On Thursday 3rd of December a giant mural was lauched on the side of Clwb Ifor Bach as part of a series of UK street art. It was inspired by welsh musician Gwenno’s latest concept album Y Dydd Olaf, which was in turn inspired by a 1976 sci-fi novel written by Owain Owain. It was painted by a local street artist RMER, and designed by Mark James. It is the second in this series which also includes an 18m high mural at the Custard Factory in Birmingham featuring poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah and actress, Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything).
Quench culture interviewed some of the people behind the project as well as the musician Gwenno to find out a bit more about its aims and inspirations.
What’s been your involvement in this project?
I’m in art, design, creative direction and video direction, amongst other things. I was commissioned by Get it Right, to create a Mural for Clwb Ifor Bach as part of the campaign. We based it on Gwenno’s album, Y Dydd Olaf it’s a concept album, based on a book of the same name by Owain Owain from 1976. So I created a collage and a piece of work that was then interpreted by a street artist called RMER and his team and they put it on up the building.
How do the book, the music and the art interact?
Part of the brief was to create a mural that incorporated music, art, film, photography, and literature, and finding the right subject that would incorporate all those. I think we did that because it’s a concept album about a book with a number of different collaborators. It was inspiring to think up this dystopian world, and bring visuals to the book and to the music.
What is the Cardiff art scene like now, how has it changed?
I’ve been away for quite a long time but culturally everything’s changed, my generation are now in the positions that make decisions. Culture has changed, we’re more accepting, there are many different things going on, and these arts have become a much bigger part culture. Previously when I was in Cardiff there were a lot less, people weren’t doing street art anywhere, there wasn’t much public art going on at all, but now it’s become a part of life and a part of everything in some ways.
How did you get involved?
The ‘Get it Right’ campaign got in touch to see if I’d be up for letting them use my picture, and my album. They’re trying to promote the idea of getting creative work from genuine sites, which I think is a really good idea. I think whether something is given away for free or not should be down to the artist and I’m very for the artist making that decision. And it does also encourage reinvestment in music, and art in the future.
What is the significance of Clwb Ifor Bach?
It does really mean a lot to me because Clwb, the welsh club, being a welsh speaker, is all a massive part of my heritage, it couldn’t have been a better building really. I’m honoured.
Have you had much input into the design process of the actual artwork?
It was mostly a collaboration. The original press photos that Mark took were based on an original design, and then Mark was just sending over potential versions designs. But I think whenever people know what they’re doing then collaborations are fantastic. But I explained during the design process that there are sci-fi themes running through my music and then it was just his own interpretation of it, rather than me saying that it needs to be done in certain way
-Does it ever work the other way, that you’re inspired by visual art?
Yeah I think it does, particularly for me. There’s a lot of art in Cardiff, and I became a lot more aware of it when I came back. Before we did a thing called Peski Nacht and things like The Kim Fielding award, for visual arts Cardiff and wales.
I love that whole community of people and I just find it really exciting to think visually as well. The combination of music and visual art goes through phases, if you look back at the 80’s visual art and music were far more integrated, in Cardiff as well I think, but then they became separated again, and now they are coming back together. There are more events going on that include music as well as visual art.
Has Cardiff been a particular inspiration for you?
I was away for about 7 years living in England and coming back I realised how much was going on here, and remembering the Cardiff I knew when I was little, so I think it’s a mixture of childhood memories as well as seeing what Cardiff has evolved into. I romanticise the greyness of Cardiff, which I really like, musically I really like it as well. It has just enough space to be creative in it, and I mean that psychologically. It’s just busy enough that you can get excited about it but you can also own it in a way. I lived in London for a long time and I found it chaotic to the point that I couldn’t create, I found it too claustrophobic. Different places are for different people, some people need to be in the middle of nowhere to create, but Cardiff is just the right size for me I think.
Is there anything difficult about working here?
The pace is slightly slower than where I’ve come from. London’s busier than almost anywhere else on the planet. Also in Cardiff you do have to just get on with it and use your own initiative to make things happen and actually that’s been integral to everything I’ve done.
My name is Gennaro Castaldo, I’m from the BPI, which is the trade body for the music industry and we’re part of a much broader alliance between all the creative industries in the UK. We’ve come together to form Creative Content UK which is backed by many sectors, music film, games, sports, books, media, and the government as well who have invested in this scheme it’s the first time in which all these different bodies have come together to promote creative industries in the UK. These industries combined are actually worth combined 77 billion pounds, and generate around 1.7 million jobs so they’re very important and I think the government has begun to realise the importance of creativity to the UK economy.
We feel it’s just the right time to get this message across because over many years the creative industry collectively has been suffering from piracy and copyright infringement, where people love the content, they value it, but they don’t necessarily always feel a need to actually pay for it and the message we want to get across is that if you do value it, you have to value the source that it comes from, because if we can’t get the revenues back from the investments that we’ve been making we can’t keep investing in content for the future. I think people want more and more content, it’s become part of their social currency and how they connect with each other, their friends and so on, and if they want even greater choice then I think they have to be stake holders in this process, they have to see themselves as investors, so whenever they hand over five, ten pounds for a DVD, or a CD or they’re streaming, they realise that they are actually investing in the creative process and they’re actually contributing in some way. There are a lot of people that do this, but there are some other people that perhaps want to let all the other people do the hard work for them, whether it’s the artists, the musicians, the industries themselves, record labels, film companies, games publishers and that’s really not fair because I think if we can all add a bit more we can get a great deal more out.
We also think it’s a better time to promote this because in the past illegal downloading might have seemed cool and anti-establishment, something you might want to do as a lifestyle choice, but I think people recognise that they have their part to play and actually the more credible thing, the cooler thing is to be responsible with it and to put something back in from what you’re taking out, to promote creativity. So we think it’s just the right moment particularly with this wider appreciation of what creative industries contribute to the UK to get this message across. It’s a different message to what has gone before, whereas in the past the response was a bit more aggressive, with the threat of possible sanctions, with court actions being taken, which are still potentially there in the background for the more aggressive abusers, but this is really more about education and it’s actually saying help us to help you, you’re partners in this process as well.
There is a huge amount of legal sources for content which wasn’t the five, ten years ago but now you have these available, if you think of Spotify on the music side, music streaming services like that, that choice is available, it’s readily available, it’s often cheaper and more affordable so these are the messages we are trying to get across.
Ultimately it will benefit the audiences, because they get more choice and they support more artists. This why we’re here today, what we’re trying to do is connect with people, particularly younger consumers, in ways that are relevant to them, using visual language and reference points that matter more to them, so we’ve commissioned a series of street art installations in locations around the country, Cardiff is the second one of these and it’s meant to actually bring home to people that actually creativity is alive on their doorstep and it’s something that is relevant to them. It isn’t some abstract thing that is beyond their reach it’s actually something that is vital to their lives. Street art is increasingly recognised as a very credible, recognised form of art and contribution to creativity, and therefore we feel it’s a great way to get that message across.