There’s a feeling of spring in the air and festivals both online and live are tantalisingly looming on the horizon. The following week is good place to begin, with a brand new event to go out online. Called Gŵyl 2021, it showcases contributions from four Welsh festivals: Focus Wales, Festival of Voice, Aberystwyth Comedy Festival and Other Voices Cardigan.
While Focus Wales, the annual music-industry festival, delivers some heft – around 290 artists across 20 stages plus music conferences – its offering for Gŵyl 2021 distils some of the essence of Focus Wales into an eminently doable streamlined weekender –along with the other three festivals equally slotting sets into the timeframe. Check in at 3pm on Saturday and Sunday for sets, filmed in a different locations in Wales, by a selection of today’s most exciting Welsh artists. There are household names like Gruff Rhys through to young bands such as Islet, who released their acclaimed album Eyelet last year. And the festival continues through next week with an intriguing mix of events.
Getting it together I spoke to Andy Jones, co-founder and music booker of Focus Wales, about the initial idea for Gwyl. “We got around the digital table last spring  with Festival of Voice, Aberystwyth Comedy Festival and Other Voices Cardigan. As festivals, we all shared similar challenges,” Andy tells me. “Initial hopes were for a hybrid digital/live model but as lockdown bit, digital only eventually became the only way forward”. And so the team developed Gŵyl 2021, a collaborative celebration of the Welsh creative arts, featuring music of multiple genres, plus film, comedy and talks. The online showcase has been designed to inspire, provoke thought and provide that injection of energy and uplift that is usually the hallmark of the live festival.
Tuning in... Gŵyl takes place on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th March – and there will be more taking place over the following week. Weekends start at 3pm to around 7pm and will be broadcast online by BBC Wales at www.bbc.co.uk/gwyl2021. The performances will be also be available for a short time after the festival is over.
More to come…
Monday to Friday sees more Gŵyl 2021 events. The Am App is the platform for panel sessions and showcases. Thursday sees the 360° sessions and Friday takes matters in a literary direction. See info and the Gwyl 2021 poster below.
360° sessions There’s an additional treat to follow on Thursday 11th as Gŵyl 2021 introduces an intriguing, immersive and fun element to the online festival world. The Focus Wales artists have been filmed in 360°, singing one song each. Filmed in different locations, the 45-minute film brings a new dimension to the online concert experience, giving fans the chance to engage with Gŵyl artists on an extra level. Using your smart phone or headset, you can zoom around the space and have a bit of fun with it. Artists appearing at the 360° sessions include: 9Bach, Adwaith, N’Famady Kouyaté, Benji Wild, Cara Hammond, Kidsmoke, Islet, Gruff Rhys, Dani Rain and Bandicoot. Further details to come this week.
From Monday to Friday The entire event now stretches over eight days – that’s including a watch party for the film Eternal Beauty, and live showcases. “It’s been a big team effort and everyone’s done a great job,” Andy says. “We’ve made sure all genres are covered, and the scale of it is very exciting. But despite its size, the festival is very easy to navigate”. Andy hopes that everyone will just dive in and explore, finding new artists and experiences to enjoy.
Gwyl feels appropriate for these early days of spring, a forward thinking, and optimistic launch into what will hopefully be a more promising year for music and the creative arts.