Theatre in Wales

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Jenny Randerson, Culture Minister, reports to the National Assembly     


<b>Visit to UK With NY Festival &#8211; New York City </b>

I visited New York over the weekend of 20/21st October. I felt it was important to show solidarity with New Yorkers and with our cultural events there after the decision to go ahead with the festival.

Its important to place the festival (and my visit) in context. New York is in a state of shock. The nervousness among the population is palpable &#8211; heavy policing on the streets (one of the hotels used for the festival was home to a large group of state troopers drafted in from upstate New York) and even the army at strategic points e.g. Grand Central Station. Security checks take place at every building, there have been numerous bomb and anthrax threats, restaurants close early, and taxi drivers report reduced passenger numbers.

The decision to go ahead with the festival was taken after careful consideration by the festival board and before the anthrax attacks. A number of artists took the personal decision, at that juncture, to pull out. Others decided they would take the risk.

I believe the decision to go ahead with the festival was right. Whilst audiences were certainly reduced, for the UK the festival has achieved a good deal. And for New Yorkers too. The UkwithNY street banners were all over town and there was a full screen in Times Square courtesy of Reuters. We filled a gap in New York&#8217;s show and exhibition calendar, which New Yorkers themselves are in no mood to fill. Venues and spaces were pleased to be used. The Morriston Orpheus Choir singing "America the Beautiful" in Grand Central Station at an evening rush hour was a widely commented on event.

The festival has undoubtedly helped to put Wales on the map and raise our profile in the USA. The festival brochure referred directly to Wales 6 times. Eddie Ladd had a quarter page promotion in "Time Out." The Morriston Orpheus appeared not only at Grand Central and Carnegie Hall (where they were nothing short of inspirational) but also on television, and the Sherman Theatre made a special impact on the students at the Tisch School of Art. Also in a joint UK exhibition Wales has held it&#8217;s own with Betsan Rees&#8217; cutting edge "body art" along side three other British artists, but clearly the centre of attention; Sean O&#8217;Reilly &#8216;s installation was on view at Snug Harbour, again with other British artists. Welsh film was covered extensively in cinema and animation events.

A touching collection of letters from Welsh school children were displayed at a point of remembrance, and prayers as well as condolences from Wales were presented to the city at a special Welsh reception held at Carnegie Hall on Sunday 21st, which I hosted, supported by the National Assembly, the Welsh Development Agency, the Wales Tourist Board and the British Council. I also visited St Thomas&#8217; Church on Fifth Avenue, where a service had been held soon after the atrocities on 11st September, at which the Prime Minister paid his respects and showed determination and solidarity with the New Yorkers. I attended mass and spoke to the rector, Father Mead and his wife. The rector acknowledged Wales in his sermon and thanked us for our support. I also visited Ground Zero and paid my respects at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary at Battery Park at the very southern tip of Manhattan, where I presented prayers and flowers from Wales.

<b>Clwyd Theatr Cymru &#8211; Mobile Theatre</b>

I was disappointed to hear that Clwyd Theatr Cymru&#8217;s renewed application under Arts for All Lottery funding for their mobile theatre was turned down. I understand, however, that The Arts Council has proposed to Clwyd Theatr Cymru that it recognises CTC&#8217;s desire to see the mobile tour as part of their core funded revenue work and that the Council wishes to meet with representatives of the Theatre and Flintshire County Council to discuss this,.

There is already ongoing liaison between The Arts Council and CTC about these plans.

I am expecting that a solution will be found to secure CTC&#8217;s long term future.

<b>Arts Council of Wales Restructuring</b>

I have chaired a further meeting of the Arts Council Restructuring Group. This provided an update on progress with the restructuring of the organisation. I had formally approved their costed proposals in August 2001 and I was pleased to note that the arrangements for restructuring were progressing well. The new Chief Executive and his Deputy assumed their posts on 1 October and all other vacant posts have now been advertised. The response to these advertisements has been good and the Arts Council feels able to shortlist on all of the appointments. The Arts Council is proposing a Project Management approach to implementing this root and branch change of the organisation, which aims to have the new structure in place by 31 March 2002.

In addition, new arrangements for monitoring, evaluation and review will be set in place. In terms of the Assembly&#8217;s sponsorship role, officials will move to quarterly monitoring meetings with Council officials. I will meet the Chair formally twice a year, plus of course, whenever the need arises. I am pleased that the Restructuring Group has played an important part in guiding the council to a position of change and I am grateful to Anthony Everitt and Elan Closs Stephens for their valuable contributions. I feel confident that this major change to the Arts Council, together with the boost it is expected to receive in grant from the Assembly as announced in the draft budget, is a positive step forward for the Council.

The one aspect of the restructuring proposals yet to be decided upon is the Arts Council&#8217;s proposals for premises. The Arts Council is preparing a business case for me to consider. I have asked the Arts Council for a rigorous proposal.


<b>Wales Millennium Centre </b>

During the summer I and my Ministerial colleagues had extensive discussions with Sir David Rowe Beddoe about the progress of the Wales Millennium Centre. In order that his team were in a position to negotiate a fixed price for the construction contract with their chosen partner, Sir Robert McAlpine, it was necessary to clarify the willingness of the Assembly to commit funds to the project.

As I reported at my last Oral Questions session on 25 October, it was agreed that the Assembly would set aside up to £37 million for the project, and would be willing to make the full amount available should it be required. This figure includes the £8 million previously committed, some of which has already been used to assist the project in reaching its current position. In setting aside the funds, we sought to set a limit on the risk to the Assembly within the terms of the Finance Minister&#8217;s 5 April Statement. The project is now in the final stages of its discussions over the price of the construction contract and I look forward to an outcome shortly. When that is available, I shall make a full statement to Plenary on progress and the Assembly&#8217;s ongoing involvement with the project.
National Assembly of Wales  
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Wednesday, November 07, 2001back



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