The We Are Cardiff Instagram Project: March – Rhian Richards

Oh howdy there, good people. I bring you joyeous and exciting tidings of our We Are Cardiff Instagram Project! I set up a We Are Cardiff @wearecardiff Instagram account a couple of weeks ago, with the intention of passing it around to different people in the city for a month at time, to get a Cardiffian’s-eye view of happenings in different places.

The first couple of weeks were me, in and around Cardiff Bay. But I’m very happy to announce that the first month – the month of MARCH 2014 – will be attacked by Rhian Richards! Rhian is normally on Instagram on @rhirhigabor, but has agreed to take on March for We Are Cardiff. Here’s a little bit about Rhian. Enjoy! Helia x

Rhian Richards

I moved to Cardiff in May 2013 but have lived here before between 1998 and 2003. It’s changed a lot since those days!

On weekends I like watching films, meeting up with friends, cooking, going for walks and taking photos.

I have an obsession with castles and places of historical interest so I love exploring them and taking pictures so my favourite Cardiff haunts so far are Castell Coch, Cardiff Castle and Sain Ffagan.

I also love nice restaurants and bars. Among my favourites are The Potted Pig, The Cosy Club, Bills and Mezza Luna. Nom!

On a Wednesday night you can usually catch me in line at The Odeon Cinema in the Red Dragon Centre waiting to geek out with a good film.

I also enjoy horse riding and get back in the saddle whenever I can. I go to Cardiff Riding School in Pontcanna Fields.


If you’d like to commandeer the We Are Cardiff Instagram for a month, email, with a brief description of where you live / work / what your leisure activities entail. Get involved, like!

The Broadway Project – Luke Rice

“The thing about Broadway, they always welcome you with open arms” – Brooke Shields


Luke Rice recently completed a photography project about Broadway, a long road filled with shops and houses that lies between Clifton Street and Newport Road in south east Cardiff. He tells us about the road, and about his photographs.

According to the Welsh Government, Adamsdown is one of the most deprived parts of Wales.

I grew up in Adamsdown in the 1990s, and currently live around 10 minutes walk away. My current commute means that I cycle down the road nearly every day.

On the surface Broadway looks a bit unloved, it is a road to pass through, to get from A – B, not really a road in which you would want to stop and explore. It is fair to say that it is slightly less glamorous than its famous cousin in New York.


“Broadway is really my life” – Vanessa Williams

Rude Boy

“I believe we have to bring Broadway a little Latino flair. We have to keep it alive” – Ricky Martin


Young Family

“My one ambition was to go to Broadway, and I never gave up on that dream” – David Hasselhoff

“A lot of people now don’t know I’ve been on Broadway” – Wesley Snipes

Second Hand

Big Brother

“It wasn’t until Broadway came along that I felt I had really made it” – Julie Andrews


Bad Ass

“The only reason anyone goes to Broadway is because they can’t get work in the movies” – Bette Davis

Yellow House

“Being on Broadway is the modern equivalent of being a monk. I sleep a lot, eat a lot, and rest a lot” – Hugh Jackman

After spending a few days walking up and down, taking photographs, I realised that there was some beauty to this beast. In addition, I noticed some positive signs that things are (slowly) starting to change for the better. Presumably attracted by cheap rents, recent migrants and artists are starting to open restaurants, cafes, yoga and art studios.

Green Door

Broadway is a strange and fascinating place, full of contrasts and colours. I feel that Broadway has a lot of potential to be a destination in its own right, not just a through road. Maybe we could look over the pond for inspiration … a theatre on Broadway perhaps?



I currently work for a charity called SWEA. I am working on a community, programme called Cynefin which aims to bring together residents & relevant professionals to work towards shared sustainability projects. My work focuses on the wards of Adamsdown, Cathays and Roath. It is hard but very rewarding at times.

I have modest aspirations: I want to be healthy & happy, I want to experience new sounds, sights, tastes, adventures. I want to meet lots of interesting people from interesting places. I want to spend my life working on things that attempt to make the world a better place (even in a very very small way).

Luke Rice is 29 and a Cardiff native. He grew up in Roath and Adamsdown but has spent time in Bristol and Camden. He currently lives in Roath, very close to the Gate. He loves living in this area because of its vibrancy, multiculturalism, proximity to nice parks and the city centre, nice cafes/bars and the fact that it is a little rough round the edges. You can see the rest of his photography project about Broadway on his Flickr.


“I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my flood bag packed in the car, on standby!” – Jen


I joined Penarth lifeboat station as a trainee crew member in July 2008. I had recently moved to the area and wanted to get involved in the community somehow. A colleague who was already a helmsman at the lifeboat station suggested I became a crew member. I was told when I visited the lifeboat station that if I wanted to join it would be a serious hobby I was taking on and that I needed to give as much time as possible to the training. The appeal for me was the challenge of learning a new skill (actually a huge set of new skills!) and meeting and getting to know people in the area. I also had a draw to learn the skills as my aunt had sadly drowned whilst out on a yacht back in 1960, and I wanted to be part of a team who had the ability to go out and help people like her who get into difficulties.

Within two years I became a fully trained crew member and I am now training to be a helm myself. The excitement and discipline of a shout is immense. Putting into action the training you have been doing. In the first year when the pagers went off I’d find by the time I got in the water to launch the boat I’d have shaky legs and thought, god I’ve got to get fitter! But I soon realised it was the adrenaline giving me shaky legs! I’ve learnt to channel the adrenaline now to better use. It’s especially helpful using it to help wake me up properly before getting on the boat when we have our shouts in the middle of the night.

I joined the Flood Rescue team, West Division in 2012; learning how to stay safe in fast flowing water and how to execute different rescue scenarios.

I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my flood bag packed in the car, on standby! It’s like having a shout that you know is coming, you just don’t know when and you’re continually making adjustments in your life just in case the call comes in and you have to go. My family and boyfriend are extremely understanding and so is my work, which I am extremely grateful for. In fact some of my presents this year were items for my flood bag! Waterproof mobile phone holder and gadgets that will charge my mobile phone without a plug point.

This Christmas the West flood team were all on standby but to different areas. Seeing the support the RNLI Flood Rescue Team gave to those people in both North Wales and Aberystwyth who were either completely stranded or flooded out of their homes makes me very proud to be part of the team. Being one of those people who can put a smile on someone’s face who really has got a lot on their plate is a great feeling.

Life in Cardiff is great as the adventure facilities continue to expand. The white water rafting centre has been great for a bit of fun on the water as well as training days for the Flood Rescue Team – we’ve even put cars in there to train with. Indoor surfing at the centre is my next challenge! I’m so lucky to have adventure races right on my doorstep with the Cardiff Burn running in Cardiff giving me a chance to get my bike, kayak and running legs out. With talk of a real-snow indoor ski slope coming to Cardiff too it really is an exciting place to live!

Jen Payne is a Cardiff local who volunteers as a crew member at Penarth RNLI lifeboat station.

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its 24-hour rescue service. To find out more about the RNLI and how you can donate, click here:

Jen was photographed at Penarth lifeboat station by Ffion Matthews

If you’re interested in the history of the RNLI in Wales, Phil Carradice recently wrote an interesting piece on them for BBC Wales Blogs.



From Now On Festival – review and interview with Shape Records

So, at the weekend I went along to From Now On Festival, a two day event held over in Chapter Arts Centre and curated by Mark Thomas from Shape Records.

Mark is one of those people who I’ve known for years, and has fingers in pretty much all local musical pies. He runs a label, his band Islet are Pitchfork approved, and this weekend he picked out a load of crazy noisemakers for people to listen to. Mark has been playing in bands since he was a teenager, though his main one is Islet, and his old one with his two brothers was called Attack + Defend. They set up Shape Records together back in 2007, and have released a fair bit since then, mainly limited edition vinyl pressings. With Islet, Mark has been lucky enough to play festivals and gigs all over the world – “it’s a very fun thing to be a part of”, as he tells me.

This is Mark (or Sparky, as I like to call him. I’m unsure as to whether he likes it, but there you go). This was taken at Swn Festival. Doesn’t he cut a dashing figure?

mark thomas shape records by adam chard

Anyway. I had a spiffing time at From Now On. Friday night was a total mess of weird noises made with harps, guitars, synths and god knows what else, bookended with the superbly crafted tunes of Gwenno (at the start) and Richard Dawson (at the end).

Gwenno (you know her, she was in the Pipettes, right?)


(apologies for the crap pic, you can blame my camera phone)

Then there was Rhodri Davies. I walked in and saw a man with a harp. Ah, this will be nice and mellow, I thought. NOT SO. Never thought the musical boundaries of distorted drone would be pushed – by a harp.

Rhodri Davies by Adam Chard

Trwbador (this pair are from Carmarthenshire, and they played right lovely twinkly electro-pop)

Trwbador by Adam Chard

Bridget Hayden – slow paced distorted guitar and vocals – reminiscent of early PJ Harvey (though I would have liked to have heard more of her voice)

Bridget Hayden

Lucky Dragons got everyone to put their hands together to make music, beautiful music!

Lucky Dragons by Adam Chard

Lucky Dragons by Adam Chard

Lucky Dragons by Adam Chard

Richard Dawson closed off the first night. He sings traditional-style English ballads with a massive voice and his tiny guitar – interspersed by breaking into Abba, Journey, and various other pop hits. Brilliant.

Richard Dawson by Adam Chard

Day Two consisted of more excellent music, ales, cups of tea, and sweet potato fries. Which is why Chapter is such a great venue for watching bands!

First up was Tender Prey, aka Laura Bryon, featuring two members of Islet on drums and bass, yeah?

Tender Prey by Adam Chard

Tender Prey by Helia Phoenix

After that was Hail! The Planes. I don’t have much luck with their gigs. I’ve seen them three times before – once my friend’s bag got stolen, the other time we had been out drinking the night before and got there in time for the last song, and then a few years back at Swn Festival, they were on on the Sunday after a very long weekend of boozing and not sleeping, me and two friends sat at the back of their set in Undertone on a sofa, then got the giggles so badly that we were massively shushed by everyone at the back of the room and in the end had to leave. Anyway, I managed to see the whole set, and it was great!

Hail! The Planes by Adam Chard

Hail! The Planes by Adam Chard

Hail! The Planes by Adam Chard

Hail! The Planes by Adam Chard

After that I went to listen to Aidan Richard Taylor and Kim Da Costa weave together some music and visuals – bended by lights …

Aiden Richard Taylor by Adam Chard

Aiden Richard Taylor 03

Then it was time for some melodic, dreamy stoner rock from R. Seiliog. It was HEAVY and it was GREAT.

R. Seiliog by Adam Chard

R. Seiliog by Adam Chard

Then came my undoubted highlight of the night – which was the Peski Records Silent Disco – by far the weirdest silent disco I’ve ever been to. One channel had a DJ playing some deadly beats, another was soundtracking the screen in the middle of the room (playing old disco records and various other random things), and then another – well, I’ve no idea how to describe it, other than it sounded like a man doing the shipping forecast over members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop trying out sounds for a new sci-fi programme. It was brilliant!

DSC_0144 DSC_0147 Micro Peski Nacht by Adam Chard

The festival was closed off by Euros Childs! Isn’t it a lovely day, eh?

Euros Childs by Adam Chard

Other shots, from around the festival over the weekend…



Kidder with noise blockers

I had a great time at the festival. One of my favourite things about things like this in Cardiff is the likelihood of bumping into everyone you know there, as I did. Lovely to catch up with people! In fact, there were so many ‘Cardiff band-scene’ people there that one of my companions wondered how many new bands were being formed right there, in the miasma of knitwear, beards and sparkly jumpers, outside the Theatre in Chapter, before our very eyes…

I guess we can look forward to seeing them all perform next year, eh!

from now on banner

Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the festival. Overall, it was a great couple of days. Roll on the second one!

Have you ever run a festival before?

Mark: No, I’ve been putting on live events in Cardiff for years and always wanted to put on something more ambitious. When the opportunity came to work in collaboration with Chapter and the PRS For music Foundation it gave the platform to realise that.

How did you pick the line up?

Mark: Each of the acts has been chosen for their leftfield approach and individuality. There is a strong independent spirit to many of the acts in the sense that many operate without a record label or music industry representation. It’s music that challenges the boundaries and operates outside of the mainstream.

What local bands will be ruling the world soon?

Mark: On a world level Cate Le Bon is going from strength to strength at the moment and it’s brilliant to see her getting the recognition she deserves.

What bands generally are you excited by at the moment?

Mark: Well, we’re releasing a record by a band called from Wrexham called Mowbird so I’ve been listening to that almost constantly. I’m very excited about them!

How would you describe the music scene in Cardiff generally?

Mark: I love it, I’ve been involved with music in Cardiff for over 10 years now and people come and go (still miss Kruger) but there is a very supportive and strong backbone to the whole scene with places like Clwb Ifor Bach, Spillers Records and Music Box being particularly vital and good to know. It’s big enough that you can never know everyone involved but it’s small enough that you can feel comfortable & reasonably worthy!

If you had some friends visiting Cardiff for the weekend, what would you tell them they HAD to do to fully enjoy the city?

Mark: I’m pretty partial to a Frankies, which is a takeaway pizzeria on Mackintosh Place! Also a wander round Cardiff indoor market is a good way of getting a true Cardiffy flavour.

Thanks Mark! All photographs in this post were taken by Adam Chard and me, Helia Phoenix.

Speakers by Helia Phoenix


“Cardiff happened to me totally by chance” – Biv


Cardiff happened to me totally by chance. If it weren’t for my best mate from home not going to University and getting a job in Cardiff, I wouldn’t be writing this article today.

Born and brought up in Doha Qatar, I went to University of Warwick following school. At this point, my mate from home came to Cardiff University to pursue his undergrad. Hence, I’d been to Cardiff a few times and liked it straight away. It reminded me a lot of my hometown; though it was small, being a capital city, it had everything you’d want. Friendly people, lots of restaurant and café options, and a great vibrant night life. So when it came to applying for graduate jobs, I didn’t think twice before putting down Cardiff as my first choice for a graduate scheme with a national employer.

It’s been almost seven years since I moved to Cardiff with work; the city and its people have been very welcoming and I consider it as home. Though I’ve been approached with job roles in other parts of the UK, I can’t come to terms with leaving the city and my mates behind now. I’m in a comfort bubble but it’s one that I’m happy not to burst for the time being.

Having lived in Cathays, Cardiff Bay and now Roath, I probably love Roath the best. The neighbourhood cafes and local establishments, the park and lake, the Farmers market are just some of the things that make this a great neighbourhood to live in. Its proximity to town is also a bonus which means that it’s a reasonable distance to stagger back home after a cracking night out in town!

If I had to pick one place that I love the most and would be able to take with me wherever I went, that would be Milgi. The awesome ‘your living room’ feel, the friendly staff and the eclectic mix of clientele are desirable extras to the lush drinks (hot and cold) that they serve. However, not a big fan of the ‘only vegan’ turn that they have adopted over the last few years as that’s limited me to ordering only drinks. But hey ho, I’ve still got umpteen amazing local establishments to choose from to satisfy my palate.

Cardiff ticks all the boxes for me; like every city, it has its undesirable aspect / elements but it isn’t in your face and you have the option to stay clear of them. When one does that, don’t see why this city wouldn’t rank as one of the best to live in the nation.

Oh, those bloody seagulls!! Forgot about that…

Bivin Mathew is 29 years of age and still unsure what the fuss is about turning 30 – a sports loving foodie and movie buff who uses an accounting qualification to pay the bills. Biv has been living in Roath for the past three years and remains unconvinced about moving to other parts of the city. Spare time is spent trying to play squash and tennis, or knocking a football around in a cage, watching films (Cineworld Unlimited card should be given its own star on the Hollywood walk of fame!) and enjoying all the delicacies that the various restaurants and cafes that Cardiff has to offer. Follow Biv on Twitter @bivlar or by blog.

Biv was photographed in Waterloo Tea Rooms and in Waterloo Gardens by Tom Beardshaw



From Now On Festival, 14 – 15 February 2014, Chapter Arts Centre

from now on banner

Gah! Is it just me or is this week dragging ON forever? Anyway, for those music lovers who are looking for something to do this weekend, the We Are Cardiff flag will be flying (and by that I mean I’ll be drunk and draped over the speakers) at Chapter Arts Centre on Friday and Saturday for From Now On festival. It’s been put together by Mark of Shape Records, and is a new festival of adventurous and experimental music.

Friday 14th Feb 7pm – 11pm: Lucky Dragons, Rhodri Davies, Bridget Hayden, Richard Dawson, Trwbador, Gwenno and more

Saturday 15th Feb 3pm – 11pm: Euros Childs, Serafina Steer, Davies & Dawson: Hen Ogledd, Laura J Martin, Dan Haywood, Thought Forms, Trust Fund, R Seiliog, The Jelas, Tender Prey, Hail! The Planes + Micro Peski Nacht

Tickets: £25 two day Festival ticket (no booking fee) here
£12 Friday only ticket (no booking fee) here
£15 Saturday only ticket (no booking fee) here
(You can also buy tickets in person at the Chapter box office or from Spillers Records)

Check out the From Now On website for background info and to hear snippets of the artists who’ll be performing …

I’ve been trying to get Mark to do a We Are Cardiff for about four years now (unsuccessfully, he keeps running away from me every time I mention it), but I’ve managed to squeeze a mini interview out of him, which you’ll be treated to next week, along with photos from the event.

See you there, yeah?

Helia x

“Dancing in Cardiff” – Jo


Cardiff has treated me well. I’ve been here for nearly seven years, and the doorway here was through dance, of all things.

It’s what I do, perform, teach, choreograph and since running away from London in 2006, I’ve been settling in. People have been so welcoming and right now I’m delighted, as having presenting my own work here at the Sherman Theatre, we’re currently on the road.

After arriving in Cardiff, I became Rehearsal Director and Artist Development for National Dance Company Wales. I taught, nurtured, and supported the dancers as we toured the UK and abroad. You could say this was my first proper job, as 20 years of choreographing and dancing on a stage, just never seemed like work.

In the last three years I have returned to choreographing and directing and met the many independent artists that Cardiff have to offer. Everyone from dance folk, visual artists, musicians, theatre people and those digital artists that spend a lot of time on their own. It’s interesting, a whole community thriving, creating and working together in multiple configurations.

There’s something here about enthusiasm and support. Without the people pooling resources and ideas many of these projects would not get off the ground and would still be inside the heads of the artists.

I’ve felt welcome and with support from the Cardiff dance scene, the theatres and Arts Council Wales I was able to rehearse, film and stage Witness – Portraits of Women Who Dance. The choreographic portraits are about three dancers, and what dancing means to them, about their bodies and what it is like to be be a performer or put on display. It’s staged on three large screens and the presentation lies somewhere between a documentary and a performance. The dancers are phenomenal, Ino Riga, Eeva-Maria Mutka and Annabeth Berkeley speak in depth and are so generous in their stories. For the most filming took place in Cardiff, we also shot Eeva’s portrait in the glorious West Wales countryside.

Witness has been a privilege to make, as a whole it tells another story about women, the ordinary and extraordinary, their strengths, flaws and being seen.

If you’re interested in actually doing dancing, whatever your age or ability, you might want to check out Rubicon Dance or National Dance Company Wales who have regular programmes to get involved.

If you’d rather watch someone else dance, there’s Chapter Art Centre, Wales Millennium Centre, Sherman Theatre or The Dance House at the Bay.

Jo Fong is a director, choreographer and performer working in dance, film, theatre and the visual arts. Visit or  see Cardiff Dance on Facebook.

Jo’s show Witness – Portraits of Women Who Dance – is currently touring. Catch it at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 21 February 2014, or at Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon on 13 March 2014

Jo was photographed at Chapter Arts Centre by Janire Najera


We Are Cardiff featured on Guardian Cities

At the end of a crazy busy week on the blog (in terms of visitors and page views, it’s been our busiest week ever AND we had our busiest day EVER on Tuesday!), we finish up by being featured on Guardian cities as one of the best city blogs around the world.

Guardian Cities screenshot

Obviously I’m totally chuffed that the blog has made it on there, but ever heard of Guardian cities? No, neither had I. Well, here’s some background to it:

Guardian Cities was launched in 2014 to create a fresh and engaging hub for reporting and discussing urban life and the future of cities around the world. The site will host opinion and analysis from a range of voices across the globe, along with news, graphics and data…” (to read more, go here: About the Guardian cities site)

So there you go. Watch this space for more on that!

 In other news, we’ve totally set ourselves up on Instagram. Follow We Are Cardiff on Instagram!

You can also like our We Are Cardiff Facebook Page or tweet tweet at us on Twitter @WeAreCardiff


That’s it for this week, I think! Enjoy the rugby, for those watching it tomorrow – and have a great weekend all!

Spotlight on Roath

albany pub

The Albany pub – one of Roath’s landmarks

Now, Cardiff is a beautiful and varied city, with many neighbourhoods that people are very proud of. We’ve featured over 100 Cardiffians on this site since it launched nearly four years ago, and the Roath/Penylan area has been our most fertile in terms of participants for the project. Now, I’m not going to get into listing reasons why Roath is better than everywhere else, if only because the city’s Roath versus Canton east/west divide issue nearly brought people to blows at our film premiere at Chapter last year … but there’s no denying it’s a lively part of the city with a hell of a lot going on.

Roath also has a pretty special blog that covers local news, events and features local people. The RoathCardiff hyperlocal blog does great work in galvanising the local community, and was rewarded for its hard work when it won the TalkTalk Digital Heroes awards (presented at the House of Commons! Fancy, eh?). The folk who run RoathCardiff have also helped out with We Are Cardiff before (big thanks Matt!), so by way of a thank you, I thought I’d dedicate a post to the wonder of the RoathCardiff blog.

If you live in the local area, is a pretty ace source of information about news, happenings, and events around there. It’s also really easy to contact the blog’s admin team to get involved, or get your news on there to spread it to local people.

Here’s what they say about themselves…

“The RoathCardiff website is a place for local news, views and events from this wonderful area of the Welsh capital.

We will be sharing when Roath makes the news, what residents of Roath are up to and interesting events going on in and around the area. We’ll also have some local history and nice pictures for good measure.
If you’ve got something you’d like to see on the site just get in touch and we’ll do our best to feature it.
We also tweet from @RoathCardiff, where we pump out a vast amount of information about the local area and what people are up to. We suggest following us for updates.”

To give you an idea of the sorts of things they cover, check out the last few news stories posted on the site:

Feb 1, 2014 Mackintosh Lawn Tennis Club’s men are team of the year

Jan 27, 2014 Changes to Claude Place Albany Road junction

Jan 20, 2014Sherman Theatre Spring Season

They’ve even got a local history section on their website, for those of you interested in finding out about the area

Roath Park’s old refreshment house – a bit different from the ice cream vans of today!

You can watch the video of what RoathCardiff is, and why it’s so great below.


– on the RoathCardiff blog

@RoathCardiff twitter

RoathCardiff  on Facebook

Want to check out all the We Are Cardiff Roath entries? Browse the We Are Cardiff Roath archive

All photos were nabbed totally without permission from

“Malaysian – Cardiffian – a harmonious fusion between two cultures, two cities and two lifestyles” – Zainah


I am sat at my cafe having a cuppa and reflecting on the last 10 years living in Cardiff. It has been eventful in many ways, yet calming at the same time.

My husband and I actually met in 1991 when we were both studying at Cardiff University. In 1995 we got married in Kuala Lumpur during his year out for his Architecture degree. We returned to Cardiff a happily married couple and stayed for another 12 months. He could have continued his degree at another university, but opted to stay in Cardiff instead. Looking back I think it was because we felt at home in Cardiff but didn’t quite realise it yet.

We left for Malaysia and lived there for another seven years. In the following years, we had two daughters and several jobs. In April 2003, we felt we needed a big change and my husband wanted to study an MsC in Environmental Design. We had the whole of the UK to choose from, but chose Cardiff again. We felt it was the right place to bring up two very young children. When we arrived in Cardiff on the 18 August 2003, it was like we never left. I even caught up with Eastenders within a week!

Cardiff was wonderful for us and our children. Unfortunately recession hit and my husband was made redundant from an architects firm in Cardiff. I was still working at a solicitors office on a part-time basis.

Unable to find a job after 12 months, we made a huge decision for my husband to go back to Kuala Lumpur to work. The plan was for me to try to sell our house and move to Kuala Lumpur with the children once the sale was completed. When the house was put up for sale I had an uneasy feeling. We were well rooted in our lovely Penylan/Roath community and it seemed a little scary moving back to Kuala Lumpur after eight years in Cardiff.

Well, it’s 2013, and we are still here! We had to find a plan B and decided to open a Malaysian Cafe on Wellfield Road. It ‘s called called KL Canolog, named after KL Sentral – the main train station in Kuala Lumpur.

So, we are now in a perfect place. If I were to think back about what we remembered most about Cardiff is probably Roath Park. We used to imagine having a picnic there whilst our two young daughters ran about appreciating the fresh air, the lovely flowers and the friendly Welsh people. This still holds true to me but in the last few years I have had to face animosity for being foreign, for presumably overstaying, for taking what was not ours, basically negative press everyday. This seemed to be everywhere in the UK and not just Wales. We were able to overcome this as there was that Cardiff part in us and in our three children (oops I forgot to mention we adopted my son in 2006 from Malaysia). So we embraced the bad and good.

The 18 of August marks our 10th year in Cardiff (if you include our student days that’ll be 15 years). This is where we call home. We are supporters of the Welsh Rugby team and Cardiff City FC. We are very happy to share our Malaysian heritage with our community and feel that it is time we gave back to Cardiff what we have been enjoying for example Welsh cakes, barra brith, chips from Chippy Lane, to name a few.

I am also getting involved in several causes like the Depressed Cake Shop which has gone global from London to Cardiff, San Francisco and in Kuala Lumpur (organised by my sister living in Kuala Lumpur). This cause has also been mentioned on CNN and the LA Times. It is personal to me as I suffered a major breakdown before KL Canolog opened and have suffered with depression for most of my adult life. My father suffers from it too and it was difficult growing up with depression being such a taboo in the Far East. My daughters and I will be doing the Memory Walk on the 15 of September to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Sadly my mother-in-law is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. My life has changed from working in an office and being surround by four walls and the law. I am a lot happier and I feel working at KL Canolog has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who are giving back to society and trying to make it a better place to live.

Made in Roath is also fabulous and I am blessed to have met Wayne Courtney and champion for everything good. I would also like to thank Miss Cakehead who is a genius! She has made it possible for me to be brave about my depression.

With everything we have been through, I have come to realise that you can’t take the Malaysian out of us but at the same time you can’t take the Cardiff out of us too. A harmonious fusion between two cultures, two cities and two lifestyles.

Zainah Ismail first came to Cardiff in 1990 to study Law at Cardiff University. After graduating with an LLB Degree, she worked as a banker in Kuala Lumpur. In 2004, Zainah started working at Geldards LLP before deciding to start a Malaysian cafe-deli called KL Canolog with her husband. Besides being involved with The Depressed Cake Shop Cymru and taking part in The Memory Walk, Zainah has recently involved herself with Free Cakes for Wales which provides cakes for adults and children who are unable to afford a birthday cake. Zainah currently lives with her husband, her two daughters and son in Penylan.

Zainah was photographed at KL Canalog by Jon Pountney



Cardiff council’s proposed arts and culture budget cuts

New Theatre by Tom Beardshaw

New Theatre Cardiff under threat from council budget cuts… photo by Tom Beardshaw

We don’t often post things like this, but as our local rag the Western Mail reports, Cardiff council budget cuts are threatening a number of the city’s cultural venues. We don’t have that many! We need to keep the ones we have! The New Theatre and St David’s Hall are under threat, and a number of Cardiff-based arts organisations also face grant cuts.

Read more details about the proposed cuts on the Western Mail’s website here: Cardiff cultural venues under threat as subsidies set to be slashed

Cardiff Council are currently running a public consultation on the proposed cuts – not just to arts but to a whole load of different services. The consultation runs until Friday 13 February 2014, and the opinions gathered will be fed into the proposed new budget – due to be discussed by the cabinet on February 20 and debated at full council on February 27. Access the survey about the proposed arts and culture cuts here

There’s also a petition that’s been set up to stop the proposed sale of St David’s Hall and the New Theatre … go here to access that petition: – Stop the proposed sale of St David’s Hall and New Theatre


What do you think about the budget cuts proposed? Make sure you take part in the consultation above, and leave your comments below.