This is where the differing parts of my Ministerial responsibilities – regeneration and heritage – complement each other. One can indeed be a catalyst for the other.
The Communities First programme is central to the development of this work. Communities First Partnerships are uniting local people with arts professionals and other organisations working together on a diverse range of community-based arts projects.
These projects can transform the physical landscape, allowing local people to contribute to improving the appearance of their hometown.
Involvement can equally transform how we feel about where we live, helping create a genuine sense of pride and ownership.
Art y Park in Cardiff is a prime example of how a community-led art project has helped regenerate an area to reflect the individuality of local people. The Communities First led project involved turning a disused area, a target for antisocial behaviour, into a new public space to be enjoyed by all.
Local people were involved in every aspect of the project from the start. They worked with artists to design the features followed by intense public consultation and a local vote.
Over the last few years participation in arts-based activates has trebled in Penygraig, Tonypandy, thanks to support from Communities First and through the Valley Kids organisation. Staff work with disadvantaged young people and their families to inspire confidence and belief in oneself through participation in arts programmes. The organisation is housed at the redeveloped Soar Chapel, which received Arts council of Wales Lottery funding to refurbish the building.
Last year’s production of The Passion in Port Talbot is another example of how involvement in the arts can help transform a community. The production united local people in a truly unique experience that drew the spotlight to the town from far beyond the Welsh borders.
Projects such as these can create a lasting legacy for people by improving their health, well-being and aspirations. Research by the University of Glamorgan shows that participation in the arts can improve physical and mental health, reduce stress, and lead to greater self esteem.
The research also showed that participants had ambitions to continue professionally in their chosen area of arts practice and to further educate themselves with a view to securing future employment.
Through partnership working – across government departments and with external bodies – we are creating opportunities for everyone to participate in the arts whilst transforming communities socially and physically.