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Francis: The Arts must be free from political interference

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I am pleased to propose those amendments. This review, as the Minister knows, was born out of political controversy, and it is clear that there must never again be a time when the Arts Council of Wales finds itself in such a tumultuous, tempestuous and unwanted dispute with the body to which it is accountable.

The review panel, ably led by Professor Closs Stephens—and I thank all its members for, and welcome, their hard work—has, in just over six months, met over 40 stakeholders face to face, conducted six public meetings, received 219 pieces of written evidence and held a major international conference in order to share fact finding. In the time allotted, and within the terms of reference set, this has been a thorough review. I welcome its findings and our amendments support all the recommendations.

The panel discovered that there was confusion within arts bodies regarding who sets strategy, who decides on prioritisation and who leads overall ambition. Guidance to the review showed that, while the arts council has a vital role to play in delivering arts funding, the business of developing and advocating for the arts was less well developed.

Clearly, the arts council needs to continue working at keeping its reputation as an effective deliverer of funds, while improving its effectiveness as developer and advocate. In the past, it has been evident that acting as both a gatekeeper for funding and as developer of art forms has meant that the arts council has not been able to concentrate enough on the developmental side.

That is because it has always been driven by demand, when what needs to happen is for it to be driven by a strategy; that is what the panel has advocated, namely the creation of a strategy board of both the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government. This means that actions will be accountable in terms of an agreed national arts strategy.

The present relationship between the Minister and the Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee does not provide any accountability, and the lines of accountability and control between Ministers and Assembly sponsored public bodies are unclear. That has to change. That was the evidence that was given.

The strategy must address the geographical inequalities in accessing the arts as well as social inclusion; the relationship between the Wales Millennium Centre and its partner organisations; the development of a new drama strategy; youth development and festivals. There must also be an entrepreneurial and outcome-driven view of the arts in tune with the present attitude towards the creative industries.

This Government—or any Government—has a responsibility to demonstrate by example, to break down the barriers between Government departments, to share strategic priorities that the arts can help to address across different ministerial portfolios, recognising varying strands of the Government's agenda, such as education, health, economic development and community regeneration. That is what this panel pointed out.

Returning to the departmental and managerial role of the Arts Council of Wales, it must create an ongoing and meaningful process of sharing ideas with client bodies and practitioners—it needs to develop its role as a listener and trust the knowledge that is imparted to it by practitioners.

We must mention money—how could we not, when we are not afraid to? Community Arts Rhayader and District told the review panel:

'We feel that politicians have repeatedly been shown the incredible social and economic returns brought by the arts sector but have not really demonstrated that they have the will to consolidate and grow investment in the sector'.

Investment does need to be increased and, within the arts, it is proven that a small investment brings powerful returns. For example, compared to other main artistic bodies in Wales that receive grants from the arts council, only 13 per cent of the Eisteddfod's costs are covered by the Welsh Language Board, yet the Eisteddfod promotes not only the Welsh language, but dance, drama, music, crafts, rock, pop, literature, architecture and visual arts.

Many artists who started their careers at the Eisteddfod return to perform at the festival's concerts, giving local people an opportunity to see world-famous artistes performing on their doorstep. In that way, the festival is more of a process than an event.

We endorse the recommendations that state that the arts and strategy board should have an arts research and development annual pot of £0.75 million to instigate change, and that there should be a further addition of £2.5 million to the arts council baseline revenue budget, which should remain separate as a merit pot.

That means that bodies that have achieved clear targeted outcomes in innovation, new work, access or international touring would be rewarded at the end of the year. That transparent record of excellence is part of the important lever for change that will lead to the development of beacon or exemplar companies.

Finally, we need to say that the joint motion that called for this review to be undertaken set out a challenge to a small country to achieve excellence through the arts. This report balances artistic freedom with the democratic role of government, both local and national, and provides stability and innovation. All political parties would be wise to support it and its recommendations."

"Yr wyf yn falch o gynnig y gwelliannau hynny. Datblygodd yr adolygiad hwn, fel y gwyr y Gweinidog, o ddadl wleidyddol, ac mae'n amlwg y dylid sicrhau na fydd Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru yn wynebu cyfnod arall o anghydfod terfysglyd, tymhestlog a diangen gyda'r corff y mae'n atebol iddo.

Mae'r panel adolygu, o dan arweiniad galluog yr Athro Closs Stephens—a diolchaf i'w holl aelodau am eu gwaith caled, a chroesawaf hynny—mewn ychydig dros chwe mis, wedi cwrdd â dros 40 o randdeiliaid wyneb yn wyneb, wedi cynnal chwe chyfarfod cyhoeddus, wedi cael 219 darn o dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig ac wedi cynnal cynhadledd ryngwladol fawr er mwyn rhannu mewn canfod ffeithiau. Yn yr amser a ddyrannwyd iddynt, ac o fewn y cylch gorchwyl a osodwyd, bu hwn yn adolygiad trylwyr. Croesawaf ei ganfyddiadau ac mae ein gwelliannau yn cefnogi'r holl argymhellion.

Canfu'r panel fod dryswch o fewn cyrff celfyddydol o ran pwy sy'n gosod strategaeth, pwy sy'n penderfynu ar flaenoriaethau a phwy sy'n arwain ar uchelgais yn gyffredinol. Dengys y canllaw i'r adolygiad, er bod gan y cyngor celfyddydau ran hanfodol i'w chwarae i ddarparu cyllid i'r celfyddydau, yr oedd y busnes o ddatblygu ac eirioli ar ran y celfyddydau yn llai datblygedig. Mae'n amlwg bod angen i gyngor y celfyddydau barhau i ymdrechu i gadw ei enw da fel darparwr ariannu effeithiol, ac ar yr un pryd wella ei effeithiolrwydd fel datblygwr ac eiriolwr. Yn y gorffennol, bu'n amlwg bod gweithredu fel rheolwr cyllid ac fel datblygwr celfyddydau gwahanol wedi golygu na allai'r cyngor ganolbwyntio digon ar yr agwedd ddatblygiadol.

Y rheswm am hynny yw ei fod bob amser wedi gorfod gweithredu yn ôl galw, er mai'r hyn a ddylai ddigwydd yw iddo gael ei lywio gan strategaeth; dyna'r hyn a gaiff ei argymell gan y panel, sef creu bwrdd strategaeth Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru a Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru. Golyga hyn y bydd gweithredoedd yn atebol o ran strategaeth gelfyddydol genedlaethol gytûn. Nid yw'r berthynas bresennol rhwng y Gweinidog a'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chwaraeon, yn cynnig unrhyw atebolrwydd, ac mae'r llinellau atebolrwydd a rheolaeth rhwng Gweinidogion a chyrff cyhoeddus a noddir gan y Cynulliad yn aneglur. Rhaid i hynny newid. Dyna'r dystiolaeth a roddwyd.

Rhaid i'r strategaeth fynd i'r afael â'r anghydraddoldebau daearyddol sy'n bodoli o ran cael mynediad i'r celfyddydau yn ogystal â chynhwysiant cymdeithasol; y berthynas rhwng Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru a'i sefydliadau partner; datblygu strategaeth ddrama newydd; datblygu ieuenctid a gwyliau. Rhaid hefyd gael barn entrepreneuraidd yn seiliedig ar ganlyniadau ar y celfyddydau sy'n unol â'r agwedd bresennol tuag at y diwydiannau creadigol.

Mae'n ddyletswydd ar y Llywodraeth hon—neu unrhyw Lywodraeth—i fod yn esiampl, i chwalu'r rhwystrau rhwng adrannau'r Llywodraeth, rhannu blaenoriaethau strategol y gall y celfyddydau eu cynorthwyo i fynd i'r afael â hwy ar draws gwahanol bortffolios gweinidogol, gan gydnabod amrywiol ffrydiau agenda'r Llywodraeth, megis addysg, iechyd, datblygu economaidd ac adfywio cymunedau. Dyna a nododd y panel hwn.

I ddychwelyd at rôl adrannol a rôl rheoli Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, rhaid iddo greu proses barhaus ac ystyrlon o rannu syniadau gyda chyrff cleientiaid ac ymarferwyr—rhaid iddo ddatblygu ei rôl fel gwrandäwr ac ymddiried yn y wybodaeth a roddir iddo gan ymarferwyr.

Rhaid inni sôn am arian—sut na allem, pan nad ydym yn ofni gwneud hynny? Dywedodd Celfyddydau Cymunedol Rhaeadr a'r Cylch wrth y panel adolygu:

Rydym yn teimlo bod gwleidyddion wedi gweld y manteision cymdeithasol ac economaidd anhygoel a gyflwynir gan y sector celfyddydau ond nid ydynt wedi dangos bod ganddynt yr ewyllys i gyfuno a chynyddu buddsoddiad yn y sector.

Nid oes raid cynyddu buddsoddiad ac, o fewn y celfyddydau, profwyd bod buddsoddiad bach yn sicrhau manteision mawr. Er enghraifft, o gymharu â phrif gyrff artistig eraill yng Nghymru sy'n cael grantiau gan y cyngor celfyddydau, dim ond 13 y cant o gostau'r Eisteddfod a gwmpesir gan Fwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg, ond mae'r Eisteddfod yn hyrwyddo mwy na dim ond yr iaith Gymraeg. Mae'n hyrwyddo dawns, drama, cerddoriaeth, crefftau, roc, pop, llenyddiaeth, pensaernïaeth a chelfyddydau gweledol.

Mae llawer o artistiaid a ddechreuodd eu gyrfaoedd yn yr Eisteddfod yn dychwelyd i berfformio yng nghyngherddau'r wyl, gan roi cyfle i bobl leol weld artistiaid byd enwog yn perfformio ar garreg eu drws. O ystyried hyn, mae'r wyl yn fwy o broses na digwyddiad.

Rydym yn cefnogi'r argymhellion sy'n nodi y dylai'r bwrdd celfyddydau a strategaeth gael cronfa flynyddol ar gyfer gwaith ymchwil a datblygu'r celfyddydau o £0.75 miliwn i annog newid, ac y dylid rhoi £2.5 miliwn ychwanegol i gyllideb refeniw llinell sylfaen cyngor y celfyddydau, i'w gadw ar wahân fel cronfa teilyngdod.

Mae hynny'n golygu y bydd cyrff sydd wedi cyflawni canlyniadau clir wedi'u targedu mewn arloesedd, gwaith newydd, hygyrchedd neu deithiau rhyngwladol yn cael eu gwobrwyo ar ddiwedd y flwyddyn. Mae'r cofnod tryloyw hwnnw o ragoriaeth yn rhan o'r dull pwysig o gyflawni newid a fydd yn arwain at ddatblygu cwmnïau blaenllaw neu enghreifftiol.

Yn olaf, mae angen inni ddweud bod y cynnig ar y cyd a alwodd am gynnal yr adolygiad hwn wedi cyflwyno her i wlad fach i gyflawni rhagoriaeth drwy'r celfyddydau. Mae'r adroddiad hwn yn cydbwyso rhyddid artistig â rôl ddemocrataidd llywodraeth, yn lleol ac yn genedlaethol, ac yn sicrhau sefydlogrwydd ac arloesedd. Byddai'n ddoeth i bob plaid wleidyddol gefnogi'r adroddiad a'i argymhellion."

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