CELTIC MEDIA FESTIVAL
This has been a defining year for Wales. The nation has been on a once in a generation journey which has fundamentally redefined the way in which Welsh people think about themselves and about their identity. Radio Cymru responded with a vigour and creativity that has hardly been seen before. Agile, authoritative and fearless, the station became a destination for all those who needed to be at the heart of events as they happened, but also the place where Wales could articulate and explore a series of emerging ideas which challenged the nation’s traditions and propelled us to new pathways. Few believed that Wales would qualify for this year’s European Championships, and wise heads tried to manage expectations. Nobody was ready for the way in which Wales’ football team would take the nation so close to the final and into the heart of Europe. Of course Radio Cymru was there riding the crest of a wave with our listeners during the matches. But the network went further. Our station-wide Euro 16 campaign theme – Rhedeg i Paris – soared. It was the key to telling the story of a big national moment with real confidence and gave us ‘clickbait’ at its best on social media. Radio Cymru’s anthem became the fans’ anthem. We heard it sung on terraces, on buses, on listeners’ videos and watched as people’s perception of Radio Cymru changed. No longer the network of their grandparents’ heritage and language, Radio Cymru became a lightning conductor for a bilingual generation who were shaking off rugby’s rose tinted histories and grabbing hold of Welsh football’s more modern and complex story. Yet as Wales was caught celebrating England’s loss on the pitch, it followed England’ lead at the polls – and again, Radio Cymru was there. On June 23rd, Wales voted to leave the European Union and a host of questions about our Welsh national identities were laid bare. We grasped that these big moments were there to be savoured but unpicked and understood too. Radio Cymru gave rise to debate, produced distinctive journalism that drilled down into what drove the vote and what continues to drive a difficult debate. We told the story of the Welsh families looking in on us from Europe, of the young Syrian brothers who’d arrived in rural Welsh-speaking Pembrokeshire and took time to reflect on the resistance and the welcome refugees and economic migrants found here. This was the year a Welsh election delivered the biggest change to our Assembly since its creation. Again, old certainties, old assumptions about what it means to be Welsh were suddenly thrown out. A documentary series challenged five public figures to slay sacred cows – and they did. They gave us an uncompromising analysis of the nature of Welsh nationalism and questioned whether Wales had ever been European at heart, or just liked others to think so. They challenged the nonconformist, socialist and matriarchal image of Wales that’s been our comfort blanket for so many generations. In 2016 we harnessed culture and music and language and laughs and gave our listeners space to have an honest conversation with each other. A landmark series, Hanes yr Iaith mewn Hanner Can Gair – the History of Welsh in Fifty Words – unravelled the story of Cymraeg as we speak it now, not as our parents and grandparent wish we spoke it. It told the story of the inward migration of words, of a language that’s morphed along with the people who speak it. We commissioned 10 hours of new writing and broadcast all of it in peak listening hours. We nurtured the listeners-turned-authors who’d contributed to our first comedy ‘Script Slam’ and watched them grow in confidence. Our long-running music project, ‘Unnos’ – where unlikely musical partners co-create an EP overnight – spawned one of the best new songs of the year. And in 2016 we challenged and searched for new ways to create something lasting and valuable. This was the year Radio Cymru, one service, became two stations. A 3-month digital pop-up, RC Mwy, is telling our audience that we can listen and respond, that persistence over many years pays off and that given half a chance, a small, dedicated team with not much money can harness digital technology to call out to a younger generation. Mwy is having a laugh, pushing its luck, giving opportunities to brand new voices and saying to listeners, loud and clear, that if they’re up for change, then so are we. Because next year, Radio Cymru will be 40 and we plan to be there, with our listeners, facing immense change with humour, attitude and acumen.