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Welsh minister to sign guarantee of cultural freedom for arts groups

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Welsh culture minister Alun Pugh has promised to sign a “memorandum of understanding” guaranteeing the artistic freedom of the country’s six national arts companies which are due to be funded directly by the government from 2007.

The move is intended to defuse next week’s bid by opposition parties to block the much-opposed takeover from the Arts Council of Wales of Welsh National Opera, the National Orchestra of Wales, dance company Diversions, Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and writers’ organisation Academi.

Pugh admitted the plan faced strong opposition but pointed out that similar changes had recently been proposed in Scotland.

He told the Assembly: “I met Academi and we got down to the details of how we can guarantee artistic freedom and how that should be laid down in terms of a formal memorandum of understanding between the Assembly Government and the big six organisations. I think the Academi was happy with the assurances it will get.”

Opposition parties were sceptical about the pledge. Conservative culture spokesperson Lisa Francis said: “Having built a huge chasm between the Assembly Government and the arts community, Mr Pugh now wants to fill it with the political equivalent of candyfloss.”