'Candi Staton is singing at my imaginary wedding'

By Catrin Davies

Candi Staton is singing at my imaginary wedding. She emerges from beneath the pulpit in a powder puff of dry ice. She has wild hair and is wearing something with tassels, showing a lot of cleavage. The congregation are, understandably, awestruck. Just as I make it down the aisle, we exchange the kind of knowing look that only wise disco divas can communicate…And then she blasts out Young Hearts Run Free directly at me, I hitch up my skirts and peg it back up the aisle in the direction of freedom. We ain’t gonna be hung up like Candi and her man. It’s a liberating vision. One which my boyfriend doesn’t share, but hey-ho.

So for me, Festival of Voice, will be signposted by artists who feature heavily in both my real, and very made-up, major life events.

From Candi’s sage pre-nuptial advice on the day of my fake wedding, to John Grant and Ben Folds, who between them shepherded in the very real birth of my son. Grant’s Glacier saw me through my labour (This pain/It is a glacier moving through you/And carving out deep valleys…you get the drift). And then for rather more sentimental reasons, it was a Ben Folds’ song that our son first heard outside of the womb…And now, here we are with a one-year old human being on our hands and Grant and Folds are back in my life. It feels strangely serendipitous. So as said son finally discovers that sleeping isn’t that overrated after all, and I can be let loose to drink gin and stroke John Grant’s beard and stay out past midnight without fear of turning into a pumpkin, I thank Cardiff for putting on a festival that is all about me.

Part of my day job involves dabbling in the fringes, looking for the things – people, places, textures, tastes, sounds, whatever it may be – which are bubbling away just below the surface, just about to break. It must be something in my training that makes me look for the less obvious. So while the tickets were locked down for Staton, Grant and Folds (the triptych of my life) pretty early on, since then my eyes have been drawn to the faces and names – and in this instance the places too – on the line-up that are a bit of a mystery. The thing about this festival is that it is about voice in all its manifestations – celebrating the stardust and the big powerful lungs on some of the city’s most iconic stages, but also spotlighting the quieter voices that often fight to be heard. Benson Wereje is a survivor of famine, civil war and refuge; his story, Fork in the Road, will be played out in the attic space of the Wales Millennium Centre and it promises to be one of the event’s most unforgettably raw experiences – artistically, emotionally – even architecturally if you’re into exploring the cavernous lofts of turn-of-the-millennium buildings.

Beirut artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan pulls more political punches with his sound installation, Contra Diction: Speech Against Itself, a collaborative commission between Artes Mundi, Wales Millennium Centre and FoV which zooms in on the nuances of language in the context of ramped up governmental surveillance, border control and legal testimony. Something else that wildly intrigues me – beyond their impeccably embroidered folk smocks –  is Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. When else will you get the opportunity to hear a Grammy-winning Bulgarian choir in one of Wales’ most hauntingly atmospheric buildings? So if I can recommend anything to anyone, it would be to grab this chance to create a new memory of Cardiff. Explore the lesser-known fringes of the city and take a leap of faith – hear something you’ve never heard before, in a place you’ve never been to. I know it’s going to be lovely.


Catrin Davies is a Freelance Travel & Culture Writer and Trend Consultant, based in Cardiff  @catrinsara 

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