'More cockiness' needed in Welsh arts, says John McGrath

Former artistic director of National Theatre Wales John McGrath
Image caption John McGrath left National Theatre Wales in December 2015

An appeal for "more cockiness" from Welsh arts organisations has been made by the former artistic director of National Theatre Wales.

John McGrath made the remarks as he delivered BBC Wales' annual Patrick Hannan Lecture at the Hay Festival on Monday.

Mr McGrath, the company's founding artistic director, left in 2015.

He also criticised the "managed decline" of the arts through the gradual reduction of public subsidy.

Referring to the creation of the BBC's drama studios in Cardiff Bay, Mr McGrath said: "That's the kind of cockiness you need in Wales, the belief that anything in any world can happen here."

Mr McGrath, who now runs the Manchester International Festival, suggested some organisations should close altogether to address the issue of shrinking subsidies.

"If you need to close down some institutions to invest in emerging ideas, then that's what must happen," he said.

Image caption The Hay Festival of Literature and Arts takes place every year in Hay-on-Wye, Powys

"The most recent Arts Council Wales settlement to regularly-funded organisations succumbed, for understandable but regrettable reasons, to the 'small cuts for everyone' approach.

"That is, by definition, managed decline."

He said he welcomed the inclusion of culture as a responsibility of the Welsh Government's new economy secretary, Ken Skates, who had previously been deputy minister for culture.

"I choose to see this as a statement of intent by the government. Let's put culture at the heart of our efforts to re-imagine and re-invent Wales."

'False expectation'

But Mr McGrath warned against the "false expectation" that the creative industries are a solution to the decline of Wales' industrial and manufacturing communities.

"If we think of cultural industries as somehow replicating 19th and 20th Century models of industrial investment, we will be looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

"There's no big arts or creative employer that's suddenly going to arrive in Wales fully formed to solve the nation's post-industrial problems."

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