I designed the Honno logo in 1986, just after returning from a year in Australia. In a weird sort of a way, I had Aboriginal art and its use of symbolism in mind. I started to unpick what Honno meant: a simple female, direct word. I began by exploring Celtic art and thought about how I could use it, but also make it contemporary. I spent hours making little doodles, showing them to Anne Howells and Rosanne Reeves (two of Honno’s founders).
I wanted it to be visually striking and not too fussy. At its heart is the little owl. I chose an owl because it had resonance in not just Celtic mythology but was a symbol for Athena in Ancient Greece: the bird of wisdom. I also wanted to resurrect Blodeuwedd from her banishment to the night by Gwydion. Blodeuwedd also stands for rebellion rejecting her forced marriage to Llew Llaw Gyffres. Blodeuwedd, like Athena, is also a goddess, clever and resourceful: becoming an owl was in the end, not a problem: owls are hunters, they can see in the dark.
The little owl sits upon one of the oldest of human images, the tree of life. It is found across the world, from Wales to Iran to Indonesia to Australia. It stands for life through knowledge and knowledge through life. I love it as it is not tied to any religion, it is about being human. Finally, I was inspired by the sound of the word ‘honno’, it reminded me of the call of the owl: hoo, hoo, twitawho. I’m so proud that the logo has survived for so long and privileged to have been part of the birth of Honno.
In 2017 Honno rebranded, with a redesigned logo – keeping the elements of the original, but giving it a more contemporary look. Marketing Manager Helena Earnshaw wrote about the process and reasons behind it in the Honno blog.
A group of determined women got together in a Cardiff kitchen and decided to start a women’s press – Rosanne Reeves, one of the founder members recalls
“None of the publishing houses in Wales were particularly interested in promoting Women’s literature or writers, especially not in English. The influence of Virago, The Women’s Press, Spare Rib and Onlywomen, and the Attic Press in Ireland led the way. But of course Wales was different from England and there was a gap in the market in Wales for books which were relevant to the women of Wales, in both languages.”
Honno published it’s first two books – one in Welsh and one in English – on the 1st March.
Both were about two inspirational Welsh women and were carefully chosen.
• Buwch ar y Lein is the diaries of Hafina Clwyd who was part of the golden era of the London Welsh in the 1950s and 1960s. Described as one of the liveliest women journalists ever produced in Wales, Hafina helped form Clwb Llyfrau Cymraeg, a forerunner of the Welsh books council, became mayor of Ruthin town council, and was awarded the white robe order of the Gorsedd of Bards in 1992 for her services to journalism in Wales.
• The Autobiography of Elizabeth Davis was a republication of the fascinating story of the nineteenth century Welsh woman Elizabeth Davis, also known as Betsy Cadwaladyr, the ‘Balaclava nurse”. It is a unique record of the experience of an early nineteenth century Welsh working woman. Elizabeth Davis’ time as a hospital nurse in Balaclava in the Crimea, where she served under Florence Nightingale, is a central part of her life story. It is still in print, having been revised several times, as Betsy Cadwaladyr: A Balaclava Nurse
Working voluntarily and from their homes, the women set up Honno as a working co-operative. The consitution was signed and registered with the Industrial and Provident Society, who acknowledged the constitution on the 3rd June 1986.
The original signatories were:
Honno wins it’s first awards:
• Morphine and Dolly Mixtures by Carol-Ann Courtney – Winner of the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award; made into a television film by Karl Francis; paperback rights sold to Penguin.
• On my life: women’s writing from Wales edited by Leigh Verrill-Rhys – Winner of the Raymond Williams Community Publishing Award
• Exchanges edited by Jude Brigley – Longlisted for the Raymond Williams Community Publishing Award
• Silly Mothers by Catherine Merriman – Shortlisted for the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award
The Arts Council of Wales funded a part-time employee – editor/developing officer. The first to be appointed was Elin ap Hywel (a talented young poet and author). The number of books published was now raised to about 6/7 a year, and Elin worked mostly from home.
• Honno’s first collection of short stories was published – Luminous and Forlorn edited by Elin ap Hywel. Winner of the Raymond Williams Community Publishing Award and one of the Feminist Book Fortnight top 20.
• Who’s afraid of the Bwgan-wood? by Anne Lewis – Winner of the Welsh Books Council’s Tir na n-Og Award for Best Children’s Title in English
• Not Singing Exactly by Sian James – Winner of the Arts Council of Wales’ Book of the Year Award
Elin left as an editor but continued to be a valuable member of the committee and continues to be a valuable supporter of Honno. Gwenllïan Dafydd was appointed in her place. She shared the part-time job with an assistant, Eurwen Booth (who is also on the committee). The editorial office moved to a room in the Theological College, in Aberystwyth.
The Honno Classics/Clasuron Honno series were launched this year. With these series, Honno aims to bring great, yet forgotten, Welsh women writers of the past to a new generation of readers.
The first title in the Clasuron Honno Series – the Welsh language equivalent of the Honno Classics – was Telyn Egryn, a collection of poems by Elen Egryn. A milestone in the history of women’s poetry in Wales, it is a reprint of the first ever book published by a woman in Welsh.
The first in the Honno Classics series was Queen of the Rushes by Allen Raine, with an introduction by Katie Gramich. A best seller at the beginning of the 20th century – and at the end of it nobody had heard of her. There is now an Allen Raine Society that promotes her work.
• Songs of Silence by Patricia Barrie – Shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker prize for mountain literature.
Honno celebrated its 15th Anniversary this year, with events around Wales.
• The Night Garden by Jenny Marlowe – Runner up for the NASEN Special Educational Needs Children’s Book Award.
• Honno won the Pandora’s Box Award for Women in Publishing
Honno moved to the Merched Y Wawr building in Aberystwyth.
• Laughing not Laughing edited Catherine Merriman. Winner of the Best Publication at the Erotic Awards 2004
• Falling by Debbie Moon – Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year Award
• Honno – Top Ten Regenerator Award from HSBC Bank/Community Enterprise Wales
Honno celebrated its 18th Anniversary this year, with events around Wales.
• Strange Blood by Linsday Ashford Crime Book of the Month Ottakar’s UK for April 2005
• Strange Blood by Lindsay Ashford shortlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award
• Ice Trap by Kitty Sewell, winner of the People’s Choice BBC Radio Wales/Academi Award 2006; shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year Award
• Persons Living or Dead by Nia Williams longlisted for Wales Book of the Year Award
Honno celebrated its 21st Anniversary this year, with a party at the Guardian Hay Festival.
Welsh language publishing is central to our aims for Honno: we relaunched our Welsh classics series this year with Pererinion’ a ‘Storiau Hen Ferch‘ by Jane Ann Jones (1908-1968), a bittersweet autobiographical novella about the relationship of a young girl with a married man. The original typescript was burned by the author’s former lover, but the copy published for the first time ever by Honno was discovered by Nan Griffiths in 2003.
Honno moves to a new office at Aberystywth Arts Centre, to be part of the Creative Community established there, with purpose-built offices.
• Cold Enough to Freeze Cows by Lorraine Jenkin Winner of the Winter 2010 People’s Book Prize and shortlisted for the Annual People’s Book Prize 2011.
• Back Home by Bethan Darwin, Winner of the North Wales Libraries Pure Gold / Aur Pur Award 2010
• Flint by Margaret Redfern. Shortlisted for the North Wales Libraries Pure Gold / Aur Pur Award 2010.
Award winning editor Penny Thomas appointed to cover Caroline Oakley’s sabbatical.
– 30 years of publishing the women writers of Wales with Honno co-founder Luned Meredith and current Editor Caroline Oakley.
– Jane Aaron, Classics Editor, on the Welsh Women’s Classics and Clasuron Honno.
– On invisible women. The importance of recording women’s history and lives. Jasmine Donahaye, author of the The Greatest Need, the biography of Lily Tobias, one of Wales’s great women writers
– Workshop: Submitting successfully to a publisher, with Honno Editor Caroline Oakley
The day ended with a toast to Honno – with cake and a glass of something sparkling.
• Honno took part in an International Women’s Day event with WEN Wales, at the Arts Centre, Aberystwyth.
• The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise by Crystal Jeans longlisted for the Polari Prize for a debut novel.
• Not Thomas by Sara Gethin was shortlisted for the Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize
• Light Switches Are My Kryptonite, the second novel by Crystal Jeans, was Wales Book of the Year, English Language Fiction, Winner.
• Not Thomas by Sara Gethin was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Reads Award.