Hey, Tom Betts!

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For Plastik, pop-up cinema event Roathbud was a particular gem in the Made in Roath calendar; on the final night of the festival, a collection of funny, sad, heartwarming and inventive short films summed up perfectly what Roath has to offer; whether they were shot there, made by film makers from the area, inspired by Roath or came with a far more tenuous Roathian connection.

Roathbud opened with Funday, a black comedy set on the streets of Roath. Recently shown at Raindance Film Festival, Funday takes all of the deprecating humour of Cardiff and turns it to the most unfairly ridiculed of figures. Tentboy by Ryan Owen was a particular highlight, and truly cinematic; a sweet coming of age tale, it evoked images of the recent Swansea set Submarine with its awkward teenage protagonist and concerned, repressed parents.

Music videos, including a hyperactive, spy-cliche laden outing for Cardiff band Kutosis by curator Tom Betts, and Fujiya & Miyagi’s Yo Yo by Ewan Jones-Morris, pepper the night and provide energetic interludes to more weighty pieces. Fixer was one of these; set on a nondescript council high-rise, a man who was once useful grieves for a whole life lost; it takes true talent to condense a story so laden with sorrow into such a small time.

Chris Marshall’s documentary Spotter looks at the strange lives of plane spotters, but in turn switches its attention to the strange lives of documentary makers. Bleach bright blue skies and the roar of engines all add to piece which makes you consider your own strange obsessions.

Each of these excellent films was projected shown onto a wall in a make-shift room, cobbled together with a borrowed projector and a borrowed venue. Like a lot of the things shown during Made in Roath, the end result was greater than the sum of its humble parts. It’s events like Roathbud which truly rekindle an audience’s love for cinema.

I meet Tom Betts, film maker and organiser of Roathbud, in The Gate on the opening morning of this year’s festival. The wall opposite The Gate is festooned with hundreds of photographs taken by Cardiff residents, and in a car park beyond Roath Market is bustling with live music and fresh Welsh produce. While every weekend seems to hold a gem somewhere in the city, this particular weekend all eyes are turned to Roath; for a short while this leafy suburb feels like the centre of Cardiff’s small, but perfectly formed, universe.

Tom is a familiar face for many; he hosts and curates the monthly Chapter MovieMaker night, and has just secured certification for his first feature film Secrecy, largely shot in Cardiff, to be shown at the centre.

How did you get involved with Made in Roath and Roathbud?

I wasn’t involved originally and in fact I didn’t live in Roath at the time, but a friend of mine called Ryan Owen, who is also a film maker, was involved and originally putting it together so he did a lot of the work, talking to film makers and getting the films in, when realised he had double booked himself and was attending the London Film Festival. He knew me because I host Chapter MovieMaker and I’ve been doing that forever so i had experience with both organising and hosting to some degree, so we did it together, came up for a silly name for it [taken from the Orson Welles classic, Citzen Kane] and then on the night I hosted it and it was a really good experience.

What kind of films are shown at Roathbud?

The interesting thing about the Chapter screenings is that in any, even in smallish, cities there’s usually a film night for local film makers, but we never have to go outside of Cardiff or the South Wales area to get films, because there’s a lot being made locally; it’s incredible how many are being made. There are people in Glamorgan University and Newport University, but then there’s people just making them off their own backs, just shooting around the city, so the lucky thing is there’s a lot of local material.

But it’s challenging finding things especially about or shot in Roath, and it’s both the question of are there enough generally, and can I find them? You’ve got to put the word out and track them down, and also they’ve got to sort of work… we wanted to have a really flexible and varied programme so there’s room for documentaries, music videos, dramas and little goofy comedies and spoofs and a couple of more experimental and more narrative things but by the same token you want it to be consistent, even though it’s varied.

Films have lots of dimensions to them, so the film maker might live in Roath but the film itself might have been shot in Pontcanna, or they may have have done the editing in Roath or they may have shot indoors in Roath. A few of the films we’ll be showing were made in Roath but because they were shot indoors you would never know. They weren’t out in the park, or by the lighthouse. I’m showing a music video which I shot some of in Roath but some of it in the Bay.

The local aspect is both in content and the event itself; it’s about Roath having a cinema.. so whatever your showing it’s still about the act of setting the screen up, getting a projector and gathering people in this make-shift space and that’s a local thing regardless.

What was great about last year was getting to show things to a fresh crowd; people who are just local and who are intrigued. I think the festival is good at that, and getting the community together.

Why do you think Roath, and Cardiff in general, is becoming such a creative and film-making hub?

I’ve never really made films in another city but it seems to be a good sized city for getting around. It has the infra-structure of being a capital and there are the universities, teaching people how to make films, the regional film agency is based here, the training agency is here. The Welsh Screen Commission is based here, you’ve got Chapter which is a centre of exhibition of films locally and internationally. You’ve got all the ingredients for it to work out well from a film point of view.

I think if you start having a Made in Roath festival then [the area] becomes branded as an area of Cardiff that is creative, and there are a lot of venues like The Gate but then there’s small places as well. If you’re an artist then there’s the small cafes and tea houses and then there are places where you can show your art. It’s hard to know because I haven’t lived in all the different areas of Cardiff so I’m sure people in Adamstown or Splott are saying that where they live is where it’s all going on, but it does seem like there’s a lot happening.

It seems like there’s a lot of filmmaking going on in Cardiff at the moment. Is that fair to say?

It does seem that there is a lot of film being produced here – it’s hard to know if I’m just finding them, or if there is genuinely more. It’s that thing that cameras are more affordable, it’s easier to edit stuff. When I started that was just at the beginning of being more affordable to make your own films and now it’s massively cheaper than it used to be, you can get your hands on really amazing cameras so you can produce these very kind of polished pieces. Some of it is variable in quality, but I started making some really weak films and I’ve seen people really get noticeably better per film; technically they’re better, they figure out issues with sound and image, so I think it’s better to have opportunities to show slightly scrappier, earlier work to get better.

There are handful of people in Cardiff who make music videos to a really high level, so we show a reasonable amount of them at Chapter. But music videos are commissioned and have to be finished by a certain time, so that becomes quite a regular thing. There’s a reasonable amount of comedies being made as well, but we don’t get so many straight dramas. You get horror movies or more experimental things but you don’t get things that are plot-driven drama stories. And there’s a healthy amount of documentary film making and video art and more narrative-driven things as well. It’s intimidating and annoying how much and how good it all is. When I see something good I’m elated because I’m probably show it, but then also slightly depressed because of how good it is.

Why do you think it is that people seem to be making more comedy and horror?

It may be that loads of people are making straight dramas; when you move into features that is much more common. It’s a really gratifying thing when people do make comedies and when you show them to a crowd; they do play so well and there’s nothing really better than having a packed room of people laughing.

One of the films we showed last year a Roathbud was called Love Me, Love My Dog and it’s about a guy who is in a low point in his life, and his dog seems to start talking and tells him to cut his finger off. It was really brilliant watching it and watching the audience react to it. That’s why you make films; it’s brilliant to do them in isolation but it’s great to see people exactly follow the emotional beats and get the laughs that you wanted; that’s a really powerful thing. It’s also just what stories work with limited resources and limited time; like some people are making films at evenings and weekends then you’re gonna be going for things between 1 to ten minutes so it can be easier to do something more like a sketch and funny, rather than setting up a tight narrative.

Do you find it strange being a film maker but then also stepping away and interviewing film makers?

I find it really interesting; the Q&As I’ve done at Chapter in the last few years have been part of a series of films called New British Cinema Quarterly, which picks up independent British features, champions them and shows them at cinemas like Chapter. The people involved are all people who are just a bit further on than me, so they’ve made their first feature but sometimes they’ve had to really difficult circumstancing in making it, so it’s brilliant because you have a point of reference. I’m able to take inspiration from the techniques they used, who they spoke to, what they had to deal with, and it’s great to be engaged and hear about stuff. A lot of my stuff tends to be motivated by guilt and shame – the embarrassment of not having done it would be so terrible that I have to now do it.

How instrumental do you think somewhere like Chapter is to the film scene in Cardiff?

Being a Chapter employee I’m going to say it’s crucial – but it really is. Bafta Cymru is based in Chapter, they do events in Cineworld as well but a lot of local premiers are there and it’s just a central place where people are always hanging out; you bump into a lot of people there. It’s instrumental and key in setting the pace; they’re involved in everything.

 

Odds On: Welsh Music Prize

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Although it was harshly criticised by some commentators who felt their questions about the new Welsh Music Prize went unanswered, the prize has come through with flying colours and pulled off an amazing feat of organisation on a shoestring budget.

“We had some people helping us – a good team who were able to understand what we were doing and deal with it quickly. Also, we’re in a position where we do know lots of people so when we call them up with an idea, they believe in it and want to get on board and to help.” said John Rostron one of the organisers of the Welsh Music Prize, “In terms of budget, we pulled a lot of favours. They know that it’s something that if it’s successful, which we can already say that it has been, that it will find backers and sponsorship and public support. A budget will be in place for next year then to go back and pay people properly for stuff that they might have done this year.”

Now that we’re just three days away from the announcement of the winner of the first ever Welsh Music Prize, we thought we’d take a look at some different scenarios for the winner.

The Veteran

The Veteran winner has been around the Welsh music scene for a long time and is an ambassador for Wales abroad as well as just at home. They’re the kind of people that you proudly tell foreigners ‘Oh, did you know they’re from just down the road from me in Wales?’ when you’re in France on holiday and someone mentions a band like the Manic Street Preachers.

Although you probably can’t sing more than about 3 of their big hits (A Design For Life and… well… uh…) and you sometimes confuse them with the Stereophonics just because they exploded at about the same time, you can’t help but be proud of Manic Street Preachers when James Dean Bradfield howls out the lyrics to one of their choruses – even if you don’t know the words.

Or maybe Gruff Rhys with his bizarre celtic feel ticks your boxes?

He would certainly be well deserving of the Welsh Music Prize. Hotel Shampoo is one of the best albums released anywhere in the world this year and his extensive travelling and connections with Latin America make him a brilliant ambassador for Welsh music.

But what if the judges weren’t looking for an long standing icon and wanted to go with something a bit more edgy.

The ‘Edgy’ Choice

Now that we’re firmly into the reinvention phase for Welsh music, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the judges had gone for something that represented the ‘new wave’ of Welsh music.

Acts like Y Niwl or Sweet Baboo have been busy at work this past year with new albums from both (2 from Baboo) as well as side projects and the former touring with Gruff Rhys.

There are, of course, other acts who could fall into this category. Acts like Joy Formidable, who are in a purgatory between edgy and veteran, must be in with a pretty good chance too.

The Underdog

In every competition there’s an underdog. In Welsh Music Prize, the underdogs are Stagga and Lleuwen. These are vastly different but we want one of the underdogs to win.

Stagga is an odd mixture between Berlin electro and instrumental grime music. Lleuwen is celtic folk music (Breton and Welsh language).

Despite both having incredible albums, neither of them were in the media spotlight before the announcement of the shortlist and for one of these two to win would be an incredible coup in an already brilliant award process.

***

We’ll be waiting with baited breath to see who wins on Friday evening.

Who do you want to win and why? Leave your opinions in the comments below this post, tweet us on @plastikmag or Facebook by searching Plastik Magazine.

Come To Your Senses!

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Laura Sorvala is what you might call a ‘doer.’ Cardiff, as a city and a community, is full of people like Laura. They love helping to build community and they’re always thinking of incredibly creative ways to do that.

If ever I’m asked about what Cardiff is like as a place by someone who has never been, I’ll always talk about the kind of projects that Sorvala is involved in. That’s partly why our city is so fresh and dynamic – the scenery is always changing.

“I do a lot of the sort of stuff where I work as a facilitator with people and help them visualise their ideas and business plans or things like that,” she explains while we sit in the beautifully warm Barker Coffee house. “If you go to an event, you might think ‘That was a really good thing that some person said but I can’t remember…’ That’s what I’ve been doing recently.”

Sorvala works a designer by day. However, she’s also a prolific freelancer doing illustration for clients in her time off or helping people to build their community projects.

“At the moment I work full time. I like design as a job but for my free time, it’s been changing a bit. I was involved in organising the PlayARK games festival and the bigger game Everwake and that’s been going on almost a year,” she explains when asked to summarise the things she does. “Now that that’s done, I’ve been involved with quite a few of these Come to Your Senses projects because of the Design Festival. That’s currently what I’ve been doing.”

Come To Your Senses is a project which looks at how people feel about spaces. The official description on the project’s website reads, “[Come To Your Senses] enables a way for people to express their feelings about the urban environment and share their ideas for improvements.”

The project has been around for a year and a half now, although Sorvala and her colleague Emily Wilkinson (who lives in London) are now finding that people are engaging with the project in a new way,

“We’ve found a way with engaging with people and presenting community, collaborative findings about what people say and how they feel about things. There are a lot of people who want to know about how people feel about places and areas,” she says. “One and a half years ago, that wasn’t interesting. People didn’t care about it. Now they do.”

This follows a trend in Cardiff – the community is beginning to think about the way that they use the city and how that affects their innate creativity.

Asked what she thought of this phenomenon, Sorvala replies,

“People are looking at what happens behind certain streets or people – what’s behind them, why does it work? That’s a question that designers have always asked but now people are saying that it’s not just about advertising or profits. There’s a lot of stuff that matters.”

One of the principal concerns for Sorvala is the way that people see the space around them.

Take a space like Milgi Lounge, for example. For several years, Milgi has been an amazing creative space where you could sit and write a novel in the presence of film makers, musicians or straightforward spectators. No-one would bat an eyelid at that in this Roath bar. They’ve showcased artwork, promoted life drawing classes and even hosted a regular burlesque evening in the past.

The desire for more places like Milgi lines up with the findings of Come To Your Senses so far,

“It seems that the thing people say the most is that people really value their local community. There’s a sense of ownership and belonging. Or if they don’t feel that enough, they want more of it. Also, coming from that, what people usually say the most is that they want to have community centres and community hubs. That’s the thing that people say the most. Overall, it’s the desire to have more local hubs where people can come and do things – usually linked to creativity. Or spaces that have multiple usage. Blending the boundaries between cafe, workshop, community centre and having places where you can do all of these things.”

It’s interesting that she mentions the blending of purposes that is beginning to occur in Cardiff. I mention to her that Made In Roath is ‘creating’ dozens of gallery spaces over the weekend of the 16 and 17 October by encouraging the community to open its doors and showcase their creativity.

“What I’m interested to see is whether they’ll showcase the work in their living space or is that also the space where they work as well? Do they blend the space where they live and work already or is it a temporary thing?” she asks without really waiting for a response, “Either way, it’s interesting – but I think the open house is an example of how people could work from home if they can’t afford space. The idea of a flexible space that can be for relaxing, doing everyday mundane stuff, working, socialising.”

I ask her if she could give some examples of places that she thinks are closest to the vision that she has for the blending of spaces. Interestingly, there’s only one similarity between her selection and my prediction – that’s probably a great sign!

“I live in Roath and I use the Pear Tree pub. Most of my meetings have been there and I’ve had my mapping sessions with people there because there it’s circular and when you go upstairs you can find a quiet spot with furniture that you don’t have to feel too careful with and it feels open,” she says. “You can find a corner where you can work. It’s fine if people are having meals, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s because part of their decor is a feeling of messiness: it’s OK to come and hang out. As a local, that would be my number one.”

As well as this family pub, she makes a suggestion that the Cardiff Story above the Old Library would be a brilliant space to use in the future,

“I was at the Cardiff Story on Friday and Saturday as part of the Design Festival setting up as a facilitator, there were quiet bits during the day where I could work in there. It’s nice because it’s a temporary space. It’s quiet and you can get lots done.”

***

Cardiff feels better than it has ever done. The way that we work as a city is changing and the findings of an employment survey earlier this year confirm it. We have the highest concentration of media jobs outside of London and with that comes a ‘portfolio’ lifestyle which frees up the employment of the individual.

Come To Your Senses illustrates that there’s a change in the way that people want to use their Cardiff community spaces.

That’s really exciting for us all!

 

Made In Roath 2011 preview

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The Festival, now in its third year, is organised by a small number of people including Gail Howard of Milkwood Gallery, Roath.

Since it started the festival has facilitated the community in Roath to show off its musical, artistic and performance talent as well as giving some people their first platform for trying out their practice/skill.

This year is no different except that the festival looks set to be better than ever.

With so many events happening over the weekend that the festival runs (Friday 14 October – Sunday 16 October), it could be hard to know what to go and see.

Although there are so many things we’ve had to leave out, Plastik Magazine has taken a look at the programme and picked out some recommendations.

Open Houses

The concept of an open house is a brilliant bit of innovation in local art. Made in Roath are masters of this idea.

Artists are encouraged to open the doors to the places that they live and put their work on public display for the weekend.

This cultivates a real community feel which you don’t always get at other arts festivals – you are quite literally hanging out with artists and makers.

Although they all look interesting, we think that a particularly notable open house is taking place at 25 Inverness Place on Saturday 15th October.

This open house features the work of Laura Reeves, Lucy McAllister  and James Vassalo. However, it also features the illustrated world of Tom Goddard who is an incredible artist. His work entitled Flood will be on display at this open house. These pieces remind of a japanese illustration of the sea and, although it’s billed in the programme with a piece of vague description, Goddard’s work looks as if it will be a brilliant show. See a preview of his work at http://www.ohmygodtom.com/

Roundabout Roath

As well as the pieces of work which will be on display at the houses of Roath’s artists, there will also be a number of events happening at some of the area’s better known venues.

At Prefab, the second hand clothes shop on Albany Road, Barrie J Davies will showcase his work on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16. Davies is a well experienced artist who has already exhibited in several places in Cardiff such as Milkwood Gallery.

His work has a childish feeling to it – almost as if it could have come out of a surrealist comic book and looks at a number of themes. His famously interesting sketchbooks containing what he calls The Gonzo Drawings of Barrie J Davies will be on display all weekend.

Just around the corner at Wellfield Bookshop, the work of Laura Pickering, which uses recycled objects, will be waiting for you. Pickering was invited to take part in a project organised by Bristol Zoo in which artists were invited to decorate gorilla statues for display. Pickering’s was chosen for a further exhibition in London and you should catch this artist in your local bookshop before she shoots off onto the exhibition circuit.

One more art exhibition that you should probably see is the incredibly exciting Plinth in the Park which showcases the work of graduates from the Cardiff School of Art and Design.

The exhibition takes place for the whole of Sunday 16 October in Roath Park. Drawing inspiration from other ‘plinth’ projects, this event promises much as it displays a small selection of the best work from this year’s graduate exhibition. You can read our review of the graduate exhibition here.

Non-art events

What would an arts festival be without some events that have little to do with art itself? Probably quite boring.

Fortunately, Made in Roath won’t put you through that.

Pop over to The Gate Arts Centre on Sunday 16 October between 1-6pm to take part in Hack/Flash’ HEY ROATH! workshop. Turn up and let this lovely little local group help you tell your community exactly what you think of it. Hack/Flash invites you to come along and fill The Gate with post-its/posters of things that you love and hate about Roath.

This year, to top off the events, there’s the wonderful Roathbud. Curated by Tom Betts (Chapter Moviemaker, Plastik Picture Parade), the evening showcases short films from both far and near. This evening which takes place in the Gower Pub from 7pm on Sunday 16 October is sure to be like a high quality version of a YouTube video binge – you know what we’re talking about! That will be followed by the closing festival of the party complete with dance music, ska, disco as well as pop and rock.

***

This year, Made in Roath has excelled itself. This weekend is quickly turning into a brilliant festival – jam packed with exciting art events as well as some music, fashion, theatre and community participation thrown in for good measure. Exciting!

Let’s go Dutch!

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It’s a Tuesday morning, pouring with rain, 7:45am as I go to the UWIC School of Management on Western Avenue for some delicious sausage baps and chats with Cardiff’s design stars.

We’re all here to see a speech given by Hans Robertus and Sophie Van Hof who are representing Dutch Design Week.

As the breakfasting and chatter stops, Councillor Rodney Berman opens the proceedings.

“We are working to make the capital one that can compete across the board,” he says praising the Cardiff Design Festival, “we know that it’s key that the creative sector has a platform within which to flourish.”

Berman’s vision is to change the image of Cardiff into “an exciting, dynamic and creative European capital” and he believes that it’s festivals like the Cardiff Design Festival that help make those strides.

It’s not long before Hans Robertus, a brilliantly Dutch man gets up and starts introducing himself in a thick accent.

“If you work with a Dutch designer, probably the first question that they’ll ask is, ‘Are you sure that’s really your problem?’” he jokes and everyone chuckles.

“When I started in my profession 35 years ago, I started working for two companies, technology was the selling point.” reminiscing he continues, “We are changing from a commodity to an experience economy.”

It’s this last statement that seems to be the leitmotif of all of the Cardiff Design Festival events. Experts in design believe that moving from designing our world and cities around financial rule to a new vision of how we experience the world around us is happening.

The best examples of this are given not by the director of the design week, Hans Robertus but by his colleague Sophie Van Hof who works in the municipal government.

“It’s a baby suit and it was produced by the faculty of design at the university. It integrates technology and design for premature babies.” she explains about the Brood Chamber, a new technology developed in Eindhoven, the centre of Dutch Design Week.

“[The Brood Chamber is] much more comfortable than all of the wires they have now but more importantly, it makes it possible for parents to hug their babies which makes the babies grow faster and get out of hospital earlier.”

This is just one of the ways that students of design at the faculty of design have solved tough problems by changing their idea about how they should design.

The old idea of helping premature babies took into account the quick benefits of a system using wires but didn’t understand the benefits that a baby can get by being hugged by its mother or father. The Brood Chamber corrects that myopia.

In support of Van Hof’s examples, Robertus explains the idea that Dutch Design Week is based on.

“If you start changing your behaviour in your organisation, in this case the hospital or patients, it has a ripple effect,” he says. “Other people rethink what they’re doing with their patients and clients. Also, the effect on the outside world: people go home and tell the story [of that change]”

As these two speak about their past experience with a subject as dry as industrial design, they suddenly seem to be adding colour to the pages of their history.

While it may be tempting to value the production of a beautiful piece of furniture over, say, a play room which helps kids to be less scared of CAT scanners, the denial of this temptation is probably what has made the Eindhoven region such a dynamic place to be.

“Our region is called Brainport. What makes our region strong? There are three factors. We are very strong in design – we have two excellent educational institutes,” explains Sophie Van Hof.

“We have a lot of designers situated here and that’s not without reason. The combination of design and technology is a marriage – they complement eachother – it makes us stronger,” she explains, “But the third factor which is of great importance to designers in our region is the manufacturing industry. That’s our DNA.”

As if the duo hadn’t wowed enough with their exciting presentation on the great ideas that are coming out of the Eindhoven region, Van Hof seems to add the final nail in the coffin when she reels off this amazing statistic: Although only 230,000 people live in their region, 55% of all the patents in the country come out of it.

That’s equivalent to just short of half of Cardiff’s population filing a patent for a new idea. Imagine if that were to happen. Our city would be massively different.