Tuesday, May 1, 2012


In February, I met a quiet and unassuming young man, Thabani Nyoni, who explained his vision for a new world music festival. 

Zimbabwean born Nyoni has lived in London since the age of five and I was immediately struck by his idea that creativity and diversity can help the Welsh economy.

Nyoni is one of the founders of the Kaya Festival taking place in the Faenol estate from the 1st to the 3rd of June. Bryn Terfel's Faenol festival no longer exists but that doesn’t deter this music entrepreneur in the slightest. He chose the venue for his new venture after attending the Radio 1 Big Weekend in 2010. 

Now with backing from Welsh Government, Gwynedd Council and the Arts Council, his vision has become reality.

This week, Ron Jones, founder of Wales's largest television company Tinopolis, wrote a salient article in his capacity as chairman of the Welsh Government creative sector advisory panel. He said that “Around the world, governments are realising the creative industries are amongst the leading sectors driving economic growth… our challenge is to ensure that no talent gets wasted, that no ideas are unexplored and no company is unable to take advantage of market opportunities.”

And thankfully, in this instance, the Welsh Government and other partners are collaborating to ensure Nyoni’s talent and ideas are not wasted. But it’s not simply the creative and economic benefits of a new music festival in Wales that interest me as the economic evidence regarding the local impact of music festivals is also overwhelming.

In 2009, a Welsh Music Foundation report looked at the now hugely successful Green Man Festival (which takes place on the Glan Usk estate in Powys) and found that it attracted 18,000 visitors, 98% of which visited solely to attend the festival and 77% came from outside Wales. Green Man now generates £3.5 million in direct additional expenditure in the region and £4.5 million from additional tourism expenditure.

It is interesting to note that when Green Man started, back in 2003, it only attracted 500 people. The Kaya Festival has already surpassed that figure in its first year. Big things start from small beginnings. The same study also claims softer benefits to the region through increased exposure from editorial coverage and the overall enhancement to brand Wales’ by being a ‘cool place’ to visit.

There are other examples of both cultural and economic impact to Wales, ranging from the Wakestock Festival on the Llyn Peninsula, attracting 25,000 people, to the much smaller but hugely influential Do Lectures, taking place again in Pembrokeshire this week. It is Nyoni's belief that Kaya offers something different to the local and UK festival crowd by also promoting creative skills and job opportunities. Whilst larger, more impersonal festivals are being hit by the economic climate, there is still a place for smaller festivals that offer a unique experience.

And it’s that aspect of Kaya festival which really excited me. Not content with establishing a new and commercially risky world music festival in North Wales, the organisers are also determined to develop the talents of local young people.

They’ve secured a personal performance and Q&A session from MC star Tinchy Stryder to help encourage local young people to take their first steps in the music business. Coleg Menai, Careers Wales and other local training providers will, through the festival, offer apprenticeships, mentoring and on-site training in all aspects of running a commercial music festival.

With youth unemployment hitting record highs, we must find better ways to engage and encourage young people. Kaya is a perfect opportunity to do so and North Wales must take advantage of such a great opportunity to promote local talent and develop more new creative entrepreneurs ourselves.