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Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama invites everyone in for its 75th birthday

09 Feb 2024 4 minute read
RWCMD Symphony Orchestra rehearsing in Old LIbrary. (Credit: Kirsten McTernan)

The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama will celebrate its 75th birthday throughout this year with a focus on increasing accessibility to audiences and to the arts.

The prestigious College will also strengthen its determination to be a deeply connected ‘people’s conservatoire’.

A year long programme of events will highlight its transformational journey since it started at Cardiff Castle in 1949 and draw attention to the work it does to innovate, champion collaboration, work with communities and empower excellence in all its many forms.

Starting the ‘big birthday’ celebrations, at a public engagement day on 7 February, RWCMD presented its reimagining of the newest addition to its campus, Cardiff’s historic Old Library, originally the Cardiff Free Arts School and Library.


‘The College’s winning bid for the 99-year lease on the Old Library by the Council last year will establish a lasting residency that will impact each and every one of our next 75 years,’ said RWCMD Principal Helena Gaunt.

‘It offers us, as the national conservatoire, an extraordinary – if not unique – opportunity to be understood as a ‘people’s conservatoire’, with our talented students working alongside diverse people and communities to co-create innovative, enjoyable, inspiring performance, and participation opportunities.’

In partnership with Flanagan Lawrence, the architects behind RWCMD’s successful and much-admired 2011 capital transformation on Bute Park, the College is now actively raising the £13m that will be needed to fully restore the Old Library.

This will create an exceptional second centre from where it will continue to nurture future talent and further develop its pioneering public engagement.

The ambitious plans will both restore and reimagine this beautiful, functional and substantially net zero heritage space, creating flexible performance and workshop spaces, within a widely accessible cultural, artistic and educational hub in the heart of Wales’ capital city.

Reimagining the Old Library Credit Flanagan Lawrence Architects

Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said: ‘Congratulations to the Royal Welsh College on your contribution to the cultural life of Wales over the last 75 years and I wish you all the best for an exciting future ahead.

The plans for the Old Library will provide a valuable opportunity for communities to access the arts and be inspired by the unique projects which will be available for everyone to enjoy.’

Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “Cardiff is a creative and cultural capital and for the last 75 years the Royal Welsh College has provided an impressive stream of top-level talent to the creative sector, both here in Wales and internationally.

“These ambitious plans for the Old Library will build on its existing offer to students, but it will also enable the College’s work to be opened up to the public and make music and performance an integral part of the city centre.

The plans offer a huge boost for music education, the performing arts, and for our work to protect, enhance and develop the city’s music sector, and will see one of Cardiff’s most significant cultural institutions singing to the city, from the heart of the city, long into the future.”

Supporting the cultural ecology of the city

RWCMD’s residency in the Old Library highlights the College’s commitment to empowering its students through their training to develop the skills to become connected and embedded within communities, to be artists who are makers in society, and to bring the performing arts into the cultural fabric of communities.

Key to its success will be building on partnerships and collaboration, with the City of Cardiff and the council, its residents, the existing and developing cultural infrastructure, and with local enterprises. Welcoming the public across its threshold, the Old Library will become a unique place that supports the cultural ecology of the city and helps the College to continue transforming its practice for the 21st century, creating space for possibilities and a provocation to think about how to create work differently.

Join the party and the Big Birthday Appeal

As the College embarks on its 75th birthday year, its venues will be packed with stories that show the creative diversity and world-class quality of the work its arts centre has presented since opening in 2011.

It will also be promoting a Big Birthday Appeal, providing opportunities for everyone to contribute to the key projects to help fulfill the College’s highest priority birthday wishes.

These include building its fund for bursaries and scholarships, developing more residencies and partnerships with communities and industry, creating exceptional performances, concerts and exhibitions, and further developing a greener and more accessible RWCMD.

Find out more on the RWCMD website, through the What’s On guide, and on social media.

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