2016 was a big year for Wales and the world. But what sort of year was it for books from Wales?
During the quiet months of January we created quite a stir after announcing our plans to produce red dragon stickers that would be sutiable to place on top of the Union Jack flag on new driving licences.
Said Fflur Arwel, head of marketing for y Lolfa, ‘We believe it is completley unfair that Britishness is being imposed upon us in this way. People are not given the choice to declare their nationality nor show that they are proud to be Welsh.’
There was also good news with the announcement that the funding for the Welsh Books Council would not be cut after all, following pressure from publishers and authors.
Nearly a hundred years since conscription was implemented, we remembered one of the great figures of pacifism in Wales during the 20th century. Pilgrim of Peace by Jen Llywelyn remembers the life of the Welsh pacifist, George M. Ll. Davies.
We also celebrated a new era in the careers of Welsh wine entrepreuners Dylan a Llinos Rowlands from Dolgellau as they published the beautiful cookbook Rarebit and Rioja.
On March 1st the historian Gerald Morgan revealed the truth behind the life of the patron saint of Wales, St David through the book, Ar Drywydd Dewi Sant gan Gerald Morgan. The book was presented to leader of the Aberystwyth St David’s Day Parade 2016, artist Mary Lloyd Jones and the archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan.
Two months before the legendary Euro 2016 tournament it was an honour to publish the autobiography of assistant manager to the Wales football team, Osian Roberts.
Looking back on his life as a player and coach his book analyses the excellent campaign to qualify for Euro 16 whilst giving an insight into the preparations for France and beyond.
A year since the death of Meredydd ‘Merêd’ Evans, we remembered his vast contribution to Wales’ culture and politics through the tribute volume Merêd: Dyn ar Dân. The book contains a piece written by Professor Gwyn Thomas, who died on the 13th of April this year.
Then, in the world of children’s literature, Coeden Cadi by Bethan Gwanas was announced to have reached the short list for the Tir na-nOg prize.
May saw the beginning of the new quarterly comic Mellten which launched at the Urdd Eisteddfod. Aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 13, this is the first original Welsh comic to be published in decades.
‘We wanted to create something new and original for children that would only be available in Welsh,’ said editor and cartoonist Huw Aaron.
A year since he lost the general election in Ceredigion, Mike Parker came back with a masterpiece of a book, The Greasy Poll. This was his honest account of the election battle – from the high hopes to the smear he suffered at the hands of a local newspaper, before defeated by incumbet MP, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams.
From the dangers of social media to the rise in neo-fascism, The Greasy Poll details the trials and tribulations of contemporary Welsh politics, and how badly it is failing us.
June saw Wales preparing for the Euro 2016 champsionship in France where the national football team would be competing. One of these was Dylan Ebenezer, whose book on the campaign sold out in less than a month!
Said Osian Roberts, ‘Wherever you will be watching the games, thank you for your support, not only now but over the difficult days as well. It means so much to everyone who’s aprt of this amazing team. Together stronger.’
Y Lolfa also began the 50th anniversary celebrations a little early by publishing a special calendar of old posters from the sixties and seventies.
On the 7th of July we remembered the Battle of Mametz Wood during the Somme ni 1916. To commemorate the 100th anniversary, Dr Jonathan Hicks published d The Welsh at Mametz Wood which contained unpublished personal accounts from both sides, giving hitherto unseen balance to the conflict.
He dedicated his book to the fallen, ‘I dedicate this book to the men who fought there in the second week of July 1916, those who died and who were buried in France, and those who are still missing with no known grave.’
Guto Dafydd won the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize at the Eisteddfod in Abergavenny this year for his novel Ymbelydredd. The novel was critically acclaimed by the judges – Jon Gower, Fflur Dafydd and Gareth F Williams.
Portaying the life of patient ‘246093740’ as he follows a radiotherapy course in Manchester, the book is based on Guto’s own experiences.
August also saw the publishing of the first serious study of the life and work of William Salesbury, a gifted linguist, scholar and lawyer. His lifetime’s work was arguably responsible for saving the Welsh language from extinction.
On September the 14th, author Gareth F Williams died aged 61.
Paying tribute to him, Meinir Wyn Edwards said, ‘Gareth had so much more to give, so many more ideas, the flames of his imagination was still burning. It is a great sadness that that flame of creativity has been extingushed much too early, and my solemn condolences go to his wife Rachel and the family at such a difficult time.’
‘We have lost one of Wales’ best authors. It was a privilege to know him.’
Y Lolfa also welcomed three new staff members in appointing Gwenllian Jones as Office Manager, Carolyn Hodges as English language editor and Robat Trefor as Welsh copy editor.
On 21 October 1966, thousands of tonnes of coal tip waste slid down a mountainside and devastated the mining village of Aber-fan. The black mass crashed through the local school. 144 people were killed. 116 were schoolchildren. Gaynor Madgwick was there. She was eight and severly imjured. In Aberfan, Gaynor tells her own story and interviews people affected by the day’s events.
Meanwhile, Carl Clowes caused a commotion by claiming Plaid Cymru had accepted a £25,000 donation from Libya back in the 1970s. The claim came from his autobiography, Super Furries, Prins Seeiso, Miss Siberia – a Fi.
Y Lolfa established the Welsh Bookshelf and published the first Welsh adult colouring book by Llanrug artist, Dawn Williams.
November saw many biographies and autobiographies. Among them was the personal diaries of Robat Gruffudd, Y Lolfa founder and co-founder of Lol magazine. There he reveals all about his experiences over the last fifty years – from the publishing world to his own fascinating German-Jewish family story.
A new biography presenting new aspects on the life of Carwyn James was published – one of the most iconic and popular figures in recent Welsh history, but albeit a wounded soul. Meanwhile, Dai Jones Llanilar’s autobiography became the Winter bestseller!
We also looked back at the glorious summer with more football books than you could count! Among them was Jamie Thomas’ When Dragons Dare to Dream which included exclusive behind-the-scenes insights from key figures both on and off the pitch.
On the 1st of December we launched our Christmas campaign, Llyfr yn Anrheg / Gift a Book, which encouraged people to give books as gifts and to read over the festivities and beyond.
Photographer Iestyn Hughes asked, ‘Are the effects of global warming seen in Wales?’ To answer the question, he went looking through old archives for evidence of climate change over the years. The volume Tywydd Mawr – Extreme Weather in Wales was the result.
The book also contains the first known photograph of a snowman – taken in Wales!
So what can we expect from 2017? Well for one, 2017 is a very special year as we will be celebrating 50 years since establishing the company. Watch this space for an announcement about a big party in May!
There is no end to the excitement and the vision remains the same as it was 50 years ago of creating lively, creative and original content that will challenge Wales and prepare the way for a country that will be politically and mentally free…