I’m sitting down to write this exactly six months since I moved to Cardiff. On January 7 2010, I loaded up my car, paid £5.50 to cross the bridge and decamped from England to Wales.
I was in a brand new city. The signs had two languages on them, rugby was the national game and everywhere I went there was Brains on tap. It might be part of the UK but Wales is most definitely a separate country.
Cardiff. What was I doing here? I’d been offered a job working for Media Wales as an ‘Online Communities Editor’ – read that as journalist, it’s much simpler. Job, get a community website going for Cardiff underneath the main WalesOnline website. Can’t just magic a community out of nowhere, got to build one.
So, I have had the pleasure of exploring the capital of Wales over the last six months. I’ve been wandering round Heath Park in the pouring rain with councillors pointing at where wooden bollards should be, I’ve sat in Council meetings waiting for a councillor to declare a national supermarket chain’s licensing application bollocks and gone rambling through the countryside just outside Cardiff with the local branch of the Ramblers Society.
What struck me is just how passionate people in this city are. Everywhere I’ve been there’s people willing to speak, to put it on the record, to lay it on the line and tell you what their dreams and hopes are. That’s refreshing. Welsh people are definitely more upfront with their views compared to the more reserved English (Note: This definitely helps a journalist, a lot).
This city is vibrant. I experienced my first Six Nations match day and will never forget being hugged by random people when Shane Williams popped that winning try over against Scotland.
For me though, the best way to describe my Cardiff story would be Saturday 5th June 2010. In that day everything I know about Cardiff was captured.
After a heavy Friday night on the beers watching Glamorgan in the blissful evening sunshine beating Worcestershire, I was up early and covering the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) march. Hundreds brought the city centre to a standstill, before finishing at the City Hall with a rally – where the day started to turn.
The Welsh (and English) Defence League arrived and made their feelings known, more protesters – perhaps not affiliated to the UAF – made their feelings known. And myself and the Police were in the middle. Political expression was alive and well in Cardiff.
Meanwhile, the Welsh national rugby team were battling South Africa in an epic over at the Millennium Stadium and the streets were filled with red, white, green and gold shirts.
In the evening, the Stereophonics played to some 20,000 people at the Cardiff City Stadium and I was lucky enough to be there filming. There was an air of celebration in the air as I ducked out before the end to go and frantically edit video so I could get some kip.
To me, this day showcased what Cardiff has become. A buzzing metropolis able to showcase the best sporting and musical events, while still welcoming political debate and not becoming completely commercialised.
It’s been a pleasure to tell the stories of Cardiff and its people. Here’s to another six months.
Ed Walker is a journalist working for Media Wales, running the yourCardiff community site and writing regularly for the South Wales Echo. When he gets chance, he also runs the fledgling City Centre Cardiff blog. His personal blog is edwalker.net and he is on twitter @ed_walker86. He lives in the city centre.
Ed was photographed on West Street by Geraint Griffiths.