This is the keynote speech by Professor Charlotte Williams OBE on Harnessing ‘book power’ for race equality in Wales that was delivered at the Books Council’s Annual Meeting, July 2021.
The Books Council of Wales has today announced the appointment of its new Treasurer, Alfred O. Oyekoya, to the Board of Trustees.
This important role on the Board will be instrumental in leading the Council as it supports the book industry in Wales through Covid recovery and looks towards its new strategy for 2022 and beyond.
Alfred Oyekoya is an MSc Finance graduate from Swansea University and a Chartered Accountant, with many years’ leadership and business development experience. He has worked across a number of international and commercial sectors including the UK Civil Service.
Alfred is an energetic, determined and dedicated champion of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. He is the founder and Director of BMHS – a not-for-profit organisation focused on education and advocacy to support mental health and wellbeing among BAME community members.
Alfred Oyekoya said: “It’s an honour to have been appointed and I am excited about the opportunity to carry on the great work that has been done excellently in the last sixty years.”
Professor M. Wynn Thomas, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “We are delighted to welcome Alfred as Treasurer to the Board of Trustees of the Books Council of Wales.
He brings with him considerable experience of financial and business leadership, developed through his previous work for a government ministry. Additionally, he has valuable experience of leading BMHS, a not-for-profit organisation. I and my fellow Board members look forward very much to working with him to advance the Council’s work.”
Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales, added: “The Treasurer role is key to our organisation, and we are extremely fortunate that Alfred not only brings those core skills and experiences but that he also shares our passion for books and the transformative power of reading and its positive impact on our lives.”
The Books Council’s Board of Trustees give of their time and expertise voluntarily to support the national charity’s work, serving the book industries of Wales in both Welsh and English. Alfred takes up his post in October 2021, as the Books Council prepares to celebrate sixty years of supporting the publishing industry and promoting reading in Wales.
Gorau’r Goreuon: Introducing three stories from the past to young audiences in 2021
The Books Council of Wales is launching the first three titles of Gorau’r Goreuon (The Best of the Best), a selection of books for children and young people. Gorau’r Goreuon aims to introduce a selection of books that are considered classics in children and young people’s literature to a new generation of readers.
The titles that will be appearing in the first selection are Dirgelwch y Dieithryn (Elgan Philip Davies), O’r Tywyllwch (Mair Wynn Hughes) and Luned Bengoch (Elizabeth Watkin-Jones).
In 2016 the Books Council of Wales commissioned Dr Siwan Rosser of Cardiff University to conduct a survey of children and young people’s books. That report has informed much of the Books Council’s work in this field since then. One of her recommendations was:
Consideration should be given to re-issuing popular Welsh-language books or ‘classics’ from the past and updating them as part of a specific genre or series to create a market with a strong indigenous brand that is passed on from one generation to the next.
A panel of experts in the field of children and young people’s literature was established to select books from the titles that could be included on this initial list.
Morgan Dafydd, founder of the Sôn am Lyfra website and a member of the selectors’ panel, said: ‘Our bookshops are mostly full of new books that will in turn be replaced by newer books. Sometimes when people say, ‘there’s not enough material for young people in Welsh’, it’s easy to forget about things published last year, let alone the great books published many years ago.’
(The covers of Luned Bengoch, 2021, 1983 and 1947)
Luned Bengoch was originally published in 1946 by Brython Press, then updated by Hugh D Jones and republished by Gomer Press in 1983. Gomer Press were also the publishers of O’r Tywyllwch in 1991 and Dirgelwch y Dieithryn in 1993, the one part of the Gwreiddiau scheme and the other part of the Corryn series.
Helen Jones, Head of the Books Council’s Children’s Books and Reading Promotion Department, said: ‘These stories are evergreen and needed very little editorial work to make them suitable for a variety of contemporary audiences. The cover is a key part of the success of any book, and if the Books Council has looked back to find the best it has looked forward by commissioning three contemporary artists to design the covers: Efa Blosse-Mason, Chris Iliff and Nia Tudor – two of which are new names to the field.’
The Books Council of Wales will be collecting feedback on these first three volumes during the Autumn term and intends to add to the series over the coming years. It will also receive recommendations from publishers and the public for other titles to include in the collection.
On 30 July, Wales lost one of its great benefactors of children literature following the death of Roger Boore at the age of 82.
Roger Boore was born in Cardiff in 1938. He had a degree in Classics from Oxford, a PhD in History from the University of Wales Swansea, and was a Chartered Accountant. He returned to Wales and was a life-long enthusiast of the Welsh language, which he began learning in his teens, and raised his family in Cardiff.
In 1969 Roger and his wife Anne founded the publishing house Gwasg y Dref Wen, with the main aim of producing Welsh-language books for children. He realised how few Welsh illustrated children’s books were available, and that their appearance was largely uniform and unappealing. Roger received the Mary Vaughan Jones Award in 1997 for his ‘notable contribution to the field of children’s books in Wales over a period of years’, and was also honoured as a member of the Gorsedd of the Bards for his ‘special contribution to Wales and the Welsh Language’ in 2016.
Later, Roger Boore pioneered in the field of Welsh-language travel literature, producing five highly acclaimed volumes. He published a prize-winning children’s novel, Y Bachgen Gwyllt (The Wild Boy), a collection of short stories, Ymerodraeth y Cymry (Empire of the Welsh), and many Welsh translations from various languages, especially children’s books including Asterix and Tintin and the classic Y Teigr a Ddaeth i De (The Tiger Who Came to Tea).
Gwasg y Dref Wen published a number of notable books such as Llyfr Hwiangerddi y Dref Wen (the standard Welsh nursery rhyme collection), Y Geiriadur Lliwgar (an illustrated Welsh children’s dictionary), a series of stories from Welsh history (Storïau Hanes Cymru) and the prize-winning O’r Dechrau i’r Diwedd / From Start to Finish series on religions in both Welsh and English.
Lorna Herbert Egan, Chair of the Reading Promotion and Children’s Books Sub-committee; Dr Siwan Rosser, Cardiff University lecturer and specialist in Children’s Literature in Wales; and Helen Jones, Head of the Children’s Books and Reading Promotion Department at the Books Council, pay tribute to the prolific publisher.
“Wales owes a debt of gratitude to the late Roger Boore for his vision and pioneering activity in establishing Gwasg y Dref Wen, and for his genius work in selecting and providing colourful and diverse children’s literature to entertain and stimulate generations of readers. He made an invaluable contribution to the quality and fun choice that captures the imagination of individuals and their desire to learn and enjoy, and has been a great influence in the publishing industry. Sympathy is extended to his widow Anne, and Alun, Gwilym and Rhys and those who shared his journey.” – Lorna Herbert Egan
“I have a very vivid memory as a child of Dref Wen’s books. Searching for the little duck character in Y Geiriadur Lliwgar was an ongoing adventure, y Llyfr Hwiangerddi was a beautiful companion, and the characters of Ifan Bifan, Asterix and Pippi opened my imagination to other worlds. It was a privilege, therefore, to get to know Roger in recent years and appreciate his tremendous achievements, especially in the field of adapting children’s books from international languages. His vision and energy gave us as children the opportunity to access literary and illustrative culture beyond our borders, and set a standard for the publishing industry to aspire to. We remember Roger dearly and sympathise with the Dref Wen family.” – Dr Siwan Rosser
“Roger Boore, Gwasg y Dref Wen, was a pioneer in children’s publishing. He will be missed, but he leaves a rich legacy of books delivered to the highest standard of presentation and content for the children of Wales. Our condolences to his family – Anne, Alun, Gwilym and Rhys.” – Helen Jones
Well-being packs for young carers in Ceredigion this summer
80 packs of books are being sent to young carers across Ceredigion to support their well-being and encourage their reading journeys this summer. Young carers face the difficulty of balancing and juggling their caring responsibilities with those of everyday life, including their own education. These well-being packs will be a boost for them and a recognition of the excellent work they are doing every day.
These packs have been provided in a partnership between Ceredigion County Council and the Books Council of Wales, and they include a selection of six reading books, a packet of bee-friendly seeds, a reusable water bottle and some delicious Welsh chocolate, as well as a Young Carers Skills Journal.
The aim of the Ceredigion Love Reading scheme is to support the health, well-being and reading development of vulnerable groups of children and young people, especially due to the increased demands and difficulties faced as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last summer 100 packs were sent to 100 families with children who received support services through the local authority.
Councillor Catherine Hughes, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member and Champion for Carers, said: “I’m very proud of this fantastic initiative between the Books Council of Wales and the Local Authority to provide such meaningful well-being packs to our young carers. Being a young carer is challenging at best, but added pressures have been introduced over recent months due to the pandemic. We hope that the well-being packs will bring our young carers great pleasure as we recognize their excellent work.”
Angharad Sinclair, Project Development Manager for the Children’s Books and Reading Promotion Department at the Books Council of Wales, said: “It is wonderful to be working with Ceredigion County Council again on such a worthwhile initiative which will provide a confidence boost and recognition of the achievements of these young carers during a particularly difficult time. Escaping into a book can be such an effective way for us all to take a break from the daily pressures of life, and we hope these book packs will encourage their own reading journey too.”
Most of the books in the packs have been published in Wales and reflect the best in writing and illustration for readers between the ages of 8 and 18.
The Books Council of Wales’ Annual Meeting will be held on Monday, 26 July at 12.00pm on Zoom
Keynote speech will be given by Professor Charlotte Williams OBE on Harnessing ‘book power’ for race equality in Wales.
Send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org for the link to the meeting.
Further information: Charlotte Williams OBE, academic and writer, is Honorary Professor in the School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences at Bangor University and holds honorary appointments at Glyndŵr University and the University of South Wales. Alongside her academic career, Charlotte has held a number of public appointments for Welsh Government, most recently as Chair of the Ministerial Working Group ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities, Contributions and Cynefin in the New Curriculum’, 2020–2021. She is a recently appointed Patron of Planet magazine and Project Steering Group member for National Theatre Wales’ Festival 2022. Charlotte is co-editor of the ground-breaking text A Tolerant Nation? Revisiting Ethnic Diversity in a Devolved Wales (UWP, 2003 and 2015), and her memoir, Sugar and Slate (2002), was awarded the Welsh Book of the Year prize in 2003. She is on the judging panel for Wales Book of the Year 2021, having previously judged the competition in 2005. Charlotte was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List (2007) for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales