Theatre in Wales

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10 Good Moments : a Critical Selection of Evidence Sessions 3-5

Arts Policy Report

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee , Senedd , October 20, 2017
Arts Policy Report by Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee To be honest someone who chooses to spend their Friday evening with two and a half hours of video of a Senedd Committee session is an odd creature. But then there is odd as in peculiar and odd as in uncommon; the point of civil society is that it is made up of all types and interests. The Committee's enquiry is important for the arts and an ongoing process. But it is there up on the Senedd's TV location, retained for public view. A commentator can only do what any reviewer does; exercise judgement as to what seems to matter most, select quotations and make the references that appear the most pertinent.

The first immediate aspect is that the processes of government are different from those of politics. Watching the Committee at work is akin to dipping into the Parliament Channel. The actual work is gradual, deliberative and courteous with the parties working in collaboration to common cause.

The session of October 18th comprises around 30,000 spoken words so the following is a piece of radical surgery. The enquiry is investigating various strands of non-state income. This session hardly touches on earned income and the questioning roams across the overseas Welsh, the role of ACW, trusts and foundations, and private sector relationships. It is an obvious that Wales is of a lesser wealth than England with just one of the FTSE 100 domiciled in Cardiff. It is the nature of the wealthy that they tend to gravitate towards specific projects or interests. The following ten points are a useful taster.

Sybil Crouch speaks of the motivation for working in the arts and the basic nature of new work. Audiences are making choices and make them like all decisions based on the known. Public subsidy is there for a legacy of lasting achievement citing “Pink Mist” with Andy Eagle adding “Sugar Baby” (0 hrs 30 mins).

Andy Eagle talks of the pump-priming responsibility. Rather than being a fountain of untapped bounty foundations and trusts are so overwhelmed that they cannot cope and some have in fact withdrawn. (0 hrs 34 mins)

Sybil Crouch on the achievement of West Glamorgan Youth Theatre, the greatest incubator of actors in the world, financed by local authority. While the enquiry is about organisations Crouch refers to the very low incomes that go to artists with composer John Metcalf cited. (1hr 03mins)

Emma Goad: “Arts organisations generally are very bad at messaging what we do really, really well.” (1hr 25 mins)

There is no such thing as Brand Wales Arts, there are individual companies and activities. Hijinx and NoFit State are picked out as examples of international success (1hr 32 mins & 40 mins)

Rachel Jones on the relationship with ACW, akin to teacher-pupil with a historical unhealthy over-reliance. “In addition the teacher does not know what he needs to know about fund-raising... As a nation we have been over-dependent on public funding. It is not enough for ACW to say “go out and diversify.” There has to be investment.” (1hr 50 mins).

Yvonne Murphy: “As artists and as a sector we spend an inordinate time and energy- which we do not have- articulating the case for the arts to government...I would like, in my lifetime, not to have to keep doing something that we have been doing...since the 1980s...” Criticism of the limits of the remit of the Committee. (2hrs 08 mins)

“You tap your immediate circle. You can only really do crowdfunding once...It should be the cream.” (2hrs 13 mins)

“What's happening at the moment is that the arts and culture is being used as a cheap fix-all for no increase in investment. And that cannot be allowed to continue. We are being seen as a sector that can sort out poverty, education, health, and, oh, can you make some great art, and take you on an overseas visit as well to promote Wales?...” (2hrs 26 minutes)

“My experience of the support out there for culture and arts organisations is that it does not understand the sector...Business Wales does not fit or meet the needs or requirements of the cultural arts sector.” (2 hrs 32 mins)

All selections and timings are on

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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