The fourth ‘Breaking out of the Box’ symposium- a series of events to discuss the issue of diversity in Welsh Arts, took place at Theatre Clwyd on 16th February. Subtitled ‘Wales: a Diverse Nation?’ An access symposium’ the focus of the event centered on the question of how diverse are we, and what can we do to change things?
Opening the event was Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive, Arts Council Wales. He spoke about the history of the Arts Council and Diversity- citing reports from as far back as the 90s into the issue. He acknowledged the responsibility as a publicly funded organisation towards diversity:
"As publicly funded organisations we must be places of empathy, inclusion, community engagement, discussion as well as being sources of imaginative delight." Nick Capaldi @Arts_Wales_#DiverseWales
Capaldi also noted the need to do more to reach communities and the idea of ‘changing hearts and minds’. While this contribution from Arts Council Wales was welcome, and well intended it was let down by a lack of representation from the organisation throughout the day. The focus of the day around galvanising towards action, having an engaged representatives from the Development teams at ACW could really have helped the organisations present to make practical steps in their next projects towards diversity. We all know ACW funding is at the heart of the work made in Wales, and a level of practical support and real engagement on the day from the organisation would have made a huge difference to what could have been achieved. While Capaldi’s support was welcome, and his words supportive, it felt like a missed opportunity from ACW.
Following Capaldi, my own talk. Which focused on turning questions back on the audience to reflect on for the day.
"Our lack of diversity not being helped by a narrow focus. We can learn by examples, we can only do that by discussing it." @EmiGarside#DiverseWales
Jamie’s experiences, and the video clips he showed of projects in England he’s been a part of showed that the sky literally is the limit for what can be achieved.
Jamie was part of a couple of amazing circus projects where disabled performers worked alongside able bodied performers with no barriers or prejudice around what they were or weren’t expected to do. That this kind of work is possible can be an example for companies in Wales to aspire to.
Keen for the day to have some practical take-aways there were two workshops on accessibility led by Elise and Beth from Taking Flight Theatre Company. Elise took people through some simple steps to make a rehearsal room more inclusive, while Beth talked through making accessible marketing materials.
These practical elements were a really useful element of the day for the group-providing some tangible next steps that are relatively easy to incorporate and help slowly change the nature of diversity and accessibility.
Finally, the last two provocations of the day. Michele Taylor, Director for Change for Ramps on the Moon and critic Jafar Iqbal. Both proved to be a rousing call to action. Michele punctuated their talk with the repeated phrase ‘Seriously are we still talking about this?’ Sharing her frustration but also experience in creating active solutions through ‘Ramps on the Moon’ this was a non-nonsense call to get things done. And one which also called out well meaning sentiment with again, a call to concrete action.
Don’t describe something as “accessible” give people the specifics so they feel comfortable in your venue. #DiverseWales
Challenging all of us on everything from our choice of language to what we believe to be exclusivity Michele provoked passionate discussion about how we really enact change. There was also a clear desire from the room to mimic the ‘Ramps on the Moon’ initiative in Wales.
Finally Jafar Iqbal talked about the lack of change we’re experiencing in Wales. Criticizing those at the top for a lack of action while others repeatedly shout for change.
Drawing on his own experience as a British Asian, Iqbal has often wondered if he’s in a room to ‘tick a box’ but is also conscious that he’s benefited from that in his career. And despite personally benefiting, being conscious that this approach isn’t good enough any more.
"I had a dilemma. I was going to start saying "I'm honoured and privileged" when actually I'm not. It's 2018. In Wales. We've not done enough to sort it out." @writeofcentre#DiverseWales
Acknowledging the recent controversies in Wales, Iqbal talked about the need to change being felt across the sector, but a lack of action being taken. And actually giving us a fairly simple way to start solving these issues:
Further discussion in the room, following this final clear provocation was to that end- the time for talking (and social media debate) has passed and it’s time for action. The very clear notion however, was that this needs leadership. And that is something the movement for diversity in Wales is lacking. Not from those engaged in the arts, but from those organisations with the power and scope to be really influential in making change. And this remains a frustration.
Despite continued frustrations, it was a galvanizing and productive event. Connections between organisations developed during discussion and networking time and there seemed a real commitment to move forward from the event with a new sense of purpose.
Let’s hope that soon an event won’t be asking the question of Diversity in Wales but simply celebrating it instead.
What is wonderful about the Vault Festival is the eclectic mix of theatre and performance on show.
Last week I faced the refugee crisis and misogyny and this week, a LGBTQ+ story of change and pain.
The Poetry We Make sees the story of a loved up couple, the decline of the relationship and the change when Robin begins to realise that they are the wrong gender. Elliot struggles to face this truth and we see the decline of not only their love but their friendship, along with the questions, curiosity and frustration behind such a huge life change. And then there’s Dolly Parton – you cannot go wrong!
We affiliate so much with the characters’ – the loved up couple, their painful break up and the coping afterwards. We recognise the ladies man best friend, void of feelings for women but a laugh all the same. And Dolly Parton is there, creating comedy and musical interludes.
The performer’s bring such a honest and heartfelt approach to the characters, letting us not only relate but also question ourselves in their situations. The story is tough and it is great to see it brought to the forefront through theatre.
My only issue with this is that it is written from the perspective of Elliot. We see her decline, her pain and frustration at knowing Robin is not the gender they once were and questioning their relationship and love. I see that perhaps this highlights the issues of loved ones and even outsiders when they feel personally victimised, threatened or even frightened by something that is not ‘the norm’ and the general approach LGBTQ+ persons sometimes come accross. But at the same time I would have liked to hear more from Robin and what they were going through and their feelings.
The stage is simple yet effective; easily changed to fit the scene and does not need any huge changes to do so. The acoustics of the tunnel of the Vaults only helps to add to this vibrating feeling of a sensitive, funny and honest piece.
The Poetry We Make is heartfelt, not afraid to tell the truth but also full of comedy. A culturally significant piece of theatre.
Following on from the success of The Shires, The Wandering Hearts are surely the next big breakthrough act in the world of British Country Music. On the evidence of their debut album, Wild Silence, it would be hard to argue otherwise. The recipients of the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ at last week’s Americana Awards have produced something of incredible scope. Here are twelve tracks that seamlessly flow into one another – a musical river of harmonies carving its way through a landscape of various genres and musical arrangements. The inclusion of such a vast array of influences into their songs could so easily have gone wrong. Yet far from a cacophony of sounds, here we have an album that triumphs in the audio equivalent of cocktail making. It shakes together a number of musical ingredients to create a drink bursting with flavour. Such a diverse recipe – including folk, rock, pop, country, and bluegrass – in the wrong hands, has the potential to be a disaster. Yet The Wandering Hearts have created something that packs an authentically tasty punch. It is an incredible and delicious sound.
This four-piece group are far from one-trick ponies. The album takes us on a journey through a soundscape that twists and turns at regular intervals. It is not only between each song, but within each song too, that such changing of musical direction and pace takes place. Opening track “Rattle”, for instance, begins with the floating harmonies of Tara Wilcox and Tim Prottey-Jones. Then, with a single drumbeat, the gravelly tones of AJ Dean-Revington are introduced and we are suddenly exposed to heavily-laden rock. The switch from one style to another is unexpected. Yet it is far from disjointed or off-putting. Similarly, “Laid into the Ground” begins as a sea shanty before rising to a crescendo of electronic rock. Again, it is unexpected, but surprising alluring. It seems that The Wandering Hearts have refused to sacrifice their multifarious influences in favour of one over all others. Instead, they have sought to incorporate all of them to one degree or another. As a result, it makes for a hugely enjoyable album that defies categorisation.
An inability to generically label The Wandering Hearts makes it hard to offer up comparisons. However, as I listened to Wild Silence, I couldn’t help thinking of Rend Collective. Both band’s albums are of an eclectic nature, and there is a definite similarity between the vocals of their female leads. There is also an ethereal quality to Wild Silence that is produced in a similar way to that found on the albums of Wildwood Kin and The Pierces. In all of these cases, it is the vocal harmonies of their members that manage to evoke such a transcendent sound. Certainly, during the title track for instance, I found that I was transported out of myself somehow. Not so much ‘our only sound’ as a holy sound.
I cannot speak highly enough of The Wandering Hearts. They have produced a stunning first album that deserves to be lauded with every award going. Wild Silence blends together an assortment of styles to create something that is distinct and hugely enjoyable. It is certainly my new favourite thing. Whether you’re a lover of the great outdoors or someone who loves to party on a Friday night, you are sure to find something that fits your mood here. Wild Silence is a musical selection box, full of tasty treats. I urge you to go and unwrap it now, and experience its beautiful, almost sacred, sounds.
Pixar’s Coco reminds us that this studio and the people working in it are creating some of the best, all ages animation out there right now and for years to come. That they are able to take colour and sounds and manipulate them to craft a journeys and characters that invoke laughs and tears within us.
Opening the movie is a story of a family told to us through the visuals of cut-out flags. So the visuals and information is very clear and smoothly delivered. It begins with a father, his wife and their child living their lives, the father wants to live his life of playing music for the people, so he leaves his wife and daughter. The mother doesn’t let this get her down so she becomes a master shoemaker and bans all music from her life, which becomes the way of her family.
The mother passes on and she is remembered for their Day of The Dead. The daughter remains as the very old Coco (Ana Ofelia Muruia, who the movie is named after), she doesn’t register much and mostly just sits in her wheel-chair. The head of the family is definitely the grandmother (Renee Victor). Everyone in the family is committed to the craft of making shoes and remembers their dearly departed loved ones, except for their great-great grandfather who abandoned them. But the youngest in the family Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) loves music and wants to spend his life playing guitar and idolizes the deceased musician Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Miguel loves his family but also loves music and wont feel complete if he doesn’t pursue it. Going against his families wishes he enters a music competition, his grandmother smashed his guitar so he needs to find another, he sneaks into Ernesto’s memorial to use his, being that tonight is the Day of the Dead with one strum of the guitar Miguel is transported into the perspective of the dead.
Now his quest begins to find a way back to the land of the living before the sun rises, because if he doesn’t get out before then he’ll be stuck there forever. Through his journey he acquires companions (which must happen), there is Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) a spirit that wants to get to the world of the living to see his daughter one last time and Dante a street dog that serves as his animal guide.
To say that the movie is well animated and the textures are convincing almost seems like a given. It’s Pixar, they’ve never delivered a movie that is lackluster in terms of the visual technology. As the years proceed the technology develops the graphics become sharper and sharper. What is more important than the mere sharpness of everything is the way it is used to clearly express emotions. They way you see a character’s face have an emotion clearly expressed and then it turns to something else shows an understanding on how to convey it to an audience.
Michael Giacchino creates a rousing Latino based score. Filled with trumpets and acoustic guitars.
I wont ruin anything but he does something were a song gets played again in different context and it is a masterful use of tone. I did find it ironic that there was a musical score playing over the scenes with the family, perhaps it would be better if the scene was completely without music while with the family.
Being that the majority of the movie takes place in this land and the people in it are skeletons they truly show their ability to work within limitations. I do feel a bit weird seeing skulls express, because they cant, because of their bones. But I digress, they get a vast amount of different character designs from skulls having them all shaped differently, they have a distinctive movement and pose and work in just about all the physical jokes you can out of skeletons, jaws dropping, eyes popping out, limbs being pulled off etc.
This movie comes out so close to The Book of Life. However this also goes to show how movies can distinguish themselves from merely the concept stage.
I have seen my share of movies and am aware of most of their tricks and the way things unfold. I don’t consider myself the hardest to please but I’m not the easiest of targets. However if a movie truly invokes a reaction from me then it means it has indeed done it’s job. In this movie I laughed an appropriate amount, was rather awed by the visuals and when it got near the end I did indeed shed tears (twice). This is a sign of the movies effectiveness and sincerity with it’s material.
Coco is the story about the love from your family, perusing your goals despite the odds and living your life so that the ones that remain when your gone have something to remember. No other culture exists that is about embracing what life has to offer while being aware of it’s inevitable end, so while were all here, lets make it worth it.
It seems like 2018 is going to be another great year for new theatre in Wales. Having seen a development stage of Cwmni Pluen’s next show, I’m really looking forward to seeing a final production from them this autumn. Pluen has a definitive performance style which I’m always excited to see. They’re also working in collaboration with charities during the development of the piece which I think sets a great precedent for future companies making new work. I also can’t wait to see National Theatre Wales’ Love Letter to the NHS. While the NHS is under siege from; medical companies charging them a fortune for treatment; government cuts; surgery closures; and an all time waiting list high; it’s important more than ever to support and celebrate our National Health Service in face of adversity.
My personal hope for the year is to successfully tour Motherlode’s next production Exodus. The piece was developed in Aberdare with generous support from our long term collaborators and co producers RCT Theatres and will be part of their year long 80th birthday celebrations, which includes lots of new work by exciting artists. Exodus is also supported by Creu Cymru, Bristol Old Vic, Night Out Wales and Chapter, touring to 12 venues across Wales before running in London. Gulp… I just hope we pull it off!”
Gareth Coles, Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru
Recently I’ve been losing myself in the acoustic EPs of the guitarist Yvette Young who also writes and performs with the band Covet. She will be releasing a piano EP early this year, and having heard some snippets, I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.
On a personal creative note, I’m hoping to develop my drawing this year. I seem to have spent most of 2017 hurriedly sketching, but having developed the habit of drawing daily, it’s time I started working on some longer and more thoughtful pieces. I have also just started playing the piano again after many years’ hiatus, so I’m hoping my rusty playing will become slightly less objectionable by the end of the year.
Simon Coates, National Theatre Wales’, Head of Creative Development
The Terra Firma Spring Tour by NDCWales including the mesmeric Tundra by Roy Assaf. EXPERIMENTICA Festival at Chapter will back again for another year of live art from all over the UK and further afield in April.
And finally I am hoping to make it along to Abercych to join one of their experimental Twmpaths with Simon Whitehead and his collaborators.
Geoff Cripps, Board Member, Theatr na Nog, Creu Cymru and musician with Allan y Fan
At the end of January I am delighted and privileged to return to Glasgow as one of the 180 delegates to Showcase Scotland – a very important element within the world’s greatest mid-winter music festival. The five days I will spend here will definitely kick away any lingering vestiges of mid-winter blues! Don’t know yet which artists I will see/hear in total but I am pleased that in the festival’s 25th anniversary year the Showcase Scotland partner is Ireland. Still hoping that one year Wales will create something of lasting value like this event which has had such a powerful impact on the development of Scottish Artists in an international setting.
I have yet to pick what to see closer to home in the valleys but am looking forward to visiting RCT Theatres, The Borough Theatre and Blackwood Miner’s Institute on several occasions during the year.
My personal hopes for 2018 include doing my best to ensure that Theatr na nÓg builds on the great achievements of 2017, that Creu Cymru continues to be the essential organisation for the theatres and arts centres of Wales and, on a real personal note, that my band Allan Yn Y Fan have our most successful concert ever in Blackwood Miner’s Institute on 28th March!
I am sure that every other contributor will make their feelings known about “Brexit”, “POTUS”, the “Maybot” etc. etc but I am deliberately trying to keep this light-hearted.
Let’s hope that despite everything the Arts In Wales continue to deliver life-changing experiences, uncover nascent talent, connect more deeply with their communities and audiences. Finally I hope that BBC Wales finally delivers a year-round coverage of the Arts In Wales.
My personal hope is to be continued to be inspired and surprised by writers and artists pushing boundaries and creating work that moves me and reminds me what it is to be human.
Peter Doran, Artistic Director, Torch Theatre Company
On a personal level, I’m really looking forward to directing our next production, The Wood by Owen Thomas; its always exciting to tackle a new piece of writing, one never really knows if it will quite come off as expected or hoped. Giving the success we had with Owen’s last play Grav (shortly to go to New York), we have high hopes but we know that there’s a great deal of hard work in front of us. I’m also working on it with two actors, whom I’ve never directed before (Ifan Huw Dafydd and Gwydion Rhys), so that gives an extra frisson.
Elsewhere, I always look forward to Vamos coming to the Torch; Vamos are a full mask company who do wonderful work, this season they are touring a piece about the war in Afganistan called A Brave Face, one to look out for. I loved Liverpool Everyman’s repertory season last year and I’ll be interested to see if the second season is as successful – A Clockwork Orange sticks out as a highlight for me.
My personal hopes? That the true value of art and culture is appreciated and not seen as the icing on top of the cake. It’s not a commodity that can take it’s stand in the market place and compete; it has to be nurtured, supported, fed – if not, it will wither away and die.
Tom Goddard, Artist and Criw Celf Coordinator
In a time when Netflix is elevated to the role of religion, Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan satisfies our obsession with marathon box set watching, with this ten part film series. First at last year’s Venice Biennale and the series continues now at Mostyn, Llandudno in March.
Ragnar Kjartansson, Artes Mundi 6 nominee, will return to Wales to present a brand-new performance piece, The Sky in a Room which will feature a series of revolving local organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ.
Chapter’s Experimentica, will roll into town again in April and is always guaranteed to raise a smile and challenge in equal measure with a real range of refreshing voices and ideas from the world of live art. NS Harsha,Artes Mundi 3 winner, will return to Wales at Glynn Vivian in Summer 2018 presenting screening printing, installation, sculpture and drawings.
Glynn Vivian will also be opening late once a month offering performance, music, workshops as well as curatorial opportunities for young people.
Simon Harris, Playwright and Director of Lucid
It would be a bit matey of me to select 2018 highlights from Wales, so the two things outside of Wales that I’d really like to see are Chris Goode’s staging of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee which has been at the Royal Exchange n Manchester and is going to the Lyric Hammersmith. Because punk’s not dead. The other is Dead Centre’s new production at the Schaubuhne of Shakespeare’s Last Play – partly to see the work and partly to go to Berlin as I’ve never been there and I’d like to go before the world ends.
I’m a little overwhelmed by how far away we are from how I’d like things to be in 2018. There’s so much to do in so many areas, it would be easy to give in and give up. But I’m drawn to some of the determined spirits out there and so my main hope for the sector is that we move to a more productive, more innovative, less hierarchical approach to making work. I would like to see some of the fake differences between Arts Council Wales portfolio and the remaining group of artists and companies done away with. I’d like to see individuals and companies allowed to apply for larger sums and for more extended periods of work, instead of one-off projects. Most of all I’d like to some vision that can lead to the release of the amazing potential of artists in Wales and their work. Oh, and a bit more honest dialogue and a lot less self-referential, self-congratulatory bulls**t.
Steffan Jones-Hughes, Director Oriel Davies
There’s so much exciting art to see in 2018!
January sees Nova open at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. An exciting exhibition of young contemporary artists originated by the Royal Cambrian Academy. Look out for inaugural award winner Paul Eastwood, and also Catrin Menai, Rory Duckhouse, and AJ Stockwell. Aberystwyth Arts Centre- 25.1-1.4 2018
February I can’t wait to see The Sky in a Room by Icelandic Artist, Ragnar Kjartansson. The exciting performance will see a series of revolving organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ, and will run from 3 February to 11 March at National Museum Cardiff.
June sees The Oriel Davies Open inviting artists from Wales, UK and internationally through Open Call to show work. I’m on the selection panel along with Jane Simpson (artist & Director Galerie Simpson), Matthew Collings (writer and curator), Sacha Craddack (curator and writer. TBC), and Alex Boyd Jones, Curator OD. Oriel Davies Open 2018 23 June – 5 September.
My personal hopes are that 2018 will be a time of unleashing potential, harnessing prosperity and celebrating the power of community within society.
Paul Kaynes, Chief Executive Officer, National Dance Company Wales
Firstly the home team: NDCW are about to set off on our long Spring tour taking in all of Wales, the UK, Austria and Germany with works by Resident Choreographer Caroline Finn (in Cardiff you have another chance to see her beautiful, haunting FOLK) and the mesmerising Tundra by Marcos Morau – already an international hit. Later this year watch out for a contemporary dance-opera we’re presenting with Music Theatre Wales in October/November. It’s a beautiful work.
To finally see every organisation in Wales tackling all barriers to access, rather than relying on one or two organisations. Saying this, we have to upskill those creating the work at grassroots level for this to be achievable, so I hope to see lots of money being ploughed into this.
I hope my production of the musical The Last 5 Years comes to fruition and tours Wales Autumn 2018 as this has access at its heart and supports BSL as a culture.
I look forward to seeing our Opera Bites event expanding a little as well as some exciting developments with our 10 Minute Musicals project come to fruition. We have a sharing of this work at Millennium Centre, February 25th, Blackwood Miners Institute, February 27th and then we are sharing it at Focus Wales 2018 which is hugely exciting for this project and all the artists involved.
There is a piece I started to develop last year with Eddie Ladd based on Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy which we hope to pick up this year. It’s a piece very dear to me therefore I hope we make this work for us. Building in this there may be another exciting collaboration with Eddie in the pipeline. Watch this space. Our work compliments each other wonderfully.
I hope to see more of my daughter this year, drink less rose wine and get back into the gym at more regular intervals. I am also hoping to renovate my kitchen and become a better cook!! I have also vowed to explore the landscape I live within this year and reconnecting with nature a little.
Bethan Marlow, Writer
2018 feels like a fresh year. There’s a lot of courage in the air, people are standing up and shouting out, dirty secrets are no longer protected and new manifestos are being drawn. I’m crossing all my fingers that this also means that we’ll see fresh and courageous cultural activity all over Wales in all languages.
I hope we all, and I’m very much including myself here, have the courage to dig deep and create what we need and want to create this year. Not what we think people will go and see or what we think will tick funding boxes but what our guts are screaming for us to make.
David Mercatali, Associate Director, Sherman Theatre
I am hugely excited to be working with the fantastic Welsh writer Katherine Chandler and the next generation of acting talent on the world premiere of Buddy. The play is part of NEW:2018 and is a co-production between RWCMD and Sherman Theatre.My wish for the New Year would be for anyone living in Cardiff who hasn’t been to the theatre yet to give it a go!
My personal hopes for 2018; In light of the funding threats to my local arts centre at Pontardawe, I hope that the people who make these detrimental decisions recognise the importance of the arts and their effect on our wellbeing. I hope that communities begin to make more use of all local arts centres and that artists and creatives have the freedom and funding to encourage and inspire those that are blind to its relevance in our society today.
Mae son bod cynhyrchiadau newydd ar y gweill gan Mercury, Neontopia a Triongl, a gobeithio bydd Na’Nog yn atgyfodi Nye and Jennie gan i mi ei fethu yn y Metropole yn Abertileri,a pwy a wyr pa ddanteithion daw i’n diddanu pan ddaw’r Eisteddfod i Gaerdydd ym mis Awst.
O’m rhan fy hun mae gen i brosiectau gyda’r Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, Theatrau RCT a Canoe a dwi’n gobeithio bydd fy sioe un menyw am Rachel Roberts (Yn Gymraeg) yn digwydd o’r diwedd!
I am looking forward to Theatr Genedlaethol’s latest productionY Tad ( Le Pere) by Florian Zeller trans. Geraint Lovgreen (Touring 21 Feb- 16 March) with Dyfan Roberts as the father. Dyfan and I began our careers together back in 1970! Also Theatr Pena’s production Women of Flowers by Sion Eirian after Saunders Lewis (Touring 1Feb-9 March) with the amazing Sara Lloyd Gregory as Blodeuwedd. I shall venture to Pontrhydfendigaid for a poetic and cinematic recreation by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes as they embark on a three year project with NTW under the title The Storm Cycle with Nothing Remains The Same (15-17 Feb) and they promise seating- indoors! And fireworks! In a timely production about minority languages Theatr Gwalia presents Inheriting The Gods by Carmen Stephens about a relationship between a young man from the Wampanoag tribe and a young Welsh Woman and is touring Feb 26-March 24. The amazing Dirty Protest celebrate their tenth birthday with Mark Williams’ play Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock (Touring 4 April-5 May).
I hear that Mercury, Neontopia and Triongl are preparing exciting things and I hope Na’Nog will revive Nye and Jennie as I missed it at the Metropole in Abertillery, and who knows what delicacies the Eisteddfod will bring when it comes to Cardiff in August!
I have writing and performing projects with Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, RCT Theatres and Canoe and I really hope my one woman show about Rachel Roberts (in Welsh) will happen this year!
Rachel Pedley Miller, Artistic Director, Avant Cymru
In 2018 Avant Cymru are planning a busy year with Forget Me Not in January and Blue Scar in the summer.
We are working with Rufus Mufasa on her album launch on the 16th of January. Looking forward to working with Rufus and Unity further on Welsh Hip Hop projects.
Jac If an Moore, Director and Co-Director of Powderhouse
Theatre Dublin Carol – Sherman Theatre
Coming up in a few weeks at the Sherman. Connor McPherson, killer cast and directed by Matthew Xia. Come on, what more d’you want?
All But Gone – The Other Room
I’m really excited to see what Dan Jones will do now that he’s at the helm of The Other Room. This will be his first production as AD, and it’s a chance to see how he’s going to put his mark on that ambitious company.
Book Tribe – Sebastian Junger
Collection of essays that span history, autobiography, anthropology and psychology. What we can learn from tribal societies, what we’ve lost, and why in the modern world we’re still craving companionship and meaning.Film
The Shape of Water – Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s latest film gets its UK release in February, and I’m looking forward to his particular mix of strangeness. Set to the bleak backdrop of 1960’s Baltimore, it’s apparently a love story between a mute woman and a water god. Yes please.
Lucy Owen, Journalist and writer
I’m looking forward to the Cardiff Kids Literature Festival in April this year. There will be loads of events going on and it’s a great chance to meet authors and illustrators and inspire children to pick up a book.
I am super excited that a book I’ve written for 6 – 8 year olds will be published in September too. It’s called ‘The Sea House’ and I’m really hoping children will love all the characters, particularly my favourite – a brave, sparkly little fish called Fabulous!
Marc Rees Creator and curator of installation and performance
You might have seen my crestfallen face captured on the news when it was announced that Swansea didn’t win the UK City of Culture crown for 2021? Perhaps if we’d gone with the abbreviated SUKCOC ( Swansea UK City Of Culture ) it might have been a different story?I really did think that it was Swansea’s time to shine and to quote the city’s very own big haired 80’s pop icon … we could have turned it around . However there are still exciting plans afoot and one that is very close to my heart is still under wraps till the end of January but I want to mention it as it’s certainly something that I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into in 2018.
Essentially it’s an immersive Requiem that will kickstart the Swansea International Festival 2018 – written by a twice Oscar nominated composer with a libretto by a BAFTA Cymru winning writer, sung by a world renowned choir and with a wrap around narrative led by the formidable force that is Eddie Ladd. Watch this camouflaged space.
For 2018 I’m very much looking forward to hearing more cultural stories being told by people of a diverse background. Great things are happening already but there’s still such a way to go. ‘Fio’ are doing some amazing work right now providing opportunities for BAME actors, writers and directors to showcase work and are providing a great accessible outlet.
I’m involved in TWO amazing plays with full diverse teams this year. One of them which tells a story from voices we don’t often hear from. I am working with phenomenal actors all from diverse backgrounds and I cannot wait! The plays are wonderful and I’m really honoured to be a part of it all! The theatres we are performing in are equally brilliant! Wales is a place of character, diversity and rich culture. So I look forward to us continuing to move forward within the arts and really show what we are made of.
Keiron Self, Actor and Playwright
I’m very much looking forward to Light Speed from Pembroke Dock, a family friendly and Star Wars friendly theatre show from Dirty Protest as part of their 10th anniversary. I have been lucky enough to have a few pieces perfomed by them and their stalwart crew and have a soft spot in my heart for all involved. I also saw an Rand D of the show and it touched a nostalgic string in my heart, it being about fathers and sons and a certain sic-fi film – essentially a taste of my youth.
I’m also looking forward to films coming out in February The Shape of Water Guillermo Del Toro’s new fantasy masterpiece about a love affair between a woman and a Black Lagoon-esque creature in Cold War America. I’m a great fan of Del Toro, especially Pan’s Labyrinth, and this ranks right up there next to them. Also in February Lady Bird is a film from Greta Gerwig, a fantastic indie actress making her directorial debut with a well observed coming of age talk between a mother and a daughter starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.
I’m very much looking forward to a bumper year of culture in 2018. Many people interested in the arts in Wales will already be filling up their diaries.
One of the events I’m especially looking forward to is the National Eisteddfod (3-11 August, Cardiff), as it takes place this year right outside my office window in Cardiff Bay. For the first time in decades, the “Maes” (the festival site) will not be held in a field, and visitors will be able to come in and out as they chose, paying for each event individually. The “no-fence” Eisteddfod offers exciting opportunities to try out new activities, appealing to a wide range of audiences and celebrating the best of Welsh culture in all its forms.
For a relatively small country, Wales punches well above its weight in terms of literature festivals. As well as the world-renowned Hay Festival (24 May – 3 June), many more have appeared in recent years, including the excellent Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival (21-29 April) and the Cardiff Book Festival (7-9 September 2018). I’m particularly looking forward to the newest addition to the calendar, the Seren Poetry Festival at the Cornerstone building in Cardiff (16-18 February).
Pembrokeshire should take the prize for being the most bountiful county, with literature festivals in Solva (The Edge Festival – 2-5 August), Llangwm (10-12 August) and Rhosygilwen (PENfro Book Festival – September). These festivals would not take place without the dedicated efforts of community activists who believe in bringing people together and sharing a love for words. And the success of many depend on their brilliant local independent book shops.
If your dream is to take part in one of these festivals as a featured writer one day, then you should consider booking on one of the courses at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre: www.tynewydd.wales. The many highlights include a Creative Writing for Welsh Learners course (16-18 March with Bethan Gwanas and Eilir Jones), Songs and Lyric Writing (9-14 April with Willy Russell and Stewart Henderson), Poetry: Writing about Life (20-25 August with Lemn Sissay, Sophie McKeand and Zoë Skoulding) and Writing a Novel (24-28 September with Louise de Bernière and Wales Book of the Year winner Alys Conran). There is something for everyone this year at this very special place.
I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of the epic 50ft mural by artistPete Fowler on the iconic Water Tower at Cardiff Central Station. Inspired by the stories of the Mabinogi, the mural is part of the Weird and Wonderful Wales project by Literature Wales and Cadw. The work began before Christmas, but was suspended because of bad weather. The work will continue soon and remain in place throughout 2018, when visitors from all across the globe will see it when they visit Cardiff for events such as the Volvo Ocean Race as part of Year of the Sea.
The Wales Book of the Year award is set to be another great event this year, with the ceremony scheduled to take place in the summer. Announcements will be made in March – so keep an eye out on Literature Wales’ website for details. In the meantime, I was thrilled to see that last year’s winner Pigeon(Parthian Books) by Alys Conran, is being serialised in the Western Mail. Also, the Roland Mathias Poetry Evening will take place on 23 February at The Muse, Brecon, featuring John Freeman, winner of last year’s Wales Book of the Year Roland Mathias Poetry Award, with Jonathan Edwards chairing the event.
Last year the National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn, with funding from Welsh Government and support by Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers (1914-1918), created and toured a multi-lingual multi-media show on poet Hedd Wyn called Y Gadair Wag/ The Empty Chair, directed by Ian Rowlands. It premiered at Yr Ysgwrn, the poet’s home at Trawsfynydd which recently opened as a visitor’s centre. By popular demand, the hope is to tour more extensively in 2018, taking in locations throughout Wales, as well as the UK and Ireland. 2018 will see the announcement by Literature Wales of a new Young People’s Laureate, as Sophie McKeand’s hugely successful two-year stint comes to an end in spring.
2018 marks 70 years since the creation of the NHS, which was established by the great Welsh politician and orator Aneurin Bevan. It’s worth keeping an eye out for cultural celebrations of this significant milestone, including a series of productions throughout Wales by the two national theatre companies, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and National Theatre Wales.
In other art-forms, I’m looking forward to the return of Festival of the Voice to the Wales Millennium Centre (7-17 June), the Urdd Eisteddfod celebration of youth culture at Builth Wells (28 May – 2 June), the Swansea International Festival (October 2018) and the international art prize Artes Mundi at National Museum Wales (from 27 October). National Dance Company Wales’ Terra Firma tour takes place in Spring and will be well worth a look. Last year I very much enjoyed the collaborative concerts between the orchestras of WNO and BBC NOW, and I hope to catch a few this year as well. I can also highly recommend Rungano Nyoni’s debut award-winning film funded by Ffilm Cymru Wales, I Am Not A Witch, which will be out on DVD in February.
Like many others, I was very disappointed that Wales missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, having enjoyed myself immensely in France in 2016. However, this year I can kick back, enjoy the games relatively stress-free, and pick a couple of nice countries to support. Come on Iceland!
Alastair Sill, Audio Describer for Theatre
I’m really looking forward to watching Owen Thomas’ new play, The Wood by The Torch Theatre. The Wood is inspired by a true story and commemorates the centenary of World War I. Yes, I can’t wait for that one. Another highlight has to be the Festival of Voice between 7th June and 17th June, at locations around Cardiff, created by the Wales Millennium Centre. I really want to try and get down to The Other Room this year because there’s nothing else like it in Cardiff. And anything by Gagglebabble is always fantastic!
Then personally first of all, I hope I have a happy, healthy and fun year with my two boys and girlfriend. Second, I hope York City FC find promotion to the National League, the first step back to the football league. And last, I hope to record lots of funny little anecdotes from my two boys and write a children’s story inspired by their unique craziness!
Jennifer Ruth Sturt, Assistant Producer, Wales Millennium Centre
Thinking ahead to what 2018 has in store is at once terrifying and overwhelmingly exciting. This year is set to be full on, but hugely inspiring year for us at the Centre. With the launch of two new seasons of programmed work in the Weston Studio and ffresh alongside the return of our biannual international arts festival, Festival of Voice. This year, we’re creating a number of co-productions with some incredible Welsh artists and companies and I’m really proud to be part of the team helping to make them happen. As Cardiff embraces it’s title of Music City, the in-house Festival of Voice team have created a programme of work that really celebrates voice in all it’s guises and alongside an ambitious Creative Learning programme allows us to explore the positive impact of collective singing and creative expression. With just six months to go, I can’t wait for what this year’s festival has in store.
Personally, I’m looking forward to many more adventures in 2018 with plans to travel to New Zealand and Canada, see my best friend get married and all being well, get back out on the road and finally get a half marathon under my belt- fingers crossed.
Geinor Styles, Artistic Director, Theatr na nÓg
My cultural highlights would be anything Theatr na nÓg does – obvs… and also the things I am looking forward to seeing and then probably missing because I’ve double booked myself or completely forgotten they were on…
So if someone can remind me then that would be great…
Then the show I will definitely want to see before it heads off to New York, because I missed it the first couple of times round is Grav, an amazing achievement for a theatre company in far west Wales – The Torch to get it to the stage in New York after sell out shows here in Wales and Edinburgh. Congratulations to the creative team for taking a true Welsh hero and exporting it far and wide.
Even though I hate overhyped shows, I must see Hamilton this year. I think the story is incredible and an important one to hear and see in this strange uncertain time. – even though he did the music to Moana!
I also hear that Fleetwood Mac are going to tour this year specially for my birthday, so be rude not to!
Adele Thomas, Director
The play I’m most looking forward to in 2018 is John by Annie Baker, in a new production at the National Theatre. Annie is probably our greatest living dramatist. She writes with a delicacy and a humanity that make Checkhov look positively cartoonish. Her plays The Flick and Circle Mirror Transformation are amongst my favourite evenings in the theatre, and James McDonald (who directed Circle Mirror Transformation) is directing John, which makes it doubly exciting. I can’t tell you anything about what the play’s about.
My New Years Resolution is “Avoid the Algorithm”. So much internet noise and being in the industry means that by the time you’ve read the endless marketing and faced the constant stream of twitter criticism you go into the theatre too equipped to watch the play. Imagine being in the first audience for Macbeth or The Cherry Orchard or Blasted or Machinal. You would be entering the auditorium with true openness. As an audience member you might be shocked or bored or moved to tears, but your experience would be an truly honest one, a direct and unadulterated relationship between you and the play. What a gorgeous idea
Sami Thorpe, co-founder Elbow Room Theatre Company and BSL Interpreter
Sami shares her thoughts in BSL in the video below
There is so much to look forward to in 2018. I cannot wait to see Jonny Cotsen’s ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, it’s so important to see diverse stories on the stage and, as someone who has been involved with the Deaf community for a number of years, I’m very excited by it. I’m also looking forward to the drag acts coming to Cardiff this year, especially Klub Kids’ ‘The Twisted Circus’, which I shall be fangirling all over!
My personal hope for 2018 is that as an industry we work together to continue to diversify our audiences, sharing ideas and good practice is key. Be brave, take risks, learn and grow.
I’ve got a new novel called Wonderful coming out in June, my first published work since 2013 which I am both very happy and also terrified about, and more personally I hope to make some good progress on the house I’ve been trying to build for almost two years so that I get a functional writing space back by the end of the year!
Nickie Miles-Wildin, RTYDS, Resident Assistant Director, Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre
I’m sat at my desk at The Royal Exchange Theatre and there’s so much that I’m looking forward to this year. Being Resident Assistant Director in this amazing building is opening up many great opportunities for me. My highlights are Frankenstein directed by Matthew Xia. 200 years after its publication in January 2018 Matthew is directing a new version by April De Angelis – a writer whose work I enjoy. (Playhouse Creatures is brilliant) Being assistant director on this show I am already in the depths of research and know that the cast is going to truly bring the story to life on our stage.
I’m also looking forward to working with the Young Company up here on their production of Mix Tape. Working closely with Matt Hassall – Programme Leader for the Young Company and composer James Frewer, Manchester will be given its own mix tape.
In the summer I can’t wait to be my alter ego Beryl as I tour a handful of festivals with Bingo Lingo alongside my co-star Daryl and his alter ego Cyril. It’s Bingo on a Paralympic Scale. The Without Walls festivals are an absolute joy to be at and to discover new work.
For me 2018 will be one of exciting creative work indoors at the theatre and a summer of amazing interactive playful outdoor work.
And Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah being part of the new ensemble company at the Globe. Hopefully we’ll see more Deaf and Disabled creatives leading the way.
Matthew Xia, Director
I’m really looking forward to making some work across England and Wales this year. I’m starting with Dublin Carol – the Conor McPherson play about an alcoholic Undertaker being confronted with the life he has lived, and the others he has broken. It’s playing at Sherman Theatre in Cardiff from the 5th of February for two weeks. I then head up to the Manchester Royal Exchange to make a brand new Frankenstein adapted for the stage by April de’Angelis before directing the premier of the Alfred Fagon Award winning play Shebeen by Nottingham writer Mufaro Makubika. The show, starring Karl Collins will be presented at the Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal Stratford East in June.
Having never been a fan of Take That, or indeed boy bands in general, I was a little apprehensive as to what lay in store when entering the Wales Millennium Centre for the opening night of ‘The Band’.
The night was memorable and the performance totally unmissable!
For the first time in Cardiff, this wonderful new musical by Tim Firth hit all the right notes and pushed more emotional buttons than the audience could possibly have prepared themselves for.
A delightful mix of dialogue and song, the story follows teenage friends, Rachel, Heather, Debbie, Claire and Zoe, as they share their love of music and the same boy band.
The girls are full of life, funny with a deep friendship that binds them together. They share their inner most thoughts and aspirations. Rachel declaring that she wants to marry all the members of the band and Debbie agreeing to be her bridesmaid.
Debbie wins tickets to a concert in Manchester and the girls set off on their big adventure seeing the band, missing the last train home and having to make it part way home on the bus.
This musical is a coming of age story that every teenager has experienced even if musical tastes do change you never forget your teenage loves.
The two greatest sensory markers in our lives are music and smell, they have the ability to transport us instantly to another time and place whilst bringing to the forefront our greatest and most precious memories.
Move on 25 years and Rachel has moved away and the girls have all lost touch. Then Rachel wins a radio competition for tickets to see the band at a concert in Prague and the only thing on her mind is getting the girls back together.
Having made contact the girls (now 41yrs old) meet at the airport and fly out togther on another adventure. Their experiences and revelations in Prague serve to cement their friendship and to change their lives again.
The soundtrack of the girls lives are the songs of Take That, they punctuate the story in a way that gives it depth and meaning.
Five to Five, the boy band chosen through the talent show ‘Let it Shine’ gave an inspiring performance by almost being in the background. There is no doubt of their musical talent and the vocals were seamless and outstanding.
All credit goes to the Creative Team, too numerous to mention individually, who staged and produced this remarkable new musical, one that I am sure will endure for many years to come.
The stage craft of every cast member drew us ever closer to the action. We laughed, we cheered, we shouted, we sang, and some of us even cried.
At the end of the performance the entire auditorium was on their feet, waving lit mobile phones and generally going wild. I can honestly say that this was an experience like no other and despite myself, like everyone around me I just wanted more.
THE BAND plays at Wales Millennium Centre;
Tuesday 9 until Saturday 20 January
For further details about the show visit www.wmc.org.uk or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920636464
Hi Jonny Great to meet you. Can you tell us about yourself?
Hello. Great to meet you too! I call myself a Consultant, Theatre Maker and Facilitator in the Arts. I like to make interesting things happen. I work with theatre/arts organisations and venues to develop their work to be more accessible to deaf audiences /members which gives me a lot of satisfaction.
As well as giving talks on access and running inclusive workshops, I am a facilitator. I work with people of all ages with different abilities, exploring ways drama can be inclusive, accessible and more importantly … fun!
I am also a performer and I am just about to tour my solo show, ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, starting at Chapter Arts Centre in February and then on to other venues across Wales. The show is being produced and directed by the brilliant ‘Mr and Mrs Clark’.
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
I am currently listening to ‘Royalties Overdue’ which is a compilation of songs from the record label Mo Wax. It’s a double sided compilation with various artists that have been assigned to the Mo Wax label founded by James Lavelle.
The album was released around 1994 when I was at Art School and I heard one of the artists DJ Krush collaborating with a jazz artist, Ronnie Jordan’ at a gig and I was blown away so I had to buy it. It was released around the time when Hip Hop was really starting to evolve into mainstream music; artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheba etc were influential to the Mo Wax label. Although its been nearly 25 years since it was released, I still love listening to this album!
I am deaf and I’ve always struggled with music especially understanding lyrics but I think it’s the deep and slow beats that makes this album more accessible to me. It’s just the way I hear music. The last year or so, I sort of lost my way listening to music and even stopped attending gigs. This was partly because I am now more involved with theatre which is more accessible to me as I can watch interpreted or captioned performances. However, very recently I bought new hearing aids which are not only super-powerful but I can play music from my phone to my hearing aids via bluetooth. So I have the added advantage of not wearing headphones (which are such a pain when you are a hearing aid user!) but also the clarity of the songs is so much better through the hearing aids. It will never be perfect, nor can I listen to music like a hearing person but it is definitely making a difference!! Thanks to my new hearing aids, I have started to enjoy listening to music again. ‘Royalties Overdue’ was the first album I wanted to listen to with my new hearing aids and I have been stuck listening to it ever since! I just can’t stop listening to it!
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
This is a difficult one as it changes every week! Here we go…
Duran Duran – Rio. This was the first album I ever bought. The lyrics were always printed on the back of the vinyl or in the in-lay sleeves which was brilliant as I was able to follow and learn the lyrics to all the songs quite clearly. This album has been my favourite of all the Duran Duran albums. I still enjoy singing ‘Save A Prayer’ tunelessly around the house much to the annoyance to my neighbours!
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Under The Bridge. When I was at my lowest, this song reminds me how much I have achieved since then. I was in a dark place and this song was playing on the radio and I needed do something about it and I did. I saw RHCP live in Cardiff and I had a very emotional connection with the song when they played it.
Matisyahu – Live At Stubbs. I went with a friend to see this American guy who was a Rabbi with a huge beard and dressed in black. This Rabbi can sing and he was good!! Incredible voice and possibly the best gig that I have ever seen. People have compared him to Damian Marley and I think that is a huge compliment. Matisyahu can rap, sing and beat-box. I love listening to this album whenever I have a dead-end moment and it gives me a buzz. Matisyahu doesn’t have a beard anymore, or wear the black clothes but I still like him!
Beastie Boys – Check Your Head For the obvious reasons Beastie Boys are so much fun to listen to. My older cousin always used to play Beastie Boys stuff when I visited him. I never really got ‘rap’ as there was no way I could follow or understand the lyrics but this album uses a lot of instrumental stuff in the songs. Yes, I’ll admit I did steal the VW badge off a car and tried to wear it just to be as cool as the Beastie Boys.
James Taylor Quartet – Do Your Own Thing During my university days I listened to a lot of jazz, acid jazz, trip-hop and hip hop but JTQ were my favourite. They are a British four-piece jazz funk band, who were renowned for their live performances. Their live sets focus on accessible rhythm driven music which I have always enjoyed listening to. I think they set the standard for the coolest sounds in funky acid jazz and amongst all their brilliant albums, ’Do Your Own Thing’ is my favourite of all them.
Thanks Jonny, just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
I am going to use my deaf card and pretend I did not hear the question as I am going to chose this song – Happy 70th Birthday Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved [Acapella Version 2015] #MARLEY70. The song consists of different individuals doing an acapella/beat-box version of ‘Could You Be Loved’. All vocal and no instruments. When my partner was pregnant with our daughter throughout the pregnancy we played this song to her belly. We played it a lot and we never got tired of it. A friend told us about it and we are forever grateful. We still play it every now and then; not sure if our daughter remembers it from in utero but wouldn’t be cool if she did.
In January 2013 I wrote a piece comparing Nick Grimshaw to Chris Moyles, it’s nearly four year on, so time to revisit that and see what’s changed. Has Grimmy turned in Moyles’ yet?
The old copy will stay in italics – additional as nornal script
Oh what great writing have I got for you this time? Well. Back in September 2012, a certain Chris Moyles left the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. He was the longest serving R1 Breakfast jock – even longer compared to Tony Blackburn.
Now, Moyles is what you would call radio marmite. You either loved or loathed him – just like the yeast extract based spread. Now after a full three months since Nick Grimshaw took over the hotseat, how do they compare and contrast? Do you miss Moyles and co in the mornings?
The reasoning behind Nick Grimshaw being R1B was to lower the age of the station. In the past 20 years, Radio 1 has often been accused of being “too old”. Presenters and the music has been tweaked several times, and Chris knew his time was coming. There is a train of thought that says you are only as old as you sound, and if what you talk about is still relevant, why not stay. There is also another route to take in that once become older than your target audience, you’re passed it. Radio1’s target demo is 15-24 year old. If the latter is to be believed, then you do a disservice to the audience as if you’re still relevant, and can pull in the numbers, why shouldn’t you be there. Ultimately, it’s a decision on you by management. In commercial radio, it’s also what your value is to the advertisers of the station. Do you bring in the core demo that an advertiser who pays £££’s to get a certain type of person to buy their product. Anyway, I digress.
Moyles’ realised it would be sooner rather than later, so left rather than be pushed. But in the past three months, have you been listening to Nick?
It’s interesting to note in the early days of Grimmy’s tenure, the core figures were on the increase – R1 had managed to move some of their older listeners away.
I’m not core demo for Radio 1 – but I still like listening to new music, and current chart stuff without it being on a 3 hour 15 minute loop (a track on Radio 1’s Alist is about 4 hour 15 minute recurrence I think). I wake up listening to Radio1 and listen sleepily for about 30 minutes. The first thing to note is how many songs an hour Grimmy’s plays compared to Chris. In that 30 minute section I regularly listen to, I think I used to count about 2 songs with Chris, but with Grimmy, you get about 5 – and he still manages to slip in the old showbiz antidote of his & Harry Styles’ night on the tiles….
Is Grimmy trying too hard? Some presenters, TV and radio, suit different types of programme. Just because you can do a show on the telly, doesn’t necessarily mean you can present radio, and vice versa. There are a few who can do this with such ease it makes it look like a walk in the park. Wogan (Terry), Schofield (Phillip) , Evans (Chris) have all started their careers within radio before moving to tv. But to do it in reverse hasn’t really been done (although I expect to be told differently…).
Chris Moyles is described as marmite, but surely Grimmy is the same? You’re never going to please everyone all of the time. I realise they both have completely different styles, and for some Grimmy is the perfect way to start their day. Some also mourn the loss of Moylesy in the morning, and await his return to Radio 1.
In saying that, will Moyles return to Radio1? Yes, his contract runs till 2014, but whilst he’s not on air, he’s not being paid – but it also means he can’t work for a rival commercial station, or “gardening leave” as it’s known. He’s doing quite well on the tour of Jesus Christ Superstar – which might even tour overseas yet. He has gone on record as saying he misses radio, and the ability to sound off, so don’t completely rule out a return for Chris Moyles.
Ironically, it took a while for Chris to return to mainstream radio – and he’s still on Radio X now.
But what of his successor, and the very reason for this article? Well, RAJAR Q4 2012 was published today. RAJAR is quote “RAJAR collects information on behalf of over 300 BBC and Ofcom Licenced commercial radio stations, ranging from very small local services to the national networks. Station listening by time, duration, platform (AM/FM, DAB, Online/APP, and DTV) and location (in car, at home, at work & elsewhere) is recorded and published on a quarterly basis.”
Who listens to what and for how long, in simple terms.
Many a radio person will tell you “oh, it’s flawed”, “it’s not a true indication of who’s listening” – but the truth of the matter is, it’s all we have and as a comparison tool to other radio stations goes, it works – not very well some might say, but it gives people the ability to measure audience.
Here’s the headline from Daily Mail Online today “Chris Evans trounces his ranting rival: Radio 2 breakfast show sees boost in listeners after ratings slump for Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw. Older men turned off by Grimshaw’s immature banter tune in to Evans”
On reading that you may think “wow, Grimmy is losing listeners”, but further into the article is a quote from Ben Cooper, Radio 1’s boss ‘ What a fantastic quarter for Radio 1, I’m delighted with the figures and they have exceeded my expectation for a brand new breakfast show. This has been the biggest schedule change in a generation which has resulted in the station’s audience getting younger.’
In another article online today “Grimshaw attracted an average of 6.7million listeners to the breakfast show in 2012, a drop of 40,000 listeners from Chris Moyles when he departed the station. The station as a whole dropped its average reach from 11.7 million listeners to 11.1 between 2011 and 2012, according to new Rajar listening figures.”
And back to the Daily Mail online….
Grimshaw’s figures were down by 43,000 on the previous three-month period, which was mostly fronted by Moyles, and dropped by almost 550,000 on the same time last year.
Sources at the BBC claimed that Grimshaw had attracted 250,000 brand new 15-24-year-olds to the show. It was added that the overall average of the listener to the station has dropped from 33 to 32-years-of-age.
Now, tell me if I right or wrong, but that last paragraph… that’s what Radio 1 wanted to do?
My point being, is that the figures can be read/spun however you want them to be spun. A station might be losing listeners, but if those listeners are 42 year old men, and the station is aimed at 23 year old women, it’s not a bad thing. Plus, if someone is listening to your station longer, but there’s not as many of them, this too can be spun positively. The adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad press, and in terms of radio listening figures, this is true – unless of course you lose a lot of reach and hours – reach is the percentage of listeners you have in an area. If you’re a big station and you’re reach is less than your competitor, it’s a warning sign to see what can be done to put it right. All the signs I’m reading about Nick Grimshaw is that he’s there for a while yet. The timing of Moyles’ leaving couldn’t have been worse I suppose. If Scott Mills was about 5 years younger, he’d have been the natural successor, or if Greg James had been a little more settled within daytime Radio1, he too could’ve taken the job. Who knows, this might even be the plan now. Have Nick do the show for a year or 18 months, then Greg James can naturally succeed him as the next big Radio1 breakfast host.
Bearing in mind this is written 4 years later – Greg James is still on Drive and possibly the natural successor? And what of Scott Mills?
Comparing and contrasting Moyles & Grimmy isn’t easy, and I’ve probably failed (like I used to in English when asked to compare and contrast), but I hope I’ve shed some light onto the workings of radio, and await derision from some American that I called a technical term a “thingymebob” instead of a “dooferswitch”. I can only write to what I know.
What next for R1? With the way streaming is now included into the Official Charts, how we listen to our music is changing.
Do we need something inbetween Radio’s One and Two? An idea for several years has been Radio 1.5, as there are many people over the age of 25 who aren’t really ready to want to listen to Popmaster or Jeremy Vine. Has Chris Evans on Radio Two bridged that gap? And what next for Scott Mills – he’s the oldest daytime presenter at Radio one at the age of 43.
So the main question for this revisit. Has Nick Grimshaw turned into Moyles? To an extent yes, but you’re never going to be liked by everyone, all of the time – unless you’re Phillip Schofield.
Patrick Downes is a former head of music, producer, and commercial radio presenter with 21 years airtime, and is now part of the community radio station at Bro Radio in Vale of Glamorgan, UK. Check out his facebook page at www.soof.co.uk
Hi Angharad and Beatbox Tangent great to meet you both , can you give our readers some background information on yourselves please?
Angharad: Hi I am a theatre director, educator, facilitator and lecturer. I studied and worked as a performer before turning my hand to directing. I have worked for many organisations throughout Wales, but am now a freelance director and Artistic Director of Leeway Productions. I am also a mam and the proud owner of cuddles the cat. I love Women’s rugby and until I broke my ankle a few months ago was scrum half for Merched Clwb Rygbi Cymru Caerdydd.
Hi I am Beatbox Tangent I am a beatboxer from the UK, I currently live in Cardiff but I have performed gigs; workshops and collaborations all around Wales. My love of art and music inspires me to create compositions that take vocal percussion to extraordinary heights.
So what got you interested in performance and the arts?
Angharad : I have always been actively involved in the performing arts since the age of 10. I guess my Welsh language education was quite enabling as I was steeped in the traditions of the Eisteddfod and therefore had plenty of opportunities to perform so to speak. It was a toss up between sport and the arts though as I was a nifty rugby and hockey player, but am glad I choose this path.
Angharad in Hen Rebel Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru
Angharad, Beatbox Tangent has recently been involved in your 10 Minute Musicals initiative, can you please tell us more about this innovative project?
Angharad: 10 Minute Musicals is an innovative development programme to support musical theatre professional in Wales, with a particular focus on the writers and composers. Organised and delivered by Leeway Productions the development project 10 Minute Musicals is held three times a year at The Other Room in Cardiff and is also rolled out across the Regions as a part of our ‘Best of’ project.
We aspire to encourage and nurture new and existing creatives to write for musical theatre in Wales.International collaborations between artists is of huge importance to us. Over the next few months, we will be calling out to some more creatives who are keen to try their hand at writing a musical, and also, more established artists who may want to up skill and network with new creatives and artists. Creative participants can include composers, playwrights, librettists, poets, musician and lyricists.
10 Minute Musicals includes networking, development of current practice and examining and providing the support artists need when evolving, progressing and advancing their writing skills for this genre.
We encourage a continued conversation with creatives and believe that this creative development project is a great springboard towards casting a new light on how you usually work. Leeway Productions provide mentorship support throughout the process, and support artists as they find their way through what could seem like a daunting task. There is a sharing of your work at The Other Room as a culmination to the process and the participants’ hard work.
Thanks Angharad, as you mentioned 10 Minute Musicals has supported artists who wouldn’t think of writing for the musical theatre genre. Beatbox Tangent as you have mentioned you are a primarily a beat boxer do you think you have developed new skills through the process of being involved in 10 Minute Musicals?
Beatbox Tangent: I think I have to be honest. Collaboration is always an integral part of pushing your practice, so doing different activities and working creatively, especially with my partner on the project Rufus Mufasa has really pushed me as an artist and I’ve explored different avenues of creativity. Also, to break down those conventional barriers and really explore something new and using the Welsh language to do that has really opened my mind up to possibilities of language and music.
Musical Theatre as a form is rapidly developing and embracing new forms and styles. Musicals such as ‘In the Heights,’‘Hamilton’ and companies like ’20 Stories High’ are utilising a range of urban art forms in their work. Do you think this can bring new audiences to theatres which might be thought of as predominately white, middle classes cultural spaces?
Angharad: I don’t think we should burden artists with thinking about their audiences when we create work. I think that by activating all forms of culture to write for musical theatre, what willl happen is that the stories they want to tell will resonate with their communities, thus giving context and relevance to the work we create in Wales. We have a terrible habit in Wales of lifting existing models that work outside of our own communities and Country and imposing them onto our own landscapes. What this creates in a standardised approach to the arts. I am not personally interested in building mini London’s and mini England’s within our artistic infrastructure in Wales. We have a terrible obsession with critics outside of Wales, and 5 star reviews, but what about our audiences who are still terribly disenfranchised. So I guess the short answer to your question is, start with a story an artists wants to tell. Throw out all the pre existing models and build our own.
Beatbox Tangent: As an urban artist, I would say yes because the boundaries of Beat Boxing and vocal percussion are being pushed every day. Beatboxing has a very theatrical element to it. We have some great performers now, the likes of ‘Berry Wam’ from France who do all these covers of great commercial songs but some of them are classically trained, and you could easily take your whole family to see one of their shows. So yes, I believe it can pull new audiences in and ‘waw’ them. Beat Boxing is basically vocal percussion and what is musical theatre? It’s using the voice.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Access for diverse citizens is a key priority for a range of arts funders and organisations Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
Beatbox Tangent: We are living in a very interesting time. We are living in a time where, how I like to describe it is a half light environment. We are living in the dark as well as the light when it comes to diversity and equality. We realise it’s important and relating this with music, and Welsh Culture, well…. actually, I believe the Earth is but one country and mankind is a citizen, so I believe I am a World citizen and although I have a nationality I belong to this earth. I think when it comes to arts and music it’s so important that you have that diversity. It’s like a man and a woman are two wings of the same bird and creativity doesn’t rise within one sex or culture. It’s a gift and as long as we have projects that bring different people together from every background I think we can create something so very beautiful and really expand Welsh Culture because we have so much to give.
Angharad: There are many, as there are barriers to a whole host of other provisions in Wales. I am currently working with D/deaf artists developing a musical and the infrastructure to support this kind of work is still very ambiguous and fragile. We have to work with artists who are deemed to have ‘protected characteristics’ (I hate buzz words by the way), in order to reach those diverse members of the public we seem to be forgetting about constantly. If the artists themselves are not represented then why would the audiences come and watch a story which is not relevant to them? Artists need more spaces at the heart of this cultural provision, within communities, to create work in order to reach out to a much more diverse audience. We are still so reliant on venues, and I believe this is a barrier in itself. There is such a drive for ‘excellence’ in the arts at the moment. Well, ‘rising tides raise all ships’ and I don’t know that giving so much focus to our venues helps with this little quote. I am such a believer in this quote and I am very concerned that the divide in this ever confusing world is growing and growing. The arts have a role to play here, because it is through storytelling we find truths and remind ourselves what humanity should look like.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
Angharad ; This is a tough one to answer as it’s such a complex time for funding in particular in Wales.The word ‘career’ in the arts is a dangerous one, because unless you work within an organisation, I don’t know that there is such a thing. Is there? I know of established artists who are still only earning about £13k a year, having worked for years and years. I’m not sure how this is sustainable to be honest, especially when kids come along, so then you get a fall out, and once again it’s all about ’emerging artists’ because all the established artists have had to take other jobs in order to survive, a vicious circle. So at a time when artists are ready to create outstanding work, they just can’t afford to do it. I have no answer, but this is a reality. I think venues have a duty of care towards artists, and Welsh artists, because they are the lifeblood. Jut to add to this also, because funding has become so fragile we don’t seem to be taking risks on those artists who create work that splits audiences right down the middle. That explores the extremes. I would much rather hate or love a piece of work rather than just sit through another piece which panders to the status quo.
Beatbox Tangent: I would like the help to be more visible. More transparent. At the moment, it’s hard to find those organisations. But it’s a learning curve. There are so many schemes at the moment, especially within education, and it’s great for me as a looper, beatboxer to have those opportunities to share my practice within schools, I just wish I could find the opportunities much easier.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
Angharad: I would give 10-20 freelance artists a paid yearly salary and give them the flexibility and trust to self regulate the work they do within certain communities in Wales. Simple. No box ticking. I believe this could foster sincere change at grass roots and community level, because they would not be working towards prescribed objectives and would be able to shape shift and respond accordingly to what is in front of them. Artists like to make, I would give them absolute freedom to do just this.
I would also de-centralise our monster cultural epicentre in Cardiff, which consists of the Wales Millenium Centre, The Senedd, BBC Orchestra, Wales National Opera it goes on and on. What’s that all about? Lol. It feels like a case of ‘ all the great and good may reside here’, and I don’t believe that is healthy at all.
Beatbox Tangent: There are more and more different types of creative art forms all making a contribution to Welsh culture and society. This will only increase through social media. I always feel in Wales though that people are not empowered and empowerment is necessary for them to feel confident about their practice. More funding is needed from different organisations to help creative practioners, empower other creative practioners. Thats why the Creative Practioner training is vital as you are linking up with other artists. It gives different artists the change to make connections. I am a beat boxer I might meet a skate boarder how can we work together to create something awesome? The Welsh Government really needs to understand that no matter what happens in our economy if its Brexit or something else, I don’t want to get political but the arts need to be at the forefront of everything in our society, money can be stretched, I believe everything that we have in our society is because of the creative arts.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
Angharad: We are in a privileged position that we can foster relationships and networks which can be cohesive because we are such a small Country. Artists excite me. I have been working as a Creative Agent for Arts Council Wales for three years now and the artists I have come across are breathtakingly beautiful. There are art forms I had never even heard of and a generation who are creating and nurturing new and innovative art forms for themselves. I love this.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Beat Box Tangent : The UK Beatbox Championships were incredible! Foe me personally getting the chance to work with Angharad on the 10 Minute Musical performances have been amazing. I am interested in pushing the boundaries in Beatboxing in Wales.
Angharad: I took my 10 year old daughter to see Slava’s Snow Storm at the WMC. A poetic, visual piece of brilliance when it comes to story telling. My daughter turned to me 10 minutes in and said ‘Mam, there are no words’. I explained that communication is not about words. It is about a visceral tempo rhythm one finds within the piece they watch. That communication begins with a buy in to a moment. She was confused. She kept watching. She came out and she cried. I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘I don’t know. I just feel really sad’. That’s my kind of theatre. It hit her in a space and place she could not articulate.
I’m also a founder member of Slung Low, a theatre company based in Leeds, and have written around a dozen shows with them that have been performed at The Barbican, The Liverpool Everyman, car parks, fields and whole city centres both nationally and internationally.
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
At the moment I’m listening to some of my favourite records of 2017 so I can put together a ‘best of’ list that nobody will care about. Currently in the running is Currently in the running is: Adios Senor Pusscat by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band; New Energy by Four Tet; Peasant by Richard Dawson; Black Origami by JLin; Arca by Arca; Dust by Laurel Halo; and Drunk by Thundercat. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar is probably my most played in the car, which is always a good sign.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
This could be fifty albums long and change from week to week, so here goes:
1 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: I’m sure fellow reggae snobs will turn their noses up at this but it’s a record I remember my dad playing all the time as a kid in the front room. One of his claims to fame is going to see Bob Marley live and telling Tony Wilson to sit down because he was stood on his chair ‘acting the goat’. I also drew a really terrible picture of the sleeve, of which I was very proud at the time but now recall looking a lot like an ill Howard Donald from late-period (first incarnation) Take That. Every time I hear Stir It Up I’m transported to that front room as a seven year old kid.
2 Hunky Dory – David Bowie: Bowie was also a big part of growing up and is one of the few artists whose death genuinely affected me. My mum’s younger siblings were a bit obsessed with him, and apparently my uncle once got caught stealing my aunty’s blouse to wear in the Bowie/Roxy room at a Manchester nightclub. This album, although not my favourite Bowie, holds special memories as it was the first of his I bought for myself. I got it in Tenby on a family holiday, the same day I picked up What’s Goin On by Marvin Gaye. It was an auspicious day for me and my Walkman.
3 Deep Heat 89: Fight The Flame – Various Artists: I think my obsession with dance music started with this fine double cassette. It has some absolute stormers on it including Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald (still in my all time top ten), Strings of Life, Stakker Humanoid, Promised Land… I’d like to say I was a regular at the Haçienda back then but I was ten. This was when, if you weren’t old enough to go clubbing or didn’t have an older brother or sister, the only way to hear this sort of music was the odd late night radio show; compilations like this; and the sincere hope that the specialist chart on ‘The Chart Show’ that week was The Dance Chart. I still remember seeing the video for Aftermath by Nightmares On Wax on that show and, shortly after a trip to John Menzies, my dad’s speakers were never quite the same again.
4 Definitely Maybe – Oasis: It was either this, Screamadelica, or the first Stone Roses album as representative of this period of my life but, if I’m being totally honest, Definitely Maybe has to be the one. It’s not the best of those records but being 15/16 when this came out made you feel like a king and walk like a fool. I saw them in ’94 at the Academy and it was life-changing (thanks for taking me, Aunty Paula), and their singles coming out were genuine events — the B-sides! Through them I discovered all those other bands they ripped off and for that, if nothing else, they deserve my undying love.
5 Tri Repeate – Autechre: On the personal statement in my Record of Achievement from school, it says my favourite bands are The Stone Roses and Autechre — just in case an employer wanted to know how incredibly cool I was in 1995. Autechre are brilliant. How they’ve developed and created a space totally their own over the last three (!) decades is an inspiration to any artist. There are records they’ve made that I’m still making sense of but this is their best and they are the DNA for many of the really great experimental electronic artists around today (the aforementioned Arca being one). I love them and imagine they have a sensational collection of outdoor wear.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
I’m going to pretend I misread the question and pick Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell because it was the first dance at my wedding and when Marvin goes ‘whoo!’ at 1min 39secs a bolt of sheer joy fizzes through me.
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