Tag: Arts

Securing a Future for Art in Wales

Guest blog by Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

Performance art in Cardiff

In the past ten years, Welsh Government and National Lottery funding for the Arts Council of Wales has fallen 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.

Performance art group

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

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications – Engagement firsts at the National Assembly for Wales

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.

Committee Members

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…

Welsh language

  • 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

Culture

  • 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

Heritage

  • Preserving local heritage in Wales
  • Cultural and historical education in Wales

Communications

  • 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.

Get involved by completing and sharing this survey.

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.

Participation in Arts

RCT Community Arts - Cofio

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)