Robin Reeves and the New Welsh Review

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Today, The New Welsh Review is renowned as Wales’s most prestigious literary magazine. Yet its transformation into this admired publication would not have been possible without a figure of equally prestigious standing – Robin Reeves.

A lifelong journalist and long term supporter of the Welsh Writers Trust, Reeves gained cultural prominence on the Welsh arts scene when he adopted the mantle of Review editor in 1991. He skilfully upheld the position for a ten year span – till 2001, when Reeves’s tenure was sadly drawn to a close by his untimely illness and passing. During this time Reeves transformed the Review from a magazine on a shoestring budget with a relatively small readership, to the impressive publication it is today.

However Reeves was not the Review’s first editor – the magazine was founded in 1988 as the successor to The Welsh Review, Dock Leaves, and The Anglo-Welsh Review. Today it survives as a quarterly publication, with a regular set-list featuring an array of articles, essays, and reviews, and creative pieces including both poetry and prose.

As suggested by the name, the magazine provides a format primarily for Welsh Writing in English; though occasionally excerpts from features are indicated in the original Welsh, or pieces accepted which gesture towards more international contexts.

And while the New Welsh Review is firmly dedicated to celebrating Wales’ rich cultural past, the ‘New’ in the title should not be overlooked either. From the moment of its inception, the Review has always celebrated contemporary talent in Wales. Its rap sheet is lengthy, and today boasts several of Wales’s biggest names; Dannie Abse, Paul Muldoon, and P.D. James, to list only a few.

Of course, all this might not have been the case without Reeves.

Neither a writer of literature nor a literary critic, and brought up in Manchester and London then educated in Cambridge, as a young man Reeves’s connections with Wales were not readily apparent.

Many of his family hailed from North Wales, but it was not till the early 1960’s when Reeves attended the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth – pursuing an undergraduate degree in geology and becoming an active member of the university’s mountaineering society – that he became preoccupied with the Welsh landscape, and Wales itself.

This connection was only cemented with his marriage to Rosanne Lloyd, who hailed from southern Cardiganshire, and with whom he had three children – Rhydian, Sioned and Mathonwy; all names found in the influential Welsh narrative, the Mabinogi.

Robin and Rosanne were insistent their children receive a Welsh medium education. This prompted a move to Cardiff, where Reeves was appointed as the highly successful and enthusiastic editor of the New Welsh Review.

Reeves was perhaps a seemingly unusual choice, for a literary magazine. Prior to this time he had been employed as a correspondent for the Financial Times. But it was Reeves’s worldly and unique experience, in addition to his decided devotion and commitment to Wales, which helped produce one of the best editors ever to wield the position.

Reeves’s journalistic background gave him a sharp eye for features that commanded attention. He extended the magazine’s remit, introducing a regular theatre section and articles on travel writing and film. His knack for leadership and motivation, evident in the roles he occupied locally – as a county councillor for the village of Dinas Powys and as a Plaid Cymru councillor in Glamorgan – also helped Reeves draw in bigger names.

Under Reeves’s guidance, the quality of contributions and the magazine’s circulation rocketed. The legacy he left behind him – in the form of the current incarnation of the New Welsh Review – cannot be remembered lightly.

In the words of his successor, Victor Golightly: ‘Robin never doubted or wavered in his commitment to the literary, cultural and political life of Wales; his editorship of New Welsh Review was also notable for his moral stature, his selflessness, and the kindness, warmth and respect that he showed to those who wrote for the magazine.’

Today The New Welsh Review is based in Aberystwyth, under the watchful eye of Gwen Davies. To purchase both current and backlist issues of the New Welsh Review you can visit its website, where there is currently a 50% sale on all backlist issues, dating all the way back to the summer of 1988.

There you can also explore a host of archived articles, reviews, and interviews for your reading pleasure; with figures such as Rachel Trezise and Sarah Waters, on subjects ranging from fantastical depictions of Wales in popular culture, to Scandinavian crime fiction.

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