Word-Lovers Come out of Hiding for a Shocking Spectator Sport Down the Bay; Box Office Arts & Entertainment for Almost a Decade, a Festival in Cardiff Bay Has Been Celebrating literature.Peter Finch Reveals Why BayLit Is Still as Relevant Today - and Picks Some Highlights from the 2008 Programme

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Byline: Peter Finch

WHY light up the Bay? In 1999 when Academi (the National Literary Promotion Agency for Wales) first came up with the idea of a long-weekend literature festival, Cardiffians were rarely in the habit of venturing further south than the main rail link.

The Bay was another country.

And a recently renamed one at that.

Cardiff was two cities: the municipal capital standing in quiet Portland stone grandeur around Cathays Park; and then the buzzing Bay, new centre of the urban Welsh universe, full of cafes, bars, restaurants, and light. BayLit would knit the two places together.

A weekend of Llen y Lli, literature of the waves, would get citizens into a multiplicity of venues they'd never yet visited - the Sports Cafe, the Norwegian Church, the Baltimore and Techniquest.

This was a risky venture but largely its worked. Over the years, new Bay venues have come on line, not least the grandest of all, the Wales Millennium Centre and, as a solemn back up, the great slate hall at the Senedd.

Some may ask why we need literature festivals at all. Aren't books for reading? Don't you take them home and deal with them in private? You do. But literature is also a spectator sport, a performance art and a participatory game.

Public readings by famous authors are popular.

Even better attended are events where the famous spill the beans about what it is or was or will soon be.

In 2005, Bay Lit queues snaked around the block to hear Howard Marks, Mr Nice, talk about a life in drugs. He'd written the biographies, made the pitch, and created the books but what he did on stage was simply to talk. And the crowd loved it.

Academi has a responsibility for the whole of Wales, of course, and Cardiff is never the central focus. BayLit alternates with an Academi-supported festival centred on Ty Newydd, the Writer's Centre at Lloyd George's old house outside Criccieth.

Among last year's participants were Jon Gower, Eigra Lewis Roberts, Angharad Price and Gwyneth Glyn.

This year, how ever, Academi is back by the impounded waters making literature work in Cardiff Bay.

The festival runs at the Wales Millennium Centre, at Terra Nova on Mermaid Quay, at the Glyn Jones Centre opposite the Senedd, and upstairs at the Wharf. …