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 [2020] 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 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. 

GWYL fes­ti­val

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