Wales’ soul to be a victim of coronavirus pandemic without proper support for the arts

(Title Image: © Copyright Lewis Clarke and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-2.0)

One sector hardest hit by the pandemic lockdown is the arts.

Days after the recent publication of the Culture Committee’s report on the impact of the pandemic on the sector (summarised here), the Wales Millennium Centre announced it’ll close until January 2021. The report mentioned that the centre faced a £20million loss this year.

Acting Chair of the Culture Committee, Helen Mary Jones MS (Plaid, Mid & West Wales), laid out the stark picture of the sector’s finances, saying arts organisations may require government support for several years to come.

The social value of the arts had been proven through the crisis, so it was time to reaffirm commitments to the sector. In light of the Black Lives Matter protests, improving the representation of minority groups should be a priority too.

Going into specific detail of the impact, Shadow Culture Minister, David Melding MS (Con, South Wales Central), reminded the Senedd that even if big venues operated at 30% capacity with social distancing, ticket revenues would come nowhere near to ensuring productions can break even.

Rhianon Passmore MS (Lab, Islwyn) believes the cultural loss could be incalculable and both the UK and Welsh Governments will need to set a clear strategic direction and provide the funds to match; future generations were unlikely to forgive those who allow such a loss to take place.

Sian Gwenllian MS (Plaid, Arfon) went a bit further than the report, stating the arts should form a key part of the recovery process from coronavirus by helping people to process, understand and express what’s happened.

Other than supporting what members had said about the arts being at the heart of Welsh life, Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd), reassured the Senedd that work was being done behind the scenes to ensure major national institutions like the Millennium Centre and Theatr Clwyd were taken care of.

He promised to look again at the priorities of major cultural organisations and to make the argument with the UK Treasury for proper financial support.

Former arts manager, Huw Irranca-Davies MS (Lab, Ogmore), briefly intervened, saying the Welsh Government should engage with people running arts venues in communities – such as Awen Trust in Bridgend – not just the major national arts organisations.

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