WALES’S Tourism Minister Ken Skates says he will do his “utmost” to protect public funding for the arts in Wales.
His pledge came as he stepped on stage last Friday to accept the coveted role of Day President of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, which recently launched a global appeal after revealing that the annual festival faced a loss of £70,000 as a result of disappointing ticket sales.
Mr Skates, within whose Clwyd South constituency the Eisteddfod is based, said earlier he was unable to speak specifically about its financial situation but added: “I am aware of the issues affecting the Eisteddfod and these are being examined in consultation with our partners, Denbighshire County Council and Arts Council Wales.”
In his speech, Mr Skates said that as his home was in the area, he had been visiting the Eisteddfod for 30 years and was delighted to be asked to serve as Day President.
He told the audience: “Llangollen has become over seven decades one of the iconic attractions of our national cultural offer.
“It is a place where dreamers realise their dreams, strangers become friends and hope always overwhelms distress and division.
“It is the Wales we want – outward-looking, tolerant and diverse.
“Maintaining and if possible extending that offer is one of my key tasks but, as you know, these are hugely challenging times financially.
“For organisations and activities that rely on public funding, it’s going to get tougher before it gets better.
“But I and the Welsh Government, believe that music, arts and creativity matter, to our health and wellbeing, to our economy and to young people’s educational attainment.
“I can assure you therefore that I’ll be doing my utmost to protect public funding for the arts in Wales.”
He added: “Llangollen plays a particularly important part in maintaining two very important cultural traditions – choral music and folk dance.
“Choirs have been experiencing something of a boom recently – in the UK at least in terms of TV and media coverage.
“In reality, Llangollen has played a very significant part in helping to maintain that interest.
“It gives choirs of all ages, types and genres, from all over the world, the opportunity to perform in a competitive environment.”
Mr Skates went on to give a public pat on the back to the small army of volunteers which is vital to the smooth running of the festival.
He said: “As many as 800 are involved who make a fantastic contribution and that is a great tribute to the loyalty and commitment people feel towards the Eisteddfod.”
Speaking of the general contribution made by the festival, he said: “It’s clear to me that Llangollen has a really significant impact – both on North East Wales as a region and on Wales as a whole.
“It’s good for the local economy and local society. It’s good for tourism and it’s invaluable for what it delivers culturally.
“I believe it’s vitally important – arguably more than ever – to celebrate what connects and unites us, rather than what separates and divides us, and this event does just that.
“Every year, Llangollen Eisteddfod sends out a loud and clear message about the importance of bringing different cultures and nations together, to promote tolerance and to broaden understanding.
“I know that message has an impact on the people who come here.
“Hopefully, it will also resonate more widely, at a time when many, both here and abroad, seem minded to do the opposite.”