I came to Cardiff in 2005 – I’d lived in Newport since 2003, being at university there. True to its name as the little capitol city, the first house I lived in was the same one that Dirty Sanchez used to film their first series in. One night we all went into the basement to find their names burnt into the floor beams surrounded by pentagons. But that’s just one of the many crazy Cardiff stories that you’ll find all Cardiffians have, about the famous people and places we encounter on a daily basis.
For me Cardiff is a place where you can be who you really are, no judgement, no fear. It’s a massive pleasure to see Cardiff bloom creatively, to see what has always been a small but diverse community, now recognised further afield for the potential it has, and it’s down to this zeitgeist Cardiff offers artists.
Personally, Cardiff has helped me evolve as an artist in innumerable ways. I knew I loved film and I knew I loved making clothes but I’d never put the two together until I moved to Cardiff. It was Cardiff that brought these things in my life together, like some mystical force – and I realised that I wanted to work on costumes in films. I’d see Doctor Who out on location, would recognise various Cardiff locations on screen and like most people, it seemed magical that I could make the fictional world real. Working here for five years now, I’d say I’ve become part of the Cardiff independent filmmaking circuit.
I guess most people see costume as two things: superhero outfits and big period dresses with wigs and fans. It’s so much more than that and the industry in Cardiff definitely recognises that. I’ve met people here who believe in the same things as me: living here and working here. I work all over Cardiff and the surrounding areas, and take great pleasure in contributing to the creative output Cardiff is so well known for.
I’ve shot all over Cardiff – in an abandoned quarry in Fairwater for the digital short “Magpie”, in the carpark underneath the Coal Exchange for the Iris Prize film “Boys Village” and even in City Hall, in the upstairs marble hall with Rutger Hauer, over one night in May for “The Reverend”. Some cynics might say that most films made in Cardiff come from elsewhere: big companies with money looking to film somewhere cheaper than London. Those cynics are wrong. Yes, we welcome the big productions, they bring the chance for us to prove Wales has so much to offer. But I’ve also worked with some amazing local talent that want to make films about Wales, about their lives, and about Cardiff.
I’ve lived almost always in, or adjacent to Roath, and six years later, live around the corner from that first student house, affectionately titled “the dirty sanchez house”. It’s a wonderful area to be young, have children, or grow old. It’s the memory I often return to, of my first summer amble around Roath Park, to the boating lake with friends that made me realise this was the place for me.
I love Roath for Wellfield Road’s Christmas lights, for walking my dog in Waterloo Gardens, and watching him chase (or rather attempt to) squirrels, I love Roath for the fabric shops which in my line of business being a walkable distance away is impossibly helpful. I love Roath for the multicultural mix that never seems cliche, pretentious, or threatening: just open and welcoming. On City Road you can walk ten paces and go from Mexican to Lebanese to traditional or super modern interpretations of tandoori classics.
Testament to Cardiff’s “big little city” tag, you can shoot a city landscape, drive fifteen minutes and be in the rolling countryside – but, as I often need to pop off set to grab something, like a pair of socks, or a cup of coffee, its nice to know you’re not far from civilisation and in Roath’s case, about 100 paces from any given Tesco!
I read recently that Roath was the new Pontcanna. My friends from Pontcanna weren’t convinced, but thanks to Made In Roath, The Gate, and Milgi there’s a really strong creative cultural atmosphere beginning to settle here. There’s always been an artistic atmosphere, but little output for creatives to showcase their work. Now, with Milkwood and Sho galleries which are literally around the corner from many of its patrons, it feels like our art is on show. It’s a genuine community, and you walk into Milgi knowing you’re likely to see someone you know within five minutes. Made In Roath festival gives people the chance to visit locals and see their art in their houses: a new and inventive exhibition style. I urge anyone who hasn’t been to the open houses before, to come along this year and see for yourself what Roath has to offer.
As for the big screen – keep your eyes peeled, you’re more likely than ever to see a part of Cardiff you might recognise.
Zoe is a costume designer living and working in Cardiff. Originally from Yorkshire she came to Wales for university and stayed for love. Last year she worked with people from all walks of life – from Jean Claude Van Damme to Denise Welch (you can watch this in “Loserville” – one of Zoe’s projects – very soon on BBC Wales). In her spare time, Zoe likes to pamper her dog, George, and runs a small dog clothing company called dogtailor.
Zoe was photographed on Albany Road in Roath by Simon Ayre
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