Two more weeks in Cardiff – photography by Rhian Richards and a new photographer for April!

And thus tomorrow begins April, and thus our Instagram photography project is handed over from Rhian Richards to our next Cardiff resident, Elizabeth Watt!

Many thanks to Rhian for doing such a tip top job in March. She has put up some gorgeous snaps of the city over the past two weeks – have a look at the places she went …




See more of Rhian’s photography out and about in Cardiff here: Two weeks in Cardiff – street photography by Rhian Richards.

Over the next month, Elizabeth Watt will be taking over the lens, so keep an eye on it …. We Are Cardiff Instagram! She’s written us a short biography of herself:

Libby is a 23 year old broadcasting production assistant, still kicking around Cardiff after moving in September ’09 for Uni. Five years, one Documentary Film & TV degree and several broken bones later, she’s played the Cardiff scene from student hood through to being a young professional.

One of her favourite city pastimes is spotting those embarking on ‘the walk of shame’, talking to the swans by Roath Lake and visiting independent cafes and bars. The city would be perfect, if it weren’t for the occasional pothole- which always conveniently appear when daring to wear heels, or running.

Determined to work through her ‘Cardiff Bucket List’- feel free to recommend places and things to do in Cardiff, @ElizabethMWatt!

100 Strangers Project Cardiff – Just Ard

Recently I came across the 100 Strangers Project on Flickr. It’s a group described as “a learning group intended for those wishing to improve both their social and technical skills needed for taking portraits of strangers and telling their stories … The challenge: Take at least 100 photographs of 100 people you don’t know. Approach anyone or a group of people, ask for permission to both take a photo of them and to post it to this group. Get to know your stranger/s. Who are they? What is their life like?”

Pretty great project, no? As half of what gets posted on We Are Cardiff is portrait photography, I thought this was a great idea for people interested in photography to get some portraits under their belts. I found a lovely set of 100 Strangers photographs posted by a local photographer who goes by the name of Just Ard (or Wayne, presumably to his mum). His photographs – along with descriptions – are posted below, for your viewing and reading pleasure, along with a Q&A with him at the end. Helia

Gerry #1 100 Strangers

Gerry is the first person in my 100 Strangers Project.

I met Gerry in Costa Coffee in Caerphilly, Wales. I was sitting alone and he asked if the seat opposite was free. He was pleased to sit by the window. He had popped in for a coffee whilst his wife was shopping. He was quite chatty, and we had a good conversation about pubs in the valleys and different real ales. A TV cabling engineer during his working life, he is retired now. I asked if he would mind if I took a few shots and explained the project, and he was pleased to oblige. I didn’t want to take him away from his coffee so I took the shots in situ.


Peter #2 100 Strangers

Peter is the second person in my 100 Strangers Project. I was walking along the Hayes in Cardiff, looking around me for my first shot of the day. I noticed Peter sitting on a bench with his little dog by him. I thought he would make a good subject for my strangers project. I approached him and asked if I could take his photo. He replied with “You thought to yourself he’s a good character to take a photo of, did you?” I had to admit yes, and that he stood out among the people that were walking around us. We both nodded. “Go on then,” he said.

I ran off a few shots, then he asked me if I would like to have a few shots with Queenie, his dog in. I took a few shots of them both. When I finished, I gave Peter my card and in return Peter gave me one of his, explaining he was there on business, and deals in Militaria, so as a thank you to him, I have put a link to his site here.


Priya #3 100 Strangers

Priya is the third person in my 100 Strangers Project. I was walking along Working Street in Cardiff, not long after taking a shot of my second Stranger, when Priya smiled across at me, so I went towards him. I have seen Priya in Cardiff before in the same area. He is a monk and uses his time to collect for charitable causes. He opened the conversation with “Have I spoken with you before?” I replied “Yes”. “Ah, I remember,” he said “You said to me, “You are a wonderful Monk, and I would love to donate.” I said “Nah, definitely the wrong person.” We chatted for a while, then I asked him if he would allow me to take his photo. I explained the project and he was very interested. I took a few shots, thanked him, then left him to continue with his work.

Thank you Priya, it was a pleasure talking with you, and always is watching you approach people and put a smile on their faces.


Philip #4 100 Strangers

Philip is the fourth person in my 100 Strangers Project. I first saw Philip as he walked out of St John’s Churchyard Gardens in the centre of Cardiff, to the area outside the Indoor Market carrying a film camera on a tripod. He was with two lovely young women, one of whom was carrying a large microphone. They set up their camera, which Philip was operating, and began encouraging people to talk on camera. I took a few shots of this and left them to carry on whilst I went on a wander for a while.

When I walked back around they had moved along and were setting up again, and interviewed a few people and I got a couple more shots. When it went quiet I approached them and asked what they were filming for. They explained they were doing Vox Pops about who people thought would win the Rugby 6 Nations Competition. They asked me who I thought would win. Fancy asking a Welshman! I replied “Italy…No Chance”, and laughed, then said “England…Not, Ireland”, and they stopped me and pleaded that I do that on camera. I agreed and, at the time the camera was on me forgot what I had actually said, but said something along those lines, and obviously finishing with Wales of course.

When I finished, I asked them what they were filming for and they are in Cardiff University studying for Masters Degrees in Journalism. It was really fun watching them work to encourage people to get in front of the camera. I decided to ask Philip if he would allow me to take his photo, as he seemed the wildest of the three of them. They were all bubbly, but, sorry girls it was his smile. I explained to them about the 100 Strangers, and it was at that point that I found out that Philip is from Uganda.

The photos started with a sort of pose, nothing to do with me, but what Philip adopted to a fun face then to the standard portrait. I decided to use this shot, the fun shot, as I think it shows how I saw Philip. I hope you can see his character through this.


Irmak #5 100 Strangers

Irmak is the fifth person in my 100 Strangers Project. I first saw the lovely Irmak taking photos of St John’s Church in the centre of Cardiff. With her was Penache. I took a couple of shots of her taking photos. They saw me and spoke to each other and smiled. They went around the church and Irmak continued taking photos. I was wandering in the same direction.

As they walked outside the Indoor Market, still taking photos I approached Irmak and explained about the 100 Strangers Project and asked if I could take her photo. She hadn’t heard of Flickr, but Penache had. I think Irmak and Penache to a degree had trouble understanding my Welsh accent, and they spoke between themselves, but I couldn’t work out what language they were speaking in. Irmak agreed to have her photo taken but Penache didn’t want to.

I took some shots and showed them to Irmak. She asked me to take some more, which I did and on reviewing them, asked that I use the one you see. I asked where she was from and it was Turkey. A town called Bursa, which is south of Istanbul. She was on holiday and staying with Penache and returning home on Monday.

Q&A with Wayne Lovatt, aka Just Ard

Q. What’s your Cardiff connection?
A. I was born and raised in Fairwater, Cardiff, hence my affiliation to the city. I moved to Pontypridd in my early twenties and have lived there now for over 30 years. Apart from a three year period, I’ve always worked in Cardiff, so have stayed familiar with how it has changed over the years. If we go back about 45 years ago, I know the streets in the centre of Cardiff had become slums, with no bathrooms and outside toilets, whole communities were moved from Newtown (what is now part of the centre of Cardiff), and the Docks area, to the new estates of Pentrebane, Llanederyn and Pentwyn. Moving all the communities out to the new estates on the outskirts of Cardiff ripped the centre apart. Over many years since, the centre has changed, and is now just a commercial centre, without the character of what it once was. The main commercial centre has grown outwards. You have to go outside it to see anything like the Old Cardiff, areas such as Splott, Roath, Grangetown, Riverside, everything that skirts the centre.

Q. Tell us about your background in photography.
A. I first studied photography in school, many years ago now, where I learned to develop and process my own photographs. Over the years other interests came along, though I did keep a little interest in photography. Then about two years ago a work colleague and friend, who was really enjoying his photography and using Flickr spurred my interest. From that point I started to find focus. In June 2012 I decided to try some new technology and invested in a Nikon D7000. Wow what an upgrade. My main focus through 2012 was flowers, which was the same in 2013. Then, came street photography.

Q. Street photography? Go on…
A. I was on Holiday with my wife in Falmouth September 2013. We found ourselves on the streets of Falmouth where there were  lots of characters, a great photographic opportunity. On returning home, I took a look at others work on Flickr who shoot people  on the street. I really liked the work of Leanne Boulton, a photographer from Glasgow, and contacted her for advice, with which she was so helpful. We still keep in  contact. A big influence to me was Thomas Leuthard, a Swiss photographer.

Why do I shoot street photography? It gives such a buzz. In a way it takes over and you have to have your fix. I
suppose some people would call my work “Street Portraiture”, but like with any labels, you restrict people to limits. You have to use the element of surprise. If someone sees you they automatically, without even thinking change either their stance, expression, look away or smile when all you want is to catch them naturally in their

If we look back through time we see old photographs of the rich and famous. Before that drawings and paintings of
Kings, Queens and nobility, but so little is known about the “man in the street”. If you look at those old photos, the best ones are not the Lord sitting posing, but the farrier hard at work, covered in dirt and sweat, with the steam billowing from the horseshoe as he plunges it into the water, or the miners and their families on a charabanc outing. Ordinary people doing ordinary everyday things. This genre of photography also gives me time to study
how people behave in different environments, and also to see what is around me and not just to look.

Q. Any advice for budding street photographers out there?
A. If I have any advice for others, the first would be to get a Flickr account. Things have changed on Flickr over the last year, but whichever way you look at it, you get 1 Terabyte of FREE space to store your photos. That is one hell of a lot of photos. Check out the “Street” groups on flickr, you will be amazed at how people interpret the genre, and the terrific levels of skill and art there is. Then put that into your head and get out on the streets and shoot away. The only way you will progress is to shoot. Don’t worry about the length of the lens. If you feel nervous use a longer lens until you feel more comfortable, I did, I started with a Sigma 70- 200mm zoom, then onto a Sigma 105mm, but now on nearly every shot use my Nikon 85mm, because that is what suits me. Remember you take these shots to please one person: yourself.

To see more of Just Ard’s work, visit his website, Tumblr, Flickr or his publications.

“It’s changed so much that parts don’t even resemble the old Cardiff” – Colin


I don’t live in Cardiff, let me point that out firstly. I’m from Penrhiwfer, a small village near Tonypandy in the Rhondda Valley. But, I’ve worked in and around the city for years, and seen big changes. I used to deliver all over from the Ely link to St Mellons and so I knew all the short cuts and side roads. That was then, before it began developing into the trendy, cosmopolitan capital we see today. Now, it’s changed so much that parts don’t even resemble the old Cardiff. The Bay for instance, which depicted the docks, is so fresh and fashionable now. The beautiful cafés, clubs and restaurants, a far cry from the humdrum and drab existence it used to portray. Don’t get me wrong, we still need our history, but the world has to move forward too. I like the transition from old to new.

I was, as I said a delivery driver; delivering everything from TVs to furniture and everything in between. I drove through Fairwater, Roath, Grangetown, Ely and many other areas. But my life changed when I took the experiences and jotted them down on paper.

I got great ideas travelling through the various streets and that eventually gave me the setting for a book. I’m a full-time fiction author now. I have done lots of book-signing events at Waterstones in the Hayes, to Borders (now gone) and indie book shops. I wrote Crank Tech One: Destruction. This is a sci-fi novel with scenes that were eventually set in the middle of the city. At the time they were filming a lot of locations in Cardiff for Dr Who with David Tennant. This excited me to pen my novel here.

Places change and people move on too. I don’t deliver anymore, but have fond memories of the places and characters I met that depicted the Cardiff way of life.

Colin Parsons is a writer. Find out more about his work on his website

Colin was photographed inside the Wales Millennium Centre by Helia Phoenix


Sow-a-thon at Cardiff’s Atrium

Last week, I received an invitation to a Facebook event titled Sow-A-Thon at the Atrium, run by Michele Fitzsimmons (under the guise of Edible Landscaping). The event was to kick off a project to create a living display for the end of year graduation show; “to create a display which incorporates huge amounts of plants, props and non-living displays and multimedia projections which work in with the living material.”

Photojournalist Lili Piggot went along to witness the kick-off event…

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

There’s a nice feature on Michele and her work in garden design and other outdoor activities on Gwion Thorpe’s Inspiring Cardiff blog: Michele Fitzsimmons.

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Now the Sow-A-Thon is over, Michele still needs people to help out with creating the living display. All sorts of skills are needed – carpentry, craft skills, painting skills, photography and gardening skills. As well as physical help, Michele also needs help with material and plants, in particular plants in pots that you could loan to the show for example. Things like exterior ply and timber are needed for the raised beds that need to be constructed. Basically if you can think of, she is likely to need it.

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

Ty Gwydr - The Greenhouse - 'Sow-a-thon'

For more information about the project contact Michele on I can’t wait to see the final display…!

Michele also runs a whole series of courses, from hedgerow foraging to growing a successful fruit garden. See all the courses here: Edible Landscaping – Courses

As an aside… If you’re interested in this sort of thing, then check out this event happening this Saturday 22 March 2014 at Roath’s MADE Gallery: Gut Feelings – a day of fermentation and social imagination: “A day of talks and practical workshops inspired by micro-organisms. Learn how to ferment veg, make sourdough and yoghurt whilst discussing cultural growth on a macro & micro level. Booking essential as places are limited – contact or ring 02920 473373”


All photographs taken at the Atrium in Cardiff by Lili Piggot. Lili is studying Photojournalism at the University of South Wales: see the departmental Twitter @PhotoJ_USW; Tumblr; see also Photojournalism course info for next year.

“Cardiff has a heart and a bruised beauty which makes it a wonderful place to be” – Richard


I guess Cardiff has always felt like a city that I always knew through association. Kind of a like a friend of a friend. I come from Cornwall and have always felt a bond and a close affinity with my group of friends. We aren’t a big bunch, but we are a tight bunch, friends for life, that kind of thing. When I left Cornwall in 2002 to go to university, I chose to study Fine Art at Bristol. Far away enough to be far away but close enough to be close. Painting and photographing things from my home and creating work which revolved around displacement and memory. Cornwall was always my muse.

I was lucky though that my best friend Jon had moved just over the Severn, a 40 minute train ride away. Cardiff, a city in Wales; a city in another country! Memories of the times visiting Jon in Cardiff revolve around the studenty side of things. His house in Cathays, Chippy-alley, endless queues waiting to get into the CIA, St. Mary’s Street and the big cinemas, the tunnel under the Severn. The usual sort of things. But I remember it well and always thought that it seemed like a great place.

After uni, Bristol stayed as my base and I stayed on after I finished university. Jon moved to Bristol and other friends (Dave, Alan, Becky, Lauren and Ruth) all ended up in the city at some time or another. It was like a little Cornish ex-pat community! This didn’t last forever, as the call of the motherland, home, took hold and most of them moved back down to Cornwall.

Now, I fast forward a few years to Feb 2011 and my next liaison with Cardiff takes place. I had grown up, I had got a job, and I had got a girlfriend! A sort of serious one. I was still in Bristol, but said girlfriend was working in Cardiff at a new museum (The Cardiff Story) that had just opened. Both of us working away from the city that we lived in led to lots of money being spent, lots of arguments and tiredness and meant that really, only one thing had to happen. We had to move to Cardiff. Something I never thought would happen. This place that I kind of remember from drunken shenanigans and fun years before had never had ‘home’ written on it for me, but the things you do for love eh?

But moving to Cardiff still didn’t mean that it would become more than an acquaintance. It was still nothing more than something which I knew, but only a little bit. I was driving out of the city every morning to go to my job in Weston-super-Mare, and driving back in the evening, knackered and not wanting or feeling like exploring this city that has so much to do. I felt, again, that I was in Cardiff for somebody else, not for myself. Not for my own reasons.

I felt isolated, lost and a little demoralised. I didn’t really like it here (if I am honest, I cried the first night I was here. But keep that to yourself!). We moved to Adamsdown; to a sweet little two bedroomed house with a little garden and a toilet beyond the kitchen! We had paper-thin walls and everything that went on either side of the house was heard with excruciating honesty and intimacy! It was a kind of baptism of fire. I missed my peaceful existence in Cornwall. The sea and the light. All I thought Cardiff existed of was seagulls and bin bags. And neighbours who made too much noise and didn’t walk their dogs. Their dogs liked to bark!

But through this, friendship came from unlikely places and my horrendous commute found other poor souls who were doing the same thing. We ended up lift sharing and my soul began to settle. Home is where the heart is? Home began to become Cardiff.

I am a photography lecturer and jobs are always a little hard to come by so the commute existed for nearly 18 months. It was intense and insane. 550 miles a week and £450 a month. This couldn’t go on. I prayed for (not religious!), wished for (pennies in wishing wells) and trawled the job sites for new jobs in Wales. There must be something. Eventually, there was something. I got a job. And another bonus, it was on the right side of the bridge. A job and a sort of promotion! I am half way through my second year teaching at this college and life is looking up. Friendship has been a constant fuel for me, and in my new college I am blessed with a multitude of friends. Barmy, warm, generous, wickedly funny, kind and lovely!

Cardiff has become my home. Said girlfriend and I were engaged, but have parted ways. We had bought a house. In Roath. Near the park. I ran around it and tried to get fit. We went to galleries, gigs, exhibitions and we took in the beautiful country around us. Garth Mountain was a particular favourite. Things change and life moves on. We are now friends, but Cardiff remains a constant. I am still here and I am still enjoying it. The future hints at excitement and intrigue, and things to be happy about, but also lots of things to think about and work out.

Canton is now ‘home’ and Chapter has become a favourite haunt. Makes me feel involved and connected. Instead of running around the park, I have joined a gym and am getting fitter!

Home is supposed to be where the heart is, but my heart will always remain in Cornwall. For me, now, home is where the soul is. And my soul is happy here. Cardiff has the city element which is important for all of the things that it brings, but it is also always near to the country. I make my artwork here and feel confident and inspired. Wales, and in particular Cardiff, has a heart and a bruised beauty which makes it a wonderful place to be. Perhaps I have found my new muse.

Richard Shaffner is a lecturer in photography. He was born in Maidenhead, grew up in St. Ives, and currently lives in Canton.

Richard was photographed in Chapter Arts Centre by Joe Singh.



Two weeks in Cardiff – street photography by Rhian Richards

For the past two weeks the We Are Cardiff Instagram account has been in the hands of resident, Rhian Richards! Let’s see what she’s been up to, shall we?

Do you recognise where any of the below were taken…?

Did you spot any key locations?

If you fancy taking over our Instagram account for a month, get in touch!

Cardiff: my personal geography, by Neil Badmington

A new series here on We Are Cardiff, where locals and those who live nearby let us into their key locations around the city … and tell us a little bit about themselves in the process. First up – Neil Badminton, lecturer at Cardiff University. 

Penarth by Helia Phoenix

In Cardiff, home is…

Not in Cardiff at all, actually: I live in Penarth. (As Staten Island is to Manhattan…) There’s something fatally reassuring about living at the end of a railway line. All things terminate here. No passing through, no going on. For other destinations, go back the way you came. We have reached the end of the line and are waiting quietly for the sea to claim us.

Favourite Cardiff eatery …

Mission Burrito on The Friary has been seducing me recently, but I have long carried a torch for the garlic aubergines at the Riverside on Tudor Street.

Ideal first date in Cardiff …

A first date in Cardiff would have been my dream as an unloved and unlovable teenager marooned in the Welsh borderlands. These days, as an unloved and unlovable adult, I’d choose for a first date the ink display stand in Pen and Paper, in the Royal Arcade. If you can’t embrace my love of ink and fine fountain pens, this relationship is going nowhere.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you

I was one of Cardiff’s buskers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Van Morrison’s ‘Gloria’ was always a money-spinner, although on one occasion a man put £5 in my guitar case and then took it back out again when, on a giddy whim, I segued from ‘Gloria’ into M’s ‘Pop Muzik’ via an ambitious harmonica solo. ‘Same chords! Same chords!’, I yelled, hoping that he’d change his mind and put the money back. ‘Different shit, mate’, he replied.

Earliest Cardiff memory

I grew up about forty miles away from Cardiff, so many of my weekends involved escaping on the train from small-town narrowness to the unbound promise of the city. I have countless memories of Cardiff, then, but one goes back further than the others. I’m standing on the pavement of Queen Street before the road was pedestrianised, holding hands with both of my parents. The traffic seems impossibly fast, loud, and dirty, and I’m wondering how we are going to make it to the other side of the road without dying. One of my parents tells me that the street is soon to be paved over. ‘And the cars will go away’,  I say. The pedestrianisation happened in 1974, so my memory must be from around that date, when I would have been three years old.

What was the last film you saw?

David Lean’s Brief Encounter. This is my favourite film, and I need to watch it every few weeks or I become worryingly optimistic about the universe. I crept back to it late last night with a cup of lime blossom tea and the promise of reviving gloom. When I was staying in Lancaster a few years ago, a friend took me to nearby Carnforth railway station, where much of Brief Encounter was filmed. In many ways, the station has been modernised beyond recognition, but the clock and the underpass are still there, and there’s a charming platform café which has been designed to recall the one in the film. I wanted never to leave.No, no, I don’t want that time to come ever. I want to remember every minute, always, always to the end of my days.’

Favourite Cardiff shops

Wally’s delicatessen in Royal Arcade has been a world of wonder since I was a child. Pen and Paper, further down the same arcade, satisfies my endless desire for ink and paper. Troutmark Books in Castle Arcade always contains something surprising, as does The Pumping Station on Penarth Road.

Best Cardiff-based leisure activity

The word ‘leisure’ suggests rough games to me, or possibly outdoor activities. I detest sport and nature. If ‘leisure’ can be stretched to sedentary film-going, I’d single out the cinema at Chapter, although I make a point of avoiding anything by my beloved Woody Allen there, as audiences tend to take the screenings as competitions to see who can laugh loudest at obscure Kierkegaard references, thus drowning out the dialogue. That’s the only bad thing I can say about the wonderful Chapter, though. I will never forget my first visit there in 1988 to watch, for reasons I can no longer recall, Mississippi Burning. I had never seen so many effortlessly cool people; I knew even then that I would never be one of them. To this day I feel inadequate whenever I step through the doors. (Shouldn’t I have a piercing? A tattoo? A tattooed piercing? And shouldn’t I be on my way back from photographing a DJ in a Gabalfa garage?)

What was the last book you read?

The Days of Anna Madrigal — the ninth and final volume in Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ series. I was bereft when I reached the last page. I spent a lot of time in San Francisco and the surrounding area when I was a student in California in the early 1990s. I’ve never been back, but these books, with their perfect sense of mischievous place, have been a constant connection.

Best Cardiff pub/s

I hate pubs and the dim place of alcohol in British life, so I can’t answer this question. If Temperance Town still existed in Cardiff, I’d be one of its secular inhabitants, banging my dry drum on my high horse. (A colleague tells me that I spend my life on my high horse, to which I say: better a high horse than a Shetland pony.) St. Mary Street should be a wonderful, elegant boulevard (look at the architecture, the built possibility), but instead it’s a valley of vomit. Sentences from Tolstoy’s ‘Why Do People Stupefy Themselves?’ ought to be carved into the paving stones … if the latter were visible beneath the grease, the jilted thongs, and the caked bodily fluids.

Favourite Cardiff discovery

At some point in the second half of the 1980s (probably 1986), word began to spread around my secondary school about a place known only as “Jacob’s”. Hidden away beneath a dark and dripping railway bridge near Cardiff Central, the myth whispered, this was an indoor market on several floors which sold second-hand clothes capable of transforming the wearer into an authentically angst-ridden teenager. Ordinary kids disappeared there over the weekend and turned up in school on Monday looking like they’d shuffled out of a Anton Corbijn Joy Division photo-shoot. I saved my money; I made the trip. I came back with a long black Crombie coat which was heavier than I was, and which transformed my keen posture into a defeated hunch. With the help of this magic cloak, I spent the rest of the 1980s being disaffected in various locations in south Wales, always staring solemnly into the distance for something lost, something better.

I’m delighted to see that Jacob’s is still there, although the surrounding area is unrecognisable when I compare it to my memories. The place no longer has quite the same appeal, but the mere sight of the building from the passing train transforms me instantly from a tubby middle-aged man back into a skinny teenager. I discovered by chance a couple of years ago that my favourite trader from those distant days, Tails and the Unexpected, still exists, but now operates from a house in Penarth, just around the corner from where I live. Mark, the owner, sold me that original Crombie coat, and these days he oversees with elegance and charm my desire for hats.

Jacob's Antiques by Walt Jabsco

Old gramophones in Jacob’s Antiques

Last album you listened to

Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece. I listen to this most days with a sense of wonder.

If you had friends coming to Cardiff for a weekend, what would you recommend they do?

There’s unbearable ethical pressure in this question. I’m never comfortable showing people around or making recommendations: no one’s going to be interested in my fancies. (It was once put to me, rather wearily, that a romantic weekend in Paris should contain more than an artisan ink maker’s studio and Proust’s grave.) All I’d recommend, then, is structuring the day around two seductive views of the city. Start the morning at the top of Cardiff University’s towering Psychology Building, near the top of Park Place, from which you can see for miles in all directions. When day is done, when darkness has fallen, look back over the water at the illuminated city skyline from Paget Road in Penarth. In between, well, I’m not getting involved.

Neil Badmington teaches English Literature at Cardiff University.

Photo of old gramophones in Jacob’s Antiques by Walt Jabsco on Flickr

Sleeping rough for We Are Cardiff …

Hi friends,

On Thursday 27 March I’m going to be sleeping rough to raise money for local charities that support the homeless and vulnerable here in Cardiff.

I know times are hard, but imagine having to sleep outside during the really REALLY bad weather that we had earlier this year. I only have to do it for one night, and I’m absolutely bricking it. Imagine having to do it every night – whatever the weather is doing. Pretty terrible, hey.

So please donate whatever you can: my Justgiving link is here – Justgiving Helia Phoenix

The event is called CEO Sleepout, and the Cardiff event will be held on 27 March 2014 in Cardiff Castle. I’ll be liveblogging the night on the @WeAreCardiff Twitter feed (there will be reminders on that closer to the time…) 

In case you and I haven’t met before, this is me. I’m frequently found running around under bypasses waving brightly coloured balls in the air. Ooer.

Helia Phoenix - photograph taken by Simon Ayre

So, how did I get involved … occasionally I’ll write about someone who I’ll refer to as a ‘friend of We Are Cardiff’. These are typically people who have written for the blog, and volunteered to help out in some other way, possibly donating money or time or body parts to help out in times of need on the blog. I was sort of kidding about the body parts, but some of these people are the most generous you’ll ever meet. One of those is the guy who kicked off this website, in terms of being the first person who wrote a story for it.

That dude is Neil Cocker, and what a dude he is. This is Neil, squinting into the sunlight for his We Are Cardiff portrait…

neil cocker

Anyway, a few weeks back Neil posted on Facebook about taking part in something called the CEO Sleep Out Cardiff, where local business people and founders of organisations are sleeping rough to raise money for three local charities who help homeless and vulnerable individuals.

I had a look at the website, and was pretty amazed by the number of people who were volunteering for the Cardiff Sleep Out compared to other events held at the time. There were a lot of people volunteering, like really a lot. I emailed Neil about it, and he convinced me to do it. I enjoyed his email, so I’ll reproduce it here:

“Do it.
Do it.
It’ll be fun*

* cold, wet, miserable. But very worthwhile, raise loads of cash for people who have to do it every day, and something to tell your grandkids.”

Neil is a bit of an inspiration. He’s one of those “run marathons, run my own business, donate money to charities, volunteer for everything and still have time to go out and enjoy life” people, as you’ll probably gather from his We Are Cardiff entry. I won’t go into everything that Neil does, because, quite frankly, this blog post is meant to be about me rather than him (though you should definitely go to Neil Cocker’s website and read all about him there). So it’s not surprising at all that he’s volunteered for this, nor that he’s already raised nearly £300 probably by doing absolutely nothing other than signing up.

If you’d rather sponsor Neil I won’t take it personally – the important thing is that the charities get your monies, after all. In fact, I sponsored him! Visit Neil’s fundraising page.

The three local charities being supported by CEO Sleepout Cardiff are:


Service Leavers Wales

Cardiff Food Bank

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting more about the great work that those charities do. So stay tuned! And in case you forgot to do it the first time – sponsor me for the Cardiff sleep out here


“Cardiff – it’s where you’re between” – James


I recently stumbled across a website called We Are Cardiff. On the site people who live in Cardiff – either born and bred or those whose lives have somehow brought them there  – document their experience of life in city, whether positive or negative, but usually positive. Most of the stories are from people who have gravitated towards Cardiff, ranging from small Welsh towns a few miles away or from the other side of the world. There is a common thread amongst these. Specifically, Cardiff offers a chance to live in a vibrant, affordable, manageable city, providing a mix of culture, music, bars, friends, shopping, diversity, creativity and opportunity, yet with the tranquillity that larger cities can’t always offer – a chance to escape the city life whilst still being within a city.

I was born in Cardiff and lived there till I was 16, which is (just) over half of my life. I was in the same class as one of the people who has written a piece for We Are Cardiff. Growing up in Cardiff in the 1980s had almost no emotion attached to it. No pride but no shame either, just another place on a map. In the 1980s the Cardiff I lived in didn’t feel Welsh, it felt English. We weren’t like the valley towns, who had seriously suffered in the miner’s strikes. The valleys seemed like a different planet. We had other industries, not just coal. We could adapt. We didn’t have Welsh accents, which gave words a lyricism and a poetry, we had Cardiff accents, which were hard and sharp and had more in common with accents from England. Though I went to see Cardiff City, I always supported Liverpool (I still do), my friends were the same, supporting Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, anyone but Cardiff City. All my friends wanted England to win the 1990 World Cup. I rooted for Ireland. (Our own national football team never amounted to anything, despite always having at least one of the greatest players in the world in it. Unfortunately the rest of the squad made pub teams look like world-beaters.)

One thing that sticks in my mind now is how our TV aerials pointed towards Bristol, and not Cardiff, so we could get Channel 4 instead of the Welsh language channel S4C. This was a time when there were only four TV channels in Britain and nobody in Cardiff wanted S4C as nobody spoke Welsh. It also meant that all the local news reports on BBC and ITV were about places like Bristol, Bath, Weston-super-Mare and Swindon, and not South Wales. It seems crazy to think that people would rather sit through news that has no relevance to their lives and miss out on the news that does affect them for the sake of one channel. I’m convinced that this played a part in a huge apathy that was felt by South Wales towards itself. Growing up I knew more about Bristol, where I had never even been, than I did about my own town.

To carry on reading James’ story, click on over to his website: James Davies : It’s where you’re between


Note from Helia: this is a sort of non-We-Are-Cardiff piece, in that it was written by someone who hasn’t lived in Cardiff in years, but grew up here – came across this site, and then wrote his own We Are Cardiff story. And the title is a Super Furries lyric! I’ve included the first part of it above – you should click on over to his blog to read the rest. I think James is a photographer – the pictures on his website and his Flickr are pretty great too. Go check them out!

Cardiff's skyline these days, by Amy Taylor on Flickr

Cardiff’s skyline these days…
Photograph of the Cardiff skyline by Amy Taylor on Flickr

You want cake? We got cake! The Great Roath Bake Off, Saturday 12 April 2014

Here at We Are Cardiff, it’s a pretty small crew. When I say pretty small, I mean basically there’s me, plus various others who help out along the way. But there are some people who’ve written for the project AND been long time supporters, AND who keep doing such interesting stuff around the city that we have to keep featuring them.

Wayne Courtney wrote a lovely poem about Roath for We Are Cardiff back in 2011. Since then, he’s arranged a fundraiser for the film that we made, and has appeared on the site again as a ‘dude on the street’ at a street party. He raises thousands of pounds for charity every year, he’s a face you’ll almost certainly recognise from being around Roath, and he’s an all round good egg. The Great Roath Bake Off is his baby, and he was nice enough to write us a little something about the event. Read on, and make sure you get along to the event on Saturday 12 April 2014.

Great Roath Bake Off 2014

The Great Roath Bake Off
Wayne Courtney

The idea came after a conversation with friends, where we discussed which one amongst us was the best baker, which shop in Cardiff sold the best cakes, and who should have won The Great British Bake Off. I suggested we should have our own Bake Off, just amongst ourselves, just for fun. The owner of The Coffi House said we could use the cafe and said she’d like to bake too. It grew from there! The regulars wanted to bake, and then word spread, and the owner of The Coffi House was inundated with requests for application forms. We set the date, in February 2012.

I had been organising events in Cardiff for some years, but had no idea what to expect when I put up the posters for The Great Roath Bake Off. Lots of people had expressed an interest in the competition, but I had nothing to compare it to. I hadn’t heard of a similar event at that time, and had no idea how many people in Roath thought themselves great bakers.

I got myself a great panel of judges who all wrote food blogs and shared a love of cake. I booked a singer to entertain people while they waited for their cakes to be judged. It was all systems go!

I will never forget as the doors opened for the first Great Roath Bake Off, my first thoughts were ‘how will they all fit in the shop’?? So many people turned up with their cakes and bakes, and unfortunately it was so busy that some didn’t make it into the busy Coffi House. The evening was an amazing success and we raised lots of money for charity and everyone had a great time. I was overwhelmed by how many people turned up and totally underestimated how popular baking is. Apparently, people love cake! Lessons were learnt. I knew if we were to hold the event again it had to have a bigger venue and we had to be able to handle a large crowd.

We practised again later that year, with another Bake Off for the wonderful Made In Roath Festival. This was held at The Milkwood Gallery. Again, a massive turn out and a great success. The desire for cake had not gone away.

For the 2013 Bake Off we had to go bigger, so we booked St Andrews Church Hall on Wellfield Road. I enrolled 14 volunteers, more entertainment, and ten judges. This time the judging panel was made up from food bloggers and some well-known faces from television.

We anticipated about 50 entries maximum, and were shocked from the moment we opened the doors to the Bake Off. Fourteen volunteers could barely cope with the volume of people arriving with baked goods – there were over 100 cakes in the cake category alone! We had over 20 entries in the under 16s category, and nearly 30 bakes including pies and bread, and nearly 20 entries in the professional bake category. Ten judges may sound a lot, but believe me, they struggled to eat their way through the amount of entries!

The 2013 Great Roath Bake Off caught the attention of lots of press and radio stations. With that much tasty fare, can you blame them? Lots of magazines wanted a slice of the action and we were written about many months after the event.

It was another big success you could say but lessons were learnt again. Even with all the help we barely pulled it off, and completely bowled over by the amount of people that entered and attended.

So as The Great Roath Bake Off 2014, approaches what can you expect?

We are ready! We started planning back in October. We are prepared for a large turn out and have an army of volunteers ready to help. We have the most amazing line up of judges, our original judges still with us along with some faces you’ll probably know from the telly. We have entertainment to keep you happy while your entries are judged. There will be stalls, refreshments and raffles. We still give every penny raised to charity. This year we are supporting A6 acute stroke unit UHW and A6 trauma UHW. Very worthwhile causes.

RoathBakeoff (61 of 146)

We have grown so much since our first Bake Off. Every year we raise more money, more celebs get involved, and more people enter. But one thing remains constant – and that’s the standard of entries. The quality of the cakes and bakes is amazing, even in our Junior category. This year, to celebrate our younger bakers, we’ll be holding The Great Roath Junior Bake Off on the same day.

Over the years I’ve hosted many events in Cardiff but The Bake Off is by far my favourite. It’s great to see the community come together. It’s not often you see an event that appeals to all ages. It’s amazing to hear from people which have travelled from As far as Bristol or Swansea to enter – all for the love of cake! It’s great to see young people share the same pride as someone who has been baking for over 50 years. It’s also very touching when the traders in Roath donate and sponsor our events, demonstrating the amazing community spirit that’s alive in the area. Also the volunteers who work extremely hard at the Bake Off are totally inspiring.

And when the Bake Off is over and the cake is eaten, it’s great to hand over the money raised to a worthy local charity.

It won’t just be amazing cakes served up at The Great Roath Bake Off 2014. We have …
Beca Lyn Pirkins from last years Great British Bake Off
Nathan Wyburn, artist and finalist from Britains Got Talent
Lauren Harries, finalist from Celebrity Big Brother
Ragsy, finalist from BBC’s The Voice
Chris Needs MBE, radio wales presenter
Owain Wyn Evans, BBC Wales weather presenter
Dave Brooke’s, Real Radio presenter

Great Roath Bake Off 2014 - judges

Singer Calum Ross will host a great afternoon of live music including a performance by Ragsy from The Voice.
Nathan Wyburn will create a special Bake Off inspired portrait.

This year’s Bake Off is also sponsored by CPS Homes, and we’re very grateful for their support!

The Great Roath Bake Off 2014
Saturday April 12th
St. Andrews Church Hall
11am – 5pm
£3 per entry into competition

The Great Roath Bake Off on Facebook
Follow @roath_bake

Photographs by Peri Trigkas


Thanks Wayne! And in case you’re there and want to go over and say hi to him, here’s the lovely Wayne Courtney, as photographed by Simon Ayre!

wayne courtney

“I train and fight a style called Muay Thai. It is known as the art of eight limbs” – Tanya


I grew up in Cogan and Penarth. As a child I was very shy, quiet and worked hard in school. I was always sporty in primary school. I was on the school football team and also lacrosse team which won the under 12s British championships. In secondary school I used to play hockey and enjoyed cross country running and swimming. In secondary school I was bullied really badly, both physically and mentally. I was different, and that never goes down well in a school full of sheep. My dad wanted to find a way to give me more confidence and to help look after myself. He found classes in a local hall in Penarth. My twin sister was doing Aikido and wouldn’t let me join her, so the next class on was Muay Thai and that’s how I fell into the sport.

Ater I left university and took up the sport again I realised that I wanted to pursue it seriously. My fitness improved and my technique progressed, I decided I needed to learn more, which meant flying over to Thailand and training in a camp out there. It was there I was offered my first fight, and I accepted. I wanted to see if I really was any good at this sport.

I train and fight a style called Muay Thai. It is known as the art of eight limbs. You strike with kicks, punches, elbows and knees. It is very aggressive and highly technical. It requires you to be fast thinking, sharp, controlled and skillful in order to out maneuver your opponent and score points.


I’m currently training for a fight, so will train around 10-14 times per week, work commitments permitting. This means on the days off from work that I have, I’ll train twice – sometimes three times a day. When I am not training for a fight, I still train every day to keep my fitness in check. I train between two gyms, doing my strength and conditioning at Dave’s Gym in Roath and I do my fight training and pads at Eagles in UFC gym in Roath Cardiff. I also run most days, between seven to 13 kilometres.

I have lived in Cardiff on and off since I was 20. I have been in Roath now for the past four years. One of the main reasons I decided to settle in Roath is because its close to both my gyms, near to town, easy for me to commute to work. I have the best of everything. Cardiff really is a brilliant place to live, it’s big enough to have everything you want and small enough that your now overwhelmed like it can be in places like London etc. Roath is the best place for me, it has a young vibe and some cool places to hang out in.

My advice for people interested in fighting would be to try out an interclub first. If you have been training a while and want to see if you can put what you have learnt into practice, participate in an interclub. This is a controlled environment where novices fight (with shin pads and big gloves) in a ring to a time. This will give you a taste of what a real fight will feel like, and how you control your nerves and perform against an unknown opponent. It’s also a really fun day as lots of gyms get together and everyone has a laugh and watches some potential shine through with the new up and coming fighters.

My favourite Cardiff places – if I had some friends visiting me for the weekend, I would have to take them around the parks we have. I run around Roath Park every day, and I love it there. I’d also have to take them for tea and cake, as well as heading into town and showing them round the castle, stopping off for a drink or two (if I am not fighting of course!)

Tanya Merrett is 30 years young and has been training Muay Thai for nine years, fighting professionally for two and a half years. She fights out of Eagles Gym in Cardiff. Her ambition is to become a world champion and take her fighting up to the very highest level, and fight the best out there. Her next scheduled fight is against Christi Brereton A Class on 6 April 2014 in Manchester – for more details, visit her Facebook page: Tanya Merrett.

Tanya was photographed at her gym by Joe Singh.




Calling all homebrewers – Cardiff Hops needs you!

Sam Holt stops by to talk about a Cardiff based homebrewing project that you should get involved in…


Cardiff Hops is a fun new project that started in March 2013 to get more people growing hops in the City. Following on from success with Brixton, Cardiff Hops will support interested parties to source, plant, grow, harvest and use the hops.

Cardiff Hops have teamed up with local micro brewery Pipes –  having turned 2013 crop into 100 litres of green hop ale, The Taff Temptress!

To join Cardiff Hops, join the Cardiff Hops Facebook group or send Sam Holt of EggSeeds an email,

Introductory hop packs are on sale for £20 for the first introductory pack, which contains all that is needed to get growing your hops off to a good start. Cardiff Hops will guide you through the whole process. Even if you don’t have much room, a 50cm container or a patch of land one foot in size can hold a dwarf hop plant (that grows only two-three metres in height). There’s a green hop ale revolution that has started in Cardiff – get on board!

Last day to sign up for orders March 9th 2014 – distribution and gathering, March 15th 2014.

The Cardiff Hops Map has just started and will be populated shortly, sharing pictures, stories and information.

PIPES BEER – Craft Beer Cardiff – Welcome to the Beer Revolution…