• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email

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

A production photo from Circle of Fifths by National Theatre Wales
Circle of Fifths, National Theatre Wales

Jorge Lizalde Cano

Non-Welsh speaking creative freelancers living in Wales face “considerable barriers”, according to a new report from Cultural Freelancers Wales.

The survey found that although 19% of creative freelancers reported being fluent Welsh speakers - slightly above the general working population at 17% - the "growing pressure" to learn Welsh to be able to work in the country's cultural sector “comes at a cost and is potentially exclusionary”.

“Many producers are looking to increase their Welsh-speaking creative teams to meet perceived [...] targets,” said one survey respondent. "I 100% agree that the resurgence of the Welsh language is important and to be celebrated, but as someone not raised in Wales and who has almost no free time due to work, even for hobbies, it is starting to feel like another barrier to having a freelance career in Wales.”


Those respondents who did speak Welsh saw it as an asset. One freelancer said: “Being able to speak Welsh makes a world of difference to the work I can have.”

The Welsh Government has committed to doubling the number of Welsh speakers by 2050, and the Welsh language is one of the six principles that arts organisations must respond to in their submissions for funding to Arts Council Wales (ACW).

National Theatre Wales, which had its core ACW funding cut in September, has previously faced criticism for performing in English and favouring English artists over Welsh ones. The company has since won an appeal for the decision to be reconsidered.

Meanwhile, Mid Wales Opera, which was also stripped of its core funding but has not been successful in its appeal, was criticised by ACW in its application assessment for what it called “quite a basic offer in relation to the Welsh language”, adding, "There is not a strong sense of MWO sharing the story of Wales and Welsh culture through its work and currently there is just one Welsh speaker on the board of management".

In its application, MWO said it was working to recruit more Welsh-speaking board members and that many of its musicians, singers, creative and technical staff are Welsh speakers.

'Overlooked or irrelevant'

Freelancers whose first language wasn’t Welsh or English noted in the survey that their bi- or multilingualism often felt "overlooked or irrelevant", “potentially fuelling feelings of multiculturalism being unwelcome in the culture sector and Wales more generally”. One respondent said: "As an immigrant from who is working long days to try and sustain a career, there also is a growing pressure to find the time to learn Welsh."

The proportion of non-Welsh speaking freelancers was found to have increased from 29% in 2020 to 40% in 2023, though in the same period the number of Welsh learners in the sector had doubled to over 40%.

Many freelancers actively learning or wanting to learn Welsh expressed a desire for more support and opportunities. They said subsidies, including living allowance, for total immersion in Welsh language learning would be “a massive benefit”.

Working-class freelancers, who were found to experience less work compared to other socio-economic groups generally, were less likely to be learning Welsh, often citing a lack of time outside of work. One person said: “Being working class means I can’t afford to have time off between jobs, meaning I never get a break, and it’s exhausting.”

In their recommendation, the report’s authors called for paid or fully funded Welsh learning for freelancers, delivered flexibly to allow for different learning styles and lifestyles.

The survey found that the Welsh culture sector has grown larger than 2019 levels by 5%, with an estimated 23,000 creative freelancers. More than 20% of respondents lived in Cardiff, and on average, across all sectors, creative freelancers reported that 60% of their work was commissioned or undertaken in Wales. The report noted that "increasing that number was highly desired".

Over 70% of freelancers felt unsupported in the culture sector, with many calling for more understanding and empathy from organisations and clients, while half said they would not be able to pay three months’ expenses using their savings.

A headshot of Mary Stone