R is for Roath Park

Katie Hamer continues her A–Z exploration of all that’s special about Cardiff. So what’s she seen this week?

 

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I hadn’t planned on returning to Roath Park for this series. But, having heard rumours of an apartment in The Scott Memorial lighthouse for rent, I put on my running shoes and sprinted over there. I’m so glad I did because I realized there’s so much more to the park than I’d seen previously.

I’d taken photos there for my article about ‘I loves the ‘Diff’, so I thought I’d covered it all. How wrong I was!

Perhaps I missed a lot on my first visit because of the time of year. Although the leaves on the trees had turned to beautiful shades of red, it felt like everything else had gone into hibernation or shut down for the winter.

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To my great delight, upon my revisit, I noted that spring is awakening in the park. The daffodils are beginning to open up their golden trumpets and many trees are already in blossom. Everywhere, there are signs of fresh buds and new life. I just love this time of year.

Another thing that surprised me is the huge variety of birds that inhabit the lake in the spring. That’s not to say there weren’t birds on my first visit. How could I forget having to fend off hissing geese as I sat on a bench having my sandwiches on my first visit, for instance?

The main difference with the birdlife is that there are now a lot of courting couples. For example, I saw a couple of pigeons gently cooing and rubbing chests together in a very public show of affection. I expect the park will soon be filled with the patter of tiny pigeon feet!

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Also swans and geese there are huge, much bigger than I’ve seen anywhere else . I know there are signs up in the park warning you not to feed the birds, but it’s very hard to believe they got to this size without the help of some human carbs.

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I’d also not noticed the Centenary Garden for Captain R. F. Scott before. It’s immediately opposite the Scott Memorial lighthouse and is also coming into flower. As someone who struggles to garden and has murdered many an innocent house plant, I’m always stunned by what people can achieve with a bit of imagination and a lot of hard work.

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And as for the apartment within the Scott Memorial lighthouse, let’s just say it turned out to be just a little too bijoux for my liking!

 

I’ve kept this article brief, hoping you’ll feel tempted to explore for yourselves. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, you can find out more about the park by visiting the conservatory within the Botanical Gardens. There’s a little shop there where you can buy souvenirs. You can also explore the plants within conservatory for a small fee of £2.00, and maybe pick up some gardening tips.

Other things to do in Roath

If you visit on a Saturday morning, there’s also the Roath Farmers Market, which runs all year. You can find information about it here:

Roath Farmers Market

There’s also the Roath Craft Market which starts up again on Saturday 7th March. This is next door to the Farmers Market. You can find information about it here:

Roath Craft Market

Thank you for reading my article. I hope it made you smile, and that you will also enjoy leafing through my photo gallery. Until the next time…

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Grow your own beer in 2015 – join Cardiff Hops!

Ever fancied growing hops to brew your own beer? If you never knew where to start, Cardiff Hops are here to help…

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Cardiff Hops was started in 2013. The group was started to grow hops in a city and create the group’s own Green Hop Ale – one that you couldn’t get from a large commercial brewery. The group teamed up with Simon (the owner of PIPES in Pontcanna) and over the last two years he has crafted the Taff Temptress from the group’s hops. Each year it evolves into an easy drinking green hop ale that the group is part of!

Last year Pipes produced 400 litres of the beer and had Chapter serving it. This year the plan is to hit a  full 1000 litre brew!

The group are looking for your help – the more growers there are, the more hops there will be at harvest time, and the more local beer can be brewed.

To join, order your hop pack from the group. Pay upfront by 15th March and then pick it up on the 21st or 22nd March (the Hop pack costs £20).

The hop is a dwarf hop that only grows around 2m in height and is easy to handle unlike traditional hops.
You get all you need to get it off to a good start, plus twine and help and guidance from the group.

As a perk, hoppers get a discount on the beer when it’s ready and first dibs on the bottles when the rest is bottled up. Bonus!

For more information on hopping in 2015, join the Cardiff Hops 2015 Facebook event and help brew Cardiff’s own ‘co-operative’ beer – made from hops grown all over the city!

Cardiff Hops Facebook group

Standing Still photography exhibition, Abacus Cardiff 22 Feb – 8 March 2015

For those who like their photography exhibitions with a taste of human rights, this weekend is the opening of The Kickplate Project’s ‘Standing Still’.

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Standing Still
22 Feb – 8 March 2015
The Abacus, St David’s House, Wood Street, Cardiff

Opening on the anniversary of Victor Yanukovych’s impeachment and escape, Kickplate will be presenting an exhibition of work by two Ukrainian fine art photographers, Sergiy Lebedynskyy and Alexey Ostrovskiy.

Sergiy’s lith prints taken during Euromaidan last year evoke the emotions, movement and chaos that place the viewer in the midst of Kiev protests, giving us a unique account of the events unlike the sterile, lifeless and detached digital images that we see in the media.

Alexey’s photographs created with a homemade large format camera on photographic paper that cover classical still life, portrait, and experimental, rendering an intimate and quiet universe.

Pairing these images together, Kickplate hope to show a fuller and more nuanced vision of Ukraine that can sometimes get lost amongst the stereotypes and grey reality presented to us.

Over a year on from the beginning of the protests and despite the continuous conflict, events in Ukraine are only now once again present in the British news due to recent escalations. With this exhibition, Kickplate want to remind the audience of the situation that the people in the country are facing.

More information about the artists: learn more about Alexey Ostrovskiy

Standing Still – Facebook event page

The Kickplate Project website

 

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Love art? Care about future generations? Get to the Abacus on Saturday!

AFFG-FinalWebA group of artists are holding an exhibition at the Abacus on Saturday to call on the Welsh Government to improve the Well-Being of Future Generations Bill. They think the current proposals do not go far enough, and want to create a truly strong and effective sustainable development law for Wales. 

The Art for Future Generations exhibition will run from the 21 to 27 February 2015.

The exhibition will kick off with an opening party on Saturday at 7pm, featuring a number of celebrated poets, performers and musicians.  These include Mab Jones, the poet in residence for the Botanical Garden of Wales, folk singer-songwriter Maddie Jones, and rock bands Third Party and Art Bandini.

Exhibition organiser Gareth Sims said:

“All the art work on display is inspired by our natural environment, the recognition that she is being destroyed at unprecedented rates and that we must act urgently to enhance and protect her. 

We are also lucky to have some wonderful performers for the opening night who share a passion to make Wales a sustainable nation – so it should be quite a party!”

The exhibition is supporting the Sustainable Development Alliance’s campaign for a stronger law. Gareth said:

“We are calling on the Welsh Government to pass a law with a clear definition of sustainable development and a strong duty on public bodies to actually achieve sustainable development.

To do this it must also properly address key issues such as climate change, our global responsibilities, and living within environmental limits.”

Tickets can be bought on the door or in advance for £5 with all proceeds going towards the campaign, for more information visit the Facebook page –https://www.facebook.com/events/881188991944819/?fref=ts  .Banner idea 4-1

The Quiet Triumphs project

Last Friday was the launch of Quiet Triumphs – a community based project aimed to inspire charity and positive, local change.

Quiet Triumphs

The project was started by Gareth Jones, composer and musical director of NoFit State Circus, who has been using his skills to highlight eight different charities/organisations who are improving their community.

He has been documenting their work, recording and filming a song on location and will be releasing each of the eight episodes online over eight weeks. With each episode there will be links to how the viewer can help the featured community. The goal is to celebrate and support the Quiet Triumphs that exist on a daily basis. Pretty nice, eh?

Not all episodes are set in Cardiff, but it’s such a lovely project, we had to give it a mention.

Watch the first episode below, covering Organised Kaos (Kaos standing for Keeping Adolescents Off the Streets), a community group up in the Upper Amman Valley.

 

The origins of the group:

Organised Kaos originated from a Friday night circus club in the Upper Amman Valley, South Wales on the 6th of July 2007. The Amman Valley is a semi rural location with high levels of anti social behaviour, many teenage ASBOs and minimal youth service provision. In response to this backdrop, Nicola Hemsley started a Friday Night Circus School. The purpose of Organised K.A.O.S is encompassed by its acronym (Keeping Adolescents Off the Streets). This was, and still is achieved by offering challenging skills based opportunities to young people through Circus Arts.

Gareth says: “When I began developing the Quiet Triumphs Project one of the first organisations I thought of was Organised Kaos. Having worked in Circus for a number of years I had seen this company grow and grow without losing its original principles. Organised Kaos have helped shape the lives of dozens of children, teenagers and young adults around South Wales with many going on to become professional Circus Artists that perform worldwide. In this building there are no outsiders, no insiders, and all are encouraged to develop and share their unique skills with one another. This is a place where teenagers can use their bodies to express themselves and with each new movement comes a deeper understanding of who they are and what they are capable of.

“Organised Kaos is not just for young people either. The performances and showings that they share bring parents, grand parents and friends together to support a skill and art form that had once seemed unobtainable to older generations. Now the Circus is in the town of Gwaun Cae Gurwen every day!

“If you ever think “nothing really happens” where you live then think of Nicola. Think of Nicola in Upper Amman Valley, with just over four thousand people living in it, taking classes for the first time. Think of her, inspiring young people to discover and invent new forms of expression at a point in their lives where they are struggling to be heard. Think of the excitement that Organised Kaos has brought and the lives that are being changed on a daily basis in an area where “nothing really happens”. If you still think that nothing really happens in your community then maybe it’s time to start something…”

The next episode is out tomorrow! Keep your eyes on the Quiet Triumphs Facebook to watch it…

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Adamsdown, how does your garden grow?

Adamsdown is one of the only parts of Cardiff that has its own city garden, run through a project called Edible Adamsdown. We sent photographer Lorna Cabble along to take some snaps at their first community meeting of 2015.

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Edible Adamsdown is a project that aims to regenerate and re-open Adamsdown Community garden and pass back ownership to local community members – that could mean YOU! This beautiful little garden is hidden away behind Adamsdown resource centre on Moira terrace and boasts raised beds, a pond, tonnes herbs, a grapevine and a living willow structure.

Some words from Rebecca Clarke, who runs Green City (who run the garden):

“We were thrilled to have more than 30 community members join our ‘How will your garden grow’ event last Sunday. The sun was shining, the tea was flowing and our friends and neighbours came bearing chocolate cupcakes and tasty snacks.

“It was great to see lots of new faces, some of whom have lived in the area for many years and had no idea this garden existed – it’s always so lovely to see their reactions as they discover this little green space.

“Hannah from Free Range learning hosted the workshop for us – the aim was to get to know each other and find out a bit about what each of us would like to see happen in the garden. But this was far from a boring meeting – we kicked off with a seed matching game and then interviewed our seed partners to get to know a bit about them. Other activities and games involved creating a skill tree, a snowball fight (just paper – no real snow!) and discovering and discussing our ideas and priorities for the garden. This was all complimented by lots of tea, cake and conversation.

“It was such a positive start to the project for the new year and with 4 more events before the end of March, including urban chicken keeping, composting and wormeries and a small garden skill share, I think this garden will be teeming with plants and activity this year! Bring on the Spring!”

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The garden was initially opened in September 2014, for a fix up event and party, inviting locals to join in and earn timecredits and get involved in this growing project.

 

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Photographer Lorna Cabble enjoyed her time in the community garden: “My time photographing this event was really pleasant, I was surprised by the amount of people that turned up to discuss the community garden, and how much enthusiasm was showed by a range of different cultures and ages. It was really nice to see a community coming together and getting to know each other through a shared passion. Discussions took place and plans were made for future meetings.”

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View upcoming events including composting and vermiculture, community chicken keeping and small garden skill share workshops: Adamsdown Community Garden Events.

This lovely little green space was cleverly designed by Michele Fitzsimmons of Edible Landscaping who leads the Green City wild food foraging walks.

Get in touch with Green City or visit the Edible Adamsdown Facebook group to keep updated.

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Lorna Cabble is a photojournalism student at the University of South Wales, currently living in Cardiff.

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Cardiff library cuts ‘read-in’ protest – photoblog

Over the weekend, we sent photojournalist Shannon Jackson to the mass read in protest to the cuts that Cardiff libraries are facing. Here’s what she saw there.

Save Cardiff's Library Service

 

SHANNON: “When I first arrived at the protest sight, there were no more than ten people to be seen, placing a feeling of disappointment in the pit of my stomach. However, not 15 minutes later over 200 locals swarmed Cardiff Central Library, holding placards, homemade signs and their favourite books. From children to the elderly, the support was overwhelming. The passion and determination on the faces of the crowd showed just how important the libraries are, and how devastated so many people will be if they aren’t saved.”

Save Cardiff's Library Service

Save Cardiff's Library Service

Save Cardiff's Library Service

Save Cardiff's Library Service

Save Cardiff's Library Service

At the protest, the following authors read on the day:

Belinda Bauer – Crime novelist, 2010 CWA Gold Dagger Award winner.
Gwynneth Lewis – inaugural National Poet of Wales.
Sally Roberts Jones – Port Talbot-based historian, publisher and former librarian.
Peter Finch – Author of ‘Real Cardiff’ series, former head of Academi/Literature Wales.
Jackie Morris – Pembrokeshire-based children’s author
Llyr Gwyn Lewis – Welsh lecturer,Swansea University, Recent novel: Rhyw Flodau Rhyfel (Some War Flowers).
Francesca Rhydderch – Novelist, Editor
Gwennan Evans – Author of ‘Bore Da’, Radio Cymru regular
Jo Mazelis – Swansea-based novelist.
Labi Siffre, Poet & Musician (Hits: “Something inside so strong”/”It must be Love” – covered by Madness)
Mike Church, Poet

Speeches were also made by –

Steve Belcher, UNISON regional organiser
Madhu Khanna Davies – Save Rhydypennau Library campaign
Maggie Simpson – Cardiff Central library assistant
Michael Sweetman, Unison and
Phoebe, 12 year old borrower and reader.

Sent messages of support –
James Dean Bradfield, Manic Street Preachers
Owen Sheers, Poet, Prose Writer, Born in Abergavenny
Tessa Hadley, Novelist
Sheenagh Pugh, Poet, Novelist, critic, reviewer
Jenny Sullivan, Popular Children’s Novelist
Kate North, Novelist, poet, lecturer in creative writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University
Gillian Clarke, National Poet
Malachy Doyle, Young People’s Writer from Northern Ireland, Lived in Wales 1984-2007
Thomas and Helen Docherty, Married Childrens Author & Illustrator team
Kaite O’Reilly, Playwright, Fiction writer
Laura Wilkinson, Short stories author & novelist
Brian Moses, Favourite children’s poet
Cathy Cassidy, Children’s author, Save Liverpool Libraries campaign
Alan Gibbons, Children’s Author, Founder of National Libraries Day
Greg Cullen, Playwright, Cardiff People’s Assembly
Romy Wood, Novelist
Sally Barker & Menna Elfyn, Wales PEN Cymru

Chaired by Mab Jones, Award winning Comic Poet &
Adam Johannes, Co-Convenor, Cardiff People’s Assembly.

FINALLY please continue to bombard councillors with emails to save our libraries, this includes seven local branch libraries under threat, but also the running down of Cardiff Central Library with plans to lose yet another floor to move Marland House, the busy Housing Benefit & Council Tax Advice Centre into the building.

Email Council leader – Phil.Bale@Cardiff.gov.uk
Deputy Leader: Cllr Sue Lent, Sue.Lent@Cardiff.gov.uk
Cllr Peter Bradbury (libraries portfolio) Peter.Bradbury@Cardiff.gov.uk

Find your local councillors to contact here –
https://www.cardiff.gov.uk/…/Your-…/Wards/Pages/default.aspx

Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service  Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service

Save Cardiff's Library Service  Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service  Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service  Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service  Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service Save Cardiff's Library Service

Shannon Jackson is 20 and a first year Photojournalism student at the University of South Wales.

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Cardiff A-Z: Q is for Queen Street

Katie Hamer continues her A–Z series with revelations about Cardiff’s history. 

 

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Queen Street during a busy lunch hour

There’s more to Cardiff’s central thoroughfare than meets the eye. For instance, did you know that it only became known as Queen Street relatively recently? Perhaps you did –clever you – give yourself a pat on the back if you knew that already!

Well, it certainly came as a surprise to me, and so I decided to investigate further. I uncovered a fascinating history, of which I hope you will enjoy reading.

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A seagull enjoys a bird’s eye view of the street

The obvious question to ask is, if the main shopping street hasn’t always been called Queen Street, what did it used to be known as? In order to answer this question, I will pose another question that is apparently a well-known pub quiz question:

“What are the five towns of Cardiff?” The answer to this question is Butetown and Grangetown, which are still in existence, Temperance Town and Newtown, which disappeared during the first half of the twentieth century, and finally Crockherbtown, whose main road we now know as Queen Street.

Crockherbtown, often abbreviated to Crockerton, means simply “the town of the crock herbs”, a name that is thought to be Saxon in origin. The area gained its name from a 13th Century order of Franciscan Monks known as the Grey Friars, who would trade herbs from the town’s East Gate (now demolished this gate was situated where the Principality Building Society currently has its headquarters).

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The headquarters for Wales’ Principality Building Society

It is perhaps hardly surprising, when you think about it, that Queen Street gained its new name in honour of Queen Victoria. The change took place in anticipation of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Year of 1887. It heralded in a new era for the thoroughfare; one that saw domestic dwellings replaced by retail outlets.

All that remains of the original name for the place is the Wetherspoon’s pub, ‘The Crockerton’ on Greyfriars Street, and its back alley, Crockherbtown Lane, which has featured as a film set for television series Doctor Who.

The newly named street became the crowning feature of the Victorian era of high street commerce. Shoppers could arrive in their droves via the renamed Cardiff Queen Street rail station to enjoy a new feature of the industrial age: leisure time.

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An eye-catching window display

Standing in the middle of the now-pedestrianised shopping street, I can easily imagine the excitement and novelty that visitors would have experienced in that Victorian era. Even today, this street is an exciting and vibrant place to shop. Any day of the week you will find street artists and musicians, market stalls and fun fair machines to entertain the children.

Every day, many, many people pass along this main shopping street, yet despite this, there is undeniably a community spirit to the place. In order to explain what I mean, I will reiterate the challenge as set up by Dicmortimer’s blog:

“A [Cardiffian] standing on the same spot in Queen Street for 10 minutes is guaranteed to see someone they know from the chain of links that is Wales.  Try it.” Go on, I dare you, and if you do, feel free to post the results in the comments section below.

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A panoramic sweep of the West end of Queen street from Cardiff Castle

While you are still contemplating this challenge, I hope you will also enjoy looking at my gallery.

If I’ve made you curious and you want to know more about the history of this important street, you can find further information here:

Dicmortimer’s Blog

Cardiff History

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Time doesn’t stand still in Queen Street
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The street is tidy with flowers blooming all year round
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A dragon motif which is prevalent in Queen Street

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Queen Street at the heart of bilingual Wales
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The Lloyds Bank building displays ornate carvings
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Pedestrianisation has made way for many ‘seating islands’
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A statue of an un-named miner
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An outdoor cafe culture even during the winter

 

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An interesting mural that is worth stopping and admiring
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St John’s towers over the shops as seen from the top end of Queen Street

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Tourist information is readily available
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‘Green’ commuting such as cycling is encouraged
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Aneurin Bevan watches over as volunteers petition to secure the future of the NHS for which he is the founding father
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The view of Cardiff as seen from the Aneurin Bevan statue

 

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My Cardiff geography – Lynne Barrett-Lee

This week, the My Cardiff Geography series interrogates author Lynne Barrett-Lee, who was actually my creative writing tutor at Cardiff Uni for a little while. I loved her class, so pestered her to answer some questions for you. Over to you, Lynne…

Lynne Barratt-Lee

Q. Where did you grow up? Give us a brief description of your life before ending up here

A. I was born in Brixton, and spent most of my childhood and teens in South London, before moving to the more leafy environs South of Croydon in my 20s. I left school and began work as a bank clerk, then got a job in recruitment, aged almost 19, believing I could rake in loads of cash to finance a year off and the writing of my first major work. In reality, I ended up running my own recruitment business in the West End for 8 years, during which time I wrote a bit, rather than a lot, produced three children, and completed an Open University degree, mostly in science and psychology. Not English literature, which feels odd now, but really didn’t then. I’d read – and knew plenty about – all the classics I felt I needed to. I’ve since learned otherwise. And then some.  I might do it yet.       

Q. How did you end up living in Cardiff?

A. I came with my husband’s job – and our three then quite little children – having long before agreed that I’d go wherever his career took us, since my own ambitions were slightly more portable. Luckily for me, it proved to be the turning point in my career, as I spent 18 months teacher training on arrival, culminating in getting my first ever piece published – in the Times Educational Supplement, no less. That was key. I had earned a whopping £90, and believed I could do it again, so I held off applying for teaching posts, and crossed everything. 

Q. Which parts of Cardiff have you lived in? Which have been your favourites?

A. We came to Cardiff without a clue about anything or anywhere. I’d visited Wales precisely once – to climb Snowdon, aged 13. We did a couple of recces – which left us none the wiser because we kept getting lost – but it was the mother of a friend (the only person we knew in the entire country) that told us we’d probably like Lisvane. The estate agent agreed (she lived there), saying it was ‘safe, village-y and leafy’, and we agreed. Though my main reason for loving it, London gal that I am, was because it was really, really close to the eastbound M4. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now, much as I still covet a little flat in Bloomsbury. Our roots are too enmeshed with those of all the trees.    

Q. Tell us about how you got into writing in the first place.

A. I have wanted to be a writer of books since I was a little girl, and had a couple of landmark moments along the way to keep the flame alive. I had an enormously encouraging English teacher at grammar school, who believed I could do it (no, Lynne, you don’t have to be a nurse, or a teacher, or join the WRNS, honestly), and then, while working for the bank, from an American literary agent, who came upon me via a very convoluted series of events. All that matters is that she thought I had talent, and nurtured it. She also introduced me to Roald Dahl – who was her friend, and the first actual author I’d ever met. It was a thrilling time. It was also fuel in the tank for when life got in the way. I never lost the faith that I’d do it someday.

As for how I got into it, as in it becoming my career, I got that one thing published, then another, then another… I took a Cardiff Uni class,  too, and spent 3 years writing short stories (many for Women’s Mags, because they paid well) before attempting my first novel. Which I did when my youngest began full time at school.  I’ve been very blessed and very lucky. 

Q. What’s the most difficult thing about being a full time writer?

A. Isolation, probably. I’m living the dream I’ve had all my life – I really do spend all my time in an ivory tower, tapping at a keyboard, creating something out of nothing, not having to deal with Gropey Clive in accounts. Which was great as a contrast to the joys of London Commuting, and brilliant when combined with bringing up my kids. But ‘term time, 9 – 3.30 then kids a go-go’ is one thing. ‘7.30 am to 7 pm, sometimes 8 pm’,  as I do now my kids are grown up, is a very different matter. I can’t imagine ever wanting to do anything else, and when I’m writing, time no longer exists for me, but I am a really sociable, outgoing person, so it’s a bit out of character. Other than that, I can’t think of another. Ask me again if the work suddenly dries up!

Q. You teach creative writing at Cardiff University. How did you end up doing that?

A. By accident. I’d agreed to run a one day masterclass on writing romantic comedy (for my usual fee plus VAT) and was asked if I’d also consider taking on a term’s teaching; a tutor, who was teaching ‘writing mass market fiction’ had pulled out, and they needed someone to help them out of a jam. Okay, I said. Just this once. That was in 2008, I think. I never did get my proper fee for the masterclass. 

Q. What’s the best thing about teaching?

A. The students. I love my students, some of whom even come back more than once! I only do one class a week – for 2 hours on a Thursday – and every Wednesday afternoon I curse myself for agreeing to another term as I’m always up to my eyes in something or other  – normally a chapter – which needs finishing NOW.   But then I turn up and see everyone and it reminded me that my teaching qualification hasn’t been wasted; I really do get a buzz out of passing on my knowledge, and feeling I might have helped launch someone else’s career. It also ensures I get dressed on at least one weekday.

Q. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

A. To walk for at least half an hour, briskly, every single day. My commute is a flight of stairs, my lunch break taken three feet from my keyboard, my watercooler pals a brace of cats.  With no kids to run me ragged I have become terrifyingly sedentary – not enough NEAT! –  despite being very active on evenings, weekends and holidays. Not healthy. And so far so good. I take wildlife-y, nature-y photographs and fondly muse on all the artistic things I am soon going to do with them. Felting, mosaic, sculpture… It’ll happen one day.  In the meantime, it’s just nice to bomb about the place at a speed that will make people think I’m a local eccentric. And that’s before they clock me darting into hedges.  

Q. What are your plans for this year?

A. I am just about to sign the contract for two further books in a series I have to keep secret from you (or kill you, obviously; this is the nature of ghosting), the twelfth of which we are currently writing. There are also outlines ready for a further three Julie Shaw titles (which I also co-write and can tell you about – the first being Our Vinnie) and I’m a third of the way into a memoir I’m ghosting, set in Kansas, about a man, and a dog, and a tornado… 

Other plans involve writing my column for the Western Mail every week – eight years and counting, which astounds me; I have that much to SAY? – and gate-crashing any of my husband’s conferences I can, so that I can work from exotic locations. It’s much less glamorous than it sounds, and there are never enough of those little milk pods in the tea and coffee doohickey, but there is always a park, and a gallery, and a transport system to fathom the mysteries of, and I find it really inspiring to be alone in a strange city.   

Q. What was the last book you read that you absolutely loved?

A. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, blew me away completely. Such a huge book, and it never once flagged for me.  I think Theo Decker will endure as one of the great fictional characters of the 21st century. Couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Q.  Best album you’ve listened to recently (old or new)

A. I have just discovered Catfish and the Bottlemen, so they are getting lots of plays. I just downloaded Hosier’s album too.

Q. Best film you’ve seen recently (old or new)

A. Hard to choose between The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. So perhaps I won’t.  Both are stunning. I also loved Interstellar.

Q. Have you got any creative projects that we should look out for?

A. My major multi-media exhibition at Tate Modern, obviously! No, seriously, I have lots of books out there but if I could urge you to look at just one thing it would be Bye Mam, I Love You, because it’s a local story – that of the murder of 15 year old Rebecca Aylward by her ex-boyfriend, apparently ‘for the price of a breakfast’, that lots of people in South Wales will recall. I had all sorts of reservations about ghosting such a tragic story – it’s written from the viewpoint of her mum, Sonia – but I’m so glad I did. It’s a brutally compelling story, and a cautionary tale. I’m so pleased it’s received so many great reviews, because connecting with people is what writing’s all about for me.    

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Lynne Barrett-Lee was born in London and now based in Cardiff. She is an author and ghostwriter, with eight novels and 18 non-fiction memoirs to her name, 17 of which have been UK Sunday Times bestsellers, and include  Bye Mam, I Love You, about the murder of Bridgend teenager Rebecca Aylward. Lynne also teaches creative writing once a week at Cardiff University, and the ebooks of her courses, Telling Tales and Novel; Plan it, write it, sell it, are both available from Amazon. For more information about Lynne and her work, please visit www.lynnebarrett-lee.com

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25 things to do in Cardiff as recommended by a local

Recently, Metro UK asked me to come up with a list of the 25 things you MUST DO when visiting Cardiff. It was pretty hard to put this list together. Here’s what ended up getting published:

25 things to do in Cardiff as recommended by a local

I had a short list of about 100 things, but quite a few of them were things like:

  • seek out Ninjah at the Riverside Market and spend an hour discussing how the end of the world is heralded and how Pendragon is our ultimate warrior saviour and how he caused the tsunami in Japan; (for the uninitiated, watch Ninjah in action below)

(photo by Maciej Dakowicz)

  • take visiting friends to The Full Moon and make them down a pint of the “green shit” they sell there;

green_shit full moon

  • bump into Gruff Rhys and his tribe of children wandering around Pontcanna;

  • take friends from London to estate agents’ windows and compare how much house prices / rent prices are here compared to there;
  • finish work late, head straight to town to meet your mates, neck a bottle of rose in a doorway then stumble into Clwb / Dempseys and pogo around at the indie disco until you fall over, break your nose and get taken to casualty;
  • go out on the piss in town after the rugby when you said you were going straight home, wake up on the couch in someone else’s house feeling full of self-loathing and regret and then go for a run in the rain up the Taf Trail and see how much redemption you feel at the end of it.

cardiff_parkrun

 

But those are the little secret joys that Cardiffians like to keep to themselves, eh? Don’t want EVERYONE finding out about the real joys of living here!

Anyway, basically the point of this is to say I put together a list of 25 things you MUST do in Cardiff, a family-friendly version, for Metro. You can read it by clicking the image below, or this link: 25 things to do in Cardiff as recommended by a local.

Millennium Stadium

 

What would you have on your unedited, NSFW list? Let us know in the comments…

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What do you need for your first microadventure?

Today, intrepid explorer Bethan John of Wildlands Creative inspires us to have microadventures in our own city….

In 2013, every day was an adventure. I’d packed in my full time job and headed off on my own to the wildlands of Latin America.

I was on a mission to discover why some people are prepared to stand up and take action to protect our natural world. Well, at least that’s what I was telling people I was doing…

Really, I had no idea. I was terrified. I was just being guided by a feeling that I had to do it, but I had no idea what ‘it’ really was.

During this year, I would often get up before dawn to climb a steep, muddy hill in the dark. I would sit in the forest, shivering in my sweat-ridden clothes and wonder what the hell I was doing. Until, the sun began to rise. And suddenly it didn’t seem to matter that I had no idea what I was doing. I was just doing it. And whatever it was, I was happy.

I forced myself to do this, even though as I was curled up under the warmth I’d have preferred to stay just where I was. But I drag my legs up those hills because I had just 14 months to experience everything. I knew that when I looked back of this adventure, I wouldn’t remember the warmth of that bed on that day, but I would replay the image of those sunbeams slowly stretching across the tree tops.

My adventure in Latin America led me to meet inspiring people, living in some of the remotest corners of the planet, who are struggling to protect their forest. They are doing it so that their neighbours can drink clean water, so that wild animals and plants don’t become extinct, so that our planet can flourish. It was the most rewarding experience of my life.

Everyday adventure: escaping the routine

I’ve been back in my homeland of Wales for over a year now and I’m no longer climbing hills in the dark: that urgent need to experience everything has gone. Other priorities in life get in the way of adventure.

Some are real priorities, like how on earth am I going to make a living out of being a freelance writer who specialises in nature conservation? Some are not so real priorities, like hibernating over winter to catch up on all the films I’d missed while on adventures.

I haven’t given up on going on more adventures, but they are a distant dream. I have to wait until I’ve got a stable income, I need money and time. I’m going on an adventure again soon, just not right now.

Off the beaten track

This is what I told myself, until I met Anna.

I happened to sit next to Anna in a pub – in fact, it was Cardiff Couchsurfing weekly meet up – and we got chatting over a pint. We shared a love for nature and it wasn’t long before one pub turned into a few, and a pint turned into several.

That’s when I told Anna about Alastair.

Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer (yes, that is an actual job – who knew?!). I’d recently gone to an inspiring talk he’d given at Explore, an event held by the Royal Geographical Society that has this amazing ability to make you feel completely normal for wanting to live a life of adventure.

Alastair is promoting the idea of microadventures. In a nutshell, as I told Anna, the idea is that anyone, anywhere can have an adventure. You don’t need money, you don’t need time. You just need to climb the nearest hill and sleep under the stars.

This year, Alastair has set a challenge: to go on a microadventure at least once every month. Anna grinned when I told her this and said:

“Let’s do it!”

She then spent the next 10 minutes listing all the reasons why we shouldn’t do it. One being the real fear of freezing to death. After quite some time, she finished her list of all the possible and implausible – but equally terrifying – situations that we might find ourselves in. And then she said:

“But yes, let’s do it!”

Anna was just who I needed. You see, even though I loved the idea of microadventures – of escaping the routine and bringing a little bit more wildness into everyday life – I had, like Anna, come up with my own list of reasons not to do it. But unlike Anna, I hadn’t said: ‘Yes, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ Not until now.

Soon Anna had convinced me to help her set up a Cardiff Microadventures Facebook group, where we started getting lovely messages from people who were having their own microadventures or were excited to join ours

Then last Friday night, we sat under the Rapunzel’s tower of a moonlit Castell Coch. Dark shapes shifted across the sky. Beyond the naked trees, the silver ribbon of the River Taff led to the city. Cardiff lay twinkling at us. My feet became numb as the owls hooted.

When dawn broke, I drifted awake to the sound of the birds’ morning chorus to find we’d slept in a car park strewn with rubbish. I turned to Anna, who was lying on some pizza boxes and Lidl’s bags that she’d used to construct a surprisingly effective waterproof sleeping mat, and we vowed to get a little more organised for next month.

But this is proof that all you really need for a successful microadventure is to say:

“Yes, let’s do it!”

So, what’s stopping you?

This article was originally published on Bethan’s blog.

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H. Hawkline residency, Thursdays in February 2015, Clwb Ifor Bach

To celebrate his forthcoming album on the Heavenly label (oooo!), the delectable H. Hawkline has escaped his tour duties with Cate le Bon and Sweet Baboo and landed his very own residency at Clwb in Cardiff, on Thursdays throughout February. Each show will have some very special guests. Read on for more info…

H Hawkline

“I wish I knew where I’d left me keys…”

Here are the shows – more guests are to be announced! (keep an eye on the Facebook event)

5th Feb

GWENNO
JOY COLLECTIVE DJs

12th Feb

TENDER PREY
NO THEE NO ESS
NOEL (LESSON NO.1) DJ

19th Feb

ALEX DINGLEY

26th Feb

V spesh guests TBA!

 

More details about the rest of the tour….

h hawkline tour 2015

H Hawkline Clwb Ifor Bach residency – Facebook event
H Hawkline Facebook page

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