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European Capital of Culture

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Alun Pugh, Minister For Culture, Welsh Language & Sport
My first duty in Plenary as Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport is to pay tribute to the tremendous effort made by Cardiff in the European Capital of Culture 2008 competition. As with all knockout competitions, there has to be just one  winner. Unfortunately in this playoff this Cardiff team narrowly missed out. Regardless of the official result, Cardiff and Wales have emerged as real winners in this exercise.  I pay tribute to the team that has worked so effectively with partners across Wales to get to the shortlist and win the accolade Centre of Culture.  

It is of course possible to enter a competition, not to win it but still get a great deal out of it.  The twenty list members of this Assembly will no doubt testify to that.
Mr Llywydd, mae’n amlwg fy mod i’n siomedig efo’r penderfyniad hwn.  ‘Roen i’n meddwl fod cais Caerdydd yn dda iawn.  Gweithiodd y tim yn galed iawn, a dwy isio diolch iddyn nhw am eu gwaith clodwiw.  Hoffwn i longyfarch Lerwpwl am eu llwyddiant, a dymuniadau gorau iddyn nhw am dwy fil ac wyth.

Cardiff’s bid was unique in having a whole nation behind our capital city. I was particularly pleased that it was supported by all the local authorities in Wales.  Every local authority in West Wales, in the North and in the Valleys pledged their support.

Cardiff’s strapline for the competition was “We’re In It To Win It”. I would like to adopt that for culture and cultural enterprises across Wales as a whole.  Wales Is In It To Win It. This is a time of unrivalled flowering of activity in culture in Wales. The Welsh Assembly Government’s budget allocated to culture now tops the £100m mark. A new Culture Fund has been established. An additional  £2m has been allocated to the Arts outside our capital city Cardiff when the Wales Millennium Centre comes on stream. Internationally, Wales is firmly on the map with two major developments in the form of Wales’s first ever presence at the Venice Biennale later this month, and the Artes Mundi Prize to be launched in 2004 which will be the largest single visual arts prize in the world.

As well as having what is obviously the best job in the Cabinet, I enjoy the great privilege of having been directly elected to represent a North Wales constituency, Clwyd West.  I am therefore totally committed to ensuring that the investment the Assembly Government is putting into culture benefits the maximum number of people the length and breadth of our nation. Culture must be the preserve of the many - not the privileged few.  In that light, Mr Llywydd, I would like to tell this Assembly what I told my officials in my first meeting hours after the First Minister honoured me with this appointment.  First, I have a real passion for culture, Welsh language and sport; and second labour values will prevail in this portfolio.

European Capital of Culture is a tough competition, and the clear beneficiaries of having taken part are Cardiff and Wales. We in the Assembly Government share the aim to celebrate all that is best in Welsh culture, and to achieve the cultural transformation for Wales which will integrate cultural activities more meaningfully into people’s everyday lives.

There are many definitions of culture, but there is a consensus that excellence and access to culture are key themes. However, it’s not just about access or just about excellence. It’s about access to excellence. That is a central theme of the Assembly

Government’s Culture Strategy Creative Future: Cymru Greadigol.  It’s the guiding principle of the programmes and plans that I will be taking forward as Culture Minister.

While naturally sharing Cardiff’s disappointment at not winning the top prize, I take this opportunity of congratulating the bid team for their excellent work in bringing together so effectively a truly team effort and performance. Llongyfarchiadau I bawb.