Big Pit, part of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Sector questions clarity of Welsh government’s vision for culture

Patrick Steel, 14.12.2016
No mention of Expert Review into Local Museum Provision in Wales
The museum sector has questioned the direction of the Welsh government’s vision for culture, published this week, which makes no mention of last year's Expert Review of Local Museum Provision in Wales.

Light Springs through the Dark: A Vision for Culture in Wales acknowledges that “there is real uncertainty and anxiety, notably over EU funding and reductions in local authority support”.

But it urges the culture sector to “up its game still further on fundraising, marketing and income generation”, while councils are urged to use the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act to “achieve outcomes”.

“We are disappointed that there is no reference to the Expert Review of Local Museum Provision, which was commissioned by the government and published last year,” said Sharon Heal, the Museums Association’s (MA) director.

“Local authority museums in Wales are in dire need and a strategic approach to funding and support is desperately needed from government.

“We would urge the Welsh government to go back to the recommendations of the review and implement them in order to create a sustainable museum infrastructure that serves all the people of Wales.”

Victoria Rogers, the president of the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales, said: “We hope that during this assembly term progress will be made in exploring the recommendations of the Expert Review into Local Museum Provision in Wales, which highlighted the challenges faced by local museums across the country.”

The vision also appears to prejudge a working group established by Ken Skates, the cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, to look into proposals to bring the commercial operations of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (NMW) under the control of a new executive agency, Historic Wales.

The group is due to report on the proposals in January 2017. However, the vision states: “We will create ‘Historic Wales’ to enhance the commercial functions of the Welsh heritage sector and promote the relevance of national institutions to people’s lives.”

Both NMW and the MA have expressed reservations about the proposals.

“It is surprising to see a commitment to create Historic Wales as we understand this controversial proposal is still under consultation,” said Heal.

An NMW spokeswoman said: “We welcome the fact that the cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure has issued a statement on culture in Wales.

“We will be issuing a response in due course, which will include reference to the local museums review. We very much hope that delivering the outcomes of that review will be part of the Welsh government’s plans going forward.

“In terms of Historic Wales, the work of the Steering Group is continuing and will hopefully reach a conclusion by late January 2017.”

Other parts of the vision were given a more positive reception: both Heal and Rogers welcomed the Welsh government’s commitment to culture.

Rogers commended the report’s recognition of the part heritage and the arts play in tackling poverty and social exclusion, improving learning and skills development, creating community cohesion, ameliorating health and wellbeing, and contributing to the economy.

The vision also commits to feasibility studies on establishing a National Art Gallery, and a Football Museum in North Wales.

It states that the government will look to offer three-year funding settlements in order to give a greater degree of security and certainty to national sponsored bodies, such as Arts Council Wales and Sport Wales, with the caveat that spending power is dependent on what the UK government offers Wales.

Links and downloads

Light Springs through the Dark: A Vision for Culture in Wales