I recently stumbled across a website called We Are Cardiff. On the site people who live in Cardiff – either born and bred or those whose lives have somehow brought them there – document their experience of life in city, whether positive or negative, but usually positive. Most of the stories are from people who have gravitated towards Cardiff, ranging from small Welsh towns a few miles away or from the other side of the world. There is a common thread amongst these. Specifically, Cardiff offers a chance to live in a vibrant, affordable, manageable city, providing a mix of culture, music, bars, friends, shopping, diversity, creativity and opportunity, yet with the tranquillity that larger cities can’t always offer – a chance to escape the city life whilst still being within a city.
I was born in Cardiff and lived there till I was 16, which is (just) over half of my life. I was in the same class as one of the people who has written a piece for We Are Cardiff. Growing up in Cardiff in the 1980s had almost no emotion attached to it. No pride but no shame either, just another place on a map. In the 1980s the Cardiff I lived in didn’t feel Welsh, it felt English. We weren’t like the valley towns, who had seriously suffered in the miner’s strikes. The valleys seemed like a different planet. We had other industries, not just coal. We could adapt. We didn’t have Welsh accents, which gave words a lyricism and a poetry, we had Cardiff accents, which were hard and sharp and had more in common with accents from England. Though I went to see Cardiff City, I always supported Liverpool (I still do), my friends were the same, supporting Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, anyone but Cardiff City. All my friends wanted England to win the 1990 World Cup. I rooted for Ireland. (Our own national football team never amounted to anything, despite always having at least one of the greatest players in the world in it. Unfortunately the rest of the squad made pub teams look like world-beaters.)
One thing that sticks in my mind now is how our TV aerials pointed towards Bristol, and not Cardiff, so we could get Channel 4 instead of the Welsh language channel S4C. This was a time when there were only four TV channels in Britain and nobody in Cardiff wanted S4C as nobody spoke Welsh. It also meant that all the local news reports on BBC and ITV were about places like Bristol, Bath, Weston-super-Mare and Swindon, and not South Wales. It seems crazy to think that people would rather sit through news that has no relevance to their lives and miss out on the news that does affect them for the sake of one channel. I’m convinced that this played a part in a huge apathy that was felt by South Wales towards itself. Growing up I knew more about Bristol, where I had never even been, than I did about my own town.
To carry on reading James’ story, click on over to his website: James Davies : It’s where you’re between
Note from Helia: this is a sort of non-We-Are-Cardiff piece, in that it was written by someone who hasn’t lived in Cardiff in years, but grew up here – came across this site, and then wrote his own We Are Cardiff story. And the title is a Super Furries lyric! I’ve included the first part of it above – you should click on over to his blog to read the rest. I think James is a photographer – the pictures on his website and his Flickr are pretty great too. Go check them out!
Cardiff’s skyline these days…
Photograph of the Cardiff skyline by Amy Taylor on Flickr