Focus Wales

Dates: May 4, 2023– May 6, 2023

With the sun now settled on another edition of the ever excellent Focus Wales festival, held every year in the North Wales town (oops. . . now a city) of Wrexham, its maybe time for a some reflection on another wonderful three days of music and networking. Wrexham may be more known for it’s football (and more of that later), but it’s been this festival which as championed the place as a hub for music. Here are 10 things that we loved about this years edition. . .


Whilst many festivals like to advertise themselves as an eclectic mix, there are very few that actually do what they say on the tin. Focus Wales plays its eclecticism like a heart on its sleeve. At any one time you can simply move from watching Japanese dream pop, over to freaked out Celtic folk singing, and finish off with a huge dose of T-Rex inspired psych. Of course, they all say that there is only good music and bad music, and Focus Wales just seems to have an inordinate amount of good. Indeed, you would be hard pushed to find something disappointing and even the belly-dancing to Peruvian rhythms  (disclaimer: they may not be Peruvian but do evoke a certain Latin American charm) delivers on intent. If there is one thing missing it would be white boy indie groups, and lets be fair, we’ve all had enough of them.


You want venues? Focus Wales gives you venues, venues, and more venues. Indeed, the Music Venue Trust should be giving them a medal for keeping the venue tally as high as it is. Lose a venue after one year…no matter, they just open two more. Traditional club venues, pop-up shop venues, tent venues (big and small, church venues (majestically big, and comfortable small). They would even stick a venue in your front room if you asked them too. Focus Wales like venues, and they promise more next year

The Coral

So we mentioned the eclecticism, but this year really belonged to the old guard. Primarily an emerging bands festival, Focus Wales do like to throw in a curve-ball and this year it was with The Coral. We all love The Coral, but you know what…you don’t half forget how many great songs they have, and when you are crammed into a tent with what feels like your entire friendship group, screaming along to Dreaming of You, then who would deny their status as national treasures? Lets face it, they are that good that the even older, and true Welsh national treasure Daffydd Iwan plays before them. Even the mighty Yma o Hud couldn’t match up to that moment of unity for The Coral.


Did we mention friends? Such is the draw of Focus Wales that people return every year; it has become something of a meeting point for friends old and new. Everywhere you go you are greeted with a hug or a handshake, or usually both, and there is a genuine warmth about the place, even between strangers (who invariably become friends).Of course, with Wrexham being one of the most friendliest places on earth this adds to the whole friendship thing. We love friends, and Focus Wales keeps those friendships alight.


Which leads us on to networking. Whilst music is its focus (hey, geddit?), there are also plenty of opportunities for those involved in the industry to meet and make plans. Events are held, along with food and drink, and delegates can swap ideas, numbers, and tips. Invariably, the networkees become friends, leading onto our previous thing that we love about Focus. Symbiosis in action. It’s a beautiful thing.


It’s not just about live music, you know. You don’t just invite delegates for that alone. Focus Wales also have conferences and here you can listen to discussions on anything from PRS and  ChatGPT to keynote speeches with old rave legends. Want to learn a thing or two about how the industry works? This is the place for you. Granted it’s not very rock and roll but at least it might help you make a living so you can be rock and roll.


The clue is in the festival name, but the focus is not really on Welsh acts. Granted, there are your fair share of both Welsh language and English language Welsh acts (as their rightly should be), but the focus is on inviting outside countries to Wales to show what they have. Canada, Hong Kong, in fact any country is welcome as long as you have some music to deliver. Also, it does shine a spotlight on a part of Wales away from Cardiff, proving that not all events have to happen in the capital. Maybe this is the most important part of the festival ethos. Daffydd Iwan identified that pride by playing with a huge Welsh flag behind him. It was enough to make you feel that hiraeth.

Declan Swans

Home-grown acts have always played a part in Focus Wales but for two years now it seems the hottest ticket has been for these self-declared one hit wonders, Declan Swans. If you haven’t heard of them then just pay a visit to Wrexham, stand in the High Street, and shout “less than a mile from the centre of town…”. By the time you leave Wrexham you will know every single word to this song, and probably more. Our very own Half Man Half Biscuit, with the working class poetry of John Cooper Clarke, quite frankly that does them a disservice and they are truly a treasure of Wrexham. They even sing their songs at the football and Ryan Reynolds is a fan. For most sweatiest, craziest gig award, the Declan Swans finishing the weekend in The Parish (a pub that holds about 20 people comfortably) takes some beating. Next stop, the football stadium.

But that’s only eight things
, I hear you say? Well, you are right but you know what…everyone’s festival is different and Focus Wales offers a thousand ways to spend your weekend, so for homework go out and experience it yourself, and next year, when that sun settles, come back to me with two things you discovered. I can guarantee that you will all have different things as that is how Focus works. It lays the groundwork, but then leaves it up to you to discover. What is guaranteed is that you will come away with at least five new favourite bands (this year: Dactyl Terra, Bethan Lloyd, The Family Battenburg, Afro Culture, Paperhouse), and a love for one of the most consistently great festivals on the scene.

Pin It on Pinterest