We Are Cardiff at Swn Festival 2012

Can it be true? Yes – that’s right – we’ve only gone and got ourselves a stage at this year’s Sŵn Festival! Sŵn is a multi-venue musical takeover that happens in Cardiff over four days every October. It’s always an absolute riot, and we’re chuffed to bits to be curating a stage this year. As We Are Cardiff is a community project, all our performers are Cardiff talent. We’ve got music, beatboxing, some spoken words, plus a series of short films being shown between the acts. And some comedy, if we can fit it in. AND a special We Are Cardiff photography exhibition, where photos and stories from the blog will be up on the walls for all to see!

Float your boat? Make sure you get your Sŵn Festival wristband now (you can order tickets from the Sŵn Festival website)

You should also check out the full festival line up for this year. It’s pretty amazing: Sŵn Festival line up

In the run up to the festival, we’ll be publishing profiles from each of our performers, plus more info on our stage nearer to the time. If you REALLY want to make sure you’re free, save yourself some time on Saturday afternoon between 3pm-10pm. We promise you’ll have a right old knees up!

“Over the last 25 years, the Sherman has been a part of my life” – Katherine

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I’ve lived in Cardiff for 42 years. So in thinking of a place that felt special to me, I had lots of choices. I love Donkey beach in Penarth, a secret little place under Penarth cliffs that my Nan and Gramps took me and my sister when we were little. I love the sea around Cardiff Bay and the docks. Bute Park, Roath Park, Victoria Park. Cardiff has good parks. I like sitting on Platform 7 on Central Station looking over to the Brains Brewery sign and the smell of the hops. I could have talked about lots of places that make Cardiff my home but I really wanted to talk about a place that has been part of my life for the last 25 years and I hope will continue to be so for the next 25 – Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru.

My first visit to the then Sherman Theatre was in 1985. I was 15 and had come on a school trip arranged by the English department to see Macbeth. I remember having to sit within hands reach of my teacher because my concentration wasn’t great and it was long. I was bored and fidgeting and desperately wanting to get back on the bus. When it ended I was relieved.

The next time I came to the Sherman was in 1987. I was being interviewed for a administration placement on a government Y.T.S. Scheme. I had left school with no qualifications to speak of so my choices were limited. I remember there was a matinee on. As I was lead backstage and down to the administration offices, various characters passed me by covered in copious amounts of blood, running from one side of stage to the other, backstage calls sounded out and dressing room doors opened briefly exposing a mixture of discarded costumes and everyday clothes. A blood curdling scream echoed through the maze of backstage corridors as I met the General Manager, ‘Sweeny Todd’ she smiled, ushering me in.

I began my placement the following week and my relationship with The Sherman Theatre began.

My placement was only for a year or so and as the end of the scheme approached I was dreading having to leave I felt like I’d found somewhere that I fitted. A permanent job came up in the finance department and I was offered the chance to stay. Although I worked in administration I spent all the time I could with the production team. I often volunteered to work on productions for the experience and did a lot of work for the Youth Theatre productions. It started to dawn on me that my heart was in the more creative roles in theatre and so after seven years I left the Sherman Theatre and went to Welsh College to train to be a Stage Manager.

Over the last 25 years or so the Sherman has been a part of my life. I’ve worked there and experienced making and watching some great theatre. This year Sherman Cymru are producing a play I’ve written called ‘Before It Rains’ and so my relationship with the building continues.

I couldn’t be prouder.

Katherine Chandler’s first play was a musical comedy called The Bankrupt Bride that was produced by Theatr na n’Óg in 2009 and toured nationally. She has had a long-standing relationship with the company and her play We Need Bees, a children’s play for the under-sevens, is currently on tour. As a writer, she has also had short plays produced by Dirty Protest and Spectacle Theatre. In 2011 one of her plays was selected by Pentabus Theatre as their We Are Here 2011 winning script and was developed in association with Sherman Cymru. Katherine is the recipient of an Arts Council Wales grant to write a new female-led comedy and is under commission from National Theatre Wales to develop a new piece of work with them. In early 2013 Katherine will be on a studio attachment at the National Theatre (England). Before It Rains runs at Sherman Cymru between 25 September – 6 October 2012. Katherine currently lives in Penarth.

Katherine was photographed at Sherman Cymru by Jon Pountney

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“Life and Death In The Diffusion City” – Plangu

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17:00

Step off train.

In Cardiff.

But am I Cardiff? Is Cardiff me?

One year to find out, one journey to commence.

Problem: where’s the exit?
Resolution: straight ahead, I should have seen it.

Walking.

Man: where is Platform 2?
Riposte: I am sorry, I don’t know. Are you on Facebook?

An awkward silence like moss on a Norweigan tree in June. Is this the Day of Thunder?

I feel lost. Draw me a metaphorical mind map and I’ll lay down on your molten train tracks.

17:15

Exit the train station.

Flashing neon lights of the Burger King. Fast food generation nation. I think of fresh cod and trout, but this ain’t no rainbow city.

Me: Excuse me, where can I see a map for directional advisement?
Man: You don’t need a map, you need a new hat.

A languid finger points to a direction collection encased in grimy glass and ripe for intro-outro-meta-spection.

I walk 5-10 meters. Symmetry achieved.

17:45

Walk walk walk, stop, walk walk, stop.

St Mary’s Street, carnival and revellers. Sundown smile, my vision becoming multi-peripheral.

An Asgardian clock encased in glass, tick tock tick tock. Time flies when you’re coke and rum.

Friday the day of wages.

Factory workers reminisce of steel shaping shifts, blackened hands and tankards of ale.

Estate agents close a sale, suits pinstriped and pressed for success at half past wine.

Boozer, the Borough, Yates the wine joint.

Our money is the all the same and the drink takes the blame… or close acquaintances.

Closer yet further still, to whit the steel worker motions to a call centre executive with a closed fist and stiffening shoulder ensemble.

Conflict in Cardiff. Welsh Warriors. Fear flights through the five boroughs but I see no painted baseball clowns, only enraged dragons wearing culture crowns.

18:40

Drunk and a stumble. The Isle of Hayes.

Waterstones has a buy one get one half price.

Reminder: I’m here to learn, academia awaits.

19:30

Roath. Elegant two bedroom apartment; both en suite, but who’s counting?

Full media connection, but I need to interface with me.

This year is my journey, I need to make Cardiff my city.

I bite into an apple and open my Mac.

An email for an internship; please sir, can I have some more? Disaster interaction: the editor vexed with my corrections of his holy words. My direct style of communication is not in relation to the egos borne of procrastination and Big Ideas.

Culture: what is it? I am a force for my own stylings; drip drip drop drop, I need a trip to the shop.

20:05

Open my journal.

Words spill like snow in the winter from the requisite clouds and their multiverse formations: Afraid. Excited. New. Old. Castle. Take away food. City. Capital. Uncle Torr.

Entrance to the scene.

Roommate: I am your roommate.
Me: I am your roommate.
Roommate: We are at A, let’s get to B.
Me: And then C and D.
Both: This feels right.

Nods and smiles and flowing conversation covering a complete collection of crazed recollection. Squared. Rooted. Rebooted. Nostalgia nightmares of animatronic bears.

22:09

Speech slurring, world whirring.

Roommate: How about that 2 Fast 2 Furious?
Me: Yes! I own it on digital video disk, truly the filet of the franchise.
Roommate: Bond now assured and let me be clear; we are friends in concrete absoluteness, to which cannot often be said over such brief interaction. Rare.

01:11

Walking home to Roath.

Roommate has long since expired ‘pon a corner of the castle. Grassy knoll, well don’t we all? Life and death in the Diffusion City.

I look up to the sky, the stars aligned I see Oslo, Norway.

Focussing my spiritual and atomic distribution here I am in Cardiff, Wales.

I access, accept, and assimilate my fate for one year less one month. A beautiful city with opportunity aplenty and unto much learning to be anything less than a fleeting yearning.

We Are Cardiff? Yes. Yes we certainly are.

A writer, poet, artist and polemicist, Plangu, originally from Oslo, Norway, resides in Roath where he is undertaking a year of study at Cardiff University. Plangu’s debut short story collection, ‘Grenene Av Våre Trær’, is due for publication in late 2013.

The image above is a self portrait by Plangu.

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BAG YOURSELF SOME WE ARE CARDIFF SWAG! Visit our new online shop

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

New sister site: Love Letters to Tucson

Recently we received a lovely email from a site in Tucson Arizona called Love Letters to Tucson, asking to be added to our list of sister sites. We investigated a little more and discovered that Rachel who runs the site has Welsh roots! We always said all roads lead back to Cardiff. We asked Rachel a few questions about her lovely site. Read on!

1 – What’s your name, where do you come from, how did you end up in Arizona when you have British roots?

My name is Rachel Hughes Miller. I’m from Prescot, just outside of Liverpool. My grandparents lived in Llanblethian, so we spent a lot of time there, my aunt and uncle live in Pent-wyn,  and my cousin Nikki in Cardiff.Let’s see, how did I end up in Tucson, Arizona? My dad moved out here about 25 years ago for work, and I followed him a couple years later to go to university at the University of Arizona. I didn’t expect to stay more than a few years, before heading back across the pond, but it didn’t happen. Somewhere along the way I started putting down roots in Tucson. You know the usual thing, friends, boyfriends (sequential, not consecutive), dogs, a house, and of course Tucson, herself, winding her way into my heart.

2 – what inspired you to start LLtT?

Julie Michelle of I live here: SF and I were both involved in a group called Help A Mother Out, which started in 2009, using social media for diaper(nappy) drives. I followed her personal blog Tango Baby and the I live here: sf blog. I loved the idea of sharing people’s stories as a way to see a city or place through new eyes, finding out new quirky things about a place you have lived in for years through other’s stories, and maybe it’s a bit grandiose to think that such a site can have an impact on community, but I hope that if we see this place we love through another’s eyes we might feel more connected to one another, and might enjoy this place we live in a little more.

3 – what has been the best thing about running the site?

Well, while I’ve had the site for a couple of years, I only got my act together this July. So far, it’s been lovely to see how receptive people are. This weekend LLtT got a shout out in our local alternative weekly newspaper online. Tickled me pink to see that. Right now, the response has been really positive to LLtT, but the demographic represented pretty narrow and I really hope in time it will come to represent Tucson better.

4 – what’s it like living in Tucson?

Hot.
You’re asking this at the tail end of one very hot summer. Think an average of  43 degrees Celsius. Oh, and don’t let anyone kid you when they say, “but it’s a dry heat”. We have monsoons in July, August, and into September. Hot AND humid. And stunning, stark, rich and beautiful. These big, thunderous clouds roll across the sky in the afternoon and in about 30 minutes dump crazy amounts of rain, that then stream down the streets, because there isn’t a road drainage system.

Seriously, Tucson is complex. It’s a big university town, but it’s downtown is small, still growing and vital. It’s about 60 miles from the border with Mexico, and it wasn’t that long ago that it was part of Mexico.  Between October and May there seems to be one festival or another  every other weekend, Cyclovia, All Souls Procession, Tucson Meet Yourself, Festival en el Barrio, Festival of Books, Parade of Lights  etc.  It has, quite a rich cultural life, although that isn’t always apparent to an outsider or inhabitant. It is a clothing thrift store delight. It has a vibrant music and art scene. It is more liberal that the rest of the state (that doesn’t take much though). It’s a city in size, but a town in nature.

I wrote the following on my personal blog following the January 8, 2011 mass shooting at a Meet your Congresswoman.

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Tucson is a beautiful place. Sunrises and sunsets that make you swoon. Mountains that rise majestically from a fabulous bizarre desert landscape. In summer, thunder and lightning roll in from the East and provide us with both relief from humidity and spectacular evening entertainment. For most of the year, the high altitude, dry air, clear and dark skies allow us sweet glimpses into the celestial heavens that this transplant, from a country known for its constant cloud, still gets goosebumps from.

There is something else too. Something that can’t always be seen. The city has a population of over a million now, more than twice what it was 22 years ago when I arrived. Yet, despite its size this is a small place. A place where typically it isn’t six degrees of separation but one, or maybe two, degrees of separation. And so here Green and I sit this evening talking of the lovely Ashleigh Burroughs who I only know through her writing, and Tom & Mary who we know IRL, hoping they’re okay and that their path to healing is swift. We know we’re not alone in that hope. Across this big-little town we’re all trying to process what has happened. These people are our friends, our colleagues, our family.

5 – what do you do besides run the website?

Most of my day, now our five year old daughter is in school, is spent with our 1 year old son, or developing content for and supporting our local community hospital’s social media ( a couple of blogs and facebook pages).

6 – how did you come across We Are Cardiff and what do you like about it?

I found We Are Cardiff through i live here: sf. It makes me a little homesick. I identify with the delight in a city that isn’t appreciated by those outside as much as it should be. I like the frankness of many of your subjects and the humor. I love that your mission is to show people just how flipping brilliant Cardiff is.

I know Cardiff through the eyes of a child. Meeting my Gran and Granddad at the station (that’s where I’d go for a photo session if I was on WAC), going to the Arcades, have a nice lunch with Gran before heading out toward Cowbridge and Llanblethian.  Revisiting it through We Are Cardiff is lovely.

Some photos from the Love Letters to Tucson site:

Visit Love Letters to Tucson

Love Letters to Tucson on Facebook

Vote for us in the Wales Blog Awards!

Hey guys! You have until FIVE PM TOMORROW to vote for We Are Cardiff as the People’s Choice in the Wales Blog Awards. Please vote for us! We’re a site run on a completely voluntary basis by people who love the city. Vote! Vote!

http://www.walesblogawards.co.uk/peoples-choice-award/

Thanking you kindly
We Are Cardiff

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“Cardiff is gentle, real and always grounded” – Amy

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As I write this, I am sitting in my front room in Cathays. I can hear those seagulls we all hear on the roof and can smell “student cooking”. A thought comes into mind. No matter how hard the council tries to ‘Keep Cathays Tidy’ (and I know how hard they try) … it never really is tidy. I am starting to feel that somehow this is meant to be. Discarded pizza flyers and nibbled bin bags appear to be part of the shabby chic ephemera which typifies Cathays.

I love Cardiff. It is gentle, real and always grounded, no matter how many students, well-oiled rugby fans or naked cyclists pass through its streets.  When I tell people that I live in Cardiff, they always say ‘’I have heard that Cardiff is meant to be a great place to live’’. They are right. Having happily lived here for nearly ten years with my partner, I always speak extremely highly of this wonderful town. Where else in the British Isles can you walk in a beautiful park, see a man banging sticks on a bin, see absolute stag and hen hedonism, an Indian City Hall wedding and the delights of a Norwegian church all in one day?  Walking through Cardiff offers so many delights besides the great culture, architecture, museums and shops. If you look carefully enough, you may get to see its hidden treasures, like the teenage PDAs outside Blue Banana, the lady with the hat and black boots who spends hours dancing in front of buskers, the RAC man who seems to be everywhere, the religious preacher with his speakerphone or the almost edible kittens upstairs in the market. In Cardiff, no matter how crowded and busy things get, there is always somewhere for you to escape to. There is always a haven. One of my favorite havens in Cardiff has to be the ‘Summer House’ in Bute park. Just a five minute walk from my office or the town centre, it is the perfect place to sit and breathe, be it the middle of winter or the peak of our wet summers. Full of children with sticky fingers rushing around panting dogs, people getting lost in books and mums and dads on health kicks with bike helmets on, you can never be bored.

I first came to Cardiff to study Psychology in 2003. My sister loved it so I figured I would too. Being from Birmingham originally, Cardiff initially felt small and a bit old-fashioned. In my mind, I would stay for the three years of my degree and then go with my partner to somewhere more ‘exciting’. However, one night, as we walked under the bridge by the Hilton, my friend said ‘’Amy, I think you will find your Karma here’’. Little did I know, he would be absolutely right. I can’t see myself settling anywhere else anytime soon.

Cardiff has many wonderful resources. It is clever yet humble and gives often without wanting anything in return. May our wonderful town live on. Thanks Cardiff, you have been good to us.

Amy McClelland is a local Psychologist who runs the Cardiff Sleep Clinic ‘Sleep Wales’ and ‘Optimis Psychology’. Away from her office, she is a passionate linguist, likes singing, collecting her niece from nursery, yoga and spending free time in the College House chatting to Salvo, Dan and Michaela. Her favorite place in the world is the Blue Marlin in bar in Ibiza.

Amy was photographed in Bute Park by Lann Niziblian

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“Cardiff’s buildings may change, but the feel of the city never does” – Bazz

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That famous Thomas Wolfe quote – “you can’t go home again” – doesn’t really apply when you’re referring to Cardiff. Buildings may change, but the feel of the city never does.

When I was growing up, to take a trip down to Cardiff Bay seemed nothing short of ‘danger tourism’. It might just be my over-active imagination embellishing these memories, but the Docks were like the set of a post-apocalyptic film back then: derelict warehouses seemed to be everywhere. Now it’s one of the gems of South Wales: a hive of family-friendly activity as well as late-night revelry.

The Hayes, in the town centre, used to be where you went to get your bike fixed (Halfords), or your photos developed (Jessops, which had a little robotic man in its shop window that haunted my dreams for a worrying period of time). In late 2009, I came back from a long trip to Australia to discover the retail Mecca that is St David’s 2, built over that once-dreary site; a centre so impressive that people from as far afield as London prefer to come here to do their shopping.

The fear of missing out is a powerful one. If you’re coming back to this city after moving away, you’re not coming back to the small village where nothing ever changes; where everybody shops at the local petrol station. You’re coming back to a city where exciting things are happening, be it in sporting, cultural or business terms (or all three). I’m appreciative of the fact that I’m living in Cardiff at a time when it’s experiencing a renaissance.

Some people are quick to drop everything and leave for another city, or country, and in some cases that’s understandable. For me, I have cultivated many friendships over the years that I would find hard to turn my back on so easily. Many of these were formed at places such as the gym in Sophia Gardens, which hosts the richest tapestry of characters I’ve ever encountered. One of the more outlandish individuals is a Phil Collins lookalike who accessorises a skimpy leotard with a bumbag. I’ve made some great friends there (though not so much with Leotard Man, for obvious reasons), and the storylines that have emerged from within the four walls of a single weights room have convinced me that I will one day write a book on these people.

I went to Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr in Fairwater. It’s an amazing school. There were only three years there when I started because it had gone from being a lower school to a new, standalone institution. It meant that everyone knew each other, which was definitely not the case in the rest of Cardiff’s huge schools. My little brother goes there now, and to hear of all the developments it’s undergone since I left (including, to my eternal jealousy, an astroturf pitch and a new gym) reinforces my belief that the Welsh language continues to grow in the city.

Most of my friends in their mid-twenties are teachers, and I realise that my teachers in Plasmawr – back then, all around the same age that I am now – were still finding their way; their experiences as educators were just as new as ours were as pupils and, on reflection, they did an impressive job. English classes were a highlight, and my teacher Mr Jones was an inspirational presence who had a profound effect on the path I chose upon leaving school.

I wasn’t the perfect student by any stretch of the imagination, and my friends and I were prone to the odd displays of smartarsery. In history class one day, our new teacher immediately regretted asking our disruptive group if one of us wanted to take the lesson, because one of us stood up and did just that. But those are the good memories you take with you.

Studying for my undergraduate degree in Aberystwyth some years ago, I encountered certain Welsh people from outside of South Wales from whom I got the impression they thought people from Cardiff were somehow ‘less Welsh’ than them. Now most of them live here. A microcosm of North Wales can even be found in Canton, adding to the melting pot (or, better yet, fruit salad) already inherent in Cardiff’s DNA.

Three years ago, I was lucky to be accepted into Cardiff University’s International Journalism Masters programme. In a large group of students, I was the only Welshman (and one of only three Brits) on the course, and the UN-like environment of the ‘newsroom’ was incredible. It was interesting to see these foreigners’ perceptions of my hometown too. Maybe they were just being polite, but they seemed utterly sincere when they told me they loved Cardiff. It was a unique experience at the Bute Building in Cathays Park.

My favourite part of Cardiff is the sprawling Pontcanna Fields. There aren’t many cities that can boast a park where you are literally surrounded in all directions by greenery, and it’s one of the prime examples of why the city is one of the greenest in Europe. You can even see Castell Coch from the fields, which emphasises Cardiff’s accessibility to other distinctly non-cosmopolitan regions. Whether I’m there walking the dog or running with my friend, this place has a calming effect on my soul.

As a youngster, I had no reason to go to Cathays or Roath – now I’m there regularly. It is the bohemian heart of the city, and the elite unit of Cardiff’s intelligentsia that is my quiz team has often been known to storm the competition at the magnificent Pear Tree bar on a Sunday. (In the past, we’ve been affectionately referred to as the ‘Seal Team 6’ of quiz teams – mostly by ourselves.)

I want to be here when Cardiff reaches its tipping point and gets the global recognition it deserves as one of Europe’s finest capital cities. It won’t be long.

Bazz Barrett works in PR and lives in Pontcanna. He blogs for therugbycity.wordpress.com, tweets as @bazzbarrett and can sometimes be found avoiding leotard-wearing Phil Collins lookalikes in the gym – a workout in itself.

Bazz was photographed at the War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens by Ffion Matthews

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