For Freedom, and Thinner Opera Singers

By Davies, Thomas | New Statesman (1996), May 3, 1999 | Go to article overview

For Freedom, and Thinner Opera Singers


Davies, Thomas, New Statesman (1996)


Only an artistic revival can save Wales, believes Tom Davies. That's why he formed a new party

I come from a Welsh mining family and I have been a socialist all my life. But, as an increasingly frustrated Welsh writer who can no longer get anything published in Wales - even if I just about still make a living writing religious travel books for the SPCK - I decided to form my own party, the Celtic Alliance, with the specific purpose of invigorating our arts and sport.

It all began, innocently enough, in a column I was writing in the Western Mail about a year ago. Welsh artistic life is in tatters, I wrote. It may have been the chill winds of Thatcherism but we have lost everything there is. We are producing virtually no novels, no feature films and, outside television, no home-grown drama. All this must change because our writers offer us the only chance of ever becoming free after lying for so long with a Westminster boot on our necks.

It was the writers of Ireland who first set up a dynamic interaction between the slumbering Celts and the overweening power of English imperialism. This prompted a period of self-examination in their art and, in so doing, set the Irish free.

The Welsh Labour Party has shown no sign whatsoever of addressing this lamentable state of affairs. Peter Hain has never once mentioned the arts in his policy objectives. They say of Ron Davies that he did once read a book but lost interest when Jill fell down that hill. Alun Michael - Tony Blair's parachutist, as he is known in these parts - did recently agree to debate the state of our arts with me but, when the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff was booked, television coverage arranged and seats sold, he backed down suddenly without a proper explanation. Perhaps someone had finally pointed out to him that the Welsh Labour Party doesn't actually have a policy on the arts.

The Welsh Lib Dems say they want to set up a writers' museum, presumably to pickle a few of our writers inside a glass case, if they can find any. The Tories aren't saying much about anything since they never wanted the assembly in the first place.

Allied to the cultural illiteracy of our politicians is the Welsh Arts Council, a bastion of total uselessness in its Cardiff offices in the aptly named Museum Place. Run by cormorants and caterpillars, it persistently fosters the cult of the amateur and wastes its considerable resources by spraying them thinly over everything that moves.

It is also a source of much Welsh anger that the Welsh National Opera receives around [pounds]7 million in grants from the Arts Council each year. Who decided that this minority self-indulgence of the chattering classes should receive so much? …

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