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Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Music and creativity thrive in Blaenau Ffestiniog Cell

Rhys Roberts
Rhys has put his own rock career on hold to inspire musicians of the future

Planning a few rap workshops has turned into a full-time job for former Anweledig and Sibrydion band member, Rhys Roberts.

He's now found himself in charge of Blaenau Ffestiniog's Cell, a recording studio, education centre and live music venue all rolled into one.

"It started in 2003 when we did some DJ workshops with Pep le Pew," said Rhys, a former youth club leader. "By 2004, they wanted to do rock workshops too, so we got Kentucky AFC and Estella in to work with the young people.

"There wasn't much in the arts for them in Blaenau. There is plenty going on, but it's a bit old-fashioned; we wanted to put a modern edge to things."

One band who established their roots at Rhys's rock workshops were the Wyrligigs.

"Cell has encouraged young people to get off the streets and into music," said bassist, Sion Richards. "It's a place to learn about music technology and Rhys is great because he knows so much about the Welsh music business.

It's like an artistic explosion has taken place here and it would great if it could continue
Rhys Roberts

Sion, who used to travel weekly over from Bethesda to make good use of Cell's rehearsal space and studio, hopes that young people will continue going there and take advantage of everything on offer. "It's local, cheap and something that doesn't happen anywhere else in north Wales."

Soon the number of bands wanting to rehearse and record material grew and they ran out of room at Gwalltgofdy, the project's first site.

So they moved to the old police station. "It was perfect," said Rhys. "Lots of the young people aren't quite fluent in Welsh, and Gwalltgofdy was a bit hard to pronounce.

"So we changed the name of the project to Cell, which means the same thing in both languages."

The off-shoot projects don't stop there. Cell have set up a recording company for their bands - Boncshaft - named after the old Blaenau quarry opening, Y Bonc.

Cell mural
Eye-catching artwork on the old police station walls

Bwdatwc, their publishing company, is named after Rhys himself.

"A friend says I'm similar to a buddha twc, even though I've never found a reference to any such thing!"

The team are making full use of the old police station. The courtroom upstairs is used for gigs and Rhys hopes to get funding to turn the cells into a bunkhouse for gig-goers and people attending courses.

One such course is magazine design. Rhys explained: "Friends of the bands would turn up and mess about, then started saying they'd like to create a magazine about the bands.

"So they produce Clinc-ar every three months and want to start their own company, Clinc Design.

"Things work very organically here and ideas come from the bottom up. It's not run by a bloke in an office saying, 'this is what you'll get'. If they don't want it anymore, we won't do it."

His hope is that the young people will take over the running of all aspects of the building and plough all the profits back into the music.

"It would be great if we didn't have to rely on grants, but be self-sufficient," he said. "It's like an artistic explosion has taken place here and it would great if it could continue."




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