Rocking against the recession

Adam Johannes unveils the world’s first Unemployed Daytime Disco for the bored jobless in the Welsh capital

According to the Department of Work and Pensions there are around 15,000 people in Cardiff chasing just 1,700 jobs. That’s almost nine jobseekers for every job. Looking for non-existent jobs can be very boring.

It was late last year when Bronwen Davies and myself – unemployed musician and jobless writer – decided it was time to rock against the recession and publicise the plight of the “jobless generation”. So we launched a monthly event in the city we dubbed Cardiff’s Unemployed Daytime Disco.

The first thing we needed was a venue and we found The Rockin’ Chair, a Caribbean café bar and diner in Cardiff’s Lower Cathedral Road, an easy going place that has a stage and PA system. The world’s first ever Unemployed Daytime Disco took place on the winter solstice last December. It now generally it takes place monthly on the full moon. We try hard to utilise the skills of local people, and rely massively on the support of local musicians, writers and DJ’s many of whom are also unemployed.

The events are usually nice, eclectic and a little bit hectic. Last month the stage hosted break-dancers, DJs, live acts, acoustic performers, a steel band, a belly dancer, poets, stand up comedians and an art workshop.

Our free parties reflect the harsh economic climate. The disco has become a way for poor people to come together to enjoy themselves and try to feel better about their situation, even if it is just for the afternoon. The disco aims to be a place to meet like-minded people, share ideas, skills and information – and dance, like there is no future.

A local newspaper referred to our event as “a networking event for unemployed people”, and certainly bringing people together has been an empowering experience. As my co-organiser Bronwen put it:

“The past two discos have been a massive boost to my self-esteem and confidence. I am sure everyone involved feels the same. It’s been a hard winter for poor people. But the disco has provided a positive distraction and something good to prepare for and look forward to. The disco has been a meeting place where people lend each other sewing machines, share poems, and swap survival tips. Through press coverage we have helped raise awareness of unemployment issues and hopefully also helped to change perceptions of unemployed people.”

Another regular disco attendee described the reaction she got at the Charles Street Job Centre:

“I gave out unemployed disco flyers out in the Jobcentre today – on reading the flyer people went from sad to happy in 0.001 seconds – gotta be a good thing!”

Copycat events in the USA, inspired by our Cardiff initiative are happening. New York State will have its first Unemployed Daytime Disco shortly in Ithaca Meanwhile, new discos rumoured to be springing up in Bristol, Birmingham and London. Responding to interest from other cities with high levels of unemployment we have now produced a short help sheet on How to Organise your Own Disco – 7 Steps, available on request.

So where now for the movement? We are in the process of drawing up a constitution to form an official group so we can apply for funding for workshops, equipment, trips, guest artists, and travel expenses for the acts. We would like to stage an outdoor Unemployed Daytime Disco in the Summer, and also to have an Unemployed Daytime Disco stage at festivals where the performers who are ready to advance can have the opportunity to play on bigger stages. We are aware that if the disco continues to grow we might have to move to a bigger venue in the future. There are also plans at the end of the year for an exhibition of Unemployed Daytime Disco posters, which are designed by a guest artist each month.

So this is a picture from life’s other side. These are hard times for many of our people. Youth unemployment is at a record high, and dole queues are lengthening. Many of us are living hand-to-mouth, struggling to make ends meet.

Yet internationally unemployed youth are also on the march. In Tunisia and Egypt we were the first on the streets leading to the toppling of two tin-pot dictators. Cardiff’s Unemployed Daytime Disco is proud to be part of the cultural resistance in the age of austerity.

There are some who are in darkness,

And the others are in light.

And you see the ones in brightness,

Those in darkness drop from sight.

Bertolt Brecht, Mack the Knife

Adam Johannes is an unemployed writer and creator of the Unemployed Daytime Disco. He can be contacted at [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Rocking against the recession

  1. Smashing stuff! I heard rumours that there’s gonna be an Unemployed Daytime Disco in Pontypridd? Anyone know about this?

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