“I’m definitely not English and I couldn’t claim to be Welsh, but I do think of myself as Cardiffian now” – Noreen

Noreen by Ffion Matthews

I ended up in Cardiff by chance, really. I grew up and studied in France, and after doing my MSc research project at Aberystwyth University, I stayed in the UK to work. Various jobs and secondments took me all over England and Wales, until I found myself in Cardiff, and liked it so much that I stayed. It’s the place where I have felt most at home and where I can see myself putting down roots. I guess I’ve started doing that already!

I’m a city girl and I couldn’t live happily somewhere without theatres, cafes, and shops that stay open after 5pm. Because Cardiff’s a capital city, it’s vibrant, and has gigs, exhibitions, shows, workshops… There’s always a variety of things to do. It’s got great places to hang out and chill too. And it’s got the parks! I love Bute Park, walking past the Animal Wall to get there, and hula hooping near the stones. They’re such an easy landmark to meet people at, and, well, they’re standing stones, which is cool. This is the capital of a country that had Eisteddfods and bards and song and poetry as national traditions and institutions – and it’s woven into the fabric of the city.

I’m half Chinese from Singapore and also French and I like that Cardiff is fairly multicultural; also that the population is young because of the Universities, even though it means Friday and Saturday nights in town are a nightmare of rowdy drunken students. But hey, that’s part of what makes this city what it is. Despite the usual high street shops that are the same everywhere (and although I mostly moan about them, sometimes they’re convenient because you know exactly where to get what), the centre has a nice distinctive feel. Cardiff’s got a bunch of independent shops and also the arcades. I spent my teenage years in Paris, which has a number of arcades right in the centre, and I love them. It’s a shame about all the empty shops there – I would like to see them more alive and better used.

I’m a sucker for architecture and nice buildings, and that’s another reason why Cardiff appeals to me so much – it’s not just the WMC and the Senedd down the Bay: there is a great mix of beautiful buildings in town, and I love wandering around early in the morning or late at night, when there are no crowds of shoppers to dodge, and walking “with my nose in the air” as the French say, checking out the facades and rooflines we ignore on a daily basis.

Despite being the capital of Wales, Cardiff is a small city. It’s small in size, so that I can walk or cycle most places – and it’s pretty flat! Cycling around Cardiff makes me very happy indeed. It’s also small in population (well… for a capital city anyway) and I have found here a real sense of community and friendliness. Cardiff is like a village where when you meet someone, you can be pretty sure they’ll know at least one other person you know. I like that. I think that’s what’s contributed to my feeling settled quicker than in other places I have lived, and building a strong network of friends in a couple of years after I arrived – and that’s why I feel so settled now!

I’m definitely not English and I couldn’t claim to be Welsh, but I do think of myself as Cardiffian now. It would take a big event indeed to prise me away!

Noreen Blanluet is a self-employed creative business consultant, helping entrepreneurs and freelancers to take their business and their life to the next level. You can find her at www.beamazingtoday.co.uk and on Twitter @beamazingtoday. She’s living in Splott at the moment and is pondering moving to Roath early next year. Longer-term, her aim is to move to the house of her dreams in Cathays.

Noreen was photographed on the swings at Roath recreation ground by Ffion Matthews

Noreen by Ffion Matthews

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“Thirty years on, I’m still here, and my identity has changed as much as the city itself” – Dave

The Cardiff I moved to in 1980 was a very different city to the one we know today: no Cardiff Bay, no Millennium Stadium, no St. David’s Centre (1 or 2) etc. etc. My job had relocated from London and, having no Welsh roots or connections, initially I felt like an outsider. But four employers and thirty years on, I’m still here, and my identity has changed as much as the city itself – I now can’t envisage ever living anywhere other than Cardiff, and I feel far more Welsh than English.

It would have been possible to live and work in Cardiff, to bring up a family here, and yet continue to identify with my country (or county) of birth. I know contemporaries who have done just that, whether by choice or by chance. The catalyst for me, though, was sport – football to be precise.

During the eighties, not content with being only a long-distance supporter of my home team (though I will never abandon them), I started visiting some of the local clubs in south Wales. It was the era of the ‘fanzine’, the publishing boom of those pre-internet days, and I contributed the odd article on Welsh clubs to various publications; in time I became a Welsh correspondent for a couple of titles, now long-defunct. Travelling around Wales every Saturday, visiting places and meeting people I would otherwise never have come across, I developed a sense of belonging in Wales.

Twenty years ago, just as Wales was re-asserting its national identity in many walks of life, I was persuaded that Wales needed its own football magazine. Little realising how much of my spare time the project would consume, I was also persuaded to get involved. With our own funds, a few of us launched a modest little publication called Welsh Football in 1991, and 143 issues later it’s still going, a niche, not-for-profit publication admittedly, but our national football magazine nonetheless. It’s just a shame that, nineteen years on, it’s still so hard to raise its profile amidst the blanket coverage of English football here – new readers regularly tell me “I never knew it existed”. And even worse, since Borders bookshop closed, we don’t currently have a retail outlet stocking the mag in the capital city !

As Welsh Football’s unpaid editor, feature writer, photographer and many other things, I still travel around Wales on a regular basis, meeting friends old and new. Though I put in a lot of time (and sometimes money too) what I get out far outweighs it: not just enjoyment of the games, but appreciation of the variety and beauty of Wales, and above all a sense of identity: yes, after spending more than half my life here, I definitely consider myself Welsh now (and I think I’m widely accepted as such by my native Welsh friends and acquaintances, too). And I even pass the acid test: when Wales play England, there is no way I can cheer for the ‘three lions’!

Dave Collins is an IT consultant. He also publishes Welsh Football magazine (‘the National Football Magazine of Wales’), a not-for-profit magazine written by, and for, lovers of football in Wales and published eight times per season. The magazine is available by subscription – see http://www.welsh-football.net or email welshfootball@lineone.net for details. He currently lives in Rhiwbina.

Dave was photographed by Simon Ayre

“My city has its ups, my city has its downs … bad boys, and bad girls, geniuses and clowns” – David (Verso)

versosmall

I was a babe in arms when I first came to Cardiff; however, my very first memory of it was when I was sat in the window seat of a bus going down a then almost squalid ‘Cathedral Road’. I distinctly remember asking my mother why all the lovely houses were boarded up.

My parents met at a dancehall down the docks. My father was a boy from the Merthyr Valley; born of Welsh, Irish and French descent. On my mother’s side of the family I inherited African, South American Indian, Italian, Irish and English; so to say I am mixed race is a bit of an understatement. However, I am a proud and patriotic Welshman and Cardiffian, along with the rich multi-cultural genetic rainbow of nationalities within me. It is worth noting the word Welsh is actually an Old English word meaning “foreigner; slave” and at first was applied by the Anglo-Saxons to all the native peoples of Britain.

I detail the race and cultural accent here because that is what makes me especially proud of Cardiff as a place unlike most others. I once spoke to a Nottingham born second-generation Pakistani man who could not believe his eyes on seeing that Sikh, Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistanis were friends and next-door neighbours.

It may be of little consequence to the average white native, but for a man of another race, it does make a significant difference.

Cardiff is like a village that happens to be a city; and a county that feels like a country. Not that it is apart from the rest of Wales, it’s just that there are representatives from all parts of Wales, mixed with a lot of English, Irish, a broad mixture from sea-faring nations, and now from every corner of the globe. Such diversity enriches the experience of both dweller and visitor.

For some, Cardiff is like a practice for London or another city; and for plenty of others, a perfect place to settle. Many students end up staying for many years after their studies are complete; if not for the rest of their lives. Cardiff is a place that people return to; not run away from.

There’s something here to remind them of home, and many more things that their last home can never have. Although Cardiff is the hub of the creative and financial industries, it is unlike London; thankfully. People still smile and say hello, give you the time of day. They still say please, thank-you and excuse me… well, usually ;). It is a place where you can find enough people alike yourself to feel a part of a movement / tribe / community … from artisans to anarchists.

I love the stunning parklands throughout the city; and a real jewel of the inner city that is the oasis of Bute Park.

Also, the stunning and varied coastline and wild national parks all around us within walking/cycling distance; or a short train/bus/car ride away. Cardiff is a worldly city; despite its size and population. I would like to see it be ambitious and evolve to be considered among the best cities in the world. No city is perfect, nor ever will be. We have our share and experiences of the negative as well as the many positives. I recorded a song with a designer/musician friend, Matt Harris, which captures my perspective. It’s called, The City in Me (“My city has its ups. My city has its downs / Bad boys, and bad girls, geniuses and clowns”).

I was extremely disappointed when the winning design of Zaha Hadid was vetoed by the unimaginative old-order of councillors of Cardiff. The Armadillo is ok because of its nod to the industrial past. But we’ve been there, done that, and got the postcards. Neither am I too keen on the lack of creativity down at the homogenised, indistinctive Cardiff Bay.

What about the future? I would love to see our city reaching boldly into the future, rather than just clinging to its past. My hopes are high though. There are a decent number of creative folk, and an entrepreneurial zeitgeist running through the city right now fuelling a new agenda that doesn’t depend on the backward thinking policy makers in the greasy seats of power and influence

David (Verso) is a poet for non-poets and poets alike, creator of wordplays like ‘Cardifferent’, singer/songwriter, dancer, artist, visionary designer, innovator, businessman in the making… procrastinator in the doing. Find him on Scrib and Myspace. He currently lives in Canton.

David (Verso) was photographed in Chapter Arts Centre by Adam Chard

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