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Francis: Equal access to the arts in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"In your last statement regarding the Wales Millennium Centre in November of last year, Minister, you stated that the company's final business plan showed a balanced operation for the first three years, but that the capital fundraising deficit was then below £2 million, and that the company was determined to close that gap completely by the end of 2004. Can you confirm that that was achieved?

Also, as part of your statement in November you announced the Government's intention to extend the period of the loan that covered the Wales Millennium Centre's cash-flow deficit for a further six months until the end of May 2005. The timescale has now been extended to May 2006. Will you explain why the timescale has been extended?

When the Wales Millennium Centre came to present to the Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee two weeks ago, its representatives referred to the lessons that they had learned during the first six months of operation, and stated that they are revising and revisiting business plans for the future.

The centre needs to hit an average of 70 per cent in terms of attendance, and is currently below that, at 60 per cent.

Insofar as marketing is concerned, it is clear that the Wales Millennium Centre needs to draw audiences from beyond Cardiff and Wales, and that measuring performance during the start-up phase is critical.

What are you specifically doing, Minister, to work with other organisations, including the Wales Tourist Board and local authorities, which I believe should be looking more at marketing Cardiff as a must-visit destination?

Two weeks ago, the Wales Millennium Centre emphasised the importance of working in partnership.

It is not good enough to give the centre the money and to think that doing so absolves you of any further responsibility and effort. The same applies to transport.

We know that Arriva and the Wales Millennium Centre meet regularly to discuss transport issues, but there must be a collaborative approach.

Discussions are still ongoing about an 11-deck car park and a dedicated coach park. We understood that it was the intention of a company to complete construction of the car park by late summer or early autumn. How are you involved in discussions to chivvy them along?

Please do not tell me that transport issues are solely the responsibility of another Minister.

I believe that the Wales Millennium Centre represents a positive and dynamic way to celebrate Welsh talent and culture and that its location in Cardiff provides a gateway for visitors in encouraging them to further seek all that is culturally wonderful in Wales.

However, I am concerned - and I note that you have also expressed concern - about unequal access to the arts in Wales.

There is an irony, Minister, when we regard a development such as the Torch Theatre, which started its development at the same time as the Wales Millennium Centre, two years ago.

The Wales Millennium Centre is up and running, while the Torch Theatre is in a fragile position, and might be extinguished. Was not the £2 million for the arts outside Cardiff supposed to help the regions?"

"Yn eich datganiad diwethaf ynghylch Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru ym mis Tachwedd y llynedd, Weinidog, dywedasoch fod cynllun busnes terfynol y cwmni yn dangos gweithrediad cytbwys am y tair blynedd gyntaf, ond bod y diffyg codi arian cyfalaf bryd hynny o dan £2 filiwn, a bod y cwmni yn benderfynol o gau'r bwlch hwnnw yn gyfan gwbl erbyn diwedd 2004. A allwch gadarnhau bod hyn wedi ei gyflawni?

Hefyd, fel rhan o'ch datganiad ym mis Tachwedd cyhoeddasoch fwriad y Llywodraeth i ymestyn cyfnod y benthyciad ar gyfer diffyg llif arian Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru am chwe mis pellach hyd at ddiwedd Mai 2005. Mae'r amserlen yn awr wedi ei hymestyn hyd at Fai 2006. A wnewch esbonio paham fod yr amserlen wedi ei hymestyn?

Pan ddaeth Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru i gyflwyno gerbron y Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chwaraeon bythefnos yn ôl, cyfeiriodd ei chynrychiolwyr at y gwersi a ddysgasent yn ystod y chwe mis cyntaf, a dywedasant eu bod yn adolygu ac yn ailystyried y cynlluniau busnes i'r dyfodol.

Rhaid i'r ganolfan gyrraedd ffigur presenoldeb cyfartalog o 70 y cant, ac mae'n is na hyn ar hyn o bryd, yn 60 y cant.

Cyn belled ag y bo marchnata yn y cwestiwn, mae'n amlwg bod ar Ganolfan Mileniwm Cymru angen denu cynulleidfaoedd o'r tu hwnt i Gaerdydd a Chymru, a bod mesur perfformiad yn ystod y cyfnod cychwynnol yn holl bwysig.

Beth yr ydych yn ei wneud yn benodol, Weinidog, i weithio gyda sefydliadau eraill, gan gynnwys Bwrdd Croeso Cymru ac awdurdodau lleol, cyrff y credaf y dylent fod yn edrych yn fwyfwy tuag at farchnata Caerdydd fel dinas y mae'n rhaid ymweld â hi?

Bythefnos yn ôl, pwysleisiodd Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru bwysigrwydd gweithio mewn partneriaeth. Nid yw'n ddigon da rhoi'r arian i'r ganolfan a chredu bod gwneud hynny yn eich esgusodi rhag unrhyw gyfrifoldeb ac ymdrech pellach. Mae'r un peth yn wir am drafnidiaeth.

Gwyddom fod Arriva a Chanolfan Mileniwm Cymru yn cyfarfod yn rheolaidd i drafod materion trafnidiaeth, ond rhaid sicrhau dull cydweithredol o weithredu. Mae trafodaethau yn parhau i fynd rhagddynt ynghylch maes parcio 11-llawr a maes parcio penodol i fysiau.

Ein dealltwriaeth oedd mai bwriad y cwmni oedd cwblhau gwaith adeiladu'r maes parcio erbyn diwedd yr haf neu ddechrau'r hydref. Pa ran sydd gennych yn y trafodaethau hyn i'w gyrru yn eu blaen? Os gwelwch yn dda peidiwch â dweud wrthyf mai cyfrifoldeb Gweinidog arall yn unig yw materion trafnidiaeth.

Credaf fod Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru yn cynrychioli ffordd gadarnhaol a deinamig o ddathlu diwylliant a doniau Cymru a bod ei lleoliad yng Nghaerdydd yn borth i ymwelwyr i'w hannog i geisio ymhellach bopeth sydd yn ddiwylliannol wych yng Nghymru.

Serch hynny, yr wyf yn bryderus—a sylwaf eich bod chwithau hefyd wedi mynegi pryder—ynghylch mynediad annheg at y celfyddydau yng Nghymru. Mae'n eironig, Weinidog, wrth inni ystyried datblygiad megis Theatr y Torch, theatr y dechreuwyd ei datblygu ar yr un pryd â Chanolfan Mileniwm Cymru, ddwy flynedd yn ôl.

Mae Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru ar waith, tra bod Theatr y Torch mewn sefyllfa fregus, ac mae'n bosibl y bydd yn cau. Onid oedd y £2 filiwn ar gyfer y celfyddydau y tu allan i Gaerdydd i fod i helpu'r rhanbarthau?"

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