I attended a fascinating event in Newport yesterday organised by The Welsh Music Foundation. Its focus attempted to consider reasons behind why a once ‘legendary’ music scene, was now struggling to find an audience. In short, how can ‘vibrancy’ be brought back to the Newport music scene? This issue is probably best highlighted by the closure of TJ’s – a venue that once hosted numerous international artists such as those highlighted here. When listening to the debate yesterday the first thing that struck me is that someone needs to write a book about the musical history of this city. This should not be an academic book, but an histography of the rise (and fall) of music in Newport. This may be part of a larger ‘ live music in south Wales’ publication, so if anyone has any ideas – get in touch. (See note below)
Some of the Key themes discussed during the meeting are outlined below. These are areas that I will explore further during the research project I am currently working on in conjunction with The Welsh Music Foundation into the live music sector in Wales, so for the moment there are more questions than answers.
- Musician/promoter relationships with the local council obviously need to be considered, and it will be interesting to see if this is the case in all areas of Wales. For example the Live Music Toolkit currently been developed by the Welsh Music Foundation in conjunction with Cardiff Council is a good model to open up communication between the live sector and local councils. Could this be rolled out to other regions?
- There was a perception that promoters and artists were working hard, but there was a general apathy toward live music by audiences. It was proposed that the development of the new Art College in Newport is one factor that could assist this issue. comments……
- There was a consensus that venues need to develop a trust relationship with national promoters like the model displayed at TJ’s. How can this be done?
- There was a feeling that the introduction of some ‘name bands’ gigging in the area would propagate interest w ithlocal audiences and inspire young bands. How can this be done? Is it the case?
- The issue of local bands playing in Cardiff could be compromising the grass roots gig scene in Newport. How can local bands be encouraged to perform in Newport also?
- Could Newport develop an event similar to Cardiff’s ‘SWN’ festival, and if so would it assist some of the problems outlined above?
- Should Newport continue to work on its own individual identity, or would it make more sense to work with Cardiff and other areas on a South Wales scene? If the latter is true – is it possible?
- Would more people involved in promoting gigs improve the situation, or does it simply require an individual to take control of the city and begin aggressively promoting live music?
- How can Newport take advantage of the forthcoming Ryder Cup? It was mentioned at the meeting that local councils may be more sympathetic during this time period.
- Good backline equipment was mentioned as a key factor to ensure the quality of live performances are of a professional standard. How can this be implemented?
- Would having another ‘big’ venue be a good starting point, or would it make more sense to focus on grass routes music activity?
- It was suggested that many people are simply too ‘scared’ go to gigs in Newport. Is this really the case, and if so how can this perception be solved?
- Is there a way that training provision can assist any of these problems?
There are obviously many more questions to consider, but in the meantime I would be interested in any comments anyone has about any of these points, whether you are from Wales or not.
Note: Since writing this blog, Andy Barding got in touch informing me that there are two books currently being written on the Newport Music Scene. He also corrected me about Nivarna’s engagement with the venue – they never played there! I quote Andy below – and appologise for my ignorance!!
“There are two books being written about the Newport music scene. One is by me, to be called ‘Sleepless in the New Seattle’. It will be an oral history of the years 1974-2010. From Strummer to TJ’s in the Square, basically. The other is by Johnny Perkins and is about his personal involvement in the city’s music scene during the punk/New Wave years”.