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Let Welsh writers tell their stories

Read a version of this story in the Welsh language 

WGGB has backed an open letter to National Theatre Wales (NTW) signed by 40 leading Welsh playwrights.

Addressed to Chair Clive Jones, it calls for a public discussion about the very purpose of the organisation, and states “our fears as an artistic community regarding NTW’s low theatrical production rate since the departure of John McGrath [former artistic director, who left in 2015] are an open secret”.

The letter goes on to say “It is in this context that we wish to provoke a debate about what kind of national theatre we desire. We want it to be a theatre. We want it to be Welsh. These are two things we thought we could take for granted.”

The letter calls for the board to overhaul NTW’s aims and objectives so that:

  • All shows produced by National Theatre Wales have a Welsh or Wales-based artist as a primary artist.
  • Non-Welsh and Wales based artists and companies need to be 1) world-class, and 2) engaged only to support a Welsh or Wales-based artist.
  • A National Theatre Wales show has to have theatre in it. If it’s a song, then it’s a song. If it’s a comedy night, then it’s a comedy night. But if it’s not in some sense theatre, NTW should not be funding it.

WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said: “Public funding is being used to promote Welsh culture but Welsh stories are not being told. The writers’ demands echo concerns we have been raising with Llywodraeth Cymru and Arts Council Wales. Theatre companies and TV commissioners need to work with us to ensure Welsh writers are given the necessary opportunities to have their work produced.”

William Gwyn, Chair of the WGGB Welsh Branch, said: “We believe that this dissatisfaction with NTW is a further example of a growing concern among Welsh writers that representation across the media of Welsh cultural identity appears to be under threat.

“WGGB are actively working, through correspondence and meetings with various bodies such as Arts Council Wales and S4C, to improve the situation and to secure that developing, as well as established, Welsh creatives have platforms for their work.

“The letter to NTW is further proof, if proof be needed, that it’s high time for a national debate in Wales about cultural identity and how it is portrayed in our theatres, on our television screens and in our cinemas.”

Last year former WGGB Chair of the Welsh Branch, Manon Eames, raised concerns about a lack of opportunities for Welsh talent at Theatr Clwyd in Mold, Flintshire. The Welsh Branch also spoke out about the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff after it appointed a non-Welsh speaker as its new associate director and because it commissionied only four Welsh language plays since 2013, compared to 15 in English and one bilingual play.

Photo: Shutterstock.com/Stephen Rees