Welsh musician Eädyth has called for the organisers of Merthyr Rising to be replaced with "a whole new team".

The Merthyr Tydfil electro soul artist said that the festival's newly announced, "male-dominated" lineup, with no headliners from Wales, shows a lack of connection with the local Welsh music scene and its range of talent.

"They're just not connecting the dots," she told The National.

"They don't seem to be seeing who's on the scene - you know, there are so many different amazing artists."

Merthyr Rising, an arts and culture festival held annually in Merthyr Tydfil, commemorates the 1831 working class uprising over low wages and unemployment that took place in the town - the first time that a red flag was used as a symbol of class struggle - and the area's radical political heritage.

This week the Welsh Government-supported festival announced the lineup for its 2022 comeback, after a two year, pandemic-driven hiatus.

Headlining the event are electronic duo Basement Jaxx, Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers, and English rock band Ocean Colour Scene.

Other artists on the bill include ska band The Dualers, and Kyle Falconer, lead singer of indie rock band The View - along with Welsh language female indie trio Adwaith and folk singer Beans on Toast.

Alabama 3, who are best known for their song Woke Up This Morning, which was used as the theme song for The Sopranos, also feature, fronted by singer 'Larry Love' (Rob Spragg), who is originally from Merthyr. The band was formed in London.

"It's very genre-specific, and it's completely male-dominated," said Eädyth, who recently played BBC6 Music Festival's Fringe slot at Cardiff Moon Club, and last year performed for Tomos Williams' Cwmwl Tystion II / Riot!, an immersive show inspired by Welsh riots throughout history.

"There are barely any female artists on that lineup."

On Thursday, responding to the Merthyr Rising lineup in a tweet, Eädyth questioned why more local artists hadn't been included, adding that she had never been invited to play at the event in her ten years of playing gigs.

"The lack of representation of Black and brown artists is awful," she said.

"Wanna feel like I can represent my home town but feel overlooked."

 

 

The official Merthyr Rising twitter account later responded publicly: "We have worked hard to include local acts, Welsh language acts, including black and brown brown artists.

"I'll be brutally honest and say we weren't aware of you and we regret that. We would love to get you involved.

"I will say however, that if you look at the history of our lineups, you will notice we have always been inclusive.

"We are local people trying to do good for Merthyr and sometimes we make mistakes.

"People calling our team 'racist' is uncalled for and ridiculous."

When Eädyth pointed out that she featured in the top result for a Google search of "Black welsh musicians", the festival organisers responded by noting that one act on their lineup was fronted by a "Nigerian-born singer".

 

 

"I just thought it was a bit of an idiotic response on their part, really," Eädyth said.

"I was hoping that we could resolve this in an adult way, in the right way - but obviously they've shown that they haven't got that awareness of the things I was addressing in the original post.

"I think they've taken it very personally. 

"Just... the bragging about having one Black person in their lineup, and thinking that's inclusive - and having two Welsh language acts, and thinking that's an inclusive way to go about things.

"It just shows them up. It's a shame really, a massive shame."

In response to another user, the Merthyr Rising account described the festival as: "It's for anyone.

"But, our main interest is to give Merthyr Tydfil, one of the most deprived areas in Europe, cultural and economic stimulus whilst celebrating our working class history and community spirit."

Adult weekend passes for the event, which takes place from Friday 10th June to Sunday 12th June, start at £110 each.

Attendees can choose to pay in three installments of £38.

Eädyth, 23, has taken part in BBC's Horizons project, which aims to support new musicians on the rise in Wales.

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"Eädyth's vocals, ability to craft songs and then deliver them live (in a spectacular & engaging show) is nothing short of amazing," Horizons says of her.

In 2020, she won the Welsh Music Prize's Triskel Award, created in 2019 to "celebrate and support emerging artists that offer a bright future for music in Wales."

Last year she performed on the steps of Senedd as part of Cymdeithas yr Iaith's Nid Yw Cymru ar Werth (Wales is not for sale) protest.

Despite her recent success, Eädyth says that making a name for herself in the Valleys was difficult - and that Merthyr Rising's claims, that the festival has "always been inclusive", don't ring true to her.

"When I moved to Merthyr about ten years ago, I went to the first few years of [the festival]," she said.

"I never saw that inclusivity at all - I didn't see what I wanted to see.

 

 

"That's what kind of led me to find my community and my fanbase in Cardiff, because I've never had that support in the Valleys.

"When I first started gigging, I was playing a lot in Merthyr.

"I'd been playing for free in places like The Crown [a pub on Merthyr High Street].

"The Crown was the only place where there were available gigs, so I'd be there constantly, offered fees of like, crisps and drinks, and that went on for four or five years - constantly gigging, trying to get a name for myself in Merthyr.

"It just didn't happen, and then the people who were putting on those gigs at The Crown moved away, so there was nothing - except Merthyr Rising, and the majority there is indie rock bands."

Asked who she would like to see on the festival's bill, Eädyth suggests grime and rap artists L E M F R E C K and E11ICE, along with singer-songwriter Lily Beau.

The National Wales: The Crown Inn, Merthyr (Picture: Jaggery, Geograph)The Crown Inn, Merthyr (Picture: Jaggery, Geograph)

"There's an amazing group called Ladies of Rage in Cardiff, who are a group of MOBO [Music of Black Origin] artists.

"The list goes on.

"I'd have loved to see them play, but I've not ever, ever seen that."

Since the Twitter exchange, Eädyth says she hasn't heard from the festival's organisers again. 

"They've not shown any awareness or care over what's been said, so it's made me feel like there's no point engaging further," she said.

"The promoters of that festival, the programmers on that festival, need to be sacked.

"I want to see it changing completely, it needs to do a 180, and it needs a whole new team, if it's going to be a successful festival, one that I want to be a part of.

"It makes me want to apply for some funding to put my own festival on, somewhere in the Valleys.

"It's the money and the resources, that's the biggest problem.

"There's just not enough [in the Valleys] and these people should be doing their part."

In a statement, Merthyr Rising said: Merthyr Rising Festival has always been conscious of delivering a festival that celebrates Merthyr Tydfil's radical history and working-class culture. A part of the culture that we promote is one of diversity and equality. We make every effort to deliver a festival that reflects that culture.

"Those who have attended our previous festivals will know we have been consciously inclusive in inviting artists who perform or speak at our debates and talks and we are proud of our record of being one of the most inclusive festivals in the valleys.

"Booking acts this year has been challenging compared to previous years, with an active festival season in which many acts are in high demand. The volunteers who commit to programme the festival have spent countless hours approaching numerous artists right across the spectrum and we are in no doubt they have done an amazing job considering the circumstances, however, as a still relatively young festival, we are still learning as we grow.

"As a small team of volunteers under immense pressure, putting on an event of this magnitude is extremely difficult, and we don't always make perfect decisions. We are always keen to listen to anyone who has an interest in making the festival better and they are free to contact us anytime. Unfortunately, the artist who has made recent disappointing comments about our volunteers on social media and in the online press has done so without any formal communication with our team. Nonetheless, we will take on board the comments raised and would be pleased to meet with them for a face-to-face discussion in the future.

"Merthyr Rising festival continues to grow and this year will be our best year yet. Our lineup continues to develop as our discussions with artists proceed, and we look forward to making further announcements soon. We look forward to welcoming back thousands of old and new faces this year."

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