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This report is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

For several months readers of the correspondence column of the Western Mail have been entertained by a dogfight over the subsidies that the Arts Council of Wales provides to support literature. This is a familiar battlefield, and the protagonists' standards carry the same devices even if the flagbearers have changed over the years. One side complains that public money is poured into the hands of an élite for the production of books and magazines which don't sell, while the claims of its own broad-based appeal to the artistically-inclined man in the street are ignored or fobbed off with a pittance. The other, of course, argues that it represents high standards in writing and publishing and that, in any case, its products have a readership as large as similarly subsidised books and journals in England. The dispute has got no one anywhere in the past and is likely to have the same outcome this time round - and the next. A difference on this occasion is that it has somehow involved Dr Kim Howells, the Pontypridd MP who rose to prominence during the ill-fated miners' strike. He has emerged from behind the portcullis to fire salvoes of withering scorn on the beneficiaries of ACW largesse. 'Self-obsessed' he calls them, and manufacturers of 'boring rubbish'. People in glass houses, or even the Palace of Westminster…

There is then a political dimension to the affair. The Honourable Gentleman, who finds the concept of even New Labour's emasculated Welsh Assembly difficult ...


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