Tag Archives: Geoff Cripps

An interview with Geoff Cripps

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Geoff Cripps. We discussed his career to date, his band  Allan Yn Y Fan and his thoughts on music and theatre in Wales today.
Hi Geoff great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I was born and raised in Pontllanfraith in the Sirhowy Valley and educated at Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, University College Swansea and UWIST Cardiff. My early interest in music and the arts came from my mother who gave me piano lessons when just an infant. Pont Grammar School with its annual musical theatre productions and very broad church school “Folk Club” encouraged the performer and participant in me. This was the fabled sixties (yes – I am an old git!) and I remember various peers showing each other in the school playground their mastery of the latest guitar riffs or chord sequences of the rock & pop music of the day…That, plus when I was in the sixth form, there was a sequence of wondrous gigs at the pre-refurbed Blackwood Miner’s Institute by the likes of Dave Edmund’s Love Sculpture, Black Sabbath, The Strawbs often supported by the Rhondda band which became Racing Cars. All heady stuff!
In Swansea I became the organiser of our hall of residence folk club – which was also where I first started booking performers. At this point I was mad about music, never recovered actually, and saw 137 bands in my three years there ( I was the nerdy boy who star rated them all in his diaries!).
At this stage apart from being taken to panto as a small boy and one trip to the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff I was not a theatre goer or knowledgeable at all on this genre.

You are a member of the band Allan Yn Y Fan. Congratulations on your 21 years together! What are you all currently working on?
Thanks Guy. Sometimes it is hard to fathom how the initial quartet of myself, Kate Strudwick (currently boss of Head 4 Arts), Chris Jones & Linda Simmonds have stuck it out for more than 2 decades…Even harder is for me to think quite how I managed to make 4 albums, tour to Germany, Czech Republic, France, Ireland whilst Artistic Director at RCT Theatres! The current line up now also consists of lead singer Catrin O’Neill and fiddler Alan Cooper and together we are working hard to try and get the gigs that keep a six-piece band on the road!

These are tough times…but we are excited that next month we perform for the first time at the Abergavenny Food Festival Community Feast (14th Sept.), followed by our first ever performance in Austria at the House of Regions in Krems (21st Sept.) and then are honoured by performing at the Welsh night of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 24th September. We might all have a lie down in a darkened room after that lot!
As you mentioned earlier you are the former artistic director of RCT Theatres. Get the Chance has had a great deal of support for its work in the valleys venues of South Wales. The venues very often act as the social and cultural hubs of our communities. How do you see venues of this nature developing in the future?
I am so pleased that Get the Chance has been so well supported by the Valleys Venues. I came in to running a Valleys Venue – the Beaufort Theatre Ebbw Vale when I was first appointed as Arts Development Officer for Blaenau Gwent CBC way back in 1994. This was not long after the initiative from the old Welsh Office and South East Wales Arts Association which had enabled the refurbishment of a number of Valleys Venues in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This initiative brought back to life or reinvigorated some ex-Miner’s Institutes which had previously been the cultural and social hubs of the valleys communities. These days I am very fearful for the future of many of these venues in a period when money is so much scarce than in those heady days of the ‘90s but also when, it appears to me, that, despite all the evidence gathered over the past couple of decades, the value of the investment in arts and culture is still little appreciated by the political funding masters. I think that those local authorities that continue to invest in and support their cultural venues are to be applauded. Those residents in areas that still have their cultural venue operating and supporting professional and amateur artistic endeavours should cherish and use them – and shout about the opportunities they offer loudly and often to all their elected representatives.
The best venues and those which keep deepening the nature of their active engagement with their local population will be the ones which will survive and may ultimately thrive.
When you have any spare time you are also a board member of Creu Cymru and Theatr na nÓg.Creu Cymru is a development agency for theatres and arts centre in Wales. Is it possible to explain your more about this organisation and your role?
I have since retirement been proud to have had the opportunity to serve on the boards of The Borough Theatre Abergavenny, Creu Cymru and since 2016 Theatr na nÓg. I hope that whatever “wisdom” I may have picked up over my “career” I can share with and strengthen through good governance of these artistic organisations.
Creu Cymru is an organisation unique to Wales – its strength and appeal reflected in the fact that virtually all the professionally run theatres and arts centres in Wales are in the membership. It aims to be the development organisation for all those working in these arts venues – and links the big operations such as Venue Cymru or Wales Millennium Centre to places such as the Congress Theatre Cwmbran or Galeri Caernarfon.
Creu Cymru offers opportunities for theatre staff to go and see work – whether that be in Edinburgh, across Wales or – sometimes funded by WAI – for international visits such as to CINARS in Montreal. Visits such as these enable the programmers and marketers in the venues to see work across the genres and to debate with peers the merits or otherwise of all scales of artistic endeavour. This often leads to such work being brought to Wales for the benefit of Welsh audiences.
Creu Cymru arranges regular arts consortium meetings (Music, Drama and Dance) at which the work is discussed, members can bring to the table ideas they wish to or are about to develop and also identify strands of work that will enable them to reach out to parts of their audience ecology they wish to reach.
I have been fortunate to have had two periods of board membership – coming to a conclusion in 2018 – and through my own membership it was the backing of or the interactions with my colleagues in Creu Cymru which emboldened me and my RCT Theatre team to start in our co-producing and producing role which I am delighted to see being continued by Angela Gould now.
It was this latter involvement which really set the seal on my support of and active involvement with Theatr na nÓg leading to us co-producing Tom in 2014 with the premiere being held at The Muni in Pontypridd. I am delighted to be on the board of such an inventive and exciting company – and also delighted that as one of the new strands of their work they are encouraging the participation of young people in theatre making via their Ambassador scheme.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
The barriers I am aware of are our poor transport networks, lack of money and lack of equality of opportunity – often compounded by the first two factors. I hope that with the focus Get The Chance brings to certain projects/areas/opportunities more pressure will be brought to bear on those who can best resolve some of the infrastructural issues!
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based musicians, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
For Allan Yn Y Fan our best supporters are the Musician’s Union and TRAC (which I was delighted to be the first Development Director 2001-2003). In some areas there has been support from ACW and WAI enabling Welsh musicians to take part in show casing opportunities such as WOMEX and Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections. As a band we have been fortunate to have received modest grants from ACW to support our tours of Wales in 2010 and 2016 but with the diminution of Lottery funds – getting such awards are going to be increasingly rare. It is also a shame, in my view, that ACW has not supported the production of CDs in the way that Creative Scotland has and continues to do.
I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.
I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
See above – I would fund for a three year period on a tapering basis a Welsh traditional music expo with opportunities for the general public to attend all the showcase performances – this would assist in breaking down the widespread apathy or ignorance to the “real music” of Wales.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
The blurring of the roles of “Presenter” and “Producer.” The contributions of artists across the country who do what they do for insufficient recompense or recognition.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Just because it is so fresh in my mind I nominate the NTS production of “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” which I first witnessed at the Traverse in Edinburgh in 2015 and last week loved once again as it approaches the end of its’ London run at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I just wish that our National Theatre companies would develop and tour a show in the country’s theatres!! Site specific can be brilliant but please National Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru – put something of value into the network of Theatres in Wales….. (retires to await the brickbats!)
Thanks for your time Geoff