Cultural organisations in Wales should reflect the lives of all communities

Cygnor Celfyddydau Cymru - Arts Council of Wales,
04 February 2022, Wales

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and Arts Council of Wales are today (1 February 2022) sharing plans which will help ensure they reflect the lives of all individuals and communities. The Widening Engagement Action Plan has been developed in response to three reports on widening engagement, which were commissioned in summer 2020 and published in August 2021.

To instigate the changes needed in both organisation, within the sector and in Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru and Arts Council of Wales believe that individuals and communities should be able to contribute to the debate about what counts as culture, where it happens, who makes it and who experiences it.

In the plans published today, both organisations commit to:

  • Ensuring that leadership at both organisations is representative of the population. Both organisations have declared zero tolerance of any form of discrimination.
  • Cultural programmes being led and co-produced by communities and ensuring more equitable use of resources.
  • Adopting British Sign Language as their third language and working to ensure venues, museums and cultural resources are as accessible as possible.
  • Continuing to drive forward their work in promoting the Welsh Language and delivering the Welsh Government Cymraeg 2050 goals. The Welsh language belongs to everyone, of all communities, and members of those communities use and celebrate the language every day.

These commitments are in response to research carried out by Re:cognition, who focused on an area of semi-rural poverty; Richie Turner Associates, who created a team focusing on deaf and disabled people; and the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union, who focused on cultural and ethnic diversity. They were commissioned to help Amgueddfa Cymru and Arts Council of Wales better understand how they can reach some of the communities they consistently fail to engage in their work.

The organisations took a different approach to research, so as to hear more effectively what community stakeholders had to say about engaging with cultural programmes in Wales. Each of the consultants worked with communities, rather than extracting opinions from them, to set the foundations for real change for the future.

“This new research points to some fundamental changes that are needed to make sure that we are truly representative of our communities,” said Roger Lewis, President of Amgueddfa Cymru.

“The plans shared today are the first step in making sure those changes happen so that the communities who don’t currently feel that cultural institutions and organisations in Wales are for them, start to see and experience positive change.”

Phil George, Chair of Arts Council of Wales added:

“We are committed to engaging more widely with communities all across Wales, funding cultural activity which reflects the lives, concerns and creativity of people in those communities. These action plans, responding to challenging research which focused on three specific and important communities, are vital first steps in widening engagement.

“Culture is everywhere, but funding and connection with our cultural institutions are not equally distributed. We must make progress towards greater equality of opportunity. All our lives in Welsh society will be richer for it”.

Both organisations are already moving forward with some of this work, tackling the barriers individuals and communities have told them they are facing. Arts Council of Wales’ Creative Steps project is currently supporting seven organisations on a business development programme. The organisations are either d/deaf and disability led or led by practitioners from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Amgueddfa Cymru recognises the lack of opportunities for young people facing the greatest disadvantages and are collaborating with Barnardo’s, Children in Wales, Jukebox Collective, Llamau, Promo Cymru, and the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel to develop opportunities and programmes for young people, including paid employment opportunities for over 80 independent young people between the ages of 18- 25 from diverse backgrounds as part of Hands-on Heritage, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.