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The death of Emyr Ankst has robbed Wales of one of its leading cultural driving forces

18 Jan 2024 6 minute read
Emyr Glyn Williams

David Owens

Tributes have been paid to Welsh music pioneer Emyr Glyn Williams, who has died aged 57.

Founder of the Ankst record label he tirelessly promoted the music scene in Wales. Releasing over 170 records by a huge assortment of bands and performers.

Known to a generation of Welsh musicians as ‘Emyr Ankst’, he ran the label from his house, converting the garage into an office and store-room. Ankst remained true to its low-budget not for profit ideals.

Ankst championed young, ground breaking and non-commercial bands, many of whom such as Super Furry Animals, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Y Cyrff (later members of Catatonia) went on to achieve international success with mainstream labels.

He founded the Ankst label together with friends Alun Llwyd and Gruff Jones in 1988. Between 1988 and 1997, they released around 80 records before splitting into two separate companies. Emyr took over the record release side and established the Ankstmusik label. Alun Llwyd and Gruff Jones went on to establish Ankst Management Ltd. which was responsible for looking after business and management of groups.

Ankst No. 001, their first release in 1988, was a friend’s home recorded cassette. The latest went on sale just before Christmas – a vinyl LP by singer-songwriter Edwin Stevens. The last ever will be Ankst No 171 – an album of John Peel sessions recorded by rappers ‘Llwybr Llaethog’ in the 1980s. Emyr was determined that it would still be released and will appear later this year thanks to the help of his old colleagues Alun and Gruff.

A number of films were also released on DVD on the Ankst and Ankst Music labels including ‘Faust: Nobody Knows if It Ever Happened’ documenting the gig of the Experimental German group Faust.

He produced and wrote the bilingual film ‘Y Lleill’ which won a Bafta Cymru award in 2005.

In 2015 Emyr was the author of the book “Is-Deitla’n Unig” (Subtitles only), a personal journey in the world of international films.

Emyr passed away quietly at his home in Pentraeth Anglesey whilst receiving treatment for cancer. He was 57. Nation Cymru’s thoughts are with his wife, the poet Fiona Cameron, and their sons Arthur and Evan.

You can view the full list of Ankst releases/artists HERE

Emyr Glyn Williams – Ankst

Tributes from the Welsh music and film community

Musician and producer David Wrench
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Emyr Glyn Williams. Known to many as Emyr Ankst.
Emyr has been a vital part of the Welsh music scene since being one of the founders of the Ankst record label in the 1980’s and going on to run Ankstmusic. he played a pivotal role in providing a platform for many of the Welsh bands we know and love so much like Datblygu, Super Furry Animals, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Topper etc etc. He was also an accomplished filmmaker, author and curator.
Em showed faith in me on numerous occasions, putting out records of mine in the late 90’s and being pretty much the first person to employ me as a producer working with acts like MC Mabon and Zabrinski in the late 90s/early 2000s.
I first met Em when I was an over-excited 17 year old, on a trip to Cardiff with my first band to film a video for s4c program Fideo9. Em was assigned to look after us while we just wanted to run wild through the pubs and clubs of Cardiff.
The last time I saw Em was a pleasant surprise of finding I was on the same train from London to Bangor. We spent the whole journey discussing new music and film.
He will be really missed. Much love to his family.

Beganifs, Big Leaves, Sibrydion guitarist Mei Gwynedd
Very sad news to hear that we have lost Emyr Glyn Williams, or Emyr Ankst to us.
Emz was our first ‘manager’ with Beganifs, along with Alun and Gruff from the Ankst label. Up and down the A470 in a transit van are now very fond memories! And by some turn of fortunes he became my manager again after I joined as a guitarist with Geraint Jarman’s band some years ago.
Emz’s contribution to the music scene is enormous. I thank him very much for his company over the years, and introducing me to so music.
‘Let It Bleed’ by the Stones will be on high over the next week!
Warm remembrances to his family.
Good night Emz x

Radio Wales presenter and Welsh music champion Adam Walton
So sorry to hear about Emyr. Feel sick with sadness. I saw him very infrequently but I loved him through our correspondence and the music he released. He’s one of the very very few I’ve met over the decades who had that rarest combination of vision, integrity, courage and modesty. A role like mine is built on the vision and sacrifice of others, and – from the point of view of record labels – there’s no one I owe more to than Emyr.
Almost everyone feels they have to compromise to make any kind of living from music but not Emyr. He was an inspiration in that regard. There’s so much more to this than streaming figures, synchs, airplay and corporate / clique acceptance.
He ran Ankstmusik with the heart of an artist and there’s a very good reason for that.
Deepest sympathy to his friends and family.

Alun Llwyd – co-founder Anskt
So difficult, so so unfair. Friend, benefactor, supporter, creator. Thank you Em for opening our minds, walking together and setting us on our way – in his words – “this incredible journey”. Losing him is huge – but more so for Fee, Evan, Arthur and the family 💔 x

Film director Tracy Spottiswoode
As well as being a beacon for music in Wales, Emyr was so passionate and knowledgeable about film & promoting Welsh filmmakers. His energy and enthusiasm for setting up Sinema Pontio was infectious. What a loss.

Former CEO Ffilm Cymru Wales, Pauline Burt
I’m thinking of the quietly passionate force of nature, Emyr Glyn Williams, and his wife, Fiona, and young family. May he rest in peace.
Emyr cared deeply about the cultural life of Wales. He gave his time generously to music and film, including years on the board of Ffilm Cymru and programming Pontio arts’ centre. He knew that Welsh stories, talent, language and cultural venues that bring communities together matters. He was thoughtful, kind and principled and I shall miss him deeply.

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