Nancy Sheterline and Chris France reflect on the resilience and optimism on display at Cardiff's first large in-person gathering of Welsh cultural sector professionals in 2 years.
Thoughts from Nancy, Service and Community Manager (Wales)
This year’s Creu Cymru conference felt like a reunion of sorts, the first opportunity of it’s scale for in-person sharing and learning with the people behind the scenes of Wales’ culture sector in over 2 years.
Resoundingly it was welcomed as such – a sticker chart at the exit asking for input on future events showed an undivided preference for face-to-face get togethers over online events. Saying that, it’s worth questioning whether those who couldn’t make the journey to Cardiff for the conference would agree.
The day’s programme packed a punch, kicking off with thought-provoking content from Fio, the community focussed arts project collective in Riverside, Cardiff. Particularly interesting was a panel discussion on collaboration, featuring some of the most established contributor’s to Wales’ cultural landscape (Theatr n nOg, SOAR and Citrus Arts) alongside more recent additions including Children’s Laureate Wales Connor Allen and members of Grand Ambition, the team looking to revive my home-town theatre’s producing house ambitions – and so a conversation close to my heart. Alongside the topic of collaboration, themes of widening engagement and non-tokenistic representation lead the agenda, both on stage and in conversation during networking sessions.
My lasting thought was on my own emotional response to attending a conference in person, which brought to mind parallels with the experiences of our returning cultural audiences. A forgotten familiarity, sense of belonging and reconnection. Leaving inspired, buzzing with possibilities and looking forward to the next time.
Thoughts from Chris, Head of Audience Finder Services
Going to in-person conferences again still feels strange for many of us, me included (this is my second of 2022!), but it was great to be back in Cardiff Bay for the first Creu Cymru conference since the 'before times'.
As so many conversations, experiences, and our own research attest, the performing arts sector's recovery from the pandemic is 'complex', to say the least. Though lockdowns may be over, the challenges still to overcome for many organisations are very real. And that's not just in terms of actual audiences coming through the door...
I and other members of the Audience Finder team have been surprised (until very recently that is) not to have heard many organisations mention their audiences' looming social-economic challenges as their primary 'post-covid' hurdle. But, sadly though inevitably, it feels like that is starting to change, particularly in Wales, where the sector re-opened later than elsewhere in the UK. Nonetheless, Welsh organisations are optimistically looking to face the challenge head-on, with an enthusiasm for change and progress that initially so impressed me while I was covering Nancy's maternity leave, and that continues to encourage and inspire me.
At the conference itself, seminars and conversations were themed largely around representation in local communities, the challenges of funding, and sector-wide collaboration - all of which feel very relevant to most organisations right now, wherever you are. An excellent panel discussion featuring Citrus Arts / Hopkinstown Hall, Theatr na n'og and Grand Ambition (I can only be impressed with the approach to their work) emphasised the timely nature of the topics under discussion still further. And on a personal note, although I can barely speak five words of Welsh myself, continued conversations about understanding Welsh language audiences is something I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on. Ymlaen Cymru.