The Welsh Government elected at the 2021 Senedd election will have the power to make laws that affect the daily lives of artists, performers and creators the length and breadth of Wales. From the sectors’ recovery post-pandemic to funding for arts organisations and creative community projects, we gave the leaders of the main political parties a chance to share their vision for arts and culture in our election spotlight series. Today, Anthony Slaughter of Wales Green Party outlines his party’s vision.
Wales Green Party is about nature, environment and equality… and… the arts and creative expression that focuses on all these topics and many other things that we have not thought of that the arts also brings our attention to. We do not believe that we can really make substantial progress in transforming our society without the reflective and creative aspects of our culture and the new thinking that artists provide. We value the arts for their spontaneity, creativity, and ability to make life worth living, and these benefits should be for everyone in Wales to enjoy, but we also know that the arts are dead serious about the future and create visions and understanding ahead of their time. Arts are essential to a sustainable and resilient Wales, that can draw on the strength of the Welsh creative sector to nourish new ways and involve hearts and minds in thinking of a transformative future.
Wales has always been a nation of singers, poets, artists, dramatists, thinkers and innovators and – dare we say – cooks, farmers and sportspeople? The creative sector has been a success for Wales in recent years and we believe that we need a step change in returning to an appreciation of what the arts and culture more widely can mean in a Wellbeing Economy that puts people and the planet first. Our vision is for a cosmopolitan and inclusive independent nation and this means a wider recognition of arts, culture, including the many diverse cultures that flourish in Wales alongside the more traditional.
As we are talking about politics – but what is ‘politics’? – surely ‘politics’ is partly about the texture of values and self-expression that we can find in our lives. This implies a wider understanding of ‘culture’, not only as including those forms that we recognise easily, but also the sports, the faith-based values and practices, the social interchanges and the food and drink that build the culture of the everyday experience of us all. We need more understanding of how to support the culture of the street, and to take the idea of ‘support for culture’ much further into recognition of cultural values expressed in forms of life that do not necessarily result in marketable ‘products’, but positive wellbeing, including mental health. We propose a wider conversation about culture and the re-making of Wales and we look forward to the reclaiming of the street from corporate culture, food and faceless consumption.
We believe that this is where policy levers can make a difference. Moving from an almost completely instrumental idea of ‘economy’ to something much more closely resembling ‘an economy of life’ – we believe that the self-expression of communities could be more fully appreciated and supported. In this sense, we view the ‘arts’ and ‘culture’ as an essential golden thread that must run through any really radical transformation, such as the Wales Green Party proposes, for our collective survival and flourishing. In this project, such cultural action will also be much more radically inclusive of a wide range of diverse communities, as well as cultural forms. This means supporting grass-roots venues of all kinds where creativity can naturally grow and we would say, linked to nature as a way to reimagine and reinstate our damaged relationship with our natural world, as well as with each other.
In this conversation about transformative culture, we propose that community and sector representatives should lead, with special attention to the unique history and situation of Wales and the Welsh language, but as a future medium of communication as well as a language with a past. The Wales Green Party does call for wider recognition of the economic potential and value of the arts and creative sectors in building back better in our communities, and support needed for emerging talent. We want to find ways for local creatives to gain access to closed and disused shops and premises on our high streets, with Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a basic support for many new creative business ventures. This means linking support for cultural venues to economic recovery in our high streets, drawing on the experience of cultural forms of regeneration – but with the proviso that we insist that creatives should not then get priced out. We would also prioritise the continued engagement of the Welsh creative sector in European touring and creative ventures, especially for young people at the start of their careers.
We do believe that having the Humanities, Arts and Culture at the heart of wellbeing for current and future generations is absolutely essential to ground hope for the future – paradoxically, even in the portrayal of despair is the hope of the human expressive spirit. Without the daring and innovation of expressive arts and the thinking and values of the humanities we will not be able to progress as we should. We need you and we believe that you need us and our project to Transform Wales!
We know this transformation and this conversation is already underway in the arts, humanities and creative communities. The Wales Green Party would like to engage more with you about how political frameworks and measures can support and enable the heart of culture in Wales to keep beating strongly for the future Wales we need to be making together.
You can read the Wales Green Party manifesto here.