As you might have guessed from my recent posts, I’ve been pretty excited for Saturday’s Takeover Cardiff. And rightly so – it was a fantastic idea. I believe arts and culture are vital to society, and to be able to inspire and engage with young people in this way is fundamental to ensure that a love of the arts never dies.
The event was a huge success. Every venue was buzzing with crowds of spectators, and social media was going mad for the whole thing. It was touching to see such beautiful work by these young curators, showcasing their creativity and passion in Wales’ most iconic venues.
Kicking off at The Senedd…
The event kicked off at the Senedd, with a brass band playing as the seats quickly filled. People of all different ages congregated in The National Assembly Building – including many young kids that might have never visited it before! As the fanfair came to a close and the crowd hushed, Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding took to the stage. His speech played homage to the vibrant culture and confident youth of today, and how fantastic it was to see young people take over the political and cultural venues of Cardiff. I couldn’t agree more.
Following his speech, young critic Ethan Evans delivered a moving, poetic speech of his own. His words floated across the Senedd and left the audience in awe. It was amazing to hear such a young person speak with such poise, elegance and linguistic talent.
After an introduction from Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Martin Daws, it was then time for the children of Literature Wales to take to the floor. This 16 person bilingual poem was performed to a steady drumbeat, with the children performing solo, in pairs and as a whole group. It was dynamic and sincere, encapsulating the beauty of Wales and what it meant to these incredible children. One particularly beautiful metaphor came from a young boy from Napal, who described climbing on the back of the Welsh dragon, giving him courage and flying him back home. With references to Welsh cakes, daffodils and the nation’s favourite sport, the poem was wonderful to watch, transporting each and every member of the audience back to their dearest memories of their country.
Next up were street dance team Rubicon. The all-female group performed an exciting Ethiopian Street Dance, with carnival-esque music to get the crowd really going. The dance was lively, fun and exhilarating, with talent in abundance. You couldn’t help but clap along – and I definitely had to keep myself firmly rooted to my seat to stop jumping up and joining in with the party! It was a clear hit with the crowd, who’s cheers showed the girls it was a job well done.
The Senedd section of the day finished off with an intimate performance from up and coming singer – songwriter Dan Bettridge. His folk / american style music was reminiscent of Johnny Cash and John Mayer, with delicate lyrics that left the crowd wanting more. There with the Young Promoters Network, Dan left a lasting impact on the Senedd – particularly with the younger girls!
On to the Wales Millennium Centre…
Next stop, the Wales Millennium Centre! Opening the next part of the show was African Dance company, Ballet Nimba. And what a way to start! With exceptional music, dance, song and energy, the group had the whole of the WMC up and dancing. With Welsh participants involved, the group encapsulated joy, spirit and passion, performing a fantastic form of music that may have been unknown to some members of the audience. By the end, whether you were aware of the music or not, everyone wanted a piece of it. I could have listened to that showcase all day and night – it was the perfect portrayal of a life free of inhibitions, where beauty and happiness were the only things that mattered.
Following Ballet Nimba was the exquisite Gabrielle Murphy. Like Dan Bettridge, Gabrielle came to Takeover as part of the Young Promoters Network. A 17 year old from Treherbert, her voice took the audience away. Again, she was lyrically superb, with a soulful and exhilarating voice. I found myself sat there wondering why this fantastic girl didn’t already have a record deal. The deep and personal songs were touching to hear – and to make the deal even sweeter, Gabrielle came across as a beautiful individual, inside and out.
Next on stage were the Literature Wales team again, introduced by American poet Michael Cirelli (you might remember him from my recent interview). Michael had been working with the group throughout the week to create this work of art, which the WMC crowd loved just as much as The Senedd did. It was great to see the confidence and sense of pride of the children on stage; they knew they had created something fantastic!
Closing the WMC was the crowd favourite Rubicon – with (if possible!) even more fire and energy than the first time round! Again, it was amazing to see the girls once the performance was finished as they soaked in the raucous response from the crowd. Well done girls – you were out of this world!
Happenings in the Hayes..
Over the The Hayes for the next installment of Takeover. There was lots going on around the city center, with buskers entertaining the crowds and the Zoom Cymru documentary films playing on a loop in CFQ. I took myself down to the National Library, for a poetry recital by the YPL and Lit Wales guys.
I expected a calm recital of tender poetry; what I got was entirely different! The recital came from Michael Cirelli, Martin Daws and Rapper / MC / Singer Songwriter / Scriptwriter / Stand Up Comedy (yep – cracking CV!) Rufus Mufasa. With topics ranging from hard hitting political raps to love poems about spaghetti, the content was varied and liberating. Each poet took turns to perform; there were lyrical pieces, spine-tingling songs, theatrical recitals and empowering spoken word showcases. Rufus wowwed the crowd with her fantastic voice, dipping in and out of Welsh and English. Martin became a different person with each piece, performing as if it was the most important performance of his life. Michael was engaging, fun and extremely talented with his words. They were a terrific trio. It was like something I had never seen before, and left me inspired.
Next stop on the map was a performance I was personally very excited for – Mutle Mothibe’s powerful showcase with the children of Grassroots. Held in the perfect venue of the National Museum, the group had a huge crowd ready for them. For me, this was the highlight of the day. Watching the Grassroots kids on the side as they prepared, they looked anxious and pretty terrified. When they took to the stage… well, it was another story. They presented MC performances, hip hop acts, acoustic renditions of popular songs, incredible singer-songwriters and jaw-dropping dances. It was a feast of talent – there’s no other way I can describe it.
It wasn’t even the talent that left me so speechless. For every performer, it was clear how much it meant to them. With the countless talent-less celebrities filling our TV screens day after day, to see real, raw talent within people who had so much passion was absolutely beautiful to witness. Particularly with the kids that had written their own work, it was stunning to watch – at times it left me on the verge of tears it was so sublime. The positive messages resounding in the showcase was truly inspiring and reminded the audience of the brightness and wonder all around us – particularly in an age where all too often the negative aspects of the world weigh people down.
A surprise performance came from Martin Daws joining Mutle on the stage – the two had spent the week under the same hotel roof, and it was evident they had become great friends. They took to the stage doing what Mutle does best – turning sincere and tender words into pure art.
The showcase ended with a glorious bang, in a collaborative piece between Cardiff and South Africa where everyone joined on stage. Every single performer here was given a chance to show their fantastic talents to the upbeat crowd – which by now was huge! The electric atmosphere inside the museum was magnified as instruments were scattered throughout the crowd, ensuring each and every person inside the museum was a part of the party. It was the perfect end in the perfect venue to a perfect event.
Celebrations in Chapter..
After an inspiring screening of animation students from Oslo, Norway and Newport’s work, the Takeover crowd were invited to enjoy the food and drink of Chapter. It was a fantastic chance for performers to mix and for connections to be formed. The atmosphere was incredible – everyone was so proud and empowered by the work they had seen and performed.
I left the night feeling motivated and moved. To be around such fantastic, inspiring people – not just the performers, but the incredible people that made Takeover Cardiff possible – was an invigorating experience. It is rare to be around people that share such passion and dedication, and for that, Takeover is an event I will take with me for the rest of my life.