Like most artistic endeavours I have taken on in the past, Sex Wales & Anarchy was inspired in the dark and dismal place I often visit when things aren’t going my way. In fact, it is when I’m at my most depressed that feelings of anger, denial and sheer pig-headedness seem to help my situation more effectively than those of positivity, open-mindedness and hope.
Looking back, the most successful of my countless auditions were prepared for in frustration, rage and sometimes even despair. After six months of being told I ‘wasn’t quite right’ and having to choose between poverty and telesales I would be at the brink of giving it all up. Then the dark thoughts would spur me on. I’d think FUCK ‘EM. Blind fucks. If they can’t see my potential then they can fuck off and die. They can die ignorant to what they’ve missed out on! I would audition out of spite, and, for some reason this stubborn arrogance that reared its ugly head from time to time would generate a positive response. Hello Ianto.
It was in a murky rut like this that SWA was born. It was 2008 and I was suffering from post series blues. I had just finished Torchwood season 1, a second series had yet to be confirmed and auditions were scarce. I found myself floating between art coffee shops, theatres and live music venues trying to brush shoulders with active performers in the hope that some of their artistic mojo would rub off on me. I was mingling with sculptors, musicians, actors, circus performers, film makers, performance artists and writers when it dawned on me that a great number of these people were in a boat not dissimilar to my own. In fact my boat began to look rather attractive when compared to the ship, no, fucking great big sinking ocean liner that these exceptionally talented people were sharing. It was here in Wales, in the culturally dwindling Newport and the, supposedly, artistically vibrant Cardiff that so much talent was being completely overlooked. Comparing it to some of the generic shit being offered at Wales’ primary performance venues was unbearable. So, I decided to try and adapt the darkly drawn blueprint for my own successes and create an event that would help shed some light on this undiscovered talent. A showcase for the overlooked. A collective fuck you from the ignored.
I began by pitching the idea to local performers and artists who I thought would fit the bill. I was overwhelmed when word got around and people started to approach me in the hope they could be involved. Before I knew it I had a list of interested parties from nearly every form of media – strange since I hadn’t even confirmed a venue or even a title for the event. As soon as a date was set and a venue booked it was time to sift out the shit and decide on a line up of artistes whose situation pissed me off the most. Filling the whole day was relatively easy and many decent acts were turned down due to lack of time. But we had our line up and we needed a title.
Who are we? We’re Welsh – Wales. What do we want to do with the event? We want to showcase unsigned performers that are struggling to be seen or heard. We want to do it boldly, protesting the lack of interest shown by theWelsh Arts Council in the unrepresented. We want to fuck them with it hard – Sex. We want to break conventions and expose popular art and music hand-feeding by radio stations, magazines and local theatres. We want a day of multimedia Anarchy. We had our event.
Being held at The Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay, this year’s SWA is over twice the size of both previous years. We have had to bring in additional curators to cope with the volume of activity. We now have a cinema room, spoken word lounge, art exhibition, tattoo demonstration, graffiti convention and a main stage platforming unsigned bands and DJ’s. Peter Ustinov once said that a pessimist is someone who wakes up every morning and relearns how terrible and unfair the world can be and forgets again when they go to sleep. But, an optimist is a person who wakes up and already knows how terrible and unfair the world can be and does whatever he can to change it for the better. I believe that sometimes you have to completely submerge yourself in the shit to make the most of the bath you take afterwards. SWA is a festival of talent born in dissatisfaction, anger and desperation. But, hopefully, over the years to come it will continue to generate opportunity, confidence, realisation of potential and a cleansing of the soul.