Access in the Arts. Are Things Getting Better or Worse? Avant Cymru.

Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”

After the publication of the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all” we interviewed a range of arts professionals in November 2018 to discuss the intentions of Arts Council Wales and suggest ways that their ambitions may be best realised.

A year one from this article we spent time broadly discussing the aims of the Corporate Plan and what change (if any) has occurred in the sector. The questions we asked elicited a personal response from everyone involved. We are publishing our second response below from Rachel and Jamie from Avant Cymru. Avant Cymru describe themselves as “A forward thinking theatre company from the South Wales Valleys. Creating relevant, distinctive theatre, dance, Hip Hop and artistic activity with and for our community and championing this work at home and afar.”

Hi Can you tell us about yourself please?

Hi Avant Cymru are made up of many different individuals. We have key members for the company who come a different range of backgrounds

BAME

LGBT

LOW INCOME/HIGH INCOME

There are two elements we can relate to with each other, all have mental health issues or have family members who have had long term mental health conditions. The other is that we all have Dyslexia and for some, other learning disabilities including ADHD and Dyspraxia. 

 What was your personal pathway into the arts?

 We have all had different pathways, one thing which we all have in common is that our parents were not in a position to be able to pay for classes and training which others could afford as we were growing up. For Rachel Pedley our Artistic Director this resulted in her assisting classes to cover the cost of her classes and taking on multiple jobs to pay for the clothing, equipment and assessments.  

Do you think your class; gender or ethnic background has impacted on your education or career?

All of us have found prejudice for our backgrounds from certain individuals. This has helped us find strength in each other. We appreciate that none of us sound, look or have experienced the same as the other and this means we can enrich each other by sharing our differences. 

 What have you found to be your personal barriers to accessing the arts and being able to develop a sustainable career? Is a sustainable career even possible?

Money – Money, Money and most worryingly segregation.  

Do you feel comfortable within your personal arts environment or is the different class, gender, ethnic background or privilege of colleagues something that impacts on you?

There are many environments we find ourselves in where there are middle to upper class people. As a majority working class company we do find it difficult to be able to explain that the places we perform, teach and train are very different to those accessed by the people we see outside of the Valleys and outside of the areas we perform across the world with our Hip Hop work. We have been to the purpose built buildings, with equipment and resources. We are grateful for the spaces and people who support us, without them the Valleys would be falling behind, they have kept opportunities available helping companies like ours to excel and grow. However the Valleys need purpose built spaces and talent to be championed. 

Are things are getting better or worse?

Worse – Segregation is happening through policy led decisions. 

ACW have the target of “We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.” Do you think this is acheivable?

True diversity happens when you have all involved who want to be. All financial backgrounds, race, religion, abilities, ages accessing and participating. 

Do you think ACW will be able them to deliver on their targets and why?

Unless the funding is focused on actual practice coming from the people and the varied communities looking to open their doors, it will never be achieved, you can’t buy diversity by forcing people into areas, jobs, etc without them having their heart and soul in that area. There are already many diverse projects happening across Wales – not funded by anyone in many cases. The funders need to look beyond those they think they know and see the amazing work being developed from the ground up. There you will find achievement that will be sustainable, diverse and rich as it comes from those who may not have the ability to write a funding form, or deal with the networking meetings, but those who love the area, the people and the art of where they live and what they are inspired by.

How do you think ACW would be able to best realise their intentions?

 Come to hear from audiences and participants, see what is being achieved and who is achieving it. 

From your personal lived experience what needs to change?

That funders fund what the community want and need, instead of pushing statistics.

If you are interested in the work of Avant Cymru, further information on their next event can be found below.

Open Art Surgery with Breakin’ Convention
Ty Pawb Art Gallery, Wrexham, LL13 8BBFri 14th February 2020

Open Art Surgery Wales invites you to delve into the mind and souls of some of the UK’s finest hip hop artists as they dare to try something new, dangerous and exciting!Artists present brand new short works devised and developed in just one week with mentorship from hip hop theatre aficionados Jonzi D, Ivan Blackstock and Anthony Lennon.This unique event, which takes place at the end of a week of intense research and development, presents six new works to the audience who are then invited to critique, feedback and ask questions to the artists involved.

Open Art Surgery is not about presenting finished work. The focus is to develop theatre skills within hip hop artists and to experiment with new ideas that could be developed further in the future. Breaking down of the fourth wall to allow the audience to engage with the artists, Open Art Surgery is an unmissable event in the Breakin’ Convention calendar.Hosted by Breakin’ Conventions Jonzi D

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/avantcymru/open-art-surgery/e-bmqjvl

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