Wales politics

'Putting on plays' not enough to ease Welsh poverty, says Michael Sheen

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Media captionBaroness Kay Andrews compiled a report about how engaging with culture can reduce poverty

Hollywood star Michael Sheen has said plans to use culture to eradicate poverty in Wales do not go far enough.

In seven "Pioneer Areas" the Welsh government is to work with councils, community groups and arts organisations to bring culture to the disadvantaged.

But Mr Sheen told BBC Wales "you can't just bring people out of poverty by putting on plays".

Deputy Culture Minister Ken Skates said involvement in arts and culture "boosts self-esteem and confidence".

The Port Talbot-raised actor told Sunday Politics Wales: "You can certainly make people aware of the issues, you can make sure people have the ability to empathise with other people's situations and hopefully inspire people, but ultimately it's the policy makers that are going to have to make the difference".

Responding to a report by Baroness Kay Andrews, on how engaging with culture can reduce poverty, Mr Skates said Pioneer Areas would seek to "realise the core vision set out in the report".

The areas are likely to be Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Torfaen, Gwynedd and Wrexham.

Mr Skates said "physical access" problems or "psychological barriers" stopped people in the most deprived communities enjoying arts and cultural activities.

"We want to tear down those barriers and open the doors to every possibility in terms of arts and culture for those people who have thus far been excluded or felt excluded", he said.

Image caption Ken Skates says it is right to concentrate on helping the least well off

But the Welsh Local Government Association wants a commission to make an "urgent re-evaluation of what local councils can realistically be expected to deliver in such a challenging economic climate".

"Local councils face an unprecedented level of pressure on their budgets, and many of Wales' discretionary but highly valued cultural services are having to pay the price," it warned.

Welsh ministers have been criticised for focussing on arts provision for the least well-off when cuts to services are making it harder for everyone to access culture.

Viv Buckley, artistic director of the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre Company, which has lost a significant amount of local government funding, said: "We as a group work to try and increase the skills sector that we have in Wales and if the funding and all of the work is going to be focussed on more underprivileged young people, what happens to your middle of the road young people?"

However Mr Skates said ministers made "no apology for concentrating our efforts on people who right now are suffering the most".

Sunday Politics Wales is broadcast on BBC One Wales at 11:00 GMT on Sunday 30th November

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