Welsh Language Centres: the answer to promoting the Welsh Language?

Saith Seren, Wrecsam

*English version follows the Welsh*

Manon Elin James

Mae’r erthygl hon yn seiliedig ar draethawd MPhil a gwblheais yn ddiweddar a archwiliai effeithiolrwydd y Canolfannau Cymraeg a sefydlwyd â chyfanswm o dros £2 filiwn o grantiau gan Lywodraeth Cymru rhwng 2014 a 2016, o’u cymharu â’r Canolfannau Cymraeg a fodolai eisoes ar sail wirfoddol.

Y canolfannau a sefydlwyd ag arian y Llywodraeth oedd:

  • Hwb Iaith Camu (Wrecsam)
  • Y Lle (Llanelli)
  • yr Atom (Caerfyrddin)
  • Tŷ’r Gwrhyd (Pontardawe)
  • Y Man a’r Lle (Aberteifi)
  • Popdy (Bangor)
  • Yr Hen Lyfrgell (Caerdydd)

Sefydlwyd hefyd ganolfan iaith yn Ysgol Henry Richard (Tregaron), a chanolfannau trochi yn sir Fôn. Y Canolfannau Cymraeg cymunedol a astudiwyd oedd Canolfan Soar (Merthyr Tudful), Tŷ Tawe (Abertawe) a’r Saith Seren (Wrecsam).

Beirniadaeth o bolisi Llywodraeth Cymru

Canfu fy ymchwil fod cefnogaeth gref i’r syniad o Ganolfannau Cymraeg yn gyffredinol, a nodwyd eu bod yn ‘syniad ardderchog’, yn gwneud y Gymraeg ‘yn fwy gweladwy a chlywadwy’, ac yn gymorth i fagu hyder siaradwyr a’r rhai sy’n dysgu, a bod hynny yn ei dro yn cynyddu’r defnydd o’r Gymraeg y tu allan i’r ganolfan.

Yn wir, credai 76% o ymatebwyr yr holiadur a luniwyd er mwyn canfod barn rhanddeiliaid y dylid sefydlu rhagor o Ganolfannau Cymraeg ym mhob rhan o Gymru.

Er hyn, mae modd beirniadu’r ffordd yr aeth Llywodraeth Cymru ati i sefydlu’r canolfannau newydd. Amlygwyd nifer o broblemau gan gynnwys diffyg ymchwil, cynllunio, cefnogaeth ac arweiniad o du’r Llywodraeth.

Un o’r prif gasgliadau y daethpwyd iddynt yw nad yw un swm o grant cyfalaf gan y Llywodraeth i sefydlu’r canolfannau yn cynnig digon o gefnogaeth, a bod angen cyllid refeniw parhaol yn ogystal.

Rhydd y sefyllfa bresennol bwysau ar y canolfannau i sicrhau eu bod yn hunangynhaliol, a allai olygu fod mwy o bwyslais ar gynhyrchu incwm yn hytrach nag ar gynyddu’r defnydd o’r Gymraeg.

Nodwyd yn benodol yng nghanllawiau’r Llywodraeth ar gyfer ymgeisio am grant i sefydlu’r canolfannau na chynigid costau refeniw ar gyfer cynllun busnes, costau staff, astudiaeth ymarferoldeb na chostau gweithredu eraill.

Mae’r model busnes, felly, yn broblem gan fod grant y Llywodraeth yn mynd tuag at agor y canolfannau yn hytrach na’u cynnal.

Gellid dadlau i’r Llywodraeth ddarparu grant i sefydlu’r canolfannau er mwyn dangos mewn modd gweladwy ei chefnogaeth i’r Gymraeg, heb ystyried anghenion ymarferol a hirdymor.

Awdurdodau lleol, y sector addysg uwch a’r sefydliadau addysg bellach yn unig a gâi ymgeisio am grant o’r gronfa a olygai na allai Canolfannau Cymraeg fel y Saith Seren, Tŷ Tawe a Chanolfan Soar, sy’n bodoli ers blynyddoedd ac yn dibynnu ar wirfoddolwyr, ymgeisio am gymorth o’r gronfa hon.

Rhywbeth a ddaeth yn amlwg yn y gwaith ymchwil oedd yr angen am gefnogaeth a galw lleol yn y gymuned am ganolfan, a bod hyn yn dechrau o’r gwaelod yn hytrach na’u bod yn cael eu gosod yno gan y Llywodraeth.

Wrth gyfeirio at y tyndra rhwng y canolfannau cymunedol a chanolfannau’r Llywodraeth, roedd sawl un a holwyd yn ffafrio’r model cymunedol gan ddadlau fod ‘mentrau gan y gymuned ‘o’r gwaelod i fyny’ yn fwy effeithiol’.

Saith Seren a Hwb Iaith Camu

Sefydlwyd Hwb Iaith Camu dafliad carreg o dafarn y Saith Seren gyda £300,000 o grant oddi wrth y Llywodraeth fis Hydref 2015, ond ni chafodd canolfan y Saith Seren ymgeisio am grant gan nad yw’n sefydliad cyhoeddus.

Golyga hyn i’r Llywodraeth sefydlu Canolfan Gymraeg newydd ar draul cefnogi un a oedd eisoes yn bodoli yn ardal Wrecsam.

Mynegodd aelodau o fwrdd rheoli’r Saith Seren ar y pryd bryder y câi Hwb Iaith Camu effaith niweidiol ar y Saith Seren ac y gallai beryglu dyfodol y ganolfan.

Fis Ebrill 2015, cyhoeddodd y Saith Seren y byddai’n cau ei drysau ymhen y mis oherwydd trafferthion ariannol. Sefydlwyd ymgyrch i godi arian ar-lein gan gefnogwyr, a chyrhaeddwyd y targed o £3,000 y mis bedair wythnos wedi lansio’r ymgyrch, a olygai y gallai’r ganolfan barhau ar agor.

Diddorol yw cymharu’r ymateb cyffredinol i drafferthion ariannol canolfan yr Hen Lyfrgell yng Nghaerdydd â’r ymateb pan gyhoeddwyd bod rhaid i’r Saith Seren gau.

Yn gyffredinol, ni welwyd bai ar y Saith Seren am ei thrafferthion hithau, ac ni ddechreuwyd ymgyrch ar-lein i godi arian i gynorthwyo’r Hen Lyfrgell.

Dengys hyn y gwahaniaeth rhwng y canolfannau a sefydlwyd gan y Llywodraeth, a’r gefnogaeth sydd i’r canolfannau hynny sydd wedi eu gwreiddio yn y gymuned.

Gan nad yw’r Hen Lyfrgell wedi tyfu o’r gymuned, mae’n ymddangos nad yw’r gymuned yn teimlo perchnogaeth drosti, na chwaith yn teimlo dyletswydd a chyfrifoldeb i godi arian i’w chynnal.

Canolbwynt

Dadl a gyfyd yn aml wrth drafod gofodau Cymraeg penodedig yw eu bod yn canoli gweithgareddau Cymraeg mewn un lleoliad, a allai arwain at sefyllfa lle y clywir llai o Gymraeg y tu hwnt i’r lleoliad hwnnw.

Yn ogystal, mynegwyd pryder bod canolfannau yn creu ‘getoau’ gan eu bod yn creu llefydd sydd ar wahân i’r gymdeithas, a nodwyd y dylai gweithgareddau Cymraeg gael eu cynnal mewn lleoliadau gwahanol yn y dref.

Er hyn, nodwyd bod rhai canolfannau yn trefnu digwyddiadau yn y gymuned yn ogystal ag yn y ganolfan, a dichon na chynhelid gweithgareddau Cymraeg o unrhyw fath oni bai am y ‘getoau’ hyn.

Y farn gyffredinol yw bod yr angen am Ganolfan Gymraeg yn dibynnu ar ffactorau ieithyddol penodol pob ardal unigol.

Gallai gofod penodedig Cymraeg gryfhau’r iaith mewn ardal lle y mae hi’n wannach drwy weithredu fel catalydd a sicrhau lle i bobl gwrdd.

Ar y llaw arall, gallai canolfan fod yn niweidiol mewn ardal lle mae dwysedd uchel o siaradwyr Cymraeg a lle y mae eisoes ddigwyddiadau a gweithgareddau Cymraeg niferus.

Trafferthion yr Hen Lyfrgell

Yr Hen Lyfrgell oedd y ganolfan a dderbyniodd y feirniadaeth fwyaf gan yr ymatebwyr yn y gwaith ymchwil hwn.

Y farn a leisiwyd oedd ei bod wedi cael ei ‘chamweinyddu’, wedi ‘llyncu a gwastraffu cymaint o arian cyhoeddus’ ac nad yw’r Gymraeg yn cael ei hyrwyddo’n effeithiol ganddi.

Mae’r caffi ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’ yn yr Hen Lyfrgell hefyd wedi derbyn beirniadaeth lem ynghylch y diffyg gwasanaeth Cymraeg yno.

Adroddwyd cwynion gan gwsmeriaid na fedrent dderbyn gwasanaeth Cymraeg bob amser, ac mai cerddoriaeth Saesneg gefndirol a chwaraewyd yno.

60% yn unig o staff y caffi a oedd yn medru’r Gymraeg, sydd yn groes i’r cytundeb rhwng Cyngor Caerdydd a ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’ sy’n nodi’r angen am i’r caffi ‘sicrhau bod ymwelwyr yn cael profiad o’r iaith Gymraeg… wrth sicrhau bod yr holl staff rheng flaen yn gallu siarad Cymraeg.’

Wrth ymateb i hyn, dywedodd rheolwr di-Gymraeg ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’ bod y Cymry yn rhy groendenau yn hyn o beth, ac mai llwyddiant y caffi fel busnes yw ei flaenoriaeth, nid hybu’r Gymraeg: ‘I think if we got too tied up with a certain minority group we would be focused on the wrong things.’

Ni ellir dadlau mai caffi Cymraeg yw ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’, a gan fod y caffi yn rhan mor ganolog o’r Hen Lyfrgell, dylid gofyn i ba raddau mae hi’n Ganolfan Gymraeg o gwbl?

O gofio iddi dderbyn £400,000 o arian cyhoeddus gan Lywodraeth Cymru, gellid herio’r modd y cafodd arian cyhoeddus ei wario ar ganolfan nad yw’n medru darparu gwasanaeth cwbl Gymraeg.

Os nad yw’r Hen Lyfrgell yn cyflawni ei rôl fel Canolfan Gymraeg, onid yw hi’n amser i’r Llywodraeth ymyrryd?

Argymhellion

Mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi datgan nad oes bwriad ganddynt i sefydlu rhagor o Ganolfannau Cymraeg ar hyn o bryd.

Serch hynny mae’n briodol ystyried sut y dylai’r Llywodraeth gefnogi’r canolfannau sydd eisoes wedi eu sefydlu a sut y dylid mynd ati i sefydlu rhagor o ganolfannau yn y dyfodol, os oes galw amdanynt:

  1. Asesu’r angen yn lleol, a pheidio â sefydlu Canolfan Gymraeg oni bai bod galw amdani yn lleol.
  2. Grymuso cymunedau i ymdrin â sefyllfa’r Gymraeg drwy sefydlu cronfa i fentrau cymunedol a fyddai’n cynnig grantiau i fentrau cydweithredol a gwirfoddol i gynnal gweithgareddau drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.
  3. Defnyddio adeilad sydd eisoes yn bodoli, megis tafarn, capel, neuadd bentref neu glwb rygbi.
  4. Cyn sefydlu rhagor o Ganolfannau Cymraeg, dylai’r Llywodraeth wneud ymchwil trwyadl a gwaith cynllunio manwl ynghylch sut y byddant yn gweithio yn yr hirdymor.
  5. Mwy o gefnogaeth a chymorth ariannol hirdymor i’r canolfannau sydd eisoes wedi eu sefydlu.
  6. Sicrhau priod le’r Gymraeg drwy sicrhau bod y cytundebau â busnesau preifat o fewn y canolfannau yn cynnwys amod iaith cryf. Dylai Llywodraeth Cymru fod yn barod i ymyrryd mewn achosion lle na chedwir at yr amodau hynny.
  7. Dylai’r Canolfannau Cymraeg fod yn debycach i Ganolfannau Adnoddau i’r Gymraeg, a fyddai’n gweithredu fel hwb gwybodaeth neu ‘stop-un-siop’ ar gyfer y Gymraeg. Byddai canolfannau o’r fath yn gartref i sefydliadau Cymraeg yr ardal a byddai’r swyddogion yn gallu cydweithio i gynnal gweithgareddau yn y gymuned y tu allan i’r ganolfan.

Mae’r erthygl hon yn seiliedig ar waith ymchwil MPhil a wnaed dan arweiniad Adran y Gymraeg, Prifysgol Aberystwyth. Gellir gweld y traethawd yn ei gyfanrwydd yma.


Yr Hen Lyfrgell, Cardiff

This article is based on my recently completed MPhil dissertation that examined the effectiveness of the Welsh Language Centres established with Welsh Government grant aid amounting to over £2 million between 2014 and 2016, compared to the Welsh Language Centres that already existed on a voluntary basis.

The Government funded centres are:

  • Hwb Iaith Camu (Wrexham)
  • Y Lle (Llanelli)
  • Yr Atom (Carmarthen)
  • Tŷ’r Gwrhyd (Pontardawe)
  • Y Man a’r Lle (Cardigan)
  • Popdy (Bangor)
  • Yr Hen Lyfrgell (Cardiff)

A language centre was also established at Ysgol Henry Richard (Tregaron) and immersion centres in Anglesey.

The community-based voluntary Welsh Language Centres studied were Canolfan Soar (Merthyr Tydfil), Tŷ Tawe (Swansea) and Saith Seren (Wrexham).

Criticism of the Welsh Government’s policy

My research found that there was strong support in favour of the concept of Welsh Language Centres in general.

They were acknowledged as an ‘excellent idea’, made the Welsh language ‘more visible and audible’, and helped to build confidence of speakers and learners, which in turn, increases the use of Welsh outside of the centre.

76% of respondents to a questionnaire designed to seek the views of stakeholders believed that more Welsh Language Centres should be established throughout Wales.

However, it is possible to criticise the way that the Welsh Government established the new centres. A number of problems were highlighted, including lack of research, planning, support and guidance from the Government.

One of the main conclusions is that a single sum of capital investment from the Government to establish the centres does not offer sufficient support, and that permanent revenue funding is also needed.

The current situation puts pressure on the centres to ensure that they are self-sufficient, which could lead to greater emphasis on generating income at the expense of promoting the Welsh language.

It was specifically noted in the Government’s guidelines for grant applications that revenue costs were not provided to cover creating a business plan, staff costs, feasibility studies or other operating costs.

The business model is therefore flawed as the grant funds the opening of the centres rather than supporting them in the long term.

It could be argued that the Government provided grants to establish the centres in order to visibly demonstrate its support to the Welsh language, but without fully considering practical and long term needs.

Only Local Authorities, the higher education sector and further education institutions were eligible to apply for grants from the fund; existing Welsh Language Centres such as Saith Seren, Tŷ Tawe and Canolfan Soar, which have existed for years and rely on volunteers, were ineligible to apply for support from this fund.

A key finding of the research was the importance of local community-led support and demand for a centre, and that the centres are rooted in their communities rather than placed there by the Government in a ‘top down’ model.

Referring to the tensions between the community centres and the Government’s centres, many of those questioned favoured the community model, arguing that ‘community initiatives were more effective.’

Saith Seren and Hwb Iaith Camu

Hwb Iaith Camu was established only a stone’s throw from Saith Seren with a £300,000 Government grant in October 2015, but Saith Seren was unable to apply for the grant as it is not a public body. In Wrexham therefore, the Government established a new Welsh Language Centre at the expense of supporting an existing one.

Members of Saith Seren management board expressed concern that Hwb Iaith Camu could have a detrimental effect on Saith Seren and could endanger the centre’s future.

In April 2015, Saith Seren announced that it would close its doors for the last time at the end of the month due to financial difficulties.

An online fundraising campaign was launched by supporters, reaching the target of £3,000 a month within four weeks, which meant that the centre could remain open.

The contrast between the general response to the financial difficulties of Yr Hen Lyfrgell in Cardiff with that to the announcement of Saith Seren’s closure was notable.

In general, Saith Seren was not blamed for its troubles, whereas no online campaigns were launched to raise money to help Yr Hen Lyfrgell.

This highlights the difference in public support towards the Government established centres and those that are rooted in their communities.

As Yr Hen Lyfrgell did not grow from the community, it seems that the community doesn’t feel ownership of it, nor feels a duty or responsibility to raise money to support it.

Centralising the Welsh Language – for better or for worse

A frequently used argument against designated Welsh language spaces is that they centralise Welsh language activities in one location, which could lead to a decrease in the Welsh language being heard outside of that location.

Concerns were expressed that centres create ‘ghettoes’ as they create places that are separated from the community, and that Welsh language activities should be held in various locations.

However, it was noted that some centres organise events in various locations within the community as well as in the centre itself, and without these ‘ghettoes’ it’s possible that no Welsh language activities of any kind would be held.

The general consensus is that the need for a Welsh Language Centre depends on the specific linguistic factors of each individual area.

A dedicated Welsh language space could strengthen the language in an area where it is weaker by acting as a catalyst and providing a place for speakers to meet.

On the other hand, a centre could have a detrimental effect in an area where there is a high density of Welsh speakers and where numerous Welsh language events and activities are already held.

Troubles in Yr Hen Lyfrgell

Yr Hen Lyfrgell was the centre that received the most criticism from respondents in this research. The opinions expressed was that the centre was being ‘maladministrated’, ‘wasting so much public money’ and that it doesn’t effectively promote the Welsh language.

The café in Yr Hen Lyfrgell, ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’, has also received severe criticism regarding its lack of Welsh language service.

Complaints were reported by customers who were not always able to receive a Welsh language service, and that the background music was English.

Only 60% of the café staff were Welsh speakers, contrary to the contract between Cardiff Council and ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’ which notes the requirement for the café to ‘ensure that visitors experience the Welsh language…by ensuring that all front line staff are able to speak Welsh.’

In response to this, the non-Welsh speaking manager of ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’ said that Welsh speakers are too sensitive in this regard, and that the success of the café as a business is his priority, not promoting the language:

‘I think if we got too tied up with a certain minority group we would be focused on the wrong things.’

Given the lack of Welsh in the ‘Llaeth & Siwgr’ café, and that the café is such an integral part of Yr Hen Lyfrgell, it could be asked to what extent is the centre it a Welsh Language Centre at all?

Welsh Government expenditure of £400,000 on a Welsh Language Centre that is unable to provide a fully Welsh language service could be challenged.

If Yr Hen Lyfrgell isn’t fulfilling its role as a Welsh Language Centre, isn’t it time for the Welsh Government to intervene?

Recommendations

The Welsh Government has stated that they do not intend to establish more Welsh Language Centres at present.

However, it is appropriate to consider how the Government should support the centres that have already been established, and how to establish more centres in the future, should there be a need for them:

  1. Asses the local need and only establish Welsh Language Centres if there is local demand.
  2. Empower communities to address the language situation by establishing a fund for community enterprises that would offer grants to collaborative and voluntary enterprises to organise events through the medium of Welsh.
  3. Use an existing building, such as a pub, chapel, village hall or rugby club.
  4. Before establishing more Welsh Language Centres, the Government should undertake thorough research and detailed planning on how they will work in the long-term.
  5. Provide long-term financial support for the centres that have already been established.
  6. Safeguard the status of the Welsh language by ensuring that the contracts with private businesses within the centres contain a strong language clause. The Welsh Government should be prepared to intervene in cases where those conditions are not adhered to.
  7. Welsh Language Centres should resemble Resource Centres for the Welsh Language, which could operate as information hubs or ‘one-stop-shops’ for the language. Such centres would be a base for local Welsh establishments, with the organisations’ officers working together to organise activities in the community outside of the centre.

This article is based on an MPhil research conducted under the Welsh Department, Aberystwyth University. The dissertation can be read here. (Welsh only)

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