INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK 2021 ANNOUNCES GRUFF RHYS AS THEIR NATIONAL AMBASSADOR FOR WALES
MONDAY 25 JANUARY – SUNDAY 31 JANUARY 2021
OVER 75 INDEPENDENT UK VENUES
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH – ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND, CREATIVE SCOTLAND, SEE TICKETS, YAMAHA, FRED PERRY, PPL, THE MUSICIANS UNION, THE F LIST, LOADIN.COM
Launch Announcement Event Film here
For the first time in its eight-year history, Independent Venue Week will this year be represented by four ambassadors – one for each of the Home Nations – who will lead the way in championing independent venues, and their communities, across their respective countries in the build-up to IVW 2021. Gruff Rhys is the second ambassador to be announced following Arlo Parks and will represent his home country, Wales. IVW takes place from Monday 25 January to Sunday 31 January 2021. For more information, visit Independentvenueweek.com.
Having shot to fame as the lead singer and songwriter in Cardiff rock band Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys has been a stalwart in the Welsh music scene for nearly 25 years. A vastly talented polymath (musician, filmmaker and author), Rhys will be representing IVW in Wales for the first time this year.
Gruff Rhys comments:
“As a touring musician – my work is completely connected to having independent venues exist. It’s about people, not the actual buildings. It’s about the energy and enthusiasm that music fans have created in towns and cities and villages and so, we need to give a voice for those people to be heard.
Touring artists are completely dependent on the enthusiasm of independent promoters and venues. The reality of music is that for most people it’s a lifelong passion, and musicians can rarely make a full living out of it, so music exists thanks to people’s passion to want to hear music, share music and give a stage to exciting new music. Independent venues keep that spirit going and they make it possible for musicians to play – most people involved are doing it for the love of it. Those independent venues create the conditions that make it possible for everything else to happen within music.”
MAE WYTHNOS LLEOLIADAU ANNIBYNNOL 2021
YN CYHOEDDI MAI GRUFF RHYS FYDD EI LLYSGENNAD CENEDLAETHOL CYMRU
DYDD LLUN 25 IONAWR – DYDD SUL 31 IONAWR 2021
DROS 75 O LEOLIADAU ANNIBYNNOL Y DU
MEWN PARTNERIAETH Â – ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND, SEE TICKETS, YAMAHA, FRED PERRY, PPL, THE MUSICIANS UNION, THE F LIST, LOADIN.COM
Lansio Ffilm Cyhoeddi Digwyddiad yma
Am y tro cyntaf yn ei hanes dros 8 mlynedd, bydd Wythnos Lleoliadau Annibynnol eleni yn cael ei chynrychioli gan bedwar llysgennad – un ar gyfer pob un o bedair gwlad y DU – a fydd yn arwain y ffordd wrth hyrwyddo lleoliadau annibynnol, a’u cymunedau, yn eu gwledydd perthnasol wrth i IVW 2021 nesáu. Gruff Rhys yw’r ail lysgennad i gael ei gyhoeddi yn dilyn Arlo Parks bydd yn cynrychioli ei wlad frodorol, Cymru. Cynhelir IVW o ddydd Llun 25 Ionawr tan ddydd Sul 31 Ionawr 2021. Am ragor o wybodaeth, ewch i Independentvenueweek.com.
Mae Gruff Rhys wedi bod yn seren byd cerddorol Cymru am bron i 25 o flynyddoedd, ers denu sylw fel cyfansoddwr caneuon a chantor blaenllaw band roc o Gaerdydd, Super Furry Animals. Fel polymath gyda doniau di-rif (cerddor, gwneuthurwr ffilmiau ac awdur), bydd Rhys yn cynrychioli IVW yng Nghymru am y tro cyntaf eleni.
Medd Gruff Rhys:
“Fel cerddor sy’n teithio, mae fy ngwaith yn gwbl gysylltiedig â lleoliadau annibynnol. Mae’n ymwneud â phobl, nid yr adeiladau eu hunain. Mae’n ymwneud â’r egni a’r brwdfrydedd mae cefnogwyr cerddoriaeth wedi’u creu mewn trefi a dinasoedd a phentrefi, felly mae angen inni gynnig ffordd i’r bobl hynny leisio eu barn.
Mae artistiaid sy’n teithio yn dibynnu’n gyfan gwbl ar frwdfrydedd hyrwyddwyr a lleoliadau annibynnol. Y gwir amdani yw bod cerddoriaeth yn angerdd gydol oes i’r rhan fwyaf o bobl, ond yn anaml iawn y gall cantorion ennill bywoliaeth lawn ohoni, felly mae cerddoriaeth yn bodoli diolch i angerdd pobl i wrando ar gerddoriaeth, ei rhannu a rhoi llwyfan i gerddoriaeth newydd. Mae lleoliadau annibynnol yn cadw’r meddylfryd hynny, gan ei gwneud hi’n bosib i gerddorion chwarae – mae’r rhan fwyaf o bobl sy’n rhan o hyn yn ei gwneud hi allan o gariad. Mae’r lleoliadau annibynnol hynny’n creu’r amgylchiadau sy’n ei gwneud hi’n bosib i bopeth arall ddigwydd ym maes cerddoriaeth.”
“We need to give a voice for those people to be heard” – Gruff Rhys, 2021 Independent Venue Week Ambassador for Wales
‘It’s about the energy and enthusiasm that groups of music fans have created in towns and cities and villages. So we need to give a voice for those people to be heard.’
Ahead of #IVW21 Gruff explains how grassroots gigs as a teenager in his hometown of Bethesda helped to shape his career, and how the community surrounding independent venues can support gig-goers as well as artists.
“Music is all about being a part of a community. Being in a band is part of the community,” he says. “Being in a band is part of the community. The rehearsal studios, the record shop, it’s all completely interdependent, it’s a community of independent people helping each other out, so once you started going to those places you become part of the community and it flows from there. Once you play those places, you meet touring bands and then you become part of an international community of musicians.”
Along with taking a lead role in this year’s celebration, Gruff has helped put together Ara Deg, a virtual festival performed from Neuadd Ogwen in Bethesda. Gruff spoke to writer, broadcaster and friend of Independent Venue Week Paul Stokes about his 2020, what the Welsh music community means to him and ambassadorial duties and his brand new book.
How was your 2020?
Well, I’ve been okay, you know. My job stopped existing overnight. My main job is that of a touring musician, that’s how I get to live. I do lots of other stuff, but that’s the aspect of a work that gives me a living, you know? That must be the case for so many people in different walks of life. Generally, I’m counting my blessings because me and my family have been in good health. So on one hand it has been a massive adjustment but I’ve coped fine and I can’t complain. I’ve just been looking after my family cooking a lot and doing lots of little things that take up a lot of time. So in a way I’ve been busier than ever.
Did you learn to cook anything new?
It’s been about bulk and speed. It hasn’t been about experimentation and art. [laughs]
You are the IVW ambassador for Wales, what made you accept the role?
Well, it’s a very fragile time. Maybe in a different time I wouldn’t have taken on the responsibility [laughs] but if I can be vaguely useful and bring attention to a world that I’m quite dependent as a touring musician – my work is completely connected to having independent venues existing – then I’m happy to to be useful.
You know the venues of Wales and the people who run them well. How important is it we showcase them during IVW?
It’s useful for independent venues and the people behind them to have a voice. It’s about people, not the actual buildings. It’s about the energy and enthusiasm that groups of music fans have created in towns and cities and villages. So we need to give a voice for those people to be heard.
They are the people who really make live music possible for a lot of artists.
Any touring artist is completely is completely dependent on the enthusiasm of independent promoters and venues. The reality of music is that for most people it’s a life long passion, and rarely musicians can make a full living out of it, so music exists thanks to people’s passion to want hear music, share music and give a stage to exciting new music. Independent venues keep that spirit going. They make it possible for musicians to play. Most people involved are doing it for the love of it, there’s only a handful of people who are making a living out it. Those independent venues create the conditions that make it possible for everything else to happen within music.
What role have those venues played in your development as an artist?
I’ve been playing gigs since I was 13. Random gigs with all different kinds of promoters, and at different kinds of venues. Trying things, experimenting and failing. I was playing independent venues for 12 years before Super Furry Animals were signed – and I still play them.
How does that 13 year-old get a gig?
Music is all about being a part of a community. Being in a band is part of the community. The rehearsal studios, the record shop, it’s all completely interdependent, it’s a community of independent people helping each other out, so once you started going to those places you become part of the community and it flows from there. Once you play those places, you meet touring bands and then you become part of an international community of musicians.
Talking of community, you have gone full circle and started putting on your own festivals.
I’m from a place called Bethesda in north Wales and over the last couple I’ve years I’ve been working with a venue there Neuadd Ogwen – which was started by musicians who came together and opened a venue and rehearsal space – trying to put on a festival there. Bringing bands from further afield internationally to play. Putting bills together with local acts. As they couldn’t put on gigs this year they’ve turned into a streaming studio. It’s miraculous what they’ve done. They have kept putting on gigs people can watch even if they’re not there. Independent venues can be very versatile, while still helping their communities.
Presumably that is important in Wales, particularly around promoting the Welsh language within the community?
It is very enriching to society to have spaces where people can come across interesting and life changing things, and that is absolutely true of a lot of Welsh venues. They are very engaged in the communities and all different aspects of life, including the Welsh language. A venue like Clwb Ifor Bach has had a huge impact in Cardiff in terms of the acceptance of the Welsh language. It’s a lovely place.
The continued existence of Club Ifor Bach is also an example of how even before Covid-19, grass roots venues were under threat, isn’t it?
It’s always a battle. A lot of independent venues have closed in Cardiff in recent years
there has been a lot of activism to try save venues and to keep things open. There’s been lots of issues with building next door to venues, a boom in so-called luxury apartments in city centres. So there are a lot of difficulties and a lot of traditionally public services have been sold off for and to property developers. There’s a lot of threats to independent venues already, beyond the pandemic. Without these places it’s going to much harder for bands to play in Wales.
Looking ahead, beyond IVW, what are your plans for 2021?
I have been sitting on a new record for a while so hopefully I can release some new music. I’m bringing a book out in February too. It’s an art book about signs with words on them, the cue cards I use when I play live. I write about audiences and experience playing to different crowds. It talks about my experience in small independence venues. So while I haven’t been interacting with audiences I’ve been writing about it.
Out of curiosity how many of your cue cards have been pinched over the years?
It’s not too bad. Super Furry Animals had a neon sign on wheels which was taken from the Festival Hall in London. Some bouncers stopped them wheeling it on the bridge over the Thames. They were enthusiastic about the band so you can’t fault it. With the cue cards it hasn’t been too bad, people are respectful, though I did have a sign that said “Property Is Theft” and someone nicked that. I couldn’t complain about that one, I had to let it go.