“Butetown has been changing all of my life” – Keith Murrell

In preparation for the first Butetown Carnival for 16 years, we asked organiser Keith Murrell to chew the cheese with us. The carnival takes place this Monday 25 August in Canal Park in Butetown. We hope to see you all there!

keith murrell by lann niziblian

(photo of Keith by Lann Niziblian)


Q. You’re involved in running the Butetown Carnival. Can you tell us something about the history of the event?

Keith. The first events I remember were in the mid 1960s (it was called Mardi Gras in those days) – I understand that there were smaller, more spontaneous things that preceded this.


Q. When did you get involved?

Keith. As a member of the local youth club in the early 1970s … as a musician in the early 80s … as an organiser in the early 90s.


Q. Is there a particular Butetown carnival that sticks out in your mind as being a great one?

Keith. I remember one of the earlier Mardi Gras’ which was a quite small event mostly taking place in a Marquee alongside the Community Centre … I guess this one sticks in my mind as it was all still new to me –and I saw ‘real’ people that I knew playing and singing something other than hymns … no doubt later Carnivals were ‘better’ but they were also quite similar to each other … and I also remember the first year our band got paid


Q. Do you live in Butetown? What’s your history in Cardiff?

Keith. I am Butetown born and bred and lived and worked in the community for most of my life – I currently live in Grangetown.


Q. What do you think about how Butetown has changed over the years?

Keith. Butetown has been ‘changing’ all of my life: the “slum clearance” programmes of the 60s had not actually been completed by the time of the urban regeneration led by CBDC in the 80s & 90s – which in turn has been followed by various area renewal schemes of the current era… the more things change the more they stay the same …

For me, the most significant changes have been in community demographics and characteristics … what was once the most diverse and cohesive communities has been replaced by ‘larger’ ‘minority’ groups with minimal interaction and integration.

I would say that this is a direct result of gerrymandering by Cardiff Council, Housing Associations and other service providers.


Q. Can you tell us something about the city in general? How has it changed?

Keith. Thinking about the city entity has all kinds of political and civic connotations – and my impression is “all fur coat and no knickers”… But I’m more interested in people and places around me … and there’s nowhere else that I would rather be.


Q. What’s your favourite place in Cardiff to go for a drink?

Keith. The kitchen sink


Q. Favourite place to get breakfast?

Keith. The settee


Q. Tell us a Cardiff secret or little known fact

Keith. Cardiff Castle is (mostly) a fake


Q. What are you hoping for this year at the Carnival?

Keith. That all kinds of people from all over will get together and feel alright – and develop a habit for it!


Keith Murrell will be mostly all over the Butetown Carnival, taking place this Monday 25 August in Canal Park. There’s also a Butetown Carnival Dance taking place this Saturday 23 August at Butetown Community Centre, with all proceeds going towards the Carnival. See you at the front!

butetown carnival dance




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