Preview : Gorjys Secrets : Saturday 17th September 2016
'Gorjys Secrets' is a new one day singer-songwriter mini festival being held at Caer Rhun Hall, Conwy this September - a pastoral setting just a few miles off the A55. To understand its value it is worth looking first at where it has suddenly arrived from, who is behind it, and what it is trying to do.
Since it opened in November 2015 The 3rd Space, attached to the Great Orme Brewery in Llandudno, has rapidly established itself as a niche music and comedy venue - providing a vital space for touring and local acts to perform, usually in front of a sell out crowd. Gorjys Secrets is the The 3rd Space team's new venture.
3rd Space is run as a social enterprise. and one of the key people driving it is, and has been from the outset, Gavin Mart - a trained drummer ("eight hours a day of hitting things with sticks"), who has worked as a session musician and touring band member (including Dare) - raised in Conwy, he lived in London and Leeds pursuing his musical career before gaining a degree in event management and working in that industry. He returned to the area four years ago, brimming with ideas, and armed with the knowledge and experience necessary to develop them.
Both self assured and contained, someone who obviously thinks deeply, Gavin is happy to explain how Gorjys Secrets came about:
"We started 3rd Space at the Great Orme Brewery in Llandudno last year, and that has really taken off - we hit a niche need for a 100-150 capacity venue for musicians, comedians and an arts space. It is a social enterprise - aimed solely on creating a stronger arts culture."
"We started to make a lot of connections very quickly and felt there was a need for more than we can offer in this space - at one level along the North Wales Coast there is a gap - cultural opportunity stops at Bangor and restarts at Chester."
"We also wanted something run by local people so the profits stay in the local arts economy. We want to build a company that can scale up over three years, eventually developing a large festival, and running lots of other events."
"We met the new owners of Caer Rhun Hall, talked very openly, and have agreed to work with them - and this first event, a singer songwriter festival, is the test bed."
It is also something Gavin has a specific interest in, and knowledge of - as his Facebook page attests. So that is the background sketched - it is worth looking at what the new event is in more detail.
The venue, Caer Rhun Hall, has sweeping gardens to its rear, set in three terraces - the event will place the main stage on the top tier, the crowd on the middle one and a market area (local food, craft beers - the association with the Great Orme paying dividends) with an 'introducing stage' for local musicians run by North West Wales musicians collective CEG (who also run stages at events such as Festival No. 6) on the bottom terrace. The setting is breathtaking for an event.
The bill is equal to the venue, all the performers are accomplished singer songwriters - Seth Lakeman is a consummate, award winning folk performer; bluesman Marcus Bonfanti and Nick Harper ("hugely talented" - The Independent) are hardened and expressive touring acts, Katey Brooks (who has played at the 3rd Space) is exceptional (see preview), Climbing Trees are one of Wales' best upcoming acts, with a brilliant new album, and Tudur Owen is a very, very funny comedian - you can work through the bill and there's not a chink in its armour. We will hopefully be covering a lot of the acts in more detail in the next few weeks, including those on the CEG stage - but there is clearly a very good representation of local artists in the lineup.
Is it worth the ticket price? Yes, especially with the various discounts (especially the £20 ticket for students), for this bill and the setting, it very much appears it is. The pricing reflects the quality and the attention to detail.
KATEY BROOKS I 'I Fought Lovers' Live in session at Wick St Lawrence Church