Theatre in Wales

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Summing It Up: A Guide Part 2

Summing It Up

Summaries 10-18 , the Arts of Wales , June 17, 2020
Summing It Up by Summaries 10-18 The previous article, June 14th, explained the sequence of writing in this year that is like no other. Articles in the first quarter attempted a synoptic view from across the years. They paused, interrupted by my wish to leave a review of the years as a reviewer.

To re-visit the summary pieces is to look at another time. But they still speak correctly at least for my view of things.

My article of 12th March: was headed “The Necessity of Opposition” and reported the lasso thrown around debate that has no counter-part in Edinburgh or London.

“We have a governing party anthropomorphising its nation as being congruent with itself. But Adam Price is simply fulfilling his constitutional duty. The same attitude from Government pertains to the Conservative Party. Paul Davies is addressed as being a representative of the government in Westminster. His exasperation can be visibly seen on the TV broadcasts. The insinuation is clear; to be un-Labour is be un-Welsh. Of course Wales voted two days after the put-down of Adam Price. In the UK general election that week Wales as an entity spoke as it did.”

23rd March: “History and Comfort Blanket Theatre”

“The invisibility of Wales is a long-standing theme of Ed Thomas, declared with gusto at many a a public forum. The same word occurs in the Showcasing Report. “When asking about the shortcomings in Wales, the most commonly cited failing was its invisibility in the field.” Nick Stradling wrote for Nation Cymru on 11th February an article on film that had the headline “While Wales remains invisible on the silver screen no one will know who we are.” Gareth Leaman wrote for Wales Arts Review 26th January about “a perfect summation of “official Welsh culture” at present: no real representation of ourselves on screen; a superficial idealisation of the natural landscape; exploitation of crumbling socio-political structures”

25th March: “Keen to Receive Different Types of Feedback”

“The Arts Council of Wales' “Strive to Excel”: “We take delight in virtuosity, we admire personal expression and novelty, we enjoy intellectual challenges that give pleasure in being mastered, and we benefit immeasurably from the sense of communion and intimacy these experiences bring us. This is art: then, now and effective arts organisation will embrace the honest and rigorous self assessment of its work. It will actively elicit feedback and critical review, and use this intelligence to shape and inform future activity. Processes are in place to monitor, assess and review work; open to, and keen to receive, different types of feedback.”

27th March: “Sharper Feedback Loops Needed”

“Organisations sag when primary objectives are displaced by secondary purposes. Thus the Arts Council is able to declare the nature of the area which it is its work to nourish: “The arts bring meaning, authenticity and joy to our everyday lives.” “There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants.” This is stated without qualification. It is not rigorous. Narrowing is for a start imprecise...Most and least in themselves mean nothing...Public documents should be about policy that is specific, measurable and realisable...As a quality document it has much to recommend it. But it has not been submitted to a strong enough quality assessment itself.”

28th March: “Tensions and Fissures”

“Organisations are information loops; some information is welcomed and cherished. The revealing part is the information that is rejected. Organisations, like humans, are fierce in defence of their self-concept. Find the information that threatens; it says a lot...Another surefire route to organisational interpretation is to look at the tensions. All organisms embody tension from cellular level upwards. An organisation is only two syllables away from an organism...we are faced with the task of reconciling opposites which, in logical thought, cannot be reconciled.”

29th March: “Matthew Syed on Diversity”

“Matthew Syed is the best mainstream author on diversity. His book “Rebel Ideas”, sub-titled “The Truth is that Great Minds Don't Think Alike”, ought to be part of the working vocabulary of all who have responsibility for making decisions about culture. There is small evidence of diversity in public statements on the arts. I doubt if ecologists, system theorists, aestheticians or sociologists are admitted in any serious way into a Cardiff forum...“One of the obstacles to gaining the benefits of diversity”, writes Syed, “is that we are unconsciously attracted to people who think just like ourselves. It is comforting to be surrounded by people who mirror our perspective. It makes us feel smarter. It validates our world view. Brain scans reveal it stimulates the pleasure centres.”

30th March: “Better Language Makes Better Policy”

“The jargonisation of language has a social purpose. It creates an in-group. But more important it creates out-groups. Look at those who, in normal times, go out for an evening. They go for laughter or tears, for excitement or profundity. Then look at every utterance from every organisation with a responsibility for arts funding. The base functions of the arts- the making of meaning and the eliciting of emotion- are forbidden to be spoken about...But the relationship of government to culture has only one aspect, that its citizens be beneficiary of a rich, varied ecology of highest attainable quality. Arms length is a metaphor that speaks for reality.”

31st March: “Why Young People Are Not the Beneficiaries of Public Art”

“The ecology is full but at the same time it is insufficient. In Aberystwyth, the cultural fulcrum of north and south I have seen thrilling work for children from Iolo, Arad Goch, Cwmni'r Frân Wen. But there is a deficit- there is little I can take young adults to. There are two principal causes...The word group-think was inspired by George Orwell and popularised by William H. Whyte Junior in 1952. Whyte described it as “a rationalized conformity – an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.”

3rd June: the list of 101 performances of theatre, dance, music to remember

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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