We are Co-Chairs of the Theatre Committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, and we are writing in response to the WGGB’s Welsh branch’s concerns about the recent appointment of a non-Welsh speaker as Associate Director of the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. The previous holder of this post, Gethin Evans, was a Welsh speaker, who oversaw much of the Welsh language development work of the company and directed the annual bilingual Christmas show. The appointment of David Mercatali, while excellent in itself, means that there is no one on the creative team at the Sherman qualified to encourage, nurture and programme plays in Welsh. Bringing in external professionals as needed is no substitute for having a qualified Welsh speaker at the heart of the company’s work.
Like the Welsh branch, we are supportive of the Sherman’s exemplary track record in promoting and presenting new writing, which has benefited many of our members. But we share the branch’s commitment to new writing in Welsh as well as English, and their conviction that having a monolingual creative team at the Sherman is a step backwards. We are completely unconvinced by the argument that such an appointment represents a commitment to diversity and access, while its effect is the reverse. In our work across the English regions, we know how a critical mass of playwrights and theatre workers can transform the amount of locally-produced new work, and how quickly that critical mass can be lost.
We welcome the fact that the Arts Council of Wales – which cut Sgript Cymru, the company responsible for nurturing bilingual theatre provision in Wales – is now concerned about the reduction in the amount of new writing in Welsh, and that a task force is looking into the issue. We hope that the task force will also look into the moving of casting and even rehearsals of Theatr Clwyd productions to London.
We wholeheartedly support the WGGB branch’s stance and campaign on this issue, and look forward to the results of the Arts Council of Wales’s deliberations, and a change of heart at the Sherman.
David Edgar, Jenifer Toksvig
Co-Chairs, Theatre Committee, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain
5 October 2017