Something a bit different…

As some of you may know, I spent a lot of time on my travels teaching English, in public school in Colombia but also through art, theatre and sport in France and Italy. This kind of youth work is something that I’ve missed almost as much as snowboarding and I’ve always said that I’d like to bring an element of this into the cafe. While this is still a long way away for me, I’m so excited to have the opportunity to get involved with an exciting new project at Cellb.

Please read on to find out more about the project and please share, share, share so that we can get through to more young people and offer them this incredible opportunity!

Gwallgofiaid est. 2003

Gwallgofiaid is a non-profit youth organisation in Blaenau Ffestiniog which started out in 2013 to offer music workshops and rehearsal spaces for young people. Ten years ago Gwallgofiaid, which means Madness, moved to Cellb and evolved to offer all kinds of workshops from graffiti and street art to Adobe Photoshop and Indesign. More than anything it provided us as teenagers with a space to be creative and to express ourselves in a fun and safe environment.


Now, on the ten year anniversary of the project moving to Cellb, some of the first generations who grew up with Gwallgofiaid are coming back to share what we’ve learnt since then with the new generation. The Gwallgo 10 project will consist of a series of workshops (art, djing, creative writing, set design, graffiti etc) which will culminate in a mini-festival, organised by ourselves and the kids in Cellb.

Leading the first set of workshops which will start tomorrow (Tuesday 15th October) will be: Ross, who spent his time at Gwallgofiaid as the lead singer of screamo band Bad Name and now has his own tattoo studio in Pwllheli; Sion who found his feet in Gwallgofiaid as a drummer in various local bands and is now a sound designer, producer, dj and host of Horizon club nights, and Steffan a local musician and music teacher.

The students become the teachers…

And myself. After embarrassing myself and shaming my family with my band the Kinky Pedestrians, I studied French and modern Greek at university and then went travelling and working abroad for 5 years before coming back to Blaenau to start my own business.

Here’s a little bit about my experience in Gwallgofiaid…

It wasn’t much, but it was home.

“Are you coming to Tŷ tonight?” I remember one of the cool kids unexpectedly asking me in school. He was talking about the old empty schoolhouse, where Gwallgofiaid was held before Cellb was even a twinge in Rhyses imagination.

“What do you actually do there though?” My grungy thirteen-year-old self asked. The prospect of venturing back onto school grounds after hours sounded even less tempting than another evening spent hanging around the bus stop.

“Band practise” he shrugged. What else do long-haired, baggy-jeaned teenagers do?

“But I’m not in a band!” I protested. And I’m definitely not cool.

“Well start one then!” He insisted.

Definitely not cool.

It took a lot of hanging around, bothering the older kids and being a general nuisance to everyone involved before my friends and I also picked up instruments. I spent Wednesday evenings under a heavy layer of eyeliner, coming up with song lyrics to make my tutors blush (and even change their footwear) and cranking up the distortion so high that it didn’t matter that I missed all my chord changes. With some patient tutoring however, we were soon spending less time harassing our peers, and more time worrying about upcoming concerts and recording studio sessions. Our Myspace profile was complete with amateur photoshoots in default black and white because filters weren’t a thing.

Remember having to manually adjust the contrast?

To my teen emo self, there was nothing cooler than being the opening act at the Queen’s hotel on a Friday night. Not to mention no longer hanging around the bus stop. I still remember the rush of pride when one of my tutors compared me to Courtney Love, because I “couldn’t sing but didn’t give a fuck,” and it was an attitude that I carried to Llangollen when we all went to compete in (and painfully lose) battle of the bands.

What we lacked in talent we made up for in style…

By the time I had finally accepted that I couldn’t sing, Gwallgofiaid had matured along with my aspirations, and guitars and amps were replaced by Macs and cameras. After making a regrettably pvc-clad appearance on the cover of the first issue of ClincR, I decided that I was better suited to the screen light than the limelight, and began to fancy a career in journalism.

This was when Gwallgofiad really struck a chord with me and rather than just being a place to hang out, became the highlight of my week. We learnt how to design and lay out the magazine, and I worked on a range of content from reviews to current affairs, even getting a few of my reviews reprinted in another north Wales music magazine. Remember when they were a thing?

Hot off the press…

For the third episode of the magazine, I got the opportunity to go and see one of my favourite bands, Funeral for a Friend, live (on the guestlist, like a rockstar) and even got an appointment to awkwardly interview their bassist on the phone.

The highlight of my experience with Gwallgofiaid was getting backstage passes to Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Bangor, and hanging out in the VIP area, celebrity spotting while we waited to interview bands and DJs that I had actually heard of. This was the perfect way to end my time with Gwallgofiaid, and going off to uni in London felt like I at least had some experiences to compete with my more privileged classmates. I still refer to this experience when applying for writing jobs, and try not to see it as a sign that I peaked early.

Although my jaunt into journalism barely lasted longer than my mohawk phase, I’ve kept writing and creating. While I haven’t ended up in the most creative of industries, I try and bring art and writing into my business as much as I can. Which is why I’m so thrilled to be getting involved with Gwallgofiaid again as a tutor.

It’s so important for young people to have a space to be creative and express themselves, perhaps even more so these days, and being able to look back and understand how important that experience was for my own personal development makes me humbled to be able to play a part in that for the next generation.

Get involved!

Are you between 11-16? Do you have an interest in art, music, word, film, theatre, or anything creative? Do you just want to break up the monotony of growing up in Blaenau? Or do you know anyone who would like to get involved? Come along to Cellb any Tuesday between 7pm-9pm, its completely FREE!

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