THE FFRESH STAGE TAKEOVER!
In summer 2022 we embarked on an experiment supported by Tŷ Cerdd’s Inspire Lottery grants scheme. After a successful recruitment campaign for a project manager for our Dathliad Cymru-Affrica project we identified the need for development opportunities for young professionals starting careers in arts organisations. Thus the idea for co-creating a youth-led youth-focussed project was born. We worked with aspiring young Nigerian, Wales based, producer Joshua Whyte (AKA the artist Blank Face) and Keith Murrell of Butetown Arts and Culture Association (BACA) to develop this project, working closely with Josh at every stage including the writing of the funding application so that it could be a truly meaningful development opportunity.
The project became ‘Scouting Fresh Afro-Welsh Talent’ and involved the curation and management of a stage slot at Butetown Carnival 2022 to showcase early career artists. The project was fast paced, time limited, with multiple opportunities for learning and development supported by an experienced team.
The key activities involved were:
- Research (online & contacting community groups)
- Creating and disseminating a call-out for artists
- Sift and selection of artist options
- Running the event smoothly
- Evaluation and learning
- Professional development on an individual basis for Joshua Whyte as a music professional (and for The Successors of the Mandingue (TSOTM) and BACA as mentors supporting the next generation of project managers)
- Concrete practical experience and transferable skills that can be evidenced in future employment applications
- Training and upskilling of young professionals in different aspects of the music industry
- Providing a platform and opportunity for early career artists to showcase their talent (with the additional benefits of being able to capture this for their own future promotion)
- Facilitating invaluable live performance experience for four early career artists
- For TSOTM this is a valuable opportunity to test ideas with regard to youth engagement and new artists in advance of our planned full Wales-Africa festival next year
- By empowering a young person to undertake this project TSOTM are more likely to reach young talent that will be new to the organisation
- For BACA and Butetown Carnival this project nurtures and upskills talent, increasing the pool of artists and professionals they can draw upon in future
- For Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) the project broadens their reach and community engagement
- Discovering fresh new talent
- Wider representation and diversity on a public stage
- Inspiring young audiences by platforming young artists they can identify with
- Open access event
- A project led by a young person, delivering performances of young people, attractive to audiences of young people
- Exposing young audiences to authentic traditional arts as part of the wider event
The selected artists were Adjua, Suleiman Atta, and Mirari More. Each were promoted on our collective social media channels as individual artists in the lead up to the event. The performances were amazing and there were great vibes at the stage all afternoon. Joshua also got to experience playing a Blank Face set on the Sunday as part of his induction to the stage.
Joshua Whyte (aka Blank Face) manlikeblankface our Scouting Fresh Afro-Welsh Talent – Project Officer was the first of the project’s performers at this year’s Butetown Carnival – learning on the job at the Ffresh Stage, Cardiff Bay on Sunday August 28th 2022. Blank Face is a recording artist based in Wales with experience across creative producing and music directing across various projects. Blank Face a.k.a known as ‘Blanko’ is a musical canvas who fuses different sounds as his paint and brush to create a beautiful picture. He has just over 300,000 music streams worldwide.
First on Monday 29th August 2022 was @adjuasings_ Ffresh Stage 4.40pm. Born in Splott to Ghanaian and Welsh parents, Adjua has been making music for the past 5 years and has a big passion for using music to resonate with others. Bringing Alt-rnb music with an acoustic touch!
Next up was our very own Suleiman I. Atta, 6pm Ffresh Stage. Suleiman is a Welsh based singer/songwriter. Suleiman does R&B songs, soul and afro beats. He is also a music producer and an active performer.
Finally Mirari More, 6.20pm, Ffresh Stage. Mirari seamlessly blends rap and soulful R&B vocals with hiphop/jazz/afropop production. The Cardiff based singer/songwriter has performed at FOCUS Wales and headlined many other venues across the city, offerings include sampling ‘Nights over Egypt’ by the Jones Girls and turning it into a rap record known as ‘Chandel Bleu’. On the day Mirari had a special guest for two tracks – Andrew Ogun.
I organised “Blank Face Presents” an event segment showcased at the Butetown Carnival. It was an amazing event and really got the crowd going. The acts that performed all did amazingly well and the technical team involved with the project were exceptional. I personally had a lot of fun too. The only critique is that some performances clashed with the main stage but aside that everything went well and there was a lot of collaboration from the WMC staff team and support form TSOTM’s other project officers Keith and Cathryn.
The impact of the project was significant. I believe:-
- The project brought people together through diversity
- The project played a significant role in bringing people in the community together. There were a lot of people who met familiar faces they hadn’t seen in years due to the pandemic.
- The project gave the audience a realistic idea of modern-day African music, Afrobeats
- The project gave performing artists an opportunity to showcase their work.
- The project gave performing artists an avenue of income. This shows appreciation of their time and talent.
- The project raised awareness of talented artists from African and Diaspora backgrounds.
- The project set the scene for how Butetown Carnival is help yearly as it was the first time the stages were set up in that way. It was a great set up that helped decide how the carnival layout could be when set up around the Wales Millennium Centre.
- The project created a great atmosphere for both the audiences and the staff/stall workers that were present for the event
Challenges faced came pre the event. I had reached out to quite a few artists around Wales of African and Diaspora origins and only got a few interested. I had issues with Facebook ads, they kept rejecting our ads with no conclusive reasoning, so it killed our reach. To solve the problem, we manually sent out the call out to reach out to artists. We got a few people to repost on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We utilised all our social media platforms to raise awareness as well.
One other barrier was keeping the crowd’s attention. Thanks to my music training, I opened the stage that day with my own set and I was able to set the mood to keep people engaged. The result of this was my stage had the attention of people for almost two hours while having their food and drink.
I learnt a great deal from the event. I learnt about stage management as well as how to collaborate with event hosts as well as the technical team. I also liked the fact that I was allowed to manage one of the stages on my own. I believe that was the biggest learning point for me as I was able to learn on the spot and have a certain level of autonomy that enable me to be able to make my own decisions. I was also able to practice the fruits of my producer training hosted by ‘Arise Wales’. I was able to apply my training which is an invaluable learning experience being able to see what works and what doesn’t. Not only was I able to apply my producer training, I was able to apply my Live music performance as I was trained by ‘Live Music Now’ on how to get the crowd to be more engaging. They ended up dancing a lot and I loved that the result was intentional to say the least. Lastly, I have a better understanding of the roles needed in setting up a great stage and concert show. Working on a project like this starting from a producer role applying for funding, to running the stage and also performing on the stage. I felt that I had the maximum learning experience being able to work across so many different roles that I am qualified to do and was able to understand which roles I like and also which personnels I need to host a great show.
It was brilliant bro. Only thing is I wish I had prepared backing tracks instead of a guitar as
playing live wasn’t the best for that stage I don’t think.
Overall, I felt accommodated in terms of having a sound check and the engineers making sure I
was comfortable with the sound. They had their own cables and stuff which was handy, I also
thought the sound overall was pretty great considering it was outside.
The atmosphere and the crowd were pretty awesome, especially as the weather was great.
The one thing I would say is that maybe the organisation of sound checks, as the time of my sound
check kept changing. It was a really good stage to play, and I would do it again.
I found working with Josh extremely pleasant. He was very clear in his communication regarding
the event, what was expected of me and what I should expect. I found him easy to reach whenever
I had queries and on the day of the event he was very helpful. Showing me where to go and also
providing water etc so I am all good to perform. I would definitely be happy to work with Josh on
Programme Manager Feedback
Joshua – you were a star, straight in the deep end and glided like a swan! Can’t wait to see your evaluation! The stage had a really nice vibe about it. One of my favourite aspects of yesterday was the fact that a lot of the young guys who came for your stage stayed on and were really vibing the traditional stuff later – it was lovely to see because i’m guessing lots of them don’t get access to that kind of stuff usually.