A light-hearted look at recent cultural and bookish chatter from Wales
This is the second in a series of posts concerning various literary goings-on (Welsh speakers may prefer sgwrsio llenyddol Cymraeg) from the land of poetry and song.
Lockdown Lift for Literature in Wales
Although World Book Day celebrations on the 4th March looked vastly different across Wales this year without all the usual real-world, face-to-face festivities, it has been widely reported by the Welsh media that people are buying more books than ever. In fact, readers are said to be delving deeper into new topics and going giddy for fresh genres.
By adapting to the ‘new normal’, book projects and businesses have positively thrived since Covid-19 changed readers’ lives. For instance, by going digital in a big way, Cardigan-based Parthian Books reported an increase of 150% in book sales from its online store and 3,605 views across its new YouTube channel.
Another lockdown trend seems to be an increased interest in Welsh-language books. Following the success of Amdani, a series of titles for Welsh learners, the National Centre for Learning Welsh launched Amdani – Learn Welsh Festival of Reading earlier this month. With the aim of encouraging Welsh learners to use and enjoy the language by reading books, magazine articles and websites in Gymraeg, the event worked alongside the National Eisteddfod to publish a new video story by the author, Llŷr Gwyn Lewis, and an original video poem by Terwyn Tomos.
During lockdown, the Welsh government has provided £250,000 towards digital library resources, enabling public libraries to provide additional services during the crisis and has led to a dramatic increase in the number of individuals accessing their digital resources. One provider saw a 110% increase in total loans compared to the same period in 2019, stimulated, no doubt, by the introduction of a handy Click and Collect scheme.
The National Library of Wales announced three weeks ago that some of its digital collections were going live on the Google Arts & Culture online platform, bringing Welsh culture to the attention of the world. By sharing high resolution images audiences are now able to explore items for themselves, to look in detail at the objects and to learn about them through different visual and audio-visual media. For instance, it is possible to view the Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau music manuscript and at the same time listen to the first recording of the anthem, as well as looking at paintings of some of our iconic castles alongside Google ‘street view’ images of them. The Library has also curated 10 digital stories so that audiences can enjoy the nation’s treasures in their historical context, from early manuscripts to contemporary artworks. All material is available in both the English and Welsh language.
As an aside, the Office for National Statistics recently published data suggesting people in Britain as a whole are spending on average 27.7 minutes each day reading books, magazines or newspapers, leading one to suppose that even pandemics have a positive side.
Free Feminist Library
As part of its Champions of Wales programme, the independent charity Safer Wales, whose mission it is to support, protect and empower groups of people who are often invisible to the rest of society, launched a feminist lending library to coincide with International Women’s Day.
According to its blog, the collection contains “all types of reads”, ranging “from fiction to poetry to historical novels” and includes audio and video content promoting “feminism and feminist creatives.”
Everything in the collection can be borrowed free of charge – even the postage for borrowing and returning items is covered. All they ask is that you first register for the service by filling out a simple form, which will help them immensely in the task of making the library accessible to everyone in Wales.
To assist in the development of the Feminist Library, Safer Wales has teamed up with the Director of Cardiff Book Festival, Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival and Co-Director of Pontypridd Books, Cerith Mathias.
Mathias has been assigned to help curate this sizeable list of books and resources, drawing on her interest in feminism and extensive literary knowledge. She was quoted in Wales Arts Review as saying: “The idea that even just one young girl is unable to access the huge wealth of writing by, and about, women is a devastating one. Reading and literature are key in empowering and educating women and girls of all ages. By sharing experiences, we feel valued and understood, and that can only lead to positive changes for women the world over.”
To register and start borrowing (or if you have any questions or suggestions), please contact: Joanna Chittenden at email@example.com. You are encouraged to share the items you borrow on social media using the hashtag #femlibsaferwales.
Finally, I should like to draw your attention to Mabinogi – Part Two, a podcast produced by BBC Sounds and based on an iconic work of medieval Welsh mythology, the Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest).
The return of this fantasy adventure series once again offers compelling tales of war, enchantment and romance adapted by the talented Lucy Catherine. The episodes are also available free from Apple, Google Play and Amazon. >> Listen now >>
Categories: Reading Wales
What a fantastic resource Safer Wales has offered, now unfortunately and distressingly more necessary than ever before — I’m so impressed by this innovative project. But it’s only one item so among many you’ve curated here, especially the good news about a bigger take up of books and increased time spent reading.
I agree, Chris. Such a wonderful idea. 😊
It sounds like Wales has done itself proud. I do hope more books from Wales reach even those of us who are very far away.
It cheers me no end to imagine books from Wales winging their way around the world. 📚🌏
There are some fabulous resources in this post, Paula. Thank you! 😊
I’m glad you think so, Sandra. Thank you. 😀
I hope you’ve seen plenty of sunshine in Cornwall today. We’ve had such lovely weather! 😎
What lovely initiatives – super!
It’s good to know book initiatives continue despite (sometimes as a result of) all that is happening in the world. 😊
How wonderful! So much to be very proud of there 🙂
Thank you, Gretchen. I think for a small country we seem to punch above our weight when it comes to these sort of initiatives. Scotland does well in this regard, too. 😊
True! Actually I can claim a bit of Scottish heritage from Girvan Scotland, sheep farmers, but sadly no Welsh.
No, no, no, I simply won’t have it – you definitely have some Welsh genes, Gretchen. They simply haven’t revealed themselves… yet! 😉
Anyhow, I’m delighted to know you are a fellow Celt.
LOL thanks for that pleasing prediction, Paula 🙂 I certainly hope my Welsh genes reveal themselves in the form of a glorious singing voice. But just between you and me I love a good pasty, er, oggie, and have even made my own – note Aussies say ‘paarstie.
We Celts certainly get around! Only recently I found out what ‘lang may yer lum reek’ means and I’m trying to pick my audience and work that into a conversation…
Sadly, I don’t have a ‘glorious singing voice’ – but that has never stopped me from giving it some welly when taking part in a good, old-fashioned Welsh sing-song! 🎵
I rather like the sound of your homemade oggies, Gretchen. 😋
Well, there are still quite a few folk in the UK with functioning chimneys (I had a wood burner and an open fire in my last house), so you could perhaps use the expression when signing off with a British chum – although, I suspect those living south of Hadrian’s Wall may be somewhat baffled! 🤣
Good to hear you keep your vocal cords ready for a sing-a-long, Paula, at parties that’s usually when I hid in a cupboard. Off topic, I did wonder how singer Tom Jones kept his voice in tune; in his memoir in the earlier days there is no mention of a voice coach or special treatment.
Thank you for that Welsh tip, I will take note of my British blogger pals. As you know I live in a subtropical zone so fires and chimneys (except in the countryside) are pretty much a non-event.
Thank you, Saania. 😊
Publishers seem to be doing well in the U.S. too, given the changing habits that have come out of the pandemic. (We tend to assume that trends in Canada are similar, but the statistics are often not available, or not readily so.) Booksellers are not necessarily faring quite so well though, particularly independents, who aren’t in the biz of competing with the mammoth big box option.
Do you know if one should listen to the Mabinogi podcast in order? I’m curious… (but I also have a very long listening list)