Thrown in the Deep End of the Pula

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Image: WeAreInsert (https://weareinsert.com/event/outlook-festival/)

To say my first ‘real’ festival was incredible is an understatement! Having only ever been to our local North Walian festival when I was around 16 years old, to jump on a plane and end up in the stunning Croatia, attending one of the most understated festivals in Europe, is something I’ll never regret. My love of bass music is something which has developed dramatically over the past five years, but with hectic summers my schedule didn’t allow much room for festivals. However, I was determined to make last summer count. Tying in with a trip to Prague and Amsterdam, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to experience the sensation that is Outlook; a festival which perfectly combines a variety of bass music with the historic culture of Croatia.

The festival itself began in 2008 and was appropriately named Outlook. However the roots of the festival come back to Leeds, one of the most inventive British cities for music development. If you are a fan of bass music you will be familiar with one particular event which has been influential in the success of bass music promotion. This is where Outlook originated from, and is known as SubDub. Established in 1998, SubDub has expanded rapidly since, branching out to different areas and stages. Showing how the culture in Leeds has broadened and developed across seas. Tying in the music creativity born in the North of England with the continental climate of Croatia. Not only this but the organisers come from the UK attempting to combine the British festival, with that of the abroad. Clearly doing this successfully as Outlook was awarded the ‘Best Overseas Festival’ in 2011.

Being located in Fort Punta Christo, Outlook offers a picturesque landscape to host a festival. With smaller Islands off the coast, Christo provides a perfect venue for the increasingly popular boat parties. If you aren’t a fan of massive stages and packed crowds, or fancy trying something different, the boat party is the place for you. Each boat offers a more individual and select playlist of bass music.

Outlook itself is set in Pula on the North West Coast of Croatia, creating a perfect combination of holiday and festival. This has clearly been picked up by British festival goers as there has been a heavy increase in attendance since 2011, so if you’re looking for a British festival with a twist this is your ticket. Not only are the surroundings beautiful, but the Mediterranean climate offers something unique from British held festival. No need for those wellies or rainmacs, but plenty of use for those bikinis and shades!

With SubDub being an event promoting bass music, Outlook also took on this genre but added a few subgenres of its own. One being Reggae, which fits the setting of Outlook perfectly. There was  a particular act which appeared to define Outlook for me. This being the incredible Damian Marley. Born to the legend himself, Bob Marley, Damian replicates the raw talent performed by his father, but adds a contemporary twist. Junior Gong aka Damian Marley, was the headline act on the opening night performing in the incredible Roman Amphitheatre in the centre of Pula. Creating a unique combination of historic architecture with contemporary reggae music, marrying two extremely different cultures.

This festival demonstrates the importance of the creative industry in Britain, not only in creating and ensuring the success of events such as Outlook. But also in bringing together various different cultures to create something remarkable. So if you’re’ looking for something to make your summer, I couldn’t recommend this festival highly enough!

 

 

Preaching Politics: The Music Industry as a Platform to Make a Political Statement

20th January 2017. It was an abysmal day for all as we witnessed the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

Obviously we needed something to lessen the pain. Some music perhaps? Seems like a plausible solution, but finding the perfect soundtrack proved to be somewhat difficult.

Traditionally, performing at an inauguration is a great honour for the performers. But this year was different. With A-listers refusing to perform at Trumps’s inauguration left right and center, it raises the question as to what extent does the music industry play in making a political statement.

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The music industry has long since been intertwined with politics. There are endless examples of songs that lyrically hold political meaning, a personal favorite of mine being We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel. As well as being a great song, the lyrics are thought provoking in that they list historical personalities and events from 1949 until 1989. The music industry is a perfect way to assert a political message.

Celebs that refused to be associated with Trump

Beyoncé

She played a prominent role in the inauguration of President Barack Obama, not only performing the National Anthem at the inauguration itself but Beyoncé also serenaded Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in their first dance at the Leodoff Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in Washington. But at Trumps Inauguration she was of course nowhere to be seen.

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This is not the first time Queen Bey has used her performances (or lack of) to make a serious political statement. Remember her explosive performance at the 2016 Superbowl? It was a direct reference to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Within the aesthetics of the performance it is hard to miss the statement the superstar wanted to make, with the performance carrying symbolic meaning that alludes to the core values held by the movement. The dancers formed an “X” on the pitch in reference to Malcom X who was assassinated in 1965. Beyoncé therefore used her access to powerful platforms to highlight the heightened racial tensions in the United States, her music ultimately acting as a way to assert an important political message.

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Rebecca Ferguson

Much like Beyoncé, the British singer made a political stance in her response to the invitation to perform, stating that she would happily sing at the ceremony if she could perform a civil rights protest song Strange Fruit, which has reportedly been banned in the United States due to being too controversial. Interestingly, Rebecca did not perform at the inauguration…

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Charlotte Church

The Welsh singer made it very clear what she thought of the invitation to sing at the inauguration in a blunt tweet in response…

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Elton John

Initially thought to exemplify Trump’s “pro-gay-rights stance” (really?!), Elton John was rumoured to be the headlining act. However all association between the unlikely pair was quickly diminished when Elton John’s publicist released a statement stating; “Incorrect. He will NOT be performing.” Nice try Trump.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The list goes on. Embarrassing for Trump that the only performers attending his inauguration, the most important day of his political career, were 3 Doors Down and Jackie Evancho. I don’t know about you but I’ve never even heard of them.

So essentially celebs are using their status and power within the music industry to make a political statement that will undoubtedly reach a vast audience. Evidently, the music industry holds extensive power in creating political debate that will inevitably influence fans to engage in politics.

Cardiff’s Creative Collaboration Through Independent Venue Week

Cardiff has become a hub of creative flair, showcased through a number of different platforms and events. A particularly successful feature of Cardiff’s creative scene has been its involvement with Independent Venue Week.

Independent Venue Week is funded by the Arts Council and celebrates the spirit of independence and culture of live music at small venues around the UK. Lasting 7 days, the event allows artists to experience playing live in cool, funky venues that draw in big audiences. This included 5 venues in Cardiff: Buffalo Bar, Clwb Ifor BachGwdihw, 10 Feet Tall and Undertone. All these venues have a unique vibe and lively atmosphere but most importantly, a forward-thinking music scene.

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Independent Venue Week: Love Buzz take to the stage

A large amount of support for this event has been gained, evidenced by Frank Turner who emphasises the importance of local venues:

“Without small, independent venues, there’d be no small, independent bands, and without them there’d be no big acts either; these places are the lifeblood of any music scene, and any music fan should care about them and support Independent Venue Week.”

Indeed, by working with Independent Venue Week, it brings together Cardiff’s local businesses, creative musicians and music lovers. Additionally, Cardiff is able to network with many other creative cities that are also involved with Independent Venue Week, creating a nationwide creative collaboration.

These collaborative ideas are reinforced by the Creative Cardiff Network, who suggest that by working together “we can make Cardiff the most creative place it can be”. It is this collaboration and sharing of ideas that Creative Cardiff promotes through events which “encourage more innovation and creativity in our city”. Independent Venue Week has certainly achieved this aim, evidenced by the popularity and success of the week-long event. It is these experiences that are driving Cardiff’s creative ambition to turn the city into a “capital of creativity”.

The Welsh Government are also behind Cardiff’s creative aims and focus particularly on the creation of digital creative content to grow alongside industries and businesses. This is especially important for small businesses, like the Cardiff bars that are involved with Independent Venue Week, as it allows them to “compete with the largest and the best” of the companies (Ron Jones, Creative Industries Sector Panel Chair).

These interactive and creative business models can be seen by the independent bars in Cardiff. They all have a strong social media presence to engage with their audiences and post regularly. This interactivity is key for digital creative success, a must in the age of social media. This, of course, is aiding Cardiff’s creative aims and in turn, promotes the various events that symbolise the cities progressive approach.

Alongside Cardiff’s venues supporting its creative ambition online, the Creative Industries team within the Welsh Government are also especially enthusiastic. Keeping Cardiff’s citizens up to date with all things creative, their Twitter feed engages with their followers to get involved through the hashtags  

It is this continued collaborative force of not only Independent Venue Week but also the various events held in Cardiff’s local venues and the Welsh Government that is driving Cardiff to be one of the most creative cities in the UK. We applaud you, Cardiff!

Check out Cardiff’s bustling music venues or see what they’re up to online…

And don’t forget to have a listen to the Independent Venue Week music on Soundcloud!

 

 

Photo credits:

Featured Image – By Independent Venue Week – Copyright © 2011 – gained permission through Laura Bradley (Independent Venue Week Press and PR)

Love Buzz performing – By Paul Hudson (Independent Venue Week: Love Buzz at the Horn [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)%5D, via Flickr

Five lesser known gems that make up Cardiff’s cultural crown.

It’s 2017 and believe it or not, Cardiff is up there with the pioneering European Cities. Admittedly it isn’t the biggest metropolis around, but what it has to work with packs quite the cultural punch. Everybody who’s anybody is aware of the main attractions, but here are some of this booming creative city’s more discreet treasures.

Cocorico Patisserie  – 35 Whitchurch Road – CF14 3JN.

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Photo Credit: Cocorico

Among the chip shops and takeaways of Whitchurch Road lies the most authentic French experience this side of the channel. Laurian Veaudour and his team have set up the number one patisserie around, pushing the boundaries of gastronomy by creating the most delicious cakes and desserts. This now 7 year old eatery will satisfy your taste buds in ways you never knew possible. If my word isn’t quite enough to go by, the team have recently reached the semi-finals of BBC’s Bake Off Creme de la Creme. Support the team every Tuesday on BBC 1.

Sunflower and I – 1 Mount Stuart Square – CF10 5EE.

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Photo Credit: Sunflower and I

Arguably Cardiff’s most secluded triple threat, this florist/cafe-bar/concert room combo is unprecedented in terms of style and quality. Described as “A place created from love of flowers and music”, an hour or two in this friendly, enchantingly decorated space will transport you miles away from the hustle and bustle of its actual location. From live string quintets to incredible hand tied bouquets, this place is one in a million.

Spillers Records – 27 Morgan Arcade – CF10 1AF.

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Photo Credit: Urban 75

Calling all music lovers. When they say “The oldest record shop in the world”, this is no marketing ploy. Since 1894, Spillers has lead the way for vinyl collectors and music enthusiasts alike. Situated in the nooks and crannies of The Morgan Arcade, whatever sound tickles your musical taste buds be sure to flick through its bottomless supply of records. And what with vinyl making a modern resurgence, this musical institution will be here for many years to come.

The Dead Canary  – Barrack Lane – CF10 2FR.

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Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing dead about this swanky sequestered cocktail bar. Located around the outside entrance to the St.Davids food court, for some time this was very much a place to keep on the down low. Since its launch in December of 2015, the canary’s out the cage and is now Cardiff’s worst kept secret. The TDC staff pride themselves on their ability to innovate cocktails according to your preferences, so don’t be afraid to put them to the test on your next visit.

Chapter Arts Center – Market Road – CF5 1QE.

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Photo Credit: Chapter Arts Center

Although Chapter attracts almost a million visitors a year, it is relatively off the radar in comparison to some of Cardiff’s other attractions. Nevertheless, this multi-purpose arts HQ is an institution of the creative community, and one that capitalizes on the boundless nature of creativity. Film, theatre, art, raves – you name it it’ll be there, and to such a standard that has seen this epicenter of creativity last over 40 years with no end in sight. With over 100 volunteers to help run Chapter, the sense of friendly community is always strong, welcoming everyone from everywhere.

Feature Photo Credit: Visit Wales

 

 

 

 

 

Six Spots to See in Sydney

Sydney is a cosmopolitan city that is surrounded by iconic beaches, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as celebrated wine regions. Contrary to popular belief, Sydney is NOT the country’s capital. It is, however, Australia’s largest city, acting as the nation’s financial capital and has been labelled as a UNESCO Creative City. With a vast variety of attractions and sights, including the illustrious Bondi and Manly beaches, it is no wonder that Sydney is the country’s most visited city. With so many incredible sights to see, where does one start?

With that in mind, here are my Sydney top six, to help you get the most out of your visit:

The Rocks – The Rocks district is the oldest part of Sydney. Made up of narrow lanes, colonial buildings, sandstone churches, and some of the oldest pubs in Australia, this district is where Sydney first came to fruition when the British first landed. Nearly demolished in the 1970s to make way for modern high-rises, it had a lucky escape when citizen action saw it preserved. The Rocks plays host to renowned weekend markets, art galleries, street entertainment, incredible food, and stunning views of the harbour, Opera House, and the Bridge, surely making this one of the coolest parts of Sydney.

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The Rocks

Sydney Harbour Bridge – Sydney Harbour Bridge was built in 1932 in response to the Great Depression, as a way of creating jobs. Since then, it has become an iconic symbol for the city, along with the nearby Opera House. If you feel like splashing some cash, tours to climb the bridge are available (160 AUD), otherwise it is free to walk or cycle across it for incredible payoff of panoramic views of the harbour and Opera House.

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Sydney Harbor Bridge

The beaches –  Considering the city’s warm and sunny weather, there is a strong beach culture. Every weekend, there is an influx of locals, and most weekdays too, to be honest. The city’s renowned beaches also attract tourists from around the globe. Whether you are hitting Palm Beach and Manly in the north, or Bondi and Coogee in the south, there is enough beach for everyone. All Sydney’s beaches are accessible via public transport or car, as well as being surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars. However, if you fancy less bustle, Bronte is a smaller and quieter, yet equally spectacular beach.

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Bondi Beach

The museums – As with most cities, Sydney has a wide range of museums. Whether it be modern art at the Art Galley of New South Wales, or local history at The Rocks Discovery Museum, Sydney covers all the bases. The one I would recommend is Hyde Park Barracks. It’s a museum established in the city’s old convict barracks, and does a stellar job of chronicling colonial life in the city, with tales of early settlers. It’s well worth the 10 AUD entrance, and a little education never hurt anyone.

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Art Gallery of New South Wales

Cultural events – As two of Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne have a sort of sibling rivalry going on. Whilst Sydney has been designated a UNESCO Creative City, Melbourne holds the honour of being Australia’s ‘culture capital’. As a result, Sydney makes great efforts to try and out-do its rival by playing host to over 30 official festivals and events each year. Check out what’s happening when you’re there on the Sydney tourism website.

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Sydney Festival

Party into the early hours – At the end of a long working (or travelling) week, Sydney dwellers like to let off some steam. If you’re looking for a wild that won’t break the bank, then head to King’s Cross. Here, the beer is cheap and the backpackers and locals, alike, party late into the night! My recommendation: head to World Bar, it’s where most of the action happens, and what’s more, the drinks are cheap and there is a huge dancefloor. Don’t fancy the backpacker hotspots? Head over to Manly, The Rocks, or the Central Business District, there you’ll find a load more locals and fewer travellers, the only downside is that the prices are higher.

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Manly Beach nightlife

Image credit:

The Rocks: Max Pixel

Sydney Harbour bridge: Wikipedia 

Bondi Beach: Wikimedia Commons

Art Gallery of NSW: Wikimedia Commons

Sydney Festival: Wikimedia Commons

Manly Beach: Jay’s Thought Stream

Saving Cardiff’s Womanby Street

Clwb Ifor Bach, The Full Moon and Fuel Rock Club. Just a few of the nine key grassroots venues Womanby Street is home to. This small street in the center of Cardiff City Centre, is where you are able to experience to emerging new music. With initial resemblance of an alleyway, Womanby Street is where you would go to see the alternative music scene in Cardiff.

It could be argued that this streets retains as much cultural and historical value to Cardiff as its neighbour, Cardiff Castle. Womanby Street An important part of the city’s history, with some pubs and bars dates back centuries.

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<Womanby Street Party in full swing – image taken From Save Womanby Street Facebook>

Along Westgate Roads is a Wetherspoons franchise, the Gatekeeper, who have been granted approval to expand and create a seventeen-room hotel. Stepping onto this street at night, there is a vibrant ambiance with revelers mingling and moving along the street and between venues. People tend to spill out into the street as most of the venues have outdoor smoking areas for customers. No resident would want to sleep through this noise. With Gatekeepers plans of a new hotel, this would certainly open up these music venues to noise complaints and fines, therefore silencing the street at 11pm. Not exactly what the punters want.

DISCLAIMER: Don’t get it twisted. The organisers of Save Womanby Street (SWS) have stressed that their grief doesn’t lie with the Weatherspoon’s chain. The wider issue is lies with planning permission policy . SWS is lobbying the Welsh Assembly to to recognise the street as an area of cultural significance for music and performance arts. Also to initiate changes to the current planning permission, making it the responsibility of the developers of any new premises, commercial or residential, to find solutions to noise from nearby pre-existing business.

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<SWS Founders Alex and Ewan leading the march to City Hall on 28th April – image taken From Save Womanby Street Facebook>

With the much loved ‘Dempsey’s Bar’ already shutting its doors for the final time (which is now being replaced with Gareth Bale’s sports bar ) and The Moon Club on Womanby Street (which has been replaced by a new blues, jazz and cocktail bar called The Bootlegger). Many fear that the rest of the street shares the same fate. As these venues are independent and have vital welsh roots, we cannot afford to let more mainstream chains move in.

Other venues on the street look to the campaign to help secure the future of the street. According to campaign organisers, late alcohol licensing and live music is imperative in ensuring that Womanby Street residents can continue to do what they do best.

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<The member of staff who made the Full Moon happen again – image taken on a night in the recently re-opened Full Moon!>

 

“…every truly great Welsh musician has cut their teeth here. Without the platform it provides to independent artists the step from obscurity to prominence is too great for many to overcome.”

Thom Bentley from The Full Moon

Bentley is right; as Welsh culture in Cardiff is scarce Cardiff cannot afford to distance itself from what it founded upon. Protection of this creative hub is vital for the future of Welsh music. I have worked in the City Arms for the past year, a quaint little pub situated at the top of Womanby Street. Pouring pints for the locals alongside the amazing Ewan Moor (Co-Founder of SWS Campaign) It’s endearing to see how much love and passion the community have for this street. These people are not willing to go down without a fight. The Full Moon club temporarily closed it doors earlier this year, however, announcement that former staff had launching a crowdfunding campaign. Within no time, the team managed to successfully raise £13,928  and re-open the venue as a non-profit venue and art space.

Calvin Jones stated that Womanby Street is a living example of the kind of dynamic, diverse, organically-arising and sustainable creative quarter that city governments have been trying, and failing, to create for decades.  Welsh capital’s lifeline with these independent music venues fuelling the heartbeat of live music in South Wales.

Long live Womanby Street.

Brummie Queen of Grime: Lady Leshurr’s new EP Mode and what she’s done for the grime scene in Birmingham.

Lady Leshurr. Melesha O’Garro (aged 28). The pint-sized female rapper, producer and songwriter who is putting Birmingham on the map (Wikipedia, 2013).

A female grime artist? Dominating the grime scene in the UK. Lady Leshurr has arguably put grime on the map, and its pinpoint location is no longer London. But Birmingham.

Very few artists reach over 28 million views on a single before they even release their album. This fast rising north star broke YouTube’s grime with Queen Speech Episode 4 in May 2016. Self-produced, freestyling about memes and correct dental hygiene; she took the grime scene by storm.

 

Describing her new EP as “fun” and “bringing back the old school vibe”. Mode is Lady’s first release since her pinnacle EP Queen’s Speech in 2016. Working hard in the studio to try and create a “club vibe” to try and get a track that her listeners would be able to dance to. Lady Leshurr was undoubtedly killing the freestyle game, but she wanted to evolve her bars into full songs.

 

Tracklist:     

‘Mode’

‘Juice’ – my favourite.

‘F My Ex’

‘Trust Nobody’

‘Y R U Lying?’

‘Glucose’

Don’t worry, she has still got plenty of trademark “bants” in her new EP Mode. One thing I truly admire about her as an artist is how she manages to intertwine social media trends in her songs. The title track “Mode” features a soundbite of the Dr. Phil clip, “Cash me ousside, howbow dah?” that went viral after tough-talking teen Danielle Bregoli challenged the show’s audience to a fight.

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In 2016, Lady Leshurr won a MOBO award for the best Female Act (Lobenfeld, 2017). Two years prior, The Birmingham Grime scene was recognised in this year’s MOBO Awards, with UK Grime and hip hop sensations leading the way with 15 nominations and the introduction of the new category for MOBO Best Grime (Supatrax, 2014). Birmingham is the largest scene outside of London and it’s starting to receive more recognition to its contribution to grime.

However, the infamous as the home of grime, London is starting to lose that reputation. Many have commented on how some London grime artist have become commercialised. London grime artists seem to be dabbling in other genres. Dizzle Rascal was one of the first to branch out and create a track with Robbie Williams. Prime example, Tinchy Stryder made a video with the Chuckle Brothers – ‘to me’ and to probably ‘to you’ (sorry that was cheesy), this isn’t the grime music we know and love.

In order to find true grime you have to travel a few hours up the m25 to find it in the Midlands. Skepta discusses the current state of Grime across the UK, and claims the grime scene is set to be strongest in Birmingham in the near future. “Producers are overshadowing the grime artist…Hungry MC are blossoming in Birmingham.

In Birmingham grime goes back to its roots. Instead of dropping bars about ‘Becky with the big butt’ they speak truth about their desire for the game and their struggle. Birmingham isn’t exactly top of the UK’s a holiday destination list. With rising crime rates and the notorious gang violence in B6 and other areas of the city. Leshurr’s drive and ambition got where she is by refusing to compromise and retaining full creative control. Lady Leshurr is paving the way for young girls like herself in an extremely male-oriented industry. Here is to hoping that Mode’s success is parallel or even bigger than the Queen Speech Series.

Mode the EP is available to download, go support your queen!

 

5 Things You Should Know About Music Photography

So you’re getting ready to shoot your first concert? That’s awesome. Here are five pointers to prepare you for your baptism into photographing live music. 

1. It’s noisy. 

Whether it’s a tiny venue with a pair of blue and red spotlights or a massive arena rock show, almost every concert will challenge you with unpredictable or dim lighting. And that means one thing – noisy images. The problem of grainy colours is why so many live music photographers tend to grade their images in black and white, as doing so neutralises the issue and can often lead to a more emotive photo (Shoot in RAW format for best post-processing results). However, the best approach is to maximise the light available to you by selecting a lens with a wide aperture, with a fixed 50mm 1.8 lens (“nifty fifty”) usually being the most affordable across all brands. 

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As the zoomed image (right) shows, image noise can be a real danger in low light.

2. It’s the other kind of noisy.

The press pit might be the best seat in the house, but it’s also the loudest. The average rock concert is around 120 dB – for comparison, heavy traffic is around 80 dB, and anything above 90 dB is considered harmful to your health and hearing. Even disposable earplugs will protect your ears against the dangers of tinnitus and prevent that dreaded post-gig ringing in your ears. If you’re shooting regularly, corded earplugs are reusable and much harder to lose in the chaos of a concert. Scrabbling around amongst the stage cables for a dropped foam plug doesn’t just make you look clumsy, it loses you valuable shooting time!

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3. Three songs, no flash.

You may have heard of the ‘three songs, no flash’ rule. It’s exactly what you’d imagine – three songs of shooting the live band, no flash photography. The rule was allegedly first instated by Bruce Springsteen at his concerts in the 80s in response to overcrowded press pits that spoiled the performance for both him and the audience. In 2017, it has become the norm at most music concerts, though some smaller venues or DJ events are less fussy. It’s always best to confirm the situation with security if you’re unsure.

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4. Dying of Exposure.

Just like the couple looking to cut costs on their wedding album by getting Uncle Stuart to take some snaps on his new camera he got for Christmas, more and more publications are paying photographers with nothing but ‘exposure’ and the offer of the press pass itself. The lower barrier for entry is great news for enthusiasts, but is doing no favours to professional shooters trying to pay the rent. If you want to become a music photographer in order to make your millions, well, as of right now you’re probably better off selling your camera kit and investing it into something more lucrative.

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5. Understand Pit Etiquette.

Be nice to people. It’s a good rule for life in general, but an essential one for your time in the press pit. The security team can make your life a lot easier – but also an awful lot harder. Obey their rules and be polite to them, as it is ultimately their job to look after you and the people around you. Also take care that you aren’t getting in the way of your fellow shooters. A protruding camera lens or a wandering hand is the quickest way to ruin their shot and make needless enemies. You’re all there for the same reason, so if you need to get past, simply wait a moment, or give them a gently tap on the shoulder.  In the same spirit, bulky backpacks are a big no no. Above all, be nice to the paying fans at the front!

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Tech crews are the backbone of a concert – so treat them with respect!
All photos © Jasper Wilkins (jjwilkins.com)

On the Brink: Womanby Street, Cardiff.

Womanby Street in Cardiff is the home to many locations who offer live music in the city, but over the last month the historic street has been under threat. Dempsey’s has already faced closure and The Full Moon is currently in the process of refurbishment due to staff taking over. But there is another challenge facing Cardiff’s hub for live music.

Proposed plans by Weatherspoon’s to build a seven-storey commercial and residential property next to Clwb Ifor Bach, and plans to create a Weatherspoon’s hotel has been met with major criticism.  On the 29th of April, Save Womanby Street (SWS) campaigners joined politicians, musicians and owners to meet Cardiff’s local party leaders in a march to the City Hall.

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The aim of the campaigners is to get the Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government to change policies on planning to protect music venues against noise complaints. They also are looking to have the council amend the city’s Local Development Pan to ensure the street is regarded an area of cultural significance and a ‘night-time economy zone’.

It is a stance against the demise of one piece of Cardiff’s cultural heritage which has been backed by Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central MP), Neil McEvoy (Fairwater councillor and South Wales Central AM), Jenny Rathbone (Cardiff Central AM), Julie Morgan (Cardiff North AM) Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West MP), and Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth MP).

According to Guto Brychan, who runs Clwb Ifor Bach, Weatherspoon’s plans to build a hotel on the street would lead to complains about noise levels.

“The problem we have more than anything I think is that having a place with flats right next door to Clwb is going to create a difficult situation which would not be easy to resolve”

“Noise does carry, we have a lot of elements within the building already which ensure that the noise doesn’t carry, but having flats right next door is totally different, it would be totally impossible.”

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The importance of this stance against the domination of a corporation and for the sustainability of a street which has been at the heart of Cardiff’s creative commonplace could not be emphasised more. It’s a massive disappointment seeing the possibility of the types of clubs that Womanby Street accommodates facing closure. There are so many young, up-and-coming, grassroots bands and artists with so much potential who need these kinds of venues to kick-start their careers.

Super Furry Animals, Coldplay, Killers, John Peel, Biffy Clyro, Euros Childs, Stereophonics and Catfish and the Bottlemen are just a few highly reputable bands and artists who have played at Clwb Ifor Bach over the years.

But this particular problem on this particular street may be a sign of problems that other cities are facing as well. A city’s ability to attract talent means that their ability to create new business, attract other companies, innovate and create new wealth and prosperity is boosted. Over the past decade, Cardiff has been one of the quickest growing cities in the UK. However, the fact that Womanby Street, such a historical and contemporary creative hub in Cardiff, is in jeopardy due to corporate investment shows the vulnerable position that creative pockets of cities can find themselves in.

With increasing concentrated ownership of venues and consumerist culture on an all-time high, and the arts and culture industry facing less EU funding post-Brexit, there is a real possibility that independent music venues will get more and more vulnerable.

Weatherspoon’s and the campaigners are still waiting to hear the results of the planning application. According to Cardiff Central, they recognise that live music is important to the city and that it’s important to ensure that Cardiff’s nightlife stays lively. But whatever the result, the battle will continue for the protection of these unique venues in this special location.

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City of Culture 2021?

Photo Credit: St. Davids Yurts

The city of St Davids may be the smallest city in Britain, in size and population, but its rich cultural heritage has made it a contender in the race to win the prize for the title of UK City of Culture 2021. From its coastal views, to its grand Cathedral this bitesized city can offer far more than the history of Wales’ patron Saint, Saint David, alone.

Located along the Pembrokeshire coastal path St Davids is the perfect resting point between long scenic walks for people who are eager to soak up some Welsh culture. Despite its size the city has plenty to offer, it is filled with historic landmarks that’s architectural grandeur bring visitors from a far, a national gallery and even a palace, of sorts, not forgetting plenty of quaint dining spots that serve traditional Welsh feasts to help refuel after immersing yourself in the history of St Davids.

Perhaps the most iconic image of St Davids is its beautiful Cathedral, which is not only home to some fascinating history surrounding Wales’ patron Saint, its walls are often ringing with the sound of choral singing, as choirs travel from a far to have the opportunity to perform on St Davids Cathedrals stage. As a country of song, it’s hardly surprising that choirs from across the world come to Wales to immerse themselves in its choral culture.

As a previous host of the National Eisteddfod, a yearly celebration of Welsh culture, in 2002, the Welsh language and its traditions is at the heart of St Davids charm. A factor in which could be vital in the cities quest for the UK City of Culture title, as its Welsh speaking community in a place which holds such importance to the history and culture of Wales could be the distinctive factor that makes St Davids stand out from the crowd. The historic language of Wales has a significant influence on the countries culture in a way that is completely unique to Wales alone.

With fewer than 2,000 people residing in St Davids, its city status is pretty impressive. It certainly doesn’t match the stereotypical attributes of a booming city, you wont find any bustling high streets or towering skyscrapers in this small Welsh city. However, much like the busiest of cities in the United Kingdom, St Davids is filled with culture. The size of the city does not represent the wealth of its culture and history.

Photo Credit: Trip Advisor 

Not a fan of history? Luckily St Davids has far more to offer. Situated on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast, this small city is renowned for its fantastic water sports facilities, from surfing to kayaking, the choppy waters of St Davids offers a freezing cold welcome to all.

Perhaps not daring enough to risk dipping a toe in cold waters? Why not take a bought trip around Ramsey Island with the chance of spotting a couple of dolphins or whales.

From tourists to pilgrims St Davids attracts a wide variety of people. It may be small in size, yet, it is steeped in history and heritage that will leave you planning your next visit to the quaint rural city. Perhaps it is not the most conventional candidate for the title of UK City of Culture, however, it can’t be denied that St Davids is filled with culture and history to match a city ten times the size of it. Could the title of City of Culture 2021 be the catalyst that raises the profile of this small city beyond Wales?