“Cardiff, it has been the most wonderful dream” – Sarah

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When I first came to Cardiff on a University open day in 2007, rain soaked and fearful, I never expected that this would be the place that I would make my home. At the time I thought that Cardiff was just a place to study, and that after my undergraduate degree, I would move back to my real ‘home’.

And yet, four years later, I have fallen head over heels with Cardiff, and it is a love affair that looks set to continue as I have just accepted an offer of a postgraduate diploma in Broadcast Journalism right here in this beautiful city.

You see, after four wonderful years, Cardiff has become my true home. That may sound cliché, but it’s absolutely true.

In this city I have lived my life, and become an adult. I have gained my independence, experienced freedom for the first time, and learned how to cook.

In this city I have loved. I have held hands under the neon glare of Winter Wonderland, shared whispered dreams for the future and danced in the arms of lovers.

In this city I have explored. I have wandered through kitsch, rambling arcades, sought bargains and eaten strange foods in new restaurants. I have lost myself in the winding terraced streets of Cathays, and I have rowed on Roath Lake.

In this city I have laughed. I have made great friends, shared experiences and cried over good-byes. I have lounged in Bute Park, celebrated birthdays and said met some wonderful strangers.

In this city I have been inspired. I have marvelled at the beautiful University buildings, and stared in awe at the war memorial. I have been a journalist and I have let this city sculpt the experiences that I write about.

I have worked, played and learnt so much more about the kind of life that I want to have. And I have been very lucky to do all of that right here.

Cardiff, it has been the most wonderful dream. Thank you.

Sarah Powell graduated from Cardiff University in 2010, and has since spent a year working as Head of Student Media and gair rhydd Editor at Cardiff University Students’ Union. She is due to spend next year studying Broadcast Journalism, and generally contemplating whether life will exist without gair rhydd. She currently lives in Cathays, where she spends a lot of time drinking tea and trying to write. You can find her on twitter @sarah_powell.

Sarah was photographed in the gair rhydd offices in Cardiff University’s Student Union by Adam Chard

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“Riverside? Why do you wanna live round there?” – John

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Clare Place doesn’t exist.

On all correspondence, my address reads Clare Street. None of the walls of my house are on Clare Street. My front door leads out to Clare Place. My back door leads out to my back yard, my back yard leads out onto Clare Place. When I applied for a residents’ parking permit, Cardiff City Council’s highway department offered me a permit for Clare Street. I told them I lived off Clare Street, on Clare Place.  If I leave my bins outside the front of my house, on the pavement of Clare Place, they do not get collected, they only pick up from Clare Street. I have become the main food supply to seagulls that – as a result of the non-bin collection – have nested on my bedroom windowsill.

I discovered seagulls don’t sleep. One seagull swooped down, flapped his wings in my face, and snatched a bacon sandwich from my hand as I was closing the front door behind me.  Now I take the bins to Clare Street.

When I book a taxi, I tell them, 37b Clare Place. “Do you have a postcode?” CF12 6CE, I tell them. “OK, a taxi will be with you in ten minutes”. Thirty minutes later I ring Capital Cabs asking them where my taxi is. The taxi driver had waited outside 37b Clare Street for fifteen minutes, and then left.

My council tax bill is addressed to Jackson David, 37b Clare Place.

When a native picks up on my Valleys’ accent, they think I commute. “Long way to travel isn’t it. Haven’t you got any hospitals in the Valleys?” I tell them that there are plenty of hospitals in the Valleys; I also tell them that I have lived in Riverside for seven years. “Bit rough round there innit” followed by “lots of ethnics” and finally “why do you wanna live round there?”

I tell them the rent is cheap, there is a great community spirit, it’s a five minute walk to the city centre, train and bus station and – just for fun – it’s the new Shoreditch.

Riverside is a triangle; the base, Fitzhammon Embankment, running parallel with the River Taff and overlooked by the Millennium Stadium. On Sundays the embankment is transformed. You can buy ostrich burgers farmed in Tenby, organic potatoes from Llanrumney, and oysters from Tonypandy at the Riverside Real Farmers Market. It is a great place to catch the  First Minister of the National Assembly mingling with his voters who have cycled down Cathedral Road from Pontcanna. Every other day of the week, you can hang out on the embankment with the destitute, prostitutes and seagulls at drunk corner.

Two roads, Tudor Road and Cowbridge Road East, then lead off opposite ends of the embankment and come together and join at Riverside Primary school. A mural on the school wall depicts children from various nations holding hands in and the words, “We all live together in Riverside.”

The first time I switched the television set on in Clare Place the screen showed blue skies, then a plane smashed into one of the twin towers. I thought it was a movie. One week later I was awoken at three am by screams. I pulled back my coverless duvet, opened the curtains and witnessed fourteen Cardiff hoodies being chased by the restaurant staff of the Riverside Cantonese who were waving machetes. I thought they were shooting a film.

“So where exactly in Riverside do you live boy?” I try my best to explain to the patient as I wash his balls. Does he know the mad house? “Nope”.

In 1984, Gerald Tobin became so frustrated with a dispute he had with Cardiff Council that he started to put banners up outside his house. He then barricaded himself in. The house was mentioned in Matthew Collins’ Blimey as a piece of outsider art, Tobin had depicted a picture of Munch’s Scream on one of his boards. My favourite board has the slogan “Nightmare on Clare Street”. His house is now totally covered in boards. You sometimes forget that there is someone living there. From my bedroom window I get to see what he has written on the flat roof of his kitchen. “Tony Blair You are the Devil’s Spawn” is a treat only few of us Riverside residents get to see. I feel special every morning when I open my curtains, until a seagull pecks at the window and stares blankly at my bloodshot eye. So I asked him why, why here? He replies, “It’s the new Shoreditch”.

Do you know Backpackers? “Nope, but my back needs a good scratch.” I look at his moles and his psoriasis, and reach for the latex gloves. I double up. What about Club Rumours?

On the weekend, the seagulls are quiet. It is peaceful until five am, when drunks leave Club Rumours. Glass bottles smash on the pavements, arguments between lovers are muffled by my pillows, friends singing Abba medleys and the slurp of tongues diving into another’s throat flow through my not-very double glazing. I realise why the seagulls are quiet on the weekend. They go to sea.

The tetraplegic in the bed opposite shouts through the curtains, “You know, Bill, the parachute club, guaranteed to get a jump.”  Bill laughs and coughs up black mucus. “Pass me one of them sputum pots, they wants to take a sample”. I wonder what for. Bill has cancer of the brain, lungs, heart, lymph nodes and lower intestine. I have no idea why they need to do any more tests. Then my foot kicks over a sputum pot under the bed that he has been collecting, and so I wipe the spit off my Vans (all the other nurses wear Crocs, but I wear Vans) with the soiled sheets that I have just removed from underneath his nakedness.

Well, have you seen the ambulance that’s permanently parked in-between a hearse and an old British Telecom’s van, complete with the fading image of Busby the bird on the side? “Nope”. Well. That’s where I live.

I fall asleep listening to the seagulls having a quiet conversation about the sub-standard food waste. “Riverside is changing for the worse”. Then lights dance around the bedroom, a real ambulance pulls up outside the old ambulance. Out jumps a prostitute, screaming “e’s fuckin dying, he’s ‘aving an overdose, do something!” I climb out of my bed, my feet are freezing on the trendy wooden floorboards, I make a mental note, again, to buy a nice Persian rug from Grangetown Ikea. The floorboards creek underneath my feet, and the gulls turn around and stare. I tip toe to the window, open it, an articulated lorry rumble-shakes the picture of Johnny Cash on wall above the dresser that was left by the prior tenant,  and shout at the prostitute who now has blood sprouting from her ears to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

“E’s dying man, for fuck sake e’s dying.” Then the boyfriend / pimp walks out of the ambulance holding their crackhead dog (that has frightened my cat into living in the airing cupboard). “It’s too late, e’s gone.”

The real ambulance back doors slam hard. The Johnny Cash picture gives in and jumps from the wall. The paramedics stare up at me, shaking their heads. The prostitute stares at me, the pimp stares at me; all shaking their heads, the gulls stare at me. Problem? I shout, and slam the window, close the pink curtains, and catch a glimpse of my naked body in the long wardrobe mirror.

“You know the ‘ouse of taboo, Bill,” slurs the five day old stroke victim from the cubicle. “Aye,” says Bill. “Well he lives next door to the ‘ouse of taboo.” Bill turns onto his back, looks down at his clean crotch, “I have that licked a few times in the ‘ouse of taboo.” I hear a buzzer from the other four bedder and throw Bill a gown, get dressed I better get that. “Oy don’t leave me here all alone and cold.”  I open the curtains, the tetraplegic stares at me, “Better get the buzzer boyo, hurry along.”

The automatic doors don’t automatically open. I slide them apart. Pull out a cigarette and borrow a light from a patient sheltering from the rain. Thanks, I say to him. He puts his pointing finger over the hole of his tracheotomy, “No problems”. I walk away from the University Hospital and head to my house in a street that doesn’t exist, while not contemplating any other professions.

John Davies has moved to Cardiff three times – in 1999, 2001, and 2010 (the last two times, he’s moved back to the same house in Riverside). John performs under the name John Mouse, and is a self employed music promoter. He is married with two young children and supports Swansea City.

John was photographed in Riverside by Adam Chard

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Invitation: Big Little City closing party, Friday 22 July 2011

We Are Cardiff has been taking part in Big Little City in the Cardiff Story Museum. We’ve been happy and proud to have been a part of this wonderful project, and want to send big ups to organisers Dan Green and Marc Heaton.

Big Little City will be drawing to a close next week, and to celebrate the project, there will be a closing party taking place at the Cardiff Story museum.

We’d love for you to join us there, between 5.30pm – 8.30pm on Friday 22 July

Info from BLC:

It’s been an amazing journey and we really want to go out with a bang. We have entertainment in the shape of Elemental ForceSUP and their youth development project Get Fresh and we may have some more special guests on the night too. Entry is free to all – so please forward this to anyone you think may be interested.

You can RSVP at the Facebook event page by clicking here.

Find out more and get involved at biglittlecity.com

Dan & Marc
contact@bigittlecity.com

Remember to tag all your BigLittleCity tweets and blog posts #blcity

“In Cardiff, if you do well you’re celebrated” – Jo

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I don’t have any Welsh roots as such. I’m a West Country girl born and bred although my Dad is a Londoner via Yorkshire… it’s complicated. Anyway, my Grandfathers last partner Frances was a full on Welsh wonder woman from mid-Wales who did the best burnt cooked breakfast ever and had a large collection of brass things in the living room of their London terraced house. She had a huge family who we visited a few times. I remember them being very rowdy and a good laugh. I’d also been on numerous holidays to Wales and once ran away from a man conversing to me in Welsh at the Eisteddfod. I was eight at the time and not prepared for a well-meaning Welsh man talking to me in a scary foreign language. It never occurred to me that I’d one day be calling the Welsh capital my home.

When I first started visiting Cardiff I was rather nonplussed about the city. At the time my best friend had moved away from Bristol and I was visiting her where she was living in Cathays in early 2008. St Mary Street did nothing for me and I was very quick to base my whole impression of the city on one street – that and my best friend’s dodgy live-in landlord who was keen to show us his metallically enhanced todger. Everything changed when she moved to her own flat in Roath several months later and I saw a side of Cardiff that didn’t involve drunk scantily clad girls and genital piercings.

After spending some wonderful weekends checking out the local area in Roath, the fantastic choice of cafes and restaurants, a huge beautiful park and an overall happy relaxed feeling about the place it suddenly occurred to me that I was missing out in Bristol, big time. It was then that I came up with a cunning plan to finally go to university which allowed me to avoid the issue of finding a new job and enabling me to move to Cardiff with a porpoise, I mean purpose. As a keen artist and musician I decided that a Media Studies degree would be a good idea. I still don’t understand my logic and spent many a night sobbing into the never ending pages of media theory. Putting on my best puppy eyes my friend took me in and I’ve been living in her compact flat near Albany Road ever since.

In the short space of time living in Cardiff I don’t think I’ve ever had so many fantastic opportunities. I get asked – asked! – to show my artwork. I get asked to play paid gigs. My blog even made it to the final of the Wales Blog Awards in 2010. Things like that don’t happen in Bristol. You’re either part of the scene or you’re an outsider. If you’re an outsider you have to work 200% to get involved with anything. In Cardiff if you do well you’re celebrated. In Bristol if you do well you’re criticized. I am an incredibly shy person and in a cold, hostile environment I can’t get out of myself. There’s a friendly feeling about Cardiff which has really had an effect on me. I feel comfortable which means I can take steps into areas unimaginable before.

Last year I decided that Cardiff was where I wanted to be indefinitely. Have I changed my mind this year? Of course not! It’s Cardiff all the way for me!

Jo Whitby started making music in 1995, admittedly her first song was about Christmas trees but she’s grown a lot since then. Teaching drums for a few years in Bristol Jo then wandered over the second Severn crossing (not the first one) in 2008 and started a new musical project called Laurence Made Me Cry. She gave birth in 2009 to an illustration business called I Know Jojo which she saw as a good excuse to draw characters from Doctor Who. Jo is also co-founder of the music and culture webzine Cat On The Wall. She currently lives in Roath.

Jo was photographed outside The Gate by Adam Chard

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One year of We Are Cardiff!

Today, We Are Cardiff celebrates its first birthday! We’d like to extend thanks to everyone who has taken part in the project – telling their Cardiff story, taking photographs for the project, visiting the website to read the stories, coming along to see our exhibition at Big Little City

We’re overwhelmed with how successful the project has been, and we hope you’ve enjoyed it so far. There’s a lot still to come from the residents of Cardiff, so stay tuned!

What to do now?

See our first ever We Are Cardiff story – published exactly a year ago – from Neil Cocker: “Cardiff is a city in flux. And has been since the day I got here”

Want to see what our most read story has been? Find it here

Look through the archives by neighbourhood:

Visit our sister sites:

San Francisco, California: ilivehere:SF

Sydney, Australia: We Live Here: Sydney

Portland, Oregon: I Live Here:PDX

Ottowa, Canada: Hello Ottawa

Seattle, Washington: I Live Here:Seattle

Bemidji, Minnesota: This is my town: Bemidji

And if you haven’t shared your Cardiff story yet, now’s the perfect time! Get in touch with us on wearecardiff@gmail.com. Our only criteria is that you’re a Cardiff resident – with something you want to say about your city!

“In Cardiff: from student, to teacher, to mother” – Laura

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I live in Cardiff with my husband and our little girl, Ada who will be turning two in October. I moved here in 1999 from Derbyshire to study at Cardiff University and have lived here ever since (if you overlook a short stay in Bristol while studying there in 2003). I studied for a Physics degree and then trained as a teacher (in Bristol). I chose to do my main teaching placement in Newport, to get back to Wales, which lead to my first job at the same school.

Cardiff is a city all of my own, which none of my family know. I first lived in Talybont halls of residence, then moved to Roath as a student, working in the Woodville (The Woody) and revising in Roath Park. Now I have moved over the river to Canton to escape my student roots and bring up a family.

I have studied here, worked here and met my best friends are here. I met my husband here and have had my first baby here (at home in our bathroom!) I proudly say I am from Cardiff where ever I go in the world, and tell people about this lovely little capital city.

As I mentioned, I got my first job in Newport, teaching, which proved to be too much for me as a shy 23 year old so I decided to give myself a break, handed in my notice and amazingly got the most perfect job at the University of Wales Newport. I ended up working with schools but not stuck in the classroom and it felt like a holiday for the first few weeks! After a year or so at UWN, I moved to the University of Glamorgan within the same project and am now the Science Co-ordinator for First Campus and still love every minute of it.

Because of the nature of my work, part of my experience of Cardiff and the surrounding area has been through working in the local schools and universities. I have visited the tiniest valleys schools, where Cardiff really is the ‘big city’, and also worked in inner city schools where the kids are far tougher than I will ever be. Nevertheless, I have found all of the people I meet to be totally welcoming, proud to be Welsh but happy to accept me as an honorary Welsh-woman.

Socially I have been lucky enough to fulfil the life long dream of singing in a band (or three). I paired up with an ex-boyfriend to become Silence at Sea – this is also how I met my husband, he was a groupie and then ended up joining the band! I was then invited to sing with the lovely Little My and also with the prolific Pagan Wanderer Lu. We performed in Dempsey’s, Barfly (RIP), Clwb Ifor Bach, Bar Europa (RIP), Toucan Club (when on Clifton Street), Chapter in Cardiff and many more places including Bristol and London. The music scene in Cardiff is just amazing and I am so happy to have been part of it…I have taken a little step back since having a baby…

Now that I am a mother, I have discovered another side to Cardiff; the abundance of activities, venues and child friendly places where a new, first time mum can go and sit, meet other new mums and feel supported, rather than totally lost and overwhelmed by your new situation. I met one of my closest mum-friends through ‘Buggy Fit’ an exercise class where you run around with your baby in their pushchair, getting lots of stares and confused looks from passers-by! Chapter has gone from an evening social hang-out to a great place to meet other mums for a drink and a chat about babies; Thompson Park is the best place for feeding ducks in Canton, and Victoria Park has swings and at least three slides for little ones to try out once they find their toddler feet. Not to leave out Roath, this is where you can find Cafe Junior, where it’s easy to hang out with friends while little ones run around, that is my life at the moment…from student, to teacher, to mother.

I am now learning Welsh (my first exam is this week) and my daughter will be attending a local Welsh language school. I am definitely not planning on leaving Cardiff any time soon…

Laura Roberts is 31, mother to Ada and wife to David. She has worked at Duffryn High School, Newport; University of Wales, Newport and is currently the STEM Coordinator for First Campus based at the University of Glamorgan. She lives in Canton where she has bought a house with her husband is currently trying to decorate it as well as look after Ada, their two cats and three chickens. Laura enjoys playing sudoku, reading science fiction novels, watching films, listening to music, sewing and baking.

Laura was photographed at Cardiff University’s Physics Department by Adam Chard

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