A Partial Context
Occurring within a specific Welsh context, this work is informed by a significant recent history of participatory and site-specific traditions in Wales that can be traced back to companies such as Moving Being, the Cardiff Laboratory Theatre, Brith Gof and Volcano Theatre Company. Operating in the 1970s and 1980s, these companies sought to question fixed notions of identity in Wales by developing art works in unusual locations outside of traditional arts venues. These practices, which paved the way for understandings of site-specificity within a Welsh and international context, have been extended by a subsequent generation of artists whose work can be understood through the frame of place, site, participation and relationality. These artists include Simon Whitehead, Eddie Ladd, Good Cop Bad Cop, Marc Rees, Jony Easterby et al.
In recent years, National Theatre Wales (NTW 2010-present) has drawn upon and re-motivated these practices in order to produce a new model of national theatre. NTW’s national theatre is not housed in the nation’s capital, nor does it seek to uphold or reflect a uniform Welsh national identity. It is instead committed to facilitating a subjective questioning of what it means to live and work in Wales in the early years of the 21st Century. This has been achieved by staging what can be described as participatory performances in locations throughout the nation.
In its launch year, NTW created a Theatre Map of Wales. This map was comprised of thirteen performances in as many unusual and traditional theatrical sites throughout the nation over the course of a calendar year, March 2010 – April 2011. These works ranged from site-specific installation, to immersive gaming experiences and traditional stage plays. Each work of performance aimed to explore the theme of location, and together these works, and the conversations that emerged out of them, produced the company’s Theatre Map of Wales.
Tom Payne’s PhD, which explored this year of work through practice, provides a theoretical and methodological framework for NTW’s endeavour that indicates ways in which the structural frame for its Theatre Map of Wales could be applied to limited location, with the explicit aim of exploring themes associated with sustainability and climate change. By drawing upon this participatory framework, our year of work, and our structural approach to the creation of our Water Map, can be understood to emerge from a specific Welsh context, while at the same time, our approach is rooted in wider theoretical and practical discourses associated with arts participation.
In addition to the work of NTW, a wide range of artists living and working in Wales are engaged in practices related to sustainability. The work of a number of these artists can be found in the recent Emergence Culture Shift report, How Artists are Responding to Sustainability in Wales (2014). These practices share similarities with NTW, in that participation and relationality are recurrent themes, however, many of these artists are operating at the edges of the mainstream or in non-professional contexts. The Emergence report, which was commissioned by the Arts Council for Wales, doesn’t reference many artists in our case study area. There is therefore an opportunity to draw from and extend this work through the Cymerau project, with the explicit aim of bringing the work of artists in our area to the attention of one another and those responsible for Arts governance in Wales.
 See http://nationaltheatrewales.org/about
 See http://www.emergence-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/CULTURE-SHIFT-Report.pdf