Jul 2, 2024 | Neath Port Talbot

How Afan Ales is making Port Talbot a go-to destination for live music, poetry and comedy

A small independent off license is putting Port Talbot on the map with its live comedy, poetry and music nights. Owner Gav John told us all about the offering which is drawing performers from all over the UK.

Back in 2021 Gavin John and his partner Bethan Davies set up Afan Ales, an independent off license located just 100 yards from Port Talbot railway station.

Soon after opening it, they realised that Port Talbot’s live arts and music scene was in need of a boost.

Their craft ale customers who first made them aware of the issue: calling in to buy beers, they would mention that they were off to Cardiff or Swansea for live music nights because there was nothing locally.

Gav and Bethan decided they wanted to do something about it, so they set the wheels in motion to get licensed to serve alcohol on the premises – and by March 2022 they were ready to open the doors on their first event: a poetry night called The Drunk Poets’ Society.

The idea came about after Gav got talking to local bare knuckle boxer James “Lights Out” Lilley, who had recently published a poetry book.

“We got speaking and we came up with the idea to hold a poetry night because we’d noticed a lot of the poetry nights were quite formal and intimidating for the younger crowd,” says Gav. “We wanted to do something that appeal to youngsters; about 90% of the poets that we have on our nights have never been published. They’ve been writing in their bedrooms, and this is their first chance to be able to share their work with the public.”

The launch of The Drunk Poets Society – which is now a regular monthly fixture – was followed in June 2022 by the first of Afan Ales’ regular live music nights: a gig by Port Talbot band The Shunkos. It was a big success, so the live band nights became Afan Ales’ second regular offering, hosting up to three bands each night.


Next, Gav teamed up with local record label Shiny Vinyl to launch a programme of regular acoustic nights titled Shiny Vinyl Presents. These have really helped to put Port Talbot on the map, attracting performers from all over the UK and even spawning a Shiny Vinyl Presents guest night at The Libertines’ famous Albion Rooms in Margate.

Other Afan Ales spin-off events have included The Drunk Poets Society at Swansea Arena as part of Swansea Fringe Festival and Shunk Fest, a two day music festival at The Plaza in Port Talbot headlined by Pastel and Trampolene.

The Afan Ales in house live events offering is completed by its regular Afan a Laugh comedy nights, hosted by Sandro Ford. These create a platform for local comedians and also bring well-known headline acts to the town. Previous guest performers have included Drew Taylor, Steffan Evans, Josh Elton and Simon Emmanuel.

On top of the live entertainment, Afan Ales hosts a mens’ mental health group, S’ appnin’ Butt, which is currently on a hiatus, but will resume soon.

It all adds up to a packed calendar that is not only providing gig opportunities for local artists but also attracting well-known performers from all over the UK.

“We just wanted to give these people a platform to be able to express themselves and to offer something a little bit different, because a lot of the time you see the same bands in the same pubs the same times performing the same songs.

“The crowd that we’ve attracted has made it so special and the growth has been organic: you get speaking to someone, you see an idea and you bounce off each other for a little bit – and then like from these little seeds and grow all these amazing nights.”

Just a few of the many memorable performances hosted at Afan Ales include Getdown Services from Bristol, Jackson Lucitt and Lost Cause from Port Talbot, and Subterranea from Swansea. Several of the bands to have performed at Afan Ales have already gone on to bigger things, and this is part of the pleasure for Gav.

“It’s great watching so many of the young bands performing their first gigs,” he says. “For a lot of them it’s their first time ever playing out playing their own music, and then we see them grow and progress. We also love that bands from as far afield as London now reach out to this little off license in Port Talbot because they have heard about us and want to come down and play.”

And with a great range of craft ales and German and Belgian beers, you’re guaranteed a great drink too.

Instagram/Facebook: afan.ales

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