Theatre in Wales

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"Welsh language use "systemically racist, Arts Council warned"

Governance of Arts Organisations

Arts Council of Wales & National Museum of Wales , Culture of Wales , August 31, 2021
Governance of Arts Organisations by Arts Council of Wales & National Museum of Wales The London press enjoyed themselves at the expense of Wales over a weekend this month. "Welsh language use "systemically racist, Arts Council warned" was just one headline in emblazoned print.

The story continued "Organisation commissioned £51000 of research, which found it upholds a white supremacist ideology."

In the way of the media the story ricochetted around. It even got to feature on Russia Today, ever eager to project fissure and distemper. "Arts Council of Wales finds itself racist for… asking employees to speak Welsh. A report commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales has found the organisation’s own Welsh language policies are “systemically racist”, ran its story, "for setting Welsh language requirements."

And, the report added with a bit of relish: "Far from pushing back and safeguarding their unique language, the Arts Council of Wales and National Museums Wales both eagerly accepted the report’s findings."

* * * *

True to form the media in Cardiff took no interest. But an independent source, run from Llandysul, did. Nation Cymru took the effort to look at the assault on the heart of Welsh culture.

"The report comes after the Arts Council of Wales had recently been criticised", wrote its reporter," for its decision to advertise a senior position without a requirement for fluency in Welsh. The Archdruid, Myrddin ap Dafydd, has slammed the organisation for “undermining and undervaluing” the Welsh language. He said that you “can’t do the job” of Director of Arts Development properly without being able to speak the language.

"The director will be responsible for promoting the Welsh language within the sector and it is one of the most important posts within the organisation.

"But the Arts Council says it is looking for someone who is “passionate” about the Welsh language for the post, which comes with a salary of between £59,269 and £75,477.

"Originally the job description said fluency in the Welsh language was “desirable” but not “essential”. ..In an internal letter to the Chair of the Arts Council, the Unite union has expressed its “disappointment” that Welsh was not a requirement for the job."

The full story at:

* * * *

Nation Cymru's coverage continued.

Adam Pearce 23rd August: "People of colour, as well as their stories, are poorly represented by our arts and heritage sectors for a variety of social and historical reasons which it is absolutely right and crucial that we address. However, I take issue with the claim (more implicit than explicit in the report itself, it must be said) that Welsh language requirements, especially on job vacancies, exclude people of colour. This claim is not only false, it is also extremely dangerous and pernicious, and needs to be decisively refuted.

"This claim – for which the report itself offers no evidence – appears to be based on the assumption that few or no people of colour speak Welsh. This misconception is not just outright wrong historically (as brilliantly explored by Simon Brooks in his recent book Hanes Cymry) but is itself offensive, treating Welsh speakers of colour as if they do not exist – something which has understandably led to many frustrated comments on social media by Welsh speakers of colour. It would be interesting to know whether the authors of the report spoke to any of this group as a part of their research.

"The reality is that, of course, there are Welsh speakers of colour – thousands of them. This will not be a surprise to anyone who’s ever watched S4C or seen the intake of a typical Welsh medium school, however, it’s reflected in the official statistics too: according to the 2011 census, 2% of Welsh speakers recorded an ethnicity other than white (over ten thousand individuals). To put this another way, approximately 25% of Welsh-born people of colour – a comparable figure to the overall average of people born in Wales that can speak welsh."

"Welsh is our national language and it is only right and proper to expect that it is at the forefront of the provision of our national institutions. As a Welsh speaker, one of my favourite things about visiting our national museum sites is the knowledge that even in the south, you can count on the staff being able to speak Welsh. Except for schools or occasional events like the Eisteddfod, it is one of the few spaces outside y Fro Gymraeg where this is the case...To see that dismantled in the name of inclusion would be a misfortune whose tragedy would be exceeded only by its irony.

The full story at:

* * * *

The story continued. 24th August

"Race Council Cymru have said that it was “wrong” for media reports to claim that the Welsh language excludes people of colour, after a report suggested that policies aimed at promoting the language in the workforce could be a bar to a more diverse range of applicants. "The board of Race Council Cymru support the Welsh Language and actively believe that diverse communities in Wales must respect the language of Wales,” they said. In a Twitter message in which both the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Anti-Racist Union were tagged in, they said: “This branding is wrong.”

The full story at:

* * * *

Dafydd Iwan commented: "Surely any job which requires a particular skill can be said to exclude all those who do not have that skill, be they of any ethnic background."

Another commentator, CJPh, got at the nub of it: "It’s far too clumsy and full of lazy assumptions, and seems to have been written by someone completely unfamiliar with the Wales, (or even just Cardiff) of 2021".

The question that remained: "Why did Arts Council of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru accept and publish an anonymous report?"

Remarkable, even for Cardiff, in that £51000 was diverted from the arts to writers whose identities are secret. The organisation is not incorporated and certainly is not membership-based. The Arts Council may well have made payments to private individuals.

Names were offered: Radha Patel, Durre Shahwar, Sadia Pineda Hameed, Adeola Dewis, Hannan Issa. Cardiff insiders reported that all have been beneficiaries of public cultural expenditure, Artes Mundi, Ffilm Cymru, Film Hub Wales as examples. The film sector did not feature, the assertion being that the anonymous authors all benefit from it, Ffolio Film Cymru Wales being funded by the Arts Council. The document as made available in the public domain has an author name of Diane Hebb.

None of those in the know intervened to comment. This is not a satisfactory situation. It underlines the weakness of the public sphere.

This article is a digest of public sources. I have no more direct knowledge than any other member of the public. Any note of error, omission, correction, clarification is welcome.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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