Theatre in Wales

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Quality Standards & Compliance Waived by Arts Council

National Theatre: Comment

Arts Council Quality Handbook & Code of Practice , Public Culture of Wales , February 2, 2023
National Theatre: Comment by Arts Council Quality Handbook & Code of Practice The article of 26th January looked at the relationship of the company and the regulatory bodies of the United Kingdom.

As of 31st January 2023 the trustees had not registered accounts for the year ending 31st March 2022 with Companies House.

The policy page of the company states: “Everything we do, we do responsibly. We care about openness, transparency, accountability.”

Reference: https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/about/our-commitments/our-policies

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This article looks at the relationship of the company to regulation and compliance within Wales.

The position of the Arts Council of Wales on the status of Wales' national companies is unambiguous.

Nick Capaldi, former Chief Executive, wrote on 13th November 2018: “to be ‘national’ is a privilege, not a right.”

“It’s a designation that brings with it a particular obligation to be an exemplar in every way: creating work of national and international significance.”

As recorded in the first article of 31st December national significance has been foregone. The record of theatre of Wales seen internationally is on the record.

In 2022 Bale and Thomas travelled to the Hollywood Fringe. In previous years Wales Millennium Centre won an award at the Adelaide Fringe.

Flying Bridge too has been to Australia, to the USA and played a season in Vienna. The company plays in Adelaide again in 2023 with "Horse Country".

The Torch has been to New York City.

It is years since the National Theatre of Wales has featured internationally.

The National Theatre of Scotland is performing in New York City 9th March-30th April 2023.

References:

Wales at Hollywood Fringe: below 21st July 2022

Nick Capaldi: https://www.walesartsreview.org/arts-council-statement-on-the-ntw-debate/

https://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/events/prudencia-hart-2023

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The quality management standards of the Arts Council of Wales are contained in two documents. Both include a cybernetic process of feedback loops.

Arts companies are instructed to seek information from their external environment and feed it back to inform their own internal processes.

The most recent version of “Strive to Excel” is dated October 2019. A strong arts organisation is defined on page 8:

“It will actively elicit feedback and critical review and have the maturity to make changes... It will use this intelligence to shape and inform future activity.”

Page 9 repeats this: “Processes are in place to monitor, assess and review work. The organisation is open to, and keen to receive, different types of feedback.”

* * * *

The national companies of Wales are governed by the Arts Council of Wales' handbook of January 2017.

Page 5 repeats the obligation to establish feedback mechanisms:

“Seek feedback and critical review to test how well it’s doing/ use this intelligence to shape and inform future activity.”

Page 7: “International activity...Presenting artistic work outside of [sic] the UK...international artists to present their work in Wales.”

Page 14: “Benchmarking against the best.”

The National Theatre of Wales repudiates external intelligence. No benchmarking programme is evident. The company is non-compliant with the quality requirements under which national status is granted.

Page 8: “Public funding is not an entitlement – it has to be earned.”

* * * *

The Arts Council of Wales makes declarative statements like “public accountability is hard-wired into the Arts Council’s organisational DNA.”

It is present in the Council's Code of Best Practice, a document of 45 pages dated February 2022. Page 5 lists various obligations:

“High standards of public accountability, including the promotion of good governance, transparency and value for money. Ensure that services are delivered in the most efficient, effective and economical way.”

* * * *

Organisations are set up for a purpose. When managements elevate other purposes above their primary duty the result is decline.

Nothing is ever entirely new. In 2012 a major row exploded in the management of the arts in Scotland. The Culture Committee in Holyrood investigated. The mission of Creative Scotland, the equivalent of the Arts Council of Wales, was made clear:

“The agency is charged with supporting and promoting Scotland’s cultural and creative life.”

The critique was stinging: “the organisation finds itself in the hands of a leadership which refers to the allocation of funds as the “boring bit” of its job.”

The verdict on focus was clear: an agency that preferred “advocacy, social strategy and business development… demonstrably none of its business.”

The Chief Executive was ejected. The torrid episode is recounted on this site “Theatre of Scotland” 3rd January 2013.

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Without intervention organisational decline becomes decay. An article written in the time of no theatre, “Stick to the Knitting” 23rd February 2020, looked at John Argenti's book “Your Organisation: What is it for?”

The article cited Argenti:

“Every organization should set out to benefit one group of beneficiaries. Organisations are artifices, teleological, formed to benefit certain people, specific and nameable.

“No organisation should serve more than one set of homogeneous set of intended beneficiaries- that is, the person or persons for whose benefit the organisation was originally formed or for whom it now exists should be unequivocally defined and limited to one set, class or category of people

“The more unambiguous and consistently its intended beneficiaries are identified the more effective an organisation is likely to be seen to be.”

The newest National Theatre of Wales was incorporated in 2008 on the simplest of premises. The beneficiaries are the people of Wales. The programme of selection, the exclusion of swathes of its own citizens, is not sustainable.

References:

“Stick to the Knitting. The Beneficiary Doctrine”:

http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk/ reviews/reviews_details.asp?reviewID=4598

The factors behind the instability of the company are discussed in the links below 20th and 26th October 2020.

* * * *

Language is a discloser. Corporations reveal themselves in how they speak. The words that are unsaid are as telling as those that are.

The third article will look at the statements of the company, the corporate culture and its relationship with the public. The language of the National Theatre of Wales is unlike that of any other company.

Commentary, notification of error and correction required are welcome at editorial@theatre-wales.co.uk

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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