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An Integral Part of the Public Sphere

From Planet 214

In a follow-up article to his recent book, Welsh Periodicals in English: 1882-2012, Malcolm Ballin gives an in-depth retrospective of issues of three Welsh magazines published a year ago.

In a recent article in the welsh agenda I argue that the climate for producing English-language periodicals in Wales is now facing significant changes following the radical modifications to funding arrangements being introduced by the Welsh Books Council (WBC) in the aftermath of a report published last year by an independent review panel, chaired by Tony Bianchi. ‘Business as usual’ is unlikely to be a viable option for editors faced by a need to further extend the appeal of their magazines and to put more resources into seeking extra sources of funding, with WBC grants for the main grant scheme capped at a reduced amount. It seems then an appropriate moment to take stock of the way that some of these key contributors to political and cultural dialogue in Wales shape their individual approaches. In what follows I take a close look at issues published a year ago of three of the main magazines, namely the welsh agenda, Planet: the Welsh Internationlaist and Cambria, and discuss their contrasting treatments of politics and culture in Wales.

The editorial of the welsh agenda for Spring 2013 punches hard in its critique of the Welsh economy: ‘certainly unsuccessful … worst performing economic region within the UK … close to the bottom of the EU prosperity league tables.’ The Institute of Welsh Affairs was established to float independent ideas and fly kites for consideration. Its journal (by now past its fiftieth issue) opens here with typical frankness. It urges a radical look at communications in ‘the most disconnected part of the British Isles’, needing more imaginative approaches to transport development. Mark Barry advocates ‘A Metro for the Cardiff City Region’, identifying the biggest challenge as ‘mobilising the political will’ needed to drive great infrastructure projects forward. The welsh agenda’s closely printed, three columns per page presentation is initially intimidating, though relieved by colour illustrations and advertisements. The magazine aims at compensating for the lack of broadsheet publications in Wales; it offers in-depth analyses analogous to The Scotsman or The Irish Times in their own national contexts.



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