100 days in Cardiff – Ivor Novello

We Are Cardiff contributor Jeremy Rees is recording his days in and around Cardiff with 100 photographs of local points of interest. We’ll be publishing some of them here on We Are Cardiff – and make sure you tune in to Jeremy as he presents the Saturday Soulful Breakfast on Radio Cardiff!

Ivor Novello  

ivor novello statue by jeremy rees

“This bronze statue commemorates the songwriter and actor Ivor Novello who looks over to the Wales Millennium Centre. A couple of years ago a film maker worked with a group of young people in Riverside (where Novello grew up) on an animated film about his life and the impact of World War 1 on the area, using his songs as a soundtrack. For some reason I was asked to voice his character, and I even sang a few bars of ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’ ….so far there have been no offers for me to reprise the role with a full orchestra.”


Thanks Jeremy! And make sure you all tune into Radio Cardiff, online or 98.7FM. Catch you next time…

The Big Lunch is in Cardiff (and everywhere) on Sunday 1 June 2014. Are you ready?

This Sunday millions of people across the UK will come together for The Big Lunch, the annual get together for neighbours.  It’s a simple idea from the Eden Project, made possible by the Big Lottery, to get as many people as possible across the UK to have lunch with their neighbours once a year in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.

There are loads of Big Lunches taking place in and around Cardiff this weekend, from small, private events in streets and back gardens to big, public events like the Shelley Garden Food Festival in Roath, so make sure you get involved if there’s one happening near you.

It’s also not too late to organise your own Big Lunch. FREE resource packs are still available from http://www.thebiglunch.com or by calling 0845 850 818.  The pack is full of useful resources and a sprinkling of inspiration and all the materials are undated, so if 1 June is a bit too soon or doesn’t suit no worries, have it on a day that suits you and your community best.

Get your mates together, meet your neighbours, celebrate the diversity of our lovely city or simply share a beer and a bite to eat with those closest to you.  #TheBigLunch

For more information, contact Gwion Thorpe, 029 2078 6192 or 07801227288
www.thebiglunch.com / www.yciniomawr.com 

Art Car Bootique, Chapter 25 May 2014 – review by Jodie Ashdown

We sent writer Jodie Ashdown along to Chapter’s Art Car Bootique to brave the rain and enjoy the arts on offer this year. Were you there?

Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown

On Sunday, 25 May, was held the visual, olfactory, gustatory and auditory feast that is the Art Car Bootique. Held in the car park of Chapter Arts Centre in Canton, the bootique is a day for the entertainers, musicians, food stall holders, artists, trinket creators, jewellery makers and illustrious illustrators of Cardiff to show us their mettle.

art car bootique by jodie ashdown art car bootique by jodie ashdown art car bootique by jodie ashdown

Described as a ‘psychedelic village fete’, the event is perfect for the whole family – children’s entertainers absorb and delight the little ones, along with kid’s tables and activities, while the slightly older folk can sneak off for a meander into the selection of German beer and other such sparkle-inducing beverages.

Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown

You can make your perfect partner through the medium of sock puppet, sing your heart out in the ‘car-e-oke’, make bubbles on a bike, create music with a flyer, knock Putin off his shy, pick up a lovely illustration of boobies, have a song sung about you, tuck into tapas, snag yourself a vintage bargain and become a photo booth star – all in an afternoon’s work.

Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown Art Car Bootique by Jodie Ashdown

With food, music and drinks into the evening, the bootique did its very best to stand in the face of the downpours and cloudy skies and say, ‘Screw you rain, we’re Welsh, we don’t need sunshine to have a good time’ and laughed raucously. Manically, perhaps.

It’s a bloody good day out and highly recommended. Get yourself there next year!



Thanks Jodie! Were you at Chapter on Sunday? Did we see you there?? Until next time…


NoFit State Circus – Bianco, Cardiff, 23 May – 7 June 2014

If you’ve recently driven anywhere around the streets just south of John Lewis, underneath the railway bridge, then you’re likely to have seen a large silver spaceship hanging around John Street (where the temporary library was a few years ago). A ha! But this is no silver spaceship. Instead, it’s the temporary big top that’s housing NoFit State’s current show, Bianco. The show is open in Cardiff until 7 June 2014, and I highly recommend you go see it.

NoFit State Circus - Bianco by Seventh Wave

The show toured Cardiff last year, although that time it was situated in the backstage area of the main stage of the Millennium Centre.  The show was originally co-produced by the Eden Project, and I can’t imagine a better place to have watched it in. But back to the space ship, which is Tardis-like and surprisingly roomy. As you’re invited into the big top, the ushers tell you you’ll have a better view if you get right in the middle of it all, so you step in between the large scaffolding, and the action begins. There’s a pulsing soundtrack played by a live band, and suddenly people appear inside the scaffolding, shouting and jeering at each other. It’s high energy and very restless –  and you can’t help but get swept along by it.

There are 15 set pieces led by individual performers, nearly all of which take place in the air (handy, as it’s a standing performance – so you can be standing further back and still feel like you see ‘the big stuff’). Although NoFit State has been based in Cardiff since it was formed back in the 1980s, today the performers come from all over the world, which you hear as they wear microphones through some of their pieces and speak in various languages to the audience.

And there’s all sorts – some very clever juggling; terrifying ariel straps work; incredible twisting, climbing and dropping from ropes; a business man themed strip-tease on the tightrope; and a beautiful trapeze piece underneath a shower of falling snow to finish things off.

I’ve been to see two other NoFit State shows, and it always makes me beam with a little Cardiff city pride that our resident circus is so freaking awesome. If you’re inspired to become super limber and learn some tricks after seeing them (like I always want to!) then you should check out the NoFit State classes, held at their circus base in Cardiff. And if you’re interested, there’s a flying trapeze taster session that runs every other Friday at 6pm (this Friday 30 June is the next one).




Check out the NoFit State FACEBOOK PAGE for regular updates on the progress of their work

Cardiff: my personal geography, by Gwion Thorpe


In Cardiff, home is…

Canton with the wife, kids and the coolest 3-legged dog in Wales.

Favourite Cardiff eatery

Hangfire Smokehouse at The Lansdowne

Ideal first date in Cardiff?

Fry up at Saffron, boating on Roath Lake, watch Wales beat England (again!) at the stadium, pints at Tap House, curry at Purple Poppadom, early night 😉

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

I have the longest tongue in Wales (unofficial)

Earliest Cardiff memory

Watching Paul Bodin miss THAT penalty at the Arms Park and seeing grown men cry

What was the last film you saw?

Frozen (for probably the 20th time this week)

Favourite Cardiff shops

Rules of Play, Riverside Market

Best Cardiff-based leisure activity

Chilling in the park (take your pick). Simples.

What was the last book you read?

The Prodigal Daughter, Archer.

Biggest ambition

For my children to be proud of me and not to have any regrets on my death bed

Best Cardiff pubs

Urban TapHouse and The Lansdowne

Favourite Cardiff discovery

The New York Hoagie

Last album you listened to

Gipsy Kings, self titled (instant sunshine).

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

Take me out on my ideal first date (minus the early night)!

Your ambitions for the future?

No regrets and make my children proud

What do you want to achieve this year?

Four million people taking part in The Big Lunch on June 1st!! 

Gwion Thorpe is involved in a number of social / community projects in Cardiff / Wales. Current day job is social marketing for The Big Lunch, a wonderfully simple campaign to help strengthen communities and spread a bit of happiness by encouraging people to have lunch with their neighbours annually on the 1st Sunday in June.  Also proudly a Director for Cardiff’s award-winning RCMA Social Enterprise (home of the Riverside Market) and a (very) part-time blogger at inspiringcardiff.com, sharing the stories of awesome people doing really cool things across the city. Cymro Cymraeg!

Gwion was photographed at The Lansdowne by Adam Chard


A-Z of Cardiff – A is for Arcades…

Writer Katie Hamer is busily discovering parts of the city and revealing them through her We Are Cardiff series, the A-Z of what makes Cardiff special to her. She’ll be sharing the parts of the city she finds with you over the following weeks, so stay tuned! 

The Hayes

A is for Arcades

I love these covered shopping streets, for providing shelter from the weather, and because I can browse without dodging traffic. Other cities have arcades too, but only Cardiff is “The City of Arcades”.

There’s a strong café culture here, even on a Monday morning. I’m greeted by cooking aromas. I feel tempted to stop at one of the outside tables, and sample some local cuisine. I have to remind myself that it’s just a couple of hours since I had breakfast. Oh, well!

Cardiff’s historic arcades are divided into the Castle Quarter, and the Morgan Quarter. I have a special fondness for the Morgan Quarter, so it’s this part of Cardiff that I decided to write about. I know this Quarter best because I worked at David Morgan, The Family Store, around which these arcades were centred. I worked there as a temp prior to its closure in 2005.

On Monday mornings long past, I would run down the Royal Arcade, to the staff entrance. I had to be on the shop floor five minutes before opening time. This was no tall order, as my department was on the top floor, and the staff’s changing rooms were in the basement. How I would panic if the train were delayed. Bad punctuality was frowned upon, even more than greeting a senior member of staff with their first name.

What David Morgan represented, was traditional values, and exceptional customer service. Along with everyone else who worked there, I felt a huge sadness on the day the store finally closed. Stepping out of the shop for the last time, I wondered what the future held for these special arcades. I still recall my department manager telling me that, within ten years, Cardiff would become indistinguishable from any other city in terms of shops.

Well, we are nearly ten years on, and I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case. The oldest of the three arcades, the Royal Arcade actually predates David Morgan Ltd, so it is perhaps not so astonishing that it has survived the store’s closure. This particular arcade opened in 1858, 21 years before The Family Store was established.

Royal Arcade

Royal Arcade 2

Thankfully, when the David Morgan family dissolved the Cardiff Arcades Co in late 2004, new owners, Helical Bar, stepped in to save them. It’s wonderful to see how much investment the new owners have placed in them, and how they have preserved them for future generations. True, there are vacant shop units, but that’s the state of shopping centres everywhere, these days.

Morgan Arcade 4

Morgan Arcade 3

The Royal Arcade and the Morgan Arcade are very much at the heart of the Morgan Quarter, with their rows of shops linking St Mary Street with the Hayes. There’s a vibrant mix of boutiques, health food outlets, artists’ studios, furniture stores and bookshops. One of my favourite surprises is hidden in the middle of Morgan Arcade. This is where you can find Spillers Records, the world’s oldest record shop. It opened in 1894, but hasn’t always been where it is now. In fact, its existence predates that of its current location by five years.

I feel I should also mention the Wyndham Arcade, as it is more easily overlooked. These days, it’s more tagged on to the Café Quarter, and it has the ambience you’d expect from such a location. It’s quieter than the other two arcades, with a relaxed atmosphere that reminds me of the cobbled streets in the Algarve. This arcade is light and airy, and more inviting than I ever imagined it to be, from photos.

Wyndham Arcade

Wyndham Arcade 2

I have only scratched the surface of what is so special about these arcades. I could spend a whole day exploring them, and still have more things to come back and see. Have I convinced you? Why not come and explore them yourself – they’re worth a visit. Please share your opinions in the comments below.

Morgan Arcade 2


100 days in Cardiff – Mansion House

We Are Cardiff contributor Jeremy Rees is recording his days in and around Cardiff with 100 photographs of local points of interest. We’ll be publishing some of them here on We Are Cardiff – and make sure you tune in to Jeremy as he presents the Saturday Soulful Breakfast on Radio Cardiff!

Mansion House  

the mansion house cardiff

“Near the VCS office there is an advert board which says ‘Starbucks now open in Mansion House’. Well, as I have an early meeting in Roath this morning I thought I’d pay them a visit. The Mansion House is the ceremonial home of The Lord Mayor of Cardiff and is where the great and the good are entertained Downton-style (I’ve only ever been invited there twice in seven years, once for an India Day flag raising ceremony, and the other time for a press reception when the Bluebirds won the FA Cup. But then I’m neither great or good!). Anyway, I thought it was a bit odd that Starbucks were opening there – another case of the Council trying to make a buck to offset the cuts perhaps? The answer I found was no. Not a hint of a coffee to be had, the doors firmly closed. Further investigation revealed that the ‘Mansion House’ referred to in Starbucks’ poster is in fact what is now called ‘Shand House Student Mansion’ on Newport Road – which is nowhere near as classy but at least does serve Americano.”


Thanks Jeremy! And make sure you all tune into Radio Cardiff, online or 98.7FM. Catch you next time…

100 days in Cardiff – the Bute Docks Hotel / Bombay Cafe

We Are Cardiff contributor Jeremy Rees is recording his days in and around Cardiff with 100 photographs of local points of interest. We’ll be publishing some of them here on We Are Cardiff – and make sure you tune in to Jeremy as he presents the Saturday Soulful Breakfast on Radio Cardiff!

Bute Dock Hotel / Bombay Cafe  

bombay cafe cardiff by jeremy rees

“The old Bute Docks Hotel sadly closed a couple of years ago and the building was left empty and forlorn – but recently it reopened as an Indian Cafe called The Bombay. It claims to have been established in 1953, but further investigation reveals that the proprietor is the grandson of the owner of the original Bombay in Bute Street which closed down in the early 80s. They have done a decent job with the decor and serve a damn fine cup of chai which I highly recommend. My only complaint is that the auto-tuned synthopop of Capital FM is pumped out, which didn’t exactly match the ambiance to my way of thinking. I did suggest a couple of alternatives of course, but then perhaps I am biased!”


Thanks Jeremy! And make sure you all tune into Radio Cardiff, online or 98.7FM. Catch you next time…

“I saw Dylan, The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd – all playing live in Cardiff!” – Elizabeth


I was born in Carmarthen, but lived in Scotland until the age of six before coming to live in Cardiff. I lived in Rumney, where my parents owned the Monkstone, a private club catering for weddings and evening events. Although my education and time spent with all my friends in the local schools was very normal, I have always remembered that my childhood was slightly different to my friends, because of where I lived. All my friends had normal family lives during the early sixties, but my early life was surrounded by parties, music, and late nights while my parents worked. Obviously I was always meant to be sleeping….but my memories of this time (good and bad) have stayed with me all my life.

Eventually in 1967 I left home at the age of 17 and went to Cardiff Art College in the old Friary. I was free to live my life as I pleased, and the sixties were a perfect time to do it! During my time in art college I studied fashion and textiles…although I could have worked much harder, I chose not to….and just enjoyed life as much as possible.

During the sixties we had many coffee bars and small venues where they played great music all night. I particularly remember The Kennard Rooms in Roath, The Victoria Ballrooms in Canton, The Estonian Club in Charles Street, The Scene Club, Whisky a Gogo, The New Moon in the Hayes, and The Casablanca in the Docks. The regular place for meeting then was upstairs in The Kardomah in Queen Street. All the mods would meet there regularly on a Saturday…. we would get to know about parties that were happening that night….sometimes huge numbers of mods would turn up on scooters at some unsuspecting home most often in Cyncoed or Lisvane.

Music was at its best for me at this time … Dylan,The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, Yardbirds, Kinks, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd … too many to mention. I feel very privileged to have been able to see all these amazing groups and singers in their early years performing live in Cardiff mostly at The Capitol, Sophia Gardens or Top Rank … and at very little cost. One memorable event for me was at The Stax Tour seeing Otis Redding singing just a few feet away on a small stage in Top Rank in 1967 just before he died. The event was amazing to see … with Arthur Conley, Sam and Dave, Booker T and the MGs, Eddie Floyd and The Markeys.

Life changed for me when I married and had my daughter, although, our life style always remained unconventional. We opened Wild and Woolly in 1973, selling our own designs, hand made using Liberty Print Fabrics. We had a range of ethnic clothing and jewellery from Peru and Afghanistan. In later years we introduced what was then called secondhand clothing. I had always worn and collected “vintage” clothing since I was a student and now we had hit on something new….and it was very successful. Second hand and antique clothing was easier and cheaper to find in the seventies, but times changed and we had to move with it, to Jacobs Market which is still trading there now and worth a visit.

Eventually in 1985 my husband and I both worked in the television industry at HTV, freelancing in the costume department, but we continued designing, making and selling to various fashion outlets in Cardiff.

I am very nostalgic and miss the old Cardiff that used to be. I miss all the old streets behind Queen Street and St Mary Street, all the old pubs, cinemas, and cafes. I miss the individuality of all the local department stores and shops of that time. I find it quite hard to accept that we (society) are happy to destroy so much of our past so easily, only to replace it with something that has no relevance whatsoever and now most cities look the same. Having said that, I think that Cardiff is still a beautiful city. Luckily we have kept our arcades and of course our castle and civic centre makes Cardiff as special as it is. We are lucky to be a few miles from the sea, close to the country side and the mountains are just a short drive away.

My life now is as busy as ever. I’m still buying and selling vintage clothing, under the label http://www.artofvintage.com. More recently I have started another small venture http://www.artofvintagesouk.com, importing Moroccan kelims, cushions and unusual artisanal goods. I love Morocco and travel there regularly to many different areas, including the desert and south Saharan coast, sourcing interesting items for the business.

I continue to design and make costumes for television and private commissions, and if that wasn’t enough I work on weekends in The Albany Gallery helping to organise exhibitions and selling art!! All my work combines to enable me to remain reasonably free and independent, a way of life that interests me and keeps me active.

If I had friends coming to visit me in Cardiff for a weekend, because my house is too small for guests I would first send them to stay at The Lincoln House Hotel in Cathedral Road where they would be well looked after by Kath and Neil. There are so many great places to go in Cardiff. I would obviously take them to see the art in The Albany Gallery in Albany Road. We would probably have coffee in one of the many new cafes in Wellfield Road. We would visit the new Cardiff Made shop in Lochaber Street. I expect I would take them to the Pumping Station in Penarth Road, or I would take them to Chapter for casual food and drinks and chats with loads of familiar faces or to see a film. We would possibly go down to the bay to the original old pub The Packet, my favourite pub. If it was the right weekend, we would go to Cafe a GoGo in Gwdihw for some soul music, a regular event there.

I would take them to the Zio Pin Italian restaurant, not expensive and consistently good food and friendly staff. I’m always checking for live music events that are on in St David’s Hall or The Millennium Centre. Just sometimes there will be a rare performance on of some good music, and the next one I would recommend is Tinariwen, nomad musicians from Mali, in July in St Davids Hall. Not to be missed!

Elizabeth Lee has lived in Cardiff for nearly 45 years, though she still feels only 25 inside. See her current venture at www.artofvintage.com. She currently lives in Cathays.

Elizabeth was photographed in her workshop by Joe Singh.



First Thursday – new poetry and fiction at Chapter Arts Centre – by Jodie Ashdown

Writer Jodie Ashdown went along to Chapter’s First Thursday to see what goes down there.

First Thursday by Jodie Ashdown

Now in its eighth year, First Thursday is a chance for aspiring and professional writers to share their work, as well as listen to readings by published authors and poets. In association with Seren Books, Literature Wales and Inpress books, the monthly event is fronted by Amy Wack who has been in the publishing industry for many years but is now Poetry Editor at Seren.

The evening starts off with an introduction, and perhaps short reading, by Amy and then moves onto a few guest speakers who will read extracts from their novel or poetry book. Now you don’t have to be a literary aficionado to appreciate their work, the authors and poets are engaging and explain their drive or message behind a particular story or poem. The styles and themes are varied and interesting and it’s definitely not pretentious or stuck-up – sometimes the swear-iest poems are the best!

And if you enjoyed a particular writer’s work, their books (among others) are on sale at the event; an easy way to support publishers and independent bookshops over the big online companies  – you know who I mean.

Next comes the open mic session, cause of my sweaty palms and thudding heart (and the reason why the photos are so appallingly blurry). I don’t know why it is so nerve wracking, everyone is super appreciative to hear each other’s work, but it still makes me very, very nervous. There’s something about standing in the spotlight and trying to stop your paper from shaking as you try not to mumble as you read your work, that is both terrifying and exhilarating. But you’re always glad you’ve done it afterwards, even more so when someone you don’t know approaches you afterwards to say they enjoyed your reading but you ran off stage like ‘you’d done something wrong’.

The standard is usually pretty high but complete amateurs are welcomed alongside the poetry stalwarts, and everyone is encouraged. You don’t have to read if you don’t want to, some people like to just go along and listen and that’s ok too.

It’s a creative and accessible environment and a chance to get out there and listen to interesting and often evocative writing. Even if you’re only a little bit interested in contemporary poetry and fiction, I’d advise going along to try it out – you never know how it could inspire you.

First Thursday is on (shockingly) the first Thursday of each month (the event is not on during July and August).

Price: £2.50

Location: Upstairs at Chapter Arts Centre


100 days in Cardiff – Bute Street Station

We Are Cardiff contributor Jeremy Rees is recording his days in and around Cardiff with 100 photographs of local points of interest. We’ll be publishing some of them here on We Are Cardiff – and make sure you tune in to Jeremy as he presents the Saturday Soulful Breakfast on Radio Cardiff!

Bute Street Station

bute street station by jeremy rees

“Another abandoned building today – the railway station in Bute Street. The shuttle train still brings people here, (now renamed ‘Cardiff Bay’) but the old station house and platform are long deserted, which I find baffling. To me it looks like a perfect venue for restaurant, bar or museum. Not even Wetherspoons or Starbucks seem interested, despite what would be an ideal outdoor sheltered patio area and guaranteed footfall. It’s just allowed to stand there, decaying more with each passing season. It’s especially odd as hundreds of staff from both the Welsh Assembly and Cardiff Council use it to get to and from work, it’s not like it’s hidden from those who have influence. What a waste!”


Thanks Jeremy! And make sure you all tune into Radio Cardiff, online or 98.7FM. Catch you next time…

100 days in Cardiff – boats on Cardiff Bay

We Are Cardiff contributor Jeremy Rees is recording his days in and around Cardiff with 100 photographs of local points of interest. We’ll be publishing some of them here on We Are Cardiff – and make sure you tune in to Jeremy as he presents the Saturday Soulful Breakfast on Radio Cardiff!

Boats on Cardiff Bay  

boats cardiff bay jeremy rees

Easter Monday turned out to be sunny and bright in contrast to yesterday, so I’ve taken a walk through Hamadryad Park and down to the Boardwalk for this shot of the Bay with Penarth and the Barrage in the distance. 


Thanks Jeremy! And make sure you all tune into Radio Cardiff, online or 98.7FM. Catch you next time…