Select Committee on Welsh Affairs First Report



Culture and the arts

36. The British Council is the UK's principal agency for cultural relations with other countries. Its aim is to enhance the reputation of the United Kingdom in the world as a valued partner and it has a network of over 230 offices in 110 countries which work to achieve this end. Its activities include: projecting the UK's creativity, cultural diversity and recent achievements, support for educational exports, enhancing the teaching of English, assisting reform and sustainable development, strengthening the UK's role within Europe and encouraging greater international awareness in the UK. From the Council's offices in Cardiff and Bangor and through the British Council network of offices overseas, the British Council in Wales seeks to create opportunities for partner educational and cultural institutions to promote the strengths of Wales overseas.[75]

37. In partnership with the Arts Council of Wales, the British Council offers Welsh artists, writers and performers the opportunity to appear on the international stage and present and promote the rich arts resource to be found in Wales. Under the auspices of the British Council, visits, courses, consultancies and showcases are arranged from, and into, Wales. These create opportunities for international partnerships in education, science, arts, the media and other sectors. The British Council is a member of the National Assembly for Wales International Group and has been actively involved in a number of visits and initiatives. A British Council/National Assembly group meets three times a year to discuss matters of mutual interest. The British Council Wales manages the Welsh Language Project in Patagonia on behalf of the National Assembly; the budget will be around £40,000 per year for the next three years.[76]

38. The Arts Council of Wales and the British Council in Wales have recently formed an umbrella body, Wales Arts International (WAI). WAI's aim is "to become the Welsh Assembly's principal agency for cultural relations with other countries and regions and, as such, to act as a key player in the Welsh Assembly's international strategy".[77] The Assembly feels that Wales Arts International has been very successful and that the model of cooperation could be repeated in other fields.[78] This is a point which the Assembly continued to pursue during our inquiry, culminating with the creation of Cymru'n Creu, the new Cultural Consortium.

39. The creation of the Consortium was the recommendation of the Assembly's Committee on Post-16 Education and Training, which has since been dissolved.[79] The Consortium is intended to promote the principle set out in the Report, that the implementation of policies and priorities for the arts and culture should be dealt with on the basis of partnership and collaboration between the relevant publicly-funded bodies.[80] The Consortium includes bodies such as the Wales Tourist Board, the WDA the Arts Council, the Sports Council, broadcasters and several others, covering the interests of the voluntary sector and the creative industries more broadly.[81] Among other things, the Consortium will provide a forum for discussion, opportunities for the member bodies to examine scope for aligning their forward plans and a means of assessing the economic impact of the cultural sector and of accelerating its input into partnership initiatives under Objective 1.[82] The Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Development Agency and Wales Tourist Board have already formed a sub­group to look at how Wales's creative industries can benefit from European structural funding.[83]

40. While much of our evidence has focused on linking the promotional activities of the Government and the Assembly, we believe that linking promotions of different kinds, in the way envisaged by the creation of Cymru'n Creu, is equally important. Witnesses from the Llangollen International Eisteddfod told us that many people who competed in the Eisteddfod as students came back to visit the area again in later life.[84] The British Council believed that the Rugby World Cup had been effective in raising Wales's international profile[85] and the Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union told us that the final had had a television audience of more than two billion people in 157 different countries.[86] These different types of activity all have a role to play in promoting Wales abroad, and the there is a danger that, without proper co-ordination, their potential will not be realised.

41. We welcome the creation by the Assembly of Cymru'n Creu, which aims to meet the kind of concerns about poor coordination expressed by many of our witnesses. It will be important for UK Government departments, and bodies such as UK Sport, the BTA and the British Council, to forge strong links with the consortium, as well as directly with their Welsh counterparts.[87]

42. Witnesses from the Llangollen International Eisteddfod told us that they had not been invited to participate in Cymru'n Creu because they were not a client of the Arts Council or an ASPB.[88] They felt that the Eisteddfod was prone to problems resulting from poor coordination with other events. For example, the Welsh National Opera is performing in Llandudno during the same week as the Eisteddfod in Llangollen, which will place a strain on the hospitality industry in North Wales and might lead to an element of competition between the two events.[89] Nor did they receive the support they wanted in promoting the Eisteddfod from the WTB.[90] The Eisteddfod, although it is an independent body, is important in promoting Wales in the world: it generates an estimated £6.1 million of revenue for the local economy and attracts competitors from nearly 50 countries, including Argentina, Zimbabwe, Israel, Singapore, the USA and Bosnia Herzegovina. The membership of, and involvement in, Cymru'n Creu is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales. It is important as a matter of principle that key players are not excluded from initiatives such as the Cultural Consortium because they do not fit some pre-determined set of criteria for participation.

Film and Broadcasting

43. One of the areas where we were told that Wales did enjoy a significant international reputation was in broadcasting and films. This is at least in part due to the international co-production efforts of S4C. S4C is funded primarily by a grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (£78 million for the year 2000). Productions funded by S4C have enjoyed considerable international acclaim, including recent Oscar nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category for Solomon and Gaenor and for the animations Famous Fred and Canterbury Tales. S4C attaches considerable importance to international programme sales and international co­productions, which raise the profile of both Wales and Welsh film and television industry overseas. International programme sales rose from 103 in 1998 to 196 in 1999, in which year 35 co­productions were at different stages of development, including the 26-country production, The Animated Tales of the World. S4C's first animated feature film, The Miracle Maker, a collaboration with animators from Russia, secured cinema release in France, Italy, Spain and Latin America and was also purchased by the US television network ABC.[91] S4C's commercial division, S4C Masnachol, has a dedicated international arm, S4C Rhyngwladol.[92]

44. Witnesses from S4C told us that they benefited from wider efforts to promote Wales abroad. They had participated in the First Minister's trade mission to Japan and used the opportunity to make side trips to Osaka and the Republic of Korea, where their international market is very strong. They have participated in the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Conference in Las Vegas as part of a British Pavilion in which BBC Worldwide was the biggest participant and they were hoping to bring a major international conference for the animation industry to North Wales in 2002.[93]

45. BBC Wales is also involved in co-productions outside Wales. It works closely with BBC Worldwide (Europe's largest programme exporter), as well as attending international trade fairs independently. It has recently produced two programmes jointly with Discovery: a twenty-episode series called Castles of Horror and a pilot called Underworld. Nearly two years ago, BBC Wales created a new post of Business Development Manager. He has created a number of partnerships which have allowed BBC Wales to work directly with its co-production partners rather than operating via BBC Worldwide.[94]

46. Some of S4C's international work is carried out in partnership with Sgrîn, the Media Agency for Wales. Sgrîn was founded in 1997 and its brief includes the promotion of Welsh film in general as well as marketing its own products, primarily co-production shorts.[95] It is funded from a variety of sources, including S4C, the Arts Council for Wales and BBC Wales but has a budget of less than £1 million, considerably less than Scottish Screen.[96] One of the things which Sgrîn does is to organise events such as the showcase for Welsh film which was organised in Hollywood to coincide with the Oscar nomination for Solomon and Gaenor. For the last three years, it has organised "Wales in Cannes," an event designed to promote Welsh film generally and to help young film-makers to pitch their projects.

47. Promoting Welsh film and television abroad is one of the most effective ways of raising Wales's profile in the world. A Welsh programme broadcast in a foreign country has the potential to reach tens or hundreds of millions of people.[97] S4C is an important cultural asset for Wales and, through the work of S4C Rhyngwladol, it is a key player in the promotion of Wales in the World, as is Sgrîn. S4C told us that they did not feel that they were competing on a level playing field with huge organisations such as Disney and HBO. Although they have received assistance in the past from the WDA, which has provided money for the production of a new stand among other things, witnesses from S4C told us that they would welcome more support for their overseas marketing from central Government.[98] Sgrîn also indicated that it would welcome more assistance for its overseas marketing, particularly funding to take advantage of opportunities to promote Welsh film at overseas festivals such as Toronto, Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand.[99]

48. Efforts to promote Welsh programmes and films internationally appear to be working well and witnesses from S4C cited several examples of positive assistance they had received from the Government and from ASPBs. Nonetheless, both felt that they might benefit from more support in some areas. We recommend that the Government examine, in conjunction with Sgrîn and S4C, ways in which it might be able to provide more support for the overseas marketing of Welsh films and television programmes, both inside and outside the context of overall UK promotion.

49. Additional provision for the international marketing of Welsh films is no use if those films are not made in the first place. During our visit to North Wales, we heard concerns that the UK tax regime made Wales a less attractive location for film-makers than the Republic of Ireland. The Assembly's Minister for Economic Development has recently drawn attention to the desirability of North Wales as a location and the importance of film to the local economy.[100] We welcome the announcement in the Budget that the 100 per cent write-off of production and acquisition expenditure, on completion, for British qualifying films with budgets not exceeding £15 million will be extended until 2005.[101]

The Welsh language

50. The Welsh Language Board describes the language as "the most unique element in Welsh life, the only thing which differentiates Wales very obviously from the rest of the United Kingdom". They argue that to promote Wales abroad without reference to its language would be, at the very least, an opportunity missed.[102] As well as links with individual Welsh speakers and Welsh-speaking communities around the world, several witnesses argued that the language was a basis on which to form links with other bilingual countries and regions around the world.[103] One of the objectives of the Welsh Language Board is to raise awareness of the Welsh language outside Wales and to foster and promote the exchange of information and experience in the areas of language and culture between Wales and similar linguistic communities abroad.[104] We believe that this is an important objective.

51. Wales has a great deal to offer other minority language communities overseas. It has been successful in creating a bilingual society, there is widespread agreement between Welsh-speakers and non-Welsh speakers in favour of the language and there have been a number of pioneering initiatives inn the field of language transmission.[105] While Wales-based bodies may already be alert to the benefits of promoting the language, we are not persuaded that this is always the case at UK level and we believe that it should be a guiding principle for all UK bodies involved in overseas promotion that the Welsh language is an intrinsic and inalienable part of Welsh culture and society, and that efforts to promote Wales as part of the UK should reflect this. We make further recommendations about the use of the Welsh language on the Internet in paragraphs 72-76.


52. Perhaps the most prominent of Wales's sporting venues is the Millennium Stadium, described by one commentator as "Wales's own Sydney Opera House" after the recent League Cup final between Liverpool and Birmingham City.[106] However, there are a many world-class sports facilities in Wales including Canolfan Tryweryn, the national white water canoe centre; the national competitive sailing centre at Pwllheli; the Celtic Manor Resort, which is seeking to host the Ryder Cup; Glamorgan County Cricket Club's ground, which has hosted one-day internationals and the Welsh Institute of Sport. The Wales National Swimming Pool in Swansea is due to be completed in March 2002.[107]

53. Sport is important to promoting Wales in the world for several reasons. It is a big business in its own right—fans spend millions each year on tickets, merchandising and subscription television services—and hosting major sporting events creates economic spin-offs for local businesses as a result of the influx of people attending the event. Sport is important in raising Wales's national profile since, in sports such as rugby and football, Wales competes as a nation in its own right, rather than under the Great Britain or UK banner. We note the particular success of Welsh athletes in the Great Britain team at the 2000 Paralympics, which has undoubtedly helped to raise Wales's profile abroad. The First Minister described sport as "the origin of devolution in the UK," arguing that, if the home nations of the UK had not continued to play football against each other, Scotland and Wales might have been "absorbed into a great English mass of culture".[108] Sport is also important as a marketing springboard for tourism—The Sports Council for Wales is currently working with the WTB on the development of a sports tourism strategy.[109]

54. UK Sport was established by Royal Charter in 1996 and became fully operational on 1 January 1997. It is responsible for fostering, supporting and encouraging the development of sport and physical recreation and the achievement of excellence in the UK and the provision of sporting facilities at the UK level. It takes the lead among the sports councils in all aspects requiring strategic planning administration, co­ordination or representation for the benefit of the UK as a whole, identifying sporting policies that should have a UK­wide application and areas of unnecessary duplication, overlap and waste in the way sport is administered in the UK.[110] In particular, it is responsible for coordinating bids for major international sporting events from different parts of the UK and for attracting such events to the UK.[111]

55. The Sports Council for Wales (SCW) is an Assembly-sponsored public body established by Royal Charter. Its role is to develop sport in Wales by increasing the numbers of people participating in sport—particularly children and young people— and raising standards of excellence and performance in Welsh sport. It receives funding from the National Assembly and from the National Lottery.[112]

56. The Sports Council for Wales told us that UK bodies appear to be struggling to clarify whether their role is to promote the UK or Great Britain as a single entity or to promote the four home nations.[113] We detected some of the same confusion with DCMS officials when we asked about the Department's role in promoting the rival Welsh and Scottish bids for the Ryder Cup.[114] They have since confirmed that the Department has taken no part in promoting the bids from any of the three UK destinations, although they would lend the appropriate promotional and diplomatic support to a winning bid.[115]

57. Under the present system, UK Sport's role is to offer advice and support to sporting governing bodies which wish to bid for major international events. It was established to act as a centre of expertise at the disposal of bids from across the UK, to provide a greater element of coordination than was possible through the four home country sports councils and to provide resources which were unlikely to be available to the smaller countries. It is difficult to say whether and to what extent the present arrangements work to Wales's advantage. One option would be a fully centralised system in which bids to host sporting events from different parts of the UK had to compete with each other to be accepted as the official UK bid before receiving full backing from the Government and UK Sport. This is what happens with sports such as athletics, where there is a single UK governing body (UK Athletics) which has decided on the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham as the UK bid for the 2003 World Championships.[116] Another would be a free-for-all in which the national associations were able to bid against each other freely, along with foreign countries. This is essentially what is happening with the Ryder Cup.[117] On the strength of the evidence we have taken we would not propose any changes to the present arrangements for coordinating bids for international sporting events from different parts of the UK. It appears that, while there is a sensible level of coordination, Welsh sporting bodies cannot be prevented from bidding where they believe it is in their interests to do so.

75  Ev. p. 91, paragraphs 80 & 81. Back

76  Ev. pp. 91-2. Back

77  Wales Arts International Business Plan 1999-2002. Back

78  Q. 51. Back

79  A Culture in Common, Report from the Post-16 Education and Training Committee, National Assembly for Wales, 2000. Back

80  Ibid, paragraph 4.13. Back

81  Ibid, paragraph 4.14. Back

82  Ibid, paragraph 4.15. Back

83  Wales' Cultural Consortium Gets off the Ground, NAW Press Release dated 26 February 2001. Back

84  Q. 176. Back

85  Q. 97. Back

86  Q. 124. Back

87  For witnesses' views on Cymru'n Creu, see QQ. 155, 182, 257 & 328. Back

88  Q. 183. The Eisteddfod received some funding from the Arts Council until 1998 (see Q. 166). Back

89  Q. 184. Back

90  Q. 182. Back

91  Ev. p. 90, paragraphs 78 & 79. Back

92  Ev. p. 48.. Back

93  Q. 153. Back

94  Ev. p. 112 & QQ. 360 & 361. Back

95  Ev. pp. 160--4. Back

96  Q. 161. Back

97  Q. 159. Back

98  Q. 160. Back

99  WIW53. Back

100  Film industry is valuable asset to North Wales economy says Michael German, NAW Press Release dated 20 February 2001. Back

101  Budget 2001, HC 279, Session 2000-01, p. 138. Back

102  WIW19. Back

103  For example, the British Council (Q. 98). Back

104  Ev. pp. 137-140. Back

105  Ev. pp. 137-140 & Q. 327. Back

106  "New National Icon sells Wales to the World", Western Mail, 27 February 2001. Back

107  Ev. p. 134. Back

108  Q. 55. Back

109  Ev. pp. 134-135. Back

110  Ev. p. 90, paragraphs 73-77. Back

111  Ev. p. 37.. Back

112  Ev. p. 134. Back

113  Ev. p. 135. Back

114  Q. 305. Back

115  Ev. p. 110. Back

116  Q. 140. Back

117  IbidBack

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Prepared 27 March 2001