During our first year we offered a programme of ’52 Things’ made with and for the city’s creative community to showcase the fantastic people and places in our city. You can find the full 52 here.

In our first profile of people working in the city's creative economy we spoke to John Rostron.

This week the Association of Independent Festivals' Congress comes to Cardiff alongside the ninth Sŵn festival. We asked him about his experience of working in the city - and what needs to change.

Why have you chosen to work in Cardiff? What inspires you about being here?

I studied and then stayed in Cardiff  - there was an overlap as I fell out of University and into the creative industries. It was an exciting time back then, and Cardiff felt like a place where anything could happen. I think it still has a lot of that zip buzzing around.

You set up the Sŵn festival in Cardiff in 2007. Why did you choose to hold the festival here?

I lived here and Huw Stephens, who I started it with, was born (and living) here. Cardiff was the place that we wanted to help put on the musical map, as there was no festival here (several had come, and then quickly gone) but so much to be proud of and to shout about.

What challenges have you found in working here?

The biggest challenge has been Cardiff Council. They've felt unpenetrable as a local authority, and though there's some good people there, there's been no strategy for culture and no advocate for music and events. I have to say, though, that it does feel like that's beginning to change with Phil Bale as Leader. I really do hope so.

How successful has Cardiff been at making itself a creative capital city, particularly in your area of work?

The success has been mostly because of the sector itself. There's many incredible musicians and a bundle of hard-working, enthusiastic individuals and companies who do great things. But there's a glass ceiling, because Cardiff hasn't provided the infrastructure for growth or the support in policy and planning which music needs to sustain itself in a modern city. Just pick one issue - venue closures - losing The Point, The Coal Exchange and the short-lived Millennium Music Hall within a few years of each other; plus an inadequate strategy with St David's Hall, has lost Cardiff huge opportunities to establish itself as a music city.

Which 3 things need to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city?

  • Cardiff Council should be building strategy by having conversations with a wide array of the sector - not just major organisations.
  • We should pilot pioneering economic models and policies that support, redistribute and retain wealth for the sector.
  • Welsh government should prioritise local development and entrepreneurship over inward investment, though without abandoning the latter altogether.

Describe your favourite creative place in Cardiff

Musicbox Rehearsal and Recording Rooms. It's the beating heart of music in Cardiff, and it's equal, and fair, in a way that is so inspiring. You can have the biggest metal act in the world rehearsing next door to some kids scratching out demos - they all get the same great service, they all pay the same, affordable rates, and they all have to wash up their own mugs.

You’re the Vice Chair of the Association of Independent Festivals and have successfully brought their annual congress to Cardiff. Why do you think that Cardiff is a good place to host an event like this?

This was an example of Wales getting it absolutely spot on. When the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) wanted to put together a new event for the sector Wales was the only place in the UK that could offer any kind of package - through its Major Events Unit - that would support the organisation taking a risk with something new. It didn't cost a lot of money, but it was enough to lessen the risk for AIF. And it's worked. This is the second year of the Congress, and the second year it's sold out. So Cardiff is now the place that has the only gathering of the leading people in the independent festival sector in the UK, as well as creating something brand new in Wales. That's how to get things right.

What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon? What new ideas are you working on?

I've just taken on an Events Manager to who I've been handing over much of the delivery of Sŵn (I'll continue to book the acts though), so I'm becoming increasing free to pursue new projects. There's been talk of work on a major event in Cardiff next year, and I'd love to be involved in that, and there's a suggestion of taking on a festival, which I'd be keen to do. I love festivals. Sŵn is 10 next year, so there'll be some new additions there as well which I'm looking forward to.

What do you think Creative Cardiff should try to achieve?

I think creatives are often busy on projects, and at most its those projects that they shout about, rather than the sector as whole, so I'd like Creative Cardiff to help champion those individuals and organisations as well as the wider sector. When you're head down on something it's wonderful to have other voices shouting about you and willing you on. It helps make it all worthwhile.