Profiel: Wales

1. General Context

Wales (Welsh: Cymru[ˈkəm.rɨ]) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. As of the 2021 census, it had a population of 3,107,494 making up about 5% of the population of the United Kingdom. The National Assembly for Wales, now known as the Senedd, is the devolved legislature in Wales with the power to make decisions on certain policy areas, including culture.Cultural policy is 99% devolved – broadcasting is not included in the devolution.

The most important policy development in Wales is the creation of the Well-being of Future Generations Act which came into law in 2015. It is a landmark piece of legislation. It aims to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action, in accordance with the sustainable development principle. This is about ensuring that future generations have at least the same quality of life as we do now. The act provides for better decision-making by ensuring that public bodies: take account of the long term; help to prevent problems occurring or getting worse; take an integrated approach; take a collaborative approach, and consider and involve people of all ages and diversity.

All 44 public bodies in Wales – including the Arts Council – have a statutory duty to embark on this journey of change, and to embed sustainable development into their organisations. There are 7 goals in the act. Culture and language is one of the 7 goals, which made Wales the first nation anywhere in the world to make the theme of culture officially a pillar of sustainable development. In the prosperous Wales goal, the economy is worked on beyond just GDP measurements. Carbon reduction is central to the goals of the nation. The Wales of equal communities goal shows a very community lead approach, which comes through through all public bodies across Wales. Wales pledged to become an anti-racist nation by 2030 and launched an Anti-racist Wales Action Plan. Healthy Wales which is manifested in ACW on a big programme in Arts and Health.

Culturally, Wales is one of the celtic nations of the UK. Wales is officially a trilingual country, and its official languages are English, Welsh (Cymraeg) and BSL. The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide the legal framework for the equal treatment of English and Welsh in various aspects of public life. These acts ensure that the Welsh language is treated no less favourably than English in the provision of services and communications by public authorities. 

An important consideration is that parts of Wales are very poor. In the North of Wales the average GDP per head is 58% of the European Union, as compared to two areas in the maybe the most affluent areas of London, which is 330% of the average GDP of the European Union. In 2014 a report was made on Culture and Poverty (gov.wales)

There is a Welsh Government Office in Brussels. The Delegation of Flanders in the United Kingdom and Ireland | (fdfa.be) is covering Northern Ireland for the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Flanders. Flanders is a priority area for Wales: in 2023 an MOU was signed between Flanders and Wales covering cultural matters.

2. Cultural Policy and Funding

The Senedd is a key institution in shaping the cultural landscape of Wales, with the power to influence policies, allocate funding, and contribute to the overall development and promotion of Welsh culture. The Senned allocates funding to the Arts Council of Wales. 

At the national level the Arts Council of Wales provides support for the arts in Wales. It is an independent organisation that receives funding from the Welsh Government and the National Lottery to fulfil its mission of promoting and developing the arts in Wales. The Arts Council of Wales provides resources, guidance, and advocacy for the arts and it plays a crucial role in supporting artists, arts organisations, and cultural initiatives across various art forms, not including literature. ACW has important partnerships with the 22 local authorities in Wales, the BBC and S4C, as well as Creative Wales and Welsh NHS Confederation.

A new 10-year corporate strategy is being developed. It will build on much of the learning from the Investment Review consulting process in 2023 where Six principles were designed to reflect aspects of the sector that need positive change, action and evolution. These principles are closely informed by the Well-being of Future Generations Act (which served as a roadmap in Wales, very much driven by artists) and Welsh Government’s Cultural Contract and programme for Government. Equality, diversity and inclusion has been at the heart of ACW’s values lead work for a long time (A Step by Step Guide to Equality Impact Assessment.doc (arts.wales)) and is changed into ‘Widening Engagement’.

The six principles are: 

  1. Creativity: excellence and quality of artworks and power to connect with audiences remains of key importance.
  2. Welsh language: Welsh language must be a thriving part of creative lives in Wales. People of all backgrounds should be able to make, participate and experience arts in the Welsh language. Cymraeg 2050: Welsh language strategy action plan 2023 to 2024 was developed. Synhwyro’r Iaith (Sensing the language) is a guide to put Welsh language at the centre of creativity.
  3. Climate justice: climate justice through action that is socially, environmentally, and ethically sustainable, e.g. by working towards the Welsh Government targets of a net zero public sector by 2030 and a net zero arts sector by 2050 as part of the net zero Wales target. A new climate strategy is in development.
  4. Widening engagement: widening engagement is about reaching communities who were consistently not engaged with. The approach to widening engagement  recognises the intersectionality and the interconnectedness of all those who face discrimination and disadvantage. It is also about Cultural Democracy – people and communities being empowered to shape and inform their own arts and cultural experiences and to be co-producers and co-creators in arts and culture that reflect their lived experience. 

Widening engagement came about as a result of three reports that the Arts Council jointly commissioned with The Wales National Museum. 

Reports on:

  • Experiences of deaf and disabled artists user experiences in venues.  Creative Steps is a scheme of funding that is available to anyone who is deaf or disabled, neurodivergent and  from an ethnically and culturally diverse background;
  • Experiences of ethnically and culturally diverse communities and their experience with the arts primarily in South Wales;
  • Community’s relationship to the arts in relation to semi rural impoverishment, low socio-economic background.

A Widening Engagement Action Plan 2022-25 takes forward those areas. The ACW is also responsible for actualizing the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan internally and externally. ACW’s work on disability and disability rights has really been strong at ACW and is part of the widening engagement plan too. 

Developing visually impaired audiences in Wales has been composed by visually impaired theatre practitioner and consultant Chloë Clarke and Disability Arts Cymru for Arts Council of Wales.

Developing D/deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audiences in Wales: Arts Council of Wales wanted to create a single national access scheme for disabled customers and their carers. Hynt is a new national access scheme that works with theatres and arts centres in Wales to make sure there is a consistent offer available for visitors with an impairment or specific access requirement, and their Carers or Personal Assistants.

  1. Nurturing talent: opportunities and plans for the future about making new pathways for people from all backgrounds to develop their skills and potential as leaders;
  2. Transformation: the review is not just a transaction, it’s about supporting the potential for organisations to transform – looking for companies to articulate their potential for working towards ACW priorities, and looking at what that might mean in future years. So it’s about not being afraid to take risks or to change and to be really relevant to those communities in a contemporary way.

There is intersectionality between all 6 principles. These principles shaped the decisions for multi year funding. 30M funding was allocated to 81 organisations in Wales in 2023 based on the investment review and those 6 principles. All funded organisations need to commit their own journey of development across each area.

While the Investment Review was crucial to how ACW supports the arts, there are other key areas – including arts and health, education and young people, international work, and support for individual artists and creative freelancers – which are of strategic importance and have dedicated investment. 

The integration of arts and health in Wales has been an evolving process, marked by various initiatives and developments. ACW has been very proactive in this area through development of policies and strategic initiatives. Partnerships and collaborations have been set up between arts and health organisations. Initiatives to train artists, healthcare professionals, and community workers in the principles of arts and health have been crucial.  There are numerous community-based arts and health initiatives. Studies and assessments help build the evidence base, demonstrating the benefits of arts engagement in healthcare settings and community programs. A comprehensive mapping of Arts and Health in Wales was done in 2018: Arts and Health Volume 1.indd Financial support from government bodies, health agencies, and arts councils has been instrumental in sustaining arts and health initiatives. Funding comes through the Arts, Health and Wellbeing National Lottery funding programme: Guidelines: Arts, Health & Wellbeing Lottery Programme | Arts Council of Wales. The Welsh Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Arts and Health is helping to create awareness about this programme. The Wales Arts Health and Wellbeing Network (WAHWN) was set up. The Health, Arts, Research, People also called HARP, was an important programme. It was run by Y Lab at Cardiff University with Nesta and supported by the Arts Council from 2020-2022. HARP focused on finding new ways to support the health and wellbeing of people in Wales. 

Kunstenpunt-Flanders Arts Institute connected with the following staff in ACW and WAI in relation to the BAR project. Emails are: firstname.lastname@arts.wales

  • Diane Hebb – Director Arts Engagement
  • Maggie Dunning –  Development Officer (mainly working in South Wales and looking after theatre) 
  • Andrew Ogun – Agent for Change
  • Laura Drane – Portfolio Manager (mainly working on circus, dance, classical music) 
  • Louise Wright – Portfolio Manager (mainly working on visual arts, also on Magnetic Residency, Wales in Venice, etc) 
  • Sally Lewis – Portfolio Manager (with focus on arts & health)
  • Judith  Musker Turner – Portfolio Manager (with focus on climate justice)

The international work of the Arts Council Wales is run by Wales Arts International (WAI) which focuses on promoting Welsh arts and culture on the global stage. WAI works to facilitate cultural exchange, collaboration, and international partnerships for Welsh artists, arts organisations, and creative professionals. A new international strategy is in development which rethinks the work with  all the challenges  that have emerged through the climate emergency, Brexit, the focus that was put on BlackLivesMatter, all within the context of the Well-being Act. 

Europe remains a key market for Wales. Pre-Brexit  funding for touring and international collaboration was often accessed via international collaboration in the Creative Europe framework. There is a strong collaboration with  the other arts councils in the UK through its collaboration in the Arts Infopoint UK and the Four Nations International Fund. The Cultural Bridge partnership programme is an example of the promotion of cross-border collaboration between Germany and the UK focusing on participatory arts based methodologies. There are specific focus country initiatives such as the Year of Wales in France in 2023.

Kunstenpunt-Flanders Arts Institute connected with the following staff at Wales Arts International:

  • Eluned Haf – Head International 
  • Zelie Flach – European Officer 
  • Nicola Morgan – Senior International Officer 
  • Katie James – Arts Info Point UK Officer

3. Information 

The British Council Wales builds connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. It has a dedicated arts programme. Their Head  of Arts is Rebecca Gould. 

The British Council has an MOU with the Arts Council of Wales and develops partnerships with key stakeholders in Wales. British Council is very active locally in the What’s Next, a local chapter of a national movement to articulate and strengthen the role of arts and culture in society. The British Council works in close partnership with WAI.

On the Move, the cultural mobility information network, provides information and knowledge for artists and cultural professionals active across borders. On the UK country page you can find information that relates to Wales and the last edition of Mobility Funding Guide to the United Kingdom | On the Move (on-the-move.org) contains information specifically regarding Wales.

Part of the On the Move Mobility Information points, Arts Infopoint UK is a pilot initiative to support the arts sector with information on practical issues relating to cultural mobility (visa, work permits, and more). Focus is on incoming mobility, meaning to the UK but information is also provided for UK arts professionals going to Europe post-Brexit. 

4. Landscape and players

Due to the impact of Covid19, inequalities, BlackLiveMatters, climate change, cost of living crisis and the implications of Brexit, including loss of European Funding and impact of travel between the UK and the EU, the landscape has changed. The main attention lately has been on recovery, less so on international relations.  

Prior to Brexit there were a lot of exchanges between arts professionals in Wales and the EU supported by the Creative Europe projects. In the past years several EU supported projects took place, also where companies from Flanders and Wales were involved together such as the FFotogallery (around women and photography in 2018), Jones the Dance works with deaf communities and Eddie Ladd as choreographer, the Welsh National Opera worked with Opera Europa and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden on the theme of opera online. Cardiff Metropolitan University worked with iMAL – Art Center for digital cultures & technology in Brussels.Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru worked on a project with young audiences around diversity, to give some examples.

Following the Investment Review in 2023, changes have taken place in the landscape: Investment Review | Arts Council of Wales

As part of the BAR project, a mapping of contacts in Wales was done by Kunstenpunt-Flanders Arts Institute. Online meetings were held with the ACW and WAI to better understand the context. On 12-14 July a Kunstenpunt-Flanders Arts Institute delegation visited Wales to meet with key players in the sector, also around the themes of Widening Engagement (with a specific focus on Arts & Disability) and Arts & Health. Additional meetings were held with the Office of Well-being of Future Generations Act, with WAI and ACW. This led to a more comprehensive understanding of the landscape in Wales. Organisations and people mentioned are related to those exchanges. They are organised by discipline or/and themes.

Visual Arts

Music

Performing Arts

Cross Sectoral Arts

More information

If you have any questions or seek more information please don’t hesitate to reach out to our colleague Lissa Kinnaer.


(Re)Connect with the UK:

In 2023 deed Kunstenpunt onderzoek naar de (negatieve) impact van Brexit op de culturele sector in Vlaanderen. We brachten de problematiek in kaart, en wisselden ook kennis rond diversiteit en inclusie uit. We proberen op die manier de culturele relatie met het Verenigd Koninkrijk te versterken en uit te breiden.