Huw David Jones reports on the next month’s Cyfrwng Media Wales Conference in Cardiff
A debate on the future of S4C, an interview with acclaimed Welsh film-director Marc Evans, and keynote lectures on Ken Loach, Richard Burton and the new National Theatres of Wales and Scotland are some of the highlights of this year’s Cyfrwng Media Wales Conference at the University of Glamorgan Atrium Building in Cardiff in June.
Cyfrwng, now in its seventh year, provides an annual forum for media academics and industry professionals to discuss the latest research on film, television, new media, journalism, theatre and performance studies in Wales. This year’s event, which has been organised by the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations, has a distinctly international flavour, with speakers from Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Canada and New Zealand, as well as Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The programme features 30 presentations over two days on topics ranging from media policy, to audience research, to the portrayal of small nations in theatre, film and television. There is also a series of industry panels in which media professionals discuss the latest trends in new social media, BBC drama and Welsh language broadcasting.
The international dimension to this year’s conference provides an opportunity for the Welsh media industry to learn from the experiences of other small nations. David Hutchison, Professor of Media Policy at the Caledonian Business School, will be discussing developments in media and broadcasting policy in Scotland since devolution in 1999. He will focus on the SNP’s recent Scottish Broadcasting Commission, which recommended the creation of a pan-Scottish digital channel. Other speakers assess the policy landscape in Iceland, Slovenia, Macedonia, Greece and New Zealand, as well as the Spanish Autonomous Communities of Asturias, Catalonia and the Basque Country.
There will also be a chance to discuss how small nations can sustain a viable media industry in the current economic climate. John Newbigin, the new chair of the regional film agency Creative England, will be delivering his keynote lecture on how small nations win in the global creative economy. A former special advisor to Labour Cultural Secretary Chris Smith, Newbigin was one of the first to spot the economic potential of what are now known as ‘the creative industries’. He bases his argument on over 20 years experience as a cultural entrepreneur, working for companies like Channel 4 and Culture24.
One of the big talking points of the last 12 months has, of course, been the turbulent events at S4C. Cyfrwng will be hosting a special roundtable discussion on the future of S4C with academic experts and industry insiders. It will be a chance to debate how the troubled broadcaster should adapt to the challenges of the digital age, while trying to maintain its creativity and editorial independence under its new funding arrangement with the BBC.
The conference focuses on more than television and broadcasting. Many of the papers examine theatre, film and performance as well. Nadine Holdsworth, an expert on the theatre director Joan Littlewood and playwright John McGrath, delivers a special keynote lecture on recent inventions in the theatre of small nations. John Hill, Head of Research at Royal Holloway University of London, will be discussing the work of Ken Loach. There are also presentations on Scottish theatre and the history of performance art in Wales.
Each year Cyfrwng awards a prize to someone who has made an exceptional contribution to both the media and academia in Wales. Previous winners include Peter Stead, Emyr Humphrys and Elan Clos Stephens. This year’s prize goes to the Welsh film-director Marc Evans, who is a Visiting Professor at the Cardiff School of Cultural and Creative Industries. Evans will be discussing his latest feature film, Patagonia, in a special question and answer session with Steve Blandford, the School’s Professor of Theatre, Film and Television.
The conference closes with the inaugural Dave Berry Memorial Lecture, presented by Welsh historian Chris Williams. Journalist Dave Berry was a film studies pioneer whose masterwork Wales and Cinema remains essential reading for students of Welsh film. It is highly appropriate, therefore, that Williams devotes his lecture to one of Berry’s central interests, Welsh screen legend Richard Burton.