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, Mark Drakeford of Welsh Labour outlines his party’s vision.
Arts and culture have always been integral to who we are in Wales. Music, sport, literature and creativity have long been rich and deep seams running through every part of the country. From RS Thomas to Gwyn Thomas; from the National Museum to the Manics, Wales has long been a crucible of talent, ideas and invention. ‘A Common Wealth of Culture’ as Dai Smith once described it.
Welsh Labour has always recognised that inheritance and believed that it is the right of every individual in Wales to participate in the cultural life of our nation. But we should also recognise just how traumatic these last twelve months have been for culture in Wales. The pandemic has brought many live performances to a halt; seen theatres close their doors and live music venues stay silent.
That’s been necessary and vital in order to contain the pandemic – but Welsh Labour will help move our cultural life forward in the next Senedd term by helping it recover and in doing so enable our Welsh cultural venues as well as our tourism, sports, and arts sectors to find a sustainable future. One where they can not only survive, but go on growing their international reputations.
I’m proud of what the Welsh Labour Government has done over these last few years to support a strong and diverse cultural life in Wales. We’ve helped make Wales a powerhouse in the creative industries over the last decade and established Creative Wales helping us grow our reputation in areas like film and television. We’ve made our Cadw sites across Wales some of the most interesting, diverse and attractive anywhere in Europe and set out ambitious plans to grow the Welsh language through our new Cymraeg 2050 strategy which sets a target to reach 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.
We’ve also stood with the culture sector as it has dealt with the impact of coronavirus. The Welsh Labour Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, launched last summer, is providing over £63m to support theatres, music venues, heritage sites, events, museums, libraries, galleries, independent cinemas and freelancers get through the dark months of the pandemic.
But politics is at its best when it’s a conversation about tomorrow and so investing in culture and in our collective future was a major part of our Welsh Labour manifesto for the Senedd elections on 6th May when we launched it recently in North Wales.
Our manifesto sets out major proposals for culture in Wales, including the development of a new Creative Skills body to support young talent in the industry; plans for a new National Music Service so a lack of money is no barrier to young people wanting to play an instrument and set out our commitment to implement the new Curriculum for Wales which will be the most important step forward in schooling for a generation, including helping learners become ethical and informed citizens of Wales and the world and developing the creative role of schools.
Our manifesto also had young people very much at its heart. When the UK Tory Government failed to secure UK participation in the Erasmus Scheme, Welsh Labour rightly called it out as the cultural vandalism it was. The Welsh Labour Government has developed a new £65m International Learning and Exchange programme for 15,000 individuals to go on overseas exchanges over the next four years, with 10,000 participants coming to study or work in Wales – and it’s something we’ll implement if we win in May.
Our manifesto also contains ideas that can help communities themselves tell their own stories to the world. In North Wales where we launched the manifesto we set out plans for a major upgrade of Theatr Clwyd in Mold and plans to help the slate landscape of North West Wales win designation as a World Heritage Site.
And just as it is the right of every individual in Wales to participate in the cultural life of our nation, so it must also be the right of every individual to shape it, too. Our manifesto is clear that the next Welsh Labour Government will tell the full story of our country by ensuring that Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic histories are properly reflected throughout our cultural and heritage sectors, including in our National Museum.
We have so much to be proud and hopeful about in Wales. The last twelve months have been tough, but we can Move Wales Forward – and that’s exactly what Welsh Labour will do.
You can read the Welsh Labour manifesto here.