Tuesday, December 10, 2019

In the national interest

Another weekday evening, another opportunity to take a few short steps from my office and enjoy a stimulating, thought-provoking event for free.

Last week it was Assuming Gender's Christmas lecture, which saw historian Justin Bengry of Goldsmiths talking about queer books and the early twentieth-century publishing industry - the meat of the first chapter of his forthcoming book on the emergence of the pink pound.

This week it was an event entitled The Role Of Arts And Culture In Developing Wales' International Profile, organised by the Learned Society of Wales. David Anderson, Director General of the National Museum Wales, gave the main presentation and was then part of a panel featuring representatives from the British Council Wales (Rebecca Gould) and the worlds of television (Wildflame's Llinos Griffin-Williams), publishing (Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales) and literature (poet and professor Mererid Hopwood).

Given all the talk of collaboration/co-creation, distinctive identity, the value of the Welsh language, building bridges and showcasing Wales for the wider world, it was disappointing not to have someone from the music industry on stage. Thankfully, though, Huw Stephens was on hand in the audience to point out that Welsh musicians like Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals arguably do more than those in other art forms - or indeed any arts strategist - in performing a (perhaps inadvertently) ambassadorial role promoting the country far beyond its borders. After all, Gruff Rhys inspires people to take up learning the language pretty much single-handedly.

Anyway, this seems like an opportune moment to repeat my recommendation of Stephens' film Anorac, which takes the temperature of the contemporary Welsh music scene and stresses how important it is that the current crop go further than merely preaching to the converted.

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