Is there anything Cerys Matthews can’t do? Musician, broadcaster, author, and right now, festival organiser, her acclaimed The Good Life Experience returns to the hills of Flintshire this month. She speaks to Chloë Edwards.
How did the festival come into being?
I wanted to put on a festival that was more based on activities. Our ethos is very much about enabling people to get away from pre-packaged branded gear. We had a whole marketplace for emerging businesses like that, to support the small makers and creators of Wales, as well as having the normal all-genre music and authors like Michael Morpurgo, plus DJs. But I think the thing that sets it apart the most is that most of the activities are free once you buy the ticket, including a vintage fairground. I’ve found with a lot of festivals you spend so much money, so I want to really make sure we gave as good value for money as possible.
Is there anybody in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing at the festival?
We had Norman Jay MBE appear last year, and Gilles Peterson the year before, and to watch these world-renowned DJs at work in such a small area, in a boutique festival with no more than 5,000 people, it’s incredible. Trevor Nelson is also coming for the first time this year. We’ve got Ben Fogle coming, with plenty of lectures and talks at the festival as well. We’ve got cider makers, whiskey makers, adventurers, scientists. We’re also opening the lake for wild swimming and have a special site for Welsh learning, listening to historians and musicians – right where Llywelyn The Great fought the English. There’s also craft workers who will let kids have a go – because that’s the thing, having kids and living in an urban environment, it’s so nice to be able to set them free and do things they don’t normally get to see or do in normal daily life in 2018.
It sounds like it’s been really well thought-out.
It’s a year-round labour of love really! I’ve been working with music, artists, authors and experts in their field for a few decades now, especially with all the radio shows I make and the guests I invite.
I know that you’re passionate about all genres of music, but what do you make of the current music scene in Wales in 2018?
I’m loving Gwenno’s music – Le Kov is a brilliant album. Boy Azooga are brilliant as well, they’re playing the festival. It’s brimming with great stuff. The new generation of musicians is extraordinary really, across the world. You can see that they don’t belong to tribes and haven’t listened to programmed, heavy-rotated radio. They’ve grown up with the internet and having things on shuffle, regardless of boundaries, and that’s showing in the music. I’m immensely heartened and excited by the new breed of musicians from Wales and beyond.
Do you think that radio is facing challenges with the rise of streaming, or is it a good thing in the age of shuffling?
I think there’s company with radio you don’t get with a streaming service, and that’s the big difference. It’s a relationship – a virtual one – but a relationship where you begin to trust them and you give them the responsibility to select the songs. I’m not at all worried.
Lastly, your other work includes being the Vice President of Shelter Cymru, so how did that come about?
If a person is secure, and has a safe sanctuary, that’s a great foundation for them to fulfil their life, and to live a good and positive life. If you don’t have an abode to call your own, that leaves you vulnerable. It was an easy decision for me to lend myself to a charity which wants to keep people in a home and off the streets. That involves being in a community, which is a give-and-take thing, which is something which I think gets lost in the modern world which is all about feeding the capitalist machine. I think the most important thing is to turn to our communities: it’s the only thing we’ve got left.
The Good Life Experience, Hawarden, Flintshire, Fri 14-Sun 16 Sept. Tickets: £149 (full weekend + camping pass). Info: www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk