Welsh government boosts its support for grassroots venues

A man plays guitar at a small gig
05 Feb 2024

17 music venues will share funding of over £700k to help improve facilities and make venues more accessible.

Arts Council Wales chief urges 'national debate’ on value of arts

WNO's La Traviata featuring David Junghoon Kim as Alfredo
24 Jan 2024

Comments follow the Senedd's decision to reduce Arts Council Wales' annual funding by 10.5%.

Scrapping free entry to Welsh museums ‘inevitable’

19 Jan 2024

The introduction of admission fees at all national museum sites in Wales due to “critical” financial pressures has an “air of inevitability”, a government committee has heard.

Deputy Minister for Culture Dawn Bowden told the Senedd’s culture committee that ending free entry was being considered as a way to generate income in the face of budget constraints.

In December, the Welsh government revealed plans for a curtailed cultural budget, handing a £3m cut to the National Museums of Wales and a 10.5% drop in funding to Arts Council Wales, suggesting cultural bodies need to "explore other sources of income".

Speaking at the culture committee, Plaid Cymru’s Llŷr Gruffydd said there was an air of inevitability about the introduction of entry charges.

Bowden told ministers: “It is not something that we would be considering or asking the museum to look at and to consider if it were not in a critical situation.

“The budget situation was such that this was an option that had to be on the table.

“Now, I'm not saying that that's where we will end up, but it would not be responsible of me to rule that out at this stage or to suggest to the museum they shouldn't be exploring that.”

Welsh government cuts culture funding by 10%

Senedd Cymru - Welsh Parliament signage outside the Senedd building
21 Dec 2023

Organisations including Arts Council Wales, National Museums of Wales and Cadw are all facing reduced funding under the Welsh government's latest budget proposals. 

National Theatre Wales appeal rejected

A Proper Ordinary Miracle by National Theatre Wales
18 Dec 2023

National Theatre Wales said it was “shocked and dismayed” at the ruling.

Panel upholds National Theatre Wales's appeal over funding cut

A production shot of two actors from Petula by National Theatre Wales
12 Dec 2023

Arts Council Wales will have to reconsider the company's funding application after an independent panel found it had not followed its own procedures "fairly and transparently"

Wrexham considers charity launch for City of Culture 2029 bid 

12 Dec 2023

Wrexham Council will discuss establishing a charitable company to support a 2029 City of Culture bid following feedback on its 2025 bid.

The city lost out to Bradford for the 2025 title which had established a trust to lead the bid process throughout.

A report by Wrexham Council said the move would mean a “robust governance structure” would be in place for delivery which could support continued cultural and creative work in Wrexham after 2029.

The report added that, once legally established, the charitable trust would have a  “close working relationship” with the local authority. It would also lead a public engagement exercise to update the community on the progress of the trust and the bid.

Creative freelancers in Wales facing 'language barriers'

A production photo from Circle of Fifths by National Theatre Wales
11 Dec 2023

Report identifies 'growing pressure' to learn Welsh to work in the country's cultural sector, warning that it is 'potentially exclusionary'.

Museum Wales’ £325k payoff ‘least-worst outcome’

06 Dec 2023

Senior civil servants have defended their handling of an employment dispute that resulted in a payout of over £325k to the former Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru - Museum Wales - and legal costs of £420k.

On 30 November, the Senedd’s Public Accounts Committee heard from Andrew Slade, the Welsh Government’s Director General for  Economy, Skills and Natural Resources, who described the costs as reasonable, representing the “least-worst outcome” for taxpayers.

Asked whether the payment and fees provided value for money, Slade said that an employment tribunal would have taken about two years to resolve the issue, with the outcome potentially subject to appeal.

Labour MS Rhianon Passmore noted that a tribunal could have incurred significantly higher costs of £1.2m to £1.8m. 

The payout followed a longstanding employment dispute between the museum’s former Director General, David Anderson, and former President Roger Lewis, in which Anderson brought grievances against Lewis for bullying and discriminatory treatment. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Amgueddfa Cymru agreed to make Anderson, who stepped down in November last year,  payments of more than £325k.

A further settlement of £12k went to the former Chief Operating Officer, who also bought a grievance against Lewis, with total legal fees estimated at £420k.

During the committee hearing, Passmore asked why mediation did not occur for eight months after concerns were first flagged in the spring of 2021 following Lewis’s annual review. Slade responded that the government did not have a process in place to deal with a breakdown of relations between senior museum leaders.

In October, an auditor responsible for overseeing public spending in Wales raised concerns that the settlement may not have complied with the requirements of charity law.

Amgueddfa Cymru said in a statement that while it respects the Auditor General’s opinion, “some of the evidence provided has not been reflected in the report” and that “as a result, we do not feel it a fair representation of the events that occurred or fully considers the complicated circumstances which [we] had to resolve.
 

Former church opens as arts centre after £4.5m redevelopment

06 Dec 2023

An arts centre housing a Welsh language theatre company has opened in Bangor following a £4.5m redevelopment.

Located in a renovated Grade II listed church, Nyth includes rehearsal and performance spaces, an underground cellar studio and smaller creative spaces for artist residencies. It will be the base for the Welsh language participatory theatre company Frân Wen.

The project received an investment of £1.8m from the National Lottery, administered through Arts Council of Wales, £1.2m through Cyngor Gwynedd by Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme, £300,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, £250,000 from the Community Facilities Programme, £200,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, and £172,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Gethin Evans, Frân Wen's Artistic Director, said: "This space will be a hub for young people, artists and the wider community to come together, to connect, challenge, create and share through the arts.

"Supporting young people to reach their potential is what drives us, and giving them ownership over the development of the project has led to an inspiring building in terms of design and an ambitious and progressive program of creative activity for the future."

Maggie Russell, Cadeirydd Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru said: "It’s amazing to see new life injected into this old building, and great to know that Fran Wen, a cornerstone of Welsh theatre for almost four decades, is continuing to develop and inspire young people to participate in theatre.

"Nyth will undoubtedly be an asset to the creative economy of the north-west as it provides new opportunities for those who wish to tread the boards or work backstage in the world of the theatre.”

Opera leader accuses Arts Council Wales of 'maladministration'

Mid Wales Opera's production of Beatrice & Benedict
30 Nov 2023

Mid Wales Opera has claimed that Arts Council Wales' latest funding round showed prejudice against conventional opera and classical music. 

Arts leader calls for boost to Welsh arts funding

21 Nov 2023

Artistic Director of Wales Millennium Centre, Graeme Farrow, has warned of a “crisis” in the Welsh cultural sector and urged politicians to consider a 10% boost in arts funding to "steady the ships".

Speaking to BBC's Politics Wales, Farrow said there was "panic" throughout the industry amid cuts to the arts. "We've got Michael Sheen in a big show next May about Nye Bevan, and I'm genuinely thinking 'How are we going to sustain talent like that into the future in Wales?'

"People are going to be making less shows, there's going to be less opportunities for young people to be creative and gain skills, there's going to be less opportunities for people to participate in the arts, and gradually that's going to erode what the culture of the nation is."

In 2023-24, the Welsh government committed £33.3m to Arts Council of Wales, making up 0.2% of the government's total budget.

Farrow said the yearly cost of "just opening the doors and running” Wales Millennium Centre has increased by £1m since 2019.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Tom Giffard, said: "We are known as the land of song, our people go on to be world-famous actors - we should be nurturing and growing this talent, not throwing it away."

The Welsh government said: "We are committed to working with the cultural sector during these challenging times and recognise the valuable contribution culture makes to the economy and wellbeing of people in Wales."
 

Buying a ticket shouldn’t be a performance

Exterior of Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales
07 Nov 2023

Andrew Miller recently spent hours trying to book a ticket but, with the rollout of a new access scheme, he hopes his travails and those of other people with disabilities will soon be over. 

Museum Wales pay off 'may have breached law'

Exterior view of Cardiff's National Museum
16 Oct 2023

Auditor says a £325,698 settlement with former Director General may have breached the requirements of charity law.

National Theatre Wales appeals over funding cut

Circle of Fifths - photo credit
04 Oct 2023

National Theatre Wales has said it will contest Arts Council Wales' decision to remove its core funding, warning the company faces closure within six months.

National Theatre Wales 'deeply shocked' over funding loss

28 Sep 2023

Acclaimed theatre company says it will have to rethink its future plans after having its core funding cut by Arts Council of Wales.

Cardiff music venue plans redevelopment

22 Aug 2023

Cardiff’s long-running music venue Club Ifor Bach has submitted a planning application for a redevelopment project that will expand and upgrade the existing site.

The grassroots music venue, currently in its 40th year of operation, is on Womanby Street in the Welsh capital. 

The plans would see it take over the neighbouring derelict building, expanding and transforming the space into a fully-accessible multi-room venue.

Club Ifor Bach has 18 months to raise the funds needed to implement the plans, which would enable it to stage larger-scale performances and events in the new 500-capacity space. The larger venue would also house a 200-capacity room to ensure continued support for emerging musicians.

The venue registered as a charity in 2019 and these plans aim to help it meet its charitable objectives, supporting creatives including aspiring technicians, promoters, performers and photographers, as well as furthering community development.

“It’s been a long time since we released the concept designs for the redevelopment in early 2019 and finally being able to submit the planning application feels like a big step forward,” said Clwb Ifor Bach Chief Executive Guto Brychan.

“We’d like to extend our gratitude to Cardiff Council for their help in securing the premises next door, which was a key factor in progressing the plans,” he added.
  
“There is still a long road ahead especially in terms of securing sufficient funding, but we’re confident that our plans to improve Clwb Ifor Bach for the artists and audiences of the future will be a cornerstone of the city’s live music infrastructure for years to come. ”

Wales resumes arts, health and wellbeing funding

22 Aug 2023

The Arts Council of Wales (ACW) has announced the reopening of its lottery-backed Arts, Health and Wellbeing Fund.

From the autumn, the fund will have a new focus. It will prioritise projects which aim to improve people’s health and wellbeing by connecting them with nature.

Partnerships between arts, health and nature organisations are encouraged to apply through the Creative Nature Programme, a collaboration between ACW and Nature Resources Wales.

“I am particularly happy to see this opportunity for the environment, health and cultural sectors to collaborate on projects that improve people’s wellbeing,” said Joe Roberts, a Lead Specialist Advisor at Natural Resources Wales.

“This truly embodies Wales’s unique approach to partnership working and we will learn a lot from the projects that come forward.”

Partnership bids from across the arts, health, social care, nature, environmental and third sectors are invited, as long as the proposed project includes a focus on nature and wellbeing, physical wellbeing, staff wellbeing in the health and arts workforces or tackling mental health and health inequalities.

Grants are for between £500 and £50,000, depending on the stage of the project. Applications are open until 20 September.

Welsh heritage sites receive £4.1m boost

Gwrych Castle with foliage in the foreground
07 Aug 2023

National Heritage Memorial Fund awards money to several heritage sites in Wales that were affected by the Covid pandemic.

Arts Council of Wales denies ditching gendered pronouns

Badges featuring pronouns
18 Jul 2023

Welsh arts body says staff are free to select pronouns of their choice despite media reports to the contrary.

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