The arts industry in Wales will be “decimated” without immediate support from Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru has warned.

Renewing calls to protect jobs in the arts industry, Shadow Culture Minister Sian Gwenllian MS said the sector – and thousands of jobs – were being left to “wither on the vine”.

The UK Government’s job support scheme, which comes into force on 1 November 2020, is unlikely to save many arts and live music venues and cultural attractions from closure, nor will it be able to save arts workers’ careers (freelance and salaried), despite the fact that they were viable prior to COVID-19.

Plaid Cymru will today (Wednesday 7 October) lead a debate in the Senedd that calls for recognition of the importance of the Welsh Arts, Culture and Heritage sectors. They will call on Welsh Government to take practical steps to promote and protect:

  • Freelance community: to create a more equal, diverse, and resilient culture
  • Black and people of colour: to guarantee their involvement in arts and cultural bodies;
  • Welsh language: to ensure is at the heart of the workforce and output of the arts sector;
  • Arts, cultural and heritage centres: to restrict change of use applications.

Freelancers form an estimated 70% of the theatre and performance workforce, and the Wales Freelance Taskforce found that 94% of freelancers lost work due to Covid-19. The current model relies heavily on projects – and the freelancers that bring each project to life – being funded through grant applications. At the end of 2019, Krystal Lowe started a project based company with her business partner, dedicated to supporting artists from communities under-represented in the arts. But with the onset of the pandemic, and grant applications being closed, Ms Lowe explains “project funded organisations have simply stopped” which means many freelancers have no income stream, and project funded organisations have had to cease trading.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Culture, Siân Gwenllian MS said,

“The impending decimation of the Welsh arts industry from this pandemic will have a grave and far reaching impact. Not only for the thousands who have or will lose their jobs and careers, but without a thriving creative industry, who will tell our story now?

“It is deplorable that the Westminster job support scheme is unlikely to save many of our cultural attractions and live music venues from closure. In one simple move thousands of jobs – which, up until now, had been saved through furlough – have been re-categorised as ‘unviable’.

“Meanwhile, the Labour Government in Wales have plenty of warm words but offer no real actions nor solutions on the short, medium and long-term problems. Instead, the sector has been left to wither on the vine. Plaid Cymru stands as the only party speaking out and offering real leadership and guidance to the sector.

“For many young people in Wales, the Arts has been a viable career choice, but with such a threat to the industry in Wales, many young people will find yet another door closed to them when it comes to starting their careers.”