Global Bleat

World cultures from the South West to beyond!

Making Noise: Keeping Cardiff’s Musical Heritage Live

Cardiff’s port handles over 2 million tons of goods each year. But it’s not just imports that enter Cardiff through the docks. Turn back the clocks to the early 1920s. Somalis, Greeks and Yemenis are amongst communities from around the world settling in the dockland area of Tiger Bay. With them comes music.

But can Cardiff’s music industry cope with the city’s thriving population? Accommodation is in high demand and people live side by side with music venues.  Global Bleat will be investigating whether Cardiff’s eclectic music heritage is at threat as venues struggle to meet the cost of turning their volume down.

IMG_0079Bluebeat, reggae, funk, ska, jazz, RnB and soul arrived with immigrants throughout the 1900s. A population whose cultural roots extend around the world, Cardiff is now home to over 300,000 people.

Despite 95% of of the Welsh population calling themselves white British (ONS, 2009),  Cardiff is home to a range of communities. Over a tenth of Cardiff’s population come from ethnic minorities. In the dockland area of Butetown (old name, Tiger Bay), this increases. More than a fifth of people living here are Muslim. This global community which settled around Cardiff’s port cherished the city’s world music scene throughout the 20th C.

Photo courtesy of George Grantham Bain Collection, Cardiff Docks Coal Ships 1910-15.

Tiger Bay’s Casablanca nightclub welcomed acts from around the globe including Aretha Franklin and Jimmy Ruffin. Nurturing local talent, including Dame Shirley Bassey and Patti Flynn, DJ Keith Murrel says  it was at the heart of Cardiff’s musical community.  But along with other Tiger Bay venues, Casablanca’s dance floor is now dead. Demolished in 1980 it was replaced by a car park.

Cardiff Bay’s The Point hosted reggae stars like Johnny Clarke. It didn’t have enough money to cope with noise sanctions and closed its doors in 2009. The Coal Exchange, whose transformation from the industrial revolution’s production hub to music venue, was complete in 2001, closed last year. The crumbling venue couldn’t cope with repairs and, like The Point, couldn’t even consider soundproofing.

Whilst music can be at the heart of a community it can also be a nuisance. Global Bleat readers love to listen to music at a small venue or pub. But it’s these venues that are at risk.

Global Bleat Poll Results

Global Bleat Poll Results

A music promoter is campaigning for people who buy or rent property near a venue to sign noise wavier. Aidan Steven’s voice has been joined by nearly 40,000 others who say:

“If [homeowners or tenants] do not wish to be bothered by something that was a fixture of the community long before they arrived, they should not move there in the first place”

But Cardiff Council say they won’t uphold noise waivers. A spokesperson told Global Bleat the waivers have no legal standpoint. Meaning even if the campaign to force tenants and homeowners to sign a waiver succeeds, because they aren’t legally binding, they can still lodge noise complaints.

If the local authority agree the noise levels are too loud they will serve an ‘abatement notice’. This means the venue must turn down their levels or face prosecution. Good news if you like a quiet night in but bad news for Cardiff’s music industry.

This happened to The Globe in Cardiff. Following noise complaints it closed its doors and spent over £25,000 on soundproofing.

But does Cardiff Council have the final say? MP Kris Hopkins is supporting Aidan Steven’s campaign. He told Global Bleat,

“Councils must use common-sense to ensure they achieve the right balance between protecting the right of local residents to a good night’s sleep and defending well-established music venues and pubs from having to pull the plug on years of live entertainment.” Mr.Hopkins is working with the government to extend the 8am-11pm loud music allowance.

Floyd's Bar

Floyd’s Rum Bar

But what if the venue refuses to turn down that bass down? Flloyd’s Rum Bar did just that. Owner Zac Edwards told Global Bleat he was fined £20,000, which he managed to reduce to £5,000. Did the council use the “common sense” Kris Hopkins says they should? Zac’s complaints came from new flats whose planning permission he’d opposed.

Despite challenges to Cardiff’s music venue’s Cardiffian’s are filling out world music nights across the city. Here are Global Bleat’s favourite world music venues.

The thriving world music scene extends to Penarth. Normally a community drawn to rock’n’roll its now home to Penarth Soul Club.

Global Bleat spoke to Liam who founded the musical collective with his friend Shelly. He said the night, held in The Penarth Ex-Servicemen’s Club, has sold out every time. At their last event doors shut at 9pm by which time the wooden dance floor, normally home to one or two brave dancers, was packed.

Liam from Penarth Soul Club

Liam from Penarth Soul Club

penarth soul

Penarth Pier

Penarth Pier

A taste for live local music isn’t unique to Penarth. Despite noise complaints world rhythms are thriving across the city. But as the council struggle to meet the housing demand the threat to live music venues remains. Plans to build on green belt land are being debated whilst hopes to merge with the Vale of Glamorgan and gain access to more space now seem unlikely.

Le Pub in Newport was saved by its community when Samantha Dab’s appeal on crowdfunder provided the £10,000 for soundproofing it needed to stay open. Whilst the council continue to allow property developers to  build in the city’s centre, the risk to music venues may increase.

Will Cardiff’s music community go as far as Le Pub’s supporters to save the city’s musical heritage? If the re-imagining of Casablanca nightclub and the campaign to reopen the Coal Exchange are anything to go by it seems like Cardiff’s music community wont let venues be silenced without a fight!

What do you think the council should prioritise: more housing in Cardiff’s city centre or music venues? Comment below with your thoughts.


3 comments on “Making Noise: Keeping Cardiff’s Musical Heritage Live

  1. Toni
    January 15, 2015

    Bass from reggae music is best enjoyed at the venue not outside it


    • elliewright
      January 16, 2015

      Reggae reggae music is always best with friends!! Shame it can cause arguments when happiness, respect and loving are core ethics to the music!


  2. Nigel;
    January 17, 2015

    Once a venue is gone history fades too and future generations miss out

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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