It may shock you to know, but Newport is coming up.

Well, this is what Mike Layward, Artistic Director of DASH implied during a brief conversation I had with him last week, and it's not the first time I've heard it lately.

Considering Mike and his company are based in Shropshire it's no small feat that news of Newport's semi-recent Artistic Flourishings have reached that far. It took a great deal of thought and the simple act of stepping out and just have a peep back in to realise, they're not wrong.

Newport, it seems, is stuffed with artists, like a colourful psychedelic intelligent humorous visceral cannelloni… For want of a better figurative stuffed food substance.

These artists are forming a movement.

Let's look at the evidence: NEW EMERGING SPACES/INITIATIVES

Facebook: /upmarketgalleries
Twitter: @upmarketnewport

The UpMarket Galleries are a glorious example of innovate inhabitation of empty retail space. Based on the first floor of Newport's Historic Indoor Market, a group of visual artists have gathered to create a network of small independent studios and gallery spaces in a once empty market-stall spaces. 
Under a beautiful archaic steel and glass ceiling is an open boardwalk/bridge type area curtained by these unconventional art spaces. I've been lucky enough to catch two of the many exhibitions they've already had, and I'd strongly advise you to do the same. You can check it out any day between Monday and Saturday between the hours of 10.00 - 4.30

Facebook: /nia.broadcast

 I can't claim to have been to one of Newport International Airspace but of all the emerging Newport initiatives; it's nature, ambiguity, applications and possibilities intrigue me most. Here's what NIA say's it does: "We are a group of professional artists working collaboratively with others to showcase the talent, space and diversity within and around Newport."

Having thus far held lectures, walks, talks and sharing workshops that are 
All free events for the inquisitive and curious
  I can claim to be excited about the prospect of attending one very soon.

Facebook: Newport City Arts Collective
Twitter: @Project_Space_

Today I stumbled into The Project Space (The Old Giles Sports) smack in the centre of town and in all honesty I was blown away. Claiming to be a community space for visual and creative arts the current exhibition denotes a welcoming, relaxing environment that immediately disengages your brain from busy bustling street as soon as you walk through the door. My favourite thing about inhabiting these spaces is to respond to and engage with their pre-existing features and character, and this space does it well.

"The Project Space is managed by the Empty Shops Project, funded through the Arts Development team at Newport City Council with support from Newport City Council’s Economic Development and Estates teams."

The space is beautiful and the current exhibition The Pattern In My Carpet was totally awesome, and whats more in the time I was in there 4 people walked through the door, that may seem like small numbers but we're not in Kansas anymore.

I feel like I'd be doing a massive disservice to pre-existing art spaces and initiatives if I didn't at least give them a mention, after all they are part of what is making Newport a very fastly progressing cultural city… Yeah, I feel like finally I can say that, and why can I say that? Because the artists who reside here believe in it, in the face of massive funding cuts we preserver, we make our work in the here and now, in (it seems) any space we can get our hands on, and like a monkey with a nut it seems more and more opportunities are being cracked open for us to display our art here. Having worked fucking hard for many years it seems finally the fruits are starting to glisten.

The Unmentioned's:


In a renovated church one woman on a mission had a dream of making an Arts Space in Pill. Gallery, Framer, Cafe, Arts Space, Theatre, Live Music Venue and Artists Studio, Barnabas is, I feel, a very under-noticed venue. So if you've read this far please, please, please check it out.

It gets some ruddy stick, but I bloody love it. Not only does it host the second largest Comedy Festival in Wales and one of the best Family Festivals too; with Nic Young at the helm it's programming really is going from strength to strength. I have seen some eye blisteringly awe-some (and I mean eye-blisteringly in the best sense of the term) performances here recently from large scale touring REP stuffs to tiny one-man studio stuffs, it really is offering bite-sized parcels of peculiar performance if you're willing to open your mouth.

So, thatsA quick round up of a few key reasons a man from Shrewsbury might mention to me that Newport is coming up.

But it's not just spaces and buildings that have brought forth this change in climate. When public art was torn down the people protested. When the art galleries shut, the artists found new/unusual/abandoned spaces for their work. When we were told our money was gone we did it for it free. It's this attitude, approach and strength that has seen culture through a bleak grey time, and as summer comes we've all got plans to make this city shine.

Maybe Arriva Trains Wales should reconsider their decision to classify Newport as place not even worth visiting…

The Bastards… :)