Last week I officially opened Cardiff Contemporary, Cardiff’s most ambitious contemporary visual arts festival, which over the next month will bring artistic flair to the city’s streets. Access to great culture is crucial to creating a liveable city, and this is something which Cardiff already does really well.
Over recent years we have invested in excellent cultural facilities, like the Wales Millennium Centre and have hosted major international cultural events, such as the Artes Mundi Prize and WOMEX. All of these have been important for the city.
But events like Cardiff Contemporary, the Diffusion festival with Photography or the Swn Festival with music – signal a shift in approach. They’re about taking art and culture out of formal spaces like galleries, museums and opera houses, and putting them centre-stage on the city’s streets! They’re about celebrating the city’s own creative success alongside the best international talent. They’re about taking risks, and they’re about letting go. Culture should not be dictated from on high by the Council or any other authority. Our role as a City Council must be to open up the city, to create spaces – from castles to vacant shop units – which allow the creative talent of Cardiff to express itself. The programme for Cardiff Contemporary does this brilliantly.
This year’s Turner Prize nominee James Richards’ video work, “Not Blacking Out”, will be shown as part of the exhibition ‘A giant, whose shoulders I stand on’. Richard James, a former bassist with Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Welsh musician as well as producer R Seiliog will also create a sonic installation from the Clock Tower at Cardiff Castle.
For Bedazzled, ffotogallery are recreating Dylan Thomas’ favourite New York pub, The White Horse Tavern, inside a disused building in Cardiff Bay. Cardiff’s Goat Major Projects plan to convert an empty shop into a “virtual” mountain, where visitors can experience nature in an urban environment. Shipping containers will also be sited around the city and Bay by Cardiff’s g39 Gallery to create temporary art spaces housing “art experiences” exploring Cardiff’s world trade links.
This is just a flavour of what’s in store. Be sure to get involved! Click here for the full programme!
Running alongside Cardiff Contemporary is the ‘Empty Walls’ festival, which is another great example of the spirit of co-operative working. Over 20 local and international artists will transform the streets of Cardiff in to an open air gallery of public murals. You can view some of the displays on this online video.
The festival is being organised by the Modern Alchemist collective, who recently transformed the old Cardiff Bus ticket office on Wood Street in the city centre into the Abacus, a contemporary arts centre which has run throughout the summer. Just like Cardiff Contemporary the success of this project has relied on the vision and energy of the Modern Alchemist team and the willingness on behalf of the Council to open up disused spaces so that young, creative people can take risks and make things happen.
I’d like to thank Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic for hosting CityLab 2014 to which I received an invitation in recognition of what our staff at the City of Cardiff Council are doing to promote Cardiff as a world class, liveable city.
The event brought together international Mayors and experts to consider the big challenges that face our cities. Over 50% of the world’s population currently live in cities, a figure that is expected to grow to around 70% by 2050.
We heard from Jay Roewe, pictured here with me, from broadcaster HBO. He talked about taking the Game of Thrones to Northern Ireland and described the ‘economic force multiplier’ benefits Belfast. Over 300 local suppliers- including hotels, florists, make-up artists and restaurants –benefitted from the series being filmed there. As you might expect we suggested Cardiff for his next creation!
I was also able to meet with CEO of Splash, Mike Young, who produced the Welsh animation series Super Ted and is currently working to bring a new film production to Cardiff. Whilst he is now US-based, Mike grew up on the terraces of Ninian Park and said there was only one place to shoot the film of 70’s wild man and Cardiff City FC icon, Robin Friday. The project has the support of the Film Agency For Wales and preparations are hoped to start later this year.