National Theatre Wales shocked by 100% funding cut

A theatre
Image caption,NTW recently claimed an independent panel ruled ACW had not been ‘fair or transparent’

National Theatre Wales (NTW) has said it is “shocked and dismayed” by a decision to axe 100% of its funding.

Arts Council of Wales (ACW) previously announced that the theatre charity’s £1.6m support was to be cut down to nothing following an investment review.

But after NTW recently said it had won an appeal against the cuts, ACW “agreed unanimously” the cuts should still go ahead.

Without financial support, NTW said it would not survive beyond April 2024.

In a statement released on Tuesday, ACW said its members “agreed unanimously that there were no material factors to warrant review and reassessment” of its original decision not to offer NTW multi-year funding.

It also deemed the role of the independent panel, which had originally upheld NTW’s funding appeal and called for its application to be reconsidered, as “only advisory”.

In response, NTW said: “We are shocked and dismayed that ACW has chosen to proceed in this manner, disrespecting the principle of independent review and conveying a worrying lack of transparency and accountability.

“This sets a concerning precedent for the whole sector in how the decisions of ACW may be challenged in the future.”

NTW called for “interim” funding to enable it to honour its long-term commitments and continue to operate.

“We will now take time to speak with our stakeholders, partners and funders to consider possible routes forward and will make a fuller statement in January,” it added.

NTW’s artistic director Lorne Campbell previously defended the group’s output amidst criticism from some in the artistic community that it had “lost its meaningful connection with the general public”.

“We have a huge volume of Welsh writers under commission and our casting policy is to prioritise Welsh talent,” he said, adding that NTW had upped its level of production and last year employed 645 people across Wales.

Michael Sheen attends rehearsals for 'Faith Healer' on September 14, 2020
Image caption,Some say NTW has ‘lost its way’ since early hits like The Passion, which starred Michael Sheen (pictured above in 2020)

However, in reflecting upon NTW’s celebrated early years with high-profile productions such as The Passion starring Michael Sheen, he also admitted the company could do better.

“There are criticisms but I also think we’ve got a really clear direction of travel and we are doing better – but there is more we can do,” said Mr Campbell.

In addition, he spoke of “a really exciting programme of work coming” but conceded that without the funding NTW would not be able to continue far into next year.

But while ACW said the theatre’s application for continued funding “did not convince”, not all from its ranks were in agreement.

Speaking in October, former ACW chairman Dai Smith described the funding cut as “cultural vandalism”.

He said the six principles on which the ACW had decided applications for funding was “more socially and ethically driven than culturally and artistically”.

Mr Smith added: “It’s muddle headed, it’s stupid, but above all it is actually destroying what I call one of the cultural pillars of Welsh life. If it’s ailing a bit then let us get it better.”

ACW it said it had “agreed unanimously” that there were “no material factors” to warrant the review and reassessment of NTW’s funding application.

It said its assessment process had been followed “in full” and that, in a direct response to NTW, it had provided the specific reasons for its decision.

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