The Rhondda Member of the Senedd has made an impassioned plea to save the arts, saying it remains a pillar of the community and we cannot afford to lose it.
Leanne Wood MS was speaking during a Plaid Cymru debate in the Senedd entitled ‘The Challenges Facing the Arts, Culture and Heritage Sectors.’ Part of the debate called upon the Labour Government in Wales to ‘work with the Arts Council of Wales, the Wales Freelance Task Force and other groups and organisations within the arts and culture sector to implement the recommendations of the report, 'Rebalancing and Reimagining: Strategies to Support Arts and Performance Freelancers’'.
It also urged the Welsh Government to ‘use the planning system to restrict and manage the ability of buildings that were used for arts, cultural and heritage purposes prior to the Coronavirus Act 2020 to receive planning permission for a change of use whilst the pandemic continues to impact on the ability to use those venues for their intended purpose.’
During her speech, Ms Wood underlined the importance of culture within communities, citing a recent example from her home town.
She said: “On the weekend I was tagged into a tweet of a photograph from 1965, asking me if I could identify the location from the background surroundings. The photograph was entitled ‘Brass band, Wales’ and it was taken by Evelyn Hofer.
“It turned out to be a picture of the mid Rhondda band, which is still going strong, despite the challenges. And when I shared the photograph on my local Facebook page, it quickly became apparent that generations of the same families have played in that band – the descendants of the men in the photograph were popping up on my page – we even saw family members reunited as a result of that photo share.
“So a picture taken on a former colliery site in 1965 in my home patch of Penygraig says so much about our culture, our history, and the importance of music within it.
“And of course now these bands are struggling. They’ve been playing together and making music for decades, they’ve been through thick and thin and now their future may be threatened by Covid. Our choirs are the same. They can’t practice.
“Of course we all understand the reasoning and the priority has to be to stop the spread of Covid 19.
“But we must also not lose sight of how much people get from music making – and what happens to use when we can’t access it. We have to find ways, where we can, to enable music making to happen. It’s so important to so many people.”
She added: “In many of our rural industrial communities, there may be only one cultural hub left. So many communities have lost their library, pubs and shops may have closed as well as community centres. The pub or working men’s club may be the only venue left. If that goes, that’s it. Cultural connections will be lost.
“It also goes for those venues that are important to young people or gay people – like nightclubs and late night music venues, often located in prime spots in town and city centres. These venues need protecting, so that club culture can carry on after Covid, and that people can party in a safe environment, instead of being attracted to alternative events like illegal raves.”
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