Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism
I am pleased to be able to update Members about the ongoing work to investigate the potential for Wales to establish a contemporary art gallery, a national football museum and a national archive.
A series of feasibility studies were commissioned as part of the budget deal between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru. Last year, I published the outcome of the studies on the contemporary art gallery and the football museum which proposed a distributed model of existing museums and galleries to ensure nationwide access to the national collection of contemporary art, and developing Wrexham Museum as a showcase for our footballing heritage. We have continued to progress the development of these two initiatives, although the pandemic has had an inevitable impact.
Contemporary Art Gallery
Following the conclusions of the initial feasibility study for the contemporary art gallery in July 2018, carried out in partnership with the Arts Council of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru, the Rural Office for Architecture (ROA) was commissioned to carry out an initial high level impact assessment and risk position for each venue identified on the select list. The ROA is now conducting more detailed work and a final report is due in February.
The steering group has continued to work through the pandemic and has supported a number of digital projects to entertain and educate. These were developed under the banner Celf ar y Cyd and include:
- Art 100 Celf – Using a dynamic interactive digital platform, people are able to devise and curate an exhibition from works in Amgueddfa Cymru’s art collection. The platform currently includes a mix of different media content, artworks with accompanying information, stories, videos and interviews. Each of the artists’ graphic identities for Celf ar y Cyd is featured with profiles of the individual artists. The project is featured on Instagram, Amgueddfa Cymru’s website and the AM Platform.
- Art in hospitals – Amgueddfa Cymru is working with five health boards to select items from the art collection for the field hospitals. Staff have been choosing the art and curatorial control has been handed over to each health board. The images will be located in staff wellbeing rooms and are intended to soothe, calm and uplift.
- Artists respond to the now – The original feasibility study highlighted the need for new contemporary art. A series of creative commissions are being taken forward over a 12-month period providing exciting opportunities for creative content and new forms of audience engagement to be tested.
- The collection as a springboard (Cynfas) – This project engages with a diverse range of voices in a Wales-wide conversation about the national collection, reaching out to new communities and provides a great wealth of material that can be shaped into engaging and interactive stories. In a magazine format, featuring stories produced by a wide a variety of people. Authors and contributors will include artists and writers, members and clients of partner organisations such as the Wallich, Llamau and Save the Children. Two editions have been published so far: https://museum.wales/Cynfas/
National Football Museum
A steering group has been established to take forward the work to develop a national football museum. Wrexham Council is leading the project, which will redevelop Wrexham Museum. The museum will work alongside communities to encourage participation and inspire visitors from all backgrounds. The project will complement other developments in Wrexham including the FAW National Training Centre at Collier’s Park, the Wrexham FC Professional Training Centre at the Groves, and the Wrexham Gateway redevelopment of the Racecourse Ground.
Consultants Fourth Street were appointed in the summer to draw up a detailed business plan and case for investment. This work has now concluded and the recommendations are currently being considered by the steering group. The main focus of the work is to maximise space available in the current museum building and to relocate reserve collections. A design tender is being advertised for the next stage of the work and the council is seeking two new staff members to support the project.
The 2018 feasibility study also recommended an expert panel for sporting heritage in Wales should be established. I have asked Sporting Heritage, a specialised charitable company, to lead this work and 16 sports and heritage organisations are currently represented on the panel which has met virtually to develop a framework for action.
The feasibility report which I am now publishing identified and appraised a range of potential models for delivery of a national archive function for Wales, based on a comprehensive review of current public records systems and legislation, an analysis of national archive models, profiling of current archival provision in Wales, discussions with key national and sector stakeholders and international comparators: https://gov.wales/national-archive-wales-feasibility-study
Further work has been deferred due to the pandemic. It will now be for the next Welsh Government to determine how this project is taken forward.