Is it wheelie that important?

The #bingate controversy raged on this week with the council beginning its new waste collection regime. Here, a Canton resident sets out why we should be worried about how decisions are made in our area – bins are just the beginning….

Image courtesy of

Residents across the city lined up their wheelie bins this week as the council’s new waste management strategy lurched into action. Apart from a few dissenters, most played by the new rules, but you’d have to be living in your bin to have missed the controversy surrounding #bingate.

I’ll come out right now as an anti-binner. In my street we don’t have too much of an issue with litter, and recycling levels are high. Our main concern is that we don’t really have anywhere to store our brand new wheelie bins. Contrary to what some media commentators (and apparently some of our own elected councillors) seem to think, we know this is a first world problem. And for those shouting NIMBY: having respect and concern for your own home isn’t unreasonable, as long as a healthy sense of perspective is maintained.

Of much higher importance than my front doorstep are the other responsibilities our elected officials have for this city. These are the people in charge of our schools; the welfare services my elderly neighbours rely on; our parks, leisure centres and libraries, not to mention our transport infrastructure and the job of presenting Cardiff to the world.

Many bin-gate residents are more concerned that the council has demonstrated a lack of consultation, transparency and communication over these changes and that this shouldn’t go unchecked, because their next decision might be about something genuinely life-changing. We’re more annoyed at the process than the outcome. We can live with bins, but we’re still not sure why we have to.

I found two published surveys on waste management, here and here, which report the high level of commitment to increasing recycling across Cardiff. How have these same residents reacted with such vitriol to the new recycling scheme?

Well, for one the new bins cost almost £2m. Trust us, say the council – we must spend now to avoid huge fines in future. But how many houses with little or no garden waste received a 240-litre bin last week, entirely surplus to requirement? How many of these are being returned, requiring special collection services at further cost? Some areas have been given bins where bags were working fine. Some who desperately want bins are still on bags. Who made these decisions and how? These are reasonable questions to ask given the council’s public commitment to transparency. A one-size fits all approach has been imposed on the city with little concern for local circumstances.

For those mocking the concerned residents of Canton: surely engagement in the democratic process is a good thing? It’s easy to play top trumps with worthy causes. Worried about wheelie bins; what about education? Concerned about austerity measures; there are people in the world dying from lack of fresh water. This undermines the role of the citizen in our democracy. If bin-gate is the issue that kick-starts more public engagement in how our city is run, then some good can come of the saga.

Did you know that there is a public survey live on Ask Cardiff right now? Closing date is 7th September. Officials did attempt to consult through surveys, events, social media and articles in the County Times. Despite this effort most residents didn’t feel consulted until well after the decision was made. Surely a communications rethink is needed?

In the spirit of community, how can Cardiff get past bin-gate? It’s clear that we need to think radically about recycling and waste management, and it’s also clear that the council isn’t providing innovative leadership. I’m horrified by some of the pictures I’ve seen on twitter – communities continually harassed by tidal waves of litter due to seagulls, fly tipping or common lack of courtesy from litter-louts. That’s not something any resident should have to put up with, but judging from today’s pictures, wheelie bins aren’t going to be the magic solution.

So what can communities do to tackle the problems caused by waste, and what support do we need from our elected officials?



Have your say in the comments section!

Giant spider webs due to hit Bute Park in August 2015 …

Bad news for the arachnophobes amongst you, TAPE is a giant web-like structure that arts collective Numen will be weaving between the trees in Bute Park for people to climb inside this August 2015.

Walk inside a sculpture in the trees made entirely from sticky tape!


1- 31 August 2015, Bute Park, Cardiff, 8am – 8pm

Croatian artist collective, Numen / For Use, are creating an interactive installation in the trees of Bute Park. Stretched between tree trunks like a giant spiders web or impossible cocoon, TAPE is a network of people-sized tunnels hanging in the air. Numen artist Sven Joke and a dedicated team of local volunteers worked over two weeks, carefully layering transparent sticky tape into an artwork strong enough to carry human weight.

TAPE’s organic form gradually evolved, nesting in one of Cardiff’s most accessible natural environments. It is for everyone – inspiring us to experience our park in a brand new way. There have been a number 0f different installations around the world, including Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne and Stockholm. Cardiff’s unique TAPE is the UK’s first public TAPE artwork.

After the exhibition is over, the art will be carefully removed and recycled into bird houses, specially designed by Numen artist Sven Jonke.

Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff is delivered by RSPB Cymru in partnership with the City of Cardiff Council and funded by Tesco customers through the Welsh Government’s carrier bag levy. Delivering free outreach sessions to all primary schools in Cardiff and free events for families, the project aims to put frogs, autumn leaves and muddy knees back in to childhood to help inspire the next generation to look after our city’s amazing wildlife.

“Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff is so excited to be part of TAPE; a completely unique experience with nature from a totally new perspective – close to being a spider or a moth!” says Carolyn Robertson, Project Manager – Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff. “Tape is the perfect excuse to go wild in the city and spend an unforgettable day in Bute Park. We wish everybody who climbs inside TAPE a truly magic moment in the trees.”

Our advice? If you don’t like spiders, stay out of their webs…


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How can we improve Cardiff?

Our pal Neil Cocker asked Twitter a question about Cardiff yesterday. We want to help him get some answers. So here’s the question. Please leave your answers in the comments!

What one problem solved, small change made, or grand vision for Cardiff would improve the quality of life for its inhabitants? Think big!

There you go! I’m sure you guys can all think of something. Traffic? Education? Potholes? Lost landmarks? Tarting up derelict buildings? Guided tours by volunteers? Better signs? Cycle routes? Guerilla gardening? WHAT!

Please leave your answers in the comments! Or reply directly to Neil on Twitter.

Cardiff Urbanistas meet-up: TED talks! 28 July 2015

The Cardiff chapter of the Urbanistas will have their next meet up at 5.30pm on Tuesday 28 July, and it will feature a screening of a few favourite TED Talks by women – you have a chance to vote for your favourite or add your own to the list at Urbanistas Facebook Group. Don’t delay – add yours today!


And now it’s time for something completely different … A night of TED Talk videos put on for you at the World of Boats Education Room, complete with free popcorn for all. The top three talks voted for by you will be shown and there will be a chance to discuss in between, we’re looking forward to lots of thoughts, ideas and opinions! You can vote until Monday 27 July on the Urbanistas Facebook meeting event

If you can’t come but would like to be kept informed of the next event, please sign up to the mailing list. If you have any other contacts in your network who you think this would appeal to, please forward the details.

Make a diary marker! Urbanistas meet ups will be on the last Tuesday of every month and we’ll alternate between socials, Expo meet ups (and some alternative events). Expos are where participants come and present an idea or project and ask for help and feedback from everyone.

28 July at 17:30
World of Boats Cardiff Bay
Heol Porth Teigr, Porth Teigr, CF10 4GA Cardiff

Facebook event


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A Sound Reaction: chat from Cardiff music man, Dave Owens

Look around any decent Cardiff gig and you’ll probably see this guy somewhere in the venue, wearing his coat and holding a pint. His name is David Owens and he’s been mad about music in Cardiff for longer than he’d care to remember. It’s taken me nearly three years of harassing, but finally, he’s given in and done me an interview, about his upbringing in Cardiff and the music that he chased around the city.


What was Cardiff like for you, growing up?

This was the 70s and 80s, so I knew little beyond my immediate circle of family (mum, dad, one brother, one sister – both older than me) and friends. We weren’t poor but we weren’t well off either. We lived in a rented council house, so my adventures were confined to my locale.

Trowbridge was an estate that had been built in the mid-60s and my family were one of the first to move in. As luck would have it, many of the neighbours’ families were of a similar age, so I had plenty of children my own age to play with. Looking back I was incredibly lucky, because remember this was another age when you could play out on the streets to late and run around with your mates without fear or inhibition.

We never went on foreign holidays, I never flew until I was 22, but we would go to Barry Island and Porthcawl, and for me that was glamour and wide-eyed adventure personified. I never knew much of the rest of Cardiff, save Grangetown and Tremorfa where my nan and gramps lived. And their houses seemed like relics from a bygone age compared to the council estate I lived in. The house in Tremorfa I loved, because my nan had a massive pantry I would hide in. She also made incredible cakes! They lived near to Splott Park and I would spend endless summers watching the holidays drift by in the park playing on Jessie the steam locomotive that was positioned in the park. Sadly it was removed in 1980 due to vandalism.

Grangetown was also a joy because my nana and grampy lived in a rambling three storey Edwardian Turner house with all the original features. So visiting them as I did every other Saturday on the way to Ninian Park to see Cardiff City play with my brother was always memorable, as much for the homemade chips and bread and butter she would ply us with. They also had a real coal fire that was the burning heart of the house, a godsend in winter, and as warm and as welcoming as they were.

When did you start getting into music? What was the music scene like for you, growing up?

I loved music from an early age. My mum tells me I was always singing along to songs on the telly and was an avid watcher of Top Of The Pops. I had an older brother and sister who were my musical barometer. My brother Stephen was into the likes of Smokie, Dr Hook, Gilbert O Sullivan and Barry Manilow. So it was enough not to be turned off music for life. However he also love ELO and Status Quo. And there were two songs in particular that his little brother loved – Rockin’ All Over The World and Mr Blue Sky. I have vivid memories of those two songs on repeat on the old music centre we had. It was like a wooden submarine with a record player and radio in it. It was massive.

My sister meanwhile initially loved The Bay City Rollers, who I detested, as was my wont as her little brother – we’re there to take the piss, it’s our role. She then graduated to Roxy Music and loved loved LOVED Bryan Ferry, whose perpetually wonky vocals I would mercilessly ape much to her annoyance obviously. When she started seeing my brother in law Stuart, (see accompanying story) that’s when my tastes changed and I underwent musical puberty – if you like. However, I later grew to love Roxy Music and still do thanks to my sister.

By the age of 10 I was a mini-mod and wore a parka to junior school. Remember this was a glorious time to be a kid into music. This would be 1978/1979/1980. The music scene was a glorious amalgam of tribes – mod/punk/two-tone/new wave/new romantics – with the most incredible music being made. I loved it all and quickly started buying records from Woolworths, John Menzies and Boots on Queen Street who all sold records/Spillers in the Hayes/Buffalo in The Hayes opposite Spillers and also Virgin Records which was then on Duke Street opposite the castle.


I can’t remember the first record I bought, but I was immersed in the mod revival scene so it was probably something by The Jam, Secret Affair, The Chords, The Purple Hearts, The Lambrettas or The Merton Parkas. All my pocket money would be spent thumbing the racks. The sound and the smell of vinyl, the shelves laden with albums and singles and even the little vinyl bags they would be housed in just served to fire my imagination. I might have been a mini-mod but I also loved The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Selecter, The Beat, Dexys. Squeeze, Blondie. I could go on – it was a golden era for music and I was lucky enough to grow up during this incredible period.

Can you tell us a bit more about the bands you saw here in Cardiff in your youth?

If you’re in your 40s or older and lived in Cardiff during the ‘80s, there’s every chance you would have heard of the New Ocean Club. Set three miles from the city centre, nature and industry clashed at the crossroads of eastern Cardiff amidst the mudflats of the River Rumney’s tidal estuary and the smoke-choked East Moors steelworks that dominated the landscape. For reference sake it was situated between Tesco and the Fitness First (or whatever it’s now called) in Pengam.

A peculiar location perhaps, but on stepping through the doors of this unremarkable single-storey building, you entered another world altogether. An old-school social club, formerly known as The Troubadour, with a sprung hardwood dance floor, revolving stage and huge mirror-ball that bathed all beneath it in shimmering moonlight, it was the venue around which my formative musical education revolved. It was a proverbial mecca for any teenager demonstrating a pubescent yearning towards music that eschewed the mainstream. It was the place where, in the early ’80s. I first encountered then-aspiring US alt-rockers REM, crowd-pleasing Welsh tub-thumpers The Alarm, and the bellicose Bard of Barking Billy Bragg, as well as faux mod-soul acts such as The Truth, Small World and Big Sound Authority.

It was where I first wielded a tape recorder in anger as an aspiring fanzine writer, fanning the flames of my journalistic fire. It was a pivotal point in my musical rites of passage and will forever conjure up the sights, sounds and smells of yesteryear; of beer mats on bars, of long-lost brews such as Allbright Bitter and Double Diamond, the inexorable ebb and flow of youthful exuberance pulsing across the dance floor – and of clothes steeped in the stench of smokers’ fumes.

It was also the venue at which I promoted my first-ever gig, a three-band bill headlined by Cardiff power-pop favourites A Sound Reaction – the outfit from which this column takes its name – alongside youthful modernists The Choir (from Cambridge) and The Revenge (from High Wycombe). I was 15 or 16 (I looked older in fairness to door staff who rarely quizzed me on the finer points of my birth certificate). The details are hazy, and just how I staged the show fuzzier still, given all the arrangements were made from a phone box – not for our generation, the luxury of mobile phones and the internet!

The New Ocean Club closed not long after, the sustainability of what was a relic from a fast fading and quickly forgotten era finally catching up with it. As the mid to late ’80s hoved into view, my focus shifted. Five or six years before Wales became the citadel of rock ‘n’ roll reinventing itself as Cool Cymru, the local music scene in the late ’80s was as grey as the slate scratched sky and as dark as the prevailing political mood.

Back in the days when Chapter Arts Centre promoted live music most nights of the week in the original Chapter Bar, it was a dimly-lit room rather than, what the bar is nowadays, a communal gathering point for the practice of borderline alcoholism and the discovery of manifold European brews.

There I marvelled to a slew of wonderful bands, fantastic should-have-beens such as Papa’s New Faith (featuring Alex Silva – now in house engineer at Hansa Studios in Berlin, but better known as the producer of The Manics’ Futurology and The Holy Bible), Peppermint Parlour (starring frontman Alan Thompson he of Radio Wales fame), The Third Uncles ( a cabal of literate art pop dandys) and The Watermelons ( a highly politicised heartbreak trio whose tub-thumping frontman Paul Rosser from the Rhondda was a gravedigger by day).

While Chapter was my main squeeze, Clwb Ifor Bach, The Square Club and The Venue were at various points my bit on the side. Clwb afforded me the opportunity of watch the nascent Cool Cymru movement germinate thanks to the flowering of such bands as Y Crumblowers, y Cyrff, Ffa Coffi Pawb and U Thant – featuring soon-to-be members of Catatonia and Super Furry Animals.

The Square Club on Westgate Street was a den of iniquity a freakish zoo housing tribes of every form – goths, psychobillies, indie kids, Madchester clones and some seemingly not yet classified. The club was famous for its enigmatic manager Frank (no one ever knew his surname), whose past was shrouded in mystery. Recognisable for the trademark white leather cap that never left his head, he had escaped to Cardiff and many believed he was in the witness relocation programme given his fondness for discussing his associations with The Krays. Unforgettable was the in-house DJ The Lizard who spun his discs in a cage mounted on the side of a wall, forgettable were the horrendous toilets which were more public inconvenience, than public convenience – and the place where you could probably have picked up your first swimming proficiency certificate if you were so inclined.

The Venue on Charles Street burnt brightly but briefly – notorious for hosting a gig by The Stone Roses in March 1989 where only 21 people turned up. This was a couple months before their debut album was released and they quickly soared into the strata of superstardom propelled by the golden wings of their sublime debut album. A concrete sweatbox we lost inches off our waistlines in sauna-like conditions while furthering our musical educations thanks to memorable shows by such indie names of yore as The New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Birdland, The Inspiral Carpets and The Pooh Sticks.

Add to this Neros (Greyfriars Road), The Stage Door (now Minskys), PCs (City Road), Sams Bar (St Mary Street a/Mill Lane), Bogiez (Penarth Road), The Philharmonic (St Mary Street), Subways (at The Great Western Hotel), The Model Inn (Quay Street), Metros (Bakers Row), and The Dog and Duck (Womanby Street) and the 80s alternative thrillseeker had plenty to satisfy their cravings outside of the mainstream.


Dave Owens is a multimedia news and features journalist at Media Wales. Follow his writings at A Sound Reaction – Facebook page

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Skillshare! Roath Feast’s PICKLING – 22 July 2015, 2 – 6pm

Our friends over at Made In Roath have got an exciting new project to announe … the Roath Feast! Here’s what they’ve got to say about it…


Welcome to Roath Feast, a new project from madeinroath. We’ll be working until the 20 June next year (the Summer Solstice) on a series of skill sharing events, based around food. Think baking, pickling, canning, juicing! Whatever the produce and people of Roath want to throw at us.

There will be 10 monthly skill sharing events, where we learn from each other about creating and sharing food, as well as creating the crockery, linens, and decorations. At the end of the year we’ll have a big communal meal, to celebrate the community and creativity of Roath. With each skill share we will build a larder for the feast, and a bank of skills in the community.

Our next event is PICKLING, and will be held at g39 gallery, which is behind the Earnest Willows pub, just off city road, on the 22 July, 2 – 6pm. We are looking forward to learning from local pickler Julie, but we’re also hoping to find some more local pickle fanatics who will come and share a recipe! Do you have a knack for pickling eggs? Could you teach us how to preserve a lemon? Get in touch and let us know!

The skill sharing events are free and open to all. If you have some jars and any specialist ingredients that would be welcome! Otherwise just drop in and learn a new skill.

Email us at with any questions! And check out the blog for recent happenings.

Also, if you were lucky enough to get a free plant at Made in Spring, send us your pictures so we can see how they are doing! And start weighing those potatoes, we’re sitting on some great prizes for you…

Check the Roath Feast – Pickling Facebook event


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Cardiff on camera … watch ‘Tiger Bay and the Rainbow Club’ (1960) #BritainOnFilm

Who doesn’t LOVE seeing archive footage of the city? The British Film Institute (BFI) have recently released a load of films from their archives, including a number based here in Cardiff.

The first one is ‘Tiger Bay and the Rainbow Club’

Tiger Bay and the Rainbow Club screenshot

This film offers a great portrait of the communities in the city in the mid-60s. It was made by Malcolm Capener who was both Chair and Secretary of “South Wales Films”, a film-making club for amateurs. He shot footage of Tiger Bay, recording both the activities of The Rainbow Club – set up to encourage the children of the docks area to participate in the performing arts – and the varied range of cultural festivities and events that took place there over a period of years. Tiger Bay was home to people whose origins spanned the globe and who had established a successful, integrated society – very few films from black, Arab and Asian families living in the UK at this time have made their way into our collections, so this is a particularly important find.

Malcolm Capener, Roath-based proprietor of the Welsh Travel Company, Bute Street, Cardiff, was chair and secretary of South Wales Films, a filmmaking club for amateurs. He shot footage of Tiger Bay (part of Butetown), recording both the activities of The Rainbow Club and the wide range of cultural festivities and events that took place there over a period of years. Tiger Bay was renowned as an ethnically diverse area of the docks, home to people from across the globe who had established a successful, integrated society in Wales’ capital city.

National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales preserves and celebrates the sound and moving image heritage of Wales, making it accessible to a wide range of users for enjoyment and learning. Its film collection reflects every aspect of the nation’s social, cultural and working life across the 20th century, giving a fascinating insight into Welsh filmmaking, both amateur and professional.

From Britain on Film available at BFI Player


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W is for the Wales Millennium Centre

Katie Hamer continues her A–Z exploration of Cardiff with an excursion to the capital’s flagship arts building. Here’s what she discovered…


Who in Wales wouldn’t instantly recognize this show-stopping landmark? Surrounded as it is in Cardiff Bay by other iconic buildings, it still holds its own as a bold design statement. Yet could such a well-known building still yield secrets? This is what I set out to explore.


Like many others, I have queued up to watch performances on the Centre’s main Donald Gordon stage. I’ve seen everything Carmen the opera to Cats the musical on tour. I’ve seen the stage transform from an ornate palace to a desolate litter-blighted street scene and wondered if it could even be the same theatre.


Every time I visit I’ve been impressed by how smoothly they run the scene and costume changes and how efficiently they process visitors through the building. But I knew hardly anything about the place that has brought pleasure to so many people both nationally and internationally. So I jumped at the chance to go on a guided tour of the Centre, tours of which take place twice daily nearly every day of the year.


I won’t reveal all the secrets I uncovered, but I will let you know a few things which should be common knowledge, but surprisingly, they’re not.

For instance, I’ve often looked up at the copper-coloured exterior of the main building perplexed at the split between the Welsh language on the left and the English language on the right. Could they be a literal translation? Wrong as it turns out. The Welsh means something entirely different.


The English, In These Stones Horizons Sing acts as a conversational response to the Welsh rather than an echo. The Welsh, Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen actually translates as Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration. This is particularly apt, as the glass that makes up this eye-catching calligraphy comes straight from the furnaces of Swansea Institute. Indeed, much of the construction material has been sourced within Wales, making the Centre truly routed within its heritage.

And did you know that they used different shades of glass throughout this installation? Neither did I. So I was fascinated, upon this discovery, to see how the various colours change in intensity depending on the time of day and weather conditions.


Sitting in the main theatre and seeing the backstage areas including one of the main dressing rooms is another perk of the tour, although photography in these areas strictly prohibited for copyright reasons. I stood in the backstage surrounded by the easily three-storey tall walls and heard the orchestra rehearsal reverberating around the whole space. Then I realized that it wasn’t the whole orchestra, but just a few musicians, making it even more incredible. That’s the advantage of a purpose-built theatre designed to create the best acoustic technology around.


The Wales Millennium Centre isn’t just a great place for theatrical and musical performances. It is also the home of arts organizations such as Literature Wales, The BBC National Orchestra for Wales, the Arts Council for Wales, and the Welsh National Opera, among others.


There are bars and restaurants, and huge areas of the ground and first floor are open for the public to roam. Throughout the year, various artists use the public areas to show off their latest inspirations. For instance, upon my visit, I witnessed the Relics exhibition by Matt Wright, which runs from 20 June to 23 August. Relics is:

a multifaceted contemporary art project based around a series of short term, publicly accessible, site-specific art installations featuring a newly developed photographic medium known as the photosphere.’


These photospheres capture images of other iconic buildings and places within Wales such as Tintern Abbey. Seeing these crumbling buildings and coastlines floating like air balloons within the altogether more modern and neutral environment of the Centre does lend to them a surreal quality that is worth exploring if you happen to be passing by. It’s great to see how many different ways the building can be utilised.


And there are also free performances on occasion, on the ground floor Glanfa stage, around the building and outside, details of which can be found on the Centre’s website. Quite often these coincide with the main performances in the Donald Gordon Theatre and show how the Centre is always giving back most generously to it’s many visitors.


You can find more information on What’s On at the Millennium Centre here:

Wales Millennium Centre Website

Thanks for reading. See you next time.