Our blog post comes from David Meredith, Chair of the Kyffin Williams Trust ahead of the launch of the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd.
The Kyffin exhibition at the Senedd, through paintings and prints, representsKyffin’s vast artistic output, is a fitting tribute to the genius of Sir John Kyffin Williams.
Painting for over 60 years, Kyffin became an expert in the use of the palette knife for his powerful creations, his landscapes, seascapes and portraits in oil. He was also a glorious and sensitive painter in watercolour as exemplified by his painting of flowers. Kyffin was also a keen exponent of prints.
An artist, a teacher and an influencer
To Kyffin, the preparation and printing of black and white and colour prints of his oil paintings – along with his masterly ink wash drawings, remarkably pleasing to the eye – meant that as many people as possible had access to art: the teacher in Kyffin was always to the fore. Before moving home to Anglesey in Wales in 1974 Kyffin had been the senior art master at Highgate School in London for 30 years. As an artist, Kyffin realised early in his career that painting was not just putting images down on paper or canvas, but that love and mood was involved in the act of painting.
Such was Kyffin’s artistic influence, status and appeal that the paintings exhibited at the Senedd are not only from galleries and museums but also from Government offices, from individual homes in different parts of Wales, from broadcasting centres (ITV Cymru Wales and BBC Cymru Wales) and from University Collections (Aberystwyth University). The glory of this exhibition is that most of the paintings featured here are a part of people’s everyday lives, paintings that surround people in the workplace and in the house as well as in academia and art galleries.
A national treasure
Sir Kyffin was truly a national treasure and a great benefactor to Wales, an artist by his own admission who painted in Welsh!
In a television interview in 2004. Sir Kyffin said that he ‘had painted thousands of paintings’. A few years previously, he had been criticised for painting too many paintings, only to reply to his critics with a remarkable limerick:
‘They said that enough was enough,
The output of work by old Kyff,
So they finally put strictures
On his output of pictures
So the output of Kyffin was nothing!’
Kyffin had a wonderful sense of humour!
Luckily for us he continued to paint. As Professor Tony Jones, a fellow Anglesey man and Director of the Kansas City Art Institute said:
‘Kyffin’s way of painting, the look and the style of his work, is distinctive, personal, unique – but is also immediately accessible to a wide audience … he captures the hanfod, the essence perhaps even the DNA of the Welsh landscape and he put it all in the paint.’
Kyffin’s friend and fellow artist Gareth Parry once said of Kyffin’s liberal use of paint that it was good enough to eat! Gareth always encouraged people to practically put their nose in it and revel in Kyffin’s palette knife markings.
You can visit the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd from 4 – 31 October 2018.
Introduce yourself briefly explain the remit of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.
My name is Bethan Sayed, and I chair the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee in the National Assembly for Wales.
We scrutinise government ministers in relation to their portfolio. For example, we’ve recently done an investigation into radio in Wales. We’ve looked at the Welsh language and we’ve also looked at the historical environment as well as non-public funding of the Arts.
It’s been good to be able to have a remit that includes communications so that we can look at the broadcasting landscape of Wales and scrutinise that effectively also.
The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee has just launched its report on its inquiry into funding for and access to music education in Wales. The topic of this inquiry was chosen through quite an innovative and slightly unusual way. Could you explain the background and what led the Committee to look at this particular issue?
After being on committees for quite some time that, of course Assembly Members have their own ideas and bring ideas for future work to the table, which is valid but it could obviously be based on our own pet subjects.
I thought it would be interesting to go to the public to ask them exactly what type of investigation they would like us to look into what the population wanted us to focus on, and what were the key priority areas.
We did a public poll and it came out that people wanted us to look at music in education the music tuition that people receive in schools and in our communities and how that can be improved and developed.
It was really good to launch this public poll because then people could engage with a committee in a very different way. So I was happy that our committee was the first to try this and perhaps we could do it again to come up with other ideas for the future.
What were the key themes that the inquiry covered?
They were very keen for us to look at music services in schools. We were seeing, constituents coming to our offices saying that there were problems with the funding of this sector. We were seeing that music services by local authorities were being cut.
So we wanted to get to grips with what was important and come up with solutions to see how we could aid the sector.
We didn’t look at the curriculum, because music education in relation to the provision of tutoring was very different to that. That’s something that we could look at in future. But that’s not what we focused on this time.
During the inquiry the Committee heard from a wide range of witnesses and due to your own experiences as a musician this topic must be very close to your heart – Was there anything that came up through the course of the inquiry that was a particular surprise?
When we went to Ysgol Pengam, we found that they were doing very structured work in the rock and pop field, and they were competing in competitions in England, but they weren’t able to do that in Wales and there was no ensemble. There’s an ensemble for the orchestra, here in Wales but no rock and pop ensembles.
So I guess what did surprise me, perhaps because I’ve come from the more classical side, is that there was such an enthusiasm to set up this ensemble so that people who wanted to go into the rock industry or the pop industry could do that through their school structures.
So that was quite enlightening, but also pleasing to see, because orchestras and ensembles is not always going to suit everybody You don’t necessarily have to be able to read music to take part in those types of activities, so it would open up a new avenue.
In relation to funding streams, that didn’t surprise me, because my sister is 18 and she’s attended orchestras, and I know from my interest in this issue that this downward trend of the provision of services was not new.
The report says that music services must be protected, nurtured and accessible to all. The Committee also states that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s Commitment to put creative activity on an equal basis to other areas of learning and experience. Why is music education so important? What are the benefits?
I think a lot of schools get it in relation to music because they understand that it’s a transferable skill – it’s working as a team, it’s discipline, it’s allowing people to be creative and allowing their wellbeing aims to be met. But some schools, unless the head teacher really understands the value of music, then it might not permeate throughout the school.
As somebody who’s played the piano, viola and violin from an early age, I think it has to be seen as something that isn’t niche, that isn’t exclusive, that is accessible – because it can aid you in so many different ways in life.
For example, an orchestra course would allow me to become independent. It would allow me to make new friends. You’ve got to learn to listen to others and to be able to be respectful of others, and so is not all to do with the music that’s on the paper – it’s about how you want to progress as an individual.
People who go into music at a young age can take their skills elsewhere and you will meet doctors, you’ll meet scientists, you’ll meet politicians who have used music in ways in which they can be quite focused on what they want to do in life.
I think we need to encourage more schools to understand that it’s not just this fluffy thing about listening or playing music for an hour a day, it’s about how that can be seen as a core part of the curriculum in every shape and form. I hope that through this report that we can convince people that we can grow and develop music in our schools.
With all those potential benefits it must have been troubling for the Committee to hear some witnesses characterising the position of music in Welsh education as in ‘crisis’. In July 2015, the Welsh Government commissioned a report into music services in Wales – What has been the Committee’s conclusion about the progress made in the 3 years since the publication of that report – is the Welsh Government doing enough to prevent this ‘crisis’ from developing?
It was very troubling to hear people such as Owain Arwel Hughes, a renowned conductor, Tim Rhys-Evans, who conducts Only Men Allowed, say these things, because I don’t believe that they would use the word ‘crisis’ lightly.
It troubles me that Wales is associated with music and song, and they were saying we may not be the land of song anymore if we allow this, music services are being cut, and may even disappear in parts of Wales. In fact, we’ve seen with the national ensembles, less people have been auditioning for them this year so there is that worry.
Also with regard to the report that was commissioned, , I feel that once certain ministers had left – that it wasn’t a priority for some local authorities. I think that’s why we’ve said so clearly in the report that there needs to be a national guidance and national strategy, because you cannot simply rely on local authorities.
I think some people, to be fair, said ‘well perhaps that’s going a bit too far, we don’t want to scaremonger’. But again, sometimes using those types of phrases can actually say ‘well now is the time to make sure that we don’t get to the point where those services don’t exist anymore’. I hope that our support has allowed for that discussion to happen at the right time before more music services are cut or disappear altogether.
The report itself covers 16 recommendations but what’s the most important issue to take from the findings?
Well, we wanted to come up with solutions because, it’s been close to my heart for many, many years. Perhaps there’s a lack of coming together in the past of people from different walks of life in the music service to say, ‘well actually, how can we make this happen and how can we improve on this?’
I welcomed the Welsh Government investment in relation to the endowment fund, in relation to the music amnesty and in relation to putting music on the political agenda again. But without structural change, things are not going to improve. So the most important recommendation for us has been to say that we need to establish a national arm’s length body for music services in Wales. We simply cannot rely anymore on individual local authorities deciding whether they prioritise it or not. We would need to make sure that it was properly funded, and that there would be a regional element to its delivery on a ground level.
At the moment you’re seeing the national ensembles work in a different type of landscape to the work that’s happening on the ground in our communities. It’s called ‘the pyramid’, so you would have the school orchestras, then you would have the community orchestras, then you would have the national ensembles. If you had one national body – they would be identifying young people to come through the system, and that’s what we’re not seeing at the moment.
There was discussion about whether it could be done in a different way, but I think ultimately we came to the conclusion – especially as we were calling for a national music strategy – that one national body to deal with this particular element of the educational workforce would be integral to its future. I think as a committee we want it to be forward looking, we wanted to put a recommendation out there that would challenge people’s minds and that they would look outside the box somewhat to current funding and current structures.
We wouldn’t want to let any of those particular areas get left behind as well. We didn’t want to be too prescriptive but we wanted to put our marker down and say ‘this has to be a national system now’.
To download Hitting the Right Note: Inquiry Into Funding For and Access to Music Education, click here.
For the latest updates from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, follow @SeneddCWLC on Twitter.
Guest blog by Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee
In the past ten years, Welsh Government and National Lottery funding for the Arts Council of Wales hasfallen by almost 10% in real terms, while the Government has called on the sector to reduce its dependence on public expenditure.
As Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee and as a Committee, I felt the time was right to hold an inquiry into non-public funding of the arts to determine how feasible the Government’s call is, and to identify practical steps to enable the sector to respond effectively to it.
Art needs funding to support its future, but what can be done to secure it?
The importance of art to a healthy society
The importance of art to society is undeniable.
Art illuminates and enriches our lives, which makes it indispensable to a healthy society. The wide-ranging benefits of art to both society on the whole, and the individual, are now widely recognised. From its economic impact to the benefits it brings to education – the potential for art to enable positive outcomes within society should be recognised, promoted and utilised fully by policy makers.
Recognising the challenges faced by the arts in Wales
What became evident very quickly during the inquiry was that arts organisations in Wales face unique, diverse and very difficult challenges when attempting to raise non-public funding. For example, the small size of many of Wales’s arts organisations, and their distance from large centres of population, make raising non-public revenue difficult.
In particular, the dominance of London and the south east of England, in terms of the proportion of non-public funding awarded within the UK, is startling.
A 2013 study found that contributions made by individuals and businesses to the arts in London accounted for 85% of the overall funding awarded throughout England. Although Wales was not covered by the study, it’s not thought to be out of sync with the regions of England outside of London.
Until such a disproportionate reality is recognised and addressed it’s impossible to see how the situation in Wales can be adequately improved.
This situation is also compounded by the fact that scale and location are key factors in enabling generation of commercial revenue, making it more difficult for organisations to raise revenue outside of large centres of population.
These distinctly Welsh difficulties illustrate the need for the Welsh Government to back up what they have asked the sector to do with a sufficient level of effective support.
What has the Committee concluded?
We have called on the Government to take action to raise the profile of the arts as a charitable cause and to raise awareness among UK-based trusts and foundations of the excellent arts projects and organisations in Wales.
As it stands, the sector does not have the resources necessary to respond effectively to the Government’s call. A shortage of appropriate skills within the sector was a common theme presented throughout the evidence. This is why we have called on the Welsh Government to establish a source of fundraising expertise for small arts organisations, in an analogous fashion to the support it currently provides for small businesses through its Business Wales service.
As might be expected, we found that larger organisations are more likely to be effective when applying for grants as they have easier access to appropriate skills (for example, to write effective applications). When such a small proportion of the funding available within the UK is awarded outside of London and the south east it’s understandable that competition for the remaining funding is fierce.
In such a climate it’s then little surprise that smaller organisations struggle to compete.
This serves to underline the need for a tailored form of support, one which recognises the differing needs and capabilities of arts organisations throughout Wales.
This is not to say that those within the sector shouldn’t explore every opportunity to increase their non-public income. We also received evidence suggesting that Welsh arts organisations could be more proactive in their approach to applying for funding.
We were excited to hear about the impact of the Welsh Government’s trade mission to China, which included a cultural delegation organised by Wales Arts International. Hijinx, a theatre company that works with learning disabled actors, told us that this trip had opened doors to future international tours and collaboration. This is why we have called for the Welsh Government to commission research on international markets with growth potential for Welsh artists, and, where possible, to include a cultural component on trade missions, alongside a strategy to grow international markets.
What is clear is that if the Welsh Government expect their call for the arts sector to reduce its dependence on public funding to have a tangible impact within the sector – they need to back it up with an appropriate level of tailored and informed support.
You can read the full report and the Committee’s recommendations here.
Follow the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on Twitter @SeneddCWLC
For the first time, the Assembly has established a Committee with specific responsibility for communications, culture, the arts, the historic environment, broadcasting and the media.
These issues are the things that enrich our lives, that fashion and explain our narrative as a nation, that are the soul of our unique culture and heritage, and help define what it is to be Welsh.
The new Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee is a group of eight Assembly Members from across Wales, who represent the five political parties which make up the Assembly. Over the summer, the Committee provided a variety of opportunities for people to get in touch and tell us what they thought the Committee should prioritise.
Back in July, the Assembly used Facebook Live for the very first time. Over 2,700 people watched Chair of the Committee, Bethan Jenkins AM talk about her hopes for the Committee. We had lots of ideas through the Facebook Live feed, on Twitter, and by e-mail.
The Committee also held an event at the Eisteddfod where people in attendance put forward their ideas and prioritise. One of those suggestions was that the Committee should look at Welsh Language usage among young people, considering the announcement the First Minister and the Minister for Life Long Learning and Welsh Language made about the aim of growing the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050.
With a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch, this is what you told us were your priorities…
How the WG aim to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050, including Welsh language usage among young people
Welsh language in secondary education, including a proposal to get rid of the concept of second language education and replace it with one continuum of Welsh learning
Encouraging people to carry on using the Welsh language after they leave school
Bilingual support for deaf and hard of hearing people
Funding for and access to music education
A strategy to develop the music industry in Wales
Fees and terms for the visual and applied arts
Access to and funding of the arts at a grassroots and local level
How Wales supports its traditional and unique cultural arts
Progression of Expert Review into Local Museums report
The Wales brand
Preserving local heritage in Wales
Cultural and historical education in Wales
What can the Welsh Government do to tackle the democratic deficit in Wales
The state of local journalism in Wales
Welsh media representation on a UK level
Funding for the Welsh media
The implications of the BBC Charter on S4C
Citizen participation and access to political information
The Committee took these suggestions into consideration whilst planning the big issues they wanted to tackle over the next 5 years. There was a lot of common ground between the suggestions the Committee received and some of the Committees priorities, including:
how the ambition of achieving a million Welsh speakers can be achieved
concern at the continuing decline of local media and local news journalism
lack of portrayal of Wales on UK broadcast networks
the role of Radio in Wales
the remit, funding and accountability of S4C
We have grouped the remaining ideas together, and want the public to decide which issue you think the Committee should investigate in the next couple of months, once the Committee has completed its work on the Welsh language strategy. This is the first time an Assembly Committee will have given the public the ability to so directly decide what its focus should be.
This is not to say that we will ignore all but the most popular issue. All of these responses will help us decide our priorities further down the line, and we intend to follow-up all of these areas, be that through a formal inquiry, by asking questions to Ministers or by seeking plenary debates.
The Committee is committed to engaging the range of individuals, groups, businesses and organisations in its work, and hope that by providing opportunities to directly affect the Committees work that it effectively represents the interest of Wales and its people.
More about the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.
The Outreach Team has recently been working with a number of local arts groups across to country to hear their views on an inquiry into Participation in the Arts.
Participants and representatives from organisations from Rhondda Cynon Taff Community Arts, Ruthin Craft Centre, Galeri , Celf o Gwmpas, Arts Alive, Arts 4 Wellbeing and BVSNW have all been involved in a series of focus groups which were facilitated by Kevin Davies, Lowri Williams and Cheri Kelly; Outreach Managers for South Wales West, North Wales and Mid and West Wales respectively.
Over 190 people were involved in the consultation, which will contribute to the Task and Finish Group’s work which was established by the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee.
The first session was held with RCT Community Arts project Cofio; a reminisce dance theatre production involving older adults which RCT Community Arts embarked upon in May 2012. This project has involved older adults, whose ages span from 60 to 94 years, living in the communities of Maerdy, Ferndale, Tylorstown, Stanleytown, Ynyshir and Trebanog.
Included below are a number of quotes from the participants who were involved in the session:
“Being involved in Cofio has had a lasting and profound effect – we have developed new skills significantly affecting confidence, physical interaction, intellectual, emotional, social and memory.” (Eva)
“The social aspect of Cofio and the creative interaction with others gives you a feeling of well-being and purpose – milestones and memories shared through telling our stories through dance and drama.” (Iris)
“I am very shy, but coming to Cofio each week gets me out of the house, meet and get to know people better, and also helps my mobility. The social interaction with others has helped me speak out – not so shy now.” (Pam)