In the second part of their article about resilience and the arts, Sadia Pineda Hameed and Beau W Beakhouse suggest ways the industry can move forward.
The first part of the article is available here and in the Welsh agenda 65.
Accountability is complex in the Welsh context.
Publishers are intrinsically tied into the wider framework of Wales’ literary scene.
Together with awards, competitions, partnerships with major funders, academic-led creative journals and international translation networks; the same gatekeepers hold the master key.
And it makes sense why those who are critical of, yet work within, the sector struggle to seek accountability for its exclusionary structures: because it will reflect badly on the entire scene.
Even if there was a functional process for accountability, funders have a vested interest in keeping institutions and organisations resilient, often making further resources available in order to help those same organisations ‘improve’. But the reality is, they do not deserve that.
There are grassroots organisations that know how to treat people equitably and have the ambition – they just lack the necessary resources.
And yet, we continue to over-resource those demonstrably failing so that they can ‘learn’; a process that continually and systematically fails to achieve results, whereby the only solution, dismantling, is not possible because it contradicts the reformist model of ‘resilience’.
“This ‘new generation’ is reimagining the way things are… real sustainability will come when they are granted the same autonomy afforded to insitutitions.”
There needs to be a redefinition of resilience. Rather than maintaining positions, it should instead mean sustaining communities’, audiences’ and creatives’ engagement with literature through equitable, fluid and non-hierarchical practice.
There are young people in the industry who are proposing new models of equity and ways of working.
These involve collaboration, co-mentorship, cooperation, resource sharing and mutual support; and the priority should be to give those people the resources to implement the models they have been developing for a long time.
Existing organisations and funding bodies should be working out ways to enable not just individual opportunities, but autonomy – including self-representation and the redistribution of funding away from established centres and towards a non-extractive and decentralised model of the arts.
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Existing in Wales is a contemporary literary scene that offers real support and advocacy for every kind of writer or performer, despite its lack of resourcing: open mics, small independent presses and literary magazines, and non-extractive workshops within communities are all forming a wider network of young and radical artists that the institutions do not yet recognise.
This ‘new generation’ is reimagining the way things are; and though many must continue to apply for small pots of funding, real sustainability will come when they are granted the same autonomy afforded to insitutitions in the current structure.
Insistent to speak on their own terms, there is a plethora of not only writing but multi-disciplinary work being produced due to a developing environment of shared resources, mutual support and a genuine openness toward expression.
“When the literary landscape looks nothing like it did a year ago, it will signify real and necessary change.”
In this collectivising there is solidarity; the Literature Wales-supported project Hunan-Iaith sees young Welsh-language writers and writers of colour develop a decolonised Welsh glossary, in collaboration with Y Stamp and open mic collective Where I’m Coming From; people of colour led magazines are receiving small grants from the Books Council of Wales to establish new presses like Lucent Dreaming and LUMIN Press to widen the publishing options; and demands for dismantling are being made by artists such as those within the Welsh Arts Anti Racist Union; and arts funding is reaching community projects in a meaningful way, as is the case with Aubergine Cafe’s creative workshops and some of Literature Wales’ recent commissions.
There are many more initiatives that are disestablishing the traditional structures of the arts that are all doing the work institutions systematically fail at.
Funders must fully commit to resourcing the ‘new generation’ on their terms; in line with Wales’ commitments in the Well-being of Future Generations Act, Arts Council Wales’ Corporate Plan 2018–23: For the Benefit of All, and Literature Wales’ Strategic Plan 2019–2022 (all of which lay an emphasis on undefined resilient approaches).
Resistance reimagines the dichotomy of ‘central vs marginal’ to enable new ideas and dismantle old hierarchies; and suddenly, this awakens a new understanding of the printed page and the supposedly neutral white space that surrounds it.
When the literary landscape looks nothing like it did a year ago, it will signify real and necessary change.
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