Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol
Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee14/09/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies MS|
|Carolyn Thomas MS|
|Delyth Jewell MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Hefin David MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS|
|Tom Giffard MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Dawn Bowden MS||Dirprwy Weinidog y Celfyddydau, Chwaraeon a Thwristiaeth|
|Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism|
|Ian Williams||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Marcus Hill||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Haidee James||Ail Glerc|
|Rhea James||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The committee met in the Senedd.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da a chroeso nôl. Dyma'r cyfarfod cyntaf ar ôl yr haf o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. A gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan cyn i ni edrych ar y papurau i'w nodi? Dwi ddim yn gweld bod, felly fe wnawn ni symud yn syth at eitem 2, sef papurau i'w nodi.
Good morning and welcome back. This is the first meeting after the summer recess of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee. May I ask whether any Members have declarations of interest to make before we look at the papers to note? I don't see that there are any, so we'll move to straight on to item 2, which is papers to note.
Mae gennym ni nifer o bapurau sydd wedi dod mewn dros yr haf, o eitem 2.1 yn eich papurau hyd at eitem 2.14. Efallai fydd rhai o ddiddordeb arbennig i'r pwyllgor. Mae eitem 2.6 gan Gymdeithas yr Iaith am leoliad gwasanaethau iechyd meddwl arbenigol amenedigol. Mae 2.8 yn ymwneud ag Undeb Rygbi Cymru, 2.9 am ddyfodol newydd ar gyfer darlledu a chyfathrebu yng Nghymru, a 2.13 am newyddiaduraeth er budd y cyhoedd. A ydy'r Aelodau yn fodlon i ni nodi'r papurau hyn? Dwi'n gweld eich bod chi.
We have a number of papers that have been received over the summer, from item 2.1 in our paper pack to item 2.14. There may be some papers of particular interest to the committee. Item 2.16 is a letter from Cymdeithas yr Iaith about the location of specialist perinatal mental health services. Item 2.8 relates to the Welsh Rugby Union, item 2.9 considers the future for broadcasting and communications in Wales, and item 2.13 refers to public interest journalism. Are Members content for us to note those papers? I see that they are indeed content to note.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 a 10 yn unol â Rheolau Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the meeting for items 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 in accordance with Standing Orders 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Felly, os ydy'r Aelodau yn fodlon i ni wneud, rwy'n cynnig, o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42, i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 a 10. Os oes unrhyw un yn gwylio hyn yn fyw, mi fyddwn ni yn mynd yn fyw gyda'r Dirprwy Weinidog am 10:30 y bore yma. Ond a ydy'r Aelodau yn fodlon i ni wahardd y cyhoedd o'r eitemau hynny? Ydyn. Felly, fe wnawn ni aros i glywed ein bod ni'n breifat.
So, if Members are content, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude the public from items 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of today's meeting. If anybody is watching this meeting live, we will be going live with the Deputy Minister at 10:30 this morning. But are Members content for us to exclude the public from these items that I listed? I see that Members are, so we'll wait to hear that we're in private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:32.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:32.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:30.
The committee reconvened in public at 10:30.
Bore da a chroeso nôl i'n gwylwyr. Rydyn ni'n symud ymlaen at eitem 6, sef oriel gelf gyfoes genedlaethol. Mae gennym ni sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda’r Gweinidog, a gwnaf i ofyn i'r Gweinidog gyflwyno ei hunan ar gyfer y record, a hefyd ei thystion.
Good morning and welcome back. We move on to item 6, which is the national contemporary art gallery inquiry. We have a ministerial evidence session now, and I'll ask the Minister to introduce herself for the record, and also the other witnesses.
Of course. I'm Dawn Bowden. I'm Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, and I'll ask my officials to introduce themselves.
I'm Marcus Hill. I'm head of capital cultural projects.
Ian Williams, deputy director, culture.
It's lovely to have you with us. Thank you so much. If it's okay we'll go straight into questions, and can I ask you first: with the proposals as they stand at the moment, how is the word 'contemporary', or the concept of contemporary, defined, would you say?
Yes, I think this has been one that's been debated at length, and I saw some of the previous evidence sessions. Sorry, I'm getting a bit of feedback, so I'll turn this off. So, I saw some of the previous evidence sessions, and there's been quite a bit of debate over this, but I think the broad definition from our perspective has been about anything related to an artist from the second world war onwards, but it's really about work that is of contemporary relevance. So, that's the very broad-brush approach, and what that means is it does give, potentially, an awful lot of flexibility to the galleries to display not only those contemporary works within that clearer definition about the dating of the artist and arts of contemporary relevance, but it does provide the dispersed galleries with the opportunity to display anything else from the national collection, as is relevant to contemporary art.
Thank you. Ian wants to come in, and then Alun will come in with a supplementary. Ian.
The nice thing about that definition is it allows us not only to celebrate the artists of the recent past and the present, but also link them into the future artists of Wales.
Thank you, Ian. Alun already has a supplementary that he'd like to ask.
I'm just fascinated by the answer, Minister, you'll be disappointed to hear, because your definition is strikingly different to the definitions we've heard from practitioners in other evidence. Practitioners seem to be saying 'contemporary' is people who are alive today and their influences, and if you read the transcript you'll see that their influences could lie not just prior to the second world war, but prior to the first world war and in the previous century. So, if you interpret 'contemporary' as living artists and their influences, basically 'contemporary' loses its meaning.
Well, I don't think, actually, we're at odds with them, because what I referred to was art that has contemporary relevance. So, it's—
But my point is that then it loses its meaning.
Well, no, in the sense that it's not that different to art that has influenced contemporary art. It is of contemporary relevance. It's perhaps a different way of expressing it, but I think it means the same, which is why we're saying that it does provide some flexibility for art that is not just what we would expect to determine as contemporary, i.e. from the end of the second world war up to and including current artists. It provides the opportunity for those galleries to display art that has been influenced.
I understand the point you're making. My point is slightly different. It's just that, by stretching the interpretation of that description—which I've got no issue with, by the way—what you're doing by doing so is losing the meaning of the actual word. You are just saying, 'This, plus everything else'. Now, actually I prefer the 'everything else', as it happens, so I'm quite happy with your interpretation of it, but I'm not convinced that is the purpose of the original work that was done on this, which was to celebrate people who are alive and making art today.
Sure. Well, the focus is very much providing the vehicle for Wales to have a focal point for contemporary art. That is the purpose. But it shouldn't be exclusively just in that initial definition, because I think what we do want to do—and perhaps we'll explore this a little bit further as we go along—is to make absolutely sure that these galleries have the flexibility to display art that is relevant to them, to their communities, and so on.
Thank you for that, Minister. Could I ask, has the Welsh Government received any proposals for a gallery of Welsh art, and how those proposals, if you've received any, have been assessed?
Well, not specifically on Welsh art, as I'm aware. I did have conversations with somebody about having a gallery or a museum for Welsh poetry. We did have those discussions with somebody a little while ago, but not specifically on Welsh art. Again, going back to the answer I gave just now, I would see, very much, these galleries as having the freedom to display the arts that they think are particularly relevant. I'll give an example: for instance, in my own constituency, we've just had a display in the Redhouse in Merthyr and at Cyfarthfa castle of industrial art—you know, people like Penry Williams, who was known as the 'Welsh Turner', of course, and who did fantastic artwork of the ironworks in Merthyr. So, that was one. I would see local galleries wanting to display things that do represent their local communities as well—so, not specifically a Welsh art gallery, but galleries displaying Welsh art.
Thank you. Ian.
It's a good idea. I think we'd find it extraordinary if we didn't encourage the creation of a themed exhibition of Welsh art—indigenous Welsh art.
So why don't you do it, then?
Yes, well, we've started it.
It's the obvious question, isn't it? You've both said—and I agree with the Deputy Minister on these matters—or you've all said that it's a good idea. Everybody says it's a good idea. I'm yet to meet anybody who thinks it's not a good idea. What's screaming out to me is, 'So, why doesn't the Welsh Government actually do it or act as the catalyst to enable a group of people, or a group of organisations, to do so?'
Yes, and I don't see—. You see, one of the things I think is interesting about the national contemporary art gallery project is the flexibility that it provides—the flexibility to expand the scope, the flexibility to scale up or down, the flexibility to plug gaps where we feel that we should have a gallery in this area that we currently don't have on the list, and all of those kinds of things. It's going to be very, I hope, dynamic and organic, flexing and responding to what the needs of the local communities are.
Thank you for that. Could I ask, once the project is completed, how much new art exhibition space will Wales have? I know that there are lots of different concepts at play here, but, in square feet, how much extra space do you think there will be for it?
I will ask my officials whether they know the answer to that, if you don't mind. [Laughter.] Marcus.
I don't have the information with me today, but we're able to provide that for you.
That would be fantastic, thank you.
Each of the galleries that are being considered as part of the dispersed network has had to meet a number of criteria to be within the network, and that includes a floor-space requirement, so I'm able to get that from my colleagues at the arts council.
Thank you, that would be really helpful.
I think what we do know is that we will have greater floor space, because one of the things that we're projecting is that we will be able to display more of the national collection than the current host galleries are able to display.
Thank you very much.
Mi wnawn ni symud ymlaen nawr at Carolyn Thomas.
We'll move on now to Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. Good morning. Since 2018, we've had the global pandemic, and we're now in a cost-of-living crisis. Do you think that having a national contemporary art gallery is still the best use of finite public funding, going forward?
On a personal level, yes, I do. It remains a priority of the Welsh Government and part of our co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru. I don't think you can overestimate the importance of art and the benefits that they can bring to the general population. We know about the well-being effects of people being able to access the arts and being able to access arts free of charge, so I'm very clear about that. All of the reports that we've had will prove that, will demonstrate that. We had a study called—I'm just trying to find it—'Exploring the relationship between culture and well-being', and they identified that
'attending arts events played a unique role in predicting high life-satisfaction.'
Now, as a Government, I don't think we should ignore that. But, having said all of that, of course we have to be cognisant of the Government's financial situation. It's probably the most difficult—. I think the First Minister has made this very clear: we are in the most difficult financial position that we've been in since devolution, a direct result of the mismanagement of the economy by the Tory UK Government that has left us with rampant inflation—the highest in a generation—which has led to our budget being worth nearly £1 billion less than when it was allocated. We can't ignore all of those facts. It would be foolish of me to sit here and say that this project may not be impacted by that, but what I can say to you is that it remains very much a priority for the reasons that I've set out, in that we see this very much as a contribution to the health and well-being of the nation.
And to build on that—
Thank you for your answer, Minister—
Carolyn, forgive me, I think Ian just wanted to come in on the back of that.
Sorry. I just wanted to build on that point and say that there's an opportunity cost to doing nothing as well, of course. We spend potentially a great deal of capital expenditure to build and renew these fixed assets, but the real asset we're talking about here is the art—tens of thousands of pieces that are owned by the Welsh people that, in the normal course of business, will not be seen by the Welsh people. So, we fully understand that, in certain times, cash—for want of a better phrase—is king, and so, we may have to scale up or down, depending on the resources that we have, as the Minister quite rightly says.
Following on from that, then, has any capital work actually been undertaken on the project yet?
Yes, we have seen some capital works, particularly on the Celf ar y Cyd project, the digitisation project, and, of course, there's been some expenditure on the preparation that's been done by the potential gallery sites. But again, Ian or Marcus, I don't know whether you want to add anything to that.
In terms of capex, I think it's £1.6 million so far, and £1.1 million—Marcus will correct me if I've got this wrong, I appreciate that—is on Celf ar y Cyd, the virtual gallery, if you want. I think the rest of the money is, so far, on feasibility studies.
That's right, yes. Obviously, there's a range of work that needs to be undertaken before a capital project is actually delivered, and so there's a balance between the revenue that we've invested so far, which has been around £400,000, and the total, which is about £1.76 million.
Also, could you explain why it's taken five years to advertise for a project director and independent chair for the project board?
It actually hasn't taken five years for that. The decision to appoint an independent chair was actually only taken in this financial year. There has been a chair of the project. We started with a chair who was a member of the Welsh Government, a Welsh Government official, and we had, I think, the museum or the library chair it for a while. But we took a decision to appoint an independent chair only about a year ago, so it's not true to say that it's taken five years to do that. We had conversations about this, of course, prior to COVID, and then, of course, we know what happened with COVID and everybody's attention was elsewhere for the best part of the next couple of years. But we did find that one of the delivery partners, the Arts Council of Wales, did come to us and say that they felt that, in addition to an independent chair, they needed a project director. That was a decision that was taken relatively recently as well, and that person has only recently been appointed.
I know my experience is only very recent, but I can speak from recent experience that having an independent chair for a project like this is vital, and the lady chosen, Mandy, is extraordinarily good. Also, having a professional project director and a creative director will provide, and is already, in the few weeks that they've been in place, providing, a different level of momentum and was sorely needed.
Diolch, Carolyn. Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at Hefin David.
Thank you, Carolyn. We'll move on to Hefin David.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I have two questions in one, really. When will you be able to announce the membership of the network of galleries and the location of the anchor site, and when will a definitive list of the host galleries be available?
The nine proposed galleries within the network are currently developing their plans for submission to the arts council prior to being formally assessed. We expect to have the final list of the dispersed network announced sometime in October or November—so, certainly, late autumn. So, that's when we'll know the final list, but again, I would add a caveat to that, because these are the final lists of sites as we're going through this particular process, but, as I said earlier, this is a dynamic process, and this wouldn't necessarily mean that this is the end of it, depending on the sites that are announced October or November time, because it could well be that when we actually have the definitive list of sites, we might find that there are areas of Wales that are not covered, or that are not appropriately covered in terms of having access to a gallery in that area. So, we might want to revisit that.
The announcement relating to the anchor gallery is not necessarily on the same timeline, because there have been delays around that for reasons that I think you may be familiar with. We went out to seek expressions of interest on an anchor gallery site, and in the suitable sites that came back, there was a gap, and that gap was north-west Wales. We didn't have any public service bodies interested in north-west Wales. So, we went back out for a trawl of the third sector, and we've now got a potential site for north-west Wales from a third sector site on Anglesey. So, the announcement of the anchor gallery is slightly behind the announcement on the dispersed sites, and we're looking, probably, at February to March next year for an announcement on the anchor gallery.
Did you say about the announcement of the membership of the network of galleries? Did you cover that in your answer?
The network of galleries, yes, probably October or November. This autumn.
Okay, lovely, and such is the definitive nature of your responses, I've got no more supplementaries.
Diolch, Hefin. Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at Llyr Gruffydd.
Thank you, Hefin. We'll move on now to Llyr Gruffydd.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Dwi am holi cwpwl o gwestiynau am y pres, dwi'n ofni—rŷn ni'n dod nôl at y pres bob tro. Cash is king, fel y dywedodd Ian yn gynharach. Rŷn ni wedi sôn am y gyllideb cyfalaf i raddau, efallai, beth sydd wedi cael ei wario hyd yn hyn, ond jest o ran y refneniw, beth yw'ch amcangyfrif chi o'r costau refniw parhaus—yr ongoing revenue costs—ar gyfer yr oriel?
Thank you very much, Chair. I'll ask some questions about money. We always come back to money, don't we? Cash is king, as Ian said earlier. We've talked about the capital funding that's been spent to date, but in terms of revenue, what's your estimate of the ongoing revenue costs for the gallery?
The outline business case has contained some costs, but the project partners really have agreed that they're going to provide further detail as those projects are developed, and, again, that'll be part of the full business case that we're likely to see in November when the sites are announced. What I would say on this is that the ongoing revenue costs we don't expect and we don't anticipate to be entirely met by the Welsh Government. We're looking towards some sustainability being built in to the business cases through a whole range of other activities that the sites will deliver. But again, Ian, Marcus, I don't know if there's anything you want to add on that.
I think when the partners delivering this came to committee, they had talked through the longer term funding and the need for revenue to support it. What they have undertaken to do is to go away and look at further work that is going to look at the opportunities to raise money through merchandising, through intellectual property that might be raised through initiatives such as Celf ar y Cyd, as well as philanthropy and other sources of funding coming in. Going back to the original feasibility study, the preliminary feasibility study, those sorts of sources of funding were certainly built into the idea there. So, at this stage, we're not clear on the exact mix of funding, but they have undertaken to look at reducing the revenue required directly from the Welsh Government through a mixed model, and, as we say, we should be getting that information around November time when the full business case is submitted.
There we are, because I was going to ask about the split, really, because we're working a bit blind again, aren't we, in terms of the quantum of funding that might have to come from Government vis-à-vis any other funding that can be—
I think I would add as well, Llyr, that, obviously, we've got host galleries in the national museum and the national library, and they will continue to be funded with a grant in aid as normal. This will become part of their normal activities, if you like.
Okay. The burning question for me, really, is how much of this is going to be funded from existing moneys within the sector, or how much is going to be brought in from outside, globally, in terms of the whole project. You'll be aware, I'm sure, of some concerns in the 2018 feasibility study, which says consultees were concerned that
'any new national entrant, requiring both major capital and ongoing revenue support might at best destabilise and at worst destroy the existing publicly funded ecology'.
I'm sure you'd empathise with those concerns.
I do, absolutely—
So, what reassurances can you give, especially in this current climate?
Absolute assurances? We can’t, for the very reasons that you’ve just outlined. All I can say is to repeat what I said in my earlier answer: that the reliance on central revenue funding we anticipate can be reduced. So, inevitably, there will be funding from the Welsh Government, which we would look to see reduce as these sites bed in, they become more effective, they develop their marketing, if you like, so that we would see the reliance on central Government funding reducing. But I don’t think I can ever anticipate a period where there would not be any Government funding for these sites, but it's just that the balance and the split between that is something we’ll have to work on with those sites.
Just to boil that down to fundamentals, then, if there is no additional money, it ain’t happening.
Well, I’d like to think that that won’t be the case, but I can’t run away from the parlous financial situation that we’re in. What I would say, though, Llyr—and I’ve said this once or twice, but I think it is also relevant in terms of these difficult financial circumstances that we find ourselves in—is that the nature of this model means that it can be incremental. So, if we have less money in the next couple of years, we could look to develop fewer sites and look to expand that as the financial position becomes clearer. We can look at temporarily sites, we could look at pop-up sites, we could look at smaller venues, we could look at a whole range of alternative models within the wider model that we’re trying to deliver.
You told us in your evidence for this session today that until a preferred site is identified, it is impossible to identify the level of investment required to support the development, affordability and operational models for any future anchor gallery. So, how can you be assured that an anchor gallery concept is actually financially viable?
It’s a good question, and it will rely very much on the business cases that we see. We’re really working towards having an anchor gallery that will be viable, that will act—as the name suggests—as the anchor for the other sites, that acts as a kind of administrative and co-ordinating centre, acts as a bit of a magnet for tourism and for visitors, whereas the dispersed sites are really going to be aimed more at the local communities. But it is very much a moot point, Llyr, because giving any kind of definitive answers on viability in such uncertain financial times is difficult to do. I can only tell you what our commitment to this is, and our commitment is absolute, but I will make very, very clear that if we are pushed off track at any point because of our financial situation, then I will make sure that the committee is made aware of that at the earliest opportunity. But it is not through any lack of intent to do it.
Okay, so we don’t know if it’s financially viable.
We don’t know at this stage, no.
Okay. We touched on the capital expenditure so far. Obviously, previous estimates will have changed, particularly from the 2018 feasibility study to today, so can you tell us a bit about how much you think things have changed in that respect, and whether you will, or wish to, I presume, allocate more capital funding for the project, or whether, conversely, you’re scaling back? You suggested potentially an incremental approach. Is that, therefore, the most likely approach at the moment, given the financial environment?
What we do know is that the costs on the current model that we’re proposing are actually considerably less than were set out in the original feasibility study. There was a very wide range that was set out in that study and we’re very much at the lower end of that range. I think Marcus can say bit more about that.
If we take phase 2 of the feasibility as a case in point, there were two scenarios set out there in 2018, which talked about the dispersed network of galleries—at the low level of scenario 1 costing approximately £35 million, and at a high level of around £134 million in scenario 2. Where we are now in terms of phase 2 for those nine sites is significantly lower than the £35 million. In fact, I’d say you’re probably looking at about a quarter of that cost. I can't give you the definitive figures here because we’re at the stage where we’re considering the outline business case—it hasn’t been formally approved—and within that there are commercial sensitivities because it will be subject to market forces and procurement. But that gives you an indication of where we are in terms of the original costs for the dispersed network and this now.
Within that, as well, there were also costs for an anchor gallery in terms of that feasibility study. It also gave comparative costs of other things that varied, I think, off the top of my head, between about £80 million and then £200 million-plus for the development of new initiatives that have taken place—named galleries elsewhere in the UK particularly. But then the cost that was actually attributed to that was only £40 million to £50 million. The issue is, at this point in time, obviously, until we’ve gone through and we’ve assessed those, we don’t know how relevant those costs are going to be for the anchor gallery. But similarly, in the same way as we’ve been talking to colleagues around the mix of funding, one of the questions that we asked for those candidate sites for the anchor gallery is to start to set out an initial strategy around how this would be funded from a mixed range of sources.
So, remind me again, at what point will you know that you can book a meeting with the finance Minister and tell her exactly how much you need?
Once we have the full business case for the selected site for the anchor gallery, then we'll have a much better idea of the costs associated with that particular site.
Anticipated to be—
Around February/March next year.
Yes, okay. Thank you.
Llyr Gruffydd makes a very good point about the anchor gallery, in a sense, that costs in 2018—construction costs—are very different to what they are now, and we understand that. But, for every proposal site, there are different levels of remediation costs or build costs and there'll also be, as I said, very different buildings. We've purposely gone the route of using currently owned buildings. But they'll also have different proposals, different propositions for income generation as well, which will lessen the ongoing revenue cost. So, it's very difficult for us to, at the moment, be able to give you definitive numbers.
Diolch. So, taking on board what you were saying about the fact that you can't be certain yet about what can be allocated to what with this, can you give us any sense of how much capital funding has been spent on the project to date?
So, that's around about £1.363 million, is it?
Yes, I think the total was £1.76 million, was it?
That's including revenue. It's about £1.36 million—
On capital, and that's primarily been on the Celf ar y Cyd project.
It's feasibility work.
Thank you. Ccould you also please give us the capital estimates at present for the network of galleries—the host galleries and the anchor site—that breakdown?
I don't know if we can at this stage, can we? I think that was the point that Marcus was making to Llyr.
That was the point I was making to Llyr about—
Forgive me, we were trying to work out—. Because Tom lost connection, we were trying to work out what to do, so I was focusing on that, forgive me. [Laughter.]
Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Alun Davies, felly.
We'll move on to Alun Davies now.
Listening to the conversation there, the more I hear about this, the more ill at ease I become. My concern is the point that Mr Williams made in an earlier response. There are thousands of pieces of art locked away in Aberystwyth and Cardiff and elsewhere. This isn't going to affect that really. This isn't going to mean that we have capacity to enable my son to view the art that is kept in his name. What we're doing is falling again, it appears to me, into the Welsh disease of saying, 'Everybody will have a little piece of jam and, at the end of your meal, everybody will be hungry'.
It's a point of view, Alun, and I know it's a point of view you've expressed to me previously—
That's very diplomatic, Minister.
And it's a point of view that I don't agree with and you know why.
But how can you—? You and I represent neighbouring constituencies in the Heads of the Valleys.
Indeed we do, yes.
In the current dispersed model, there's nobody from Merthyr Tydfil or Blaenau Gwent going to visit any of these places; you're taking them further away from us.
Well, we'll have to wait and see, but you and I, Alun, also stood on a manifesto that said that we were going to deliver this.
I recognise that. We also stood on a manifesto saying that we were going to deliver an M4 relief road and reorganisation of local government. So, we can't go back to that.
Not this time—we didn't do that this time. Anyway, let's not go down there.
But the concept of this is that we should be taking art to the people, not bringing people to the art. So, I know that you've expressed your view to me previously, as I've said. You would like to see a big, brand-new, spanking, shiny art gallery based in Cardiff—
Not necessarily Cardiff, but yes.
Let's just say Cardiff, for instance, but then everybody would go and see that. Well, that's not necessarily something that everybody can do. And what we're not trying to do here is just develop a tourism attraction. What we're trying to do is bring art to the people of Wales and give access to art to the people of Wales, right the way across, and, as a consequence, we will also develop a tourism option. So, anywhere in Wales that a tourist happens to land, they will have access to a national contemporary art gallery site, much like the national museum of Wales. The national museum of Wales is a dispersed model, in effect. We've got seven sites. We don't have just one national museum; we have a national museum on seven sites, and it's the same principle for this.
But it's not, is it? And you say that anybody will be able to do it, but of course you won't if you live in the Valleys because none of these dispersed sites are in the Valleys, and that's a million people—
One of the anchor sites is potentially in the Valleys.
Potentially, in Cyfarthfa, I accept that, but no decision has been taken on that and I can only work on the basis of what we know. So, a million people are not included in your model right from the start, so I'm not convinced by your argument there, Minister. But, there's a more important argument here, I think. I like the national museum model, and I've visited most of its sites. I think St Fagans is a fantastic resource for the whole nation and it's a great thing, so is the museum in Cathays Park, and the committee visited the National Slate Museum in Llanberis last year—
—and it's absolutely superb, because it's rooted in that place. And the example you gave of the artwork in the Redhouse is a good example of where you can have artwork that is rooted in a place, that has a relevance to the place, which does then actually enhance the visitor's experience and the ability of people to access that. And I accept all of that, and I'm not arguing for a single place and no other expression of our art, but what I am saying is that this is not going to deliver for the people of Wales, who have a right to access to the art, our national collections, which are held in their name. This is not going to solve that issue as currently planned. And we're going to spend however much money on it as is determined in the future and achieve none of our objectives.
Well, one of the things that I said earlier in answer to an earlier question is that, if we find that there are gaps in locations in terms of the establishment of sites, then we'll look to plug those gaps, because the model is one that can be scaled up or down. And so that is something that—. If there is a part of Wales that we feel needs to have something that isn't currently captured, we can address that. But, of course, every site in this new model will also have access to the digital collection. So, there will be access to digital art as well as the physical art.
But that doesn't really address the issues, does it? I took my son to the national museum a couple of months ago to see La Parisienne, which is a fantastic piece of work, to see the impressionists in Cardiff. For him, as a young boy, standing in front of that artwork is entirely different, and to see Lowry's painting of Llanhilleth—it's an entirely different experience to looking at it on a screen. And that is the really important thing. And this is what really, really worries me about this. I think it's part of a Welsh disease, I'll be quite blunt with you about that, where we've put something everywhere and failed to achieve anything, and we've done that on numerous occasions in the last 20 years, and I think we've got to be more courageous in our ambitions. And then we don't achieve what our ambitions would be. And I've been in this place long enough to have heard a number of Ministers talking about what their ambitions are over time, and I've seen a number of manifesto commitments to doing different things, and we're still having these conversations. And that art—the national collections—is still gathering dust, and even if you achieve all of your objectives here, which I'm not convinced you will, those national collections will still be gathering dust.
Well, given the number of pieces of art that we have in the national collections, it would take one almighty huge building to have all of those pieces of art on display at any one time.
At the same time, yes, but we're not talking about the same time, are we?
So, what this will do is it will mean, as we responded in, I think, an answer to a question from Delyth earlier about the amount of floor space it will have—we will provide that information to you—that it will increase the amount of exhibition and floor space that will be available in addition to what we currently have in the host galleries, because the host galleries will still continue to be displaying exhibitions of art as well. And why shouldn't we have some of the works of Monet being seen by people in Anglesey who don't have to travel to Cardiff to see it?
No, no. You're parodying my argument. You're not accepting it.
I'm not accepting it, no.
You're parodying what I'm saying, and I'm not going to let you get away with that, because I'm not arguing, and I haven't argued, that everything should be maintained in one place and kept in one place under lock and key. I've never argued that and I've never had an argument with touring exhibitions and I've never had an argument with loans and I've never had an argument with multisites. In fact, I've supported it. The committee has made its views clear on that in the past.
The point is: what are we going to achieve? I do not believe we're going to achieve any of our ambitions through the current proposals. I don't understand the difference—and my confusion has been increased, actually, as a result of this morning—between an anchor site and one of the dispersed sites. You've just said that the gap was in north-west Wales. Well, in terms of the dispersed sites, most of them seem to be in north-west Wales from what I can see, from Mostyn in Llandudno through to Plas Glyn-y-Weddw and Storiel in Bangor, and there's another site being added to Anglesey in Sir Fôn. I therefore don't understand what the difference is between an anchor site and one of the dispersed sites, because it seems to me that if it's a third sector site or proposal, it's not going to be a major site with the sorts of structures that the public sector would provide.
And we don't know if the Anglesey site will be the final anchor site, because there will only be one. It's just that what we wanted was, when we were looking to make the decision on which would be the most appropriate site, that we would have options to choose from that would be from all corners of Wales, so that we weren't just looking at options from Cardiff, or just looking at options from Wrexham or whatever. So, we now have options that we will consider, and the best option will be the one that's chosen, regardless of where it is based.
So, what's your criteria for making that choice?
We have to wait and see what the business case provides.
You must have criteria as a Government.
Well, one of the things that is difficult about this, and this is where I do agree with you, is that to a large extent we are expecting the delivery partners to develop that business plan for the anchor gallery. We have said that, in very general terms, we want an anchor site that will act as that kind of magnet for the national contemporary art gallery, that would give it a focus, that would have some kind of administrative and co-ordinating role for the dispersed sites. But it won't be 'the' national contemporary art gallery; it will be the anchor for—. So, if you like, it's the hub and all the other dispersed sites—
So, it's an administrative centre.
That would be part of it. That would be part of it. It would have a curatorial role as well, but the dispersed sites will have curatorial freedom to have exhibitions there that they think are appropriate for their sites, their communities and so on.
So, it would have a curatorial role, but it wouldn't determine what is actually on display.
No, no, no. The sites themselves must be able to determine what is the best art to be displayed in a particular area. It could be different in different areas.
Can I come in here?
Yes, please do.
You've asked quite a lot of questions there, so I'll try and differentiate between a lot of them.
Yes, I have. I'm trying to work out whether they've been answered.
Well, I think, for the first question, you were talking about, 'What's the objective that you're trying to achieve?' If we're trying to get more art out to more people in Wales than the current 5 per cent that Amgueddfa Cymru have presented to you in evidence is actually available, then actually using this dispersed network with the new floor space and everything else will help to achieve that. It's not going to be all of the art and all of the time, but it will allow more to get out there and more freedom locally to determine some of that—what's actually happening. Then, in terms of if you go back to the anchor and where that is, that's yet to be determined at this point in time. The kind of definition around that as well, exactly what that's going to do, is still up for further work. And from our perspective as well, there's a lot of opportunity in there, because what it could actually be doing—a separate function to what's actually happening in the dispersed networks—is actually encouraging more art, and having resident artists and using it as a platform. So, there's a whole range of things that could happen there, in terms of what happens in the anchor gallery in comparison to the others. And what we're sort of saying here is that with that anchor gallery, actually, it's not just for us to define that; it's actually to make it work as the centre of a part of a bigger model that's already coming in in a phased approach.
Look, if I'm quite honest with you, it sounds like you're all busking here in answer to this question—'It could be this, it could be that, it could be something different.' It doesn't feel that you've got this clarified in your minds. It doesn't feel like the Government has a clear objective about what's—
Can I be very clear, Alun? What we have done is we've set out the high-level policy, and the high-level direction. We've made it very clear that the delivery partners for this are the national museum and the national library and the Arts Council of Wales. And they will be the ones that will develop the detail around this. We've set out the high-level ambition, and we will be setting out the budget for delivering it. But the actual delivery on this will be the delivery partners themselves.
I understand that, but I would have anticipated that the Government would also have a very clear vision for what it wants to achieve with public resources. And also, if it's taking decisions on things like an anchor site, that you'd have very clear criteria for taking those decisions. And it doesn't appear—. I'm quite content for you to write to us, by the way—
—if you want to set out those criteria.
I believe we've already provided you with the criteria.
Well, I haven't seen those.
It was in the evidence paper.
It was in the evidence that we provided.
I've read it, but it didn't feel that you've been answering those questions this morning.
Well, we've set out a range of criteria that we're asking each of those sites to meet. The proposals are actually coming back, explaining how each of those sites can meet those criteria, in terms of design and flexible design to be able to do it. As part of that, as I was explaining earlier, that also includes a preliminary funding strategy about how that could be funded, including some Government funding, but other things as well. So, that's where we are with it at this point in time.
With the criteria, yes.
I'm reading through this at the moment again, and it doesn't feel that you've got that worked out, but we can go round in circles on this. My concern is that the Government doesn't have a clear, worked out model, an objective, for what it seeks to achieve, and I'm not convinced that the model we're currently working with is going to achieve the objectives that, certainly, I hope that we would have. And I go back to what Carolyn Thomas said in an earlier question—I agree with what she was saying, the bread and roses speeches of the American left. I want to see people having access to our national collections, and it appears to me that what we're doing here is pretending that we're providing that access, but, in reality, we're not delivering that access. And that's my concern here with where we're going.
So, I hear what you say, Alun, and, as I say, none of what you're saying is a surprise to me, because you've expressed this before. But in the evidence paper that we submitted to the committee for this session, that does contain, for the anchor gallery, a list of essential and desirable criteria. It was agreed and was drawn up with the organisations, and against which they were asked to deliver the expressions of interest. And the draft of that was actually attached to the paper—
Yes, I'm reading it; I've got it in front of me.
—what all the criteria are. And we even summarised it in the paper, to set out very clearly what we are looking for. We set out very clearly, in that ministerial submission, what we were looking for out of a contemporary art gallery:
'a) A network of galleries across Wales providing free access to the national collection and bringing contemporary art closer to communities.
'b) Host galleries that...host the national collection...
'c) An anchor gallery will provide a prominent public face...; and
'd) The development of a digital platform named Celf ar a Cyd'.
We've set that out in the evidence paper that we submitted to you, with a lot more detail than I've provided to you in this evidence session, because I felt that, frankly, we'd kind of provided most of that in advance of attending here.
I've read all of that, and I'm reading it in front of me as you're speaking, but I'm not convinced that it provides me with the knowledge, the understanding upon which you are going to take these decisions in the next six months or so.
To avoid us repeating the point, I think Llyr has a very brief—. And then we'll need to move on to Tom.
The litmus test for me is to what extent this will be perceived and felt to be just a more effective way of disseminating contemporary art to different parts of Wales, maybe with a little bit of a brand, or to what extent will people feel, when they're standing in Ruthin art centre, that it is a national contemporary art gallery or part of a wider entity, really. That's the litmus test, isn't it?
It is. It is. And I think that is an absolutely fair point, and I think the branding around it will be very important, that people recognise that as the branding—much like, as I say, we talked about the national museum for Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru—that we have a brand that people will recognise as being, if they are here, this is part of the national, contemporary art gallery. So, not just the signage, but what it looks like, what it feels like, what it's displaying. What is on display there? Is that something that we could just see anywhere, or is this something that actually is representative of a national art gallery?
The next question, and I am taking liberties: does that matter, as long as they get to see it?
Maybe it doesn't, but, again, I do think it is important that the message we send to the people of Wales is that we believe everybody in Wales, wherever they live, should be able to access the national art in their own local communities.
That's true, but whether it's branded or not is secondary, in that respect.
Whether it's branded or not? Maybe not. But talking to people that I know locally, and talking to them about, 'Would you like to see a national art gallery in Merthyr Tydfil?' for instance, people go, 'Yes, wow, that would be great'—[Interruption.] Of course they would. Of course they would. Because who wouldn't want something like that? Who wouldn't want a major national institution in the area where they live and all the benefits that that brings with it? But you present a reasonable challenge about how we make sure that that's what happens, how we make sure that people recognise that, and that is a significant piece of work that we have to do, because branding, publicity and communications around that are going to be very, very important, as I say, for the people of Wales, but also for the people who come into Wales, that they will see that as something quite unique on a visit to Wales.
Thank you for that—
My suspicion also is that, when we bestow upon Storiel in Bangor, or whatever, or the Mostyn in Llandudno the title of being part of the national contemporary art gallery, we might say, 'Well, that doesn't matter', but I think it does, and I think you'll see a raising of the game in already very good galleries.
Beyond this as a—[Inaudible.]
We think. We can never be sure, of course.
Thank you for that. We will need to move on. Tom. We lost Tom for a while, but he is now hotspotting in, and we're delighted that he's back with us.
So, drosodd i ti, Tom, yn glou.
Over to you, Tom.
Thank you, Delyth. You make hotspotting sound more grand than—[Laughter.]
I know, it did sound very dramatic, didn't it?
Can I move the conversation on from, obviously, the geographical location of the art gallery, and onto digital access? Can I just get some clarity on the information that you intend to collect about the audiences for contemporary art? So, are we looking at numbers? Are we looking at types of visitors? Will it be a mix of the two?
On the digital collection, are you talking about?
Yes, sorry. Yes.
The digital collection, we are now monitoring the access to it. It's fairly new. It only launched in June of this year. But information is being collected now about access to the site, so we're looking at the number of users and new users; we're looking at average engagement times; we're looking at through which mechanisms new users have accessed the site; users by country; users by activity over time; and pages and screens receiving the most views. So, that information is being collated and is now being presented to the board. I, personally, haven't seen the information that has been collated now, but there's no reason why that can't be made public and why we can't share it with the committee actually, because I think it will be something that will be useful for us to do anyway, to have a regular review and a regular report on that, to see that it is actually achieving what we want it to achieve and, if it isn't, then what are we doing to change that.
You've answered my next question: 'Is that information going to be in the public domain?' It sounds like a 'yes'.
I would want that to be in the public domain, Tom, and, as I say, I haven't seen it myself yet. At the moment, it's just going to the board—because this is the first report, it's going to the board—but there's no reason why we can't make that public and why we can't share that with you.
Okay. Thank you. Secondly, can I ask how will the ongoing maintenance of the website be organised and funded?
So, that will be generally by the partners, so we're talking about Amgueddfa Cymru and the national library, but, again, Marcus, perhaps you can give a bit more detail on that.
Yes. At this point in time, the library are quite busy undertaking the digitisation work on their collection. That should be completed by 2025, and added into Celf ar y Cyd. Work is also continuing with Amgueddfa Cymru on the digitisation of the remainder of their collection. As you'll know, I think there were around 30,000, or just over 30,000, pieces of art available when it was launched.
In terms of ongoing costs, we're anticipating that some of the ongoing costs are going to drop away once the initial capital investment has taken place, and it will probably come down to a bit more, then, revenue costs for maintenance and looking after that, which are going to be a lot lower. So, at that point in time, we'll be considering whether or not that could be funded from grant in aid, or, if it is a significant amount more that we're looking at, we'll then have to consider what comes from those organisations for taking that website forward. But, at this point in time, obviously, we're thinking that the main cost is going to be the initial capital and the rest could possibly be undertaken as part of day-to-day delivery and business as usual.
And one final one. You mentioned that that digitisation process was ongoing. Have you got a sense of how far through you are on that process?
Well, when we provide the report, actually, we can tell you exactly how many points or pieces of art have been digitised up to, I think it was, the end of last month, which was the report that I was given yesterday. So, we can give you that and the predicted figures of how much they're going to do over the period of time to reach that target in March 2025.
That's great. Thank you.
Diolch. We've come to the end of our questions. Can I ask the witnesses if there's anything further that you had hoped to say this morning that hasn't come up in any of the questioning?
No, I don't think so, other than I think we just have to keep you informed as a committee, and particularly if there are any changes in the way in which this programme develops as we go forward. As I say, this is very much part of the co-operation agreement commitments, so there are regular conversations with our colleagues in Plaid Cymru around this. But, I just want to reiterate that we are committed to this project, and we hope that we will be able to deliver within the timescales that we've set out.
Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Iawn, ocê. Wnawn ni ddiolch yn fawr i'r tri ohonoch chi am fod gyda ni y bore yma. Mae'n bleser i glywed gennych chi, ac fe wnawn ni edrych ymlaen at glywed rhagor o wybodaeth. Dwi'n gwybod bod nifer o bethau rydych chi wedi dweud y byddwch chi'n eu danfon. Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Aelodau, rŷn ni wedi cytuno yn barod y byddwn ni yn parhau yn breifat nawr, felly fe wnawn ni aros i glywed ein bod ni'n symud i mewn i sesiwn breifat, a gwnawn ni aros hefyd i sicrhau bod y galeri wedi cael ei wagio, ond mae'n hyfryd i weld cymaint o bobl yn y galeri y bore yma, felly diolch yn fawr iawn am fod gyda ni y bore yma.
Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you to the three of you for being with us this morning. It's been a pleasure to hear from you, and we look forward to hearing more information. I know there are many things that you've said that you're going to send to us in future. Thank you very much.
Members, we have agreed already that we will continue in private now, so we'll wait to hear that we are moving into private session, and we'll also wait to ensure that the gallery is empty. It's great to see so many people present in the gallery this morning, so thank you very much for being with us today.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:23.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:23.