This gave the impression of Wales as a country with a strong past but very little future. The projected image of the nation was that it was growing old and had no jobs or opportunities for its youth to sustain a future. In the 1990’s things really started to turn around. Attention had been drawn away from the minors and Wales was but a shadow of it’s former self. A new generation of disenchanted youth emerged without knowing who they are or what they were about. Most of their influences were based upon the Anglo-American imports.
This lack of definable Welsh influences inspired many of them in much the same way that countless generations of Welsh poets had been inspired before to release their feeling of disappointment in their country. The kids were driven to vent their frustration in a way that popular modern culture would recognise. They utilised the strong literary tradition of Wales in their own music, putting into words and the national conscience the plight of everyday people. It’s not where you’re from, It’s not where you’re at, It’s not where you’ve been, It’s where you’re between.
(Super Furry Animals, “The International Language of Screaming”) Libraries gave us power Then work came and made us free What price now For a shallow piece of dignity? (Manic Street Preachers, “A Design for Life”) Though there was this evolution within the Welsh borders, the change was not really felt outside of the country and the general view of Wales and it’s people remained that of the stereotypical ‘Rugga Bugga Miner’ On a Britain-wide scale, there was resurgence in cultural definition, spearheaded through the entertainment industries.
A series of successful films, musicians, actors and models from the British Isles kick-started a populist movement in once again being proud of the country that you live in. For the rest of the 1990s ‘Britpop’, ‘Britart’, ‘Britfilm’ and ‘Britfood’ was used to define the leading edge of popular culture and taste. However “Cool Britannia” as was to become branded and known, really didn’t cover the whole of the UK, as few Welsh, Scots or Irish people were associated with it. To them it was an English phenomenon that didn’t cross borders. The occurrence of Cool Britannia was seized by the recently elected “New Labour” government in 1997.
They held a reception in Downing Street for Tony Blair to meet ambassadors of the movement and to show how cool the government was. For Wales it held no real interest, it was just another centralised English thing. Wales was not represented by any of the guests and failed to really be a part of proceedings. By now there was a real campaign for Wales to be realised as a separate entity with its own needs and agenda that couldn’t really be truly represented from the centralised government in London. The failed campaign of the seventies for devolution was resurrected and finally realised after a vote in 1998.
It was this that gave the country new hope and was backed up by the mirroring of the Cool Britannia phenomenon. Wales was suddenly thrust under the media spotlight and there were many people ready to show what they were about. Emissaries such as the Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia who had been on the music scene in the UK for years were rediscovered and with their heightened success, proclaimed pride at their heritage, kick-starting a positive young cultural movement. As with Cool Britannia it was not just the musicians who epitomised the change.
Successful Welsh people in the spotlight of every vocation came together to show solidarity under the welsh flag, even those who had long since deserted the homeland suddenly found renewed pride in their culture. Catherine Zeta Jones was just one of the community held up as a national symbol, for being young, extremely successful and internationally recognisable. With this new national pride in all things Welsh, the media jumped on the bandwagon and proclaimed the wonder “Cwl Cymru” (Cool Cymru). The greatest figureheads for the early Cool Cymru movement were probably the bands that emerged at the time.
Their achievement is magnified when you consider the past 50 years of popular music. Prior to this time there had been a number of Welsh success stories but they are spread thinly over the 50 years. With the advent of Cool Cymru there were suddenly a significant number of great bands that were not only appearing but regularly topping them. Through these bands the Cool Cymru phenomenon found it’s early focus. Nowadays, with the advent of the lottery and its charitable funding, there has been afforded more ambitious plans for welsh theatre.