Welsh publishing: Lleucu Siencyn

Welsh publishing: Lleucu Siencyn

If ever there was an organisation that needed a rebrand it was Literature Wales, which until earlier this year was called Academi, the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency & Society for Writers.  

"It didn't quite trip off the tongue," acknowledges Lleucu Siencyn [pronounced Lakey Shen-kin], the arts organisation's acting chief executive. "We wanted something that did what it said on the tin. We wanted to reach a wider audience, and we found there was a lot of people in Wales who didn't know what we did, and didn't know that there was a national company looking after literature."

In April 2011, Literature Wales was born, not just with a new name but a new structure, as Academi joined forces with the Ty Newydd National Writers' Centre for Wales. Ty Newydd—based in the former country pile of Lloyd George—runs creative writing courses, funds bursaries and promotes translation. Literature Wales will continue to sponsor its flagship competitions—including the Welsh Book Awards—and fund projects and posts such as the National Poet of Wales.

The restructure came out of a spending review Arts Council Wales conducted in 2010, in which 32 out of 103 Welsh arts groups lost their funding. Literature Wales was spared, and Siencyn says that this underscores that the organisation needs to show value for money. "We have to work extremely hard for people to see what we do, that literature is there for everybody, not just for a perceived smaller group."

She points to the long-running scheme Writers on Tour, co-funded by the Literature Wales, which enables community groups to book writers for events. Earlier this year, the scheme hit one million attendees in its 10 years. She says: "It has been successful because at its core it is inexpensive—as little as £50 for an event—small scale, grassroots and community led."
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This year, there is a focus for Literature Wales on children and young people. On 18th October it will announce the new Welsh Young People's Laureate. Siencyn says: "We had a good look at ourselves and thought we hadn't worked hard enough to promote literature for young people; we want to work hard for children's literature to have the same high status as poetry in Wales."

The new laureate is called "Young People's" because the focus of the post will be on getting older children and teens reading more. The launch will be accompanied by a pop-up shop which will host readings, writing workshops and book events in an unusual location: next to the food court in Cardiff's popular St David's shopping centre, in a site given rent-free to Literature Wales. There will then be roadshows for the pop-up shop throughout the country.  

Another new project in the works is a series of literature festivals at different National Trust properties, due to kick off next year at Dinefwr Castle in Carmarthenshire. Siencyn describes it as "a sort of Literary Green Man, a cross-platform event that will be mainly literature but also a bit of music and other art forms".

With straightened government budgets, it is these partnerships that Literature Wales will increasingly focus on. "We can't go cap in hand to seek extra funding, because that money isn't really out there. But we can match our expertise with theirs, bring our writers to their venues, and bring literature to as wide an audience as possible."