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Welsh Arts Critics’ Development Programme (2009)

The Welsh Arts Critics’ Exchange Programme, a Visiting Arts programme run in partnership with Wales Arts International and British Council, and supported as part of Wales activities in Washington, DC by the Welsh Assembly Government, took place in Cardiff in May and in Washington, DC in June 2009.

The programme concluded in Washington DC with a media event at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on The National Mall. All six participants took part in a roundtable discussion, chaired by programme co-ordinator Linda Christmas. The discussion ranged from reasons for participating, key impressions from visiting each others’ countries, notable learning outcomes, as well as the role of arts criticism in society today.

Here is a selection of sound-bites from that discussion:

Background on arts criticism in Wales

We are really lacking in a creative vibrant discourse of the arts in Wales at the moment. So I wanted to be part of that, and to be part of creating not just the volume but the quality of the writing.
Siân Melangell Dafydd

The problem we have in Wales is describing ourselves because there isn’t much discourse regarding the arts and not much criticism either and I think that is one of the things we should be doing more of – looking at ourselves and at the work produced … looking at it critically and using that criticism to develop stronger arts.
Karen Owen


Impressions of Wales

I had no idea how musical and poetic a culture it was until I went over.
Rebecca J. Ritzel

To me it just demonstrated the conviction the Welsh people have for their poetry, their craft, for their traditions – it was an example of how important the arts are to them.
David MacFadden-Elliott (referring to the non-chairing of the Bard at the Urdd Eisteddfod)


Learning Outcomes

I come from this project thinking a different way … it opened doors in my mind and my imagination about the way we respond to different arts and how important the arts are to understanding cultures and bringing down divides.
Karen Owen

It was quite important that I got my writerly butt kicked by a Guardian music critic, and I deserved it.
Rebecca J. Ritzel

I have so much confidence now after two weeks … I think one of the most important things I’ve learnt is to know your own voice and listen to your own judgement.
Menna Machreth Jones

The most important thing for me was learning to trust my own instincts, and with that one voice there is a chorus of other voices now, of international writers and artists along with my mentors from before, whose voices I hear as I am writing.
Ashley Lindstrom

My writing has got stronger and I remain committed to covering other cultures outside my own region.
David MacFadden-Elliott

I think one of the really valuable things that all three of us will take back is a confidence and an approach to write both positive and negative things but in a creative way.
Siân Melangell Dafydd