2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the Books Council of Wales (BCW), and it has been a busy year to date for the national charity, which aims to support the publishing industry in Wales and promote reading for pleasure.
This January, BCW launched a brand new digital platform to showcase e-books from Wales, called ffolio.cymru. It is the first bilingual platform to focus on selling e-books from Wales. It launched with more than 800 fiction and non-fiction titles for children and adults, as well as educational books for children in both Welsh and English. More than 500 of the Welsh-language books on the website were also available as e-books for the first time. A percentage of each sale made through the site will go directly to help support independent bookshops in Wales. At the time, BCW chief executive Helgard Krause said: “In launching ffolio, we are providing a not-for-profit digital platform with a unique offer: a platform hosted in Wales, where almost every single e-book stems from a Wales-based publisher. The service will help keep jobs in the publishing industry in Wales, as well as support independent bookshops which make such an important contribution to our communities.”
BCW has also successfully lobbied the Welsh government to make extra funding available to supply schools and libraries with additional books, and has worked with local authorities to provide books for vulnerable families and children. It supported the Reading Well scheme, which provides books that boost health and wellbeing, and is delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Welsh network of Libraries Connected, the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru, with funding from the Welsh government and Arts Council England. A new Reading Well book list for children was also recently launched, comprising 33 titles and providing quality- assured information, advice and stories to support children’s mental health and wellbeing.
The charity also secured a significant amount of funding to enable a curated list of Welsh, English and bilingual reading for pleasure titles on health and wellbeing, to be distributed to all primary schools in Wales under the Iechyd Da scheme. Additional project funding enabled another curated list of Welsh-language titles to be distributed to all Welsh medium primary and secondary schools to support the reading for pleasure agenda, and all library authorities in the country also received a list of titles. Additionally, BCW worked with the Copyright Licensing Agency and some of Wales’ main publishers on temporarily increasing copyright permissions on re-using published material in schools and colleges to help teachers during the pandemic.
Another priority for BCW has been increasing ethnic diversity on its grants and judging panels. Meanwhile, BCW’s English-language Grants Department has recently undertaken a major research survey, looking at Wales’ English-language cultural magazines and adult books published between March 2019 and October 2020. The aim is to gain an understanding of how funded books in English represent the diversity of experiences in Wales. The findings will be presented in a report in due course, along with a comprehensive plan to ensure more inclusivity in the Welsh publishing sector.
When it comes to marking the organisation’s 60th anniversary, Krause says that while the team would “love to be able to get together with colleagues, previous and present, friends, supporters and stakeholders”, due to the uncertainties posed by Covid-19, it will likely hold an online event in November instead, as well as looking to commission print and digital content to celebrate the occasion.
BCW is now looking forward to working with Wales’ new Culture and Education Ministers to “build on the excellent co-operation we have had in the past four years”. The charity will also be contributing to the strategies to deliver educational resources for the new curriculum in Wales, and lobbying for grant funding to address the lack of Welsh-language audiobooks, especially for children and Welsh-language learners. Other aims include: creating additional opportunities to facilitate greater diversity in both output and staff in the book industry; investing in skills and training; intensifying its co-operation with partners both in Wales and further afield; and supporting international opportunities, such as the Wales in Germany 2021 campaign, encouraging cultural exchange between the two countries, to “showcase Wales and its diverse and rich cultural heritage to the world”.
This feature is part of Books Council of Wales' collaborative content with The Bookseller published in the Wales Country Focus 2021. You can read content from the Wales Country Focus here.