Cardiff Central is very privileged to be home to the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. The college, based on the edge of Bute Park, trains hundreds of students every year in performing arts disciplines including music, acting, design and management.
I visited the college to meet new Principal Prof Helena Gaunt, along with a number of senior staff members, for a tour of the college and to find out about their work and what the future may hold.
Following the completion of a new building and atrium in 2011 – which includes a new concert hall and theatre space – the college has expanded and hosts a programme of public performances, both produced by students and from visiting professionals.
I discussed with the senior team the very important issue of cuts to music and arts education funding because of Coalition Government and Tory Government austerity, which is leaving children right across the UK with virtually no access to music at school. The knock-on effects of these cuts are already being seen with applications to the college from Wales and UK-based students down.
The Parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I am a member, is currently conducting an inquiry into the social impact of arts and culture and our findings have begun to back up these concerns from the profession that we could see a whole generation losing out.
Art and culture is also very beneficial to mental health, right from childhood to retirement, and I was pleased to hear that college staff have a lot of ideas about how to make sure their expertise can be shared with communities across Wales to ensure that arts and culture are available to everyone.
Graduates from the college can be found across film, television and theatre both here in Wales and around the world. There are currently no less than 22 graduates involved in the production of the His Dark Materials films being made in south Wales, which is a fantastic advertisement for the college.
As a long-time advocate for access to arts and culture, I will continue to campaign on behalf of organisations like RWCM&D and for arts education to be available to all young people, whatever their background.
To find out more about the college, its programmes or public performances, visit the website rwcmd.ac.uk.