Ruck's attack on aid
TAXPAYERS are being short-changed and artistic merit is being dragged through the mud by the culture of state-funded writing in Wales, says one Swansea-born novelist.
Julian Ruck, never one to mince his words, will hold forth at Swansea's Dylan Thomas Theatre tomorrow with his talk, The Taxpayer and the Welsh Literati.
The lawyer-turned novelist, who pens twisty dramas, takes issue with the hundreds of thousands of pounds that are distributed by Welsh literature quangos each year, both to publishers and writers, which he says is "glorified dole money for the Welsh literati."
His views have, of course, ruffled feathers and they led to some orchestrated heckling from chaps in tweedy jackets when he delivered his talk in Cardiff last week.
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But, he argues, in these cash-strapped times the funding should be diverted to plug the gaps in health and education budgets in this country.
"Welsh writers are given money from the public purse to stay at home and write stuff that few people are ever likely to read,'' he claims.
And he says, in the digital age, it makes more sense for many of the recipients of the cash to opt for vanity publishing via the internet instead, to lift the weight from the taxpayer.
"Where books are concerned, or poetry for that matter, taxpayer funding is no longer needed, full stop. There's the ebook, which has no printing costs, so it causes no burden on the taxpayer.
"It costs less than £100 to whack a collection of verse or a novel up on Amazon. Job done."
And the fact, he says, that those he dubs the Welsh literati, know they have free access to lucrative advances means they don't feel the need to apply enough quality control over their work, since they don't need to sell in order to find their careers.
"Too often the works are vanity project biographies of so-called Welsh celebrities, or the surreal aspirations of academic endeavour and rarefied literary self-indulgence."
In carving out his own career Julian opted for self publishing before being picked up in 2006 by Jackie Collins's literary agent Andrew Nurnberg Associates.
And he has never, he is quick to point out, applied for or been refused a grant himself.
In fact, he says, having to deal with "the outside world" of literary agents and publishers both here and across the border has been a learning experience he would recommend to all authors.
"Since the roller coaster of profligate taxpayer funded subsidy began, I ask you all to consider this — where are the giants of Welsh writing?
"Where are the Welsh Seamus Heaneys and James Joyces or, for that matter, the Jeffrey Archers and James Pattersons?
"Did Lady Charlotte Guest or Dylan Thomas receive hand-outs from the taxpayer?
"Good writing will always be read and will always sell. If your work has these essential qualities then you don't need the exhausted taxpayer to fund it – full stop.
"In these hard times, where cuts in health, welfare and education are the order of the day, how can these payments from an embattled Treasury be justified?
"It is downright immoral."
Julian takes to the podium at 7pm, with a lively Q&A session expected.