Laugharne Weekend appeals for cash after missing out on Arts Council Wales funding

Laugharne Weekend appeals for cash after missing out on Arts Council Wales funding

Annual literary festival The Laugharne Weekend is appealing for cash after being denied funding from Arts Council Wales (ACW) for the first time in the event's 12-year history. 

The arts and literary festival in west Wales was home to poet Dylan Thomas, and has relied on the grant funding since it formed in 2007 but now ACW has said the festival breached guidelines by opening ticket sales too early. After learning of the decision last week, event organisers decided to open a £20,000 crowdfunder, raising almost £3,000 in three days. 

Co-organiser John Williams wrote on the fundraiser: "The Arts Council of Wales has just dropped the bombshell that it will not be providing funding for the much-loved literary and music festival due to take place in March 2020. The festival is completed embedded in the township. We use the village hall, the chapel, and the pubs for our venues. There is no VIP area—artists and guest all mingle together for a weekend of magical bedlam.

"Every year since we first started the festival in 2007 we have received an annual grant from the Arts Council of Wales (ACW), lately at a level of £20,000 per year. That's a significant contribution to an overall budget of around £70,000. This funding has been essential to the festival, and has helped us to make it the unique,culturally rich and beautifully eccentric weekend that it is."

Williams revealed that planning and logistics had already begun for the 2020 festival. "As always, we've been busy organising next year's festival, due to take place on 27th–29th March. We've booked acts and venues and accommodation. We've put tickets on sale and sold most of them already. And we've done this on the reasonable assumption that we would get our regular funding. But now the ACW have suddenly announced they won't be giving us any funding.* To make matters worse, they had reached this decision on 25th November, but only let us know by email this Wednesday, 18th December. This has left us right up against Xmas/New Year and without enough time to go to any other funding bodies. Without this money, the festival is in jeopardy."

Co-organiser Richard Thomas told The Bookseller that he was shocked by ACW's decision. "I was completely stunned as there had been no indication that this would happen and the festival was going well, always attracting big names and selling out.

"The weak excuses for stopping the grant were not reaching enough people and a technicality over ticket sales (which they had agreed to but forgotten). The festival is capped at 500 weekend sales with the largest venues being 200 capacity and this is what gives the festival it’s uniqueness."

He believes that Laugharne plays an important role in the town's sense of community and economy. "The festival brings world class talent to a tiny Welsh town," he said. Performers have included Patti Smith, Will Self, Caitlin Moran, Adam Kay, Roddy Doyle and Simon Armitage.

"Laugharne has had a long literary history apart from Dylan Thomas who lived there and based his masterpiece 'Under Milk Wood’ on the town," Thomas said. "Kingsley Amis wrote The Old Devils in Laugharne which went on to win the Booker Prize. Margaret Atwood based her 1977 short story ‘The Grave of The Famous Poet’ in Laugharne. After performing at The Laugharne Weekend Patti Smith wrote and published a poem called ‘Laugharne’ in which she calls the town the 'New Jerusalem'."

However the ACW told The Bookseller that by opening for bookings, the festival had breached prospective funding guidelines which state ACW cannot fund projects where tickets are already on sale. 

A spokesperson for ACW said: "The Laugharne Weekend festival submitted an application to the Arts Council of Wales for funding towards its 2020 festival, as it has done for a number of years. However, in putting tickets for sale on its website—before the Arts Council of Wales had considered whether to award the festival a grant—the Laugharne Weekend festival organisers contravened one of our key guidelines, thus making their application ineligible.

"The Arts Council of Wales’ timetable for grant application is advertised well in advance on our website. The Laugharne Festival organisers were informed of the decision regarding their grant application well within the timescale for doing so as outlined in our guidelines."