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Arts Council chief calls for ‘national debate’ on value of the arts with funding cut looming

21 Jan 2024 4 minute read
The Sherman Theatre’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’

The Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Wales (ACW), Dafydd Rhys has called for a national debate on the value of the arts amid fears about the future of the sector due to funding cuts.

Last month the arts community in Wales expressed deep concern for the sector following the announcement of a proposed 10.5% cut in funding to the Arts Council of Wales in the Welsh Government’s draft budget.

The Arts Council received £33.3m from the Welsh Government for the 2023/24  financial year, a 1.5% decrease from the previous year.

Overall, cultural spending as a proportion of the Welsh Government Budget represents less than 0.15% of total overall expenditure – one of the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.5% with some administration spending up to 2.5%.

Significant cut

Speaking on Radio 4’s Front Row programme about his response to the proposed budget cut, Mr  Rhys said: “This is a significant cut to the arts. In 2010 ACW was receiving somewhere in the region of £35m from the Welsh Government. In 2024 the proposed budget is £30m. So, in real-terms it’s a cut of something in the region of 37% since 2010.

“If we accept the level of funding in 2010 was OK, we should now be in receipt of something like £55m. These are significant times for the arts and for culture generally in Wales.”

He added “It is now time for a mature national debate in terms of how we value the arts, and how we support our world class creatives and excellent organisations to develop and serve the communities of Wales and reach out to the world.

“We need to build on Wales’ incredible ground-breaking work in terms of the work we do with Arts and Health and Creative Learning. The impact of better investment in the arts would be beneficial to the health and wellness of people all over Wales, and would help build a resilient sector, increasing employment while having a significant economic impact.

“A society invests in what it values. If we value the arts here in Wales, and the benefit they bring to all of us, then we need to seriously consider whether or not we’re happy with a situation where arts investment is being reduced again after a decade of real-terms cuts.”

Vital contribution

In response to the government’s planned reduction in support, Creu Cymru, which represents virtually all of the nation’s theatres, performing arts companies and arts centres made an urgent call for an end to the downward trend in public investment for culture in Wales.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: “The creative industries in Wales provide 80,000 jobs, with the music, performing and visual arts sector employing more than 7,000 people across the country, and has an annual turnover of about £4bn.

“They make a vital contribution to our health and well-being, national economy, and international reputation. The return on investment in the cultural sector, in terms of economic, social, and international benefits, far outweighs the current levels of expenditure.

“It makes no economic sense to reduce investment in a sector which generates £1.40 additional spend for local economies for every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, adding up to £1.94bn per annum of extra value added to local economies by theatre audiences. Compared with the start of the decade, Welsh Government funding of the Arts Council of Wales in 2020 was 21% lower than investment in 2009/10.

“We urge the Welsh Government to honour their commitment to culture and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and follow up their exemplary support of the sector in response to the impact of Covid-19.

“This is a particularly difficult moment for both freelancers, who can make up to 70% of our workforce, and for organisations – with ongoing recovery from the pandemic, cost of living, energy costs, long-term underfunding, including significant reduction from local authorities over the last decade, and the fallout from the Investment Review alongside a crumbling infrastructure all contributing to a very challenging landscape”.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

With Philistines running Cardiff Council WG might quite easily follow…

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