Today sees the arrival of a new addition to the cultural landscape of Wales with the launch of AM, a new free digital platform, backed by the Welsh government.
Described as “the world’s first open, democratic, cultural platform with the ambition to reflect a whole country’s artistic ecosystem” AM kicks off with close to 80 available channels (including Nation.Cymru) split across categories of: Listen, Watch, Words, Festivals and Gigs. Within the categories, the first wave of channels are already populated by a collection of enterprises including not-for-profits, record labels, companies, communities and individuals.
In something of an early coup, AM has secured the streaming rights to Kieran Evans’ critically acclaimed film about the Manic Street Preachers – Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave – ahead of services like Netflix and Amazon which will stream on the platform from Friday 13 March.
Available on desktop or as an Android or IOS app, Am has been developed by PYST, Wales’ first and only music distribution and promotion service in partnership with Tramshed Tech, and in addition to the support of Welsh Government is sponsored by Bangor University and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Celebrating the launch, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “We have always been a nation of storytellers. Our creative minds have been honed by the sharing of tales across generations – in words, images and song.
“Today, the technology may have changed but the purpose is the same: to harness our creative skills to engage with people, share ideas, entertain and inform – AM will become a showcase for Wales’ creative talent and we’re delighted to support its development.”
Alun Llwyd, chief executive of PYST, said: “We’re looking at it (AM) as an inclusive bilingual platform that encompasses the range of not only what is going on in Wales culturally and creatively but also looking at the way that we can build a new audience, because what we have found through our work with PYST as a digital distributor, is a huge disparate audience out there following different forms of culture, different mediums that reflect culture. So, if we can actually reach that audience and pull that audience together, then hopefully, what we are offering all the channels on AM is a new audience for their activity.”
“The internet has become quite a dark place, one that can have a really damaging effect on mental health and artistic confidence. We wanted to build an inclusive, democratic community open to everyone, particularly the young, a supportive space which is welcoming to artists creating in a range of mediums, at every stage of their career and whatever their background.
“If you’re a 16 year old in any part of Wales, you’re probably streaming Welsh bands like Tri Hŵr Doeth or My Name is Ian on Spotify and watching hours of YouTube and Netflix each day. What you may not be doing is engaging with the mainstream broadcasters. AM offers an opportunity where all this content can co-exist, building a new audience and that’s an enticing proposition.”
The Iris Prize Festival is amongst the array of channels available from the off on AM. The annual LGBT+ film festival held in Cardiff, awards the largest short film award in the world – the prestigious £30,000 Iris Prize. Berwyn Rowlands, the festival’s director, expects to use the platform to share exclusive content like trailers, interviews and behind-the-scenes clips. He said:
“We are always looking at how we can increase audiences for LGBT stories. When we discovered AM we were so excited and felt it was important to have a presence on the site. We expect to introduce new audiences for Iris short films through AM.”
AM’s commitment to be an open and democratic project means channels are not curated and are free to content providers, with an additional 120 slots expected to be filled over the coming months. Llwyd is keen to encourage as many people as possible to take up the opportunity of featuring their work on AM: “Going forward, anybody can come to us that is creating something culturally in Wales and go “I want a presence on there”.
AM’s initial channels along with Nation.Cymru are: Bubblewrap Collective, Welsh Music Podcast, Libertino Records, Ikaching Records, Clera, Jigcal Records, Popty Ping Records, Côsh Records, Chippy Lane’s Podcast, Pyst yn Dy Glust, Radio Platform, Winger Records, Does Dim Gair am Random, Werth y Byd, Trac, Larynx Entertainment, Klep Dim Trep, Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival, Kino Ankst, Lleucu Non, Kieran Evans, Dafydd Hughes, Swci Delic, Bedwyr Williams, Taking Flight, Tactile Bosch, Efa Lois, Hijinx, Penglog, Casey Raymond, Minty’s Gig Guide, Codi Pais, Wales Arts Review, Y Stamp, Son am Sîn, Meddwl, Get The Chance, O’r Pedwar Gwynt, Mas ar y Maes, Green Man Festival, Sŵn Festival, Big Love Festival, Focus Wales, Maes B, Miwsig, Gwyl Arall, Between The Trees Festival, New Sound Wales, The Shutdown Show, Clwb Ifor Bach, Aberration, Young Promoters Network, Pedwar a Chwech, Nawr, Sesiwn Session, Swansea Music Hub, Gig Buddies, Twrw, National Youth Arts Wales, Y Pod, Ffoton, Truth Department, Music Blog Wales, Frân Wen, Cardiff International Film Festival, Forte, Wales One World Film Festival.