Friday, April 20, 2012

Datblygu Trideg

It’s not every day that one attends an exhibition in a waffle establishment. Datblygu Trideg is currently on view at the Waffle Coffee Shop (63 Clive Road, Canton, Cardiff). It celebrates in records, cassettes, tee-shirts, photos, flyers, video footage and other pop cultural memorabilia the 30th anniversary of Datblygu – one of Wales’s most important and influential bands.

Formed in 1982, Datblygu (which means Developing) placed themselves in opposition to both Thatcherism and Welsh cultural conservatism. Until that point the Welsh-language music scene had encouraged unity but Datblygu wasted no time in giving Wales’s sacred cows (Chapel, Eisteddfod, Welsh-language media) a good kicking. Naturally this put them at odds with the establishment.

Singer and lyricist David R Edwards emerged as a highly charismatic presence and focal point for the band. His idiosyncratic vocal delivery conveyed irony and anger in equal measure. Most often compared to Mark E Smith of The Fall, Edwards’s lyrics are actually less cryptic and more coherent than those of the Mancunian. Even today Edwards’s image is used as a symbol of cultural rebellion, manifesting itself in stencil grafitti and other street art in the capital.

Datblygu sprang not just from the cultural margins but the geographical periphery too – rural Cardigan. It is ironic, then, that this exhibition is situated on the fringes of Pontcanna, home of Cardiff’s urban, Welsh-speaking, media class. The area contains, no question, both the bourgeois targets of Edwards’s ire and those who have been inspired by him.

Victoria Morgan of the Waffle Coffee Shop is the sister of Patricia Morgan who joined the band in 1985. The exhibition consists of her own collection of Datblygu-related material and artefacts donated by band members and fans. I’ve long been an advocate of celebrating in imaginative ways Wales’s often marginalised pop cultural heritage so, for me, Datblygu Trideg is a delight. The ready availability of appetising food and good coffee is no bad thing either.

*A more expansive and visually stimulating appreciation of Datblygu Trideg can be found at Lowri Haf Cooke.