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This report is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.

Oriel into H.M.S.O. Peter Finch

Oriel Bookshop opened in the spring of 1975, brain child of the poet Raymond Garlick and the Welsh Arts Coundl Literature Director, Meic Stephens. The climate for the subsidy of literature in Wales was good: even Charles Osborne said so. Garlick, former editor of the Anglo-Welsh Review, was concerned that the chain of subsidy snaking from writer, via bursaries, awards, and prizes, to the printer, publisher, designer and distributor never actually got as far as the reader. New works of literary merit, especially poetry, sat on bookshop shelves for so brief a time before being replaced with newer, more saleable and inevitably more downmarket lines. In the commercial arena the public were drowning in pap. Garlick wrote a paper on the subject for the Arts Council's Literature Committee, 'The Final Link'. The idea for a subsidised bookshop which had a brief actually to promote the avoided, neglected and commercially unacceptable gems of our literary culture was born.

The shop, christened Oriel, the Welsh word for gallery, readily pronounceable by English speakers, opened in a converted Victorian house situated in a side-street off Cardiff s main shopping thoroughfare. The Arts Council's gallery took over the ground floor where it ran a long series of innovative and usually Welsh based shows. The books were up a flight of rickety stairs on the first. We had the works of Saunders Lewis, the Mabinogion in translation, the racier bits of Dafydd ap Gwilym and the rantings of John Tripp. Downstairs they ...

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