Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

Report on Performance Spaces Across Wales

The report, carried out by Creu Cymru, was initiated by the National Assembly for Wales. The National Assembly asked ACW to undertake an audit of arts

The report, carried out by Creu Cymru, was initiated by the National Assembly for Wales. The National Assembly asked ACW to undertake an audit of arts venues throughout Wales to identify what the National Assembly, through ACW, will need to do to ensure that Wales has a thriving base of arts venues throughout the country capable of supporting productions of all types and sizes.

A full report is available and an executive summary is currently being written for public distribution. This is a brief summary of the key findings for Council.

Information was sought via questionnaire from all professionally managed performance spaces, venues used under the ACW ‘Night Out’ scheme and any other venues promoting professional performances requiring financial support from any public body in Wales. Information requested covered:

Capacity and facilities
Catchment areas
Programme and allied activity
Financial position
Situation regarding Disability Discrimination and Health and Safety Legislation
Indication of capital needs and how any additional revenue funding might be spent
Estimate of the impact of the WMC on the venue

295 questionnaires were circulated in total with 87 returned, as follows:

Number circulated
Number returned

ACW funded venues

‘Night Out’ venues

Other venues
(*as some local authorities copied the questionnaire to venues in their areas to respond it is difficult to identify the total number of questionnaires circulated in total in this grouping)


The response from venues funded by ACW revenue or project funds was statistically high enough to offer a valid picture of the work of this sector and its needs and ambitions. However, the level of response from the ‘Night Out’ and other venue types was not comprehensive enough to offer a complete picture of national provision but provides an indication of the needs of those sectors.


Capacity and facilities
A number of venues require urgent capital investment to improve facilities for both the public and performers and enhance their ability to maintain and develop audiences.

Many venues wish to improve their technical facilities to allow the promotion of high quality performances and to be able to respond to the growing technical requirements of touring companies.

The large-scale venues are generally adequately staffed for the programmes they are promoting but the staffing situation is patchier for the middle-scale venues. Certain venues find that their level of programming is restricted by the number of technical staff they can afford; others are unable to sustain the specialist marketing expertise needed to develop long term strategies for developing and maintaining audiences.

Some venues are concerned that they are able to offer staff only minimum salaries and no benefits. There is concern that existing staff are moving out of Wales in order to achieve higher remuneration, and it is often difficult to recruit staff with the necessary expertise from within Wales. It is clear that the ACW funded venues would wish to increase staff resources should additional funding become available.

Programme and allied activity
All responding venues recognised the need to maintain and further develop their audience base, and the following areas emerged as priorities for further investment:

Programme development - 12 venues have prioritised programme development, increasing the number of promotions to use the potential offered by their facilities to the full and offering a wider range of promotions, particularly international work

Audience development/marketing 7 venues have prioritised investment to build attendance and increase earned income

Community/education programme development – 8 venues wish to develop their programmes of performance and participation for young people and the community.
There is a particular difficulty regarding availability of appropriate touring in the Welsh language.

Financial position
7 ACW funded venues are carrying deficits of over 100,000. Whilst the impact of such deficits can be minimised in venues owned and run by local authorities, other venues find that the need to reduce their deficit affects their ability to invest in capital and revenue needs in the medium to long term.

Disability Discrimination and Health and Safety legislation
The response to this information was affected because not all respondents are the owners of their venues and will therefore not be responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation.

Of those venues that responded, 74% of ACW funded venues felt that they met the minimum current requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. However, many venues indicated that major renovations would be needed in order for them to meet the requirements that have to be in place by 2004.

Of those venues that responded, 91% felt that they meet the needs of current Health and Safety legislation; 70% understood and were preparing to meet the new legislation.

Indication of capital needs and how any additional revenue funding might be spent
The total estimated requirement for capital projects identified by respondents totals 57,097,200 of which 45,010,000 is from ACW funded venues.

Additionally, respondents identified requirements of 3,746,700 to comply with Disability Discrimination legislation and 1,314,000 for Health and Safety.

The estimated revenue requirement indicated by respondents is 3,910,420 (of which 2,9937,500 is from ACW funded venues) for the following principal areas:

To return to previous levels of promotional activity
Improving the consistency and quality of programming
Audience development: consolidating existing audiences and developing strategies to attract new ones
Staffing: improving pay and conditions of existing staff and employ additional staff primarily in the areas of marketing and technical support
Developing, or reinstating, education and community programming.

imate of the impact of WMC on the venue
Most respondents felt that the WMC should raise the profile of the arts in Wales to the benefit of all but worried that it could become a drain on both the total capital and revenue resources to the arts in Wales, resulting in a reduction in funding for the rest of the country. Those venues within the catchment area of the WMC shared the following specific concerns:

The programme at the WMC will increase the number of seats for performance available in an area of limited audience disposable income which could have a depressing effect on other venues audience growth and income
Its public subsidy requirement will grow at the expense of the other venues
WMC will drive up arts investment in Cardiff which may result in any additional finance that becomes available being spent in the rest of Wales to redress the balance of funding
There will be more competition for the same types of work – particularly if it is supported through subsidies not available to the other venues.


The report makes the following recommendations:

ACW funded venues
A comparatively modest level of additional investment in this sector could have a demonstrable effect on programme and audience development capabilities and opportunities for increasing earned income.

Cardiff venues
WMC will mean that Cardiff venues will need to respond to changing needs in arts provision in the capital. There should be a review of performing arts provision in the city, possibly leading to the development of a collaborative organisation such as Cardiff Arts Forum.

Capital Arts Strategy
A strategy should be developed which will protect the infrastructure of theatre and arts centre buildings in Wales and prioritise future spend by identifying venues in greatest need and supporting the creation of necessary partnerships to enable funding to be found.

Review of employment in venues
Research should be undertaken into the conditions of employment and salary levels at performing arts venues.

Work should be carried out with the worst affected venues and their funding partners to establish an agreed recovery programme.

Potential of ‘Night Out’ and other venues
Further research should be undertaken into the potential that ‘Night Out’ and other venues could offer in developing performing arts within local communities.

Claire Jenkins

author:Creu Cymru

original source: Arts Council of Wales
22 November 2001


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