Press Releases

Culture belongs to all of us

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Wales, the World and the way we live. We’re seeing a profound questioning and re-shaping of values across all aspects of public life. COVID -19 has highlighted and worsened inequalities, hitting hardest the most vulnerable of our society - whether through disability, social or financial poverty or in diverse and under-represented communities.

Publicly funded cultural organizations such as Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and the Arts Council of Wales have a key role to play, and a core responsibility, to address the challenges that confront Wales today and to make culture accessible to all.

Cultural democracy - the right of everyone to participate in the cultural life of their community, enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights - should be at the heart of everything we do. In practice, this means moving away from traditional models of operating which ignore or exclude a lot of the people we’re here for.

Whether it’s museums and galleries, theatres and concert halls, national performing companies or community arts organizations, we recognize that too many people effectively feel excluded or disconnected from these cultural resources, or are given the impression that what they care about and need doesn’t matter.

It is not acceptable that access to publicly funded culture is so unequally distributed. We are working to ensure communities across Wales are more meaningfully involved in informing and shaping our work andthe initiatives we develop and deliver

It is our responsibility to ensure everybody can experience culture in the way they choose - in person or digitally, in museums and other venues, or in their communities.

Amgueddfa Cymru and the Arts Council of Wales were already collaborating on widening the reach of cultural activity in Wales before the pandemic. But the crisis made it clear that we weren’t moving quickly enough and that a new urgency was needed.

At the same time, we had to face some difficult and important truths in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and to reflect on our role in tackling racism. As a result, we have started to develop a sharper understanding of the role that Amgueddfa Cymru and the Arts Council of Wales can play in achieving race equality in Wales and in our own organizations.

Similarly, the We Shall Not Be Removed movement has powerfully challenged our responses to improving access and opportunities for disabled people.

At the end of June 2020, we advertised a tender to undertake a series of in-depth research conversations with communities across Wales we consistently fail to engage in our workAfter a detailed selection process and interviews, we decided to appoint 3 organizations to undertake 3 very different studies.


The three organizations were: Re:cognition which focused on an area of semi-rural economic disadvantage; Richie Turner Associates, with a team focusing on deaf and disabled people; and the Welsh Arts Anti-Racist Union focusing on cultural and ethnic diversity.

Their challenging reports have now been submitted and published on both the Arts Council of Wales Amgueddfa Cymru's websites for wider responses and discussion. Our two organizations will take urgent actions to respond to the recommendations set out in the reports. 

We are two markedly different organizations. In normal times, Amgueddfa Cymru is a charity that welcomes nearly 2 million people to its seven national museums each year and develops services beyond its walls in partnership with community organizations across Wales.


By contrast, the Arts Council both funds and develops the arts, using Welsh Government and National Lottery funding to support activity all over the nation – currently 67 organizations receive revenue funding and many more groups and individuals benefit from National Lottery support.


But the challenge of cultural democracy is common to us both and the themes and issues in these reports demand responses from us both.


It’s clear from the reports that deeper engagement with communities is vital. We’re not talking about handing down cultural goods from a position of lofty privilege. Yes, it’s about connecting people with extraordinary works, objects, ideas or performances. But we have to learn to listen and learn, to value what people already value and to take seriously the obstacles they experience to participation.


We will not be fulfilling this work in isolation. One of the great enabling features of Welsh society is the framework and vision of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Wales is becoming a far more collaborative society – our own partnership is just one example.


We have great opportunities in schools through Amgueddfa Cymru’s innovative on-site and online services for over 200,000 schoolchildren and young people each year, and through the Arts Council of Wales’ ground-breaking partnership with Welsh Government called Creative Learning through the Arts, placing artists in classroom learning across the curriculum.

Other partnerships already running strongly will give further opportunities for widening engagement – for example, the Arts Council is working closely with the Welsh NHS Confederation in the 7 health boards and in the environment with Natural Resources Wales. Amgueddfa Cymru has taken art into COVID hospitals, and images of objects of living memory into care homes. We are already committed to developing arts activity through these partnerships in ways which move our funding into communities on different routes.


But we have a long way to go, to respond to unacceptable inequalities of access to cultural opportunity. Wales is the poorer for these exclusions and obstacles, wasting the talent and potential of those most sharply excluded. In the end, it’s simply not fair that access is so unevenly distributed.


Cultural experience and activity are for the many not the few. We say it and it’s time to show that we mean it.


Phil George, Chair, Arts Council of Wales and Roger Lewis, President, Amgueddfa Cymru