Theatre in Wales

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Plan for Playwrights' Studio Wales

Arts Policy Report

Writers Group , National Theatre of Wales , December-28-14
Arts Policy Report by Writers Group The Writers Group has been the most animated group from the start among the many formed on the National Theatre of Wales' website. Discussion has ranged far and wide but in the end it was always circling around one issue. The theatre of Wales collectively offers skimpy outlets and opportunities for playwrights. And by extension, whatever the reasons, audiences in Wales could be served better.

This is nothing new, long predating the formation of the national company. Back in 2003 a collective document addressed to the powers-that-be was titled “Where are the stories?”

Tim Price republished the document in its entirety two years ago with the prefatory sentence “has anything changed?”

On December 4th Tim Price posted “Mike Salmon and I have been working on a proposal for a Playwrights' Studio Wales. We've now published our plans and are now in a public consultation phase before submitting to ACW. If you're interested in the future of new writing in Wales, please download the document and join the conversation:”

The document is http://t.co/WCzhXzaxj9. It is 35 pages in length. These extracts give a flavour but the plan deserves to be read in its entirety,

The purpose of the new idea:

Aiming to fill a strategic gap in the support for playwrights, PSW [Playwrights' Studio Wales] is working with venues and organisations across Wales and beyond to explore new ways in which playwrights and the wider sector can discover each other. Playwrights’ Studio Wales will forge relationships with venues and producers across Wales and the UK, making the case for Welsh new writing here in Wales and internationally. Based on the highly successful, Theatre Writing Partnership in the East Midlands, PSW will act as development body for playwriting artists at all stages of their careers, as well as developing a much needed literary agency for a whole community.

Collaborating with established playwrights and directors, PSW will develop a pan-Wales literary service forging and strengthening relationships industry-wide, leading to the championing of work by directors, producers, venues and playwrights.

The fit with current institutions:

The establishment of the National Theatre Wales online community in 2009 provided an important space for writers to identify, engage and create -however, with limited resources, and a body of work using diverse models of theatre, neither of our national theatres have the capacity to adopt the wider new writing strategic mantle alone.

The larger environment:

Following significant cuts to funding and available spend, Welsh audiences and playwrights are now served by an industry without a single professional charged with the strategic responsibility for the sector, or a single company committed to nurturing new dramatic writing talent. In the absence of a coherent national new writing strategy and formal support for playwrights, by extension new writing productions have become downgraded or abandoned activities.

As a consequence Welsh dramatic writing is in a state of chronic decline. Welsh writers forging careers in England find success comes at the price of exploring the Welsh condition or telling Welsh stories. A generation of Welsh writers are feeling that there is no value in exploring Wales. This is played out by the absence of Wales on network television, where English speaking Welsh audiences only glimpse at the country they live in, in science fiction or parody.

The Gap to Be Filled:

Playwrights’ Studio Wales aims to fill a strategic, expertise and knowledge gap in the sector. PSW will support and champion a thriving community of playwrights, and provide a repository of knowledge and vision for time-poor industry leaders to re-engage with one of our key creative communities. PSW will provide a platform to a community lacking in confidence, opportunities and
cohesion. The playwriting community wants to take control of it’s own destiny, and is now in a position to draw on the wealth of experience to tackle the problems facing new writing in Wales. Playwrights’ Studio Wales is that desire manifest.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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