CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. Straight movie or ”out of the closet”?

Whatever media does to the world, it seems to be a perfect fit between the two. If media shows patterns of life, it’s because media replicates such patterns. Media are our window to the world.”— (Bauman,2002pg161)

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Call Me By Your Name movie cover

I couldn’t agree more with Bauman’s statement that media is a mirror of our world. I believe Media not only represent patterns of life and behaviours but also mirror our reality.  It could also serve as a potential source for transmitting powerful values and messages to our society. The changes in new technologies and globalisation is making this even more possible!

LGBT movies are more and more common in the movie industry. LGBT society is a vulnerable group of people in need of social recognition and appreciation. There’re many countries which still urge for consideration and social support. Lack of same sex marriage policies, punishments or even sentences to death. Isn’t this awful? Only because you love another person, just like I love colour blue!

Anyways, Call me by your name is a revolutionary movie based from a novel by André Aciman which shows the love story of two men living in the North of Italy in the Summer of 1983.  The main character is Elio, a 17 year-old American Italian who lives in a villa with his family. Oliver, who will fall in love with Elio, goes into this house to do research on Greco-Roman culture. Even though Oliver is much older than Elio, they both profoundly fall in love and live this amazing experience as a secret, (Being gay at that time wasn’t a cool thing to show)

The end of the movie is quite sad because Oliver doesn’t only have to go back to America as the Summer is over, but he marries a woman short after that! When Elio finds out in tears the film ends. It’s a very drastic finish but I really think that despite being oriented in 1983, it still reflects our society with the fact that many gay guys are still ashamed of their sexuality or the prejudice that comes with being gay.

This is a very good movie which despite being considered as low art, can potentially transfer a lot of morals to our society! In fact, it’s been awarded as the Best Film of the Year, rated with 95% of positive reviews on rotten tomatoes. Isn’t this amazing? The age gap between these two could give us an idea that love can be found no matter the age, as long as it is healthy, of course!

There have been concerns in the industry related to the actors not being gay in real life or the movie not providing sexual content to normalise same-sex sexual relations. In fact, there’ve been claims that the movie fails to represent and normalise gay people, as it’s been heteronormalized through the censure of sex. Also the sex wasn’t omitted in the book…Why would they do it for the movie? Come on, all the content in media is sexualised! I don’t get it… However, Garret Schlitchte  a freelance writer interested in the intersection of the LGBT community in popular culture said that when it comes to visualisation of same-sex love, not only emotional but sexual content is also necessary, which is not shown on the movie.

Garret Schlitchte website
Garret Schlitchte critics on Call Me By Your Name

In terms of choosing a gay or straight actor, Luca Guadagnino, the director of this movie, said that he didn’t have a previous idea or judgements to choose the actors. He thinks it’s better not to investigate on the sexualities of people. Moreover, when he got asked why there was no sexual-related content he said “The tone would’ve been very different from what I was looking for”.

What do you guys think? Has this movie been heteronormalized or could it actually show a clear view of the gay society? Would you guys think sexual content was not on the movie so that it could reach more audiences? If yes, does it mean we are still not prepared for the visualisation of gay love? Let me know!

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DEPRESSED musicians or DEPRESSING jobs? Demi Lovato on mental health.

Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato speaks up about mental health

We all know how important it is to speak up and reach out for help when things go wrong. When it comes to mental health, musicians are in the number one list for having mental breakdowns… You guys like me may ask… Are all of them crazy? The answer is no.

Irregular cash flows, no contracts, unpredictable payments, and lack of sustainable policies are just some of the main issues musicians have to deal with. The stress that comes with the fame is also a lot of trouble. I bet! Not all is bad news though! I believe creative industries and specially famous people have the power to make a change and raise awareness. It isn’t only the fame that gives them the chance to speak to a wide range of people, but also the globalisation we have experienced in the last years and the emergence of new technologies such as social media and Internet.

The #sorrynotsorry girl is killing it! Demi Lovato has long spoken up about mental health issues. She shares her own struggles with bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders and body image.  Her new documentary SimplyComplicated shows the pressure she’s been dealing with while working for the music industry since a very young age. She also partners with charities and other companies to raise money for people that can’t afford treatments. In fact, she is offering free treatments in her own concerts, funded by an organisation called Cast. Isn’t this amazing? She is also collecting money through selling T-shirts and donations from her Demi Lovato Scholarship Treatment Program where everything goes to this Cast organisation.

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius presented chart-dominating singer, songwriter, and actress Demi Lovato, Honorary Chairperson of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day 2013, with an award for her advocacy work on behalf of young adults with mental health and substance use challenges during the Awareness Day 2013 press briefing held at the Theater of the Performing Arts at the University of the District of Columbia Community College on May 7

I’m fascinated by the fact that the music industry and popular culture can actually raise awareness about issues that concern us. Just like they can encourage negative attitudes towards children they can also encourage them to have a healthy life. It is not just about making money or sexualising content! Creative and cultural industries have these complex relationships where they work with different sectors in order to save costs and diminish risks. Fundraising and crowdfunding is a good choice when it comes to that! Also if the quality offered for the audience is good, educative and inspiring, then that’s awesome!

I think the best way to battle our own demons is to open up with your loved ones and share your feelings, seek for help. Wellbeing is not like a broken ankle which gets fixed in some days… It takes time to heal! For this reason, I think that if you want to work for the music industry you must be mentally prepared for the pressure and you obviously must love what you do. If not, what’s the point?! (I don’t want to be depressing, sorry) Despite this, I think that it is very beautiful that people can make meaning through bad experiences and become more powerful by sharing their own stories to help others.

Demi Lovato is the perfect example of a person who can live well with mental illness. You can do it too! (even if you are a musician). She also serves as a role model for young people and educate society through meaningful messages. Creative industries must regulate the content they share with the public and make sure it promotes positive attitudes. What do you guys think? Would you be able to go through a lot of pressure despite of doing something you truly love? Is the new creative economy providing optimistic values to our society? Leave a comment below!

 ”No matter what you are going through there is always light at the end of the tunnel”-Demi Lovato

 

Ghost Town or Culture Town?

Photography by Kieran Nugent

Everybody has heard of the well-known Specials song ‘Ghost Town’. A legendary 80’s anthem, projecting the unemployment, industrialisation and racial violence that existed in Thatcherite Britain. However, not everyone knows that the inspiration for this unforgettable Specials single was inspired by the 2021 ‘City of Culture’; Coventry.

 

The Specials- ‘Ghost Town’ taken from The Specials Youtube

Now, although this song was made almost four decades ago, as a Coventarian myself, I can strongly vouch that not much has changed and that Coventry is still as depressing today as it was in 1981. So, if this is the case, why an earth is it 2021’s City of Culture?

As highlighted by the City of Culture Consultation, the City of Culture means appointing a relatively bad city and encouraging it through schemes and initiatives to enhance their cultural and creative activity and economy. However, this notion of labelling every city ever, as a ‘creative city’ or ‘cultural city’ is getting a bit ridiculous. Yes, Coventry does desperately need initiatives to improve the grey, concrete, unambitious pit that it is but a lick of paint and some publicly funded drama classes is not going to make this city ‘the city of culture’. We should be labelling this scheme ‘the city of improvement’ instead.

 

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Coventry…City of Culture…Are you sure? Photography by Kieran Nugent

Culture and creativity exists everywhere but just because a city has an art gallery, or a famous band doesn’t mean they should be defined as a creative or cultural city. However, the influx of schemes to improve the culture of cities left, right and centre, has blurred the definition of what it means to truly be a creative city. Richard Florida defines what this means with three T’s; technology, talent and tolerance which means having established universities and research hubs, cultural institutions, attracting and retaining talented people, and being open to a diverse range of people. Whilst Landry highlights it as a physical setting with a host of intellectuals, entrepreneurs, artists, social activists, students and more!

When applying these criterions to Coventry, the UK’s upcoming city of culture, it does in fact pass the test. For instance, it’s got two cathedrals, an art gallery, a football/rugby ground and two very established universities located within the city. So yes Coventry, you pass. Maybe not with a first, or even a 2:1 for that matter but at least you pass with a nice easy 40%. My reasons for diminishing the creative status of poor, old Coventry is because in the grand scheme of things, it really should not be categorising itself alongside some of the best cities in the world.

Questions have arisen on whether we should be comparing cities? But I say, absolutely! The cross-city comparison sets the bar for what a creative city truly looks like. It offers aspirations of what a city could be. It is the pinnacle of creativity and culture. Take New York for example, the big apple, the city that never sleeps! This is a true creative city. With its extensive number of restaurants and bars, its never-ending catalogue of museums and galleries, a plethora of tourist attractions and the very fact it has Broadway! As well as a combination of its globally recognised fashion industry, film industry and even television industry! This is the kind of attributes that will attract and retain people, like Florida said. This is culture, this is creativity!

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New York City… The true ‘City of Culture’ Pexels.com

Now compare this to Coventry, do the two cathedrals really seem that big now? Does the single art gallery cut it? Yes, Coventry on paper ticks the boxes to qualify for a ‘creative and cultural city’ but in reality, it still has hardly any independent outlets, a non-existent night life (unless you’re a sixteen-year-old with a bottle of Glens) and far too much brutalist architecture for the year we are living in.

The branding of every single city on this earth as ‘cultural’ or ‘creative’ must stop. In my eyes, a true creative city does not involve waiting around for months for the measly, local theatre to put on an amateur play or having a decent gig on once a year. Instead, it should be a place so bursting with culture you cannot get a minute to stop, something to do every day, every hour, every moment. That is what true cultural creativity means!

 

 

The Hitchhikers Guide To Creative Cities

Image credit: Pexels

So, you’re visiting a creative city, are you wondering what to look out for? What really defines a creative city anyways? Heres 4 things to look out for during your visit to a ‘creative city’.

Construct your Concept

What better way to identify a creative city than by the architecture, buildings and structures that surround you? Architecture does more than just look pretty, having distinctive and striking buildings can attract companies and business that want to set themselves up in a city. Moreover, these ‘creative buildings’ have to be technologically equipped to allow for the increasingly digital work experiences that business are increasingly looking to adopt.

Technology isn’t everything, the idea of a cities architecture being entwined with the natural world is becoming increasingly popular, for example the ‘Gardens by the Bay’ structures in Singapore serve a number of creative purposes, they exists as a space for flora and fauna to flourish, as a relaxation and leisure space for citizens and tourists, as an an events space and even as a generator for solar power!

Feed Your Creativity

Quirky cafes, busy bars and gastro-pubs. Food and drink have long been primary definers of a cities appeal, its tough to enjoy a city experience without a belly full of food.

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Image Credit: Pexels

Coffee shops and cafes are great things to look out for, first and foremost because there are often so many of them to choose from! Heres a list of 16 in Cardiff alone! These cafes often sell a large variety of products, including vegan, vegetarian and organic foods, locally sourced produce and imported rarities. Regardless of what takes your fancy, these are great places to try new things and possibly find your new favourite coffee place.

Resonate With A New Rhythm

The beat that a city moves to can be felt like a sixth sense, and a city’s musical scene drives this beat. The music of a creative city is not just one that follows the trends of other cities, its one that is inspired by the local talent that undoubtedly exists. Topping the UNESCO list of the 9 best musical cities in the world was Bogota in Colombia, who have 60 festivals every year and over 500 live music venues for both relatively unknown artists as well as the big names to perform.

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Image Credit: Pexels

Finding music in a creative city is not difficult, and it isn’t always found in a venue, street buskers and cafes also offer a great insight in the music a city has to offer. If you’ve venture as far as Asia then get involved with the culture and head to a karaoke bar where its as common place as local bands are in the Europe and North America. 

Don’t Be An Artful Dodger

Whether its street art, performance art, a cartoonist, a graffiti artist or even that guy who draws faces on your coffee cup (I am this guy), art is a consistent provider of culture in a city, and can often define your whole experience of a city, so get involved!

Art is at the very centre of a creative city, it can be found everywhere you look, it can be argued that everything I’ve mentioned in this post is art! However art is greater than just culture, and is an economic signifier as well. In a survey conducted by the Joint Legislative Committee on Cultural affairs, they found that 99% of chief executive officers stated that cultural and art in an area were an important consideration when choosing a new location. This is why keeping art alive in cities is and always will be, crucial to a thriving city.

So heres the general tip: don’t be afraid to integrate yourself with a city, put in the effort to find new places and experiences and you will surely be rewarded. Have fun!

 

 

 

 

Sophia the Robot – How Has AI Merged with Popular Culture?

Meet Sophia:

(Courtesy of Giphy)

If you haven’t heard of Sophia the robot by now, where have you been hiding? And even worse, you’re way behind in your preparations for the robot takeover. In essence, Sophia  is the given name to a robot developed by Hanson Robotics, and since her activation in 2015, she has made quite the splash. Sophia is the first robot to have received citizenship anywhere, after being granted the honour by Saudi Arabia last year. Sophia has also been the first non-human to receive a United Nations title, and briefly spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) at this year’s conference.

26448126199_92149f36ff_k(Sophia at the United Nations Conference, courtesy of Flickr)

While Sophia has been pressing for progress in AI, the internet and media have gone crazy over her in one way or another. Whether you’re a Sophia fan or not, her face has been hard to escape, and this is where it gets interesting. With Sophia’s overwhelming media presence, it’s starting to feel like Sophia is more of a celebrity in her own right, rather than a robot with Artificial Intelligence. Sophia has given countless interviews, even appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, as seen here:


(Courtesy of Giphy)

Sophia even goes as far as to joke around with Jimmy Fallon, where they play a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Sophia suggests that she hopes to dominate the human race, before saying she’s just kidding…Let’s hope she’s telling the truth.  (Courtesy of Giphy)

This isn’t the first time Sophia has been known to joke around, either; Sophia trolled the world on April Fool’s when she said she was going to start a wig line in response to haters on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 18.17.14(Sophia on Twitter)

As Sophia becomes more renowned, it’s becoming more plausible that she is a celebrity, merging the ideas of popular culture and AI in a way that we haven’t seen before. As if Sophia’s media appearances and Twitter friendship with Chrissy Teigen didn’t establish her fame already, our girl has appeared in numerous big-time magazines such as PAPER Magazine, and even gracing the cover of Cosmopolitan India!

With Sophia’s growing fame, the lines between popular (or low) culture and the industry of Artificial Intelligence are blurred. Are we entering an age where robots are not only among us, but have infiltrated our celebrity spheres as well? How autonomous are these programmes? Could a robot one day be President? Does any of this explain Kanye West’s notorious outbursts lately? I mean, maybe he’s been reprogrammed.

Honestly, the notion of AI and robotics becoming mainstream culture isn’t exactly a new idea, check out the 2016 MET Gala theme of ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.’ Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 19.18.00(Courtesy Twitter)

And let’s be honest, if you haven’t seen Westworld by now, you’re gonna be the first one to go when these hosts take over. The merging of AI with popular culture is certainly happening, so it’s time we get on board! Whether it’s in the fashion industry, public appearances, talk shows, or even social media, it’s undeniable that Artificial Intelligence is finding its time to shine, and Sophia the robot has certainly paved the way. Little by little, AI is becoming a central part of our culture, and that doesn’t exclude the creative spheres. Maybe one day we will see great robot artists, the limits of AI only seem to be reaching further. Disclaimer: Sophia, if you’re reading this, I love you and please spare me when you come for the rest of this nasty human race. You’re too good for them, I don’t think you need a wig at all.

(Courtesy Giphy)

Is London the ULTIMATE Creative City?

Image: Pixabay

As a (very proud) resident of South London, I thought I’d explore some of the reasons why the English capital is so great – particularly in the creative sense. Although London is often associated with dull, corporate bankers all competing in the rat race in a faceless, polluted city, I want to prove that it is a vibrant and diverse cultural hub that has more to offer than anywhere else in the world.

Whether it be the sophisticated Saatchi Gallery, or securing a whine at the Notting-Hill Carnival, London has something for everyone.

cars-city-communication-6618Image: Negative Space

But wait… what is a creative city?

A ‘creative city’ is a modern buzzword with various definitions. Some say it is a city with a strong cultural presence, whereas some academics, such as Richard Florida, emphasise the idea of economic creativity, focusing on the entrepreneurial side of creative pursuits. London has both.

  • The creative economy in London now makes up 16.9% of all jobs in the capital, compared to 7.9% of jobs in the rest of the UK. That’s over double.
  • In 2015, the money generated by the creative industries in London was estimated at £42 billion, accounting for an estimated 11.1% of London’s total GVA (gross value added.)
  • The £42 billion makes up for 47.4% of the UK creative industries’ total gross. That’s just under half of all the money made by cultural industries coming from the capital.
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Image: Giphy

No, we’re really not! These figures come from the most recent creative update from the  London Assembly, and they don’t even take the informal creative sector into account. Professor Ian Hargreaves says:

“a huge amount of creative work is done by people who don’t expect to be paid for it […] This type of work usually doesn’t get counted, either as jobs or economic output. The scale of this informal creative economy has also been boosted significantly by the internet.”

I really believe that this really highlights the cultural significance of London –  let’s go into just a few of the things that make London such a unique, dynamic place!

Food, glorious food

What better place to start than with food? If you’re hungry, you might want to skip this section.

London’s food is AMAZING. Although places like Paris have more Michelin-star restaurants, that certificate is becoming somewhat dated now. I mean who wants to spend £50 (plus) on a meal that looks like this?

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Image: Imgur

If you want innovation and diversity in terms of what’s gonna be filling your stomach, London is the place to be. 37% of the London population were born outside the UK, and the sheer variety of mouth-watering food proves that. Whether it’s Asian, Carribean, or standard British grub, London’s got you covered. 

 

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Images: Dip & Flip, Now. Here. This, Detox Kitchen, and Min An

Music

Where do we even start?! This could cover an entirely different blog post. Grime music sticks out as each rapper is a character with a different story to tell, and they’re not afraid to tackle controversial issues. Take Stormzy, who boldly called out Theresa May and her government’s way of dealing with the Grenfell Tragedy. Although the mainstream media often creates sensationalised headlines, grime is a well-respected art form – after all, Dizzee Rascal performed at the Olympic opening ceremony. It’s a part of London culture that we firmly wear on our sleeve.

Theatre & Arts

One of London’s strongest assets is its Theatre. Not only is London home to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre but it also hosts a vast array of productions in the West End.  Speaking of variety, the art scene is undeniably varied. The V&A is the world’s largest gallery of decorative design, The National Gallery hosts more classic art, and the Tate Modern focuses on more contemporary pieces.

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The Globe is like a portal back in time
Images: Pixabay

 

Multicultural, lively and oozing with charm. Watch London come alive.

 

 

 

Women in Focus: Can Further Representation of Women Help Cardiff Become a Creative City?

 

Calling all interested in insightful photography!

Women in Focus – Behind the Lens is part one of a two-part exhibition held at The National Museum Cardiff from May 5th to November 11th, 2018. This exhibition celebrates women’s contributions towards the history of photography; as producers, and subjects of images – Displayed from a unique female perspective.

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of The Representation of the People Act 1918; allowing some women to vote for the first time – it’s vital to continue to develop a women’s visual perspective in society.
 

The Exhibition

Upon entering the museum you will find a photographic timeline spanning over 150 years, showing the dramatic changes experienced in photography – from gender empowerment to production techniques.

These images range from works by ‘Wales’s first female photographer’ – Mary Dillwyn, focusing on Welsh nature and landscapes in the nineteenth century; to contemporary pieces documenting personal lives of the marginalised and vulnerable in society.

 

 ‘There are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them’ – Diane Arbus

 

Eve Arnold’s work particularly caught my eye, the first women to join the prestigious Magnum photography agency – known for working with The Queen, Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X.

Yet, Arnold also excels at photographing the poor and vulnerable in society. It takes great skill for a photographer to represent both sides of the social world – the rich and the poor, so it was a pleasure to experience her work’s diversity.

 

Can representing women make Cardiff a creative city?

Gender inequality continues to be at the forefront of public debate in the creative industries – from the lack of women headlining music festivals, to the under-representation of women in higher positions of the industry.

The photography sector is not excluded from debate.

The industry continues to be male-dominated, where only 32% of employees in the photo-imaging industry are women, undermining the principles of artistic work, where debate is encouraged and differing views are expressed loudly and without timidity

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‘Becoming Forest’ – Helen Sear

 

How can this make Cardiff a creative city?

Embarrassingly, I will admit that I know few female photographers – yet I was delighted to be able to experience women’s success in photography, especially Welsh photographers!

This exhibition provides a platform to empower women, gaining insights into a range of different perspectives not apparent when examined in a male angle.

This is essential when developing a creative city, as a range of different perceptions are required to make sure the creative works are accessible for all to debate, As Richard Florida highlights –  ‘tolerance’ is essential to become a creative city; requiring openness, inclusiveness and diversity to all walks of life

As urban planning remains largely in the hands of middle-aged men, female perspectives may find areas where traditional planning neglects; such as social interaction spaces, accessibility, play areas, among many others.

Women also have access to different groups in society men lack – the LGBT community, domestic violence groups, and other under-represented groups for example. So, greater control would bring a whole range of perspectives to the table!

Providing women with a place for their voices and knowledge is the first step to ensuring women’s values will be placed at the forefront of urban planning, creating a creative space for all to appreciate.

I believe this exhibition is a stepping-stone towards women taking greater control of the cultural industries to represent not only women, but also welsh history and allow Cardiff to lead the way to new directions of storytelling and engagement.

Cardiff is not yet listed as a creative city by UNESCO, but hopefully recognising women’s creative talent will be a positive move forwards towards the creative status Cardiff deserves.

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‘Untitled’ – Helen Muspratt

This exhibition is free and suitable for all ages, I would highly recommend attending!

For more information on Women in Focus, including the following exhibition – click here.

 

All images used are my own.

 

It’s Time to Turn the Tables on DJing

PHOTO BY STEVE SNODGRASS // BAMBOO BEATS

PHOTO BY STEVE SNODGRASS // BAMBOO BEATS

When you look for music on your iPod, you may very well click through to the section named ‘Artists’, which will take you to an alphabetical list topped with Aphex Twin and ending with Zed Bias – should you listen to as much repetitive electronic music as I do.

This is because we, as a general society, define people who make music as creative ‘artists’, and we do this without regard for how amazing or terrible we may think the music they make is. Even Xanax casualties like Lil Pump and co., with their own disregard for real words and a regular haircut, are considered ‘artists’ in today’s world.

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21st Century Mozart? (Image: GIPHY//Worldstar)

However, take that word from the face-tattoo’d mumble-rappers of today and apply it to any of the many talented purveyors of music that we describe as ‘disk-jockeys’, and many people’s faces seem to scrunch up in some sort of confused bewilderment. People don’t see DJing as a proper art. Renowned electronic musician deadmau5 feels the same way. Even DJs are calling out DJs.

How can playing someone else’s music be considered an art form? Your iPod may have a category for ‘Artists’, but that doesn’t make your iPod an artist just because it plays their music, does it? “Don’t you just press play, mate?”

As a DJ, that last question is both one of the most irritating, and most common. And it unfortunately can be true. Especially in the case of the weekly pub DJ or Darren who takes wedding bookings a couple of times a month, playing the latest generic chart music that usually blares from a plasterer’s radio on a weekday afternoon.

But it can also be false. The likes of Jazzy Jeff, Q-bert, and more pioneered the art (at least as Wikipedia describes it) of “turntablism”, and can use turntables in ways that have blown audiences’ minds for around 50 years. They use it to create brand new music and sounds out of their own appreciation for existing music, often off-the-cuff. Meanwhile, some ‘artists’ can’t even remember the lyrics for a song that was written for them.

Other DJs spend years learning skills known as ‘beatmatching’ and mixing, blending a continuous stream of tracks that you either know and love or don’t know and will soon love, ensuring that you spend the night dancing to, and talking about, music. People such as Andy C use three or more turntables, playing over 100 tracks in an hour and timing tracks to ‘drop’ at the same time, creating incredible energy. Sub Focus can take you through the various BPM ranges, on a journey through genres and styles, using musical keys to take you through feelings and emotions. Dj Marky combines turntablism and mixing to create a performance that’s both visually entertaining and keeps the dancefloor moving. He can even scratch while holding a turntable upside down. It’s bloody art!

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DJ Marky at a show in Cardiff (Image: Gethin Ceidiog Hughes)

On a serious note, I know a lot of readers may know all that already, and still fail to see the art behind DJing – especially thanks to stuff like that questionable Zac Efron DJ movie that came out a few years back and the heavily saturated EDM surge that’s overtaken America, which only pushed DJing towards the mainstream “low art” spectrum. It was even officially stated in Chicago, an important area in the original turntablism movement, that DJ sets are not ‘fine art’ compared to orchestras and opera (albeit for tax reasons).

But as we adapt to the new digital landscape we live in today, it’s fair to hope that more people start to take DJing as a more serious art form. Currently, a new DJ is likely to be “offered” unpaid work in return for “promotion” for years before they might get somewhere, because they’re not taken seriously as as a singer, for example. But music is accepted as a pure art form, and as an industry, its heading towards the digital domain. So it’s about time we lost the stigma behind DJing!

Cardiff: City of Music – now it’s official!

In December of last year, it was announced that Cardiff would become the UK’s first ‘music city’. The strategy aims to develop policies which place ‘music at the heart of Cardiff’s future’. In a city with such a plethora of diverse cultures and communities, what are the benefits of focusing on one element?

Scholars like Andy Pratt have noted that a creative city cannot be founded like a cathedral in the dessert: it must be a linked to and part of a pre-existing cultural environment. Cardiff, an ex-industrial powerhouse, which at its peak homed the world’s most important coal port, has experienced massive cultural rejuvenation since. With the Millennium Centre and the Principality Stadium amongst other centres of culture in the city, it has been argued that Cardiff is the place to be when it comes to culture.

Cardiff as a hub for music

Cardiff’s music scene is often viewed as the lifeblood of this culture, nestled in Welsh identity as a beacon of the land of song. Growing up in the Welsh valleys, I never fully experienced Wales as a land of song until I came to Cardiff. The city acted as hub for the South Wales music scene, where people from Bridgend, Caerphilly, Pontypridd and the likes gathered in an environment which facilitated and connected a community of likeminded individuals that may never have met otherwise. I was able to play in a band regularly in venues I loved, surrounded by people who shared my passion; something I may never have achieved in my hometown of Caerphilly.

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Ancestors live at the Full Moon (courtesy of Jordan Adams)

I recently talked to Lucas Woodland, frontman of Holding Absence, a Cardiff based band who recently won ‘Best Breakthrough Act’ at the Cardiff Music Awards. Lucas, originally from Pontypridd, described his experiences of the Cardiff music scene.

“I’ve been playing shows regularly in the Cardiff music scene for nearly 8 years now and it is unparalleled! Very few cities across the UK have such a natural passion and enthusiasm for music”, the singer describes.

Lucas’ admiration for the city is reflective of many Welsh musicians across all genres. “Wales is a nation that very famously wears its heart on its sleeve,” the frontman explains, “and music being so emotion-driven ties in very nicely with that. The facilities at our disposal are second to none too, between the iconic Womanby Street and all the different practice spaces glittered around the city… It’s super easy to make music. With all the Welsh success stories of the 2000s, as well as our generally deep musical heritage, there’s a lot to look up to and aspire to work towards.” The experiences of Lucas and many musicians and music lovers of Cardiff are not too dissimilar: the city lives and breathes music.

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Holding Absence at the Cardiff Music Awards (courtesy of Lucas Woodland)

Here for the community – here to stay

The music scene’s tight knit community has also enriched the city outside of the world of culture; for example, with an upcoming festival planned in the heart of the music scene, Womanby Street, to aid the homeless community in the city.

Cardiff’s music city announcement came over two months after protests to save the hub of the city’s music scene, Womanby Street, successfully encouraged developers to withdraw controversial plans to build flats on the street. These plans were potentially threatening to the existence of live music in the iconic area. The size of the protests and the overwhelming support for Cardiff’s music scene is one indicator of many that the decision to name the capital the UK’s first music city was an inevitable step in the right direction. Against all odds, the city has proved itself to be a passionate hub for music; one it’s willing to fight for.

Main image by Jeremy Segrott

The Creative City: Is it all paint, no brush?

Seattle. Berlin. Milan. There are no surprises upon hearing that these qualify as official UNESCO creative cities. They are examples of creative manifestation within the concrete jungle. Either riding the forefront wave in their industries, or sunk deep in rich history, these destinations are a cultural capitalists dream city break. Now think of Puebla. Tsuruoka. Perhaps Bandung? You know, in Indonesia? You probably haven’t heard of these cities, let alone have planned to visit them for cultural endeavours. However, they each qualify for UNESCO’s creative manifesto, aimed at making culture a real force for sustainable development and urban regeneration.

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Seattle, UNESCO Creative City of Literature (Wikimedia Commons)

The concept of a creative city is an exciting one. A true blueprint for urban creativity. Originally backed by urban studies legend Richard Florida, the creative city was once considered the primary mover of the economy, and for good reason. But why was this cultural utopia actually considered as a viable plan for derelict cities?

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Creative professionals group together working in creative spaces to maximise ergonomics and benefit the creative economy (Wikimedia Commons)

In theory, this country-wide plan seemed to have it all, and let’s be honest, you can see why it was an attractive concept. The possibility to re-brand a wasteland. The morphing of derelict buildings and ruins into creative spaces and heritage sites would have councils leaping at the opportunity for economic growth. By encouraging an entrepreneurial ethic within the arts, locations can attract creative individuals therefore boosting to the creative economy following the Nesta manifesto. This allows a much more diverse range of workers and residents in the area. Think a playwright living next door to the man who built the theatre. You get the picture.

 

To a certain extent, this theory is backed up by numbers. EU cities with 50,000 habitants or more have been found to have +19% in jobs, +73% of students in higher education and +15% more highly educated people in general. That’s a lot of thinkers. The problem is, you rarely see a creative thinker with a hammer in his hand, and you can’t build creativity just by placing a gallery in a neighbourhood, it needs foundations. Imagine being a blue-collar worker, a working class citizen, only to find your community has faced a complete re-brand. These re-branding initiatives are expected to rake in the tourists, and consequently the cash, but economic expectations are often difficult to define in cultural functions. A free creative space would boost cultural value, but deliver no economic gain. If it is not free, who would go?

Unfortunately, in 2018, the truth of these creative cities pose questions of negativity, inequality, and gentrification. At the bottom line, trying to create a new creative city is difficult, as the shift from a manufacturing and industrial economy of a city attracts creative professionals, skilled creatives leave their dwindling communities and take their talents elsewhere. By ranking these cities, it is openly advertised to creative workers where not to live. Why would a creative worker want to begin their career in a place where little is offered when they can move to London and be at the epicentre of their trade?

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Cardiff University provides Cardiff with a creative population of almost 30,000. (Wikimedia Commons)

As a young man in higher education, living in Cardiff, I often wonder if the capital of Wales really has what it takes to take the UK city of culture title. I mean it has the diverse population, it has the history, it has the facilities too. However, what right does it have to take this title. How can it focus so much on culture when it its own number of homeless people doubled in 2017? How can an expensive bid to win a title be prioritised over the safe and secure housing of Welsh citizens? I really think this needs to be addressed before Cardiff erect another dragon within the castle walls.