The Company initially operated from the home of the Directors and after winning two S4C music series commission, they leased an office space in Rhiwbina, Cardiff. They occupied these premises for five years and enjoyed a healthy Wales portfolio mainly in the field of music, entertainment and events such as ‘Gwahoddiad’ and ‘Shan Cothi’ for S4C and ‘Damon Rochefort Tonight’ and ‘The Big Noise’ Event for BBC Wales.
Afanti Media was founded in 1997 by Emyr Afan and Mair Davies.
The Pop Factory
In 2000, the company embarked on the renovation of the Welsh Hills Works in Porth, an old corona soft drinks factory, and developed the concept of making pop of a different kind, naming it The Pop Factory. Sir Tom Jones not only opened the business, he waived his appearance fee in order to take a small stake in the business. Sir Tom Jones smashed a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock against the wall of the former Corona soft drinks factory and the Pop Factory was opened.
The Factory went from the humble beginnings of a new valleys music venue to playing host to some of the music scene’s biggest names. The premises offered state of the art studio space resulting in vast production and recording of music television facilities that coincided with the growth of Cool Cymru. This was the Company’s headquarters for the next 10 years in which it’s portfolio grew to include high volume children’s programming, ‘Igi Tigi Bip a Bop’,’Popty’ and ‘Stamina’, factual and shiny floor entertainment series such as ‘Y Sesiwn Hwyr,’ ‘This Way Up’, ‘The Pop Factory’ and music events production and programming such as ‘Tom Jones in Cardiff Castle’, ‘The Full Ponty’, ‘Tom Jones in Ponty Park’, ‘Stereophonics at Morfa’ and ‘Manic Millenium’ – all for BBC Wales and ‘Faenol Festival’ for S4C, ‘Wakestock’ for S4C and Channel 4. In 2005, Sir Tom made an emotional return to his home town where he sang live to 20,000-strong audience at Ponty Park, in sight of the terraced house in which he grew up.
Spotting and nurturing new talent has become a renowned trait of Afanti. Many talent relationships were embedded during the period of The Pop Factory such as Jonathan Davies, Nigel Owens, the late Stuart Cable and most famously – Steve Jones, Alex Jones, Gethin Jones – anyone who is a Jones!
Following an exponential growth alongside winning several awards such as a BAFTA and Celtic Film Festival Award, Welsh Innovation Company of the Year, and Mair Davies’ winning The Welsh Woman of the Year in Media, the Company decided to focus on its core strengths by winning three main longer running strands; ‘Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol’ (which is the Welsh ‘Songs of Praise’) ‘Jonathan’ and the ‘Urdd Eisteddfod’.
Afanti embarked on a future out of the factory, and relocated to new production premises in Cardiff in 2010. The exceptional track record of the S4C weekly Sunday night religious strand gave the Company the perfect spring board in winning BBC Network tender for three Welsh programmes within the Songs of Praise BBC weekly Sunday night religious strand.
The Company saw through a stable period of producing one-off commissions from BBC Wales mainly drawing on talent relationships and narrative documentary skills such as ‘Jonathan – Trimsaran Boy’,’Karl Jenkins’, ‘Donny Comes Home – The Concert’, and ‘Tom Jones, A Boy From Nowhere?’, ‘Jamie Baulch, Finding my Birth Mother’ and ‘The Search for my Birth Dad’.,’The John Hartson Story’,’Hayley and the Hoff’,’Connie – I’ll Sing Once More’, ‘Jonathan Meets….’ ‘What Shane Did Next?’, ’Being Mike Peters’, ’Being Katherine Jenkins’, ’Nigel Owens, True to Myself’.
By 2017, Afanti was seen as a fresh and exciting U.K. network supplier of quality factual and entertainment content. In March 2017, Afanti Media won the first BBC tender (post-charter-renewal) to be granted to a UK indie, Songs of Praise. Afanti won the bid as lead partner, alongside our chosen production partners Nine Lives Media in Manchester. The £12million, 3-year, contract was the first of the tenders to move outside the BBC.
The following years saw a raft of both Nations and Network commissions, ‘Para’s Ready for War’ for ITV, ‘The People’s Hour’ for BBC Wales, two C4 Dispatches – ‘How to get a British Passport’ and ‘The Working Homeless’ championing a diverse C4 presenter, Datshi Navanayagam, ‘The Secrets of the Mary Rose’ for Channel 4 and ‘The MOBO Music Awards’ for Channel 5 in the UK and BET Worldwide.
In 2020, as the nation went into lockdown, Afanti pivoted quickly to retain, gain and grow our output. Upon the announcement of the closure to churches nationwide Afanti were asked by BBC1 to produce 10 hours of television to “hold the hand of the nation” in times of desperate need. With less than a week’s notice, Afanti turned around a series of church services. With the closure of museums also, Afanti won the opportunity to film two episodes of ‘Inside Museums’. The first saw artist Lachlan Goudie visit the Scottish National Gallery and the second saw Diana Ali visit the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.
During these unprecedented and turbulent time in television broadcasting, Afanti built on the success of the first ever Life Drawing Live! in February 2022 with Josie D’Arby by quickly creating a Covid complaint version in early May. Filmed at the height of lockdown there was a huge public response to the programme. The BBC entered Life Drawing Live! to the Bafta’s for Best Live Event and the progamme was also a finalist in the Broadcast Best Lockdown Programme. The show struck a chord with viewers at a time of enormous stress and isolation but our mission to “draw” the four nations together hit the right note at the right time. Now an established brand Afanti were asked to broadcast simultaneously on BBC2 and BBC4 with scenes of nudity right from the start, Life Drawing Live! was hosted by one of the nation’s favourite present and comedians, Joe Lycett. Broadcasting from Wrest Park in Luton Afanti worked closely with English Heritage to take over the protected grounds for 48 hours.
Due to the rise in British staycation Channel 4 commissioned a daytime format which saw an eclectic cast of camping connoisseurs touring Britain’s beauty spots hunting for the Perfect Pitch. The series was narrated by Joanna Page and was recommissioned for Series 2 in 2023.
As part of Songs of Praise, Afanti produced the annual Gospel Choir and Young Choir of the Year but during Covid, Afanti had to reinvent the competitions to avoid mass gatherings. Gospel Singer and Young Chorister of the Year were born, which were even more successful than the original brands and attracted a partnership with Radio 2.
Afanti also evolved the Big Sing at Christmas from its annual home in the Albert Hall (where it had been for over 14 years) and rolled it out to the regions very successfully with recordings in Belfast, Edinburgh and this year, Cardiff. During Covid, however, we had unique access to Westminster Abbey and St Pauls to record special editions of The Big Sing with major artists.
As well as successfully developing, producing and delivering high quality productions, Afanti has also launched a facilities arm to the business. With a quarter of a century of experience and track record under our belt, Afanti are industry leaders in outside broadcast and live music events. A recent highlight was our brand new ‘Showtime’ brand which saw Michael Ball host a musical spectacular from the Wales Millennium Centre to celebrate the reopening of theatres and the return of live music all over the country.
Afanti was approached by BBC Four to film five of the BBC Orchestras over eight programmes at some of the most iconic concert venues in Britain, in partnership with Radio 3. These include: BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC NOW, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Singers, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Proms.. Afanti utilised its extensive music OB credentials to capture the concerts with our in-house facilities, being cost-effective, nimble and often with quick turn-around required.
We also won the tender for the coverage of 6 Music Festival which was held in Cardiff across 4 days and 6 venues in April 2022. Afanti was selected as the facilities provider for the festival, covering the broadcasting to BBC iPlayer and streaming live.
In 2022, Afanti celebrated 25 years of excellence in broadcasting. A quarter of a century in the business brings solid proof in maturity of programming making, numerous awards and vast experience and intelligence of the industry. To coincide with this landmark event, Afanti chose to re-brand from AVANTI to Afanti. AVANTI was born out of a passion to create ambitious and reputable content from Wales and meant; go forward in Italian. The new name Afanti was chosen as a nod to the family name ‘Afan’ and to celebrate the Welsh language without losing sight of who we are. Breaking new ground, innovation and pushing the boundaries have always been part of our DNA, which has survived to this day.
We are Afanti, a family-run true Welsh indie, ready to embark on our next exciting chapter.