17 October 2017

Take a trip to Tiger Bay, when coal was king

Two men on stage with coal wagons

Tiger Bay the Musical, Cardiff  by Joan Ward
It’s the early 1900s and Cardiff is the busiest port in the world. A region put on the global map courtesy of the rich coal seams of the nearby South Wales Valleys. The produce of which is exported to all four corners of the globe.

Cardiff Docks, or Tiger Bay as the community that built up around it became known (reportedly due to the fierce currents around the local tidal stretches of the River Severn) was home to an international melting pot of migrant communities, featuring dozens of nationalities from all over the world, from Somalia and China, to the Caribbean and everywhere in between.

It was an area where extreme poverty met supreme wealth, gangs of street children roamed the docks, hundreds of pubs lined the streets and the underworld frequently bubbled up to the surface.  

There’s no doubt that the tales of Tiger Bay conjure up rich and evocative images and it’s a moment in time that is captured so perfectly on the stage by Wales Millennium Centre’s brand new production, Tiger Bay the Musical, which takes to the stage at the Centre for its world premiere on November 15 2017.

Trailed with the tag line: “A revolution is brewing in the dark and restless world beneath the genteel surface of Cardiff’s Butetown…” Tiger Bay the Musical “follows a young woman’s determination to challenge society’s injustices, follow her heart and realise her dreams”. 

Man singing on stage

Tiger Bay the Musical, Cardiff by Nardus Engelbrecht
With a rousing original score from Welsh composer Daf James, and book and lyrics by Michael Williams, the colourful, yet gritty, world of Tiger Bay is brought roaring to life on stage as it takes you on a whistle stop tour of the area’s notorious public houses and alleyways at this extraordinary moment in history. Michael Williams says of Tiger Bay The Musical: “It’s a musical full of heartbreak and hope, revenge and romance that everybody should see.”

Local historian Neil Sinclair, who grew up in Tiger Bay says: “Tiger Bay was always about the people. It was never about the buildings or our surroundings, even though it was a unique Hollywood-style backdrop, it was all about the people. It was a special place.
“When you were out and about, you were with your family. Not your biological family, but your community family. We were Bay Boys and Bay Girls and life was good.”

Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director at the Wales Millennium Centre said: “This is the biggest production to come from the Centre to date and we are proud to give people a snapshot of the history of our home and celebrate some of its richness and strength through music and performance.”