Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

18 April 2013

Aberystwyth Arts Centre is Wales’ largest and most dynamic arts centre and it is recognised as a ‘national flagship for the arts’. Since it opened its doors for the first time 40 years ago it has been both an integral part of Aberystwyth University and a valued venue for the community. There is absolutely no intention to close the Centre and there are no plans to radically change its use to alienate or exclude any members of the community. The University is fully committed to the Arts Centre and the excellent programme of performances and events it offers.

The University is currently undertaking an investigation into events that took place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre in February and issues arising from them. Since the investigation is on-going the University will not comment on its nature, neither will it comment on any member of staff who may be involved.

However, it is important to establish that this investigation has nothing whatsoever to do with any alleged restructuring of the Arts Centre. The University strongly disputes the assertion of the creator of the petition that the Arts Centre is threatened by “heavy-handed restructuring” and “asset stripping”.  These suggestions are totally unfounded and have needlessly caused great consternation and worry to many of the supporters and users of the Arts Centre and to members of our staff.

The University appreciates and echoes many of the positive comments users and friends of the Arts Centre have made in the press, with their signatures on the petition, and on social media. The University is wholly committed to the use of the Arts Centre by the public and for the local community, and there are no plans to reduce public access to the Arts Centre – quite the converse.

In fact, over the past 5 years, the University has provided £5.1m from its core budget towards day to day running and capital infrastructure costs of the Arts Centre. The University greatly values the additional funding made available by our partners, particularly the Arts Council for Wales; but this internal investment of over £1m per year reflects the importance of the Arts Centre as a key part of the University’s public and community engagement programme.

There has been much speculation about two members of the University’s staff. The University has a duty of care to all its staff and it takes this obligation very seriously. Aberystwyth University has not confirmed or denied alleged suspension of staff in any public statement or to any press or media, and will not do so.  The University does its utmost to ensure that staffing matters remain completely confidential at all times and has a general  policy not to make public any information relating to individuals.  It remains resolutely committed to this and therefore will not be drawn into any discussion regarding members of University staff.

In general terms, and for clarification, if a member of our staff were suspended, this would be precautionary and allow everyone the space and time to establish the facts behind any issues that may have arisen. Staff on suspension continue to be employees for whom we have a duty of care. Working together with individuals we would follow our clear and agreed procedure to investigate issues, as this offers the best opportunity for the facts to be established.

There are long established, clear and transparent processes to follow if any member of staff were to be suspended, processes that have been agreed with our recognised trades unions. It is not possible to give a precise timescale for any such investigations as they are approached on a case by case basis. Whilst the University aims to complete the work as quickly as possible, all investigations must be undertaken in as thorough and comprehensive a fashion as possible, so as to ensure the fairest possible outcome.

It is standard practice for neither employer nor employee to comment during the course of an investigation.

If any member of staff were to be suspended, this would always be in response to evidence or allegations about that individual which need to be investigated. Under the University's processes and procedures, no suspension could take place purely as a response to organisational change.

Strategic Plan 2013-16
The University has been working towards the launch of the Arts Centre’s new Strategic Plan for 2013-16 at the end of April; however, in view of current public concern, publication of the Strategic Plan has now been brought forward. It is already available to members of the Arts Centre staff and available online at   http://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/strategic-plan-2013-2016

The new Strategic Plan is the work of the Arts Centre Director, Mr Alan Hewson and his senior team. It has been a year in the making, and has been made possible by the input of a range of people and organisations that are committed to the future success of the Arts Centre as the premier arts venue in Wales, and one of the most successful and vibrant in the UK.

Approved by the University’s Council at its March 2013 meeting, it sets out clearly the Arts Centre’s vision and values that enable it to make an important and valued contribution to the Arts for the town of Aberystwyth, the region, Wales, the UK and internationally. It underlines the Arts Centre’s commitment to impact positively on communities through active participation in the arts, as well as to extend and strengthen community involvement and public engagement.

Significant contributions were made to the document by the Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s Advisory Board, which was established in the summer of 2012. The Advisory Board includes representatives of key stakeholders, and independent individuals who are respected and experienced arts professionals.

Financial contribution to the Arts Centre
The University has provided £5.1 million from our core budget to the Arts Centre over the past 5 years to cover the running costs and contribute to capital investment. This is in addition to the highly valued funding from key funders and stakeholders, as well as the ticket sales to audiences who attend the wonderful range of performances and the unique retail and café outlets.

Of the £1 million provided by the University every year, £700,000 keeps the Arts Centre running and £340,000 goes towards capital improvements. The University takes ownership of the risk each year that the Arts Centre’s income may fall. This reflects the University’s commitment to ensuring that the Arts Centre remains a vibrant, community-focussed facility, and the continuation of its excellent programme of performances and events.

Institute of Literature, Languages and Creative Arts
From August 1st, 2013, the Arts Centre will become part of the Institute of Literature, Languages and Creative Arts. A major component of the University’s five year strategic plan, the new interdisciplinary Institutes will strengthen the coordination of activities across the University’s departments, centres and research units; develop high-level leadership opportunities; permit the devolution of budgets and decision-making; and allow for a common set of expectations in services and support across the University.

Under the new structure, every department, including the Arts Centre, will maintain their identity and will still have a Head or Director as appropriate. Professor Sarah Prescott will head up the new Institute of Literature, Languages and Creative Arts which also comprises Theatre, Film and Television Studies, English and Creative Writing, the School of Art, Welsh, European Languages and the Music Centre.

The creation of the new Institutes has been consulted on very fully within the University and staff and students have been invited to contribute as departments, groups or individuals. Consultation meetings have been held over a full year, with some taking place in the Arts Centre.

In November 2012, the University’s Senate and then Council, unanimously supported the plans, which create the right conditions for delivery of the University’s ambitious Strategic Plan targets.

The change will benefit the Arts Centre’s artistic programme, its work with students and staff, whilst also providing a creative and inspiring environment for artists, performers and members of the public.

To be clear, there is absolutely no intention to close the Arts Centre and there are no plans to radically change its use, to reduce the number or range of events, or to restrict access to any members of the community. The University is fully committed to the Arts Centre and the excellent programme of performances and events it offers.