June 27, 2008
Welsh Language Board Wanted Duffy Banned Because She Was Singing in English, Says Producer ; But Executives Say They Can’t Recall Incident Happening
By Martin Shipton
A MUSIC promoter who helped singing sensation Duffy in her early years has claimed the Welsh Language Board wanted her banned from performing at a concert because she would be singing in English.
Paul Brett, who has lived in Pwllheli for 10 years and used to run the A&R record label, makes the allegation in an article for Music Maker magazine.
Last night both Meirion Prys Jones, the board's chief executive, and Rhodri Williams, who chaired it at the time, said they had no recollection of the incident, which Mr Brett says happened in 2002.
Duffy, a fluent Welsh speaker who comes from Nefyn, on the Llyn peninsula, has taken the British and American scenes by storm. Her debut album Rockferry has sold more than 700,000 copies in the UK and her song Mercy won the 2008 Song of the Year Mojo award.
In his article, Mr Brett writes: "A few years ago, a young local girl asked my partner, Michele Breeze and I, to help her with her singing career. She was a teenager who had her eyes on being a star in today's music industry. What's her name? Aimee Duffy, better known to the world simply as Duffy.
"We were running the Pwllheli Music and Arts Festival in the summer of 2002. We suggested to Duffy that she enter our talent competition along with quite a few other local singers. She did so and won her heat hands down. We had eight finalists appearing in the festival talent contest. Again, she was voted the best of those on show.
"Shortly after the festival, in the autumn of that year, we sponsored and ran a Pop Cymru show at our local theatre (Neuadd Dwyfor), to give any local young bands and singers the chance to perform in a serious theatre venue to a seated audience.
"Helping us put this show together was a legendary figure in Welsh punk music, Rhys Mwyn, the bassist in Welsh punk band Anhrefn. Rhys is now a top manager in Wales, involved in many projects working with and for acts globally. We were funding the show and Rhys booked the local bands apart from Duffy, who we included in the programme.
"Rhys called me one day and said the Welsh Language Board were impressed with the idea and wanted to contribute the grand sum of pounds 100 towards the event.
"On the day of the show in the morning, I had a nervous and somewhat embarrassed call from Rhys to tell me that the Language Board had insisted that Duffy was taken off the show because she was singing in English. The other eight bands were singing entirely in Welsh, their choice.
"I took a deep breath, thought about it and told Rhys that it was not in our remit to dictate to young talent what they should perform, or in what language they should sing. He wholeheartedly agreed. I then spoke directly to the local guy from the Language Board who had called Rhys and he passed the buck, saying it wasn't him but his boss in Cardiff who had insisted on Aimee being taken off the show.
"Surprisingly enough, there are two words in the English language that mean exactly the same in the Welsh language and I trust you people who are reading this article know which two I mean.
"So I promptly told the local guy to pass these words on to his boss in Cardiff and instead of taking Duffy off the bill, I took them off and saved taxpayers' money.
"We never told Duffy about this situation because I fear if we had at that stage in her life, it may have damaged her confidence for the future.
"Saving and promoting a language is admirable, but denying someone the right to speak theirs is a criminal and morally unacceptable thing, especially when it's being funded by the UK taxpayer."
Language board chief executive Meirion Prys Jones said: "I was deputy chief executive at the time and have no recollection of this. We have no problem funding bilingual events."
Rhodri Williams, who chaired the board at the time and is now director of Ofcom in Wales, said: "I have no recollection of this at all. A grant of pounds 100 would not come before board members. I would not have countenanced any decision to refuse a grant on the grounds that one of the performers was singing in English."
The opening verses of Duffy's biggest hit Mercy - in Welsh
Dw i'n dy garu di Ond rhaid i mi aros yn ffyddlon Mae fy moesau'n fy rhoi ar fy mhengliniau Dw i'n erfyn, plis Stopia chwarae gemau Dw i'm yn gwybod be' 'di hwn ond ma' gen ti fi'n dda Jest fel oeddet ti'n gwybod y byddet Dw i'm yn gwybod be ti'n neud ond 'ti'n ei neud yn dda Dw i o dan dy swyn Rwyt ti wedi 'nghael i'n erfyn am faddeuant Pam na wnei di fy rhyddhau?
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