Volunteers at St Fagans, one of the museums participating in the scheme

Pioneer Areas to improve cultural access in Wales

Patrick Steel, 20.05.2015
Pilot scheme to test new approaches to cultural inclusion
The Welsh government today launches its Pioneer Areas scheme to improve cultural access to disadvantaged communities in Wales.

A recommendation of Kay Andrews’ report into culture and poverty in Wales, published last year, the scheme will experiment with new approaches to cultural inclusion in six pilot areas: Gwynedd, Swansea, Newport, Cardiff, Wrexham and Torfaen. It will run until April 2016, with a view to rolling it out more widely if it is successful.

Each of the six areas will be coordinated by a local partnership led by the local authority, with the exception of Cardiff, which will be led by Cardiff University.

Museums involved in Pioneer Areas include the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and National Waterfront Museum in Swansea; Swansea Museum; the National Slate Museum in Gwynedd; Wrexham Museum; Cardiff Story Museum; St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff; the National Roman Legion Museum; Newport Museum and Library; and the Pontypool museum.

The government is providing £112,000 to the programme, most of which will pay for a dedicated research coordinator to evaluate the projects. It will also provide programme management and administrative support.

Participants in the programme will also be able to attend a series of workshops and seminars throughout the pilot year to shape the evaluation process, discuss areas of mutual opportunity and share best practice.

But according to a Welsh government document: “In terms of funding the wider programme of cultural activity in the Pioneer Areas and elsewhere, participating organisations will accommodate this within existing budgets.

“Those organisations and Pioneer Areas should seek to supplement that funding from external sources to support their activities.”

Details of specific activities have not been finalised yet.

The scheme is part of a wider programme led by the Welsh government called Fusion: Tackling Poverty through Culture, designed to bring together cultural bodies and Communities First areas – places identified as having high levels of deprivation.

Ken Skates, the deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism, said: “Participation in culture and the arts has far-reaching educational benefits – improving knowledge, literacy and skills.

“This is why we are forging a distinctive path in Wales and placing culture at the heart of our work in disadvantaged communities.

“We have fantastic museums, arts and drama groups and libraries across Wales, I want to see these thrive and I want to see everyone reaping the benefits.

“By bringing these together with our Communities First programmes we can enrich lives, improve attainment and prospects of people in some of our most deprived communities.”

David Anderson, the director of Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales), which is leading on the evaluation and research of Pioneer Areas and will be responsible for recruiting the research coordinator, said: “This [Pioneer Areas scheme] is an experiment. Some things will work well I hope, but some things won’t, and this is why the evaluation is so important.

“It is a pilot but the intention is if we can find a successful model to roll it out more widely.

“This is not a richly-funded project. It is about trying to work better together and combining joint purposes. It is a challenge, but we are all up for it.”

The Welsh government’s Cultural Inclusion Board, another recommendation of Andrews’ report, met for the first time last week to look at how the organisations involved in the Pioneer Areas scheme might work together, as well as the Fusion programme and the wider recommendations of Andrews’ report.

The board includes representatives from the Welsh government, Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales), Arts Council Wales, National Library of Wales, Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales, National Trust, City & County of Swansea, Welsh Local Government Association, and Creative & Cultural Skills. The Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund were present at the first meeting as observers.

The next meeting of the board will take place in September.

A news analysis in the June edition of Museums Journal will look at approaches to culture and poverty across the UK.


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