Cardiff set to be recreation capital

News that the organisers of Live Aid II plan stage the event at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, is being seen as further confirmation that one of Europe’s youngest capital city looks finally set to become a player.

By the time the multi-purpose Millennium Stadium was completed in 1999, Cardiff had endured a long barren period, with few major artists drawn to perform over the Welsh border.

The Rugby World Cup – for which the stadium was built – changed all that, paving the way for the home-grown Manic Street Preachers and big hitters including Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and Bon Jovi ahead of other venues.

Now, confirmation of foot-and-mouth benefit FarmAid, Worthington Cup and FA football finals and the allure of Madonna at the Millennium are cementing a resurgent music madness.

Music editor at GQ magazine, Welsh-born Iestyn George, says the city is now becoming the UK’s top destination for pop lovers and pop stars alike.

“It’s very difficult to complain at the moment,” he rejoices. “Things are just getting better and better.

“Until the Bon Jovi concert, the stadium was struggling to attract top names.

“But punters have been showing an extraordinary thirst for live music.

“We are now on the map and could quite easily become the capital of live music in the UK.”

It’s far from celebrities on every corner, says George, who also helped established a version of London’s trendy Barfly club in Cardiff. But the city – granted capital status in 1955 – has reached critical mass.

“Every event that would have been staged at the closed Wembley can now easily be held in Cardiff,” he adds.

“We are pinching every major event that could have been held in London and I am really pleased about that.”

The knock-on effect of a string of events has knocked up Cardiff’s chances of playing host to a range of top names.

On FA Cup Final day in May, crowds flocking around the city returned home with glowing reports of the Millennium Stadium and cosmopolitan city centre.

It is certainly grandiose, claims George, who works to promote grassroots bands as much as mighty crowd-pullers – but the latest charity event could be “amazing.”

Millennium Stadium spokesman Lyn Davies said the attraction of the venue was that it could be used as an indoor arena in the winter, guaranteeing top events all year round.

One winter’s night proves him very right. On New Year’s Eve 1999, the Manic Street Preachers played the world’s biggest indoor gig at the stadium – in front of tens of thousands inside and two billion television viewers.

The stadium has proved adaptable and was recently used to host a grand prix speedway event.

George predicts the ‘Live Aid II’ event will not draw the attention – of donations – of its predecessor and says small local venues are at least as crucial as the imposing stadium, which rises up out of the city and can be seen from all around.

“What’s more important is the small gigs at places like Barfly, Clwb Ifor Bach and the Coal Exchange,” he says.

“That is where the next generation of talent will come from to fill these arenas.”

But organisers for the AIDS event are already talking to pop’s big names. Red Hot boasts a long list of top artists who have contributed work to the charity’s efforts, including R.E.M., U2 and Everything But The Girl.

The venue is sure to be packed out yet again as music fans flock to city by the bay.