In the latest article collaboration between Wales Arts Review and the Western Mail, writer, academic and Editor of Wales Arts Review, Emma Schofield, reflects on the precarious nature of arts coverage in Wales and asks what we can learn from the lessons of the past.
Nothing lasts forever, or so the saying goes, but as I sat down to write this piece I couldn’t help thinking about the challenges of keeping an arts and culture publication going in a volatile social and economic climate. When I took up the role as Editor of Wales Arts Review in October last year, a number of people pointed out that this must be my dream job and, in many ways, it really is… but that doesn’t mean that it’s not bloody hard work sometimes. Whatever you do, there will always be something you could have done differently, something else you could have covered, a different angle you could have explored, someone who isn’t entirely happy with what you’ve said, or how you’ve said it. And no matter what you do, there will never (ever) be enough money. It’s hardly a new problem for the arts scene in Wales, but it’s unlikely to get any easier as we continue to lurch through these uncertain times.
We should be clear from the outset: this is not a complaint. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do and I’m always humbled that I get to work with such a talented array of writers, reviewers and commentators. I’m genuinely excited about the content we publish, as exemplified by this current collaboration with the Western Mail, but it’s impossible to get away from the feeling that all of this is incredibly precarious.
Wales Arts Review celebrated its tenth birthday in 2022, marking a decade of challenging and championing the arts in Wales and the milestone got me thinking about just how fragile this industry is. The challenges we, as a publication, face in continuing this work in 2023 are hardly new problems and it’s most definitely not the first time Wales has faced this level of uncertainty over its social, economic and political future. If we rewind just over forty years to 1980, we find ourselves in the midst of industrial decline, social unrest and political turmoil, following a controversial referendum on devolution in 1979 in which 79% of Welsh voters had rejected the prospect of a National Assembly for Wales. Ironically, amongst all of this, a thriving arts scene was continuing to grow within Wales. Novelists, poets and critics such as Raymond Williams, Bernice Reubens and Gillian Clarke were putting Wales firmly on the map in a literary sense. What was lacking was a forum for the kind of robust cultural and political debate needed to drive discussion in Wales forward.
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