The anxious wait is over for organisations who now know if they’ll receive funding for the next three years from the Arts Council of Wales.
There was good news for many across the Cambrian News region but Mid Wales Opera and National Theatre Wales are devastated not to receive anything.
The former gave me my first experience of opera - a style I previously thought wasn’t accessible to the likes of me - with their wonderful production of La bohème. The latter produced The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen and which, by the way, employed people from Aberystwyth.
I live in Ceredigion and as a regular consumer of and participant in the local arts scene, I’m delighted to see the county fare well from the funding allocation. Excluding companies with a Wales-wide remit, Ceredigion has the highest amount of investment per head of population in Wales. Gwynedd has the second highest.
It was announced last Wednesday that Aberystwyth Arts Centre will receive £1.6 million from the Arts Council of Wales - £544,628 every year for three years - subject to appeals and confirmation of the Arts Council’s own Welsh Government funding. The money is part of an Arts Council of Wales Investment Review to decide how £29.6m of public money will be distributed to various arts organisations in Wales.
Responding to the announcement, Aberystwyth Arts Centre director David Wilson said: “We’re grateful to the Arts Council of Wales for once again showing its invaluable support for the arts, culture and community engagement undertaken at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, at Aberystwyth University.
“While decisions on how to deal with a real terms reduction in funding will be extremely challenging, our determination will be to ensure our continued ambition to bring rich and varied cultural experiences to our audiences across mid-Wales, in line with this support from the Arts Council of Wales.
“We will now work through the detail, to establish the financial implications as we plan our activities within a context of steeply rising costs.”
Six Ceredigion-based arts organisations will receive multi-year funding including, for the first time, Aberystwyth’s Creu Cymru and Cardigan’s Small World Theatre. Creu Cymru receive £75,000 per year and Small World £60,000.
Founded in 1996, Small World promotes itself as Wales’ premier example of a near-zero carbon arts space. Well-known for creating large puppets and big public events such as Cardigan’s Giant Lantern Parade and other touring environmental productions, its executive director, Ann Shrosbree, said she was “delighted” with the news and thanked the Arts Council of Wales, stating the multi-year funding will “support our future goals. Exciting times ahead and we can’t wait to share”.
Aberystwyth’s Arad Goch receives £352,048 per year for three years, Theatr Mwldan, £271,865 and Theatr Felinfach gets £61,084.
Arad Goch’s Jeremy Turner said: “We’re very pleased to still be funded by the Arts Council of Wales considering we’re one of the oldest theatre producing companies in Wales and the only production company in mid Wales. It was a lot of work for a standstill budget; it took three months to put our application together.
“We would have liked more, obviously, but that’s true of everyone.”
In Gwynedd, per year for the next three years, Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias will receive £81,445, Cwmni’r Fran Wen £350,000, Dawns i Bawb £100,000, Galeri Caernarfon £320,942, Literature Wales £753,306, Oriel Plas Glyn Y Weddw £75,000, Pontio £284,285, Tabernacl (Neuadd Ogwen) £125,000 and Theatr Bara Caws £310,503.
For me, using this money to fund arts organisations is nothing but positive. I remember the dark days of Covid lockdowns when I couldn’t see a show, hear live music or go to the cinema, my daughter couldn’t attend dance and drama classes with friends, and theatre companies - professional and amateur - couldn’t perform.
I remember the effect it had mentally, the stress and worry over jobs, the survivability of arts venues and organisations, and the fear theatres would remain closed forever.
These organisations are still trying to recover after Covid and funding them is not about whether you personally attend these venues or see the work they produce. It is about supporting an industry and the jobs it creates. In a world where technology is starting to threaten employment - think online banking and self-service checkouts in supermarkets – isn’t that important? Local venues hire actors, directors, musicians, technicians and box office, café, exhibition, office and teaching staff, as well as using food and drink suppliers. So many people benefit from arts organisations.
The industry also gives people a chance to get out and meet others reducing isolation and loneliness, increasing confidence, and improving mental health and well-being - things we should be fighting to do.
When asked to cut funding for the arts to support the Second World War effort, Winston Churchill is believed to have said ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ Even if he didn’t say that, I think the sentiment rings true today. I know the Welsh Government is facing a £900m funding shortfall in its finances, but I still think the benefits of the arts merit spending at least £26m on them. In truth, it should be more.
When asked if the Welsh Government should be funding the arts at this time, a spokesperson, said: “Culture and cultural organisations play an important part in the well-being of our communities and people - and also make a significant contribution to our economy. We are committed to supporting the arts sectors in Wales and widening access to arts and cultural activities.
“Under the arm’s length funding principle, the Investment Review is an issue for the Arts Council of Wales. We are pleased that the first review following the pandemic has been completed and look forward to seeing how the Arts Council’s decisions will support and benefit the communities of Wales.”
If this funding was denied we could expect to see more empty buildings and higher unemployment rates, and people of all ages would be denied the chance to see shows, take part in classes, watch films and much more thanks to the work of these arts organisations.
Often found in arts venues, cafés provide meeting points for friends young and old, and educational opportunities including art, dance, drama, photography, pottery, singing, writing classes and more are also available at many organisations.
The Arts Council of Wales received an unprecedented number of applications in what has been described as a “highly competitive process”.
Organisations were asked to respond to the Arts Council of Wales’ Six Principles – Creativity, Widening Engagement, Welsh Language, Climate Justice, Nurturing Talent, and Transformation.
The decision-making process also incorporated five balancing factors: including a wide range of art forms and creative opportunities; serving communities across Wales; supporting underfunded and unheard voices; public value; and the size and shape of applicant organisations.
Arts Council of Wales chief executive Dafydd Rhys said: “This Investment Review represents a very positive shift for the arts in Wales, one which will lead to new opportunities for people of all backgrounds to engage with, and enjoy the arts.
“We had a record number of applications this year for our funding, with 139 eligible organisations, and we were very pleased to be able to fund 81 organisations across Wales.
“The high quality of applications that we received from a number of organisations in Ceredigion meant that we were able to make new funding offers to Creu Cymru and to Small World Theatre.”
But we must spare a thought for organisations that missed out on Arts Council cash.
Craig Williams and Russell George, MP and MS for Montgomeryshire, have expressed shock and concern over news Theatr Hafren and Mid Wales Opera are to have their multi-year funding cut, ending decades of support for both organisations.
The new scheme will see Powys get the second biggest arts funding cuts within Wales; with the county losing more than a quarter of this year’s equivalent funding.
The politicians have written to Mr Rhys, Welsh Government minister for arts Dawn Bowden MS and Powys County Council leader Cllr James Gibson-Watt to seek urgent discussions.
Mr Williams said: “This is an extremely disappointing decision for both Hafren and Mid Wales Opera, as well as for arts and culture within Montgomeryshire as a whole.
“Both organisations are an integral and invaluable part of Montgomeryshire, and mid Wales.
“At a time when we are seeking to increase people’s access to Wales’ rich and glorious tradition of music, arts and culture, the decision to cut decades of funding is not only detrimental to both Hafren and Mid Wales Opera’s futures, but also to the future of arts and culture being readily available throughout Wales.
“The Arts Council of Wales have themselves admitted they are aware there is a funding gap in north Powys. The decision therefore to cut arts funding for the region by more than a quarter from last year is outrageous and will have deeply worrying and long-lasting repercussions.
Mr George MS said: “I am shocked by the Arts Council of Wales’ decision to cut multi-year funding for Hafren and Mid Wales Opera, ending decades worth of support for both organisations.
“Arts and culture within Wales must be offered not just within the main cities such as Cardiff but across the country.
“It is vital that settings such as mid Wales continue to provide this for the locality and wider areas.
“Audiences attend Hafren not just from across Montgomeryshire, but also from west and north Wales and across the border into England; all bringing significant spending into our area.
“Craig and I are very keen to meet with the Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government Minister as soon as is possible.”
National Theatre Wales said the decision will impact the well-being of staff, theatre makers and the communities they work with “reducing opportunities to engage with theatre, gain creative employment and tell the stories of Wales across the nation and to the world.”
Where the money is going
Aberystwyth Arts Centre £544,628
Arad Goch £352,048
Artes Mundi £150,164
Artis Community Cymuned £202,935
Arts Care £134,893
Arts Connection £66,174
Awen Cultural Trust £250,000
Ballet Cymru £750,000
BBC National Orchestra of Wales £817,111
Blackwood Miners Institute £131,300
Canolfan a Menter Gymraeg Merthyr Tudful (Soar)£100,000
Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias £81,445
Chapter Arts £400,000
Citrus Arts £100,000
Common Wealth £200,000
Community Music Wales £100,000
Creu Cymru £75,000
Cwmni’r Fran Wen £350,000
Dawns i Bawb £100,000
Disability Arts Cymru £200,000
Elysium Gallery £120,000
Ffilm Cymru £1,436,630
Focus Wales £100,000
Galeri Caernarfon £320,942
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery £127,257
It’s My Shout £80,000
Jukebox Collective £280,000
Literature Wales £753,306
Live Music Now Wales £45,812
Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre£86,535
Mission Gallery9 £6,715
Music Theatre Wales £222,191
National Dance Company Wales £846,596
National Youth Arts Wales £450,000
NoFit State Circus £197,503
Oriel Davies £227,128
Oriel Myrddin £47,849
Oriel Plas Glyn Y Weddw £75,000
People Speak Up £75,000
Pontardawe Arts Centre £64,137
RCT Theatres £153,065
Riverfront Theatre £75,000
Ruthin Craft Centre £395,005
Sherman Theatre £1,142,749
Sinfonia Cymru £221,065
Small World Theatre £60,000
Span Arts £100,000
Tabernacl (Neuadd Ogwen) £125,000
Taking Flight Theatre £295,000
Theatr Bara Caws £310,503
Theatr Brycheiniog £197,503
Theatr Clwyd £1,829,792
Theatr Felinfach £61,084
Theatr Genedlaethol £1,044,883
Theatr Iolo £260,569
Theatr na nÓg £320,795
Theatrau Sir Gar £50,000
Torch Theatre £650,000
Ty Cerdd £300,000
Ty Pawb £200,000
Urban Circle £275,000
Valleys Kids £200,000
Volcano Theatre £212,317
Wales Arts, Health & Wellbeing
Wales Millennium Centre £3,590,552
Welsh National Opera £4,100,000
Wyeside Arts Centre £30,000
Ystradgynlais, The Welfare £95,000