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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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)

10 Things That Wouldn’t Exist In The UK Without The Creative Industries

With Brexit looming over us, many fear for the creative industries. The government and the majority of the nation seem to be unaware of the importance of this growing sector, as well as the benefits it brings to the UK.

I ask you in the uncertain times ahead to remember and support the driving force that is behind these 10 things: 

  1. A growing economy

In 2015 the creative industries generated £87.4bn for the country and the amount it generates is continually growing. It is seeing a 7% rise in the creative industries CVA compared to the average rise of 17.4 % across the economy. These figures highlight how the creative industries are a reliable endorser of the British economy.

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Source: http://gph.is/1mavbro
  1. Money super-market advertisements

It may be the most complained about ad of 2016, receiving over 1,063 complaints, but Dave the worker who likes to strut his stuff down the high street in his high heels and Gary the dancing body guard have become household names. Helping to increase Money Super-Market’s profits by 12% in 2016, this advertisement highlights the positive impacts that the creative industries can have to businesses.

  1. The Shard

The tallest building in Western Europe made up of 11,000 glass panels and the 59th tallest building in the world. All created by the architect Renzo Piana, who once said ‘I hate tall buildings’, the shard is a symbol of the creative architecture and art that is available in the UK.

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Source: WikiCommonsMedia
  1. Stormzy

The man responsible for the ‘rise of UK grime’, turning it into something that could be defined as our biggest cultural export. With the likes of Kanye West showing to be a big fan, Stormzy has helped the UK’s music industry to be recongised for its innovation around the world.

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Source: http://gph.is/2cC0jRb
  1. Bridget Jones’s Baby

One of 2016’s top three grossing films at UK box office, and opening at number 1 in 24 different countries, Bridget Jones’s Baby was filmed in the UK’s Working Title Studio, making Bridget a national treasure.

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Source: http://gph.is/2aYr4zl
  1. Glastonbury Festival 

Started in 1970 on Worthy Farm in Glastonbury, Somerset, by local farmer Michael Eavis, Glastonbury Festival is now the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world.

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Source: WikiMedia
  1. Victoria Beckham

If this woman hasn’t spiced up the British creative industries, I don’t know who has. Starting as a member of one of the most famous girl bands of all time, the Spice Girls introduced the true meaning of ‘Girl Power’. Victoria then created her own fashion label that won her  Glamour’s ‘entrepreneur of the year award’, Victoria Beckham is definitely a queen of the British creative industries and a face of British culture.

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Source:http://gph.is/1IPX4P3

8.  50 Shades of Grey

Everywhere you turned in 2015 someone was always reading this book. Selling over 5.3 million copies, and being turned into a Hollywood film, the book by British writer E. L. James is one of UK’s and the world’s greatest literature success stories.

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Source: http://gph.is/2cfd9Vb
  1. Banksy

Listed in Time’s world’s 100 most influential people in 2010, Banksy has helped put British art on the map. Keeping his identity hidden, he started sharing his art on the walls of Bristol during the 1990s and now sees it sold for hundred of thousands of dollars in auction houses around Britain and the world.

  1. 8 Million Jobs

The amount of creative industry jobs increased by 5.5% in 2014, which is more than double the 2.1% national average rise in UK employment. Therefore, in simpler terms, without the creative industries in the UK many of us would be unemployed.

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Source: https://giphy.com

All images free to use under Creative Commons legislation.

Cover Image Source: Flickr.com/photos/unionjack 
Union Jack” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by csaga

The Mainstream Music Industry: Let’s Diminish Conformity

This week former One direction band member Harry Styles released the video for his debut solo single ‘Sign of the Times’, and sold out his first solo tour “in seconds.” However, with his new material being compared to the likes of “Bowie” and “Lennon” unlike the previous mainstream pop genre of One Direction’s songs, this raises questions surrounding artists influence over their music when entering the heavily saturated music industry, and the extent to which they must conform to their label’s authority in order to get their initial break.

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Photo Credit: RedBrick

This is echoed through the other members of One direction who have debuted their own solo songs, with Niall Horan, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson releasing material under the genres of Folk, RnB and EDM – all far-a-field from the pop content they recorded once achieving third place on British television programme ‘The X Factor.’

So now they’ve made their mark, they visibly have more control over the content they are releasing – but surely there are other ways for artists to enter the industry doing their own ‘thing’ from the offset?

This highlights the importance of the influence of independent artists and the affect they can have upon the industry, with artists such as Skepta highlighting the potential to still become successful, without the “apparatus of the modern music industry.” After recording his debut album at his home, and winning the 2016 Mercury Prize, Skepta was able to create his own stamp on the industry, by promoting the sense of freedom he has surrounding his music, by not wanting to conform to the constraints which signing to major labels can have.

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Photo Credit: BBC

Another key player in the field is Chance the Rapper, who in 2016 became the first ever artist to receive and win a Grammy nomination for an independently produced, and streaming-only album. Even Barack Obama has picked up on the “social commentary and meaning” derived from his self-produced album, by suggesting the star may produce his next album in his newly built studio in his Presidential center. Praise indeed for this budding artist.

The advocacy such as this of opportunities for artists to self-produce and promote their own material and to make their own choices is becoming more significant. This is becoming more frequently highlighted by publications such as Musical Connection who this week released a project celebrating this phenomena, by releasing a mosaic of Skepta, and encouraging unsigned musicians across the world to submit their pictures, to be ultimately “auctioned off to raise money for unsigned musicians in the UK.”

This brings forward the shift in the music industry, through success previously being underpinned by super-labels advertising and marketing, towards the ability of artists to establish a fan base primarily through their use of online platforms, and equally fans respect for self-produced and unmanufactured content.

Even major artists such as Ed Sheeran have branched out to independent producing, by creating his own record label Gingerbread Man Records, which although is a subsidiary of Warner Music UK LTD, allows further independent control over the content produced by both Sheeran, and his signed artists.

Ultimately, music super labels such as Sony LTD will continue to hold a proportion of oligopoly over the industry through their economic and social standing. However, as unsigned artists such as Skepta and Chance continue to promote the ability to achieve great success without these backings, the music industry seeks set to somewhat shift to support artists who don’t have to become restricted to labels, or enter a television talent contest for their ‘five minutes of fame’, but who can infiltrate the market off their own accord, and become the artist they want to be organically.

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Photo Credit: Officialcharts

The Palace Journey

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Palace featured in Wind Up Magazine (2015)

Love can be cruel and complicated, as evidenced throughout Palace’s debut album – So Long Forever. Recorded in an art warehouse in Tottenham, the album captures the heartache of front man Leo Wyndham’s parent’s divorce, bereavement and the pain of a relationship in pieces. Described by some as ‘sonic Valium‘, layered guitars, cinematic soundscapes and haunting lyrics combine to strike a chord within listeners across the globe. Clash Magazine gave So Long Forever a review of 6/10, a respectable score for a band discovering their sound on their debut album.

Their debut EP ‘Lost in the Night’ in 2014 flaunted their trademark laid-back sound, ethereal with a touch of blues. Leo Wyndham, frontman, guitarist and lead vocals joins Rupert Turner on guitar, Will Dorey on bass and Matt Hodges on drums.

Our album is a great summary of where Palace are as a band. It’s a culmination of very early songs and new ones. We wanted an album that takes you on a journey through different emotions and ups and downs. It’s our distinctive blues sound mixed with atmosphere and epic reverb. One of the things the album deals with is loss and how we deal with those difficult situations. Whether we fall apart or it makes us stronger.

 

My best friend introduced me to the band Palace in the living room of our little student flat. I fell in love instantly. When she won tickets to attend a secret gig in London, with Palace and their record company – Fiction Records, we booked the next coach to London. Once we arrived, we chatted amongst the couple dozen or so other guests and were offered free beers and snacks. We were shown to our seats and the entire night was filmed on Facebook Live. They played a selection of their songs – in acoustic, with a few new songs that were yet to be released. Then the floor was opened for Q&A between Palace and the audience. Following the gig, we were given signed copies of their album poster and chatted with the band, before heading out into the night – a little bit starstruck.

We watched as Palace went on to sell out their UK tour, their European tour and several concerts in New York. Their rise to fame took them to festivals across Europe, including Glastonbury, Reading and Leads in the UK.

On the 20th of April 2017, my friends and I went to see Palace perform in Cardiff at a favourite local venue, Clwb Ifor Bach. The club was packed with excited fans. Their supporting acts were Alice Phoebe Lou and Willie J Healey, two young musicians each deserving of success. When Palace took the stage, applause radiated through the small club.

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Number 1 fans

People flooded into every available space, desperate not to miss anything. Despite the album’s melancholic nature, this concert brought the songs alive and the room brimmed with exhilaration. The tracks were stripped down, the melodic interlays of the guitar blending perfectly with the relaxed drum beat. The concert was incredible, every song better than the last and well worth the tenner I’d spent on the ticket. But the presence of rising talent like Palace in Cardiff represents something much bigger going on in British culture.

Clwb Ifor Bach is situated on Cardiff’s esteemed Womanby Street, the beating heart of grass roots music in Wales and for thousands of bands, the first step to fame. Creaking with the weight of the its past, the closure of key music venues like Dempseys due to noise complaints have caused outrage and the proposal of future developments threaten this loud street’s future.

Cardiff’s music scene is in crisis. The impact of losing treasured venues like these can be felt beyond the city of Cardiff, but across Wales, because without places that give new talent the space to cultivate, the very future of music is endangered.

7 Days of Culture: From David Hockney to Craig David

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Craig David, Photograph: Ticketmaster

Okay, so maybe not quite seven days. But over the course of a week I enjoyed two of Cardiff’s cultural offerings, and after spending a Thursday evening in March appreciating Craig David’s remarkable comeback to the music sphere, a hit song in the title only seemed appropriate. To myself, and the other five thousand people in attendance, Craig David performing at the Motorpoint Arena was a cultural highlight. Just under a mile away a few days later, in the National Museum of Cardiff, I experienced another display of creative culture in the shape of a private art collection. Here we explore Cardiff’s varied creative scene on opposite ends of the cultural spectrum.

Sixteen years ago Craig David appeared to have it all. But with all the highs that came with reaching the pinnacle of the UK charts, a few years later Craig David found himself walking away and fans were left asking him to fill us in as to what went wrong (see what I did there?). Then remarkably, in 2016 Craig David successfully made a comeback to the music industry, with new music and a new twist with his DJ Set TS5. David’s ability to overcome changes in the production, content and reception processes in a newly digitalised music industry has allowed him to have success sixteen years after he initially debuted on the music scene.

Growing up near David’s home city of Southampton, he was a local hero and when tickets were released for a concert in Cardiff there was no hesitation in whether to go. The concert was an eclectic celebration of all things old and new, with David appeasing both the fans that were with him sixteen years ago and those who have come to appreciate him over the past year. As a garage, R&B and hip-hop singer songwriter he may not be to the taste of us all, but there is no denying his cultural value to his fans.

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This way for the exhibition..

The second day of my cultural week featured what some might argue is more ‘conventional’ culture. Until January 2018 Cardiff National Museum has been graced with a stunning private collection of artwork and sculptures including many of the 20th century’s most renowned artists. Two of the displays are works by Francis Bacon and Monica Doig, and in fitting accordance the collection is named the Bacon to Doig Exhibition. The owners have such a passion for art that many pieces were collected prior to the artists finding fame and now, whilst the owner’s house is undergoing refurbishment, they have kindly shared the collection to Museum so others can enjoy their passion too.

For anyone who may need more persuasion, as well as Bacon and Doig, other works in the collection include Turner prize winner Grayson Perry, and sculptors David Hockney and Antony Gormley to name just a few. The host of  artists featured make the exhibition a real celebration of modern British art all in the one room. Furthermore the exhibition is entirely free. Yes, free! As the Welsh Government fund the museum through a grant, you can enjoy the exhibition, alongside the rest of the museum’s offerings, completely free of charge. In the future perhaps the funding of these cultural treasures may no longer be there, so make the most of it whilst you can.

So from Craig David to David Hockney, the vibrant and multi-cultural city of Cardiff offers something for everyone. Whilst Craig David’s Cardiff appearance has happened, he is touring at many festivals this summer so there is still a chance for anyone who wishes to experience his creative comeback. Meanwhile with the Bacon to Doig Exhibition remaining in the Museum until 2018 there is opportunity aplenty to enjoy some arty masterpieces.

Photo Credit: Ticketmaster

Victoria Beckham, an icon of British culture

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Victoria Beckham, Photograph: Carlo Allegri

When the New Years Honours were announced in January it was no surprise a host of sporting stars featured after Great Britain’s best Olympic games performance in the previous summer. But the honours were about more than just sport. 1,197 people across the country were commended for their services to British industries. Including arts, sports, business and fashion, the list features celebrities to unsung community heroes and is a celebration of the commitment they have to their profession. One person who has been recognised for their contribution to the fashion industry is former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. At forty-three years old Beckham has had an enviable career, but not without its challenges. Here we celebrate why Beckham has finally earned her honour alongside cultural acclaim.

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Spice Girls, Photograph: Carlo Allegri

When Beckham debuted in the Spice Girls first ever single Wannabe, it would have been unthinkable that 21 years later she would be recognised as an OBE winning British Fashion Designer. But that is not to say that the Spice Girls were short of fashion moments. Their 90s trendsetting contributed to their cultural impact and legacy and Beckham was trademarked as the Posh Spice, known for her statement little black dresses always teemed with the highest heels. Throughout their career the Spice Girls were advocates of the “girl power” social phenomenon and the revival of global pop music and Beckham as member of the band would always be celebrated as a 1990’s music icon.

Aiming to continue with musical success, Beckham spent four years attempting a solo career after the Spice Girls disbanded in the millennium. However a noughties musical icon she was not. After much critique from the UK media the singer turned to fashion to save a dwindling reputation.

The launch of an eponymous fashion label was the start of a new career path for Beckham, and with the UK Fashion industry having a “unique spirit and energy that ignites the imagination of the world” a career in fashion presented a perfect opportunity for Beckham to reinvent herself as a cultural icon for a different reason. Her first collection received glowing appraisal with Vogue commenting “it’s one of the hottest things going in New York this week.” Of perhaps most important to Beckham was that her designs were a hit for their stylish appeal and not because of her celebrity association and, after her collection debut in 2008, the British fashion designer has never looked back. Nearly a decade later Beckham is now gracing the high street with her designs, giving the masses a chance to purchase award winning fashion at affordable prices.

Over the past twenty-one years Beckham has overhauled her career, alongside raising four children and moving across the world in support of her husband as a professional footballer. Throughout all this she’s been under the media spotlight, a spotlight that can be unforgiving when mistakes are made. Therefore, the OBE she received a few weeks ago was the icing on a cultural cake for Beckham who has battled to achieve her successes in the creative industries that are always open to critique. The solo career slump only made Beckham more determined and she can now enjoy her new honoured status knowing that any challenges she faced contributed to her ultimate success.

From musical girl power to fashion icon Beckham is a celebration of culture in Britain and her OBE is well deserved, if not a few years late.

Photo Credits: Carlo Allegri/Reuters, The Guardian.

Musical theatre’s convergence with cinema: is this genre worth making a song and dance about?

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Image Source: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/la_la_land/

Cinema’s ever-evolving love affair with song and dance is perfectly captured once more by Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. Whilst paying homage to several classics including Singin’ in the Rain and Casablanca, Chazelle develops the musical’s storyline set in contemporary Los Angeles where this stunning visual spectacle truly succeeds as both a fizzy fantasy and hard-headed fable depicting the relatable sentiments of youth’s hopeless romance, optimistic dreams and selflessness complete with a personal journey laced with unpredictability. With a star-studded cast, you’re promised an entertaining two hours.

As an original musical movie, Chazelle has successfully mastered merging classic musical theatre with film cinema to capture such a display. But how has this new genre emerged?

A prevalent film genre throughout the mid-’60s, the Hollywood movie musical became passé as the 1970s accompanied an era of undeniable realism in film leaving no room for the phantasy of musical. As new genres surpassed, attendance to theatre productions gained popularity as the 20th century welcomed Englishman Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the most successful figures in the industry with works, Evita (1978), Cats (1981), Phantom of the Opera (1986), and Sunset Boulevard (1993).

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Image Source: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/la_la_land/

However, this boom in business on Broadway and the West-End has recently reported an 8% decrease in attendance to theatre productions by The New York Times. While the likely causes for the downturn are numerous, the growth of digital and mobile media consumption is often identified as one culprit. Perhaps the ease of viewing these visual spectacles from a mobile device is a huge advantage to some who do not wish to pay the fee of attending the performance live.

Despite these recent rumours of their deaths, musicals have never completely disappeared and the prevailing movie industry of today reaps the rewards of what was once a luxury tradition. The immense success in the number of films based on stage plays or musicals has taken the industry by storm, and these cinematic musical creations are a significant cultural form in territories such as India, and regularly flourishing elsewhere across the globe. Once more, the movie musical has been ushered back to the big screen. In 2008, Abba-fest Mamma Mia! became a record-breaking UK hit, and stage-to-screen adaptations, from Chicago to Les Misérables have consistently charmed Oscar voters in America. Now the genre’s reappearance has brought La La Land as yet another highly successful movie musicals grossing over US $600 million worldwide. As one of the few creations underived from a stage adaption, this cultural shift speaks volumes about society’s interaction with theatre and technology.

Maybe its our changing tastes or fragmentation of society, but perhaps this tells us something more about our culture and how musicals as an art form are dying in the traditional sense, reviving in their convergence with modern technologies. Admittedly, nothing quite compares to the enjoyment of viewing these cinematic creations from the confront of our own homes, and now Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can be starred at all day long.

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Image Source: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/la_la_land/