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This report is taken from PN Review 110, Volume 22 Number 6, July - August 1996.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

In 1995 it was Swansea's turn to host the UK Year of Literature. Why Cardiff decided not to be in the running for the festival remains a mystery, but Swansea bid for it and, with the backing and know-how of the administration team of Yr Academi Gymreig, the Welsh Academy of writers, was successful. It is a matter for speculation whether anyone outside Wales, apart from participating writers and ex-President Jimmy Carter, who was invited to open the Dylan Thomas exhibition, knew much about it. In Wales we wondered what lasting good might come of it: that is still hazy, but there is more promise of useful continuity than at first appeared. The start was inauspidous. In a small scale rehearsal of the Cardiff Bay Opera House fiasco, the local council vetoed Will Alsop's winning entry for the competition to design a new library and Tŷ LIên (house of literature) which was to be the major venue for the festival and a permanent landmark. Alsop's colourful, imaginative, flexible design, which might have put Wales on the map architecturally, was altogether too much for the City Fathers, who know what they like and take their cue from Prince Charles. One Year of Literature director came, and went. The next stayed but had less time to prepare. Early events were under-advertised, audiences were disappointing and dire predictions were made. But then the programme got into its stride, writers attracted a good turn out, of mostly local enthusiasts, and finally a success ...


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