“I don’t think things would have worked out if I wasn’t living in this brilliant city” – Alex


I moved to Cardiff when I was 18. All I wanted to do was leave home and get out into the world on my own, and university seemed like the best way to do this. I’m not sure why but Cardiff had always appealed to me, long before I’d even visited the place. I still to this day have no idea why that was.

From a young age I have been obsessed with film, mainly horror and fantasy but I’ll pretty much watch anything. I was watching films that should have sent me running and hiding, but from talking to my sister (the main culprit for letting me watch them) I was absolutely fascinated by them. The creatures and effects I was seeing on the screen captivated me. I went to my local college with the intention of getting into the world of special effects make-up, however I was shot down by a tutor who told me it was a pipedream and that it was completely unrealistic as a real career path. This “advice” sent me into the direction of graphic design but it was never truly what I wanted to do.

I was miserable, I disliked everything about what I was doing and I really needed to change my situation or forever think “what if?”. So I decided to have a go at getting into special effects make-up with a real “now or never” attitude and I haven’t looked back since!

I started doing special effects at home while learning the basics of make up at a local college. I’m my own biggest critic when it comes to my work but I knew I was doing something right when I uploaded the first pictures of my make-up to Facebook and I had a barrage of texts/calls/emails asking if I was ok. This carried on for a few months; experimenting at home, reading books and watching tutorials online and my passion began to grow into almost an obsession!! I realised this was my true vocation.

Probably the biggest thing to me career-wise was when I entered a competition with the Stan Winston School of Character Arts (only after a bit of arm-twisting from friends). The competition was for a zombie artwork/make-up and the unexpected happened – and I won! It was the first thing I had ever won of this nature and I was totally blown away by it all. My work was reviewed by Greg Nicotero who has worked on some incredible films but at the moment is most well known for his work on The Walking Dead…. And he liked it! It was like a dream come true.

Since then it’s been pretty non-stop for me, working on local projects with some amazingly talented people such as 441 films. I also have work coming up on a slasher movie being filmed in south Wales and a music video where I will be turning about 30 people into zombies and letting them loose on a local band by the name of Inhalite.

My knowledge is what I would consider basic in the world of special effects but I’m determined to carry on learning and developing, I send emails everyday to various companies and people asking them for even a few hours of work experience even if it’s just making tea or letting them use me to experiment make-up techniques on. Hopefully one day an opportunity will arise.

Cardiff has such a strong creative community and I don’t think things would have worked out like they have so far for me if it wasn’t for the fact I was living in this brilliant city. The fact is you’re only a short walk away from seeing something creatively amazing be it some graffiti on a club’s wall, a poster outside a shop or a local band doing a set in a small bar down a side lane, the city is full of artistic influence and no matter what happens with my career I’ll always happily say this is where it all began.

Alex Harper is a make-up artist working from his house in the heart of Cardiff. You can contact him and see more of his work at Facebook. He currently lives in Adamsdown.

Alex was photographed in front of the National Museum in Cardiff by Adam Chard




We Are Cardiff invites you to Roath Rocks – 4 May, The Gower Pub Roath

Wouldn’t you know it. Our wonderful friend Wayne Courtney is throwing us a fundraiser to try and raise some cash for the We Are Cardiff: Portrait of A City film that we’re making! The party is taking place at the Gower Pub in Roath as part of the Roath Rocks Weekend. It’s on Friday 4th May – there’s a raffle with some amazing prizes – and YOU are all invited!

Friday 4 May
The Gower Pub, Roath
6pm til late

Line up for the night:
– Hullaballo
– The Fflip Fflops
– Calum Ross & The Scarlets.
Also making special appearances that night will be Hobo Bogweed and comic duo The Chicago Boys.


We also have a pretty amazing raffle as part of our fundraising … check out the list of prizes below!

A bottle of champagne (courtesy of EstatesDirect Cardiff)
A 60 minute treatment + spa voucher (value £50) (courtesy of City Marshall Massage Therapy)
A rare first issue of Blown magazine (courtesy of Blown)
Five free zumba classes (courtesy of Sarah Sen)
Two amazing plush toy robots from Milkwood gallery (courtesy of Milkwood Gallery)
Photography session and stills (courtesy of Pontcanna Photo)
2 tickets to any Indigo Live event (shows listed below, courtesy of Indigo Live)

So get yourselves down to the Gower Pub in Roath on Friday 4 May, and have yourselves a fun evening – win some prizes – and help us raise money to make our film!

The Gower Pub, 29 Gwennyth Street, Roath (click here for the map)

Join the Facebook event for the night here


Indigo Live are passionate music fans first, and promoters second. As Indigo Live is not a commercial venture, but a labour of love, it enables us to have a diverse booking policy so that we are not limited by genre, venue, or demographic. Cardiff has a very vibrant and diverse music scene which is seeing a resurgence in local Welsh talent. Where possible we always seek to add local supports to touring artists/bands in order to generate exposure or introduce the band/s to a new audience. There will always be a place for live music in Cardiff, and Indigo Live in its small way is looking forward to playing a part in promoting the city, its culture and music.
Indigo Live is offering 2 free tickets to one show of their choice from the following:
An Audience with Howard Marks | The Gate, Cardiff | 12 May | 16+ show
Keep it Cash w/Rusty Shackle | The Globe, Cardiff | 12 May | 14+ show
Said The Whale | Buffalo Bar, Cardiff | 20 May | 18+ show
Mark Morriss/Chris Helme | Clwb Ifor Bach | 24 May | 14+ Show
The Christians | The Globe, Cardiff | 25 May | 14+ show
Fossil Collective w/Paper Aeroplanes | Clwb Ifor Bach | 6 June | 14+ show

ESTATES DIRECT – the 0% Commission Agent
At EstatesDirect we charge a fair fixed fee to sell or let your property.  To see how much you could save and find out more please visit our website.
EstatesDirect Cardiff is owned and run by Paul and Helen Walters. We pride ourselves on offering excellent customer service throughout your property sale or let, from the initial FREE valuation, through to viewings and finally the sale or let of your property. We are local to Cardiff, and will offer expert advice on marketing your property to its greatest potential and to as many targeted buyers and tenants as possible.

blown magazine is cultural intelligence from Wales, wrapped in a super glossy format full of pictures to make your jaw drop and writing from established heavyweights and emerging new talent: Art, performance, literature, music, fashion and photography. It’s distributed to Tooting, Toronto and Tokyo; Newport to New York and Sydney and Swansea. Produced with passion and sheer derring-so from the blown  Bunker (aka Chapter). Issue two has sold out but we have a few rare copies of issue one and issue three is on its way. Find us on facebook and on our (soon to be redeveloped) web site www.blownmag.com.

City Marshall
is located in the heart of Queen St and has been voted by Wahanda as the Best Therapeutic Massage practice in Wales. It offers 18 therapies and every session is individually tailor made. Enjoy free use of their luxury spa and gym facilities with every treatment. City Marshall is located on the First Floor of Vitality Health Club
8-16 Park Place, Opposite The Parc Hotel and next to Henry’s Bar – Cardiff City Centre CF10 3DN. Call or Text: 07502 104 339. City Marshall website  Find City Marshall on Face Book
see a detailed street map here

Sarah Sen – Zumba!

Sarah’s Zumba classes have been running for over two years, and are a great deal of fun whilst also gaining fitness benefits. Zumba is a Latin inspired dance fitness regime and takes flavours from all kinds of music internationally. It is exercise in disguise which is why many people have joined the classes whom may never have done fitness previously. And more importantly, they keep coming back for more. Classes in Cardiff are Monday and Thursday 7.45-8.45pm and Tuesday 7-8pm in Roath Park Primary. For more information, call Sarah on 07545 326650 or email her.


Behind the camera: Ffion Matthews

You may have noticed that the We Are Cardiff website features some rather wonderful photography. We’ve decided to run a series of posts introducing you to our photographers, who volunteer their time to keep this website looking as amazing as possible. For our first post, please meet the lovely Ffion Matthews!

Give us one reason why Cardiff is an ace place to live

There are so many reasons Cardiff is great, but the one thing everyone always tells me, and I completely agree, is that it is such a friendly city!

Favourite place to eat out in Cardiff

Oh gosh! There’s so many to choose from Mezza Luna on City Road to Bayside Brasserie. But one food that I just can’t resist is Mexican, and thanks to Las Iguanas (Centre and Bay) I can feed my addiction at any point! But Cardiff has so many great places to eat, I hope to go to Patagonia (Canton) soon as I hear such fantastic things about it.

Favourite shop in Cardiff

I don’t often go shopping, but when I do, I head straight to our historic arcades, losing myself in all it offers, and can’t resist visiting and playing dress-up in A Vintage Affair. Upstairs there is a whole playground of hats, shoes and other amazing vintage clothes, I could spend all day there!

Favourite Cardiff venue

I have a couple of favourite venues for different reasons. Gwdihw is great for an intimate (and sometimes crazy) gig, which also offers board games, comedy nights and great beer. Ten Feet Tall offer a mean cocktail. And Undertone right next to it for a long night of dancing – great things come in small packages!

Best Cardiff memory

I think one of my fondest memories is before I moved to Cardiff. For my 16th birthday, my brother bought us tickets to see Incubus at the then called CIA, he lived in Splott at the time so I stayed for the weekend and loved ever minute of it!

Book/s you’re reading at the moment

At the moment I am swamped in research for a piece I’m writing, all regarding the phases of postmodernism, feminism and female artists. I think you’d all rather me not bombard you with my readings 😉 Go Girl Power!

Film/s you’ve recently seen

I’m usually a bit of a film buff, but I haven’t watched many recently (now with all my feminism books taking over), and certainly not many good ones. I have Sin Nombre lined up though, which I have high hoped for!

Some of my fav/recommended films:
The Orphanage
This Is England
Let the right one in
City Of God
Mulholland Drive
Pan’s Labyrinth
Spirited Away

Band/s you’re into atm

After going to a gig at 10 Feet Tall to see Golden Fable, a friend of mine who performs as Elephant and Soldier was supporting them. Having never seen him perform before, I was absolutely blown away by his voice. So if you are into acousticy, gruffly voice that you can lose yourself in, check him out.

What’s your one Cardiff secret you’ll let us into?

I’m still searching for my secret spot. Having lived her for about three and a half years now, I’m actually still finding my feet to an extent. Every new place I go feels like a hidden gem, I always ask myself “How did I not know of this place before?” and then often it becomes a favourite; like Gwdihw, Undertone, the arcades, the beautiful surrounding villages and towns. I adore the fact that I can go from the busy city centre, to a fantastic quiet country walk around Garth Woods, stopping off at Gwaelod Y Garth Inn for a cheeky pit stop. So I think there is more to Cardiff than I know, I’m still learning, and loving this place more and more as I go along.

Any projects you’re working on at the mo you want to big up…?

At the moment most of my time and focus is being put into my degree, which leaves little time to manage my own work. But I will be displaying my latest project at an Exhibition at the Riverfront, Newport from the 23-25th of May.

What camera do you use? Any favoured lenses for portrait photoshoots like the We Are Cardiff shoots?

At the moment I have a Canon 450D which I mainly use, but looking to upgrade it soon. I also have a beautiful Mamiya RB67, and Nikon FG-20 that I don’t use as often for the simple reason of that in this digital world it takes precious time to develop/print/scan nowadays. Although I do still love using them, but more for personal projects than anything else.

Most memorable We Are Cardiff photoshoot

I have enjoyed every single shoot I have done for We Are Cardiff; it is always so interesting to meet such a variety of different people. But I think my most memorable has to be photographing the lovely burlesque dancer, Cherrie Pips at 10 Feet Tall. Never had I shot a burlesque dancer before, and she was such a pleasure to be around, and made even more interesting with my lighting equipment failing and having to think on my feet. Luckily for me she was fantastic about the whole thing and I don’t think we stopped laughing the whole way through!

Thanks Ffion! More about Ffion here: website / blog / twitter




We Are Cardiff on Facebook / Twitter @wearecardiff / We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City documentary

“Find yourself feeling very proud to be a Cardiffian” – Alistair

Alistair Stuart

My name is Alistair and this is my ode to Cardiff. Well, as close to an ode as an amateur like myself can get.

I have lived near or in Cardiff for most of my life. I grew up in Cowbridge, approximately 14 miles away, and in those hazy days of childhood, Cardiff was the proverbial “Big City”; shimmering (in places), noisy and just a little bit scary. Now I come to think of it, Cardiff has seen me through some pretty important junctures in my life. It has witnessed my darker days of dodgy student attire, misguided boyfriend selections and many a questionable home dye job! It has nurtured me through adolescence, the university years and now my current incarnation as a “young professional”- whatever that means!

The great thing about a place like Cardiff is that there is literally something for everyone. Granted, that is a worn-out expression, but in this case it truly applies. Whether you’re a lover of vintage goods, farmers markets, art house cinema, filthy nights out, fine food, not-so-fine food or shopping- oh! the shopping- Cardiff has it all. I know what you’re thinking; most cities in Britain do have it all these days, but my response to that is that not many other cities have achieved that elusive blend of cosmopolitan edge and homeliness that Cardiff has.

My partner and I recently began an illustration and design enterprise, the first few months of which were spent selling our wares at craft fetes and gift markets around the city. Despite the early mornings and lugging around of heavy boxes I was both thrilled and inspired by the amount on home-grown talent on show. I encourage every resident of Cardiff to visit the many events taking place around the city as much as possible – my particular favourite is the Joie de Vivre market at the Norwegian church which offers up a variety of Welsh-made products in one of the most charismatic venues in Cardiff.

Cardiff continues to evolve and, I think, improve; and whilst there are always emerging attractions there are also hidden gems that occasionally fling themselves into your path. Jacob’s Antique Market, Madame Fromage delicatessan and Milgi’s bar are all places I stumbled across by chance, invariably using the expression “How did I not know about this place sooner?” Now they are amongst my favourite haunts.

Of course, like most things in life, Cardiff is not all champagne and roses – it certainly has its dingier regions – but in all honesty our fair city would not be the same without them and their absence would detract from its eclectic charm. Waxing lyrical, you say? Yes, but I mean every word.

After reading this I hope you take a moment or two to wonder at the magnificence of our capital city, kick back with a cocktail (or your tipple of choice) and find yourself feeling very proud to be a Cardiffian.

Alistair Stuart is a freelance illustrator, avid dickie-bow wearer and proud parent of Slightly Wobbly Designs www.slightlywobbly.co.uk.  He lives with his boyfriend, Jonny, in Cardiff Bay.

Alistair was photographed at Madame Fromage in the Castle Arcade by Amy Davies.
See all the photos from Ali’s photoshoot on Amy’s blog.

Did you know that We Are Cardiff are making a film about our project? It’s about all the lovely things that happen in the city over the course of 2012. If you’re sick of bad press about the city, why not donate just £3 to help us make a lovely film we can all be proud of? Donate money here or check the film’s blog here




WATCH: We Are Cardiff – mini promo!

The awesome folks at Dangerous Doug Films have put together another little promo for our film! Aren’t they clever? They came to my house and did a mini interview with me about being the ‘mum’ of the project. There’s also some lovely music too from local artists Pagan Wanderer Lu and Ryland Evans.


Also we make mention of the fact that we are still fundraising for the film – so if you could spare some pennies to help us make it, we’d be TRULY AND FOREVERLY GRATEFUL! You can invest anything from £3 upwards – and of course you’ll get a reward for your money, from posters to few entry to our launch party! So head over to our Indiegogo fundraising page and donate!

“Volunteering gives a great sense of satisfaction and achievement” – David


I was born in Malta and spent my formative years in the West Country. I never expected to end up in Cardiff, but I have spent all my working and volunteering life in the city since 1996.

Equipped with a Master’s degree from Sussex University I began my new life here as a Social Scientist at Cardiff University. My existence as a young academic proved less than exhilarating so being a recent business graduate I decided to set up my own Cardiff-based security company. In order to accrue the relevant experience I embarked upon a series of assignments in a variety of private security companies in tandem with the odd specialist course. I took one-on-one boxing and martial arts classes under the auspices of my ex-military friends – who were already on “the circuit” – along with some close protection and surveillance courses.

Looking back this was an exciting time in a prosperous city and I was young and fearless. I worked as a bouncer at the Metro Bar in Charles Street for a while. Bizarrely this was with a Welsh friend who did the same degree as me when I was at Plymouth University a couple of years earlier. He had also gone on to do a Master’s making us the most educated bouncers in Cardiff with four degrees between us! John continues to manage the doors around Cardiff, despite earning a fair old whack as a Health & Safety Consultant, albeit with a black belt in Aikido. I was also a ‘bodyguard’ for a while working for media clients in Cardiff (which is not half as exciting as it sounds), a ‘private detective’ for a local solicitor (surveillance and serving writs) and even a ‘store detective’ in some of Cardiff’s most high risk shops (mainly arresting professional shoplifters in the city).

It quickly became clear that if I was ever to progress in the private security industry with the “right stuff” I would need some form of military experience. To that end I joined my local volunteer Territorial Army Unit for three years and went on to become a Cadet Instructor for a year. This was where the volunteer bug really took hold…

On doing a bit of research into local volunteering at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action’(WCVA, Fitzalan Place) I noticed that the Cardiff And Vale Rescue Association (CAVRA) were looking for volunteers right on my Cardiff Bay doorstep. The rest, as they
say, is history!

I started as a team member 10 years ago and have progressed up the ranks to a Trustee and Director. I knocked the idea of starting up a company on the head and paid the mortgage with a job at the Assembly. Though I would never be rich I would be making a difference to the local community doing something I loved – if only part-time. When money is not the motivation a different side of the human condition emerges…

CAVRA was founded in 1998 at a time when flooding was overwhelming the emergency services in Cardiff and the Vale. It is an entirely voluntary search and rescue organisation, and a registered charity. Our purpose is to provide back-up personnel and frontline assistance to the Emergency Services (Police, HM Coastguard etc) in a range of situations, including searches for missing persons, during times of adverse weather conditions, natural disaster or civil emergency. We are a lowland search and rescue unit specialising in flood and swift water rescue as well as recovery. At present CAVRA has around 30 volunteers. We are highly trained in First Aid and some of us have specialist skills in land search, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) rescue, dog handling and water rescue. We also have a Rescue Boat on permanent standby in Cardiff Bay.

Career highlights include receiving a volunteer of the year award in 2007 for getting police officers to work using 4x4s when the snow had closed most of the roads. I was also a Rescue Boat Medic when one of world’s most dangerous events the Motor Ski-ing Championships came to Cardiff Bay. I have previously been a Director of Training and Public Relations but my current role is Director of Aquatic Operations and Specialist Aquatic Body Recovery (SABR). I essentially fulfill four roles as a Rescue Boat Coxswain, rescue swimmer, medic and dog handler.

Bobby is my latest dog and the only dog I have trained in Search and Rescue. I rescued him myself from Croft Kennels in Bridgend. I was looking for a medium sized dog that I could train up as a Cadaver Dog. I ended up with a large boxer-cross who has an uncanny knack for finding the living! Boxers are not normally good search dogs but Bob is crossed with something (we don’t know what!), giving him some invaluable traits. Normally Search dogs are air sniffing tracker dogs trained to national standards.

Bob has been obedience trained externally but Search trained in-house (we also have Newfoundlands and St Bernards trained by our own dog trainers). He works as an off-lead Search and Return dog. If he senses something, or someone, who shouldn’t be in a given area he ‘points’ (snout down, right leg up, tail straight). If he sees a motionless human he will ‘approach’ and lick their face and paw their chest. If there is no response he will ‘return’ to me or the nearest team member. He also does his ‘Chief Moral Officer’ bit when the team is tired and the waiting relatives are anxious – a waggy tail and a pat on the head work wonders especially when the Newfs and St Bernard’s want to play.

Five year old Bobby thinks it’s an elaborate game. To him, all missing people are a reliable source of cheese or treats which require his personal attention. Though when he has his ‘uniform’ on he seems to enter a different mode of thinking – I think he knows he’s working at some level. He lives with me at my Cardiff Bay flat. His hobbies are loudly sighing, competitive begging for food and endurance sleeping. And they say dogs turn into their owners..!

Volunteering gives a great sense of satisfaction and achievement. It also gives you a window on Cardiff you would never ordinarily get a chance to look through.

There is of course a darker side to Search and Rescue. The harsh reality is that there are some missing people who you will not reach in time. Some have been missing for so long that exposure will have claimed them. Increasingly people want to take their own lives. No matter what the situation, CAVRA strives to provide some form of closure for the family and loved ones involved. Saving a life is the highest calling a volunteer can be asked to undertake but we always prepare for the worst case scenario.

Previous generations may have called this the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ – but people still come and volunteer when needed and they are often the un-sung heroes. They do it because they care about their community and the people in it. They want to put something back.


David Wills works at the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay where he is jointly employed as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Welsh Conservative’s Policy Director and a Political Aide to the Deputy Presiding Officer and Member for South Wales Central. He was formerly a Social Scientist at Cardiff University and is currently a Member of the Association of Business Psychologists, where his research interests include: Organisational Psychology, Psychological Hardiness, Leadership Profiling, Situational Awareness and the Development of Performance Indicators for Elite Groups such as Endurance Athletes, Specialist Police Units and Special Forces. In his spare time he writes screenplays and books on the theme of Psychological Resilience and Leadership.

Civil Aid Voluntary Rescue Association (CAVRA) are always looking for volunteers. No experience necessary. You provide the time – they provide the training. http://www.cavra.org

David and Bob were photographed on the Cardiff Bay Barrage by Doug Nicholls. To see the rest of the photos from the shoot, see Doug’s We Are Cardiff set on Flickr.


“Cardiff – I wouldn’t change you for the world” – Adam


Dear Cardiff,

We see each other every day, but after a lifetime of acquaintance and a decade of cohabiting I thought it was time I told you what you mean to me. I’d like to think we had something special, but I know that I am but one of many for you. While you have played a truly exceptional role in the way I grew as a child and developed as a man, I often ask myself if I have had any influence on you.

I don’t remember the first time we met, but growing up on the other side of the M4, you were a neighbour that we would often visit and who would offer me exciting peeks at a different world. My earliest memories of you are summer afternoons in Roath Park, Christmas breakfasts with Santa in the restaurant in Howells and the metallic and sea salty tang of fresh fish in the indoor market.

As my teenage years progressed and village life became claustrophobic, your friendly neighbour became a Mrs Robinson figure, offering new and more mature experiences for me. I couldn’t wait to learn to drive so that I could spend as much time as possible in your shadow, and a weekend cinema job and new friends provided even more excuses to spend time away from home. Even when I chose to study at the University of Glamorgan, you were only a train ride away.

You’ve witnessed my peaks and my troughs; you hold secrets that I have never shared with anyone else and through it all you have kept my glass half full. It is within your borders that I met my partner Yusuf and the people who have become my best friends.

I’ve seen you at your most extrovert, on match days when the city is a-buzz with scarves, inflatable daffodils and those bloody annoying horns. I’ve seen you at your most introvert when the clouds are low, the rain has driven everyone out of the streets and your eclectic beauty stands out the most. But without a doubt, my favourite times with you have been when nothing much happened at all. Sunny afternoons sitting in Bute Park watching the river run by on one side and the people on the other, or snuggled into any one of a number of your inns, drinking, talking, and laughing.

We may be quite different people now from those early days before you had all that work done (and may I say you are looking all the better for it!) and I was just a shy boy.  These days I see you more like an older sibling, that I may sometimes take for granted and regularly bitch about, but dare an outsider start to criticise you and I will defend you till the end.

We’ve been through our bad patches, indeed there was a time that I escaped every weekend I could, and when I couldn’t wait to “Get out of this job and out of this city!” But we worked things out and I wouldn’t change you for the world.

Adam Rees is a Communities First Officer for Cardiff’s Third Sector Council. His interests include Baking, books and crafts and blogs about it all at adam-rees@tumblr.com . He lives in Grangetown with his partner Yusuf and two dogs, Arthur and Edward.

Adam was photographed at his home by Adam Chard