Today is our milestone fiftieth birthday! We opened in 1971 as the first multi-artform venue in Wales. Here we talk a little about how we came to life and what we are today, and we’ll also give you a sneak peek at our plans for celebrating five decades of our wonderful arts centre and its creative community.
Happy Birthday to us! Our 1st Birthday Party invite
Chapter came to life thanks to the driving force of writer Mik Flood and artists Christine Kinsey and Bryan Jones.
Discussions about the opening of an arts centre in Cardiff started in 1968 and were part of a vision for a space where artists could produce and present work, free from commercial pressures. Experimental work was seen as key to its identity, and the needs of artists were at its heart.
Chapter was formerly Canton High School, and the initial period of set up was demanding. The founders, and a gang of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, lovingly cleared, restored and adapted the building to make it fit for purpose. The first official board meeting was held on 5 April 1971 and in July that year we opened our doors with a cinema, gallery and bar, and with former classrooms used as studios, workshops and offices.
To read more about our early years visit:
Chapter in the early days
Five decades on, we have grown into one of the largest arts complexes in Europe, with two cinemas, two theatres, a gallery, a large number of artists’ studios and creative industry offices, meeting places for the community and a café bar. We still produce and present the best in national and international contemporary visual art, experimental and thought-provoking performance, and challenging independent, mainstream and international films, and we do this alongside a celebrated learning and engagement programme.
Every year, we welcome around 800,000 visitors to thousands of film screenings, live performances, exhibitions, community classes, artisan fairs and events.
We work with practitioners at every stage in their careers, supporting and stimulating opportunities for exciting new talent as well as promoting the work of established artists. We are a springboard for the creative community of Wales with a focus on bringing the world to Wales and Wales to the world.
We are home to over 40 of Wales’ most dynamic creative companies and artists including BAFTA Cymru, Printhaus, ie ie Productions, Holly Davey, Everyman Theatre, Beryl Productions, Cardiff Music School and Taking Flight Theatre. We also offer a range of spaces in support of local artists and companies for the research and development of artistic projects, including Hijinx Theatre.
Lightbox: Artes Mundi: Carrie Mae Weems, RESIST COVID TAKE 6! Photo Stuart Whipps
Although we can’t bring you all together for a BIG Birthday bash as we’d planned, we'll be celebrating our five decades until next April with a special series of outdoor events, activities and online content throughout the year. We hope that sometime soon we might even be able to bring you that party! To follow our 50th Birthday celebrations, keep an eye on our website and social media channels.
Chapter wouldn’t be Chapter without the local community and artists that we have worked with so we want to hear your voices too. Do you have special memories of Chapter? Share your favourite moments with us on Twitter using hashtag #ChapterArts50.
We have way too many special memories to share with you in one go, so we’ll be offering them throughout the year. In the meantime, here are just a few images of Chapter from over the years.
CHAPTER - Autumn 1981. Credit Tom Barrance
Chapter from the archives
Chapter Cinema 1 from the archives
Chapter Gallery from the archives
Chapter Bar from the archives
Chapter print workshop in the early days
Chapter Gallery floor install 1980s
Chapter sign install on top of the building
Chapter Lightbox construction 2009
Chapter's first lightbox by Bedwyr Williams in 2009
Chapter in the noughties