Another Cardiff much-loved music venue, Ten Feet Tall, was replaced by a commercial restaurant and offices recently. Does this indicate that the gorgeous music era in Cardiff will soon be left in the past?
As a music lover, Ben James could still remember one of the darkest days in his life when hearing the news that his beloved music venue, Ten Feet Tall, would turn into a commercial restaurant and offices and never come back again. Gone are the days when people gathered at the scene, immersed in great stand-up music performances and all shared a beautiful, unforgettable night.
“It was so good having a space in Cardiff that allowed people to run music events and try new things out. It felt like we were watching the birth of something huge…,” Ben said. But he is only one of the live music lovers among a large number of people.
Shortly after the heartbreaking news came out, a petition called “Save 10 Feet Tall Cardiff” set up and immediately gained massive support from people who felt sad for the venue, and more are worrying that the music scene in the city is on a knife-edge.
“Too many venues are closing down and destroying the art community,” Moil, who signed the petition, said. “This venue has been the heart of many people’s lives, celebrates live music, upcoming DJs and gives people reason to grow.”
Indeed, Ten Feet Tall is only the latest example of the decline of music scenes in Cardiff. Dempseys, Buffalo, Undertone: these names are all familiar to music fans, but already disappeared in the city mostly due to the redevelopment plans of the landlords. Gwdihw is a grassroots music venue that has been struggling with the demolition in the previous year and hasn’t returned despite receiving lots of warm support from music fans.
“Venues like Gwdihw, and thousands more across the country, are closing at a frightening rate, a perfect storm of soaring rent, spiraling business rates, rapacious property developers and often unsympathetic landlords,” Jo Stevens, Labour MP for Cardiff Central said. “Easy money to be made through redevelopment trumped the huge community and artistic value of a venue.”
Even the performers have experienced increasing financial pressure. Rhys from Merthyr Band said: “We’ve lost a lot of good venues because society is changing and pubs are closing. People are going out less due to austerity too.
“There’s a huge challenge for young artists, selling music as a physical product like a CD or record. Gone are the days of going to HMV now that everyone is streaming music online.”
While significant obstacles are making it difficult for Cardiff to keep its “music city” name, people from different social groups are exerting great efforts to save those music venues. The local labor MP Jo Stevens has been a strong advocate, voicing support for music by showing the value of music to the city’s economy at the conference, while keeping a close relationship with relevant organizations and campaigns.
Music Board is one of the representative organizations that focus on protecting and promoting music at grassroots as well as developing Cardiff’s Music Strategy, including bringing land for existing music venues to expand and setting up signature music events with partners.
Council leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, who is also responsible for the organization added: “Our ambition is to transform Cardiff into the first UK city where music is incorporated into its structure – that means everything from planning and licensing to social well-being and tourism.”
Creative Republic of Cardiff is quite different as a non-profit team consisting of former staff and friends of The Full Moon, which is a local music venue shut down after debts accumulated from the upstairs store. In the last three years they have taken on the lease of the building, rebooted a community-focused music and art space as well as establishing an environment of collaboration and networking with the help of local fundraising.
“It’s great to see some people who experienced failures never give up and continue making great contributions to the local music industry.” Edward, a music worker, and enthusiast who has a deep concern about the issue said. “However, to save the overall live music venues in Cardiff, we need to bring more people in and unite everyone’s effort, rather than only having these music lovers.
“Music is more like a culture here as well as a valuable treasure that should be inherited. No one will be the winner if more music scenes disappear from the city.”