In this guest blog Rhiannon White, co-founder of Common Wealth Theatre and curator of our Talks programme, writes about what to expect from the free programme at Llais.
Cardiff has a rich history of music and subculture. Being born and raised in the city, I remember that feeling of discovery as a teenager when I stumbled upon my first punk gig at Clwb Ifor Bach or ended up at a Higher Learning night watching breakdancers until the early hours. It's on these nights when the best of us lose ourselves to music and dancing and find our tribes and what the meaning of life could be. I know that a wealth of talent emerged from the underground clubs of my time which has shaped and built this city into what it is today. Subculture leading the change it was always meant to. It's this feeling I wanted to capture in the talks at Llais.
We kick off the talks with a feeling of hope and possibility. In Sunset Walks we hear from young people who have been mapping the music of the city, bringing together all the areas of Cardiff in a supersonic live experience.
Li Harding follows – the most incredible Shirley Bassey impersonator. I met Li at the Grange Pavilion and have watched her entertain and bring joy to the community as we emerged from the pandemic. It is big-hearted music. The queen of Tiger Bay is not to be missed.
Saturday finishes with a panel about the fight to save independent music venues, chaired by Leanne Wood. It will focus on the venues and promoters who have been at the forefront of keeping the live music scene alive in South Wales.
On Sunday the focus is on music and the underground – the activism that keeps the fires burning and the sound systems banging. We open the talks with a panel on Music and Activism featuring Roddy Moreno from The Oppressed, Efa Supertramp, Truth and the US poet Kara Jackson. This talk will dive deep into the activism behind the music; we’ll hear about anti-fascism, anti-racism, getting banned from Glastonbury and being a young grime artist from Pillgwenlly. We’ll then hear music from Kara Jackson (former US National Youth Poet Laureate), an exceptional international artist performing for the first time in Wales.
The final talk is about sound systems – the beating heart of the underground and where music and activism stem from. We’ll hear from the creator of In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats Darren Emerson, researcher and archivist Ashish Joshi and Kervin Julien, an original founding member of Conqueror Sound System from Cardiff. We will hear stories about past sound systems, how they were made, why they were important and what those movements did for the future of music and culture.
These free talks I hope are a moment for us to reflect on South Wales’ musical history and the possibility of its new future. Reminiscent of stories from the past and peppered with opportunities to meet those who are leading us into the future.
The talks are set against the backdrop of the Cardiff Music History: City of Sound exhibition, the first of its kind in Cardiff. This exhibition is the start of an archive of music and subculture collected and collated by people who have loved and experienced them. If the music we love isn’t documented, then it's our responsibility to tell its story. And as the front of the building says ‘In These Stones Horizons Sing’.
Learn more about our free programme of talks, music and exhibitions.
Llais takes place at Wales Millennium Centre from 26–30 October. Find tickets.