Urban Circle Productions is a non-profit youth organisation and is one of the largest youth initiatives outside of council-led projects in South Wales. The organisation aims to promote and sustain constructive community relationships and individual capability for young people living in Newport, across a variety of performing arts and creative media.

This summer, its members have organised two incredible events for everyone to enjoy: The Summer Festival featuring Lady Leshurr on Friday, August 2 (SOLD OUT), and The Reggae & Riddim Festival featuring Macka B on Saturday, August 3 (tickets still available).

Michael Lloyd Williams spoke to three of its members who have been involved with the project for the past two years – Dan, Liam and Adam of Urban Circle – to find out why it’s so important to encourage youngsters to get involved with community-based projects. Here’s what they had to say:

Mike: How did the Summer Festival project first come about?

Dan: We tried the event two years ago and it was a success. The original goal was to create opportunities for people our age to do something positive. We took a year off to raise some more money to create a much bigger and better festival than our first in 2017. We also raised funds by bag-packing at Asda. I personally have been excited about this project since my first event with urban circle two years ago.

Mike: What is Urban Circle trying to achieve?

Liam: That no matter how bad an area can seem, no matter how difficult things get, there is still a great community in our city and lots of positive activities happening behind the scenes. This project has always been a group effort to make a great event we would all want to go to.

Mike: How has the festival evolved in the past two years?

Adam: Well the first festival we hit over 2,000 people and we didn’t expect it. Within a couple of days of this year’s festival being announced and promoted, we have reached over 800 tickets, which shows people recognise what we do. With extra support from the Arts Council for Wales we have added more security and a family-orientated show for day two.

Mike: What are you doing different this year?

Dan: We decided to keep a youth focus for day one and on day two we created a more chilled out family vibe. So, this year in celebration of Jamaican Independence Day and the Caribbean heritage connected to Newport, we are doing a Reggae and Riddim day headlined by Macka B.

Mike: Did you ever imagine that you’d be a part of something so big?

Adam: Not really. I didn’t expect this to become so big, but it deserves to be. Young people of Newport are capable and want to achieve things. People my age get such a bad rep. We are not all bad. We have hopes to be achievers in different things. This project has made me understand what I can achieve if I put my mind to it and work with others to achieve it.

Mike: What’s your favourite part about putting on the event?

Dan: Seeing people enjoy the energy of the event. Seeing the results of the work and effort that has been put in is an electric feeling that is never absent from our events. Aside from this, getting to work with such a great team and learn from the people who have been with Urban Circle for years is fantastic.

Mike: And what’s the hardest part of organising a show?

Dan: We have to spend a lot of time debating and discussing which artists to bring to these events, especially with a bigger team, as everyone has their own opinions. Booking in acts and organising a lot of musicians is more work than most people assume.

Mike: Over the years, what professionals have stopped by to offer advice and help out?

Adam: We have had multiple music artists like B Young, M Huncho, also professionals like the police commissioner. AMs like Jayne Bryant as well as music production professionals such as Jamie Winchester of Play it Loud Studios. These have all offered support, shared advice and given opportunities.

Mike: And what’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given or learned?

Dan: I think the best and most important advice about these events was that you need to stop thinking about your own likes and dislikes when putting together an event and think about what the public who attend the events would like the most.

Mike: Do you think that you’d like to do something like this for a living or learn more about with further education?

Adam: I would love to have this become my job, because I enjoy it and it would be enjoyable living because I wouldn’t see it as a job. We are all in ages where work and careers are things we are talking about.

Mike: If you could have any guest or artist, alive or dead, who would you bring to Newport and why?

Dan: I would love to bring a great name like Ed Sheeran, Stormzy or even Jay Z to the show. I think today many artists disregard Newport as a place to perform and it shouldn’t be ignored.

Mike: What’s your favourite live event to go to in the UK?

Liam: Summer Festival obviously! There is no other event like it!. If you can’t make it, then Glastonbury, maybe...

Mike: How do you think the event effects the local community?

Dan: Events have a positive effect on all communities. Ours are a fun day out and accessible to many people. Our Hallowe’en fundraising event actually managed to reduce crime across Newport by 60% according to official police statistics, which is fantastic. Gwent police have supported us a few times.

Mike: Why should people come along to your event?

Adam: To experience the atmosphere and the vibe and potentially find new music that you enjoy. Come and witness what a group of young people can achieve if given the support and mentoring. Also, this all happens near Tredegar House.

Mike: What does the Summer Festival mean to you?

Adam: Freedom to create what I want to create. No simple task but it’s worth it.

Mike: How did the Reggae festival day come about?

Dan: The reggae festival was an idea we discussed while considering doing a two-day event. We found that the youth-orientated event was not very enticing for older people, so we decided to make an event for the older ages in Newport and Reggae was decided.

Mike: Do you have plans the extend the event over three days, instead of just Friday and Saturday?

Adam: I think we should save that for the next event. But if it’s popular and the funders and sponsors are happy, I don’t see why not.

Mike: Can anyone get involved?

Liam: Yes, that’s the amazing part. You can get involved by simply coming and taking part in the event. We do recruitment a few months before each event. Follow our social media and if you have any questions you can simply message us. 

Mike: What else is happening besides live music?

Adam: Food, games, entertainment you name it. There is also theatre inside the house.

Mike: Where and when is the event this year?

Liam: The next event is on Friday August 2 and 3. Tickets are all available for free or a low cost through our facebook pages and on eventbrite. For more information about the event and how to get involved visit the Urban Circle Facebook page.