Tag Archives: British

Seven reasons why an EU Leave victory will be a disaster for the UK book industry

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Imagine that every country in the EU is linked to all the others by invisible threads that vibrate with stories of faraway lands. Each thread contains a voice, one that originally came to life in the form of the written word. These are the voices of writers, and with every story each voice tells, another culture, perspective or idea unfolds. Europe is home to a web of literature from all over the world and due to its status as a European country, the UK is able to sell books internationally and acquire others in translation. British authors conduct talks in major European cities to promote their work, publishers travel abroad with the hope of bringing home a literary jewel and translators have a breadth of literary material at their fingertips, ripe for the eyes of another audience. A Leave victory this Thursday will create multiple barriers to this current situation.

Yesterday, Jane Aitken, founder of Gallic books (a French to English publishing house) and owner of Belgravia Books and Aardvark Bureau tweeted about her companies’ daily sales reports– sales were to Portugal, South Africa, the Philippines and Beirut. “We can sell wherever she want” she wrote, followed by the #remain hashtag.  Being in the EU means British books can be sold everywhere. This is because the British publishing industry is part of a global business, a position that will be threatened with a Leave victory.

According to predictions this victory will be followed by a drop in the value of the pound, meaning that import costs will rise for publishers. It could also lead to job cuts in the publishing industry.  “A ‘Brexit’ would be a financial disaster for UK publishing”, Bonnier Publishing c.e.o Richard Johnson told The Bookseller. This would be especially true for small publishing houses.

Justin Adams, m.d of Connect Books, said that the impact of this new exchange rate will “make the buying and selling of books internationally more complex and risky”. So, not only will it be more difficult to sell books, but it will be harder to buy them. How much great foreign literature will we be missing out on if we leave the EU? The Creative Europe program currently provides funding for the translation of 4500 literary works between 2014-2020. The UK publishing industry will no longer be part of this.

The loss of freedom of movement that will come with leaving the EU means the UK publishing industry won’t be employing many people from European universities (so fewer talented people) and our own graduates looking to join the publishing industry won’t be able to benefit from work experience in publishing industries abroad. The Erasmus program allows British students to live and work abroad for a year and come home with valuable, enlightening experiences that could help them contribute new ideas to British industries, but this too is an opportunity that Leave campaigners are willing to give away.

Academic publishing is also in danger, because Britain will lose its share of the EU research fund. Furthermore, our universities thrive on the flow of students and researchers from Europe, with 15% of academic staff at UK universities from EU countries. Closing our doors to them means yet more loss of intellect, ideas and progress.

The loss of free movement will also affect the ease with which authors and publishers arrange book tours and attend international book fairs abroad, which allows them to promote their own books and keep an eye out for foreign literature. The need for a visa could make doing this a bureaucratic nightmare.

I will leave you with one last terrifying thought. Without the EU there would be no Gruffalo. The Gruffalo, a German-British collaboration, would not exist as you know him, with his terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.  Had Axel Scheffler not come to the UK in 1982 to study for a degree in illustration, The Gruffalo, he said in this article, “would have been an entirely different beast.” Axel would never had worked with Julia Donaldson, and without their joint success, they might not have gone on to write and illustrate many more of Britain’s best loved children’s books.

If you love the UK book industry, vote REMAIN.

Image Credits:

  1. Untitled, by Kim Heimbuch via Pixabay

What’s so scary about Watership Down?

Typewritered_Watership Down

Discussion on social media has been buzzing since parents issued complaints after Channel 5 screened Watership Down on Easter Sunday, calling it too scary and violent for children. Seriously, parents?

I’m a devoted fan of the book and the film, and despite a couple of somewhat bloody scenes, I don’t think it’s unsuitable for children. In fact, I think there should be more films like this one. It definitely wasn’t bouncing Easter bunnies, but children are tougher than we give them credit for. The vicious fighting between rabbits, or the blood covered field that appears when Fiver is predicting that death will come to the warren, is no different to many other widely accepted and well-loved films. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a child-catcher tempted children into a cage and locked them away in cave. Aslan was sacrificed by an evil queen and stabbed to death. Peter Pan falls out of his pram and never sees his family again and Peter Rabbit’s father was baked in a pie. This is all classic English storytelling, and in my opinion, it’s the best there is.

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Watership Down isn’t what we’re used to. The graphics are as detailed as a drawing, far from the simplistic shapes of a Peppa Pig cartoon. The settings are a feast for the eyes with rolling English hills, intricate cobwebs and rabbits that are fascinatingly unique in appearance. The soundtrack is beautiful, every piece of music bringing the mood of the scene to life. I think ‘Bright Eyes’ is the perfect overarching track for the whole film. The themes are real and universal: love, loyalty, sacrifice, death, survival and even religion feature in this film. It upholds the values of doing what’s right and putting other’s before yourself, and even alludes to man’s menacing footprint on the world: “They’ll never rest until they’ve spoiled the earth.” Children register this and they take it away with them.

Yes, there is a lot of death, as we see when sweet bunny Violet is ripped from the ground by a bird of prey and a badger emerges from the bushes with blood dripping from its mouth. But that is what nature is, and children should know this. Watership Down is an ode to nature, which we don’t see much of these days. The forest is dense and full of danger, the cat’s silky voice is blood-curdling, but fields of scented plants offer shelter from the elements and the currents of a river whisk the rabbits away from a lurking dog. The story is set entirely in an animal world, with very few human appearances, although the foreboding presence of man looms over them constantly. The seasons are told through the appearance and disappearance of primroses and nobody can count above the number four because a rabbit’s paw only has four claws.

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The afterlife is beautifully portrayed with the great Frith who created all things and the black rabbit who comes for the dying. To the living, the dark fur of the black rabbit and the slits of his eyes seem like an omen, something to flee. But at the end of the film we realise that he is just Frith in another form, inviting the dying to join his eternal Owsla. Richard Adams was successful in creating an entire fictional existence for rabbits, and goes into detail in his book about their social hierarchy, eating habits, and kits and mates. He even went as far as to invent the ‘lapine’ language, so that “badger” becomes a “lendri” and “silflay” means to go above ground to eat. None of this is dumbed down for children, and throughout the film the language becomes second nature to us. The complex ideas and beautiful story about how Frith created the animals and set them apart from each other is not lost on children either and there is something funny about how typically British these rabbits are- they sound like well-spoken Englishmen!

Perhaps the film should be given a PG rating, so that parents of sensitive or younger children will be forewarned when it is screened again. But as an article by Henry Barnes at the Guardian said, ratings aren’t there to act as childminders. Watership Down is a masterpiece, both as a book and as a film. I urge you to look for the beauty in it, even in some of the more gruesome scenes. We need to stop worrying about what might traumatise children and give them instead something rich and cultivating to watch, full of mythology and morals, goodness and eloquence.

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All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.” – Richard Adams

Have you read Watership Down? Do you think the film is too violent for children? I’d love to know your thoughts!