“Cardiff was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure” – Bethan

bethan-elfyn-web

“We took the Porsche down to Tiger Bay,
Drank the pubs dry where bands used to play in their heyday.
Cardiff in the Sun”

– Super Furry Animals

We must’ve been skinny, because there were five of us squashed into a mini metro. We’re driving around Fishguard, recklessly, in Dan’s car. Blaring on the stereo are the Stone Roses. “Send me home like an Elephant Stone, to smash my dream of love, Dreaming till the sun goes down, and night turns into day!” Life is great! I’m a fresh faced minister’s daughter from the mountains of mid Wales and family friend, Daniel Evans, is introducing me to life in the fast lane, and adopting me to the Glantaf gang. Life was about to change. From one weekend out West to hauling life and future from North to South.

These were the kids that made me fall in love with Cardiff, the beautiful, cocky, fun, brazen, colourful, earthy, yes, even hippy, music-breathing kids from Ysgol Glantaf. Unlike anyone I knew back in my home school. At home it was small town clubbing and nosey neighbors (closest friends aside of course), here it was house parties, jamming till dawn, discussing the world, creating art, creating music and this breezy rush of freedom! It was idealistic, naïve, preposterous, yet it was new, it was youth, and it was an awakening.

With these naïve and wide-eyes I saw the city, and felt like I belonged. From boot sales in Splott, to Jacobs market’s spiraling treasure trove. From squeezing into Spillers and bacon butties in the Hayes, to the stretch of vinyl at Kellys – it was riding buses, walking railway tunnels, driving flyovers. It was dressing up retro, it was cherry tobacco, it was the Astoria’s all nighters, or Time Flies’ raves under chandeliers at the City Hall, it was dark and dangerous at The Hippo Club, it was the docks, it was the City Arms, Model Inn and Clwb Ifor Bach combined, it was Marcello from café minuet and the historic arcades. There were rituals and there were parties, oh, there were so many parties. From parties on Penarth beach to fires up the Wenallt, to student kitchens, to famous lock ins – it was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure.

Dan and anyone else from class of ’91, I’ll salute you for bringing me here, making me fall in love with the life you were living, just school kids on the brink of the future, and anything was possible.

My plans to have a gap year in France fell by the wayside as I fell in love with the city and the engrossing music scene. Every weekend was spent at Clwb Ifor Bach, till you knew every name in the building. Weeknights were full of big NME/Melody Maker bands on tour at the Uni like The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Pulp, St Etienne, Catatonia and erm Bjorn Again! I got a job, I was ‘saturday girl’, at Spillers Records. The Newport gigs were kicking off at TJs with 60 ft dolls, Disco, Gauge, Gorky’s and others. When you’re busy living in the moment you don’t quite realize the significance of all this. When venues later close, and legends start to disappear, you regret that photo you didn’t take or that chat you didn’t have, but you’re busy being young and being invincible.

I was in the busy heart of Cool Cymru (a term which we all hated), running around in the veins of the city, and would drive the length and breadth of the UK, to see live bands. A National Express to Sheffield to see Primal Scream and the Orb stadium tour, a club in the Valleys for the famous Splash tour where the Stereophonics supported The Big Leaves, college friend Denis Pasero’s 2cv shakily bombing down the M4 taking us to Y Cnapan festival, being gobsmacked at the SFA’s tank on the Eisteddfod field and the news crews in overdrive about what language they would sing in that night, and the band I stalked the most throughout this time were Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. Sadly, I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen them, but it’s awkward!

The music has changed unrecognizably from the few sweaty venues we used to frequent back in the 90s, but then as now we make our own fun here, it’s a small city with a big creative heart and a tight social community. My friends now, are an amazing crazy bunch of brilliantly talented people, and help me dream the same dream I had on coming here in the first place. Keep finding the adventures in the everyday, live with the wide eyed wonder towards the new, changing and evolving cityscape, and clap my thankful hands at the beautiful sounds* that keep emanating from this small city.

Footnotes

*Astoria = Venue on Queen’s Street where Oasis famously also played in 1994, supported by 60ft dolls. Used to be a massive club, not particularly nice, so this isn’t particularly nostalgic footnote!

*Sounds of Cardiff now. Do check out…
Cate Le Bon, H Hawkline, Sweet Baboo, Islet, Future of the Left, Strange News From Another Star, Samoans, Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs, Jonny, Richard James, The Gentle Good, Hail! the Planes, Le B, Jemma Roper, Saturday’s Kids, Harbour, Hunters, Truckers of Husk, Man Without Country, Houdini Dax, The Method, The Keys, Friends Electric and many many more.

Bethan Elfyn has been broadcasting and reporting across Welsh radio and TV since the late 90s. She started with BBC Radio Cymru in North Wales, working across the board from politics to music; interviewing millionaires, farmers, millionaire farmers, lots of musicians, comedians, drama ‘lovies’, and the highlight of the whole lot a record breaking “human mole”. In 1999, she was chosen to front BBC Radio One’s exclusive new music show for Wales, the Session in Wales, presenting the late night show on BBC Radio One till 2010. The decade was spent firmly ensconed in the UK’s music scene, hosting main stages at festivals across the land from Reading to Greenman, and DJing clubs, student balls, festivals and fashion events. She’s been TV host to The Pop Factory on BBC Wales, Popcorn and Dechrau Canu on S4C, and currently presents on BBC Radio Wales every Saturday night from 5 till 8pm – a show which has seen the cream of the Welsh music crop come in to co-host, from Sir Tom Jones, to James Dean Bradfield, to Cerys Matthews. She currently lives in Riverside.

Bethan was photographed at Kelly’s Records by Adam Chard

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“There’s a great feeling of community here” – Dom

dom kane by ffion matthews

As I grew up, London was the place to be for any aspiring music producer, but as the digital revolution took place, I think location became less of an important factor. Until a few years ago, I was living in London as it made sense being a resident DJ at Ministry Of Sound and Space Ibiza, but I eventually grew tired of the costs of living there along with the local politics of club promoters and record labels. I’m a city-boy through and through, and having been born in Wales, I decided to try out the capital city here. That was three years ago, and I can’t see myself being anywhere else right now. Cardiff allows me to lead a lifestyle I could have only dreamt of in London.

There’s a great feeling of community here for a city of its size. The local council is absolutely fantastic at organising events from international food and drink markets, to sports events on big-screens in the bay. There’s also a huge focus on the arts within Cardiff; I’ve been to more galleries and met more musicians/photographers/designers here than I ever would have imagined. Then there are the venues; from major events at WMC and CIA, to breaking comedians at Glee, or innovative eclectic nights at Cardiff Arts Institute (with Brains on tap, and a Funktion One sound-system to boot!).

I was born in West Wales and spoke fluent Welsh as a child, but as I had English parents and an English accent, the local nationalists decided I was an unwanted English boy, and made this more than clear. This made me rebel as a teenager, and as soon as I was able, I moved to Bristol. I then pretty much resented Wales and anything Welsh for quite a few years, at least until I came to Cardiff. Now? I’m Welsh. I’m a Cardiffian, and bloody proud of it too!

This may sound a bit silly, especially as I hate football, but I saw on Twitter last summer that Cardiff football club were playing an important game the following day and Cardiff council were thinking of setting up a big-screen-TV in the bay. The following day I heard that they went ahead with it, and as the weather was stunning I thought I’d go down and take a look. What I found, was an incredibly organised event with thousands of people watching a giant TV screen on the back of a lorry, along with stewards, full security, refreshments, police, mobile food bars, the works! You wouldn’t find this type of event with such professionalism and organisation in many other cities around the world, especially with such short notice.

I love the area I live in, with lake views and a local tavern, but only a five minute walk into the city centre and a 10 minute walk to the bay. I really couldn’t ask for any more. I’ve always said that Cardiff comes without the pretentiousness of most other capital cities; I can go to any bar/restaurant/venue here, and I’m always made to feel comfortable. Cardiff isn’t the place to be seen, it’s just the place to be!

Dom Kane started DJing in 1992 when free-parties were rife, discovering the love of performing to a 2000-strong crowd, by 1995 he was performing with residencies around the Southwest, and guest slots in Ibiza during the summer of 1998. By 2004, Dom began his monthly residency with Proton Radio, and then in 2006 he launched Xeton Records. Visit his website here. Dom currently lives in Cardiff Bay.

Dom was photographed at Bute East Dock by Ffion Matthews

dom kane by ffion matthews

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“You forget how you used to get lost in the streets” – Helen

helen-di-duca

I came to Cardiff through one last ditched attempt at following a dream.

Everyone around me knew what they wanted to do with their life and I thought I did as well. This is a normal reaction to being told you are good at something, along with being asked what you want to be when you’re older. I had my heart set on being a dancer. I began training and travelled around England and then the world chasing this dream until I landed in Cardiff on the UWIC Dance BA (Hons) Degree.

I can’t admit to knowing what hitting rock bottom feels like, although my first few weeks in Cardiff definitely came close. I didn’t know anyone, I’d left my job, I was living with people I couldn’t connect with and a romance had ended. This was not the best start to university life and what should have been the beginnings of much happier time.

It became apparent I had to stop wallowing and deal with the situation the best I could. I made an effort to meet people and formed new friendships, and a new romance was sparked. Things started to fall into place and I was excited it was going to be played out in Cardiff.

Skip forward two years through a fire, starting a new job, a broken foot, and many fancy dress parties. I was offered the opportunity to programme a dance evening as part of the Made in Roath arts festival. I suddenly realised that my passion for dance didn’t necessarily mean it had to be in a performance capacity. I now know that even if performance is not for me I can support others in their dreams to perform. Arts management and programming is my new answer to what I want to do with my life.

I love the city and not just because it is where I found my feet. There are so many quirky cafes, pub and restaurants to waste a free afternoon or evening in. Tea and Cake, The Pen and Wig and Daiquiris are among some of my favourite. I could list a number of places in Cardiff worth a mention or visit.

You know you have found your place when there is a sigh of relief on your return back there. You forget how you used to get lost in its streets, as navigating one side of the city to the other becomes second nature. Both of these apply to me and I have learnt that you can dream but be prepared for it to change direction! For now I am happy in Cardiff and think I will be staying for the foreseeable future. Providing my new dream doesn’t change direction!

Helen Di Duca lives in Cyncoed, previously to that Roath and Heath. She harbours an unhealthy addiction to watching YouTube videos and consuming large amounts of Thai green curry. As well as being in her final year of university she works at the CIA and love contributing to arts projects in her spare time.

Helen was photographed in Royal Arcade by Amy Davies

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“I’ve poured more emotion, grit and passion into the city in four short years than I thought possible” – Hannah

hannah-waldram-web
In Cardiff I have lived, and lived I have.

Cardiff has been at the centre of possibly one of the most exciting times in my life.

Although it’s presumptuous to say so as I’m only 24 – I suppose I might have to wait a long time to I find out – but it certainly feels like the city has propelled me through an important and formative period.

My first memories of Cardiff were a rainy road trip for a university open day in my late teens – despite being a Birmingham lass, the open spaces and Civic Centre made the city feel huge and grand – a memory of a lecturer speaking about the acclaimed School of Journalism was imprinted on my brain throughout my time editing the student newspaper at Bristol University. I applied for the course during my last year at Bristol – and moved into a house with three assertive and curious journalism students on Donald Street in Roath.

Fresh out of Bristol – where students live in ridiculously pricey Edwardian houses closer to organic delis and wine bars than off-licences and hardware stores – Albany Road was a dream. It mirrored more of the ethnic diversity of Birmingham – it felt relaxed, cool and homely.

Penarth was my news ‘patch’; I made regular trips past the tinkytonk castle, cutting through Grangetown to get to the little seaside hilly village. Sunny days were spent walking along the pier talking to wrinkled sun-soakers, rainy days running in the dark to get to town council meetings and eating tuna sandwiches in Windsor arcade inbetween.

As a trainee journalist, I got to know the geography of Cardiff pretty quickly – how you can be thrown out of the city by getting onto the wrong link road in Cardiff Bay, how to navigate the gridded backstreets of Splott. I made the move from east to west Cardiff in 2010 – unbeknown to me at the time I was joining a foray of frenzied media types in my little terraced house which straddles the tiny loggerhead wards of Canton and Riverside (known locally as Pontcanna).

According to journalisted.com I’ve written more than 1,000 articles since July 2008 – all involving Cardiff people – finding out more about the city and what makes it tick.

I’ve visited a Cardiff jester whose Facebook-famous ferrets had escaped, walked around Canton with the council’s chief executive, filmed the unveiling of a new nose for the anteater on the animal wall, helped a young lady get a disabled parking bay on Womanby Street, been out with the Cardiff Street Pastors on new Year’s Eve, learnt how to knit, tried out the new white water rafting centre, ran the Cardiff half marathon, sat in more council meetings in County and City Hall than I can remember….

I’ve let the charm of Cardiffian phrases seep into my vocabulary, chatted to crooners from Tiger Bay on the bus, I have struggled with the rain which seems to come up from the ground, tottered in heels down St Mary Street, cycled through Bute Park with my eyes closed, cried, laughed, cheered and loved. In truth I’ve poured more emotion, grit and passion into the city in four short years than I thought humanly possible, and the result will be with me, and Cardiff I hope, forever.

Thanks to everyone whose made this time so valuable – you’ve deepened the imprint of a dragon-shaped stamp on my heart.

Hannah Waldram is the Guardian beatblogger in Cardiff. Birmingham born and bred, Hannah started up a website for her hometown called BournvilleVillage.com and continued blogging and running social media surgeries before coming to Cardiff. In her spare time enjoys all things dance.

Hannah was photographed at Cardiff City Hall by Adam Chard

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