On 10 March – two days after International Women’s Day – Assembly Members unanimously voted to pass the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill into law. Hailed as a ‘groundbreaking’ piece of ‘landmark legislation’ and proof of Wales ‘leading the way’, the Bill was broadly welcomed by women’s organisations and activists, whose tireless campaigning significantly influenced both its existence and content. As with all campaigns, however, it certainly wasn’t without its difficulties.
Perhaps the most hotly contested issue in this Bill was education. From the start of the campaign, women’s and children’s charities, academics and young people themselves were unanimous in calling for education to be the central pillar of the Bill, and particularly for the embedding of healthy relationships education across the curriculum. However, the Welsh Government’s initial proposal to include a duty on schools on the face of the Bill was retracted in favour of statutory guidance – a disappointing move, and one vociferously opposed by the opposition.
DEMOCRACY is an exciting new brand, opening its doors in Cardiff for the first time with a special promotion. The brightly lit store is filled with loud music and eye-catching signs and posters. Attractive young sales staff cheerfully greet passers-by. ‘Hello! We’re Democracy! Come on in!’ Once inside, shoppers discover that DEMOCRACY is empty. All sold out?
Sited in a slightly down-at-heel shopping centre DEMOCRACY is to all intents and purposes a shop. Appropriating the ubiquitous empty shops and ‘closing down’ sales that have become emblematic of the recession, DEMOCRACY uses the tactics of ‘culture jamming’ or ‘guerilla communication’, subverting the aesthetics and practices of consumer culture in order to critique both consumer culture and democracy. DEMOCRACY – CLOSING DOWN is a response to the growing global ferment of disillusionment with democracy.
‘Are you happy with your current democracy provider?’
Mimicking the sales script used in mobile phone stores, the work employs satire and play to engage unsuspecting shoppers in conversations about the nature of democracy. Some people, with a bitter laugh, get it in a glance and enjoy playing along, tongue in cheek.
Imagine Wales: an imperative for the future of the nation, or a quasi-democratic hashtag and something to do on a Saturday afternoon? A conference organised by the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations at the University of South Wales provided all of this. Dychmygu Cymru/Imagine Wales had as its stated aim an ‘opportunity [for artists and creative people] to suggest, explore and reflect on new ways of imagining a different political future for our country’.
Taking place just ten days into the New Year, the event clearly had as its context the fallout from the independence referendum in Scotland, and indeed opened with a lengthy presentation by Ross Colquhoun and Miriam Brett, delegates from that country’s National Collective, a cross-party organisation of creatives who campaigned for a Yes vote. Their talk began with a picture of Mel Gibson in Braveheart; Scottish nationalism, the group conceded, had an image problem. Knowing perhaps that 21st-century politics is largely PR, National Collective began their long campaign as three friends meeting in Colquhoun’s bedroom, their aim to make over the image of the pro-indy cause.
In 2014, the launch of a new record label by Ty Cerdd, Music Centre Wales, was greeted with widespread excitement. Indeed, The Observer round-up of the year hailed the event as one of ten ‘most significant firsts’ in UK classical music. Based at Ty Cerdd’s offices in the Wales Millennium Centre, the new label is not the first to feature Welsh classical artists, of course; Sain Records has done so since its inception in 1969, to name one other. But Ty Cerdd’s remit as a national and international resource centre gives its recording arm particular cultural weight, alongside a happy responsibility to showcase the widest possible range of Welsh and Wales-based composers and performers.
The recording studios at Ty Cerdd were established in 2004, and continue to attract diverse clients from the Mavron Quartet to Welsh National Opera. Ty Cerdd Records aims to build on that success to produce under its own name discs of both new and neglected music, including remastered heritage recordings from the Centre’s extensive archives. Four CDs have been released so far and, judging by the three considered here, the label looks set to offer fascinating insights into Welsh cultural history and development, as well as much-needed promotion for Welsh contemporary music.
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