“There is as much to get angry about in Cardiff, as there is to enjoy” – Peter

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Yes, I am still, frequently, asked the question by uncomprehending friends “why do you live in Cardiff?”.

As a south Londoner, I migrated here via the very beautiful countryside of north Warwickshire. My work as a consultant took me from the heart of England all over the UK, quite a bit of Europe and even North America. But I had a client in Cardiff that meant five years of staying almost every week at the Holiday Inn (now the Ramada); stays that included the delight of Michael Jackson’s suite. An artificial kind of “getting to know you Cardiff” maybe, but it planted a seed that led to me renting a flat for six months to work on a book.

Then, much later, the suggestion to my partner that we try a year in a rented flat in Llandaff to see if we really liked Cardiff. A year after when we were being kicked out we had to decide: to relocate permanently or return to leafy Warwickshire. The decision was taken out of our hands when the house there sold and, on the same day we found a home in Pontcanna, we bought it.

We didn’t know then that this was one of the most desirable parts of the city, and that we were surrounded by Welsh speakers and media personalities. As time went on, we met with like-minded immigrants, as well as delightful neighbours who had been in the area for 40 or 50 years. We tried, repeatedly, to improve our Welsh.

It took a while to get to know the extraordinary delights of the adjoining Pontcanna and Llandaff Fields and the way they form part of the Bute Parks. The arrival of Dryw – black, four legged and a terrier explorer – accelerated our learning. However, we quickly discovered that many of the things we most liked about Cardiff were under threat.

First it was Sophia Gardens – the city’s first public park – and the idea of giving a privately owned company a huge amount of public space in which to develop a commercial cricket ground. The “Hit it for Six” campaign successfully fought off two major applications for development in this grade 2* parkland, but the promise of a “test match” and of some fleeting international exposure saw the council roll over like lapdogs and agree to the desecration of the park. An action that can never be reversed.

It became clear, sadly, that this was part of an ongoing process of degradation and development, usually claimed to be for “worthy causes”. Each of these individual uses may have seemed to have some merit, but taken together they have added up to a 40% removal of public space from one of the country’s most important historic landmarks.

Sophia Gardens was effectively finally lost when the cricket stadium was built, but we all thought Bute Park itself was untouchable. The allure of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and weaselly words of support from them, enabled the council to build a new access road to enable it to undertake public events more easily. A 5000 people petition asking for a moratorium on development in the Bute Parks was dismissed in a council meeting in seconds. At this point anyone would question why they would still want to live here.

Now, there is as much to get angry about in Cardiff, as there is to enjoy. As chair of Cardiff Civic Society, a charity not a political or single-issue campaign, I have a responsibility, not to be angry (well, not just angry) but to try to ensure that Cardiff’s historic past, and just as importantly, its future, is in the ownership of its citizens. Not, as so often seems, taken for granted by its politicians as their right to propose and dispose of at will.

We are coming up to an important time for those who make bad decisions: it’s the Welsh Assembly elections next year, council elections in 2012. It’s a good time to reflect on what has happened, and what we might want for the city in twenty years’ time.

Cardiff has the potential to be a fitting capital for the country where many of us still want to live. Indeed, it can and should be a world exemplar of many of Wales’ policies for the environment, sustainable economic growth, high standards of built design and caring for a remarkable and complex history.

It won’t be that in 2020 unless we, the people who have grown to love the place, make it so.

Peter Cox moved his management consultancy business to Cardiff after emigrating here 15 years ago: it became a Wales Fast Growth 50 Company. He was a board member and trustee of Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre for seven years and its chair for two, putting in place its recent £3.5M RIBA award-winning refurbishment. He is now chair of Cardiff Civic Society, which has recently prepared a response to the Cardiff Council plans for a new Local Development Plan. He writes here in a personal capacity. Find him on his personal website or his Twitter @peterdcox. He lives in Pontcanna.

Picture: Peter was photographed by the new Bute Parks access road bridge by Adam Chard. Peter commented on the road: “Its presence allows the noise, traffic and pollution of an arterial roadway into what was once one of the most preciously tranquil areas of the heritage park. The massive, industrial strength bridge (for 40 tonne lorries) has the design footprint of a monster and less subtlety than the second Severn crossing. It destroys something given in trust. It’s an irrevocable act of vandalism that history will join those who campaigned against it and roundly condemn as a folly of 21st century politicians seeking civic aggrandisement above civic duty.”

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“far, far away of the forgotten welsh woods” – Steve

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so you think you’ve had goose

bumps

all up your arms

or

the hairs stood tall and straight

like gunless young soldiers

maybe

your neck

the one you stuck out

when you held your perhaps

baby looking into those eyes or

life in your buttery hands

maybe

when the soft robes

of death brushed against you

like a black speeding motorcar

skidding

careering

tearing

across your out-of-control-heart

only then may you ask of the voice in the darkness:

have you

ever one (little) bird heard

wretch in the far, far away

of the forgotten welsh woods

and now those butterflies

that flapped in your middle turn

back, back to wing

less worms

crawling

blindly

mad larvae

through the star starved auto

mobile world of our city

yearning to writhe

and die in the bay.


Steve Lucas is a musician, writer and poet living in Cardiff. He is the creator of the underground rock icon Samba Lucas. You can listen to his music at: www.myspace.com/sambalucas

Steve was photographed in Cardiff Bay by Simon Ayre

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Joanne’s Cardiff: a tightrope-walking violin player, Doctor Who’s telephone box, a man in the town centre throwing a chainsaw around

joanne

After being accepted by The University of Wales Institute Cardiff I found myself moving into Plas Gwyn halls of residence ready to commence my studies on the BA (Hons) Graphic Communication course. For someone who had no intentions of ever leaving home and going to university it was a bewildering experience. Before I knew it my mother and grandparents were waving goodbye and I was left alone with no friends and no idea what to do with myself.

Having never lived in a city before, the whole experience took a lot of getting used to with busy, congested roads and people everywhere replacing the sleepy little village in Somerset where everyone sounds like a farmer that I had grown accustomed to.

Giving in to the temptation of this new city’s world full of shops, my bank card soon started to feel the strain! I have lots of great memories of shopping in Cardiff, including finding a few little treasures in the dainty little arcades. However I haven’t been able to find these shops since and it makes me wonder if I really did find them or just imagined them.

The one thing that I completely loathed about my time in Cardiff was the student housing. Myself and the people I lived with got more than a little stitched up with our first house. Upon viewing the property we discovered a square metre of thick mould growing on the wall in one room, a hole in the ceiling on the landing, mice exploring the kitchen, slugs, worms, and soil coming through the phone socket and a burglary just after Christmas. The burglary was very odd as there was money scattered around the house, an electric drum kit and a big TV yet they chose to steal the kettle which was a good five or so years old!

Thankfully our second house was a lot better and I had a great view of the army barracks from my bedroom window. I remember sitting at the my desk one day and peering out to see a military tank drive past with a little man poking out the top. I have seen a number of unusual things in my time at Cardiff but to name a few: A tightrope walking violin player, Doctor Who’s telephone box on the back of a van, a man in the town centre throwing a chainsaw around and a few famous people acting rather bizarrely.

Over my three short years in Cardiff I made some wonderful friends and gained valuable experience in both design and life. I recently moved away but I hope to visit again in the near future to see how things have changed (every time I returned from a holiday there was always a new shop), feed the ducks in the snow, and see a few friends.

Joanne Hawker is a Graphic Communication graduate who drinks too much tea and wants to own anything that has an owl or a bird on it. She would one day like a teashop and a pet owl. You can visit her website here: www.joannehawker.co.uk. Until very recently, she lived in Gabalfa.

Joanne was photographed in by the lake in Roath Park

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“What struck me is just how passionate people in Cardiff are” – Ed

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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.

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