The recent Sites of Inclusion project, which has been successfully completed by the Romani Cultural & Arts Company (RCAC), and was presented on Monday 24th October 2022 at the Riverfront Arts Centre, and looked at the participation and inclusion of Romani and Traveller people in the arts sector in Wales. The work was funded and commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales (ACW), as a way of understanding when and how Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities engaged with arts, performance and culture more generally. The ACW wanted to find ways in which communities beyond the current, more familiar audience for arts and culture could be reached, with a mind to engaging more people from more diverse backgrounds being included in the production and consumption of arts in Wales. Promoting inclusive and representative audiences, artists and performers is being driven by the the Welsh government’s objective of making Wales an anti-racist society by the year 2030 (https://gov.wales/introduction-anti-racist-wales-html).
Romani Cultural & Arts Company’s project carried out research amongst venues, theatres, galleries, and performance spaces, to establish a clearer picture of who was using these, from the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities, and when. The results were a clear indication that the arts and culture sectors in Wales, as far as Romani and Traveller people are concerned, were largely perceived as for others and not for them. Particular occasions when Gypsies, Travellers, and Roma people are invited and encouraged to participate are those organised by the Third Sector, such as Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month, and the gala event at St David’s Hall, during the month of June, organised by the RCAC. This is an annual celebration of Romani and Traveller culture that is well attended by schools and educators, but little engaged with from the arts and culture sectors, for whom such festivals and celebrations remain part of the ‘ethnic’ and ‘other’ calendar in the year, but are not perceived to be a part of the mainstream work of venues and arts spaces, that continue to reflect a particular vision of culture in Wales.
Funding was another area explored in the project, in particular how mechanisms such as grant-aid are currently used and how they might be deployed more diversely to encourage participation and inclusion. Schools support for artist and performers to deliver workshops in Welsh education included the stipulation that applicants be Welsh-speaking, a condition that effectively excluded communities that may have other linguistic backgrounds such as Romani, Urdu, Turkish, or Slovak, for example. Recognising the diversity of languages and dialects spoken by the population in Wales would be a way of encouraging the inclusion of the widest possible community, rather than just the majority. The linguistic heritage of Welsh Romani and Traveller communities is part of this picture of diversity that reflects the extraordinary mosaic of language, faith, and ethnicity, including Gypsy, Roma, Traveller populations, that exists in modern Wales.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work on such an important and timely project. I hope that its influence will be felt far and wide across the arts sector.” Dr Daniel Baker
“The Romani Cultural & Arts Company has explored a topic that has long been neglected, the exclusion of other non-dominant communities from the arts, culture, and performance sectors in Wales. At a time when elsewhere in the U.K. the arts and culture institutions and organisations are making efforts to reflect the richness and depth of the whole population, the sector in Wales seems locked into an older model of promoting a unitary identity that largely ignores the fundamental changes that migration, a constant factor in the country since the arrival of the Celts in pre-history BCE, have brought to Welsh society. As a Welsh-born Romany, I encourage people to recognise that Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities are part of this diversity, as are other minority ethnic communities, and have added their unique voice to Welsh culture and arts in many ways, not least in the field of traditional harp music, dance and performance.” Dr Adrian Marsh, Researcher in Romani Studies
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