Welsh music needs to go back to its roots

(Title Image: Incorporated Society of Musicians)

I’m sure it was purely a coincidence, but this week’s short debate was led by Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn) on the same day the Welsh Government’s new Creative Wales body was launched.

“What good is proudly displaying to the world a fantastic blooming flower if those roots are in danger of slowly dying?”

Rhianon Passmore said the growth of the Welsh screen industry has been one of devolution’s success stories, having increased its economic contribution by 217% since 1999. Many Welsh productions – including those originally broadcast in the Welsh language – have succeeded beyond Wales.

However, that aside one area close to her heart is school music, which has been affected by cuts.

“I believe natural justice demands equality of opportunity….Nobody can guarantee equality of outcome when a child picks up a musical instrument or a vocal tuition offer. We know that. But every child, surely in Wales, irrespective of where they live and irrespective of their family wealth or their ability must be given an equal playing field and opportunity to learn.”
– Rhianon Passmore AM

A music services study is due to be published soon, but there was an urgent need for Wales to develop a properly-funded Welsh music strategy so all students in Wales can access music services uniformly and without restriction based on finances or council cuts.

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) noted that culture, music and dance can promote peace and friendship around the world, while Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) added that some Welsh choirs were world-renowned and have performed at major venues globally.

No point in a creative industries strategy without creative people

Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meironnydd), said the creative industries made a unique contribution to the Welsh economy as well as society, creating a national brand for Wales on the international stage.

“I will certainly be willing to co-operate with my colleague, the Education Minister….and any other Members….who wish to pursue the possibility of a new strategic approach. Because I do recognise that unless we have a strategic approach, there is no point in having a creative industries strategy if we don’t have the creative people, particularly in music, to fulfil that role.”
– Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas

He said the experiences of some of the production companies which have worked in Wales was described as “excellent”, but beyond the screen industry, the Welsh Government was just as eager to support publishing – which, in the case of recent TV series like His Dark Materials – is often where major TV and film productions start.

In a nod to the Culture Committee’s current inquiry into live music, the Deputy Minister said the situation regarding the loss of live music venues was “complex” and not always down to finances – but without these venues, there wouldn’t be much of a musical life in Wales. A grassroots music venues fund will be vital to developing these venues.

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