By Anna Lockwood
Emotions continue to run high as students and residents come to terms with the sudden and controversial conversion of 10 Feet Tall and its attached nightclub Undertone into a restaurant and office space. The loss of the independent live music venues, some of the last in Cardiff’s city centre, seems to have been felt profoundly.
The saga began on January 17 this year when staff at 10 Feet Tall and Undertone learnt that a planning application had been approved to turn the premises into a commercial unit, via Wales Online. The following Monday, every staff member at 10 Feet Tall resigned in protest of the directors’ decision to close down Undertone completely and to renounce the possibility of live music in the new venue.
With the news of the resignation came an emotional message published by ex-staff members on the Save 10 Feet Tall Facebook page: “Because of the actions of our directors and their advisors, two more homes for live music in Cardiff are now set to close. Bands, artists and DJs will lose yet another venue to hone their craft after the terrible losses of Gwdihw and Buffalo this time last year.” On February 26, Cardiff Council gave the all-clear for the conversion.
The directors at 10 Feet Tall have taken to the internet to declare the premises “open for business as usual” and stated that “the decision by staff today to resign has not helped this current crisis situation.” The 10 Feet Tall Facebook page, however, declares this information false and insists that all music events have been moved to different venues due to the lack of staff.
Bradley Rae, who was interested in buying the venue at one point, commented: “When I first went to 10 Feet Tall it was a vibrant venue doing very well. When I was approached early last year by one of the business owners to buy it, it was very run down and losing business rapidly. But I saw an opportunity to do some major refurbs and bring the live scene back to life. I don’t think Cardiff or Church Street needs another restaurant but it does need more live venues.”
The decision has been felt deeply by many music goers and artists. One international student, Louise Marmié, stated: “A lot of my best memories from Cardiff Uni took place in Undertone – it felt great to support independent venues like these with cool events you wouldn’t find anywhere else in city centre. Now it seems that the Cardiffian independent night life is slowly dying (just like with Buffalo or Gwdihw) and that everything will eventually be replaced with insipid chains.”
Cardiff Central MP, Jo Stevens, has also publicly expressed her anger at the plan to convert the live music venue into a commercial site, saying:
“Many a nightclub promoter or DJ will have cut their teeth at these venues.
“The surrounding area, as it stands, is already saturated with restaurants and cocktail bars – losing these two popular venues would be detrimental to what’s on offer in our city centre and would create an imbalance.”
The news of 10 Feet Tall and Undertone reveals a deeper debate: if independent venues can’t seem to survive alone in Cardiff, and the authorities are not protecting these spaces, how will Cardiff ensure its live music scene thrives and what does this mean for budding artists?