We Are Cardiff shortlisted for the Wales Blog Awards 2012

Wooh! yes, you heard right. We’ve been nominated for the Wales Blog Awards 2012, in two categories: Best Community Blog and Best Multimedia Blog. Woo yeah!

This is our third year of making it to the shortlist for Best Community blog, and this year there are only two finalists – us and the excellent  Cwmbran Life (my favourite part of the site is the Characters section. Who’d have thought you’d find so many different folk over by there, eh?).

We’ve also made it as a finalist into the new Multimedia category, which basically covers everything that isn’t just writing on a blog. Part of what makes We Are Cardiff such a wonderful project is the amazing photography that appears on the site courtesy of great local photographers who volunteer their time to take portraits of the good people of Cardiff. So: a big thank you to all those photographers: Adam Chard, Ffion Matthews, Simon Ayre, Amy Davies, Lann Niziblian, Doug Nicholls, Kayleigh Ancrum, Jon Pountney, Robert Bell and Geraint Griffiths.

In the Multimedia category we’re up against a blog I hadn’t come across before, The Watchers Film Show Blog, as well as being up against the Cardiff Before Cardiff blog run by Jon Pountney (who recently made his debut as a We Are Cardiff photographer with this amazing portrait of James Nee in Roath Recreation Ground).

We’re honoured to have made it through to the final stages of both these categories in the Wales Blog Awards 2012. There are a lot of great Welsh blogs out there, and you should take some time to investigate some of the others.

As well as the above mentioned blogs, we’re also big fans of Matt Appleby’s Easy Teas (read Matt’s We Are Cardiff story here), the ever-reliable Pint of 45, Emily Bater’s Lights, Camera, Cardiff (Emily has been very kindly covering our documentary film project We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City) and the Cardiff Food Project (we’re looking forward to featuring Cardiff Food Project’s Lauren on We Are Cardiff very soon).

As it’s payday tomorrow, some of you might want to wear your love of the city and your support for our project on your chests, with our lovely We Are Cardiff t shirts! They’re only a tenner, and every penny goes towards making our documentary film about Cardiff in 2012. If you’ve yet more cash burning a hole in your pocket, you can also invest in our film through our Indiegogo campaign. You get great rewards for your cash, including film posters, t-shirts and a free invitation to our launch party next year. Invest in the We Are Cardiff film here.

Oh yeah – we’re also on Facebook and Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you or someone you know are interested in being featured on the We Are Cardiff site, please email us on wearecardiff at gmail.com. The only requirement is that you are a Cardiff (or nearby!) resident.

tata for now!

we are cardiff
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“This is still the place I want to be” – James

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This is the place…

I’ve always thought there are two types of home: the one you have, and the one you want. Roath was definitely the latter for me. I moved here from Stoke in 2002 and straight away it felt right. In a short space of time I met an incredible group of friends, and this, together with my love of the city, gave me a sense of belonging. Aged 23 I thought this is the place I want to be.

Recently I’ve begin to question the choice I made 10 years ago. There are those friends who move away to bigger cities – some come back, some don’t. And there are those who never make the journey and ask themselves that meaningless question, what if? Big cities are naturally more conducive to creativity, offer more opportunities, and provide a bigger network to plug yourself into to find out what sparks, if any, may fly. Of course, you know this, but still, what if?

When I find myself thinking about this, I put on my running shoes and go to the one place I love more than any other in Cardiff – a home within a home – the Rec (aka the Roath Recreation Ground). I must have run, and walked, around this small park hundreds of times, and spent countless hours there lying under rare summer sun until my pale skin turns pink. It’s hard to convey why I love it – after all it’s just a park – bit if pressed I would say it’s a combination of the space and the skies above it. I’ve seen the most amazing sunsets, and formations of clouds and light, over the Rec. It may sound pretentious, but I feel like those skies have sheltered me over the years whenever I’ve been feeling low.

The final key ingredient that makes the Rec so great is the people who inhabit it. On any one night you can watch people playing rounders, rugby, football, cricket, or just reading, talking, and drinking until the sun goes down. It’s a reminder of how vibrant and eclectic this city is – I remember seeing one football game where each player wore the football top of their country of origin and no 2 shirts were alike. Having a garden is a luxury, but it’s not essential in Roath, as there is always the Rec.

When I’ve finished my run I always turn off my iPod and walk across the width of the Rec towards the Community Centre. I don’t think about work the next day, or what I’m going to do when I get home. I try not to think at all. Instead I just listen to the evening and look around me. It always gives me a sense of calm, and reminds me of how lucky I am to have this on my doorstep. Moments like this brush away all of my doubts and reaffirms that this is still the place I want to be.

James Nee works for The Festivals Company (where he directs the occasional promo and is the Director of ffresh) and is the creator of ernest – a collective of artists based in Roath who make short films and sketches. He currently lives in Roath.

James was photographed on Roath Recreation Ground by Jon Pountney

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“Rhiwbina is a great place to see what community spirit is really like” – Beth

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You always realise how much you miss home when you leave. When you come back, you realise that home is the thing that’s been missing. When I left for university six years ago, I was relieved to leave home at home and get on with living somewhere else. However, coming back to Cardiff has been the best move I could have made. When you live here you don’t realise how great you really have it; with the fantastic range of things to do, mixture of places to visit and the friendliness of Welsh people. But there’s one place in Cardiff I class as ‘Home Sweet Home’.

If you’re looking for somewhere friendly, cute and a little bit different, I’m going to big Rhiwbina up to you.

Yes, it is thought of as being a slightly older person’s hang-out and yes, it may not be your first destination choice on a Saturday morning but there is a lot going on. Dr Who was filmed here, nostalgic festivals are held here and community spirit is second to none so why wouldn’t you want to visit?

Picture this…

It’s a miserable Saturday morning (let’s face it, the Welsh weather has been somewhat of a letdown) and you don’t fancy a venture into central Cardiff battling the crowds. Instead, you decide to take a trip to Rhiwbina to the north of the hustle and bustle. With the choice of Coco’s Hairdressers for a quick snip, Aquarius Revived for a nice beauty treatment and Fragrant 227 for a relaxing massage, you find you’re already feeling refreshed.

But all that spoiling and relaxation is hungry work … which is where the Olive Branch Cafe and Bookshop comes in. Friendly staff, a comfortable atmosphere and delicious Carrot Cake awaits you. This is always a first choice stop off for a bite to eat and a quirky Maltesar–based milkshake!

After you’ve had your fill of tasty homemade food and attractive lattes, take a stroll to Rhiwbina library to browse the display of books, have a walk around Caedelyn Park or why not see what vintage home shop The Nest has in stock? If, however, you’ve decided your day so far has been thirsty work, visit one of the many pubs in Rhiwbina like the Butcher’s Arms (where there’s a farmer’s market every Friday morning), The Deri Inn, The Mason’s Arms and The Nine Giants.

With excellent links to the city centre and only 10 minutes by foot to Whitchurch village (with its selection of nice eateries and shops), Rhiwbina is somewhere to spend more than an hour of your time and a great way to see what community spirit is really like.

Beth Rees is a keen writer, poet and film lover with a very sociable side. She loves meeting with friends, going to Zumba and sitting in her pyjamas with a big slice of cake after a hard day’s slog. She writes a poetry blog (http://shakespeares-sister.tumblr.com/) and would love to write her own book someday. Beth lives in Rhiwbina.

Beth was photographed at the Olive Branch in Rhiwbina by Kayleigh Ancrum

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“I still have the ration book I used to buy sweets from the shop next door” – Jenny

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Jenny Criddle - childhood

My memories of growing up in Cardiff are clearest from the age of around four to five years. We lived on North Road in the Maindy area of Cardiff with extended family, which consisted of my grandparents, an aunt and an uncle.  We had a front room, used for special events and which also housed the old piano which I would learn to play from the age of seven.  The middle room was where our family of four lived and it contained our table and chairs, easy chairs, the very large old radio, coal fireplace and gas cooker.  In an age where we want our space, I can only be amazed that we all fitted in there and never seemed to be aware of how small it must have been. The back room was where my grandparents lived. Upstairs, there were several bedrooms and this always seemed very big to me as a child. I used to love climbing the extra little set of stairs up to the attic room and from there we could see right into the Maindy stadium when sporting events took place.  Our little family had the front, very large bedroom for us all to sleep in and I do remember how cold it was in the winter, especially getting up in the morning.  It never took long to get dressed.

One of the first personal events that I can clearly recall is the birth of my sister who, less than a year later, burned her arm and was taken to hospital. Her physical scars remain to this day but while they have faded somewhat my recollection of that day has not. I also clearly remember my first day at school, at the age of five. As I had had to wait until the actual day of my birthday to be able to attend, I was very keen to start in Allensbank Primary School.  The faces of some staff and children who were at the school with me still remain in my memory.  By the age of seven I was allowed to walk to school on my own, a freedom that children would rarely be given now.  From there I went to Cathays High School, which was just literally just across the road.  One day, as I sat at my desk in school, I watched a small plane as it circled outside my window and then crashed down into the road just next to my family home. The thing I remember most was how concerned I was about my mother’s safety and I asked to go home. The plane had tried to avoid the Maindy Stadium where a sports day was being held, with many children there.  It did manage to do this thankfully but unfortunately the occupants of the plane did not survive.  As I lived so close to where the plane came down, I was interviewed by a reporter from the South Wales Echo and remember how strange it was to see my name and account in the paper not long afterwards.

As our family home was located on the main road, my parents refused my request to have a dog. My mum was afraid it would get run over by the closely passing traffic but compared to the traffic today it must have been fairly light as I was allowed to walk on my own to the library further up North Road on a Saturday morning.  I was also allowed to walk up to the Plaza cinema, now a block of flats, without adult supervision.  We only had a small back yard in which to play outdoors but there was a large covered area that served as a utility room, complete with mangle. I well remember being allowed to turn the handle and watched as the water was pressed out of the clothes on washday, which was always Monday, come rain or shine.  However, growing up in post-war Britain, the side-roads became an extended yard in which to play. They were not busy with vehicles, except for the occasional horse and cart selling fruit and vegetables.  We skipped and played marbles and hopscotch for hours on end.  Even though we did not live in an affluent area, I remember it as a happy and carefree time.  Front door keys were never needed as all I had to do was put my hand inside the letterbox to pull the string and gain entry.  In those times it was easy to close off a street for a street party and I clearly remember the one held for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I still have photos of that event, with myself and my sister dressed in costumes made by my mother for the occasion. The Diamond Jubilee has been a good excuse to get them out and show them to younger members of the family, creating amusement. As I looked at the photos, Cardiff seemed a much different and far away place as, indeed, our modern life-style does, compared to the one I knew as a child growing up in post-war conditions.  I still have the ration book that enabled me to buy sweets in the conveniently located shop next door to our house.

We often used to walk from North Road to Roath Park and I recollect walking there while holding onto the pram that held my baby sister.  We would walk up to Whitchurch Road, through to Allensbank Road and down Wedal Road.  I remember getting so excited as I realised we were almost there and our first stop was always to feed the ducks. The highlight of the visit was to sit in the little boats and pedal them around the small area reserved for children.  It is great to see so many people of all ages still enjoying the simple pleasures that Roath Park has to offer.

Cardiff City Football Club was another place I remember well, being taken there regularly by my father, who was also a keen football and baseball player.  He proudly told us how he had had trials for Cardiff City Football Club but this was curtailed when he was called up into the armed forces during the Second World War. My elderly mother still has an old suitcase full of medals and cups that he won playing locally in his youth.  Indeed when I began to knit, my father suggested that my first project should be to make a blue and white scarf. I remember this taking me some time but I proudly wore it to watch Cardiff City when it was finished.  I particularly thought of this when recent proposals to change their colour to red were announced.

We moved to the Whitchurch area when I was a young teenager and, while I remained at Cathays High School, my sister went to a Whitchurch school.  We now had a small garden and, it seemed to me at the time, a more affluent life style than before but I now realise that conditions were generally improving in the country as a whole as people settled back into civilian life.

My own working life was mainly spent in Cardiff too and, as an adult, I became a lecturer after studying in local colleges.  This chapter of my working life was the most interesting and even led me into Cardiff prison.  In case you are wondering, I was not an inmate but a teacher in the Education Department for five years.  Now, in retirement, we can enjoy Cardiff even more. The Bay, where once we used to go through the dock gates, at the end of Bute Terrace, to see the banana boats come in, has become a vibrant and interesting place to go and walk across the barrage, or sit and people watch.  The recent 2012 Olympic Torch relay was probably my earliest ever visit to the Bay, however, arriving in time to get a good viewing point, when Dr Who (Matt Smith) started the 6.30am run from the Norweigan Church.

My life in Cardiff has been a very enjoyable one with many fond memories and it has been good to see it develop over the years into the lively city that it now is.  There is even more to look forward to with the planned additions to the sports village, including the building of a Snow Dome, which has been promised for 2013 and we look forward to that.  I feel sure that Cardiff will remain a place where families can happily work and play, just as we have always done.

Jenny Criddle is a retired lecturer/ trainer and is actively involved in supporting voluntary work with young people. In April 2012, she went to South Africa with a large group to help build a Child Development Centre. Jenny and her husband also help with Spree Wales, an annual large youth camp as well as their local church events. Details can be found at www.bethesdacardiff.org / www.SpreeWales.com / www.rycsouthafrica.org

Jenny was photographed at Roath Park lake by Ffion Matthews. Next to that image is a photograph of Jenny taken at the same spot when she was four years old.

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“I love Cardiff” – Justin

Justin

My name is Justin and I love Cardiff. I feel like I’m at an AA meeting…!

I write for Buzz Magazine from time to time and go to many gigs, I enjoy my life and these sort of things keep me happy.

Y’see it could’ve all gone a little bit different from this. For a few years certainly did.

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 27, which was a great shock. At least it was found in time. It had to be monitored at first as it was on the brain stem and in a dangerous position to remove, but after a couple of years it had grown too big and it had to be gone.

After the operation (which was carried out in London) I went into a coma and woke up a vegetarian (after dreaming I was a dead fish on a boat at sea). A few years of recovery has seen me walk with the aid of a stick, which is quite amazing considering the state I was in.

But after this operation some part of the tumour found another place to regrow, in a part of the brain that affected the sensations in my face. So I had a steel cage on my head fitted with pins while they attacked it with lazers in Sheffield, and I then had radiotherapy in Velindre hospital in Cardiff which involved getting a tattoo on my spine. They gave me Christmas Day off the treatment though!

The help of family and friends has helped me all the way though. I now attend Headway once a week. Headway is a charity that helps and encourages people from various brain injuries and it has done so much for me and many other people.

I now arrange a fundraiser every summer for Headway Cardiff with help from Cardiff musicians, promoters, and friends. Clwb Ifor Bach is one ‘friend’ who helps with everything. Clwb is probably my favourite place to go to gigs and I try to go at any opportunity.

The Cardiff music scene has endless bands and styles that could and does cater for everyone, so local music is my favourite and here is a list of (I know I’ll miss some, sorry!) my favourites: Islet, Them Sqirrels, Kutosis, Pagan Wanderer Lu, The School, Gindrinker, Threatmantics, Brandyman, Evening Chorus, Barefoot Dance of the Sea, Ratatosk, Right Hand Left Hand, Them Lovely Boys, She’s Got Spies, Strange News From Another Star, Future of The Left, Winter Villains, Little Arrow, John Mouse, Spencer McGarry, Sweet Baboo, H-Hawkline, Francesca’s Word Salad, The Method, Houdini Dax, Gruff Rhys, The Gentle Good, Euros Childs, Richard James, Cate Le Bon…

I could go on but I suppose you’re bored by now. So go to a gig instead, or ask to listen and  buy at Spillers Records, which is another favourite haunt of mine for info, cds,vinyl and tickets.

The things that have happened to me make me appreciate smaller things a little more and Cardiff is a great place for these experiences and has such great people. I shit you not.

News update: the most recent scan results for Justin were positive – he now now moves on to annual treatment, and his doctor at Velindre believes he is on his way to being completely cured.

Justin was photographed at Spillers Records by Simon Ayre

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“Cardiff’s hockey community is rich and diverse” – Lucas

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When it comes to sports, there’s a great deal out there for a person to get involved with. But like so many boys that went to school in the city, a strict diet of rugby or football in the winter and cricket or baseball in the summer was the menu for my sporting education. That said, it’s far from a secret that I have never been (and never will be, for that fact) any good at football. I remember the success of the men’s field hockey team at the 1984 Olympics fired a desire to play that sport, but with no opportunity to try the sport at school, the interest soon faded. So as a much younger Cardiff boy, rugby was my sole sport. I enjoyed it, as it seemed to be ‘for me’. A sport with a good mix of competitiveness and ‘physicality’. And if it wasn’t for a ‘seminal incident’ (aged 16 outside a Llandaff pub – that left me with a fractured jaw and a couple of weeks of soft foods) that knocked my confidence in the national sport I probably would have stuck with it.

The sport held onto me, post playing, as I got rigged into coaching juniors for a while. But for me, rugby was fast becoming a spectator sport. For years, a void steadily opened in my life, creating a space for a new sporting challenge. And a challenge did indeed coming knocking on my door. A challenge that would not only require the use of a stick, but also to learn a skill, which had resulted in so many cuts, bruises and broken lips, courtesy of the childhood walls and pavements of Canton. I had to learn to skate. Hockey was beginning to sneak into my life.

Progress was slow at first. Not least as I had to save for kit (no mean feat, when you’re a twenty something, with an almost religious attendance at the Philly!). First came the stick. A second hand lumber. But it meant I could join in, running around like a mad man, whilst my mates glided almost effortlessly around our training ground (read: the car park attached to a Llanishen office building).

Slowly, but surely, stick was joined by skates and then came my first pair of hockey gloves – a second hand pair of red leather gloves, that were far too big, seemingly manufactured for the Hulk.

The summer was good that year and a nightly pilgrimage to our ‘training ground’ was followed by a return trip, with bloodied knees from over-ambitious skating, or the odd errant stick. It was a tough apprenticeship, but one that was to lead to some great experiences and also some great friendships. Like many other sports, hockey isn’t just about the time on the court, but it’s more about the community. And Cardiff’s hockey community is rich and diverse.

In time, the guys playing in the car park moved indoors, as roller hockey started to experience a renaissance during the late 1990s and informal training sessions, lead to the formation of my first team. Around the same time, a team mate who had been playing on the ice, virtually since the old Welsh National Ice Rink had been opened, suggested that I might enjoy stepping on the ice. I never found the transition was a complete success, but as training sessions were generally followed (and sometimes preceded) by a couple of beers in Kiwis, I stuck with it!

And I’m glad I did. Playing both roller and ice hockey, I’ve been lucky enough to be stood on the blue line and hear Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau played at internationals in Deeside and also at the home of the New York Islanders, in the US.

After a few years, study and career somehow distracted my enjoyment of the sport I loved and I gave up ice hockey, followed soon after by roller hockey. Years passed. I got married, became a dad and the rink was knocked down for the mighty St David’s 2. Despite previous passion, I was blissfully unaware of the building that was to become affectionately known as the Big Blue Tent, being built as a temporary replacement home for the City’s ice sports. During physio for a slipped disc in my back, I was offered tickets to see a Devils game at the Big Blue Tent. Curiously, I accepted.

I hadn’t watched a match for years. The Cardiff greats of Lawless, Hope, McEwan & the Cooper brothers long gone. It was a new barn and it was Elite League hockey. It was all strangely different. But what surprised me, was that it also felt oh so familiar. It felt like home and an unexpected, long dormant feeling stirred in me, urging me to strap on my skates and get out on the ice pad of this unfinished looking building. An old, but familiar face suggested the urge could be fed, by getting touch with a guy who’s known as ‘Big’.

A trawl through the friend’s Facebook friends located the aforementioned ‘Big’ and with the niggling thought of ‘why do they call him Big’, I made it down to a Monday night training session. The 6ft7inch guy I met welcomed me to the team and over the coming weeks, the passion was well and truly re-born.

I can’t even hazard a guess at how long I’ve been back playing – is it four years, five years? Who knows!? – because it feels like I’ve never been away. Sure, I’m older, no doubt much slower (maybe a little wiser!?), and less skilful, but hockey is still my passion. It’s my release from every day stresses. It’s the place I go to be ribbed. It’s the place I go to rib others. It’s my sport.

And what makes ice hockey special is that I play for the Cardiff Ice Hounds. Sure there are other teams playing out of the Big Blue Tent – some bigger, some more established, more successful – but at the end of the day, we play a sport that forces us out of our own city, to play away matches, pulling on our jerseys, representing our home City.

I play for the team, I’ve captained the team, I’ve coached the team and I’ve helped run the club at committee level. We’ve tried to establish the team to offer so much more than just a place for people to get involved in playing competitive ice hockey, but to also provide an opportunity for people to get involved in hockey as a spectator sport – for free. We’ve worked to put Cardiff’s amateur ice hockey on the map.

The City is the home to the sport that we love. We are the Cardiff Ice Hounds and Cardiff is us. And in return, at home and on the road, we are Cardiff.

Lucas Howell currently plays for the Cardiff Ice Hounds as one of their ‘veteran’ defencemen. As far as the old grey matter will allow, he’s been playing hockey (ice and roller), on and off for about 15 years and in that time he’s toured to New York with the Cardiff Titans, represented Wales in roller hockey, captained the Bridgend Bullfrogs & Cardiff Ice Hounds and coached just about every age group in roller hockey, from tiny kids, through to adults. He still misses his two front teeth – lost to hockey. Whilst now living in Splott, his ‘official’ roots make him a passionate Canton boy.

Lucas was photographed in the Big Blue Tent in Cardiff Bay by Doug Nicholls

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