Subculture Uncovered

Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Thursday 17th May 2018

Located on Cardiff's Womanby Street and established in 1983, the origins of Clwb Ifor Bach, like other great independent venues including the like of Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, lie in a social movement or a cause that brings people together. Clwb Ifor Bach translates into English as 'Little Ivor's Club', and while many may be reminded straight away of the animated steam engine, the history behind the name and the club runs much deeper.

Ifor ap Meurig (AKA Ifor Bach) was a 12th Century Welsh lord who defended his territory against the then recently Norman conquered English, establishing himself as something of a hero in the lore of Welsh independence. When the club opened in 1983, the primary aim was to establish a Welsh Language social club. The social club's chair was a Plaid Cymru politician, and the club served it's intended social-minded purpose as a home for Welsh-medium arts and events, but the venue went on to do much more besides. The club's Welsh language and bilingual ethos remain to this day, and many of the staff are Welsh speaking or Welsh and English speaking with the club's list of zero tolerance behaviours including anti-Welsh sentiment.

Boy Azooga's recent gig at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

"I absolutely love Clwb! It’s got a really rich musical history and is easily one of the best venues I’ve ever played. The sound both up and downstairs is amazing. The onstage sound is brilliant too, when you’re playing. Also, the staff are all complete legends; I think that might be a requirement in order to work there." - Davey Newington, Boy Azooga

The Clwb's current set-up dates back to an extensive refurb in the 1990s, with its three floors all housing dancefloors and stages. Its small size (especially when compared to its nearby neighbour The Millenium Stadium) and its roots in providing a cultural niche have resulted in it becoming not just the focus of Welsh music but also the place for counter-cultures. From Goth through punk, spoken word to hip-hop, Clwb Ifor Bach is likely the place to go to find it in Cardiff.

With fair pricing for hires, the Clwb also ensures that Cymru's' capital doesn't miss out on visiting bands from other parts of the UK and further afield. It might not seem a big deal, but it allows the counterculture to flow both ways and gives local music enthusiasts access to a whole world of emerging artists that otherwise might pass by due to over optimised tour schedules.

Boy Azooga's audience at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Even before the phrase Cool Cymru was thrown about in the '90s Cardiff has been the focus of Wales' new music exports. Bands such as Manic Street Preachers relocated from their beginnings in towns like Blackwood, to make their name and reach a national and international audience. Recent years have seen artists such as Trampolene, Pretty Vicious, Gwenno and H.Hawkline all use the city as a staging point, and Clwb Ifor Bach has been the hub for that scene.

"Clwb Ifor Bach is the place where any artist from any background, big or small, can share their music to one of the loveliest crowds of music lovers, who embrace the different and give the outsiders a stepping stone into the bigger picture of the music. It's the place to be!" - Iolo Selyf, Ffug

Thirty-five years after the Clwb opened its doors to preserve and champion Welsh culture, it seems it is continuing to do just that, though perhaps not in the way that its original chair Owen John Thomas first envisaged. If there is one sure way to keep a language alive, it is through music, song and youth.

Listen to our recent Subculture Playlist with Boy Azooga here.

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