Theatre in Wales

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Labour's 2021 Manifesto: Cultural Commitments

Arts Policy Report

Government 2021-2026 , Cultural Policy of Wales , May 13, 2021
Arts Policy Report by Government 2021-2026 The strangest of elections is done; more parties than ever, nineteen contesting in my own constituency; no hustings, no meeting of citizenry and candidates; no verbal jousting; no phrase to catch the attention.

If all that was lacking, it was right. The public health emergency is now at a phase that is irreversible, but the next period may last weeks or may last months.

The manifestos from the parties varied in length, varied in content and varied in sense. Elections are not swung by culture. Nonetheless the Government that began work this week included pledges on culture. Its manifesto had a structural clarity, comprising 10 chapters.

Chapter 8 was headed “Welsh Labour's Promise to Wales. We will:” Twelve points follow. They include:

“Establish a National Music Service to make sure that a lack of money is no barrier to young people learning to play an instrument.”

This is good news. Ceredigion is reckoned to be a well-run authority. It has not had the flare-ups and rows that featured in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. But the treatment of the provision of music teaching met public protest. Music is not just an area of mastery for a child to attain but the neurological benefits continue to be revealed. Increased linguistic proficiency, left brain hemisphere enhancement, empathy encouragement are just the beginning.

“Invest in our theatres and museums, including committing to Theatr Clwyd, establishing the Football Museum and the National Contemporary Art Gallery.”

“Invest” is used variously in public life. It means more money. “Commit to”- small idea what that means. The new galleries are good news. A national gallery has been a slow train coming as it was included in the coalition government agreement of 2007.

“Provide free access to the Urdd Eisteddfod in 2022 on its centenary anniversary.”

Not sure about this. It is just money out, with probably small effect on price-demand elasticity. Since the Urdd is a cultural organisation of impact it would be of benefit if Eisteddfodau took place in every school, irrespective of language.

“Tell the full story of our country by ensuring that Black, Asian, and Ethnic Minority histories are properly reflected throughout our cultural and heritage sectors including in our National Museums.”

This is good news.

“Work with key partners in TV, film and in education to establish a Creative Skills Body to cultivate home-grown excellence particularly among our young people. We will also consider establishing a Creative Industry Research and Development Fund so that Wales is always at the forefront of skills and technology.”

Not sure about this. It sounds good but skills are already taught in existing institutions. Whether a new government body is the best way to attain technology leadership could be discussed. A vigorous exciting V-C or producer sector is what works best empirically.

“Support the application to identify the slate landscape of North West Wales as a World Heritage Site. We will work with local organisations to promote this cultural and economic opportunity and we will develop plans for a Museum of North Wales.”

This is good news as the sites are visually astounding and emotionally affecting.

“Consult on legislation permitting local authorities to raise a tourism levy, ring fenced to support improving the visitor experience in Wales and to help the local economy.”

This is an interesting one responding to the situation in Gwynedd. I suspect it will not come to much. The fear of being called anti-English is pervasive. Pricing entry to Snowdonia up to demand, as in other National Parks, will not happen. The Inca Trail is $100 upwards.

“We will create a Welsh language Communities Housing Plan to strengthen Welsh language communities and we will work with partners in these communities to support young people in securing affordable homes. We will also work to protect Welsh place names.”

This is an interesting one, appearing as it does in the culture chapter. It will have been included because it is a hot issue in Gwynedd. It is hard to see what is going to happen. There is no defined action involved beyond a plan, a working with communities, a support to young people.

Differential, or preferential, treatment to bilingual citizens runs across a heap of other Welsh government principles. As for stemming the erosion of place names property rights are property rights. I cannot see a Welsh Government having the will to legislate and forbid the renamings.

These “We will..” statements are part of just one chapter in a manifesto of ten chapters. Still, it is all there in print. 2026 awaits and will make its judgement.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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