NWR Issue 50

New Welsh Review No. 50

Welcome to the 50th issue of New Welsh Review! First, a special thanks is owed the many writers who over the past twelve years have illuminated the magazine's pages with articles, poems, short stories and reviews of insight and entertainment. It is due to their contributions, for very modest reward, that New Welsh Review has arrived at this significant milestone and is able to lay claim to the title of Wales's leading literary quarterly in English. No less important have been New Welsh Review's array of supporters, from the Arts Council of Wales and its vital revenue support grant, to the many faithful subscribers and purchasers. Without their backing over the years, the magazine could not have survived and flourished.

Second, the temptation to use the occasion as an excuse for earnest articles on the state of Anglo-Welsh literature or Welsh writing in English has been resisted. It seemed more rewarding to produce a regular issue of the magazine, to show rather than tell. (Labour politician Herbert Morrison used to say that socialism is what Labour Governments do. It is tempting, if not wholly correct, to suggest that Welsh writing in English is what appears in New Welsh Review).

Hence, for example, an extended review by John Pikoulis of Ron Berry's Collected Short Stories, an article which expresses NWR's ongoing concern with the rediscovery and revaluation of important Welsh writers. Ron Berry's remarkable work was forged out of Welsh industrial experience, but has yet to attract the general acclamation and recognition it so clearly deserves. And then there's the first part of another fine piece of travel writing by Jim Perrin, recently described by Welsh literary critic M. Wynn Thomas as the most singular, and the most outstanding, prose-writer of present-day Wales.

It is also most appropriate that our 50th issue should include a memoir by Raymond Garlick, founding editor of NWR's immediate predecessor, the Anglo-Welsh Review, more than half a century ago which, in its turn, had been a successor magazine to Gwyn Jones's Welsh Review (1939-1948).

Contributing to the inaugural issue of New Welsh Review 12 years ago, Raymond Garlick described the Anglo-Welsh Review as "the creation of distinguished writers, Welsh and Anglo-Welsh (and occasionally English)". It "embodied the ideals" of their youth, and their "concern for a magazine committed wholly to Wales, to publishing both new and established writers, to building bridges between the two literatures, to exploring the past of Anglo-Welsh literature and setting it in context, to cultivating dispassionate critical discourse."

Looking back, this would be a fair description of the core mission which successive editors of New Welsh Reviewhave pursued in the magazine's first 50 issues. We have also aimed to build a wider readership for Welsh writing in English by airing matters of topical cultural and intellectual concern in Wales and by showcasing good writing of all kinds, whatever its provenance or subject matter.

The mission is far from complete. When New Welsh Review was launched there were encouraging signs that the 1990s would see the growth of a discrete audience for Welsh writing in English, comparable to that for Welsh-language books and magazines, and matching the proportionally higher sales which Scottish and Irish writers and publishers enjoyed in their own home markets.

In practice this is proving slower and more difficult to achieve than we foresaw. There has been no lack of professionalism of approach, but Welsh publishers remain small and fragmented by international standards. They lack the resources to compete incisively in a worldwide English-language publishing market dominated by large publishing combines with generous marketing budgets - and more recently their instant accessibility to customers via the internet.

But instilling the same cultural confidence in Wales as obtains in Scotland and Ireland remains a wholly valid, honourable objective, however hostile the worldwide market may be to small enterprise. Indeed, in today's Wales, the need to assert the vital role of literature as a key component in the Welsh nation's profile has never been more important.


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