The art of business can boost economy, says opera legend

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A towering figure from the world of opera will urge business leaders in Wrexham to support the arts as a way of boosting the economy.

Welsh National Opera’s Artistic Director David Pountney will be one of three speakers at a morning meeting of the Wrexham Business Professionals at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Wrexham.

David Pountney - WNO
David Pountney – WNO

The theme of the meeting on Tuesday, July 3, will be Powering Regional Prosperity … The Art of Business.
The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.

The other keynote speakers at the event will be Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Welsh Government Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, and Terry Waite, President of Llangollen International Eisteddfod.

According to David Pountney, there was a powerful economic argument for supporting the arts and creative industries.

The latest figures show there are 5,300 creative businesses in Wales which generate £2.1 billion a year and provide employment to 49,000 people.

Mr Pountney said: “I ran a festival in Bregenz in Austria for 11 years. It was seven hours by train from Vienna, not an easy journey.

“It was very like Wales, North Wales in particular as it was surrounded by mountains. The festival had a massive impact on that place because it brought people in by their thousands.

“There is a clear economic argument for supporting the arts. Without those visitors many businesses would close.

“Bregenz had a traditional textile industry which had died a death. It has been replaced by hi-tech industries much like those flourishing in North Wales.”

By and large, he said, heavy industry has seen its day. “We no longer need brawn, we need culture and imagination.

“We need people who can think outside the box. What you imagine today can be the best selling discovery of tomorrow.”

He said nurturing creativity was an essential gateway to developing core skills and raising horizons, breaking cycles of deprivation and unemployment, enhancing tourism and improving cultural happiness.

North Wales encompassed some of the most talented communities in Wales, but there was a recognised inequality of opportunity caused by not having equal access to the experiences needed to unlock talent, imagination and confidence.

These were key ingredients to creating successful individuals, and in turn successful businesses, and together a successful regional economy.

“Welsh National Opera is committed to redressing this inequality by delivering a world class North Wales cultural, community and creative learning programme that mirrors what WNO has built in South Wales,” he said.

Pointing to the great strides made in North Wales’ schools and communities in the last 18 months, he said: “Our programme nurtures talent and ambition.

“It provides transformational education programmes targeting the most disadvantaged children and offers cultural opportunities to positively connect and inspire communities.
“This includes the WNO youth opera group for 10 to 14-year-olds based in Llandudno, school workshops and concerts, family concerts, a community chorus, and tea concerts for older people including working with Wrexham-based Pendine Park Care Homes.

“WNO is working in partnership with venues, arts organisations, community groups, schools and higher educational organisations to harness and develop the cultural power and talent of the region.

“The consistent passion and enthusiasm by which Welsh National Opera has been received across North Wales demonstrates the thirst for such work and WNO wants to build on this momentum.”

Mr Pountney, now 70 but still brimming with enthusiasm, said an initial three year grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation that enabled WNO to establish the programme is due to end in 2019.

“WNO is now in need of private support to help sustain and grow this work which costs over £200,000 a year,” he said.

“Your support would be vital and you would be aligning your company with inspiring excellence, innovation and creativity across North Wales – inspiring the next generation of Wrexham Business Professionals!”

To help WNO achieve its goals it has established a dedicated producer post, currently held by Ruth Evans, based in the offices of partner Venue Cymru in Llandudno.

WNO says its successful work in North Wales would not be possible without the cooperation and support of the many partners it works with including Venue Cymru, Theatr Clwyd in Mold, Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay, Pontio, Galeri in Caernarfon, CanSing, NEW Sinfonia, Ensemble Cymru, Conwy Expressive Arts, Bangor School of Music, and Wrexham Music Service.

Born in Oxford, David Pountney is an internationally-renowned director and librettist and is recognised as making a unique contribution to the artistic life of Wales.

He joined WNO as chief executive and artistic director in 2011, which was seen as something of a coup, but had been collaborating with the company since 1975 when he directed a ground-breaking cycle of Janacek’s operas.

In 1996 for WNO’s 50th anniversary it commissioned a new opera, The Doctor of Myddfai, composed by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. David wrote the libretto and directed the production.

Since joining WNO he has encouraged partnership working between arts organisations. He still works around the world as a freelance opera director and has built a presence for WNO abroad, particularly in Oman and Dubai where it was the first British opera company to perform at the new Dubai Opera House in 2017.

The company visited Hong Kong in the spring to perform Pelleas et Melisande at the renowned arts festival.

WBP chairman Gill Kreft said they are delighted to welcome three such eminent speakers to the July meeting.

“David is a creative genius and has a glittering career in the world of opera. We look forward to hearing of his time with WNO and other opera companies at home and abroad. His record is unsurpassed.

“Of particular relevance to us is the massive contribution the arts and creative industries make to the Welsh economy, not to mention the way in which they can and do enrich lives across the generations.

“Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas is one of Wales’ most experienced politicians in Westminster and the Senedd and is always an erudite and persuasive talker and it couldn’t be more timely for Terry Waite as Llangollen International Eisteddfod begins the same day.

“There will also be a musical interlude from the members of the academy of the Only Boys Aloud choir. They are hugely talented so it will be a real treat.”

For more information about the meeting and Wrexham Business Professionals contact Kate Edwards on 01978 752500 or at admin@wrexhambusinessprofessionals.com or go to the website www.wrexhambusinessprofessionals.com