Noizze got the chance to speak with Alex Owen, music activist and Save Womanby Street Campaign Manager to discuss the finer details of what exactly is a “Music City” and what does this mean for Cardiff’s live music scene moving forward?
Noizze: So we're imminently going to be hearing the official announcement that Cardiff's going to be the UK's first music city?
Alex: That's right, Actually they sign the inception agreement tomorrow (December 14th) afternoon.
Noizze: Fantastic, so what does becoming a music city actually mean?
Alex: What it quite literally means from Dec 14th is that the contract has been signed with a company called Sound Diplomacy have you heard of them?
Noizze: They're the music focused business strategists correct?
Alex: That's right, and their concept is the music city, so from the signing tomorrow they'll come in on a 10 month process, and basically consult with the city and map out the whole ecology of the music scene there, work out exactly what's going on. Look at the boring details like the council’s policies and regulations and rules. By the end of that process they'll come up with the music strategy for Cardiff, saying to the council "This is what you need to change, this is what you need to do, this is what you need to advertise, this is how you help, and this is the way forward."
Frank Iero At The Globe, Cardiff. Photo Credit: Stevie Swarts
Noizze: Alright cool, so in theory in 10 months we'll be hearing plans for new venues, practice spaces etc...?
Alex: In theory in 10 months you should be getting a really good quality music strategy for the city being published for the council to then adopt.
Noizze: This is obviously great news, but what does it mean for your every day live music fan?
Alex: The best way I can put is in a couple of little examples, even little things like Womanby Street’s got the music venues, but it's a street with parking restrictions where every band that turns up to unload gets fucked. The city has never even looked at the traffic regulations in a way that even considers the fact that there's a music venue there, and that's the kind of attitude, and one of the hundreds of little things that need to change. I mean that is small fry, but you stack up those kinds of things together, the policies over the years the city have got to change to support music in the future. It needs investment too really, and that's kind of what I'm hoping to get out of this music strategy, by the end of the 10 months.
Noizze: So the idea is to incubate an environment that's appealing to musicians and promoters etc...?
Alex: Yeah I mean Sound Diplomacy have gone a bit further than the level of music venues with this one, something they're excited about. They call it "Music Urbanisation". What they mean is, they're even going as far as like, education in schools and community facilities. All the community facilities and halls and spaces available, do they allow practice facilities? Do they have a negative attitude when bands show up to hire it for practice? "Ah none of that noisy stuff" Y’know? How can the council put in policies that all these community spaces are available for bands to practice or artists to practice. Do schools just give music lessons? Do they encourage things like battle of the bands and that kinda of stuff…
Noizze: Sounds like there's still a lot of work to do then?
Alex: Yeah. I mean, once this strategy's over we'll have a lot of work to do, to make sure the council buy in to some of the bigger promises of that strategy. I'm sure it'll be a lot of campaigning for us to do, but the fact that after we suggested to sign up Sound Diplomacy which, y'know cost a lot of money to a cash strapped authority. The fact that they've agreed and gone ahead with this, and a few of the conversations we've had with the leadership, I think the heads of the council, are actually, they're buying in to this idea! I think whether they fully understand what it is or not I think that actually being like a vibrant live music scene where perhaps new acts might cut their teeth is something they want Cardiff as a capital city to be in the future.
Noizze: It sounds absolutely great, So you said the inception signing is happening tomorrow afternoon? Is that something you're encouraging people who want to get involved come down to?
Alex: The signing will happen in the city hall at 5pm, unfortunately the city hall will be full of dignitaries and people like the venue owners but these are limited numbers, it doesn't actually allow the music fans and the public to get involved. So we've got the leader of the council, the MP they're all coming over to Womanby St. for 7 o clock and we're gonna do it all again in a way that can let everyone share this and people can enjoy music. Which is the way it should have been from the start.
Noizze: Amazing, well thanks for your time Alex, we're all looking forward to see what Sound Diplomacy suggest.
Alex: So are we I hope it's something good for the future now.
You can follow the Save Womanby Street campaign group on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Save-Womanby-Street-200471403769378/