For the last year, Katie Brown has been blogging on all things cultural in and around Cardiff. Katie Brown: On Culture has taken the MA student to venues, performances, screenings and events right across the city. But as she prepares to move to London at the end of the summer, she has written a series of guest blogs for yourCardiff, looking back over what she’s learned about Cardiff’s cultural scene over the last 12 months. Here, in the last of her guest posts, she counts down her top five cultural events in the city this year.
Despite the weather trying to fool us, summer is already here, the academic year is over, and my time in Cardiff is almost up. I’ve had an incredible time this year making the most of everything the city has to offer, and will be very sad to leave it behind. I hope my last four guest posts have testified to the enormous wealth of cultural activities in Cardiff, from theatre and dance to art and literature. Now as a final goodbye, I wanted to look back on some of my favourite events this year. There have been so many highlights that I’ve struggled to limit them to just five!
5. African & Caribbean Society’s Afrogene @ National Museum Cardiff
In the first of these guest blogs, I wrote about the cultural showcases put on by various international student societies at Cardiff University. Of all of them, the African and Caribbean Society’s was my favourite. This was the first time the society had put on a showcase and they were a little daunted by the reputation of bigger societies’ productions, especially the Malaysian Festival of Diversity. They needn’t have worried though, as the night was an absolute triumph. Their production was packed full of talent in such a wide range of areas, not just the usual singing and dancing, but poetry, playwriting and fashion design. It was a really vibrant spectacle which also brought new ideas about African and Caribbean cultures to the audience. And there was delicious free food at the end, which is always a bonus! Hopefully they will build on this success next year (look out for their showcase around March).
4. White Crow by Act One @ The Gate
That first guest post also featured my love of Act One, Cardiff University’s drama society, and in particular their own writing. Write Crow started life as part of the Mabinogi, but, under the guidance of director Aled Bidder and production manager Ellen Green, over ten months of preparation, improvisation and editing, the myth was transformed into a remarkable play which combined hard-hitting political commentary with a deeply personal story. The play took Branwen and her brothers forward to 2050 when Scotland and Northern Ireland are independent from Britain, to question what would happen to Wales in that not-unlikely case. I was incredibly impressed by how Act One simultaneously created a thought-provoking consideration of nationalism and British identity politics and an engrossing personal drama. There is clearly a lot of writing talent in the society, so I highly recommend following their activities next year.
3. Merrily We Roll Along/O Go My Man @ Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Sticking with student theatre, I wrote in my second guest post about how impressed I am with the Richard Burton Company at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Dance (RWCMD). I’ve seen quite a lot of them this year, but two productions were truly outstanding: Stephen Sondheim’s 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along and Stella Feehily’s 2007 play O Go My Man. The latter is a thoroughly engrossing piece of new writing about modern relationships, technology and war which really showcased the young cast’s acting talents, while the former proved just how well-rounded the students are. I know many students from the RWCMD go on to highly successful careers, and I look forward to seeing the students I’ve come to know and love this year on big screens and West End stages. On Saturday June 23, the RWCMD will be celebrating the first anniversary of their beautiful new building with a special event featuring excerpts from all of this year’s shows, so come along and see for yourself what I’m so excited about.
2. Nutracker! @ Wales Millennium Centre
I was trying to pick events that were specific to Cardiff for this list, but I couldn’t resist putting Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! in. Visiting Cardiff as part of its twentieth anniversary celebrations back in November, Nutcracker! filled the Wales Millennium Centre with colour, energy and semi-
naked men. Matthew Bourne says he doesn’t make dance, but theatre, which perfectly describes his productions in which acting, costumes, sets and storyline are just as important as choreography. Above all, he brings real humour and warmth to dance, reacting against the traditional image of cold, austere ballerinas. If you ever get a chance to see one of Bourne’s productions, don’t miss it!
1. Wales One World Film Festival
Wales One World Film Festival is my undisputed highlight of the year. The acronym WOW is perfectly fitting for this festival which brings stunning films from across the world to Wales. For the last eleven years, festival director Dave Gillam has travelled the world, attending film festivals,
to find the best of world cinema and bring it back to Wales, where the festival tours venues like Chapter, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Clwyd Theatr Cymru. As world cinema – particularly Asian and Latin American – becomes increasingly popular in the UK, Dave’s focus remains on films that you wouldn’t get the chance to see anywhere else. At this year’s festival I saw everything from a five-hour long Portuguese epic, Mysteries of Lisbon, to Where the Water Meets the Sky, the first film to be produced in Zambia. What makes WOW even more exciting is that many of the film-makers come along to discuss their work with the audience. Chapter also have a special ‘world’ menu during the festival, so even your taste buds can get a treat! The festival will be back in March next year and I cannot recommend it enough.