There’s a school of thought that we should ditch cultural considerations, whilst focusing just on the hard yards of economic growth and fiscal policy. Certainly that is the take in Westminster, where the Government cut England’s Arts Council budget by 30%.
That thinking is wrong-headed – for two reasons. Firstly, the arts are important in their own right. As Albert Camus said, “any authentic creation is a gift to the future.” Imagine a Wales without poetry, song, music and literature. The arts help define who we are, create our sense of place and help shape Welsh identity. And often it is Government support that creates the space and opportunity for that creativity to continue – that is why we have sought to protect funding for the Arts Council in Wales
The arts have another role too, however. This is a multi-million pound industry supporting businesses large and small, creating jobs and encouraging inward investment. We hear a lot about “picking winners” in supporting the Welsh economy – well the arts, in short, is something that Wales does well.
Arts venues large and small are bringing world class performances direct to our communities, creating greater access to the arts for everyone. Arts Council of Wales funded Lottery projects such as Ruthin Crafts Centre, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Chapter in Cardiff are winning plaudits for the quality of their architecture whilst generating new cultural and economic activity in their locality.
Many venues stage midweek performances, boosting the hospitality sector as customers spend in their local eatery, bar or café. This trade can make a noticeable difference to businesses that may otherwise have minimal midweek customers. Figures reveal that for every £1 grant funding received by Galeri in Caernarfon £9.65 of economic activity is generated in the local economy.
The creative industries are helping put Wales on the map for filming and production, with Hollywood blockbusters shot on the Pembrokeshire shores and Wales-made drama broadcast across the world. These productions create job opportunities for local people whilst businesses thrive from greater demand for goods and services.
The arts shape Wales. Not just culturally, but economically too. That is why, as a Government we will not be stepping back from partnership with the arts and expecting philanthropists to step in. We will remain active partners with the arts community: supporting creativity and supporting our economy.