Wales arts project aims to empower diverse talent

By Nicola Smith
BBC Wales News

Published
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A new year-long project hopes to improve diversity in the arts in Wales.

A project to develop 20 producers and directors from diverse backgrounds has been launched to help make a "seismic shift" in the arts.

Arise - Wales Creatives will offer the paid mentoring sessions to people at an early stage in their career.

The project is being run by the Fio Theatre company, in partnership with the Wales Millennium Centre.

Fio artistic director Sita Thomas said: "We really want to get those people in positions of power."

"We are here to make a seismic shift in the cultural sector in Wales. Arise - Wales Creatives is just one of the ways we're going to make that change happen," she added.

She said the project was open to anyone "who's not currently really leading the sector", whether it was on the grounds of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, were Welsh speakers or who came from a disadvantaged background.

'I can't wait'

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Branwen said the idea came about in May 2021

Wales Millennium Centre producer Branwen Jones said the idea began back in May 2021.

"A lot of the conversations we were having with artists and freelancers around that time was: 'How do we come back from our quiet time during the pandemic to change the industry, and what change do we want to see?'"

She said they wanted to "address the inequality and lack of diversity that currently exists within the arts in Wales", and it was "really important to us to widen the pool of artists that we are going to work with in future, for the sake of the industry in Wales".

She added the "most exciting outcome" would be to have "20 new people that are working in Wales and have confidence and have experience and connections then, to continue creating beyond the programme".

The monthly mentoring and masterclasses sessions will run from May for a year.

"I can't wait to see who we get on our first cohort," added Ms Jones.

"We have some really fantastic mentors, workshop leaders, facilitators lined up for the 12 month programme and I think being able to see those germs of ideas develop between people and conversations sparking will be a really exciting part of the process."

The 10 directors and 10 producers will create audio dramas and a festival takeover at Wales Millennium Centre's Weston Studio.

Changing the face of theatre

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Tia says there are "not a lot of people who look like me and share the same experiences as me"

Tia Camilleri, 17, took part in a project run by Fio last summer called Landing Bolts, which encouraged young people to express themselves through drama, dance and art.

It introduced her to a "creative passion" for poetry and performance which can "send a message to people that can be powerful".

Tia now works with Fio and said projects such as Arise - Wales Creatives were important to her.

"I do feel underrepresented, especially in the arts," said Tia.

"There's not a lot of people who look like me and share the same experiences as me, who have power in the art industry, so it gives me a lot of hope that now people my age and younger will be able to look at this industry and think 'wow, there is a place for me here' and they can look up to people who represent them."

'Emboldened and fearless'

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Jasmine says such projects were very rare when she was starting her career

Fio producer Jasmine Okai said: "This project is very important to me because when I was starting my career, these projects and schemes were very few and far between."

She added that a metric of success for her would be "seeing more of those early career creatives taking that step and becoming emboldened and fearless in the art they want to create and making those opportunities available for other people".

"It's really about passing it on as well and changing the face of theatre in Wales," added Jasmine.

Participants will also collaborate with performance designers from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Applications close on 4 April.

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