, , , , , , ,

As you might have guessed from our recent posts, this Saturday welcomed Takeover Cardiff to our fantastic city.

Our guest blogger, Amber Bell, followed the activity throughout the day and provides a first hand account of the big event.

Kicking off at The Senedd…

Takeover Cardiff 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 people that might have never set foot inside 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 reflected on the opportunity Takeover Cardiff presented for young people and encouraged those present to help it grow. It was inspiring to hear such a young person speak with 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 young people.  One particularly beautiful metaphor came from a young boy from Nepal, 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, whose 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 young 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 the work, 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 to the The Hayes for the next instalment of Takeover.  There was lots going on around the city centre, 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 young people 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 those  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 a long time to come.


Introducing… Lotte van Gaalen: The Netherlands’ high-flying film maker.


, , , , , , ,

In our final instalment of the Takeover Cardiff artist profiles we bring you Lotte van Gaalen: the documentary film maker from The Netherlands.

Lotte has come to Cardiff for the very first time to work alongside Zoom Cymru for Saturday’s event, creating incredible films with 17 – 23 year olds.

Lotte’s work is emotional, appealing and innovative, and she brings to Zoom Cymru a wealth of experience and knowledge.  Today, our guest blogger Amber Bell met her for a low-down of all things “filmy”, and what exciting things we can expect from Saturday’s showing…

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do?

A: In the Netherlands, I work as a documentary film maker.  Since graduating last year, I’ve been really lucky with some of the exciting work I have been asked to do.  When I first met the guys from Zoom Cymru, I was actually participating in a European Film Forum in Milan.  The Forum was basically a chance for young film makers from all over Europe to get together, network and learn from one another.  That’s how I got to know them – Zoom Cymru were also there!  They told me they were working with Takeover Cardiff, and were looking for an international artist.  When they invited me over, I was overjoyed to say yes!

Q: What led you to become a documentary film maker?

A: I always wanted to do something creative.  Initially, I was really interested in journalism.  At about the age of 17, I was introduced to this critical film by a Dutch film maker, Sunny Bergman.  The film was called Berperkt Houdbaar, and revolved around the notion of female beauty, and the way that women are pressurized by the media to look a certain way.  This film hugely inspired me, and let me down the path of documentary film making.

I then got into film school – quite a big feat as places are coveted in the Netherlands!  This was a brilliant learning curve for me as it taught me that I didn’t want to make political or critical films.  I wanted to make “film films”!

Q: What does your work tend to be about?

A: There is no particular theme with my work.  I’m not really drawn to subjects portraying actuality.  I prefer to evoke a level of emotion in my work, and something that is understandable to everyone, regardless of education and background.

For example, I created a graduation film centred around the Dutch Coast.  The film wasn’t filled with facts, but rather encapsulated what the coast meant to me in a poetic way.  I’m currently working on a film about family relationships, and in particular gay men’s relationships with their Mothers.  It’s subject matters like this that I love to convey; things that people can relate to.

Q: Why did you want to get involved with Takeover Cardiff?

A: Firstly, I had never been to Wales!  So that was an exciting step for me.  It’s been brilliant to get to know Cardiff, and I’ve already met so many incredible film makers.  Secondly, I felt a real connection with Zoom when I met them in Milan.  I knew there and then that I wanted to work with these people.

Working with Takeover has also been fantastic as it means I get to do what I love: making films and coaching young people.  Although I have taken part in many workshops, I have never taught this age group before – so it’s been a real learning experience!  They have a whole new attitude to film which is so exciting to see.

Q: Do you think events like Takeover Cardiff are important to youths and the arts community?

A: Definitely.  For the arts community, it is great to be able to cease this opportunity to display work.  Although there is so much going on in the arts, often it is not visible to the community.  Unless something is pushed right in front of your face, you might miss it altogether.  So Takeover Cardiff is ultimately making arts available to a mass audience, allowing people to be challenged and inspired by it.

I like to think for young people that making films and taking part in media courses allows them to learn so many more general skills that will help them throughout life.  Through the process of film-making, they learn how to express themselves, communicate, negotiate, plan things in advance, compromise and learn from their mistakes: I believe these are all powerful learning tools!

Q: How have you found working with Zoom Cymru?

A: I’ve really enjoyed it!  They have provided me with a nice balance.  I am given room to do my own thing and communicate in my own way, but then they are there to back me up when I need them. As I am new to working with this age group, and the people of Wales, they really help me understand people’s backgrounds and needs.  I couldn’t do this alone – I have learnt so much from them, things that I will now implement in my own work away from Cardiff.  They have made me feel so at home; a real family atmosphere!

Q: What do you hope to achieve through your work with Takeover Cardiff?

A: I really hope that participants feel like they have learnt something; this is so much more important to me than the end result!  I want them to feel proud of what they have achieved, and confident in their film-making skills.  If the participants leave feeling like they have really contributed something, and have had a good time, then that is the best reward for me.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s performance?

A: There will be two films shown on Saturday – they are really quite short films, and will be playing on a loop throughout the day at CFQ (Womanby Street).  The general idea was to give participants a chance to express their view of culture in Cardiff.  The first focuses on the opportunities young people are given in the arts in Cardiff.  The second is a bit of a social advert; it portrays the frustration of kids about the lack of interest in teens about the history of Cardiff – this really surprised me!  I mean, the kids were genuinely disappointed in the small number of their peers that were interested in places such as the Castle and Museum.  Throughout the day, the participants will also be floating around the city centre, handing out leaflets and bringing in new crowds to see the films.  They are all very excited to see people’s reactions – as are we!

For more information on Zoom Cymru, visit their website: http://zoomcymru.com/


For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, go to http://www.britishcouncil.org/wales-arts-takeover-cardiff-toc.htm

Join the conversation on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators.

Introducing… Michael Cirelli: the poet with the urban edge.


, , , , , , , , ,

In the second of our Takeover Cardiff artist profiles we bring you Michael Cirelli: the New York based urban poet.

Michael comes to Cardiff fresh out of an integral role in Urban Word NYC – a youth poetry organisation giving teens the chance to speak up for themselves through spoken word, poetry and hip hop.

The organisation provides workshops, events and live performances to the teens of NYC, bringing literacy to the forefront of youth culture.

This Saturday Michael will have a similar role, working with Literature Wales and local secondary school pupils to produce a high energy poetry performance in the Senedd and the Wales Millennium Centre.

Guest Blogger Amber Bell had the pleasure of speaking to Michael about his thought-provoking work, his creative process and plans for Saturday.

Q – Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do?

I am the Executive Director of an incredible youth poetry organisation in New York called Urban Word NYC. My poetry is inspired by the passion and bravery of the youth I get to work with, and I’m most interested in approaching subject matter that doesn’t usually seem “fit” for poetry.

Q – What led you to become a poet?

For me, it was the need for an outlet to express myself, which sounds cliché, but also it is the challenge of writing poems based on atypical subject matter, poems about lesser known heroes, poems that help me honor, or praise, or forgive…

 Q – What is the inspiration for your poetry – do you have a particular process when writing it?

I am a proponent of consistency. It is important for me to have a time when I like to engage my writing practice, and ALWAYS a conceptual body of work that I am contributing to that drives my inspiration.

 Q – Is the subject matter of your work varied, or does it stick to a particular theme?

I write about all types of things. My previous books have dealt with race, ethnicity, music, food, and of course honoring my family and where I come from. My work almost always sticks to a theme when I am compiling a book. Right now I am completing a book of poems inspired by the Qur’an entitled The Bee.

Q – Why did you want to get involved with TOC?

I love working with youths, as well as engaging with different cultures. I also want to share my view that poetry is for everyone and it can be an incredible space for personal and emotional growth, as well as a place to cultivate and develop creativity.

Q – What do you believe the relevance of events like TOC is to the arts community?

It validates the importance of poety, and champions the dire need for youth voices to be heard!

Q – Have you worked alone with your work for TOC, or collaboratively?

I have had the incredible honor of leading workshops with Wales Young People’s Laureate, Martin Daws, who is a great poet and incredible poetry educator.

Q – What do you hope to get out of your work with TOC?

I hope that this work will inspire more opportunities for youths to have a platform to share their stories, to inspire others with the power of their bravery, and to encourage a culture of poetry and youth voice.

Q – What can we expect from Saturday’s performance?

Saturday’s performance will be a celebration of the youth poets we have worked with, and a showcase of their voices, their representational power in their communities, as well as their relationship to Cardiff. It is an honour to have worked with them and I am looking forward to seeing them rightfully perform on a big and official stage.

To take a look at the work Michael does with Urban Word NYC, have a look at their website: http://www.urbanwordnyc.org/wp/about-us/

Find out more about Wales Young People’s Laureate here: http://youngpeopleslaureate.org/

For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, go to http://www.britishcouncil.org/wales-arts-takeover-cardiff-toc.htm

Join the conversation on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators.

Introducing… Mutle Mothibe: the spoken word artist with a difference.


, , , , , , ,

With Takeover fast approaching, we thought it was only fitting to give you a snapshot of some of the international artists set to grace the iconic venues of Cardiff.

Today’s inspirational performer is Mutle Mothibe, a South African spoken word artist.  Our guest blogger Amber Bell met Mutle earlier today for a coffee and a catch-up – and it’s safe to say the Takeover team are extremely excited for his performance with the young members of Grassroots on Saturday!

Mutle’s exceptional talent and humble personality is normally showcased as a member of Word N Sound, a spoken word arts organisation in South Africa.  His work is topical, thought-provoking and innovative – and Amber had a fantastic time chatting to him about his inspiration, plans for Takeover and highlights of the event so far…

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about your work – what does being a spoken word artist include?

A: Essentially, it’s all about being a poet.  However, I don’t just use the spoken word (despite the title!) – I like to incorporate different mediums of multimedia to keep the whole thing fresh and interesting.  I’ve been working with Grass Roots (a charity dedicated to 16 – 25 year olds) as a part of their exhibition this Saturday at the Museum, which has been great.  It’s my first time overseas – in South Africa I work as part of Word N Sound, a platform bringing together older practitioners of literature with youths, to encourage and inspire them and to give them a sense of the trajectory of a literary career.   So this project is very similar, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.

Q: What inspired you to become a spoken word artist?

A: I have loved writing since I was in Grade 5 – back then I used it as a form of escapism and expression.  It was a medium to express things I had pent up inside.  Throughout University, I began to explore the performance side of the art – since then, I just seemed to become a spoken word artist professionally… 10 years and still going strong!

Q: What does your work tend to be about?

A: Mostly where I am in my life – be that relationships, social issues, personal struggles… in a nutshell, the things that are effecting me at that time.  That’s why it is such a fantastic form of expression.  I try to be really creative with the way I project this.  I like to use more than just words; I fuse music, dance and images together to create a representation as a whole.  This isn’t typical of spoken word artists at all.  With my work, you’ll find contemporary dancers on stage, breakdancers, live singers… anything I can incorporate to make the work special.

For this project, I have been working with 18 – 25 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds, and have created a piece using the information I have gained from them.  We have been holding workshops with them since Monday, through until this Friday at Grass Roots.  On Monday, the kids weren’t as keen to get involved.  But then we created a video for them, showing them what we wanted to do.  We showed them the video, and today the workshop was absolutely packed!  It was an incredible sight.  That shift was the nicest thing for me so far.  It was a bit like coaxing the cat… we had to show them how cool it could be, and then just sat back and watched the crowds build!

Q: Why did you want to get involved with Takeover Cardiff?

A: I was chosen by the British Council as part of an exchange programme in South Africa.  There’s a really interactive relationship here, in which artists from South Africa come to Wales to showcase their work, and vice versa.  I know that the British Council would like to see this event extended in the future, and I am excited to hopefully be a part of that.

Takeover Cardiff is a great way to connect as an artist with other artists.  I am staying with two other poets – Michael from New York City and Martin from Wales.  It’s fantastic as we feed off one another, and can exchange any tips or advice.  It’s great fun to have three creative individuals under one roof.

Q: Do you think events like Takeover Cardiff are important to promote the arts to a younger audience?

A: Absolutely, but also on the flip side they expose younger artists to an older generation!  We are holding our showcase at the museum – a place normally associated with older individuals.  So it will be exciting to give this audience a taste of the work by young individuals from the community, and literally put the talent right in front of their faces.  A lot of the kids we are working with thought you had to pay to visit the museum!  So I hope this will also open a lot more doors for them in that respect, introducing them to iconic venues around the city.

Q: What do you hope to get out of your work with Takeover Cardiff?

A: Firstly, I hope we can create an opportuny for kids to take advantage of – there are a lot of chances waiting for them, particularly in great places like Grass Roots, that I hope we can raise awareness of.  Grass Roots provides a safe place for kids to harness any artistic inspiration they have, as well as offering several free courses (such as sound and engineering)!

For me, the whole experience – seeing how other artists carry out their work and approach their craft – is a great opportunity.  All the connections I have already made makes it very worthwhile!  The arts community of Wales is so welcoming, and everyone seems really happy to help.  There’s a very communal feel to it all – a very different atmosphere to my work in South Africa.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s showcase?

A: Lots of surprises!  When I left South Africa, I had one idea in my head.  Since then, it has changed many times!  The show as it is now is much more collaborative – but it is still constantly changing.  There will be clips scattered throughout for people to watch, as well as break dancing, contemporary movement, live music and singing.    Fundamentally, I just want to expose the audience to everything the kids can do!

Mutle’s latest work, assembled in Cardiff with Grassroots, is here:



To take a look at the work Mutle does with Word N Sound, have a look at their website: http://wordnsound.wordpress.com/about-2/ .

 siteversionBRITISH COUNCIL _ CONNECTZA_ Logowhite

This project would not have been possible without the support and assistance of Connect ZA – http://connectza.tumblr.com/

Find out more about Grass Roots Cardiff here: http://www.grassrootscardiff.com/

For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, go to http://www.britishcouncil.org/wales-arts-takeover-cardiff-toc.htm

Join the conversation on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators.

When Hip-Hop meets Dinosaurs


, , , , , , , , ,

If you were handed the keys to a cultural venue for a day to design, curate and create what would you do with that space?

This is the question British Council Wales is posing to over 200 young people from all over South Wales as they prepare to participate in the first ever Takeover Cardiff.

Launching on Saturday October 12th, as a one-day taster event, Takeover Cardiff will see key spaces in the cultural venues of the city handed over to young people (14-25) to curate, develop and participate in programmes to engage their peers. In essence Takeover is an artistic and cultural journey, weaving a trail around the Senedd, the Wales Millennium Centre, The Central Library, The National Museum and Chapter Arts Centre, showcasing international collaborative arts activity in some of Cardiff’s most iconic buildings. Outside the venues there will be street performances in dance and music; a pop up cinema in an area where an old picturehouse once stood and young filmmakers, photographers and bloggers documenting the performances as they unfold.

Our aims with Takeover are simple; to empower young people to seize control of their own event; to develop collaborations with international artists; and to demonstrate the creativity and talent of young people and artists alike. Crucially, we anticipate the launch will act as a springboard to developing a significant week-long international youth arts festival in 2014. The interest in Takeover Cardiff runs far beyond the borders of Wales.

Takeover events such as these are an increasing phenomenon, encouraging young people to take control of spaces or programming in their local venues and to participate in cultural activity. The key difference with Takeover Cardiff is the international aspect that the British Council brings; Artists from countries around the world (USA, Norway, South Africa, Ethiopia, The Netherlands) sharing their culture and expertise with young people from South Wales, many of whom have never ventured out of the towns and cities they live in. Together, and with the input of local and national arts organisations, they will develop collaborative performances, mashing up cultures, bringing the issues they want to express to the fore, and creating something that is quite unique and importantly created and developed by them.

An all-girl dance troupe from Cardiff will develop a street dance with an Ethiopian artist; secondary school pupils will hone slam poetry skills with a US beat poet and perform in the Senedd, the main centre for democracy and devolution in Wales; Young people from some of Cardiff’s most disadvantaged estates will create a spoken word/hip hop performance among the flora and fauna, the paintings of the Italian Renaissance, and assembled dinosaur skeletons of the National Museum. And out in the streets up and coming bands, chosen by their peers, will showcase their talent on the routes to and from each Takeover venue.

These venues, which some of our participants may have previously thought of as elitist or “arty”, suddenly become accessible to a new young audience. It’s about breaking down barriers and increasing participation. This, after all, is what the British Council is about, creating international opportunities for people of the UK and other countries and building trust between them worldwide.

The motto for Takeover Cardiff is thus: No agenda, just collaboration.

Get Involved

For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, go to http://www.britishcouncil.org/wales-arts-takeover-cardiff-toc.htm

Join the conversation on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators