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This report is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

Thirty-odd years ago, I was for a time a member of the Literature Committee of the Welsh Arts Council. The committee lacked neither ideas nor energy, and Meic Stephens, the Literature Director, invariably had an initiative or two up his sleeve if we showed signs of flagging. Everything was done tidily and economically, or on the cheap, for there was never enough money to meet the realistic needs of writers, editors and publishers, far less fund anything outrageous. The proportion of the WAC grant allocated to literature was minuscule. There were always critics of the committee and its works, not least among them writers who felt they deserved recognition and hand-outs, and became furious when neither came their way. Nevertheless, it survived pretty well until the nineties, and then succumbed to cuts and wild anti-élitist notions, before the functions of the Arts Council were transformed by new responsibilities in relation to the national lottery.

Labour's manifesto for the 2003 National Assembly election promised to sweep away the quangos that, for good or ill, have had a good deal of influence on health, education and culture in Wales. In the tawdry media world of the political adviser and the soundbite this pledge became known as 'the bonfire of the quangos', though what may be the implications of echoing the title of a novel by Tom Wolfe is anyone's guess. The First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, let it be known that high on the list of bodies destined for the ...
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