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Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu

Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Caroline Jones AM
David Melding AM
Delyth Jewell AM
Mick Antoniw AM
Rhianon Passmore AM
Vikki Howells AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Arielle Tye Rheolwr Datblygu, ProMo-Cymru
Development Manager, ProMo-Cymru
Leonora Thomson Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru
Managing Director, Welsh National Opera
Michael Garvey Cyfarwyddwr, Cerddorfa a Chorws Cenedlaethol Cymreig y BBC
Director, BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lowri Jones Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Martha Da Gama Howells Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Robin Wilkinson Ymchwilydd

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.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 9:30.

The meeting began at 9:30.

Penodi Cadeirydd Dros Dro
Appointment of a Temporary Chair

Good morning. I declare this meeting of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee open. The committee Chair is unwell and has tendered her apologies for the meeting. The first item of business, therefore, is the appointment of a temporary Chair under Standing Order 17.22, and I invite nominations from committee members. 

Thank you, Caroline. Thank you, Mick. I therefore declare David Melding is elected Chair for this meeting. 

Penodwyd David Melding yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

David Melding appointed temporary Chair.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Thank you for that. We extend our wishes to Bethan, obviously, for a speedy recovery. We've also received apologies from Jayne Bryant. Are there any declarations of interest? There aren't. We continue, then, with our—

I did have some involvement with ProMo-Cymru many years ago. 

2. Minnau hefyd! - Ymchwiliad i rôl y celfyddydau a diwylliant wrth fynd i'r afael â thlodi ac allgáu cymdeithasol: cerddoriaeth clasurol
2. Count me in! - Inquiry into the role of arts and culture in addressing poverty and social exclusion: classical music

We continue with our 'Count me in!' inquiry into the role of arts and culture in addressing poverty and social exclusion, and I'm very pleased to welcome Leonora Thomson from the Welsh National Opera, and Michael Garvey from the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus for Wales. You're both very welcome this morning. It's our usual practice to move straight to questions if that's okay with you. Should we have not covered something that you think is quite relevant, then at the end of the session we'll give you an opportunity to state that—so, if you're comfortable with that. It's quite informal who starts first, or whatever—we'll just let the natural flow deal with that. So, we're going to have quite specific questions. I will just start with a very general one on what you consider are the barriers to people in poverty and social exclusion from participating in the production of arts and culture and enjoying it. So, I don't know who's going to start.

Generally the barriers? Well, we—. There are several different kinds of barrier, I would say, around addressing social inclusion through the arts. One, from our WNO perspective, is basic infrastructure and transport in terms of getting young people to the offer and in terms of us getting to young people and whoever—not just young people—with the offer. One is, for us again—and it's a particular thing around classical music, I think, classical music and opera—the impact that funding has had on the music education services, who are really up against it—there's no other way of putting it—these days, and so can't, are not able to, play the role that they would ideally play, because of funding issues. And another rather basic one from our perspective is that there is so much more demand for what we do and therefore that's a question then of resource to be able to do that. So, those are some initial thoughts on that. 

I wouldn't disagree with any of that. I suppose there's a sort of continuum of education relevance and capacity, all of which prevent many people from accessing the high-quality output that Wales's cultural sector—WNO, BBC NOW amongst others—offer, and trying to marry or balance up the excellent standards and the high quality that are required in order to be national organisations with delivering that standard and making that activity relevant to those people for whom it's not something that is part and parcel of their day-to-day lives.


We'll drill into these questions in detail as we go through, but—. The second one is—. Our major arts organisations, really: do you view this whole agenda more as one of getting people to enjoy what you produce and have equal access to it? Or do you also have a sense of how you can raise the skill levels people have and their confidence so that they may access more effectively the general job market, or do you—is that beyond your mission?

Not at all—not at all beyond our mission. We absolutely do feel that as part of our mission. Indeed, we feel that, morally—it sounds high-flown, but morally that is part of our mission, and also we feel that our funding—our public funding—is actually encouraging us to work in that way too. So, the work that we do in schools and the community we feel strongly is about transformative experiences, and those can be anything from people becoming more confident, people becoming more articulate, people being able to express themselves, and that can take people on a different kind of life journey, actually, I think it's fair to say.

I think, from BBC NOW's perspective, whilst I agree with what Leo said, BBC NOW does have quite a particular role and the assumption that we are the same as all the other national companies in Wales, from an arts council perspective, is both correct and incorrect at the same time. Yes, we're a national company, yes, we play a full part in the national portfolio; we are also, at one and the same time, a BBC broadcast orchestra, and, in all fairness, the majority of our funding comes from the BBC and therefore our perhaps primary loyalty is to ensuring that we deliver our BBC outputs and objectives, which are, broadly, to provide content that the BBC can broadcast. That's primarily BBC Radio 3, where most of our concerts can be heard, but various tv and online channels as well, as the BBC develops its portfolio. And, whilst it's a wonderful obligation, in the very best sense of the word, to also be Wales's national orchestra, at one and the same time, we have to try and balance both the roles and remits of a national orchestra, a national organisation, with being a BBC broadcast orchestra. That is a fantastic privilege, without any doubt whatsoever, but, sometimes in this world, where limited resources are limited, having to take some challenging choices and prioritise will occasionally mean that we have to side with one rather than the other.

Okay. I think that sets the general context very nicely. We'll move to some specific questions now, but first Rhianon wanted to come in.

Thank you very much. You've partially answered what I was going to ask in a bit more depth, and it's not on my questioning, so, if the Chair will indulge me—. In regard to your comments, both of you, and your public letters that have been sent to this committee around the dissolving, due to the austerity agenda coming into Wales, around music support services, do you feel that it is part and parcel of your core agenda—Leonora, you said that you think that it is—but do you feel that it's necessary that you take up that slack in terms of the music support services being that foundational level in terms of instrumental access and vocal access?

It's tricky. It's not our mission, as it were, to do that. I think there have, inevitably, been areas and times where we have done that and that's not for want of the music education services wanting to be able to provide that. We don't do individual music tuition, which is a very big, major, part of what they do, so we couldn't say that we've stepped into that gap as such, but I do think that, of all the big music companies, probably ours are providing something that otherwise wouldn't be provided, if that makes sense.

I think they're intrinsically linked. I can't imagine how you could have one without the other. They're part of a continuum, they're part of—I call it a pyramid, if you like, and without wishing to blow anyone's own trumpet—forgive that pun—the national companies—WNO, BBC NOW, Sinfonia Cymru, other high-quality orchestral classical music providers—are at the tip of that pyramid, but the pyramid does not exist without the lower-level infrastructure below it, and, if the lower-level infrastructure begins to crumble, and it is crumbling significantly in many parts of Wales, that jeopardises both the top as well as the bottom at one and the same time. It is not the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s job to provide peripatetic music lessons in Conwy, or Denbighshire, or Pembroke, wherever it might be, but if that isn't being provided, we eventually won't have the high-quality musicians we need to fill our jobs and do the work that we are being asked to do and are paid to do. Equally, we need that infrastructure in which to deliver our outreach and social inclusion work. We cannot—and this is why we don't go to many parts of Wales, unfortunately—if there is no infrastructure in which to engage, or embed, or even talk to someone in the local area, there’s no point in taking the circus of a 75-piece symphony orchestra to wherever it might be, because it just has no value and it’s a waste of resources.


So, finally then, in that regard, without the infrastructure, that foundational level of service and tuition, do you feel that that pyramid, in terms of access, is not going to be there?

I would say it's in danger, without a doubt. I totally agree with what Michael has said. It feels very fragile, and it genuinely feels as if, without the much wider support that music education services were able to provide, actually, music of this type is only going to be available for privileged children who are able to afford to take music lessons. And that will inevitably lead to—and, indeed, I think we're already sort of beginning to see this—there'll be a lack of take-up from those who essentially can't afford it but have amazing talent.

And that’s very much the focus of our inquiry, or part of it.

Mick, please, if you'll take this forward.

You've partly dealt with some of the things I wanted to ask you about. You're both iconic Welsh institutions with international reputations and so on. Are we really going in a wrong direction in terms of—? I mean, we're looking at the issue of the arts and culture in terms of social exclusion. We have a lot of information about the differentials—really, the class-based differential that persists in terms of access and so on. In terms of yours, in some ways, your identity is an aspirational one, it’s an iconic one. Is what you're really saying that there may be areas where you engage and so on, but it’s not really your function and we should be looking, really, at the core base rather than trying to convert your two organisations into things that they are really not designed to be?

It’s a really good question, and forgive me if I fudge an answer. I don't think—well, maybe it's not a fudge. I think I'd disagree with you. I don't think, on almost all grounds—moral, technical ability, musical standards, aspiration, on-the-ground actual training or education for younger people, people who are excluded—that you can separate out the national organisation from the grass-roots activity. We want to do both. The only thing that's limiting it is the resource available.

The musicians who are rehearsing literally right as we speak around the corner in Hoddinott Hall are one and themselves both international standard musicians and also professors at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, or teachers in Ely, or Chepstow, or wherever it might be. They do both jobs at the same time. For them, separating the two out is anathema. And they want to train the next generation to be in their mould, so that the beautiful art and music that they play will continue. Yes, they want us to continue to tour China or Argentina, wherever it might be, and perform at the Proms and do that high-end stuff, but they wouldn't be in their jobs if they didn't also believe that delivering a music workshop in Haverfordwest was as important. I genuinely believe that.

I totally agree with that.

Okay. Well, can I just take that one stage further, then? I mean, this may be my sort of follow-on, fudge question, but if there were two or three key things that would need to change, that would make a difference to you achieving that—because you said, really, that the obstacle is essentially resource, and we know how tight resources are—but, if there were two or three things that could make a difference to you achieving those aspirational objectives, which I'm sure most people endorse, what would they be?

I'm afraid I think that the rather obvious one, but it has to be said, is more funding towards music education and the like in schools, and a better funded infrastructure for that as well. And I know that this committee has done a lot of work into looking at the music education subject itself, but I think that infrastructure needs funding. And I'm afraid it often does go back to funding, because, again, some of the transport issues in that case—. We work with schools to enable them to come to some of—. We bring people in to our dress rehearsals at the Wales Millennium Centre. Now, sometimes they can apply to the arts council for funding for the coaches and people to come down, but, actually, there is so little, so little slack in schools' budgets nowadays that to do any of these extras is incredibly difficult. So, I think a more co-ordinated, and by that it probably needs better resourced infrastructure, is one of the crucial things.


One of the things you raised, particularly in your evidence, is that you do an awful lot in terms of schools and visits and participating, being able to turn up, particularly for dress rehearsals and so on, which I thought was really quite interesting. Is that something that is working as well as it could, or is it something that could be expanded? It seems to me, actually being able to attend and see events is quite a major event. We have considered earlier the problems in terms of cost and impacts, and so on, but I see that from the WNO's position that you actually assist with that on occasions. Can you explain a little bit about how that works and how that might be, perhaps, an increasing model in terms of access?

Certainly. I think the experience for young people and, indeed, anyone who hasn't been before, but we mostly focus it on schools, to get to a fully, big-scale opera in the wonderful facility that we have across the road, there is nothing like it. And the levels of excitement—I'd love to invite the committee some time to come to a dress rehearsal—the level of excitement that you hear, and then silence. A pin could drop and you would hear it. It's a cliché, but there you go. When you've got 1,300 young people in that facility and when that curtain rises, it's absolutely phenomenal, and that does impact.

With us, I would love us to be able to do more of that, but, actually, in terms of our remit and the scheduling, that is quite tricky. We've talked about the potential of putting on a second dress rehearsal each time. Some of the operas are more suited to young people attending than others. You don't want them really taken to four and a half hours of a nineteenth-century Russian opera about sixteenth-century Russia, particularly, but, actually, some are much more suitable, exciting and draw people in better. It's sort of nearly a question of the amount we have to cover in terms of our touring and our time in the Wales Millennium Centre, but we are wondering whether we could increase that some more. It's definitely something that I would like to increase, but practically and logistically—just some questions about that.

Again, there's a scheduling opportunity for us as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. There are slack days in the diary, occasionally, which we could consider rolling out more outreach education work in. To refer back to how I began, there's always that balance between whether what we're doing is relevant to the BBC as much as it is relevant to Wales, and it is certainly true that finding opportunities to broadcast children's concerts, family concerts, schools' concerts, master classes and outreach, there's no space for that on the BBC's platforms at the moment. That's not to say that because we can't broadcast it we can't do it, but we do need just to be mindful of that, given that our job is to be a broadcast orchestra.

But, certainly, it's true that the family concerts that we delivered in Cardiff and in Llandudno only last month were incredibly popular, well-attended and fun. We get some amazing bits of feedback from people who've participated. We try to integrate young people into the performance as well, so that it's not just a concert, but some of the preparation work that's gone on with local schools or music clubs ahead of time is then part and parcel of the performance, too, to make those people, again, both feel part of it, but also to give the young people in the audience someone who they can engage with and see is like them on the stage. We find that very, very useful.


Thank you, David. Thank you, Chair. Good morning. Whilst questions have been asked about people participating, those who are suffering from extreme poverty or who are socially excluded, I'd like to ask about people attending events. What do you think are the barriers for those people wanting to attend events but who find it impossible because of social exclusion and extreme poverty?

I suspect infrastructure is one again, so transport links, the ability to physically get to wherever the concerts or the productions are going on. The infrastructure in Wales is patchy, in all fairness, and there aren't many places that can house a full-size symphony orchestra where it needs to be housed so you can hear it properly, and therefore getting to those small locations would be one. I would think, also, that relevance as well—and that's as much our responsibility as anybody else's—trying to help people recognise that this is an activity that's worth participating in, going to see, is one primary barrier to people attending. Yes, there's a financial cost to some of the events that we put on, although to be fair, the schools concerts are free. For some of the family concerts we do have some ridiculously cheap tickets, but even that can be a barrier to some people, I would say.

So, you think, mainly, it's the infrastructure that is the barrier, then.

I think we can't deny that something like opera does have an image problem, and it is viewed, often—I personally think wrongly, you won't be surprised to hear—as something that is elitist in the bad sense of the word rather than in the good sense of the word. So, then, actually, I think people—. It's a really tough one, this, and it's quite difficult to measure and assess as well, in terms of data. I think, for some people, even getting over the threshold of one of these big buildings just isn't something that they recognise, want to do, think is there for them, and there isn't a sense of entitlement to walk over that threshold and think, 'I belong in this place; this place is publicly funded, it's for me.' And so, there's an onus on all of us, I think—and we do try, but it's a long game, this, I would say—to encourage people to feel that it is something for them. And then you get in the sort of dangerous ground that if you're not careful you can start to patronise as well. So, it's a really tricky problem, I think.

So, when you said opera has an image problem, how have you tried, over the years, to break down that barrier, really?

In a number of ways. There are communications methods, so we try to—. There will always be the core attender who is an absolutely massive opera lover and knows all their stuff and can sit through four and a half hours of Wagner and et cetera, et cetera. But we try to make our communications user-friendly in terms of people who don't know the work. I mean, for example, a couple of years ago we completely changed our visuals to make them, hopefully, more—and we have seen audiences grow; I don't know if that's as a result—but to make them more approachable, really, for people. We try, through communications, again, to give people an insight into what goes on behind the scenes as well, because I think that, actually, is quite interesting for people to be able to connect with, and also we try to keep our pricing very affordable by comparison to anything else in the UK, I think. And then, we also, through all of our outreach work, try to engage people in realising that this is something that they are entitled to be part of, and if they want to, can attend. And sometimes—. I mean, for example, we make sure that we get more accessible, cheaper tickets for people who are involved in activities already—people in our youth opera. That's the case in the rest of the UK as well, where we tour to. So, that's just a couple of things.

So, do you think involving people in the dress rehearsals has helped to break down that image?

I would hope so. I can't prove that, but the young people come away feeling that they've been part of an exciting experience, and not talking about it in terms of, 'Oh, I've been to the opera,' but in terms of 'Oh my God, did you see that? Oh, the conductor at the end turned round and talked to us.' So, I would hope so, but I certainly can’t—


It is a stepping stone, absolutely. I would love to say I could prove that it had, but, sadly, I can’t yet.

You can't prove it yet.

So, finally, how can attending arts and cultural activities help in people obtaining employment in the first place, or maybe going on to seek better employment? Can you see anything there? What do you think the barriers there are, or—?

I think particularly people having their eyes opened to the—and I think particularly through participation, rather than through just attendance—. But, I mean, I think there are people, young people, who go to something on the scale that we do and are wowed by it and think, ‘That is what I want to do.’ Now, that’s not many of them, but some people do think, ‘I went to that’—not necessarily just opera, you know, but any theatre or performing arts—‘I want to be on that stage.’ There’s that element.

But, through our participation activities, young people get a chance to see behind the scenes, they get to see what goes into the complex build-up of what goes into making a production, and they see that there are loads of different roles within an opera company—anything from doing wigs and make-up, through to building the scenery—so, you know, we employ lots of carpenters—right through to being on the stage, to telling people what to do on the stage. All of those kinds of things, I think they do see that. What I do think is lacking in this country and, indeed, in the UK as a whole is more information about what roles there are within the creative arts. I think that is a major lack, and we can only do so much. And, you know, we do. There are people who have been in our youth opera and have come through that and have got jobs in various different parts of opera life, but that’s a major lack, I would say.

You talk about participation, and the BBC NOW is slightly different in that the active engagement of people for training for future jobs is less, as it's a smaller organisation and, let’s be honest, of the 80 musicians that we employ, they need to be really very good in order to get into that place. That’s not to suggest that we don’t do that, and there’s a lot of work with the royal Welsh college and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales to train and to develop that.

But, just to pick up on your point on participation, certainly some of the interventions that the orchestra does in terms of working with people on the autistic spectrum, for example, have been quite life changing. If you’ve got a moment, I’ve got a brief letter that I might just read an extract from, if that’s all right. This is from the headteacher of Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn in Denbighshire, only received last month. It’s quite by coincidence that I’m talking to you about this now. As part of our family concerts, we invited the school to provide five or six of their students with learning difficulties to be part of the performance. We sent some musicians in ahead of time to work with them, to train them, to prepare them, and this is a brief extract from the headteacher in response:

‘Perhaps the biggest change has been in Chris, our drummer. A year ago he was unable to take part in a performance in Llangollen because of a lack of confidence and subsequent unpredictable behaviour. Before this trip, his mum warned me that he disliked crowds and would struggle to manage in the city, and that he hated shopping. Whilst we were in Cardiff, he insisted on going shopping and chatted to shop assistants. Apparently, Cardiff people are much nicer than those people up in Prestatyn. He helped staff without being asked, encouraged the other students in all activities, chatted to staff a lot, and finally, truly believed that he is a likeable, talented young man who can manage in new and difficult situations. This young man spoke to a number of members of the orchestra, Grant, Suzanne, and Luke, without needing the support from staff. He saw that he was appreciated for what he can do and who he is, and I truly believe that this experience has changed his outlook on life.’

It’s an isolated experience, but it’s very typical of the types of activity and reactions that we get when people come in, work with the musicians and participate in the activity. And, I suppose, if we could do more, it would be in the participation sense, because that’s where people—. I don’t disagree that sitting and watching a wonderful symphony orchestra or an opera performance has wonderful properties attached to it, but physically participating and having the capacity to do more of that, which is very highly intensive, I have to say, does result in some remarkable outcomes.


Diolch, Chair. This is something that's in the WNO evidence, but I'm sure that both of you will have thoughts on this. You acknowledge that there's a tension between the idea of bringing art to a community and the need to embed it in a community and getting participants or audience members to recognise themselves in that art, as we've already been speaking about—that it's something that belongs to them, that it isn't this elite luxury that is far away from them and that they have to go to. Can you tell us about some of the work that you've done to address that tension?

Yes. What's my list of case studies for you? So, let's think about: we worked with the British Council Wales, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to deliver a trilingual language project down in Pembrokeshire, along the west coast. So, off the back of the orchestra's visit to Patagonia and Argentina back in 2015, the opportunity came up for us to deliver language learning skills in English, Welsh and Spanish, using the medium of education. It has been a two-year process, which has been quite heavily documented, and I can provide information afterwards, if that's useful, showing different attainment levels, showing different concentration levels, showing improved understanding of language learning in general as a result of consistent—and by that I mean handful of musicians going to these schools once a month for a period of probably about 20 months—working with the schools, working with specific teachers, working with a particular curriculum to develop and to grow those individuals' learning skills as a result of using music techniques. It's had a wonderful impact—really richly beneficial to the children, and, interestingly, really richly beneficial to the musicians as well, who have begun to learn other skills and develop their own musicianship in a different way other than just playing on a concert platform. So, that's been hugely wonderful.

I think there's a perception sometimes that the big companies just do stuff to people and that all we are about is trying to get people involved with our work. And actually a lot of our work is with people who are engaging with experiences and creating things that actually mean something for them. Sometimes that is in response to a theme. If there's a theme coming up through one of our seasons of operas, it can be that they'll talk about a particular theme, but then they will create their own work and be enabled to do that in a way that is relevant to them. So, it's almost that the work is more of a springboard, I would say, for some of that, for their own creativity and their own engagement, rather than automatically—I mean, don't get me wrong, it would be absolutely wonderful if we could get everyone to come to our performances as a result, but actually that is not—. It's about the experience itself in its own right for those people so they themselves are able to make it relevant to their life. It's not a sort of didactic, 'This is what you should be doing; this is how you should be doing it.' There are some times when, for example, if people join our youth opera, there are specific things, specific productions that we are working on that we are doing, but, in the schools work, there's a wide variety of work that people are engaging with that isn't just about stuff being done to them, as it were. That's a bit of a shorthand, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

It's about the infrastructure. We touch on it yet again. It's incredibly important in order to receive and to host well any activity that either of our organisations would be doing. And if that infrastructure isn't there, there's almost no point in going, which is a blunt thing to say, but I believe it's true. I could send the orchestra to anywhere in Wales—it would cost a fortune, perhaps—but if there's no-one to receive it, if preparation work hasn't been done ahead of time and there's no legacy left as a result with teachers, with community workers, with local youth orchestras or whatever it might be, the actual activity is almost wasted entirely. And that infrastructure therefore has to be in place. Otherwise, we are really, really missing a trick.


Thank you. As well as what we've touched on earlier in terms of the need to ensure that formal music education is there to set some of those links up ahead of time, do you think that participating more in partnership with other local organisations, through participating in the Fusion project, would be something that could help you do that more? Or do you think that that wouldn't be something that would be as suited to your work?

It would be fair to say that there's a specificity about some of our activity, but let's not be arrogant about it. I think any sort of preparation, in partnership with a local provider, is a good thing.

And certainly, both in our south Wales work and our north Wales work, we're now employing people up in north Wales ourselves to be able to liaise thoroughly with local organisations and almost create some of that infrastructure ourselves, as it were, but also in collaboration with music education services where they are. We've taken some of that on, I would say, but, actually, you do get enormous benefit from working in partnership locally with others because, actually, as Michael was implying, they are the ones who know the ground, they know who the people are who need the work, and so that is absolutely beneficial and, indeed, necessary.

We really haven't had much to do with the Fusion project at all. As you probably saw in the evidence, we've had some exploratory conversations, but it hasn't sort of—. We concentrated very much on Communities First areas with our work, but actually, I can't say—. For one reason or another, we haven't quite got clarity, really, possibly, around the Fusion project.

Thank you. In regard to this being the Welsh Government's inclusion programme around arts and development, to a certain extent, and obviously a legacy of the Communities First programme, its funding is around £280,000, I believe, for the whole of Wales. So, in that regard, it is a sort of co-ordinator-led post, wherever that scheme is in operation. So, do you feel, then, that it's up to your organisations to reach out to this programme to be able to become more involved with it? And how do you perceive it? You've touched upon it briefly, but would you like to extrapolate, both of you, in terms of your understanding of it?

There's not much I can say, really.

I would echo Leo's points in that I don't think we, the national orchestra of Wales, have engaged with it much at all. The answer to your question is probably it has to go both ways—we should reach out and we should be reached out to. Two hundred and eighty thousand pounds across the whole of Wales doesn't seem like a lot of money, if you don't mind me saying. That's not going to go very far, and I don't know whether, again, there are capacity concerns, as a result. Yes, there are some areas, and I note under the summary document provided that there are specific areas where Fusion is most targeted and focused on. Indeed, some of national orchestra of Wales's, and, I'm sure, WNO's activities are in those areas already. Whether it's linked in with Fusion, certainly from NOW's perspective, I would question. I don't think it is at this stage, and why that is the case, that's something to be looked into.

So, in regard to strategic management of the programme, you would see that there needs to be perhaps more conversation between co-ordinators and yourselves. And in that regard, what would be your view in terms of a cohesive strategy around music education and culture for Wales?

Well, one of the key things I think needs to happen—. Because even the music education services are quite—. They're in very particular areas and there's an element of co-ordination but not a huge amount of co-ordination. I might be being unfair, but actually, what I think needs to happen is, essentially, a big audit and gap analysis, for want of a better expression, that actually looks at what the provision is right across the country and then sees where that might happen. I think I've put it in our evidence, but, with our work in England—we work in Birmingham a lot—we were able to go to the music education hubs and the cultural education partnership that's there and say, 'We would like to do more work; we're sure there's a need and a desire for this'—pretty sure—and, indeed, that has been the case. But we were encouraged—not told, but encouraged—to go to particular areas, because those were areas of greater need where there wasn't so much provision. And there doesn't seem to be, as it were—cliché, cliché—a joined-up approach right across the piece, which would look at where all the resources—what resource there is—are going. I mean, we have—you could talk about it better than I, probably—the classical music consortium. Say a little bit about that, Michael.


Well, by contrast to your Birmingham example, the National Orchestra of Wales hosted, last month, music services from around Wales in Hoddinott Hall around the corner for the second time, working with CAGAC, which is the music services association—it's an acronym—along with the Music Education Council Wales branch, and invited the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and the arts council and various others. And, in fact, I think Bethan Sayed was there as well. It's a shame she can't be here to talk about it. And that was the second time of a handful of times when all those people have come together and it was perhaps the beginning of an 'us reaching out to them' process to say, 'We have to work together. In times of austerity, or times of limited resource, engaging individually, we aren't going to go anywhere'. And people necessarily retrench, don't they, when they've got less resource and there's more pressure on them. And we felt it was some of our role to bring people together to say, 'Try to stop doing that. We want to work with you, we want to provide the right level of activity, we want to use or deploy National Orchestra of Wales musicians in your area, but you've got to talk to us and tell us where that would be best used and how we can best spend our time and our money'. Some of those conversations are ongoing and I'm delighted that they're going to carry on—we've got another meeting in July—and we'll see where that goes. But, it's interesting that it's taken us inviting them to us, if you like, collectively, in order to work out what it is and where we can be best used.

Okay. So, in that regard, and bearing in mind the dearth of funding that we now have in Wales and that passporting down to local authorities—and we talked earlier about music support services and their importance in terms of that foundational level of learning for that pyramid in terms of participation—do you feel, with regard to the focus of this inquiry, which is obviously around tackling social exclusion through inclusion, participation, attendance and taking part in the arts, that, in a sense, the austerity agenda is a driving force and that it's an important time that we can actually get around this table and come forward with something productive around a cultural strategy or a music education strategy for Wales? 

I don't want to put words into your mouths, but in that regard, we're talking about you, in a sense, as partners organising around this. Perhaps there needs to be much more of a strategic focus around this.

I'd say partly there's a resource issue, but I think it's also about education. I think the removal of music as a core curriculum subject has not helped. In fact, quite the opposite. Trying to make music relevant to people if they're not taught about it up until—well, if they're never taught about it—makes our life very much more difficult.

And finally, with regard to—. There used to be resources around local authorities giving grants to talented young musicians to attend music colleges and different training programmes. Do you feel that there needs to be perhaps a fresh look at how we're actually working with talented young people across Wales?

I think it would well be worth reviewing that. I know that it's very, very early days, but the Anthem foundation—the national endowment fund—is going to be looking at that. But I think an overall look at how one does bring in talent in whatever field—not just classical, but in whatever field that is—and how you enable people to be able to take that talent forward I think would be something that would be interesting to look at given where we are now.

It's already happening to some extent in the kind of refreshing of National Youth Arts Wales and its approach to how it's reviving its work. They've got an uphill challenge. And one might argue that the removal of—or the change of—funding, if you like, out of local authority into an individual arts organisation is contributing, again, to some of that ability for a local authority to wash its hands of some of these concerns.

Okay. And, finally, I've not really got anywhere with my questioning around whether you believe or otherwise that there is a potential for a music strategy or a cultural strategy for Wales.


Sorry, I should have been clearer. I think there absolutely is a place, I would say, probably for an overarching cultural strategy, most definitely. Music separately? Potentially, yes, but I think the issue is of such importance for people's lives and their life chances and the way they live their lives that, actually, an overarching cultural strategy would be a really good move.

Could I ask you a question? What would be the difference between a cultural strategy and the arts council's 'For the benefit of all' current strategy?

I think in regard to an overarching strategy that would take in heritage, that would take in music education in particular—whether that would fit underneath in a little plan, so that we've got that foundational pathway from music support service infrastructure through to national youth arts organisations and elite bodies working together. I think that would be much more cohesive, and I think it is about joining up those different strands. But this is about what you think, not about what I think.

I think one of the things that would be interesting is to think—a bit like the far-reaching and exciting Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015—actually looking at culture right across the piece, and how government can support that on a fully departmental basis that isn't just—. Don't get me wrong; of course, the Arts Council of Wales have an incredibly important role in this, but actually a good look at how government can support culture and talent and everything that goes with that—. Not everyone's going to be an immensely talented musician, visual artist, whatever, but the impact it has, participating and being involved in those kind of activities, is not just for the talented—it gives something to everybody, and actually to think how Government departments all respond to that, I think, would be really interesting.

Thank you, Chair. Michael, the letter that you read out there regarding the young man who benefited so much from the programme you offered was very powerful indeed, and in fact one of the things we've been trying to look at as a committee is how we can capture the intangible benefits of different groups of people engaging with the arts, especially when there's such a culture now where everything has to be assessed rigorously against criteria, and that that then leads to more funding, less funding, and so on. But it certainly seems to us as a committee that things like increased confidence and self-esteem are very important to those who may be living with poverty or are socially excluded. So I just wonder what both of your thoughts are around that, about how those experiences can be captured, perhaps more formally in order to add weight to the experience that these groups of people can have.

That's a good question. Why do we need to capture it? Who are we trying to persuade that this is of value? If we're trying to persuade those people who are only looking at numbers and statistics, we're going to have a challenge, because telling someone that they've grown in confidence—that's unquantifiable. So I'm not quite sure whether there is value in trying to find a way of quantifying that in order to answer the questions that are being asked, or whether it's better to try to change the questions in the first place.

But I do appreciate that we live in a world where, given particularly that it's funded by public money, we need to be able to justify its investment. I'm not sure I have a complete answer. I run an orchestra. I'm not a statistician or a researcher. But I wonder if there's some sort of academic route we could try. I don't know whether Creative Cardiff, or some of the activity that's running out of that team, could be developed to find either economic benefits or educational benefits, or cultural or social benefits to some of this activity. That would be a challenging and long-term study that would require quite a bit of ongoing investment.

But given where Wales is with the future generations Act and much of this conversation where we're talking about Fusion, 'Hitting the Right Note', and all these types of reports—there's clearly a gathering snowball of activity where people want to try to justify some of this activity and some of this investment. And evaluating it and quantifying it, I don't disagree, is a good thing to do. How we go about doing that—there must be models out there around the world where we can see other people who've done it before us. But I do bring us back to the question about, if we're trying to persuade people in the first place, let's look at a range of ways of persuading people, rather than just a statistical report. 


I don't have much to add to that, actually. It's a tricky area, and much is based on basically anecdotal evidence and feedback that we get. And yes, I feel that a longitudinal approach across a number of years would be the way to do it. I have thought in the past about approaching a university or equivalent to try and get a project out. However, I haven't done that. So, it's a very good question. 

I could provide you with dozens and dozens and dozens of letters like this—and that's not to blow our own trumpet. We get these quite regularly after this type of activity. Who should I give them to? How can I put Siôn in front of the person who makes these decisions, or is that what we're doing here? 

Yes, and indeed this committee itself. It's great that you're looking into this issue. 

Those are very useful comments. Thank you very much. 

One final question from me: do either of you have anything to add to how you share either good practice or challenges that you've faced around trying to integrate these people into the arts experience? Is there a vehicle by which you share good practice or challenges?

It's informal, but as Leo alluded to earlier, the Cardiff classical consortium—it's not a particularly catchy title—has been up and running for five or six years, now. So, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Welsh National Opera, Sinfonia Cymru, St David's Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama—that'll do for the time being—regularly get together and share stories. We make sure that we are programming, both our music and making sure that we're not treading on each other's toes by choosing the same bits of music—it seems obvious, but it didn't happen beforehand—and also ensure that our touring activity is co-ordinated, too, so we're not both going to Llandudno on subsequent weekends and then providing 50 weeks of nothingness for the rest of the year. So, spreading that out. And that's been particularly successful, actually, in terms of making sure that we are trying to offer comprehensive provision around the country, across the year.

We both came to Wales from England, and I can absolutely assure you that that doesn't happen in London and the south-east. 

One of the benefits of quite a small country is that you can co-ordinate and talk. 

Yes, we can really do that, which is great. The other thing I would say is, yes, I could cite an example: we will eventually be doing our first relaxed opera performance—a family concert, actually, it is; a family concert that has an operatic repertoire and singers. And we will learn from the BBC's amazing performances that you've done—I'm making him blush—at the Proms and in other places on that front. So I think there is some learning of good practice around the place, but it is informal. 

Do you look around the United Kingdom at the way similar—or partners, indeed, operate? And also, you're a formidably well connected international network as well, and there are all sorts of orchestras, performers and opera companies, and they, presumably, are facing quite similar challenges. Do you find that useful?

We engage internationally through a very good network called Opera Europa, which is basically the trade body for opera. It's worldwide, it's not just Europa, as it were. That has several conferences a year, tackling various elements of our practice, and so we always try to send people to that. Across the UK, we have the NOCC, the national opera co-ordinating committee—I think; yes—and that not only tries to do a bit of a clash diary, which doesn't always work that successfully, but actually we do talk about these issues. The general directors of the organisations meet and talk things through. And also we're hooked into UK Theatre, which is a big theatre governing body, a member association. So there are quite a lot of opportunities to do that, and we really try to take advantage of them. A lot of them are London based, so it does require travel, but we do; we really try that. That's slightly more formalised, I would say, than our local ones. But you probably have others, too. 

We co-hosted, with Sinfonia Cymru, the Association of British Orchestras conference in Cardiff in January 2018. In fact, I think that was the first time the ABO conference, which is an annual event, had been co-hosted rather than singularly hosted, a demonstration of the fact that in Wales we work together in order to serve the audience in this part of the world. And we continue to contribute to that network. My orchestra manager is this very afternoon with the other BBC equivalents meeting in Salford and, again, sharing good practice and crying on each other's shoulders, and trying to work together—


There's an element of that too. 

—to learn from each other and understand how best we can do our work. So, yes, that networking is ongoing, I'd say—it's part and parcel of our jobs. 

That concludes the questions we wanted to put to you. I think we've covered a lot of ground, but I did say at the start that if there's anything of relevance you think we've not covered, I'll give you an opportunity now to say it. 

I don't think—

No, I don't think there's anything else in particular that I can think of. 

No, I mean, personally, I'm fascinated to see how the new curriculum will impact on our world, and it's lovely to see performing arts/expressive arts as a key part of that. What impact and effect that will have on arts organisations like ourselves and where we have an opportunity to contribute—looking forward to seeing how that rolls out, certainly.  

And the one thing I would say on that—sorry, just to add on to that—is that it mustn't be thought that that expressive arts work in the curriculum can take away from the need for individual tuition for young people as well, and I think that's something that we'll keep an eye on as well, although it's fantastic, as Michael said—very, very forward-thinking, I think, to have expressive arts as one of the six strands in the curriculum. 

Okay, with those apposite points, we'll conclude this session. Can I thank you both for your evidence, which has definitely helped with our inquiry? And I hope you'll see that reflected in the report when it's published. There will be a transcript of these proceedings, so if you want to check that for accuracy, you're welcome to do that as well and feed anything back to us. But thank you very much for taking the time and the effort to prepare as thoroughly as you have, and I found it a very useful session. Thank you.  

Pleasure. Diolch yn fawr. 

Thank you. Diolch yn fawr. 

Our next witness is here at 10.40 a.m., so we will just have a short break until then. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:27 a 10:40.

The meeting adjourned between 10:27 and 10:40.

3. Minnau hefyd! - Ymchwiliad i rôl y celfyddydau a diwylliant wrth fynd i'r afael â thlodi ac allgáu cymdeithasol: ProMo-Cymru
3. Count me in! - Inquiry into the role of arts and culture in addressing poverty and social exclusion: ProMo-Cymru

Hello again. Can I welcome you back to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee? We continue with our work on the inquiry 'Count me in!', looking at the role of arts and culture in addressing poverty and social exclusion. And I'm delighted to welcome Arielle Tye, who is the development manager of ProMo-Cymru. So, you're most welcome this morning, and I will start the questions with just a couple of general ones. We'll then probably pick up the references more specifically as we go through the other questions from my colleagues. 

So, what would you say, in general terms, are the biggest barriers, really, for people in poverty and social exclusion who want to participate or indeed be involved in the production of arts?

I think there's lots of practical reasons that people cover a lot, in terms of transport, having that time and availability, and, I suppose, having that sort of—we particularly do a lot of work with young people—support from your family and parents to actually encourage you, to take you. But I think there's a much bigger issue, really, and that's around the fact that a lot of the activities—I'm not sure if they are actually that fully engaging and accessible for people from different groups. And I think there is a massive push towards making sure we engage and we reach out, but, actually, even a question about people's culture—are we trying to move people towards engaging in a particular type of culture, or are we actually, from the ground, grass roots up, saying, 'What is your culture?' Because, certainly, from my perspective, people in poverty have an amazing amount of culture, and they want to engage, and they want to get involved in things. So, yes, I think that's maybe where the biggest barrier is, that with some of the things on offer—not all of them because I've seen amazing things—we haven't quite worked that bit out yet, that, actually, it's about going from that grass-roots level, what is important to people and their families and young people, and building it from there. 

Thank you for that. It's a point very strongly made; I'm sure that will be followed up. I think part of the reason for doing this inquiry is that it's felt that involvement in the arts can be quite a good confidence builder and can develop skills for people to then perhaps access not just the job market in terms of the arts, but more generally. Does that come through in your work? Would you say that's a fair assumption for us to make?

Absolutely. I think it's vital. It's really important. There's so many different skills that you can learn. We're not specifically an arts organisation; we're more about engagement. But we use the arts to engage, because it's such an amazing tool. Young people come along, they get to try something, experience it, and it's amazing the journey you see them go on. And it might not be about the art, really, it's more about the engagement. So, yes, I absolutely agree with that. 

We'll turn now and look at some of these issues in more depth. Mick. 

Can you tell me a little bit about—? We're really interested in the work that you do, and, of course, engagement seems to me to be the absolute core. But what are the main problems you're finding with engagement? Not the mechanical ones, in terms of transport for people and that sort of thing, but the fact is that it appears to be, certainly, that almost the poorer the community you come from, the more negative your approach is to actually seeing this as having any relevance to you. Do you see that as being—? How do you tackle that problem of engagement with young people?

I think it's in the whole design of the programme in the first place—it's actually designing things with people at their level, and then they are just engaged from the beginning, rather than having a programme that, even if it was shaped by consultation, you've actually got a programme and you're presenting it to people, and then you've immediately got a barrier because there's so much effort that goes into trying to get people to come. This also causes loads of stress to arts organisations and institutions doing amazing work, because they're suddenly trying to meet these targets like, 'We need to get people in from these groups; let's go around.' And that's really stressful and difficult, whereas, actually, when you design something with people in the first place, and use a more service-led co-production approach, people come because they're involved and it was designed with them in mind. It's a completely different approach. 

Do you think there is a problem that too much of the approach with regard to arts and culture is top-down rather than grass-roots based?

I think it's still weighted towards that, yes. But there's definitely a shift. There's loads more co-production and then lots more working with Communities First areas et cetera, and people from all the different groups in society. But, yes, really, I think it still has that—it's always historically been that, and I think it still exists. And arts—you know, there's still quite a focus on that traditional art form, where, actually, a lot of people aren't perhaps so interested in going to maybe a big theatre show, or an opera show, or things like that. Well, there's a massive place for those, but they might not be the best avenue for such a diverse group of people.


I wonder if you can give me an example of some of the activities that you've been engaged with that you think have actually been successful in achieving that sort of grass-roots engagement, which have broken through some of those barriers there, and what the outcomes have been.

So, about, I think it was maybe four or five years ago, in Cardiff, we worked with a local community to take over the old bus ticket office, and it was closing down because of the regeneration work going on. And we just worked with a group of artists—they just said they wanted to put on an exhibition; it was completely grass roots, bottom-up, because it was their idea. So, we were able to support them, in terms of making sure it was safe, and just giving them that space. And, actually, this grew, and I even found it completely surprising that it grew from just this small idea into an absolutely massive, booming arts space in the centre of Cardiff. There were artists' studios, there were events every single week, and there was no funding into that at all—it was all trying to self-generate, and the only reason it could be done was because of volunteers and also the fact that the building was given for free from Cardiff Council at that time. And it really highlighted to me the reason it worked was because the activities, the whole programme, was just community-led; it was, like, 'This is a space, what do you want to do with it?' And although we facilitated that, because it needed it, we didn't really get involved or interfere with what was going to happen there, and it just worked. And it was a space that felt really, really accessible—when you walked in there, anyone would feel, I would say, that it was a space for them—they could have a voice, they could get involved. Whereas, on the flip side, I've done some stuff at the national museum—and I really respect the things they do, and a lot of the programmes—but young people do not feel they can walk in there, and we've had them say that. And that's recognised as well from the museum, so this is not just us saying it—it's actually not a space for them to walk in. And, yes, that's an issue.

And what is the legacy of that particular project that you described?

The Abacus—it's got, in terms of, like—

It's nowhere, because it closed down, and we couldn't find another space. But, still, everybody within that community in Cardiff—. And it wasn't all people in poverty who came, certainly not, it was people from—but it was mainly young people, it was mainly that sort of more grass-roots, I suppose, level thing. But that made it much more accessible, then, for all different groups, because I suppose there wasn't such a big gap—they could relate to it and see themselves within what was going on there.

So, you described something successful that's clearly had an impact on a lot of people's lives, yet it closed down due to a lack of funding, lack of premises, lack of—. Is there a message out of that, in terms of the orientation of our arts policy, in terms of poverty, social exclusion and so on?

I mean, I just know it was a successful project, and certainly there is a massive need for that, and there's a need for spaces. The same thing—in Ebbw Vale, we actually run the Ebbw Vale Institute, and that's very successful—we get over 5,000 visitors a month coming through those doors, and that is right in the biggest area of deprivation in Wales. However, we suffer from the same things—that, actually, with that building, every year, we're at a shortfall, of only about £30,000. It's completely self-generated everything else—there's no grant funding or anything that goes in there. So, it is such a small gap, but that could make such a difference to communities.

I do. With regard to that line of questioning, do you think that there is a big divide between organisations like yours that co-construct with what the communities' needs are from that bottom level of thought process, and those from the bigger arts organisations, who have got very well-developed outreach programmes, but they're very specific in terms of what they're trying to do? And if that's the case, do you feel there needs to be much more of a join-up between the two different approaches?

Yes, I think there is a difference. We're better placed to do that sort of work, because that's our role and that's what we do day in, day out, and those are our aims and those are our objectives. So, it's completely understandable that those skills don't necessarily lie within these bigger bodies and institutions and that's okay. So, that's where really good partnership work works, and actually I see that a lot—that there are really great partnerships going on. But, again, it is still that weighting between—. From our perspective, it feels like sometimes people are reaching out to you, but it's not completely in collaboration—it's not an equal partnership, I suppose. We have a small amount and get involved in a particular project, but actually it shouldn't just be perhaps project-based, but more that it's always that way and that when we do a project—I know that things go on, for example, where you might get young refugees or you might get homeless people et cetera involved in an exhibition, which is an amazing step, but then it's just about making sure that that continues and that carries on and that it wasn't just an exhibition that they got involved in and learnt all these skills, and then people came along and thought, 'Oh, isn't it great; we're opening our eyes to these different issues?', but, actually, then, can those people then walk through the doors again? Can they walk in next week, when that exhibition is not on—can they walk through the doors again and feel like they're part of it? I don't know if they can.


Diolch, Cadeirydd. I wonder if we could just talk about—as opposed to people who wish to participate, I'm looking at people who wish to be part of an audience. Could you tell me what sort of barriers you think there are for people who may be socially excluded, people who may be living in poverty, who wish to attend arts and arts functions and so on and activities? Can you tell me what barriers you think are there?

I suppose I don't have as much experience or thought around that, apart from the usual things—you know, transport, and like the cost of different things that go on. Again, it would be—it would be what's on offer, but, if they actually think that what's on offer is appropriate to them, then I would imagine those barriers are down to cost and transport—the main ones that I can think of.

Right, okay. And, if a person is part of an audience, how do you think that that can help ameliorate poverty or enable them to become interested in a different line of work, if, indeed, they are employed, or to gain better employment in the future? How do you think that this can whet someone's appetite, really, as part of an audience, if they are maybe socially excluded or living in poverty? How can we help to lift them out of that poverty?

It's a massive challenge in terms of being part of an audience, but anything where you're going out into the world and you're experiencing different things, it makes your life richer; it gives you aspiration, it generates thought and I suppose, actually, escapism as well for that time that you're there. But I think it's—it would be very difficult, I think, to think that people could go and perhaps watch shows and then for that to be a significant role for them in leaving poverty or getting work. That's just in my experience. I think it would be more in the participation of and learning those skills and particularly from a young age. That's really my passion, is from that young age. I work with an organisation called the Ministry of Life, which works in really hard-to-reach areas in Cardiff, getting young people involved in rapping, emceeing. The reason those projects exist is because that's what the young people wanted. And, actually, there are no barriers about trying to get people to come, because they come, because it's for them, and that's the big difference. So, they don't have to think, 'Oh, how do we get young people to come to this?' because, actually, they want it. A lot of these young people that I've been working with there are excluded from mainstream education and they've been told—you know, they're in the pupil referral units, and actually they are writing lyrics all week, and then they turn up and they are writing and, you know, it brings tears to your eyes because of the amount of amazing, incredible things that they've got to say. So, culture— so, it's happening.

Yes. So, how do you encourage people who may not want to be on the stage themselves, but want to do something backstage? How do you bring about participation there and encourage them to maybe follow a different avenue?

I think it's just—you know, going back to the same points, really, it's just getting people involved at their level. So, again, I think we think too much about the structures of, 'Is it on stage? Is it off stage?' It's just, actually, if we get people together, they need to build a project themselves, and through that they will learn loads of skills. I don't think it has to be that prescriptive about what they're going to learn, because, actually, just by people sort of engaging in these activities and being able to be involved in culture and express themselves, there will be all these different routes and skills. And then it really is the job of the people who are running those programmes to be able to spot young people and then you work with them individually. So, you might find a skill. So, there is that real skill, you know. It’s not just about them coming, I think, but actually the people running it need to be spotting those particular young people and encouraging those talents.


So, you try and identify someone who may be sitting on the sidelines with an awful lot to offer, but not as a participant on the stage, but backstage, yes?

Yes, absolutely, and then helping them and actually maybe giving them a bit of extra attention maybe. I work with some young people at the Wales Millennium Centre. You then think that, 'Oh, maybe they can buddy up with somebody who works in the centre', so that they can be, you know—. But, again, the difficulty is that it’s so much based on personal relationships, and so it is a challenge, because it’s not as simple as saying, ‘Oh, isn’t it great? A young person can go in and work—you know, buddy up with someone backstage, or a technician’, because they might not really have those engagement skills. So, you know, it’s a lot to do with—. I suppose that’s why the youth work and those activities have such an important place to play, because it’s those skills in terms of actually engaging and just getting on to those levels with young people.

So, you identify the individuality in the person, yes?


I think this idea that the central—the crux of what you put in the evidence is so important, about the idea that what you were talking about, the fact that large organisations will sometimes—. Well, that there’s at least a perception that they will be bringing their art to people, or expecting people to come to them, rather than being grass roots and art being something that is designed in conjunction with the people who are going to be engaging with it. How, and I know that this is a—? No, maybe—I’m not sure if this is a tricky question—. How do you think that kind of changed sense of people actually feeling an ownership of that art can be evaluated or, if not evaluated, how can larger organisations be encouraged to do more of this kind of thing themselves? Or do you think that there’s something intrinsic about larger organisations that means that there will be that inaccessibility?

I don’t think it’s intrinsic. I definitely think they can do it, because they do do it. So, it’s not like they completely don’t do it—you know, actually, there are some brilliant projects, often based on the staff involved and the people involved, I suppose. I think, going back to partnership work, that’s the way they can do it, because, actually, loads and loads of grass-roots organisations do this already. Like I said, they don’t have problems with people coming through their doors; they’re flooded with people coming in. So, that’s really important. So, where are those?

But then that partnership approach has to be that, I think, that project is designed together, so from those two organisations together, rather than in a way presenting, ‘This is our programme; we’d love you to get involved’, because you’ve already missed it, potentially, at that point. So, I think it’s right from that design. And then the funding has to be there to support that. Because, actually, we find quite a lot that it’s really resource intensive. So, if an organisation comes and says, ‘We’re going to engage loads of young people you’re working with and give them this amazing theatre opportunity’, that’s great, but it takes a lot, because you've got to organise it. So, in the Ebbw Vale Institute, our staff there, you know, it’s such a small team of staff just to keep this massive building running. If a programme comes like that, even if it’s free at access to the people, it still costs us to have to rally them around, to call them up, get them there, and there’s a lot of weight and reliance on us. So, actually, then it becomes sometimes too much, too difficult. So, it’s about working together and ensuring that there is that funding there so that, actually, the organisations that have those skills and already those connections, to be honest, with the communities can actually go out and do a really good piece of work to a high level, rather than trying to do it in their spare time and on the little bit they have funded out of other things.

And I was going to ask you as well about skills, and this is something that’s been touched on a bit already—the kind of skills that you notice participants showing after they’ve been a part of this. Is one of the main skills actually something to do with something that, again, is hard to quantify, but this new outlook, not just on them owning and engaging with culture, then, but it being something about—yes, that it's not an 'us and them', that culture isn't apart from them, but it is bringing it more together. I'm probably not wording this very well.


Yes, I suppose it's—you know, measuring it's a challenge. It's a personal journey that they've gone on. They have more aspiration at the end of it and I think that's the thing. You can see their eyes light up and they really feel proud of what they've been doing, and you know that they're going to take that experience with them, and hopefully—. I know, certainly with some of the work with some of the local young people I was talking about earlier that are really like—you know, they're on the brink, loads of them do end up in prison, this is the reality, but so many of them you can see that, actually, it has changed their path and it's given them something else, and it just gave them that bit of value, and that is really hard to quantify, but you can see that it's changed their journey.

We've done some activities where, at the end of, say, creating films et cetera with young people— music videos—we then do a big showing, a screening, and you put red carpets out and it's literally just in our office, and they think they're—you know, they really feel like they're going to an amazing event and they just feel so proud, because we're genuinely valuing them and giving them such an amazing experience. Yes, I don't know how you—. There are lots of ways to measure things, but it's always a challenge in terms of evaluation of that particular journey. 

Thank you. I know that my colleague Vikki will be drawing on that point a little bit later. Thank you. 

Thank you. In regard to the comments that you've made around the fact that you've got excellent projects, from what you've described—and I will declare an interest; I did a project with you a number of years ago, and it was very successful, dealing with socially excluded young people. And they did a battle of the bands, the formula that you talked about—very successful and went on to do Joseph Rowntree Foundation work with some of them.

So, putting that to one side, you are dealing with some of the most hard to reach socially excluded communities and groups of young people and you are still here and you seem to be thriving as an organisation. So, my question really is, in regard to the funding from Welsh arts council—which goes, majoritively, out of the £27 million, to the top five, large, hugely impressive reputationally international organisations—do you feel that the mixture is right in terms of funding from Welsh arts council or others in regard to helping your grass-roots types of arts organisation? And on top of that, then, do you feel that there should be more of a pathway, a legacy programme, that joins you up to these other bigger organisations or not?

Yes, a pathway would be really useful and helpful. We are a thriving organisation so we know a lot about the different funding routes, but at the same time we actually haven't really gone for much arts council or any of that sort of funding. We don't feel like it's a really great fit, which is unusual, because—. Again, I think it might be because of the sort of programmes and projects being offered; it just doesn't seem to completely fit us a lot of the time, especially in Ebbw Vale, the Ebbw Vale Institute. It seems like that there should be something that we're doing there, the fact that there's such a footfall in such a community, but we're actually—. The reason that I think we're thriving is most of the money there is made off rent, so people rent the building, we have a bar, we've got a—. So, it's actually a functional building, which is making its own income, and that's actually now for the rest of our organisation as well how we're starting to have to look at—which is great, a positive thing, it's generating income through being able to sell services. But, in terms of being able to deliver some of what our real core work is in terms of that engagement with young people, that is getting more and more challenging and difficult.

So, I think—. And we've been doing work recently with the Wales Millennium Centre and the museum and it's amazing, and I absolutely agree these institutions are world class. The Wales Millennium Centre is excellent, and it offers this other route for people, such expanded opportunities. So, when we work with young people and we work with the Wales Millennium Centre it actually gives them a whole host of other things that we actually can't offer. So, those projects are really successful, but certainly I think the balance isn't quite there yet and just more needs to be done in that direction.

So, in terms of the emphasis around tackling poverty and social exclusion through the arts, the focus of this inquiry, from your perspective—I know it's a bit like asking turkeys not to vote for Christmas, so I'm trying to be balanced with this question—but, from your perspective, would you say that, as public funding is becoming scarce and we have to meet our Welsh Government objectives around poverty and inclusion, do you feel that there should be much more co-ordination between the top organisations and the grass-roots organisations? And if so, do you feel that there should be perhaps more of a fresh look at where that funding is going?


Okay. All right, thank you. And my final question would be in regard to the Fusion project, in regard to whether you feel from your perspective that you've had any links with it as an organisation, or whether you feel that you'd like to know more about it in terms of what it does. 

When I first read this, I hadn't heard of the Fusion programme, and then I asked a number of people. So, my CEO has fed in—he couldn't make it today either, so he's fed into all of this—and he didn't know about it. There were a few people in our organisation who then said, yes, they had heard of it, but we haven't really got any experience of the Fusion programme. 

Okay. And in regard to the fact that it's working in former Communities First areas, Objectives 1 or 2 areas, in terms of your target group, to a certain extent, there is from your perspective perhaps more of a need for marketing the programme.

All I can say, because I didn't know about it, and I haven't really got much that I can say on it, it could be, as some of these cases are, you've engaged with a programme but you didn't realise it was the Fusion programme. That happens sometimes as well, so it's not that—. It could be that we have come across it, but we didn't realise that it was a Fusion programme funded project. But yes, when we read about it, it seemed like—. I read it and I thought, yes, that sounds like a great fit for some of the work that we were doing, but we weren't aware of it.

And finally, would you be in support of a cultural strategy for Wales that would draw upon all of the different scoped organisations across Wales to work in a co-ordinated fashion?

I don't know how to answer that.

You don't have to, actually, if you feel it's something you've not given thought to. Vikki.

Thank you, Chair. Just to go back to the point you were discussing with my colleague Delyth Jewell earlier about those intangible benefits that participants can have that are so difficult to measure, like increased confidence and self-esteem, amongst the very vulnerable groups in society, that's clearly a great positive to take out of participating in programmes such as yours. Do you feel under pressure when it comes to evaluation of your project and the successes, to actually try to capture that sort of thing? Or is it something that is not really so much on the radar of evaluation? 

Certainly with the sort of work that we do, that's very much part of our evaluation, so that would be some of the key things, I suppose, because we're coming from that community engagement—more that sort or perspective. Yes, those skills are really, really important, and I think, on most of the things that we do, that would be something really recognised as a positive, and there are lots of different scales that you can use, where you work with participants at the beginning, at the end. I think there's always that conversation around how do you make sure they're meaningful measures. You know, any evaluation can become a little bit tick-box at times. But there are some really good programmes in place. I certainly think that those things are really valued.

And do you ever share what sounds like your good practice in that area with other arts groups, who've told us that they find it really difficult to capture those kind of benefits when they're evaluating their programmes?

I wouldn't say that we're experts in evaluating those sorts of things. I think we do it as well as other people, and we're always learning all the time. Again, I think our practice has come through working with others, so we'll share that with other people the same way that they share it with us. It does work very much like that in—. A lot of ours have come from the youth work principle, so most of our work and our things are grounded in youth work. We've got trained youth workers and we've got—. So, I suppose it's quite natural for us to be thinking about those extra skills, because those are the skills that we're trying to develop in young people or communities. 

So, do you think that there would be scope for organisations that are more arts based, more traditional arts-based organisations, to engage with the kind of processes that you're using in order to try and capture the value added in those areas?

Yes, absolutely. 

Okay. And finally, just looking at good practice around trying to engage disaffected groups within the arts, is there anything you'd like to add there about how good practice can be shared, or how the challenges around that can be shared with other groups as well?


I think it's trying to look at where these successes are happening, and I suppose it's going back to that. To me, success is when people come and then we have to also help people to come in terms of these practical barriers. But people should want to come and, actually, that can happen as long as you're designing things that are open and accessible to them. So, I suppose, it would be around having a look at the projects where they're not really struggling that much to engage—they're actually getting loads of people saying, 'I want to be involved'—and then that shows you that something's working there. And I suppose it's then looking at what is it that they're doing and, certainly, from my perspective, it's because they're designing things with people in mind. In fact, the Wales Millennium Centre has a youth radio station now right in the middle of it called Radio Platform. We're actually involved in delivering that project in partnership with them, and it's really great—young people want to come. They want to be involved, it's a space right in the middle for them, and young people are coming. Again, they are doing outreach to specific groups of young people. So, we've had young people from the YMCA, young carers, people from Grassroots et cetera. So, they are having to do that outreach work, but I think they're finding that they have got a waiting list of people trying to come on these courses, because it's really cool and it's really relevant and it's really for them.

Arielle, that concludes the list of questions we have, but if you feel there's anything in addition that we've not captured yet and you want to bring to our attention, now is the time. But, please, if you feel we have had a good session and we've covered all the relevant areas, that's okay also. But if you want to add anything, you can do so now. 

I think just the final thing—I probably have covered it already—is that the emphasis on creating spaces, I think, is really important. Within communities, having a space where people can actually go, like the Abacus was in Cardiff, like the Ebbw Vale Institute, because you've already got that community buy-in, you've got that community spirit, and you've got a place where people want to be. And I think that's a really important element.

Well, thank you very much. I'm sure I speak for all Members in saying that I found your evidence insightful and it will be a great help to our inquiry. So, I hope you feel that, when the report is produced, you've had an important influence on our work. There will be a transcript. If you have the time to look at it and if there are any inaccuracies, you can just inform us of that. But thank you very much for your attendance this morning. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

4. Papurau i'w nodi
4. Papers to note

Our next item, then, is papers to note. We can discuss these in private session, or you can put on record in public session if you want to say anything. There are three items. Correspondence from the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language regarding the impact of Brexit on the arts, creative industries, heritage and the Welsh language. Content, or do you want to pick it up in private session? Okay.

The second item is correspondence from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism regarding Ofcom requirements. And then the third item is a further letter from the Deputy Minister on the National Library of Wales's recruitment exercise. Okay, so we'll pick any issues up then in private session.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I now move Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve that we now meet in private. I see no Member opposing, so we will now end our public session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:14.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:14.

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