“I need to be in a place where people are friendly and everything’s on your doorstep” – Jessica

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I have lived in Cardiff since I was born. I was never very adventurous in a travelling sense and stayed here to do my Foundation Course in Art & Design, and then for my degree in Graphic Communication. I can’t say I’ve ever regretted it. In fact I probably made the best decision. All through university we were told that London was the place to be for new designers. I frankly had a bit of a panic, because London is just so daunting to me.

I need to be in a place where people are friendly and everything’s on your doorstep. I know Cardiff like the back of my hand because I’ve lived in most areas. I was born in Pontcanna, lived in Ely for a bit, then in Grangetown, Llanishen, Llandaff, Thornhill, and when my mother decided to move out into the country I stayed and continued my tour, moving to Penarth, Cardiff Bay and finally Roath, where I mingled with my fellow students and loved every minute.

I met my partner not long after starting university and we’ve never moved from Roath. We now live in the heart of Roath and there’s so much to do. It’s amazing. The galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, awesome little independent quirky shops and funky bars are in abundance – not forgetting Roath Park. It’s just such a lively place to live and we’re lucky to have a number of friends all living in the same area.

We’re always popping to The Pear Tree on Wellfield Road for a cheeky drink, and mingling with the locals at The Claude or The Albany. We’re both also really lucky to work in the area and I count myself even luckier to be able to work for myself from home. I’ve worked in the design industry since graduating in 2009 and I’ve done everything from designing Christmas wrapping paper (all year round) to mobile application design for iPhones and iPads. Now I’m freelance and work from the comfort and convenience of my little studio under the name Jessica Draws. As I have the time, I’m getting involved in the community as best as I can. I’m in talks to supply some craft shops with my handmade greetings cards that I currently sell online and I am also involved in The Sho Gallery’s summer exhibition Art Flare (on Inverness Place), where I am displaying some illustrative prints and cards which are also for sale. My next stop hopefully is to be involved in the new St Mary’s Street Market and Roath’s Saturday Craft market. I’ve got lots of plans and I’m still getting in touch with local businesses to over my branding and marketing services.

It’s not just Cardiff that’s getting some Jessica Draws shoved in its face. I love to draw and it’s what keeps me cheerful, and so the illustrations I do aren’t always for clients. Some recent work I created for fun around the recent Marvel film releases was featured on some prominent online blogs (here and here), which triggered some awesome responses and a few commissions (now available in my etsy shop too).

Drawing is what I do and I like to think of myself as re-designing the world, one illustration at a time.

Jessica Donnan (also know as Jessica Draws) is a freelance designer and illustrator. Since graduating in 2009, she has worked in many areas of the design industry. Check out her online shop where you can find lots of goodies, and have a gander at her blog, where she posts giveaways, competitions and her latest news.

Jessica was photographed at The Pear Tree in Roath by Ffion Matthews

 

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The Little Guide To Cardiff – Summer 2012

*** UPDATE! NEW 2017 VERSION AVAILABLE NOW! ***

In preparation for all the visitors descending on Cardiff next week for the Olympics, we’ve put together our first ever Cardiff city-guide – The Little Guide To Cardiff, Summer 2012.

You can read it below, or download it straight from the We Are Cardiff Scribd page (it’s a PDF, 9MG).

Let us know what you think in the comments – have we missed anything out? What should we include for next time?

“The Cardiff music scene is very much alive” – Ben

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I returned to Wales to live in Cardiff in 2009 after spending the previous ten years flat-hopping around London. When I left the mothership, there was no such thing as the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Bay was just a glint in a developer’s eye and my beloved Cardiff City were still in the lower reaches of the league, and playing at a stadium which advertised bread on its roof.

During my time in the ‘other’ capital, I was part of a band and so was regularly setting up, playing and dismantling equipment two or three times a week, but I also got to sample many of the up-and-coming bands on the London pub-circuit. When I left and came back to Wales – or Cardiff in particular, I felt that I was going to miss out on the nightly gigs.

My memories of going to gigs centred on Newport which was still embarrassingly being touted as the ‘New Seattle’; my memories of the Cardiff music scene were few and far between and I feared that my days of enjoying new music may be numbered.

However, this luckily wasn’t the case. Almost as soon as I passed the ‘Croeso I Gymru’ sign as I came off the Severn Bridge, I was thrust into an amazingly busy scene, with many venues playing host to exciting bands. On one of my first evenings back, some friends took me to see Los Campesinos! playing a stage in front of many hundreds at the front of City Hall. Soon after, I went to Clwb Ifor Bach and witnessed one of the greatest gigs I have been to; the wall of math-rock noise that is Truckers Of Husk supporting the off-kilter pop of Steve Black aka Sweet Baboo. My mind was made up, I was never going back.

Since then, I have tried to juggle my day-job and my love of music to the best of my ability. The one thing about Cardiff that you never get in London is that you are forever bumping into friends. The only time it happened in London was when I took a sickie and (literally) ran into my boss at the train station as I headed off for a day of sightseeing. Pretty much everyone knows everyone in the Cardiff music scene, and because I managed to get in with the right ‘crowd’, it was easy for me to pick up on who I should go and see, and of course who I shouldn’t.

The number of venues in Cardiff may have dwindled over the years, but new venues keep popping up all the time. Clwb is obviously still the most loved, but the new kids on the block – or at least new to me – like Buffalo, Gwdi-Hw and Ten Feet Tall have provided me with lots to see and write about over the past few years.

So it basically seems that none of my fears have been realised. The Cardiff music scene is very much alive and even though I am advancing in years, I still try and get to as many gigs as possible – the trainspotting element to my psyche will just have to be put on hold for now.

Ben Gallivan is a freelance writer and works within the SEO industry. He lives on the longest road in Cardiff without any junctions (it’s in Victoria Park) and writes a music blog called BenLikesMusic when he has the time. He likes being quizzed.

Ben was photographed at Gwdihw by Ffion Matthews

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“I’ve embraced all the opportunities Cardiff has offered me” – Anna

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You never really stop to think about what you like about the place you live, do you? You just, sort of, live there. You go through the motions, ride out the bad times and enjoy the good times; but you never really stop to think what it is about that place that you love or just what it is that keeps you there, do you?

Well, that’s how Cardiff’s always been for me, anyway. The seven years I’ve lived here have definitely been mixed, and it’s only during the latter few that I’ve truly settled and stopped gazing at the Severn Bridge!

In fact, when I was first asked to do a We Are Cardiff entry I remember stalling for ages before telling Helia (founder of WAC), “to be honest, I’m not sure I really like living here.”

I can’t really pretend that my ending up here was the result of informed, well thought-out ‘life choices’ like you’re encouraged to make by teachers at school. My decision to move here seven years ago from Pembrokeshire, for university, was shaped largely by circumstance really, and my decision to stay here after university was, at first, a reluctant one.

I certainly loved university; I enjoyed my course and made some great friends. But as soon as I graduated I was desperate to join the rat race and get to London, so I was secretly a bit disappointed when my boyfriend moved to Cardiff and suggested I stuck around and moved in with him, but it did make sense.

I remember having a conversation with my mum who said everyone should ‘do London’ at some point; I felt sure she was right. Despite having a job in Cardiff, I remember trawling the London job sites looking for my ticket out of Wales and I even secured a job there and was ready to make the move. Something stopped me from taking it and I carried on as I was, albeit unenthusiastically.

So the first few years after university in Cardiff were reluctant, to say the least. I watched my friends fly high in London and elsewhere and I resented staying here. I started to pave my own path – but at the back of my mind I always felt the Cardiff chapter was one I was simply skating over.

I’m not quite sure exactly when things changed; but I remember around two years ago driving across the barrage back into Cardiff Bay after netball training and feeling a real sense of contentment. It was a gorgeous sunset and I remember feeling really at ease.

Since then I’ve really changed my view of where I live. I’ve realised how much control you can have over your own fate and I’ve embraced all of the opportunities Cardiff has offered me. My roots have been firmly planted here now and I can’t imagine started afresh anywhere else. I’ve also realised the value of being relatively close to family in West Wales.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that this is THE place for me or that I’m ‘meant’ to be here, but what was an initial reluctant acceptance has morphed into a ever-growing appreciation. Cardiff really is a great place to live, it’s become my home and I’m here to stay.

Anna Milewski works for the Federation of Small Businesses in Cardiff. Away from the office, she is an avid netball player (for MJM), an occasional horse rider and an average jewellery-maker. She loves the countryside and says there’s nowhere she’d rather be than on a deserted Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire. Failing that, she’s happy wandering around Splott market on a Saturday morning picking up all sorts of tat for the flat – or having lunch in Cowbridge on a sunny Sunday. She currently lives in Cardiff Bay.

Anna was photographed in a field at Culverhouse Cross by Adam Chard