Swansea Council – Cultural Services Statement
In Wales, across the UK and all over the world, people have been demonstrating their outrage about the killing of George Floyd. Swansea Council condemns racist oppression and violence in all its forms. We acknowledge that urgent action is needed to address and erase systemic racism and inequality in our society and our public institutions.
We want to assure you that we take this matter extremely seriously.
Our staff are committed to reviewing the work we are currently doing, particularly within Swansea’s cultural venues, to change the embedded bias, both conscious and unconscious, in order to eradicate racism and allow equality to flourish.
Our staff across departments have begun to take steps in further addressing racial inequality in our workforce, our events, exhibitions, performances as well as our outreach and learning programmes. We want to review the city’s public statues our archives, collections and future commissions and acquisitions.
We are aware that change is needed urgently, and that we will do all we can to move as swiftly as possible. Some things can be done quickly; others will need more time, research, more education and understanding but we are absolutely committed to this. We know that culture and the arts are able to bring people together to share ideas, to discuss, debate, exchange and create new ways of working and living together. The Councils’ museums, galleries, theatres and venues are working together with our schools, universities, the arts sector and the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government, but most importantly with our local communities, we can help create positive change throughout our city and our wider society.
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery
We feel that it is important to share the steps we have begun to take in further addressing racial inequality within our organisation and how we can make positive changes to our ways of working, our public programmes and our permanent collections, in order to eradicate racism across every area of our work and allow equality to flourish
- We have set up a series of meetings within the team, its staff, its learning and engagement advisory panel and wider community groups to proactively address these issues. We will continue this work online during lockdown.
- We are examining the ways we currently work and all of our policies – acquisitions, exhibitions, learning, employment, volunteering.
- We also want to hear your thoughts, experiences and ideas, and will invite you to a series of discussions so that your experiences, thoughts and criticisms can be heard and acted upon. (We will hold these discussions at the gallery once the gallery re-opens post Covid lockdown, or possibly online depending on timelines).
- We are acutely aware that the way our permanent collection is displayed, interpreted, the way the story of Glynn Vivian and family is currently told is wholly inadequate. Like many galleries and cities built on the fortunes of colonialism in the 19th and 20th century across the UK, the Vivians’ wealth was made through the manufacturing industry, which in turn was dependent on the violence and oppression of many, for the wealth of few. We will be holding meetings, consultations, running seminars to consider this and the wider issue of de-colonisation of collections.
- We are currently reviewing our acquisition policies. We want to ensure that from now on, when we acquire artwork we include the work of Black artists in our collection as well as other excluded groups. We want to ensure we make the necessary policy changes to enable this.
- We are reviewing all temporary exhibitions, processes and policies as a matter of urgency. Whilst we have always cared deeply about ensuring equality across our exhibitions we know we can do so much more to ensure that we reflect and represent the whole of our communities.
- We are passionate about participation, learning and outreach. Through our learning, engagement and outreach programmes, we attempt to encourage inclusion and participation with people from all different backgrounds, races, religions and those with different needs and abilities.
- We want to look at ways in which we can offer communities, groups, arts activists to use the rooms we have available for hire free of charge to enable further meetings, discussions to dismantle systemic racism.
- We want to support artists whose work deals with and tackles some of the most important issues of our time – systemic racism, environmental issues, poverty and capitalism, as we understand its power to contribute to societal change.
- We are reviewing our shop and asking how the products we sell, the companies we support, can be part of these positive changes.
- Review all employment, volunteer and internship programmes to ensure equality of opportunity and engagement.
The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery is part of Swansea Council and a Cultural Services venue. Our commitment supports the wider Cultural Services Strategy for the city.
Statement of Intent
We in Swansea are proud of our diversity which we regard as a source of cultural, social and economic strength. We will work vigorously to ensure equality of opportunity for all, and enshrine the principle that access to and participation in culture is a fundamental human right, not a privilege.
We will pursue a diverse range of cultural activity that represents and meets the needs of all sectors of the community, taking steps to satisfy the needs of people with Protected Characteristics – age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex and sexual orientation – as well as those living at economic disadvantage where these are different from the needs of other people.”
Steps we have taken so far across Cultural Services include:
Adopt the Diversity Pledge;
We have previously undertaken a long-term programme of work to diversify our audiences and create a safe and welcoming environment for all our communities. This came from our participation in a pan European programme to embed access to culture in our city’s policies. The consultation and development of partnerships that came from this work highlighted the lack of diversity in our cultural provision, as producers or audiences and our commitment to address this is outlined in our Diversity Pledge, which is ready for adoption. It is a success story of partnership working with a range of communities and ensures recognition of the changes that need to be made to enable individual rights, responsibilities and abilities are understood and supported so as to foster greater involvement of all our community in our cultural life.
Progress the Cultural and Digital Hub at Swansea’s Grand Theatre;
We have created a new space for diverse arts in Swansea Grand Theatre. The new space will run alongside the existing auditorium and theatre offer, focusing on new work that highlights and celebrates the diversity of our wider community; providing community café and relevant advice on race matters; inclusion; hate crime; equality and cohesion.
Undertake a Place, Cultural Infrastructure, Heritage, Monuments and Collections Review;
We have begun a complete review of our collections; commissioning priorities; place making and heritage markers, with immediate effect, so that we may better understand current practice and make informed recommendations for change:
- Historic references placed in context. Examples are the Hafod Copperworks and art collections of the Museum, Archives and Glynn Vivian Gallery. New learning and exhibition programmes are developing around contextualising ownership, history and responsibility for the future. The 2021 City of Culture bid drew on these references and contained some interesting projects that can be considered for delivery in the next year.
- Commissioning and Curatorial strategies and priorities for programming and contemporary arts commissions; drawing on our excellent partnership working with Race Council Cymru and the BAME community to form a Project Board for the Hub and its position in the wider city centre ‘regeneration’;
- Archives and Local History officers to work with history groups and experts in the city to review and draft an understanding of street names – public places – monuments and artefacts in the public realm for a new historical record, and possible reconsideration.
- The previous audit of public arts, monuments and statues to be reviewed alongside the blue plaque strategy to identify and recognise the contribution for a more diverse set of individuals who reflect the principles of emancipation and equality, innovation and cohesive communities accordingly.
Deliver the City Centre Arts Strategy;
We are delivering the arts strategy for the city centre regeneration, which is a key foundation of the future use of public space in Swansea. The commissions will blend historical knowledge and awareness with contemporary usage of public spaces, buildings and provide inspirational installations that look to the future. The strategy seeks to ensure our public spaces, history and cultural references reflect our Diversity Pledge.
Review, redraft and adopt the Cultural Development Framework
In light of all the above, our commitment to Agenda21 Culture in Sustainable Cities, partnerships and diversity, it is timely to review and redraft the Cultural Development Framework priorities. As a key corporate document positioned to deliver the Council’s regeneration and inclusion agenda, it will enable a further structural and systemic commitment to understanding our cultural heritage and the contribution of all our communities to our place making and cultural development.