Cardiff has been declared as the UK’s first music city.

The music strategy will place ‘music at the heart of Cardiff’s future’, to deliver a healthy ecosystem by working with the whole music sector. 

At an event at City Hall on Thursday, 14 December Councillor Huw Thomas officially announced the development of a strategy with global leaders of the Music Cities movement, Sound Diplomacy.

The aim is to develop policies that treat music as infrastructure which creates vibrant, exciting communities, builds an international profile and increases the value of music in the city.

Councillor Thomas said: “It is a real privilege for me to be talking to you tonight about music in Cardiff because, I can be quite honest, were it not for music then I would not be stood here tonight speaking to you as Leader. All of the things that have led me to be here today is exactly why I am so delighted that we’re announcing working with Sound Diplomacy - who are themselves global leaders in developing music strategies and have worked with world cities like Barcelona, Berlin and London - working with us now to make sure that Cardiff lives up to its really proud title as the UK’s first music city.

"For Cardiff, and for Wales, culture and creativity are up there I think as one of our biggest strengths. I’m really proud that since I became leader in May that we were able to take positive, constructive action to protect Womanby Street and to give a strong signal of intent that we see music as integral to the future of our city. But we don’t want to stop there. My administration is committed to delivering a 15,000 seater indoor arena – a tier one venue, comparable to the O2, the Manchester Arena, the Glasgow SSE – to continue to bring the best international acts to Wales. 

"Music is part of what makes Cardiff such a great place to live, for young people, for all people. But most importantly of all, we have a wealth of creative talent, we now need to create the right environment for that to thrive. Cardiff is a city of artists, musicians, singers, producers, sound engineers, and of course, music lovers. All part of a wider creative community that is second to none in Britain, and who help make Cardiff one the most creative and inventive cities in the world."

Read the Leader's full speech here. 

BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens hosted the event and was joined on stage by CEO of Sound Diplomacy Shain Shapiro.

 Shain said: "“Thank you so much for having us – this is not normal for me, usually when we do work we are very much behind the scenes and sitting at a launch like this shows the incredible dedication of Cardiff. I can’t stress that enough – when the Leader says that this is world leading, it is.

"I’ll prove it to you because we know most of what other cities are doing around the world and Cardiff is the first city in the UK to dedicate itself to a full, what we would call a music audit or music strategy."

Professor Justin Lewis, co-founder of Creative Cardiff, welcomed the strategy.

He said: “We're delighted that Cardiff is one of the first cities in the UK to launch an ambitious and comprehensive music strategy. When we mapped the creative sectors in the city in 2015, we found what many people suspected - that music was one of Cardiff's strongest creative industries. We look forward to working with Sound Diplomacy to take this work further.

“For music to thrive we need to attend to every aspect of the city's ecosystem - from rehearsal spaces to performance venues, from music education to talent pipelines, from the professional virtuoso to community choirs, from the mundane to the chaotic.

“We need to create opportunities for innovation and encourage connectivity with other creative sectors. And as the brilliant Save Womanby street campaign showed, we need to look at the things that make (or hinder) music in the city, from property and land development to licensing policies.”

The launch was followed by a celebration on Womanby Street with speeches from local politicians and supporters of the Save Womanby Street campaign as well as free gigs taking place in the venues on the street.

Speaking on behalf of the Save Womanby Street Campaign, Alex Owen said: “After months of campaigning it is great to see a city's dreams become a reality. We can’t wait to be working with Cardiff Council and Sound Diplomacy, pioneers of music cities, to protect and support our music so it can thrive. The ambitious plans that have been set out mean that we are not just talking about protecting live music, but planning to help it thrive for decades to come. This is far from the end but it does signal a new beginning to make Cardiff the very best for music development in the UK." 

Images by Jon Pountney