and is strongly critical of management and governance.

Chairman Prof Damian Walford Davies told BBC Wales the review's conclusions had stunned staff at Literature Wales.

The review panel said it would be premature to comment with the recommendations still being considered.

Literature Wales was created in 2011 to promote and develop reading and writing and had an income of about £1.2m last year.

Prof Davies said: "When the report was published we were dismayed, we were shocked, we were outraged by the dud that this report is. By its inaccuracies, by its under-par research into the field."

Conclusions of the review, written by Prof Medwin Hughes, have also been criticised by the Arts Council of Wales, which funds the Cardiff-based Literature Wales.

When the report was published last month, the Economy Secretary Ken Skates said he was "minded" to accept its recommendations.

But Prof Davies said Mr Skates had since invited Literature Wales to submit a response to the review's conclusions.

"We met with the cabinet secretary [Ken Skates] and said that we needed a right of reply," he said.

"We needed not only the opportunity to put our case forward, but to correct the misrepresentations, the absences and the inaccuracies of the report.

"The cabinet secretary invited us to submit a full dossier of those concerns and those corrections. We have done so. That document runs to something like 5,000 words.

"That contains not only those corrections, not only counter-arguments, but documentary proof and analysis. That is a crack piece of work that blows this report out of the water."

Image copyright Eva-Katalin/Getty Images

Among its conclusions, the review said the board of Literature Wales lacked experience and governance skills.

The review recommends that Welsh Government:

  • Strips Literature Wales of its responsibilities for the Wales Book of the Year, writers' bursaries, literary events, and its work with children and young people.
  • Transfers those responsibilities to a better-funded Welsh Books Council.
  • Leaves Literature Wales and the Arts Council of Wales with responsibility for smaller cultural events and festivals.
  • Ty Newydd Writing Centre in Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd, should remain the responsibility of Literature Wales.
  • Improve governance and accountability at Literature Wales.
  • Support translation of Welsh language literature into English

Mr Skates, who is considering the review's findings, declined to be interviewed.

Prof Davies said the evidence it had recently submitted to Mr Skates provided "context" that would correct a lack of evidence for its conclusions.

"It is my fervent belief that those wider contexts make this report's recommendations seem what they are. Un-evidenced and un-thought through. Two years, and what do we have, this dud?

"It's simply unacceptable for the people of Wales. This report cost money. Why on earth do we get this quality of work, this quality of thinking? This report hasn't even been proof read, and that's the least of its worries."

Image copyright Cardiff Book Festival
Image caption Literature Wales supports events like the Cardiff Book Festival

The Arts Council of Wales (ACW) said it was "deeply disappointed by the quality of this report".

"What we have is a report that is partial in its analysis and inconsistent in its judgement," it said. "This undermines the authority of the review panel's conclusions."

But author Jasmine Donahaye said: "Many of the comments in the report, the public submissions, comment on things which have been criticisms for quite a while.

"I think a key thing is for Literature Wales now to face that criticism, address it, respond to it and re-engage with those writers who have been alienated from the organisation."

Major stakeholders are still consulting with the Welsh Government on the review's recommendations.

Prof Medwin Hughes, the review chairman, said to maintain its independence "it is premature to comment further on the report until the process has stopped completely".

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