Cuts to the Cardiff arts scene and the proposed scrapping of the Big Weekend music event will leave the city centre “mediocre” and casts doubt on future large events, arts figures have warned.
Events organiser Mike Chubb, who worked for Cardiff council between 1982 and 1996 and was behind the creation of Cardiff Festival and eventually the Big Weekend, said that the event had been a vehicle to tackle inequality that had been “lost” to the city.
The ending of the Big Weekend is part of a package of proposed cuts in the Cardiff council draft budget, which will go before full council next month for approval, to the city arts sector.
The proposals would also see funding cuts for the likes of Chapter Arts Centre, the Sherman Cymru Theatre and The Gate Community Arts Centre that runs into tens of thousands of pounds, as well as cutting the “music stage element” at the Calennig New Year celebrations.
The council also propose for its Winter Wonderland event to be put out to private tender to save £20,000.
But the biggest ripples being sent through the arts community was the proposal to stop the Big Weekend event, which has been running since 1995.
The annual Civic Centre based, weekend long festival, which last year was cancelled due to a clash with the Olympics, has been held in Cardiff during the first weekend of August since 1995.
The free event has seen acts including Ray Davies from The Kinks, Ash, Lightning Seeds, Jimmy Cliff and Aswad, headline the stage as well as acting as a platform for local music acts such as the Stereophonics and The Joy Formidable.
The proposals from Cardiff Council, which also include the Calennig celebration proposals, aim to save the authority £100,000.
Instead of the outdoor events tailored to a wide-ranging audience, it is intended to develop an alternative venues-based event where local bands will play alongside established acts.
One of the people behind the Weekend’s creation, Mike Chubb, said that the people of Cardiff are not being challenged enough.
Mr Chubb was the first to introduce the fun fair to the civic centre, as well as the Hayes Alive Festival, The Cardiff Children’s Festival and many others, which have all been dropped from the schedules over the years.
He said: “The Big Weekend made Cardiff a destination for tourists, it helped tackle inequality, you went to the Big Weekend if you liked it, not because you could afford it. That’s been lost now. And the city centre will lose out too.
“We’ve lost our intrepidness, everything is so mediocre. If we brought the Cardiff Festival back now people would love it.”
Mr Chubb added that Cardiff had set the bar for free festivals in cities, he said: “We had world music, rock music, we had the Stereophonics, as well as this we had performances, world food, it was like a mini-Glastonbury.”
John Rostron of the Welsh Music Foundation, and co-creator of highly successful Cardiff festival Swn, said that the council were going against recommendations of a report by economy and culture scrutiny committee – commissioned by the previous administration – in which it was recommended that Cardiff should have a more diverse night-time economy.
Mr Rostron said: “To cut their one major musical event seems contrary to what they should be trying to achieve. It’s not like Cardiff has a series of festivals – this is a 100% cut.
“I’m extremely disappointed. Most cities and many towns hold at least one music event, and many are delivered by local authorities.”
He added that if the three-day festival was to ever stop, Cardiff would be left without a large-scale event and despite that Swn – which is not under threat – is a very different type of festival in comparison with the Big Weekend.