Small Street, Big Noise – The Save Womanby Street Campaign
Womanby Street. A tiny side-street in Cardiff that is the beating heart of live music in Wales. Home to venues that have seen thousands of bands each year, from new artists, to rising stars, to some very big names.
But, it's just not venues, it’s a community. A community built on friendship, memories and stories that hold a special place in our hearts.
For those beyond the mainstream, it is home: A home under threat.
We faced a catalogue of ‘developmental’ change from proposed flats, noise abatement orders, and even venue closures. So, we did what communities do best, we rallied together.
We launched Save Womanby Street (SWS) on 29 March - a community campaign led by venue owners, campaigners and industry experts. Our mission is simple – to change the local laws to protect venues against unfair planning and noise complaints.
The response was incredible. Within days thousands of supporters signed up. We began lobbying councillors and candidates to demand action. All 312 of them.
SWS grew and grew until we marched on City Hall to demand protection for OUR music across the city.
I won’t lie, I was nervous. I had a nightmare beforehand where I was standing in the rain holding a limp SWS banner. Eighteen months previously I came to work on Womanby Street suffering acute anxiety. I was depressed and suicidal.
Womanby Street brought me back. It’s all-inclusive community, built on love, joy and support lifted me up in my darkest moment. It taught me to cherish what we have.
Womanby Street saved my life.
So when our music street was under threat, I had to act. We had to act. The March was one of our acts.
We had over a thousand people join us in solidarity. The glorious Barracwda Samba led the march with all the noise, colour and much glitter. It was awe-inspiring. We were no longer victims of outside influences, we had become drivers of change.
As a result, Cardiff Council pledged to change planning and promised to support live music, establishing a music task-force with a ‘live music strategy’. (We are now holding them to account, ensuring they deliver).
The Welsh Government has announced plans to enact the Agent of Change. This will likewise protect all live music venues in Wales against unfair planning and noise complaints.
These victories were hard-won by a committed group, in just three months. We had the relationships to build a network, we had a strategy to focus us and we had the action to create change.
The challenges we faced can be seen in each town and city across the UK. Grassroot venues are the bedrock of our music heritage; our community. They are essential for they connect every aspect of our music industry.
The successes of SWS should not be the exception but could be the standard across the UK. The first step is deciding to act to save your street.
After that, exciting times lie ahead.