Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 15:24 UK

Minister sorry over prize error


Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas initially announced the wrong winner before correctly naming Dannie Abse's The Presence Wales Book of the Year

A Welsh Assembly Government minister has apologised to the author of the Wales Book of the Year after announcing the wrong winner at the award ceremony.

Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas has written to poet Dannie Abse as well as Tom Bullough, who he mistakenly named as the recipient of the 10,000 prize.

Cardiff-born Abse, who lives in London, won for The Presence, which he wrote after his wife died in a car crash.

Bullough said he felt "broken-hearted" following the mistake.

Dannie Abse
Dannie Abse said he did not initially intend to publish the memoir
The minister was presenting the award for literature promotion agency Academi at the Hilton Hotel, Cardiff, on Tuesday, when he announced Bullough's name.

The young novelist had almost reached the stage to collect the cheque amid the applause of the audience when it was announced that a mistake had been made, and that the actual winner was the veteran poet.

The culture minister immediately apologised for the mix-up, and Bullough returned to his seat while the award was then given to Abse. Bullough did not then return to the stage to collect his 1,000 runner's-up prize.

Writing in his blog on Wednesday, Bullough said to win the award would have been "my absolute dream. No other prize could possibly have meant so much".

He said to hear his name read out as the winner - and then to be told it was a mistake - was a "truly appalling experience".

He said: "Such a quick succession of euphoria, bewilderment, vertigo, humiliation, despair and absolute broken-heartedness have no place in real life.

"I am truly not somebody given to complaining, but that was cruel.

"It was cruel because it was shoddy. It cannot be put down simply to accident. As one person said to me last night, it wouldn't have happened at the Oscars."

Following the error, the after-dinner speaker, historian John Davies used part of his speech to criticise the minister in strong terms for the mistake.

On Wednesday, Mr Thomas apologised for the mistake in the Welsh assembly chamber and to the organisers.

The issue was raised with Mr Thomas, a Plaid Cymru minister, in the assembly on Wednesday when Conservative Darren Millar said: "Well, I'm pleased to see that you're reading the right answers today Minister given your gaffe at the Wales Book Awards last night..."

Mr Thomas responded: "Well, I'm sorry that you've taken that attitude to the incident at Academi last night. It was a misunderstanding, a genuine mistake, which I took full responsibility for.

"But it's a very serious situation and it did affect a number of people who had been nominated for a very important prize. So, I think we should all accept that it's happened.

Nia Wyn and her son Joe
Nia Wyn's book was also described as "therapy" by her

"I take full responsibility for it. I've apologised to Academi, I've also apologised to all the authors involved and I've written to them today again to apologise. A genuine mistake, a misunderstanding and as a minister I take full responsibility for that."

Abse's The Presence is both a journal of his grief and a portrait of a marriage which lasted more than 50 years.

At Hay, Abse spoke movingly of his struggle to cope with the sudden loss of his wife.

He said after his wife's death he had "days of sloth" but "just raised moments to write something".

He said: "I hope (without confidence) to articulate unhappiness is to diminish it."

Originally the memoir had not been intended for publication, but he had been persuaded to publish it.

'Amazing talent'

Both runners-up each received 1,000.

Journalist Nia Wyn, whose book Blue Sky July charts her life after her son was born with cerebral palsy, and novelist Tom Bullough were runners-up.

Wyn wrote Blue Sky July after her son Joe was born with cerebral palsy, and Bullough's The Claude Glass is a drama set in the Welsh borders.

The Wales Book of the Year award is administered by Academi with the financial support of the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Books Council.

Mr Thomas said the Wales Book of the Year builds on a "fantastic literary history" by recognising "the amazing talent we have to offer".

"We can justly claim that we are continuing to make our mark on the literary map of the world in both English and Welsh," he added.

The winner of the Welsh-language Book of the Year and another 10,000 prize was Gareth Miles for his novel Y Proffwyd a'i Ddwy Jesebel, which is about the methodist revival.

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