Would you like to see more art on display around Splott? Are you creative; would you like more local opportunities to take part in creative activities? Should Splott have an arts centre or cultural quarter? A group of residents recently said yes to all of these questions and set up the Splott Cultural Group to do something about it.
Although home to more than 13,000 residents, many of whom work in the arts, culture and wider creative industries, Splott currently lacks regular, high quality opportunities for people to see and participate in arts and cultural activity.
Where other areas in Cardiff have a building dedicated to cultural provision, the Splott Cultural Group wants to create a new model for Splott – one that utilises existing spaces and reaches out into all corners of the community.
By creating an accessible and inclusive programme of arts and cultural events and activities they aim to improve community cohesion and increase pride in the local area. The group also hopes to create opportunities for people to learn new skills and share experiences that enrich and add value to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
The group is looking for volunteers to join and help make this idea a reality. If you would like to sign up or find out more, click on the link to the volunteer form at the end of this article.
Here is the vision and strategy for an arts and cultural programme for Splott, developed by the group:
We will create an arts and cultural programme in Splott that will foster, share, strengthen and celebrate a culture of creativity in the local community. Utilising a range of existing spaces, Splott will be recognised as a place where you can make, see, do and share creative things and where the arts and culture are used to meet some of the challenges faced by the local area.
To make this a reality, there are three key areas of work to be done:
- See – Providing opportunities for the local community to see and experience high quality, arts and cultural activity in their community.
- Do – Providing the local community with opportunities to take part in high quality cultural activity and experiences.
- Make – Creating new opportunities for local and visiting artists to make work for, with and in the local community.
Splott currently lacks a regular, high quality artistic programme or opportunities for people to participate in arts and cultural activity. While the area is home to a large number of practicing artists and arts administrators – and the birthplace of people like Peter Gill and Dannie Abse to name but two – to date, a cohesive approach to bringing people and programming together hasn’t materialised.
Spaces, not space…
Unlike Roath (The Gate), Canton (Chapter) and Grangetown (Tramshed), the lack of a physical cultural space – a place for people to congregate, to see, make and participate in the arts and a programme around which the community to gather – could be cited as one reason for this.
However, this approach – building based – may not be wholly appropriate, either for the area or in the current financial climate. By making use of a range of existing spaces, we believe that Splott and its neighbouring areas can use a cultural programme to brighten, save and regenerate the spaces it already has.
This approach will mean that we’re able to be more dynamic and flexible in the way that we approach our programme, whilst unlocking the potential in the many unused and underutilised buildings and public spaces. It also means creating work in spaces where audiences feel comfortable, that they’re happy and able to access.
The ongoing demolition or neglect of suitable spaces for this sort of activity is creating a very real risk that we may end up with a lack of resources that would support the arts and culture. The University Settlement on Courteney Road and former Mecca Bingo on Splott road are just two examples of spaces that would have lent themselves to this sort of activity. The closure of Roath Library and impending closure of the Star Centre (despite the new community hub in Tremorfa) are also indicative of the removal of cultural opportunities.
We believe that this model may also allow us to prevent, or at least, delay, the loss of important spaces within the area.
The arts and culture as a driver for social change…
Given the high levels of unemployment, the lack of a consistent arts and cultural programme is all the more important. As the Welsh Government’s own website points out, when describing Baroness Andrews 2013 report on Culture and Poverty:
“…museums, libraries, archives, historic monuments and arts organisations are key resources to inspire people to learn and gain skills. They can help individuals and communities develop confidence and a sense of identity. The report made a compelling case for all involved to make a concerted effort to work together more effectively to maximise the benefits cultural participation can have for those living in our most deprived communities”
There are a huge number of social outcomes that this work could create. While we aren’t at this stage setting out specific social impact goals, just by creating a programme of activity we would hope to improve community cohesion and increase pride in the local area, look to create opportunities for people to learn new skills and share experiences that enrich and add value to their physical and emotional wellbeing. In time, we could look to a more specific programme of work that targets specific challenges within the area and uses the arts and creativity to tackle them.
In the spirit of collaboration, the following people have been involved in the creation of this strategy (to date):
Rob Ashelford, Sarah Gilbert, Jon Pountney, Tabitha Milne, Antony Owen-Hicks, Louise Wright, Sean Tuan John, Jess Hoare, Julian Sykes, Alison John, Jennifer Stoves, Catrin Edwards, Iain Claridge, Lydia Meehan, Hannah Wynn Jones, Lynne Thomas.
Can you help? Click on this link to sign up: http://goo.gl/forms/GTPjevt5oVqaelK92
Do you have an idea for the group?
Is there a blank wall near where you live that’s crying out for a mural? Is there a particular activity that you would like to see happen in Splott? Please let the group know by using the comment function below.