An online platform sharing new creative work from Wales’ cultural scene has seen a huge growth in content and consumption over its first ten weeks of existence.
AM launched in March billed as the world‘s first open cultural platform with the ambition to reflect a whole country’s artistic ecosystem. The launch saw the online premiere of a Manic Street Preachers film by BAFTA winning director Kieron Evans as well as the live streaming of the Valley Aid concerts in Porth, Rhondda which saw big names raising funds for victims of the floods in the valleys.
Creatives set up channels on the platform, available on desktop or as an app, across five areas – Listen, Watch, Words, Festivals and Gigs- and these have grown by 70% over ten weeks, with 150 channels now sharing Wales’ latest creative work. Audiences have grown to 30,000 users with over 5,000 downloads of the app and over 10,000 monthly users exploring Welsh culture each month.
Commenting on the growth Alun Llwyd, Chief Executive of PYST the company behind AM, said: “Seeing so many new channels and so much brilliant content happening on AM – even in these incredibly tough times – is huge testament to the creativity and determination of all those creating culturally in Wales. Hopefully what will benefit all longer term is that AM is building a new audience; previously disparate audiences for drama, music, literature, art and more are now discovering new parts of Wales’ bilingual creative culture by spending time on AM. You might use the platform for the first time to watch a live National Theatre Wales play and then discover a music video by a new band or some visual art by a young creative during the same visit. This is what we‘d always intended AM to do; to develop a wider audience for Welsh creative work, whatever form it takes.”
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “I‘m delighted that Creative Wales has been able to support AM and it‘s good to see this platform supporting and promoting the arts and creative sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. I‘m sure that AM will go from strength to strength, with even more exciting and diverse content over the coming months.”
New content includes the exclusive premieres of the National Theatre Wales, Theatr Genedlaethol and BBC project Network, which sees new digital commissions around making and experiencing theatre during lockdown. National Theatre Wales, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and several other theatre companies have been using AM for play readings, content from their archives and workshops. Literature content from books readings to virtual book launches have taken place with the support of the Welsh Books Council, Literature Wales and several book publishers and publications who have channels on AM.
Five new channels to discover
Independent record label from North Wales with recent releases from Omaloma, Derrero and Dan Amor. Key piece: Broadcasting a regular mixtape show- Ffynnon FM- during lockdown.
National company for the development of literature. Key piece: Lleisio (Voicing) a poem by national poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn
Feministic & LGBTQ+ friendly illustrations inspired by Greek mythology. Key piece: A #MeToo Medusa.
A biannual four-day animation festival that moved online due to covid-19. Key piece: Online conversation with Lorraine Lordan, Animation Director at the Oscar-nominated Cartoon Saloon.
A music /event promoter in Pembrokeshire with varied content across artistic disciplines. Key piece: A live at-home concert with Pembrokeshire-born London-based singer/guitarist Bryde airs on 30th May.
Record labels, venues and promoters across Wales have been creating new ‘lockdown sessions’ from various artists as well as new music videos and highlights from their recent artistic programme. New young artists – be they poets or visual artists, designers or film-makers have also taken channels to showcase and promote their work to a wider audience. The National Eisteddfod recently announced their virtual Eisteddfod – a lot of which will be premiered and archived on AM- while the postponed Cardiff Animation Festival broadcast their festival online through AM. The past few weeks have also seen ‘themed’ weekends focusing attention on various specific aspects of Welsh culture such as print magazines, art from new young Welsh artists to buy online and theatre activity among others.
Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales said: “It has been great to work with AM on our Network series of digital commissions and online play readings. In a moment when we were attempting to do new things in new ways on a very short timeline AM have proved to be responsive and flexible partners able to problem solve and adapt to rapidly evolving projects. The possibilities of our digital landscapes are emerging and evolving at a dizzying speed, particularly in relation to the needs of audiences and artists during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. It is of huge value to Wales to have a platform that can work in innovative ways across forms and connect artists and audiences as the world continues to shift under our feet.”
Erin Thomas – a young visual artist from Blaenau Ffestiniog, said: “AM has enabled me to see the latest work from so many creative outlets in one place and to place my own work as a young artist, through my channel, in the middle of all that. I feel the platform is an exciting and easy place for inspiration and to keep on top of everything in Welsh creative life.”
Emily Trahair, editor of Planet, an independent culture and politics magazine said: “AM is invaluable for us- especially spreading the word in a period of financial pressures caused by the pandemic and ongoing austerity. We‘re really glad to be part of it.”
Osian Gwynn, director at Pontio Bangor said: “The advent of AM within the Welsh cultural sector is both priceless, not to mention timely. Providing a platform for our art and rich and varied culture is something to welcome and celebrate. These testing times highlight further the importance of a digital platform that can share work and engage with new and existing audiences through the discovery and celebration of Welsh artists. This is a medium deeply rooted in Wales for sharing not only with Welsh audiences but also worldwide. Supporting and developing the international context of the arts in Wales is central if not fundamental to the prosperity of the arts in Wales and the connection between the national and international is crucial in ensuring the arts remain as inclusive as possible. I feel AM is central to this ethos and the way we move forward in the future. AM‘s potential is remarkable, offering an overview and a truly national cohesive view of the arts in Wales in a way that we have never seen before. Pontio‘s partnership with AM is crucial in how we develop new ways to connect with our existing and new audiences. This is a modern and inclusive medium that enriches our experience of the arts.”
AM has been supported by Creative Wales at Welsh Government as well as sponsorship from Bangor University and Trinity Saint Davids University. AM was built in partnership with Tramshed Tech.