Councillor Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff City Council's speech at the launch of Sound Diplomacy Music Strategy development (read the full article here). 

Thank you for the opportunity to join you. It’s great to be here.

It is a real privilege for me to be talking to you tonight about music in Cardiff because, I can be quite honest, were it not for music then I would not be stood here tonight speaking to you as Leader. I had the absolute luck and privilege – with grateful thanks to my parents – to grow up in a musical household. Music was one of the things that was always around.

It was learning that you have to put the hours in at practice to get good at playing the piano, playing the bass, that taught me that you need a bit of discipline if you wanted to achieve in life. It was the experience of going on a residential orchestra course – the band camp – that gave me confidence in social situations and that made me friends for life.

It was through music that my first political ideas were shaped. I remember singing in a musical about the Chartist movement in mid-Wales and following bands like the Manics where you get a political perspective that you often don’t get anywhere else in culture as a 13 or 14-year-old. It was a love for music that got me into university and broadened my horizons in a way that a boy from West Wales had never thought imaginable.

And when I moved to Cardiff ten years ago and not knowing anyone in the city, it was joining a choir that gave me that first social network. Today, in a job that is fairly demanding and pretty time consuming, it is music - whether it is on the radio in the office or in the concert hall or in the pub - that gives you the space to put things in perspective, process what is happening and gives me the creative space to think about what do we do next as an administration.

And so, all of the things that have led me to be here today is exactly why I am so delighted that we’re announcing working with Sound Diplomacy who are themselves global leaders in developing music strategies and, as Peter was saying, have worked with world cities like Barcelona, Berlin and London working with us now to make sure that Cardiff lives up to its really proud title as the UK’s first music city.

That is why I am delighted to announce today that we will be working with “Sound Diplomacy”, global leaders for developing music strategies, who have worked with cities like Barcelona, Berlin and London on our plans for Cardiff to become the UK’s first ‘Music City’.

A Music City

For Cardiff, and for Wales, culture and creativity are up there with our greatest strengths.

Amongst our high profile venues, are: the Wales Millennium Centre; St David’s Hall; the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Stadium. 

We have the Tramshed, and of course, we have Womanby Street amongst many others, lots of which feature on the brilliant ‘Mintys Gig Guide to Cardiff’ - well done Minty.

I’d like to thank our good friends from the Save Womanby Street Campaign for inspiring the people of Cardiff and South Wales to take to the streets to support live music. 

I believe that, over recent months, the Council has listened and shown real commitment to protecting Womanby Street and the city’s music scene. 

I am also happy to say my administration is helping Clwb Ifor Bach to expand to a 500 seater venue. 

We don’t want to stop there.  My administration is committed to delivering a 15,000 seater Indoor Arena so we can continue to bring the best international acts to Wales.

We also have festivals and events, the brilliant Swn, Hwb, Cardiff Singer of the World, and this June the will be another Festival of the Voice.

I know that every week promoters work hard to present bands and performers for our citizens and visitors to enjoy.

We hope this work will help attract more major music conferences and events to the city.

As well as hosting music giants, Cardiff aspires to nurture its grassroots music scene, creating the environment where groups can form and new music can be created.

This is already happening.  Every weekend something new and different is going on.  It feels to me that something very special is happening in Cardiff right now. 

Music is part of what makes Cardiff such a great place to live, for young people, for all people.

But most importantly of all, we have a wealth of creative talent, we now need to create the right environment for that to thrive.   

The awesome alternative Coat of Arms for Cardiff, designed by Pete Fowler, which the Council is using on social this week, puts it best:

‘People Maketh the City’

‘Dinas yw ei Phobl’

Cardiff is a city of artists, musicians, singers, producers, sound engineers, and of course, music lovers. 

All part of a wider creative community that is second to none in Britain, and who help make Cardiff one the most creative and inventive cities in the world.

As a bilingual capital city - we have a point of difference which sets us apart.  And as an old port city, we can draw on musical traditions from across the world, and songs sung in over 100 different languages. 

A Music Strategy

We’ve got talent, we’ve got venues, and we’ve got a cultural distinctiveness that sets us apart.

We now have an opportunity to take this to another level. And we want to work with you on making this happen, by bringing together a music strategy to match our cultural ambitions.   

Our strategy will promote the whole music sector, not just live music. All genres all music, across the whole city. We believe this is a UK first.

It will recognise and support the role that music can play in all aspects of our lives.

It will be integral to our wider ambitions for the city.

Creativity is at the heart of our economic strategy. Those of you who arrived by train will have seen the development at Central Square. We are putting one of our city’s biggest creative industry players – BBC Wales – front and centre of our regeneration programme.  

This is a statement of intent - recognising the importance of the creative economy to the future of the city.

We want to promote creative participation in schools.  I firmly believe that creativity has to be built more into our education system. And we are keen to work with the Arts Council of Wales and share their learning from the £20Million investment in their Creative Learning in Schools programme.

Because I firmly believe that today’s children should have the same cultural opportunities that we all had, and it’s those kids who are able to think creatively, to adapt and to invent, who will be able to respond best to the challenges we face in the future.   

We want to create new and innovative spaces- including urban spaces-embedded into the physical development of the city, for music to be performed and enjoyed.

We want to use our music strategy to raise the city’s international profile and support the growing music tourism sector and look forward to leaning off Sound Diplomacy what has worked in other cities across the world.  

Our world is changing at great pace and we all realise the challenges before us, but Cardiff will not turn inwards. Our capital needs to welcome the world.  A city that provides an international stage for the best Welsh talent, and one that brings the best international talent to Wales. 

While a key part of our work with Sound Diplomacy will be to calculate the true economic impact of music in the city, we know the impact goes way beyond the balance sheet.

Music can change our lives for the better.  It can often support us in our darkest hours and be part of creating our best memories.

It helps bring people together, building a sense of pride and identity.  It creates shared experiences, strengthens the bonds and fosters understanding between communities – so important when there are some – a tiny, tiny minority in our city who are trying to do the opposite, by creating division and spreading hate. 

Across all aspects of city-life, music can make a massive difference. 

Delivering together

Now, it should come as no surprise to you that organisations like the one I lead are under massive financial and demand pressures. 

We in Cardiff, like cities across the UK, are having to look at new ways of supporting the cultural sector. 

There are no easy and obvious solutions.

We need to be creative.

No one person or organization has all the answers, These we must work on, together.

That is why we want music and musicians to help contribute ideas, knowledge, experience to and deliver the outcomes of this strategy.

The artists, musicians, promoters, venue owners and those who love listening to music. 

Working alongside our big players like the BBC, our Universities, the Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government – who have all agreed to come to the table. 

I’m sure that if we can align our resources and focus our energies, through this collective effort we will create something new and exciting here in Cardiff. 

In short, we’re about to embark on something new and world-leading here in the capital city of Wales. 

To quote from the official Cardiff coat of arms, designed and adopted in October 1906 to coincide with the opening of this amazing building:

‘Y Ddraig coch ddyry cychwyn’

Let’s make it happen.