Cardiff’s answer to Riverdance!

Recently we were contacted by reader Sandra Elson, who wanted to tell us about Cardiff’s answer to Riverdance! She’s written a piece about the Irish dancing school and competition that takes place in Ely. Read on!


It’s been 20 years since Riverdance hit our screens and became an overnight Irish dancing phenomenon. However for over 30 years one Cardiff dweller, James Smith – originally from Belfast, has taught the children of the city the complex art of Irish Dancing.

The annual class feis (competition) of the Smith Academy of Irish dancing (Scoil Rince Gaelacha Macgabhan) was held recently in St Francis Parish Hall, Ely.

It was a truly multi-generational family event. Amongst the supporting crowd of the little Flatleys of tomorrow, were three mums who were actually ex pupils of the Academy.

The family theme continued through the competition as there were six sets of siblings dancing. Most of whom were competing against each other which put a new emphasis on sibling rivalry!

Adding to the connections the adjudicator, Mrs V O’Connor was James Smiths ex-Irish dancing teacher from his childhood who flew over especially to judge the competition from Belfast.

The music streamed out as the newest members of the class practiced their hops, the more advanced ones lined up to show off their leaps and jumps, and the little experts in-between showed off their skills with cheeky grins and glitzy costumes.

Cups were won and medals were awarded meaning that in a little corner of Cardiff, Irish eyes were definitely smiling. These young Cardiffians will be competing against dancers from all over the UK and Ireland in Swindon, London, Coventry and Kettering in the next few months.



Q. What’s your Cardiff history?
A. I am Cardiff born and bred – I was raised in Ely, now live in North Cardiff.

Q. What’s your favourite part of Cardiff?
A. Bute Park, Cardiff castle and Cardiff Bay.

Q. What do you think makes Irish dancing so popular?
A. My two daughters attend lessons and compete in Irish dancing competitions. It’s good for children physically, cognitively and emotionally; i.e. the exercise, learning the steps, competing and having fun with friends.

Q. Do you think Cardiff is a good city to live in if you have a family?
A. Yes Cardiff has lots of parks and open spaces; it also offers full range of clubs and activities to suit all families. It’s also close to wonderful scenery, both sea-side and mountains, for exploring further afield.

Q. If you had some friends coming to visit Cardiff for the weekend, where would you take them? what would you do?
A. That depends who it is – shopping in town if it’s my choice!


Scoil Rince Gaelacha Macgabhan- Smith Academy of Irish Dance – Facebook page

Thanks Sandra! And good luck to everyone competing in the Irish dancing competitions…



What’s on in Cardiff this weekend… 26/27/28 September 2014

September is always a super Brucey bonus time for events in the city. Need proof? See what’s coming up below. I’m exhausted just reading it. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments!


Friday 26 September – Empty Walls Launch and Exhibition opening

This year’s Empty Walls project will be launched on Friday night, alongside an exciting exhibition of urban art, from in-gallery murals to sketches, prints and live painting.

Come along to celebrate the opening of the exhibition and to start the project with a good ol’ knees up! Live music, cinema room, bar and bloody great art!

Empty Walls Launch and Exhibition opening Facebook event


Saturday 27 September – Block and Banquet Micro Festival

A whole load of stuff going on at the Spit & Sawdust Warehouse, Art Space, Cafe & Skatepark ….

– Outdoor courtyard. Outdoor wood fired pizza oven / Pop up Icecream van DJ booth / Red Bull mini drome / Rothfink modified VW Car display / Graffiti.
– Boutique cafe & craft beer bar. Home cooked / Organic meat / Locally sourced foods / Homemade cakes / Craft beer / Punch / Pop up stalls / Sneakers / Vintage / Streetwear / Deadstock sale / Free WiFi.
– Warehouse skatepark. Live music stage / Huge visual screen / All day Skateboard & BMX jam / Giveaways and prizes / Mini ramp jam / Best trick comp / Highest ollie comp /Highest bunnyhop comp / Warehouse party til late.
– Upstairs hidden gallery. Vintage skateboard display / Retro BMX display / Art / Skate photography / History of skateboarding in Wales micro cinema.

Block and Banquet Facebook event

Saturday 27 September – Global Parasite / 2 Sick Monkeys / 51st State (fixing the roof benefit gig)

Red and Black Umbrella are holding a benefit gig to fix the roof of their building in Splott.

More info about the event on their website


Sat 27 / Sun 28 September – Cardiff Country Fair 2014

Takes place in the castle on Saturday and Sunday.

Cardiff Country Fair 2014

Saturday 27 September – NoFit State Circus Guest show: EricTheFred

With 30 years of performing skills and experience, including Slava’s Snow Show, Chris Lynam brings to life, a brand new character, ErictheFred.

‘the most dangerously funny man on the planet’
Eddie Izzard

ErictheFred is a clown, but if you think you know clowns – think again. Here, the traditional art of clowning is taken to another wondrous level.

This is a curious and poignant story of an old trouper trying to come to terms with a fading career.

NoFit State, Four Elms Road, 8pm
Tickets: £10/£8 (available here)
EricTheFred Facebook event page here


Sunday 28 September – Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair

Join us at the City Hall for vintage fashion and homeware and of course the vintage beauty salon!

Lou Lou’s Vintage Facebook event


Sunday 28 September – Darkened Rooms presents Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton

Join Darkened Rooms for their latest screening, hip-hop documentary Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton…

6pm, Clwb Ifor Bach
Tickets £5.50
See Facebook event page for tickets and more info


Sunday 28 September – Street Food Cardiff Festival

11am – 4pm, High Street, Cardiff. Why come long? Because its’s the only place in the city that you can eat a selection of the finest street food. A fortnightly street food feast-ival of amazing independent traders serving from 11am – 5pm.

Street Food Cardiff Facebook event


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Invite to Lia’s Kitchen – a ‘not-so-Greece food affair’, Saturday 27 September

Lia’s Kitchen has been doing pop-up supperclubs around the city of Cardiff (and beyond!) over the last couple of years. I accosted Lia for a quick chat and to ask her about her upcoming event on Saturday 27 September – a ‘not-so-Greece food affair’.

Lia's kitchen mugshot

Q. Give us a little background about yourself
I am Lia, an iterant Greek, and have lived in Cardiff for 13 years. I have at least two homes in my heart and feel at home everywhere. I love nature and all creative expression whilst I feel most free when dancing and singing, inside or by the sea or on a (real) mountain.

In my day job I work on water policy issues for the statutory water consumer watchdog. In my free time I sometimes write, and most importantly I run Lia’s Kitchen with the invaluable help of my friends and through collaborations with independent food businesses, such as the Penylan Pantry, MADE Gallery, and Natalie Eddins who used to run The Pot café.

Q. How did you end up in Cardiff, and how come you’ve stayed here?
A. My connection to Wales dates back to my postgraduate degree in Environmental Law in Aberystwyth. After a research year in Italy, I returned to Wales in 2002, to Cardiff in particular, to seek a research position and further research qualifications at Cardiff University. I worked at a coastal management project and taught Environmental Law. I loved teaching (miss it to this day), made wonderful friends and in 2006 at the tail end of my PhD process I settled down in Roath, in my own house.

My life took a dark turn that year when my beloved partner at the time, Tom Woollam, passed away. It was impossible to lock myself up to write up my PhD thesis and my priorities in life changed drastically. In October 2007 I gave myself one year in Cardiff, I did not want to run away from it but I also promised to myself I would not ‘bury’ myself in a place that was no longer suitable to be my home. In October 2008 I burst into life gratefully receiving every activity and offering that Cardiff had to give me, I really felt like I was rediscovering the city and myself.

My decision to stay in Cardiff was not based on logic, but I did not drift into it. I am not a work or love immigrant, although I found love again in the shape of a tall, friendly local photographer. This city has become home in such a subtle way that even when I feel I’ve had enough I want to find a way to at least have a part time base here. I love the people, the small distances, the parks, the pace of life. I love how Cardiff, despite its limitations, still offers itself to us as a blank canvas (so long as we don’t get dragged into navel gazing and perpetual old moans). Cardiff is my second home.


Q. Tell us about your history with food.
A. For me food and cooking are more than a survival skill or hobby. It might have something to do with my upbringing but food has always been at centre stage. We always were made aware of nutritional value and the importance of a balanced diet. I believe that food is love and appetite for food shows curiosity for life.

I think food and the act of preparing it are more than preventing our stomachs from rumbling. At difficult times cooking together helps overcome communication barriers – it can help transform difficult situations to nurturing and healing moments. When in celebration the act of gathering at the table seems the most intimate and meaningful. When in far away places, cooking and sharing food overcomes language barriers and awkwardness – people open their doors to you to share food. And then of course food and discovery of recipes is a way of travelling, understanding cultures and identifying similarities amongst them.

Lia’s Kitchen is about all those things. I want to create dinners that offer indulgent but healthy dishes, I want people to leave an event having met someone new or having learnt a new thing about their friend, I want people to discover new tastes and music, and at the end of the night to leave with a feeling of contentment and excitement.

Business card template


Q. What’s the most memorable meal or eating experience you’ve ever had?
A. That’s hard to answer and hard to pick. So here is a recent highlight.

Last year on my birthday we organised a meal for 40 people at Jacob’s Market. My friends and I cooked tirelessly and then towards the end of the night Dan had to pull me out of the kitchen. Forty people who had just eaten my food sang happy birthday to me, and Zoe, of Bird to Market, presented me with a delicious pomegranate and feta birthday cheesecake! This is the best birthday I have had in a very long time and the best cake that anyone has ever made for me. I felt like I turned 30 again!

Q. What inspired you to start Lia’s Kitchen?
A. My friends. My real friends see things that I don’t and they don’t just hand me a drink or pat me on the back. The urge me to be all the positive things they see in me and love to push me out of my comfort zones. And so it was that one sunny day on a road trip to the Gower, my friends Becci Lynch, Elpida Sarvani and my boyfriend Dan Green, started talking about Lia’s Kitchen as a brand, a blog and a food venture. I listened, got enthused and a week later an outline Lia’s Kitchen appeared on my ‘ideas’ notice board.

Lia’s Kitchen started as a blog to record recipes and to tell stories of gathering. Oh how I rambled until I found my own format to write a recipe. Eventually, I felt the urge to cook for others outside my home. And so Lia’s Kitchen started popping up as a guest cook at various locations to create unique gatherings and menus. A new page has been turned. I am now moving on to designing my first cooking classes and offer bespoke menu design, cooking lessons and recipes on demand.

It is still the beginning for me and a year ago I never imagined there could be such a strong movement of pop-ups, supper clubs and food ventures. I feel encouraged and not the least antagonised by all these amazing entrepreneurs. I feel very lucky to live during what I consider the most significant period of food in history – a real food revolution. I am proud to be part of it.


PantrySupperClub_16 PantrySupperClub_08

Q. Tell us a little about the events that you are holding over the 27 – 28 September 2014 weekend
A. Lia’s Kitchen is holding two events showcasing Greek cuisine on 27 and 28 September at Penylan Pantry. The first event is a unique dining experience where our guests will be allocated Olympian and Roman deity identities for a night. And the second day is a cooking class! I am very excited that we are launching our first cooking class and I am so happy to be working , for both events, with the wonderful Penylan Pantry, a thriving independent business growing from strength to strength.

On 27 September the menu is inspired by delicacies from my homeland but I have aimed to include dishes for which many have different cultural references. It will be a kind Greek menu with a multi-culti twist. I can reveal it includes homemade vine leaf dolma, tomato fritters and the amazing cake of cakes, Revani.

On 28 September everyone that joins us will learn how to make dolma, the infamous vine leaf rice parcel. This will be a process of communal cooking. And we will also share a light evening dinner amongst the class participants.

You can get more information and book a place at our table here:

Q. Finally, give us a cooking tip that will make all our lives better in the kitchen!
A. You don’t need to wash mushrooms! For chestnut and cup mushrooms remove the stem, and peel the mushroom skin pulling from the stem cavity outwards. For oyster or wild mushrooms use a (new) soft toothbrush to get rid of the dirt.


Thanks Lia! Contact Lia’s Kitchen on to be added to Lia’s event mailing list.


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A fairytale castle in a magical city – a first timer’s visit to Castle Coch

Temi Odurinde got in touch recently with a guest piece about a first trip to the wonderful Castle Coch. Have you been there? If not, you should really check it out. Magical indeed! Helia x

A Fairytale Castle in a Magical City

Castle Coch 01

Castles were always these grand buildings I dreamed about as a child and that were brought to awe-inspiring life when I went to the cinemas; never had I seen one in person. Instead of beautiful countryside and magical castles growing up, I was surrounded by reflective skyscrapers, dull grey buildings, and new build homes. Now, I come from a place that my fiancé likes to call “Yankee doodle land”, so on top of a bit of culture shock upon arrival in the UK, I had this silly notion that there would be a few castles here and there throughout the England and Wales (of which I was eager to plan my assault to visit them all). I never realised that there were over eight hundred visible castles across the UK. My mind was boggled by the sheer number, but I made it my mission to travel to the most prominent castles as soon as I could.

My first stop was Edinburgh Castle – a gorgeous and regal building with absolutely stunning grounds. My trip up in Scotland was very enlightening, especially since most general US knowledge about the Scottish comes from the movie Braveheart. Next, I headed down to the heart of the Lake District and enjoyed a day at Muncaster Castle. The castle was nice, but lacked many of those spires and Hogwarts-esque features that I so longed for (though the owl exhibit and show on the grounds really made up for it!).My next visit was to Wales – beautiful Cardiff to be exact.

My sole purpose in Cardiff was to visit Castle Coch because I heard of how beautiful it was. Upon arrival though, I admit I truly fell in love with this stunning and historical city more so than I had anywhere else on my journey. I expected constant rain (something I was getting used to in the UK already), and names of places that I couldn’t possibly attempt to pronounce. Well, I wasn’t completely off – it did sprinkle a bit the first day, and it became a game between my fiancé and I as I tried (failing miserably) to pronounce the names on signs; however the locals were absolutely lovely people and the city itself had such beautiful buildings and an intriguing history attached to almost everything!

The trip to Cardiff, for my fiancé and I, was absolutely magical. We visited the port in the evenings where we were delighted to see all of the store lights were reflecting off the water – making for a truly picture perfect scene. On the second day in Cardiff we got to explore around the City Hall and that was an incredibly regal building with a stunning dome atop the main entrance, and a plethora of windows adding to its architectural beauty. We also stopped by for a visit in the Natural History Museum at St. Fagans where we got to learn more about the history of Wales, the city, and see some excellent exhibits in a stunning building.

Overall, though, the best part of our trip was Castle Coch. The castle stands proud in the northern part of the city and its tall spires make it look like the quintessential, dreamy fairytale castle. Once we stood outside its entrance (which has a marvellous medieval type bridge leading you into a large arched door), you can’t help but marvel at this 19th century revival. Its size is definitely impressive when you look at it from head on, but an aerial view of the castle and a visit throughout its corridors, reveals that it’s a lot bigger than you might have first thought!

castle coch 02

As a person who absolutely loves castles, I admit I filled up an entire memory card for the trip to Cardiff, most of which was taken during the tour through Castle Coch. My favourite spots of the castle, and parts that I recommend every visitor see during their tour, include:

  • The great hall – a stunning room with an abundance of old paintings and an absolutely fabulous ceiling that immediately captures your interest. The fireplace also bears a large statue above it that is a must see.
  • Drawing room – another section of the castle that is, if possible, even more stunning than the great hall. This room features a very black and tan style of décor but it also boasts a fantastic chandelier and the famous Three Fates chimney-piece I had been longing to see for some time!
  • The courtyard – while there is no main feature in the courtyard, except maybe just the fact that it’s the courtyard of the Castle Coch, it does give you an absolutely priceless moment to look up at the magnificent walls of the castle around you. Definitely a surreal feeling to be standing in a castle courtyard!

castle_5 castle_6

Overall, the visit to Cardiff, and especially Castle Coch, was absolutely magical. The city itself is filled with a fantastic combination of history, stunning architecture, and modern conveniences while the castle allows you to take a step back straight into the medieval times of Wales. For any visitor heading to Wales, take even a few hours to stop by and visit Cardiff and you’re sure to fall in love with this marvellous and wondrous city like my fiancé and I did.



Temi Odurinde lives in the Wye Valley, that lovely region where parts of Wales meet part of England. He blogs about Welsh & rural issues, dating and relationships for Singles Dating Wales. You can contact him via the website or Google+.

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Male Voice Choirs at St Andrew’s, 14 October 2014 – in aid of Music As Therapy

A couple of weeks ago, I had an email from a lady by the name of Liz, who was organising a charity event in Roath. Male choirs! A raffle! Raising money for kids in Palestine! Would I put something up on We Are Cardiff? How could I possibly have refused her. So I’ll hand over to Liz to tell you about her event and a little something about her event.

Male Voice Choirs Music as therapy 2014

I’m a Cardiff born and bred musician who studied music at London University. After a time of doing some non-musical related jobs, I started working for Community Music Wales as tutor and then project manager. It was while working with them that I became curious about how I could connect more deeply with service users and work towards specific therapeutic goals using music.

I trained as a music therapist at the RWCMD where the MA Music therapy training used to take place. Being a music therapist means connecting and relating to people largely using co-improvised music created in the moment. You have to be really good at listening and tuning in to what is heard and unheard. It’s a great job, and now we have a new training centre here in Caerleon, where I am the course leader. It’s great to have a training centre in Wales again.

I ended up working in Palestine after I spotted an ad from a charity ( for a music therapist to lead a six-week music therapy skill-sharing project in Bethlehem with teachers and social workers.

That was in 2009, and I have continued to return and support teachers, social workers, nurses and kids to enrich their provision/work towards wellbeing and health related goals ever since. It’s something that I feel very passionate about. Being creative in a country where creativity is stifled as a result of the Occupation is something that I can help with, and I believe it makes a difference.

Best thing that happened to me when I was visiting Palestine was when I was working alongside a small boy and his teacher in a music as therapy session. After improvising on the wind chimes for a while using wind chimes, the boy said: “This music helps me dream. I want to be a doctor.”
The worst thing that happened in Palestine was having to cancel music as therapy sessions in the Aida Camp due to tear gas being fired in the streets by Israeli soldiers. Seeing the kids terrified, their eyes streaming and absolutely  panic-stricken was very painful. We were only trying to give them music lessons.

This is Noor Alraee, a Palestinian musician working in Aida Camp with kindergarten children in a therapeutic music group

music as therapy concert pic

Concert for Music as Therapy in Palestine Facebook event

More information:

Music As Therapy event
14th October
7:30pm, St Andrews United Reformed Church
Penylan Rd, CF24 3PG

The show will feature Cwmbach Male Voice Choir and guest choir Cenestra from South Africa.
Tickets cost £8 and can be purchased on the door, or in advance by calling 07596 999123.
There will be a varied programme of traditional and contemporary favourites on offer, including a raffle!

All monies raised will go to support music therapy projects in Palestine, including Project Beit Sahour (a project managed Liz Coombes and UK charity



Liz Coombes is a Cardiff based music therapist and course leader of the MA in Music Therapy Course at the University of South Wales. She has been working in the West Bank on projects to support teachers and social workers in engaging children and young people in therapeutic music-making to help them reach their potential and reduce the traumatising effects of the ongoing conflict there. She currently lives in Plasnewydd.


“Work in progress” – Alex

Alex Norton by Joseph Singh

Cardiff and I didn’t begin auspiciously; I’ve found that the best relationships rarely do. Friends have suggested that that’s a reflection on my own social ineptitude but, in this case, it’s irrefutable proof of this city’s ability to charm you into a three year relationship off the back of a farcical first date.

If you were to conjure up an image of a sodden Central Square on a bleak Spring day, you might be inclined to agree that the combined effect of the overbearing conditions, fast food outlets and an array of characters best described as ‘colourful’ would be conducive to a sobering first impression. Dismissing any initial angst that might have crept in as a product of sheltered, rural naivety, I made my way to Cathays Park.

The ambience inspired by the Edwardian architecture here was altogether more agreeable, and I advanced into the Bute Building with a sense of purpose. Once inside I was informed that the next introductory lecture wouldn’t be taking place for another two hours, and promptly left again. But having spent an unadventurous youth in rural Dorset I rapidly became disorientated amidst my new surroundings – and to make matters worse, the rain had cranked up to apocalyptic levels. I huddled in a bus stop.

I had become a vagrant.

Worse for wear and somewhat dispirited, a cup of coffee and the subsequent lecture nonetheless brightened my mood – and my outlook was further bolstered by a member of the welcome committee, who laughingly assured me that the prevailing meteorological conditions were anomalous and that I would enjoy city life. I now know the first part of this statement to be marketing at its most deceitful. On the second count, however, she couldn’t have been more correct.

Within six months I had been blown back to the city by the winds of whimsy, this time as a fully fledged Welsh resident. Two years on, I remain convinced that I’ve struck the jackpot.

Having perused this blog time and time again, it is hard not to wholly plagiarise the sentiments with which I agree wholeheartedly. Cardiff is the perfect introduction to real life, particularly for a small town émigré. Whilst large enough to make every trip the opportunity to discover something new, it is small enough to know intimately. A capital city that retains the feel of a secret, close-knit community, it is a city of contradictions – and all the better for it.

My friends, perhaps dazzled by bright lights, used the university application process to head for London. That (coupled with the fact that it’s home to my beloved Fulham Football Club) means that I frequently find myself wandering the streets of the Big Smoke. There can be no doubt that it is an exceptional city to work, a sprawling metropolis unrivalled in its social and economic opportunities. But to live? Not for me.

It may be that the dangling of the economic carrot obliges me to migrate there sooner rather than later, but I have a feeling that I will always be drawn back to Cardiff and its nuances – the arcades, Bute Park, Tiger Bay. Even the Millennium Stadium holds a place in my heart, despite the pain that has been inflicted on my home country upon its hallowed turf.

I know of few cities that blend high street amenities, waterfront café culture and unspoilt greenery so successfully within the confines of a few square miles. To me there are few more idyllic afternoons than lunch at the New York Deli and a stroll along the Taff. It’s a city designed for living, and I can only hope it stays that way.

As a sport fan, it’s a near-perfect location. There are few other cities in the world which you can leave your house and be within walking distance of regular international rugby, football and cricket and the accompanying carnival atmosphere. The ability to see the world’s most expensive footballer tearing Wales’ opponents apart and be home within twenty minutes is a convenience shared only by the residents of Madrid, and it’s one that I treasure.

In 12 months time, my stay in south Wales is due to come to end – and I don’t know what I’m going to do about it. Whatever jibes that are unfairly directed its way by those who live blissfully in their ignorance, it is an immense privilege to call myself a Cardiffian.



Alex Norton is a final year undergraduate at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture and currently serves as News Editor for the newly launched monthly ‘The University Paper’. Like all proper students he lives in Cathays, and in his spare time he’s either travelling to football matches, reclining in Coffee Barker or walking around the city in a daze asking people if they’ve seen the last two years of his life. He can be found on Twitter @thealexmancan.

Alex was photographed at Cathays Park by Joseph Singh

A-Z Cardiff … H is for The Hennessys

Katie Hamer continues her Cardiff A-Z by discussing Cardiff band, The Hennessys!

So, what makes folk band The Hennessys special? Well, as founder member Frank Hennessy sings in one of their most popular songs:

‘I’m Cardiff born and Cardiff bred, and when I dies, I’ll be Cardiff dead’.

Who wouldn’t be impressed by this band’s conviction for their home city?

As I’m a fan of alternative and Indie music, I decided to investigate the band further. I enjoyed listening to their music, which is deceptively simple, but strangely catchy. In one humorous and memorable lyric from their album ‘Cardiff After Dark’, they jest about a new logo for Cardiff: a huge pint of Brains Dark. They provide a running commentary on life in Cardiff, and it’s uniqueness. As the cover for this album suggests:

 ‘There is no substitute for the real thing, [the Kaairdiff Accent], hence this recording. If you want to listen in it’s true surroundings, get yourself a flagon of “Dark”, a Clarksey (Clarks Pie), and a tanners worth of chips in an echo.’

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Cardiff after dark

 Their songs are a social commentary, full of wit, but also displaying a huge amount of affection for their home city.

Frank Hennessy, who wrote many of the band’s more memorable lyrics, was indeed born in Cardiff, into the thriving Irish community. From a very early age, his family encouraged him to perform. At age 13, his father gave him a guitar, which he took to with ease, and from then on, he became immersed in music.

In 1966 Frank, with his band yet to be named The Hennessys, won a youth talent contest in Cardiff. This led to them having a regular gig at St Joseph’s Catholic Club in Whitchurch Road.

A few years later, they moved to Ireland, where they again achieved recognition. What came as a surprise to them, though, was that they were seen to be a Welsh band, and not a Cardiff Irish band as they had expected.

This helped the band to realize that their Welsh roots made them special. They took to performing Welsh language folk songs, which raised their profile even further within the folk community.

Frank Hennessy could see that there was a gap in the market for Welsh folk songs written in English. On the bands return to Wales, he wrote some of their best-known songs: ‘Tiger Bay’, ‘Farewell to the Rhondda’ and ‘Billy the Seal’, as well as ‘Cardiff Born’.

A traditional Brains beer pub, as praised by The Hennessys

‘Farewell to the Rhondda’ deals with the decline in population in the valleys due to pit closures. ‘Tiger Bay’ is about migration from Cardiff to North America, not always to a better way of life. ‘Billy the Seal’, a more light-hearted number, is the true story of a seal, who took up residence in Victoria Park, Cardiff around about a hundred years ago. If you’re ever in Victoria Park, you’ll see a statue in commemoration of this seal.

The Animal Wall in Bute Park, as mentioned in one of Frank Hennessys’ songs.

Frank Hennessy has also written songs for special occasions. He penned a song for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cardiff in 1982. For their audience with the Pope at Pontcanna Fields, The Hennessys sang: ‘John Paul, we welcome you with all our hearts’, undoubtedly a proud moment.

Dorothy’s Fish Bar – perhaps the oldest resident of ‘Chip Alley’

More recently, in 2005, Frank Hennessy wrote a song to mark Cardiff’s centennial year as a city, and 50 years since it became the capital of Wales. The song, titled ‘Always Beautiful: A Song for Cardiff’ includes memories of the Old Arcade pub, Caroline Street (a.k.a. Chippy Lane), and the Animal Wall at Bute Park. I would dearly love to listen to this song, but haven’t been able to locate it anywhere. If anyone reading this knows where I can listen to it, then please let me know!

The Old Arcade pub, as mentioned in ‘Always Beautiful: A Song for Cardiff’

The band has seen some line-up changes, but still perform today. Most notably, they have performed their song ‘Cardiff Born’ on the streets of Cardiff on St David’s Day. This song has evolved over the years, to keep up with the changes in the city. Whereas the majority of musicians will write a song, and then perform the same version for ever after, The Hennessys have shown a sense of fun by adding new verses. For instance, recent versions of ‘Cardiff Born’ include a verse about how the Daleks are now roaming Cardiff Bay.

The band don’t perform as much as they did in their hey day, but Frank Hennessy is still very much part of the folk scene of Wales. He’s been hosting his BBC Wales show, Celtic Heartbeat, for twenty years. Broadcasting every Sunday evening, it’s full of information on new artists, upcoming gigs, as well as having some classic folk tunes on the playlist.

From everything I have read about Frank Hennessy, and his band, I can sense that they are proud of their Cardiffian heritage, and to be part of this city’s culture. Who wouldn’t be?

Cardiff this week, adorned with banners

Our Cardiff geography – Baby Queens

In today’s personal geography, the Baby Queens step up to answer my questions!

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Listen while you read: Baby Queens Soundcloud


Q. Introduce us to your group

Estelle: Hello! Baby Queens is two cousins, Ruth and Monique, two sisters, Cara and Estelle, and our good friend Vanity.


Q. How did you (the group or individual) end up in Cardiff? Are you born local or moved here…

Vanity: Ruth moved from Gloucester, Vanity grew up in the Bahamas and moved to Cardiff as a young girl, Cara and Estelle are from North Wales and Monique hales from Cardiff.


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Q. How did you all meet, and how long have you been playing together for?

Estelle: We met through music and we have been playing as a band since September 2012


Q. Explain your sound to us

Cara: Our sound is fusion, in that we fuse so many different genres together to create our sound, we literally take influence from all genres and all true and beautiful musc from the last few decades even reaching back as far as the 1940’s . We all have a very eclectic record collection, from 50’s rock n roll, to experimental 60/70’s bands and artists, we love mowtown, two tone, physc rock, rock n roll, punk rock, roots hiphop and reggae, to contempary hiphop and reggae, soul, jazz, and electronic music wise DnB, House, dubstep the list goes on. We wanted our Sound to represent as much of the music that we love as possible, the music inspired us and the music that drove us to write, and we incorperate these influences into our sound resulting in the “difficult to define” sound that were kinda proud of.


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Q. What’s your favourite Cardiff venue? Can be one that doesn’t exist anymore…

Estelle: I used to love The Point but it closed down.


Q. What parts of Cardiff have you lived in so far?

A. Docks, Splott, Canton, Llandoch, town centre

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Q. What was the BEST gig / show / rave you’ve ever been to in Cardiff?

Estelle: A SomBom techno night in 2007 where Green Velvet played


Q. What was the last film you watched

Ruth: Marvel – Avengers Assemble


Q. Tell us a secret

Monique: We are always fashionably late for everything!


Q. What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?

Ruth: Central Perk off Albany Road


Q. What’s your local pub?

Ruth: Rileys Canton


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Q. Tell us a hidden part of Cardiff that you love

Cara: The Wetlands is a little nature reserve alongside the water in the Cardiff Bay area, it’s incredibly beautiful and is a breeding ground for swans and ducks, we go there to watch the sunset and find creativity.


Q. What music are you loving at the moment? Bands, DJs …

Cara: MNEK, Rudimental, Danny Brown, Angel Haze, Royal Blood, The wkend, Frank Ocean, Jamie Woon.


Q. If you had some friends coming to visit for the weekend, where would you take them?

Cara: I would take them to Barry beach, on the quiet side – beautiful views and summer sunsets


Q. If people want to see you live, when’s their next opportunity?

A. We’ll be playing at DimSwn this year, catch us there!

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Baby Queens Facebook page

Twitter: @baby_queens

Baby Queens Soundcloud



Baby Queens were photographed at rehearsal by Joseph Singh (SnapPopAndRock) 

Creative responses to dementia event – review by Jodie Ashdown

Writer Jodie Ashdown went along to the first combined event for ‘Creative Responses to Dementia’ and ‘Making Minds’, which took place at Roath’s MADe Gallery on Saturday 6 September 2014. Read on for her flavour of the event.





The day started off with a series of workshops, including creative movement, reflexology and Laughter Yoga hosted by Creative Responses to Dementia, with the aim of encouraging people to engage with dementia and its effects in an open and social way. Organised by Esyllt George, Creative Industries Career Adviser at Cardiff Met University, with volunteer assistance from students and graduates from Cardiff Met, the proceeds of the exhibition will go to Crossroads in the Vale Charity, who support people living in the community who have dementia.

The event also includes an on-going art auction featuring paintings, photographs, ceramics and prints donated by local artists, with 50 percent of the winning bid going to the charity. The auction closes on Thursday at 5pm, so feel free to get down there and bid for original and affordable art.




Next came the spoken word event in conjunction with Making Minds, an organisation who aim to supply creative and artistic workshops to those living with mental health difficulties. The organisation promote the role of art and creativity, partly through the provision of workshop-based projects and social events. The speakers covered a variety of mental health experiences ranging through bipolar disorder and dementia, be it their own or another persons, through poetry, prose and music. Members of the Roath Writers groups contributed to the open mic night as well as providing the night’s excellent compère, Christina Thatcher.


Both organisations have new and exciting prospects on the horizon helping those in the community, who can often feel ostracised and alone, express themselves in a safe and open environment through creativity and words. The next Making Minds event is in the North Star Pub on Wednesday 24th September and is just the beginning of many exciting events to come.

If you’d like to get involved with any of these projects, please contact the organisations at the details below:

Creative Responses to Dementia:
Making Minds:
Cardiff M.A.D.E., 41 Lochaber Street, Roath CF24 3LS



Thanks Jodie! Catch you soon…


DimSŵn! Line-up announced for Saturday 18 October 2014

This year there will be no four-day Sŵn Festival. Boo, right?

But fear not, there’s still a one day multi-venue event across seven Cardiff venues on Saturday 18th October, DimSŵn. The first 40 bands have been announced with more to come in the next fortnight.

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Much like Sŵn, you can buy a ticket to DimSŵn to exchange on the day for a wristband, which will then grant you entry (subject to capacity) to all of the shows happening at the event. Live music will start just after you’ve had your lunch and run until around midnight, and there’ll be a host of club nights where you can then carry on dancing until you finally choose to sleep or just pass out on Womanby Street until Wetherspoons opens and you can start drinking again.

Tickets for DimSŵn are on sale now. As it’s a much smaller event than the usual Sŵn Festival offering then please be aware that tickets are capped at just 500 sales.

DimSŵn is also open to those aged 14 and over, which a special underage wristband.

Tickets are £24 for adults, £12 for those 14-17. TICKETS
If you want to check out the line-up, go here: LINE-UP

COMPETITION: Win tickets for Champions of Magic, St David’s Hall 24 September

It’s competition tiiiiiiime! So, you wanna go see a proper magic show? Well, luckily for you we’ve got ONE PAIR OF TICKETS to give away to the Champions of Magic Show at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on Wednesday 24 September.

The award winning team of tricksters, swindlers and cheats, Champions of Magic are back for an adventurous autumn tour. The show promises a spectacular night of entertainment and a showcase of five world class magicians, including some of the foremost magic performers nationwide, as seen on ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’.

With a combination of elegant classics and cutting edge alternative magic, audiences will witness a mastery of card manipulation, death defying stunts, mind boggling sleight of hand and spectacular illusions.

Don’t believe us? Just take a look at this…


just send us an email to with ‘competition’ as the title, and tell us the answer to the following question: in the video above, what is written on the front of the cardboard box?

The competition closes on the 22 September, so get emailing, right? And only one entry per email address please 🙂


Champion of Magic

Riverside Community Festival 2014 – photo blog

We sent photographer Jess Ventura out on the bank holiday weekend, where she enjoyed a couple of hours out at the Riverside Festival. She shares her snaps with us!

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And if you went along to the Riverside Festival, we hope you had an equally lovely time.