Theatre in Wales

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Six Months On: Arts Writer, Arts Council of Wales & Company Commentary

National Theatre: Comment

Media Features & Company Reporting , National Theatre of Wales , April 18, 2024
National Theatre: Comment by Media Features & Company Reporting Six months and three weeks have passed since the Arts Council of Wales announced the result of its first Investment Review in seven years.

The articles below of October 2023 summarised the events that ensued.

The articles drew on broad sources for their content. The individuals cited were Lorne Campbell, Nicholas Davies, Sharon Gilburd, Phil George, Harriet Harman, Albert Hirschman, Jennie Lee, Yvonne McKonnickie, John McGrath, Phil Morris, Dic Mortimer, Sir Nicholas Serota, Carl Tighe and Roger Williams.

Media Sources were BBC Cymru Wales, the BBC in London, Nation Cymru, the Guardian and the Stage.

Policy documentation was consulted in the company's archive, the Charity Commission, Companies House and the Arts Council of Wales, including the governing handbook under which arts companies hold national status.

* * * *

The ethos of this site was set decades ago by Keith Morris, its designer, builder and editor for twenty-five years. He wished it to be a record of the performing arts of Wales. As such each article ended with a request for intervention in case of inadvertent inaccuracy.

The responses received were of corroboration and assent. The company itself sought no amendment, indicating its assent that they were a fair record.

The destiny of the site is that it be lodged with the National Library of Wales for scholars of future days. The articles, for better or for worse, are a part of the record.

* * * *

A sequence of events in the half-year since runs:

Gary Raymond appeared on Radio Four's “Front Row” on 21st December 2023. His interview included:

“The application was not up to standard....It's not a good look for Wales but it rarely is when it comes to National Theatre Wales. It would have been nice to have seen them come on “Front Row” for once and talk about some work they had done rather than some controversy they had been involved in.”

...The problem that National Theatre Wales had for a number of years, it just did not put work on..There are many good people in Wales who have broken down the statistics and the public subsidy for the number of people who have seen a play by National Theatre Wales is eye-watering.”.

The interview can be heard in its entirely from 26:00 at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001tj27

* * * *

Dafydd Rhys appeared on “Front Row” on 17th January 2024. (His name was mis-pronounced by the interviewer.)

The interview included:

“In terms of theatre we have increased the support with three new companies coming in, Commonwealth, Fio and Taking Flight.”

The interviewer, who had done no preparation, insisted on calling the company “the big one.” It is the misapprehension which feeble journalism has promulgated; that the national company had not converted to a fringe company playing to fringe-scale audiences.

The increase in funding for theatre echoes the article below 19th October 2023.

“In cutting our annual funding, Wales will lose one of its largest employers of theatre makers - we employed 645 people last year alone.”

“This is false. It muddles loss of grant to the company with loss of income to the arts. The reallocation of capital to higher productivity organisations raises employment...The freeing-up of funds for other theatre producers of higher productivity ensures more cash will go the way of actors, directors, writers, designers.”

The interview with Dafydd Rhys can be heard in its entirety from 2:45 at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001vcqf

* * * *

In February and March the company played five venues with “Feral Monster”. The acknowledgements to funders included:

"Feral Monster is sponsored by...the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is being administered by Cardiff Council."

In 2022/ 2023 the company presented public performance on 26 days.

The tour completed the tally for the year 2023/2024. The company performed to public audiences in Wales on 22 days and in London for 4 days.

* * * *

In March the four-year tenure of Lorne Campbell as Artistic Director ended. A new Chief Executive, Leonora Thomas, has been appointed. She is also Labour Councillor for the Riverside Ward in Cardiff.

On March 15th the company issued the first press release of the year on its status.

“Following a 100% cut to our core funding as of April 2024, National Theatre Wales will continue to exist but with a different structure and programme of work.

"We offer our sincere thanks to Lorne Campbell, our Artistic Director and CEO, who leaves us in March and we welcome Leonora Thomson, who joins as Interim CEO. Leo has a wealth of arts leadership experience and will see the organisation through this evolutionary period.

“The difficult changes we’ve had to make for our future are significant and impactful for us all at National Theatre Wales. We feel deeply for cherished and talented colleagues we are having to say goodbye to. However, as we work towards a new vision and future, we are encouraged by how many peers, partners and communities are willing to help shape and imagine what NTW could become, for Wales.

“Within change, there is possibility. We look forward to making brilliant theatre with and for the people of Wales and to continuing to advocate for more support for the arts.

“From the Trustees of National Theatre Wales.”

No names are attached to the release. The trustees are Sharon Gilburd, Yvonne Connikie, Anna Arrieta, Miguela Gonzalez, Robert Edge,Tafsila Khan, Simon Stephens, Joanne Lilford and Stephen Dimmick. Three trustees resigned in the last quarter of 2023. .

* * * *

The record after over a half-year is far from complete. Issues remain that are unsettled. As an example the article 17th October 2023 below cited the directors:

“NTW also secured a grant of £40000 in July [2021] from the Esmee Fairburn Foundation Reinventing Performing Arts Fund towards the development of the NTW online community pages.”

“Development has taken the form of removal of this history of the company. Even the names of John McGrath, Lucy Davies and many others yield “no result.”...it contains discussions on theatre from many participants. It has no like

“...the voices are many. Sarah Argent, Meredydd Barker, Brad Birch, Matthew Bulgo, Peter Cox, Greg Cullen, Manon Eames, Rebecca Gould, Bethan Marlow, Tim Price, Kaite O'Reilly, Gary Owen: these are just the beginning. The words and thoughts of all have left the public arena .”

Even these words of Lorne Campbell may no longer be read:

“I, and everyone else who holds any sort of power in this moment, needs to feel the weight of it. The responsibility and the possibility of our power should be felt with a great sharpness.

“...We must examine our behaviour; share our power; widen our reference; demand our accountability; audit our actions.”

Items for correction and amendment in this article should be notified at editorial@theatre-wales.co.uk

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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