Theatre in Wales

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DIVISIBLE, INVISIBLE WALES Dawns Dyfed, the Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion rooted community dance company, is to appeal against an Arts Council of Wales decision to end its funding. Company chair Euros Lewis says: ‘This about turn in our relationship with the Arts Council has come out of the blue. Our annual review meetings and project assessments have always highlighted our innovative work in the wide range of communities that we serve, heaping particular praise on our achievements with children, young people and the disadvantaged across the three counties. Having been frequently used as a model of best practice by ACW themselves, it is very puzzling that a company with such a successful profile is suddenly deemed to be surplus to their requirements.’

Established in 1989, the company set about developing a meaningful working partnership with the economic and culturally crisis-torn communities of the west under the guidance of Margaret Ames. Overseeing the project was the late Cliff McLucas, whose world renowned Cwmni Brith Gof suffered a similar fate at the hands of the council 10 years ago. Says Euros ‘It is very difficult not to see a political pattern emerging here particularly when you recognize that McLucas’ Brith Gof was feted by ACW until it made the predominantly Welsh-speaking communities of the west its basis for artistic enquiry. Dawns Dyfed has recently completed a three-year long project that aimed to give the vulnerable hill-farming communities of north Carmarthenshire a voice denied to them by their political and cultural invisibility. The project was spectacularly successful. However, no Arts Council officer saw any formative or performance stage of it.’

Questioned why absence on the part of professionals whose work it is to evaluate and encourage such artistic endeavour was now commonplace, Margaret Ames, Dawns Dyfed’s Artistic Director, ventured that two factors might be at work. ‘In the first place’ she said ‘ACW’s regional offices have been demoted. I feel sorry for our Carmarthen based colleagues. They have no voice in the Cardiff-only decision making. Secondly, amongst principal arts officers in Cardiff, there are currently no Welsh-speakers, and as much of what we do is, naturally, reflective of the indigenous Welsh-speaking culture, it seems that our work in these communities has become as invisible as the communities themselves.’

However, Dawns Dyfed is quick to note that such disinterest does not include all officers. Says Euros ‘What is particularly perplexing is the much commented upon fact that ACW’s management team have not included its Senior Dance Officer in this decision process. Indeed, there is room to believe that she has been actively excluded. That fact, along with the body’s refusal to confer with a Freedom of Information request made by Dawns Dyfed and Regional A.M. Nerys Evans for the release of all documentation surrounding its decision, leads us to the inevitable conclusion that there is a hidden agenda at work, one that seems to have either political or personal motives.’

As ACW funding accounts for slightly less than 50% of Dawns Dyfed’s income, the company’s board of management will be looking to see whether a new business plan can be drawn up that will allow its three community dance specialists to carry on building upon the solid base of trust and commitment that has evolved through embedded work over the years. Comments Euros ‘ACW’s decision goes against the grain of community empowerment that is at last beginning to take root in the west of Wales. From the English-speaking south of Pembrokeshire to the mixed language communities that is the new norm in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, local people are beginning to use their culture as a source of inspiration for creative thinking that provides a long-term basis for sustainable development. ACW officers’ colonial style central planning and control seems very much passed its sell-by date.’

Dawns Dyfed  
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008back



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