Cultural Playing Field

Welsh Assembly Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee inquiry into participation in the arts by Robin Simpson
March 16, 2012, 1:37 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , ,

I was at the Senedd in Cardiff on Thursday afternoon to give evidence to the Welsh Assembly Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into participation in the arts. The inquiry was launched to look at whether budget cuts in the arts sector may be having a negative effect on participation in the arts among some groups of people. You don’t get the chance to say much in these sessions: I was one of three witnesses in a 30 minute slot. It was good to be alongside Maggie Hampton from Disability Arts Cymru and Leanne Rahman from the Black Voluntary Sector Network – together we were able to stress the need for funding, support and collaboration to encourage disabled people and BME communities to participate in the arts. I said I felt questions about the relationship between the Welsh Government and the Arts Council (the arm’s length principle) and whether we need greater scrutiny of the Arts Council were red herrings in relation to how we address gaps in arts participation. Most participation happens through organisations that are not funded by ACW. I made the point that the amateur arts is largely self-sufficient and sustainable and the overall levels of participation were almost the same in 2010 as they were 10 years before (according to the ACW Omnibus Survey). You could get rid of the Arts Council and not affect the overall levels of participation. But the effect of cuts in arts funding is to further disenfranchise those parts of the population who tend not to participate in the arts and need support and encouragement to do so. So arts participation as a whole always survives funding cuts but is likely to become less diverse and favour people from more affluent, cohesive communities. Finally I stressed the need for a more radical approach to raising the levels (and diversity) of arts participation by developing collaboration and links between professional participatory/community arts and the amateur/voluntary arts sector.

Robin Simpson.

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