Music venues continue to close despite ‘music city’ status

In 2017, Cardiff was selected to become the UK’s first ‘music city’, yet in the convening years, the city’s music scene has been scarred by venue closures

The front facade of Gwdihŵ is all that remains of the former bar.
The closure of Gwdihŵ in 2019 following an unsuccessful campaign to save the venue was a huge blow to Cardiff nightlife.

Five years ago, consultancy began to protect and grow Cardiff’s music scene, but plans to redevelop the site of Porter’s in Harlech Court has again brought the strategy into question.

City centre venues closed since 2017

  • Gwdihŵ 
  • 10 Feet Tall
  • Undertone
  • Club 29
  • Buffalo (now reopened)
  • Minsky’s
  • Café Jazz

Accusations of hypocrisy have been levelled at council leader Huw Thomas following plans to build Wales’s tallest building on the site of Porter’s, a much-loved venue which was due to close on 24 October before having its lease extended to the new year.

Cllr Thomas, who says that the council is “powerless” to prevent the site’s redevelopment, sits on Cardiff’s Music Board, an independent body which meets to guide music sector strategy.

The board was created according to recommendations from research and strategy consultancy, Sound Diplomacy, who aim to maintain and improve the “music ecosystem” of the city.

The consultancy has designated Cardiff as a music city, a title shared with Berlin and Nashville, and aims to improve and maintain the “music ecosystem” of the capital.

Consultancy between Sound Diplomacy and Cardiff Council began in 2017 before full music city status was officially declared in 2019.

With the new title came 12 recommendations designed to benefit artists, audiences, and venues. The creation of the music board was one of the first outcomes of the recommendations, which also provide guidance on music strategy, education, and marketing.

This isn’t the first time the influence of the board has come into question; founder of Minty’s Gig Guide, Daniel Minty, left the committee in December 2020, saying that sitting on the board while plans for flats opposite the Flute and Tankard were approved made him feel like “a hypocrite.”

Despite these shortcomings, Minty insists that the Music Board’s mission is still worthwhile, saying, “The recommendations from Sound Diplomacy are really strong.”

The long-time music campaigner points out that the music city moniker can yet be lived up to if music strategy changes from its current mode of “reaction rather than prevention.”