Wales – and Cardiff – set UK example using culture to tackle poverty

Wales will set an example to the rest of the UK by using culture to tackle poverty in some of Wales’ most deprived communities – this is the message from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, as he launches a new programme to lead this innovative concept.

The Fusion: Tackling Poverty through Culture programme will bring together Communities First and cultural bodies for the first time to engage with and inspire young people and adults who wouldn’t normally have the opportunities to participate in culture and the arts.

The initial strand of the programme establishes six Pioneer Areas in Swansea, Wrexham, Gwynedd, Cardiff, Newport and Torfaen, which will be supported to trial new approaches which will place culture at the heart of their work with disadvantaged communities.

This includes creating a range of opportunities for people in Communities First areas to engage with culture, from school visits to enrich the school curriculum, to cultural volunteering opportunities and accredited learning for adults. Each will focus on helping individuals, families and communities engage with heritage and culture to support learning and developing important skills.

The programme is complemented by the Welsh Government’s Arts and Creative Learning Plan, which will increase and improve arts opportunities in our schools, and greater cultural participation in the Schools Challenge Cymru programme.

Speaking ahead of the launch at the Culture and Media Centre in Butetown, Cardiff – one of the six Pioneer Areas – the Deputy Minister said:

“Earlier this year I set out my ambition to make Wales the most creative nation in Europe and to do this we must ensure culture is accessible to all.

“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.”

Cardiff University will lead the Cardiff Pioneer Area, building on existing cultural outreach work through its Strong Communities, Healthier People community engagement programme. The university will bring together local and national partners, including museums, archives and libraries, and Communities First clusters to ensure residents can become involved in activities, courses and other creative opportunities to gain valuable skills and confidence.

Professor Kevin Morgan, Dean of Engagement at Cardiff University, said:

“We are delighted to be playing a major role in this inspiring Welsh Government project.

“As a University we recognise that the arts, culture and heritage can be a powerful engine for change in our communities.

“Our involvement will build on existing strong relationships in communities in Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff to have a positive impact on health, education and wellbeing.”

The Fusion programme will seek to implement the recommendations of Baroness Andrews’ Culture and Poverty report, which made a compelling case for the Welsh Government, local government, cultural organisations, community bodies and schools to work together to ensure culture is accessible to all and can benefit our most disadvantaged communities.

The six Pioneer Areas will operate for a pilot year (2015-2016), with a view to rolling out more widely.

Pioneer Areas will work within a national framework of support which will allow participants to promote and share learning and good practice, and also include focussed research and evaluation to measure success of the programme and impact on participants.