Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism
The creative industries have been one of the fastest growing parts of the Welsh economy for a number of years. The sector doesn’t just create jobs and wealth, it contributes to a strong national brand and helps to promote Wales and its culture and talent to the world. With an annual turnover of more than £2.2 billion, and employing more than 56,000 people in Wales, growing and supporting the sector is a key priority for Welsh Government. In January, I launched Creative Wales as an internal Welsh Government agency to champion the creative industries in Wales, specifically film and TV; digital; music and publishing sectors.
However, the creative industries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout this period, Creative Wales has worked hard with our stakeholders to understand the impact, and to respond rapidly. We have supported 72 businesses with £1.32m from Culture, Sport and Tourism budgets and to date, approved 244 Economic Resilience Fund grants to creative businesses totalling circa £3.4m and supporting close to 1,600 jobs in the sector. We have worked with partners to consider how best to support freelancers, who make up a large proportion of the creative industries in Wales and are facing significant challenges. We are exploring options to support training for these freelancers in discussion with BECTU. We have liaised with public service broadcasters in Wales on our Emergency TV Development Fund, which has supported 21 new projects, to develop new ideas and support a co-ordinated approach to recovery. These actions will help the industry emerge from this crisis in as strong a position as possible.
In April, we awarded an additional £150,000 to the Books Council of Wales to help respond to the needs of the publishing industry in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. This funding is helping independent high street book shops and publishers sustain their business over the coming months and will provide short-term support to books and magazine publishers which have experienced a significant drop in sales and are not eligible for other sources of emergency funding.
As we continue to ease the coronavirus restrictions in Wales, our work with stakeholders has moved to a focus on recovery. Last week, Creative Wales published guidance to offer further clarity on the current regulations in Wales and how they affect the creative industries. The guidance recognises that as part of a phased approach to recovery, different parts of the creative industries are at different stages, and some sub-sectors will take longer to resume than others. Our guidance reflects this and signposts to resources designed to support a safe return to work, in line with these timescales. This is a live document, which will be updated on a regular basis, in line with the Welsh Government’s 21-day review cycle of the regulations and industry developments.
For years the screen industry has been a particular success story. Film and TV companies spent around £55m in Wales in 2018, supporting local businesses, contributing to tourism and raising the profile of Wales across the world.
High profile productions such as Brave New World (NBCUniversal), Doctor Who (BBC), His Dark Materials (Bad Wolf) and Sex Education (Netflix) have cemented Wales’ international reputation as a centre of excellence. Successful productions such as Hinterland, Keeping Faith and Hidden have been ingrained with our strong cultural identity.
Wales is open for filming, in line with the current coronavirus regulations and guidance. Our creative industries guidance is designed to support this. We will soon to welcome productions, including the third series of popular Netflix drama Sex Education and the third series of A Discovery of Witches currently preparing to resume filming in the coming months.
Wales Screen, the Creative Wales service providing practical and logistical support to productions filming in Wales, has seen an increase in enquiries in recent weeks. This demonstrates there is renewed hope that the industry will get back on its feet again.
Creative digital businesses in Wales are busy producing world class content and experiences and have continued to do so during the pandemic. Fictioneers, a consortium including Tiny Rebel Games, Sugar Creative and University of South Wales are building ‘The Big Fix Up – a new Wallace and Gromit augmented reality (AR) experience’; Wales Interactive has recently launched ‘The Complex’ – an interactive game, on all major platforms. Many of these businesses have successfully applied for Emergency Digital Development Fund support, and many others are actively engaged with the Clwstwr R&D programme, match funded by the Welsh Government, delivering over £10m of focussed activity supporting the sector in Wales.
I know the creative services sector, including advertising, marketing and digital agencies, is undertaking detailed planning for returning to work, and we are keen to support it in the coming months.
We have provided more than £400K of assistance to 22 grassroots music businesses in Wales. The music industry recognises it is likely to be one of the very last sectors able to return to any form of “normal” activity and is working closely with us and the Music Venue Trust on an initiative called REVS to explore options for allowing safe reopening of venues in the future.
During the pandemic, the sector has embraced technology and innovation, which has enabled it to continue to provide a wide variety of performances. Last Friday for example saw PYST /AM, host a live theatre production by Fran Wen from North Wales with more than 30 young people taking part, while Saturday saw the Tafwyl festival viewed live on the platform by 6,500-plus people at the same time as two live National Theatre of Wales productions.
I am confident Wales can once again prosper as the place for creativity, turning imagination into industry, and deliver our ambitions for the creative industries in Wales.