In answer to the question of why is Sŵn Festival not better known, the response was “we Welsh are modest and don’t like to shout about ourselves”.
Jointly founded by Huw Stephens, a BBC Radio 1 DJ, and John Rostron, a promoter in Cardiff, the first edition of the festival was held in 2007 with the aim to bring together venues, bands, and promoters from across Wales.
Talking to Huw at this year’s festival, he admits “As with any music projects, Sŵn was born out of passion, not for money. Its initial premise was to create a platform for Welsh bands, partly as a defence to stop a large global company coming in to take over Cardiff’s music festival scene and also to give artists and tour promoters an additional tour routing beyond Bristol.
As non-Welsh UK bands and US touring artists started to add Cardiff to their routing, it became time to hand the festival over to the more business-orientated local venue owner and promoter Clwb Ifor Bach, who could take it to the next level and develop it to become a more well-rounded music discovery festival.
With the city lit up to celebrate, Sŵn is a genuine music discovery festival. The event is spread across eight venues – no more than 15 minutes’ walk apart – featuring over 100 new and emerging artists, with just 30 bigger, more recognised acts, and a policy of no headliners. The organisers also focus on finding the right balance between supporting Welsh acts and opening up a new audience to other UK acts.
This year, ticket-holders were treated to exciting newcomers such as Trout, Picture Parlour, Fat Dog, as well as buzzy artists Jessica Winter, Opus Kink, Lynks, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and more; something for everyone.
Lesser known still are the event’s educational sessions, which take place in cultural arts centre, the Tramshed, with over 20 industry professionals from across a range of industry disciplines – the likes of Form, PRS Foundation, The Great Escape, Brace Yourself PR, Candy Artists, Wasserman, Wise and BBC 6Music, among others – taking part in relaxed and participatory sessions. Plus, in keeping with the ethos of the festival, these sessions are totally free to the city and not just wristband holders.
It was also encouraging to see so many new industry visitors attending for the first time, which is a sure sign that Sŵn is attracting the attention that it deserves, putting it firmly on the map of showcase festivals alongside the more widely-known Sound City and The Great Escape.
And who better to offer up some final words on the event but Huw Stephens himself? “Sŵn is for the musically curious. For industry, it opens up so much opportunity to hear from a wider talent pool, and remains a key platform for Welsh artists. For music aspirants, it is a welcoming, less pressured environment in which to gain knowledge and meet the industry professionals who can help shape their future.”
Needless to say, it’s time for SWN to start shouting a bit more.
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