Save Womanby Street!

In case ya hadn’t heard, here’s the deal. The Gatekeeper has put in an application to convert some of the building to be Cardiff’s first Wetherspoons hotel. Unfortunately, it happens to be located right in the heart of the alternative musical heart of the city: Womanby Street, a place we’ve spent many hours stumbling around, weaving from venue to venue, smoking, eating burgers, drinking pints, putting the world to rights. Whether you’re a boozehound or not, late alcohol licensing is totally vital to this epicentre of alternative music, and venues are worried about the implications of having the hotel there.

To try and safeguard the venues on this street, there’s a “Save Womanby Street Campaign”. Do your thing, join up, get educated, lobby those that represent you.*


Here’s the vibes:

Save Womanby Street

Backed by Cardiff’s grassroots music venues, the Save Womanby Street campaign is lobbying the council to recognise the street as an area of cultural significance for music and performance arts.

Home to live music venues Clwb Ifor Bach, The Full Moon, Fuel Rock Club and Bootlegger, Womanby Street has been described as “the epicentre of Cardiff for grassroots music” and “the heartbeat of live music”

According to campaign organisers, late alcohol licensing and live music is vital to the venues’ survival.

The addition of a hotel will benefit the area but current systems of law could threaten the unique nature of the street.

As a result the group are calling on Cardiff Council to designate Womanby Street a cultural night time economy. This will protect the street and allow businesses to continue to flourish.

The decision under the current systems of law has been met with widespread objection, with folk singer Frank Turner joining nearly 7,000 others to petition against the move.

However, Save Womanby Street organisers have stressed that the wider issue lies with planning permission policy and not the pub in question.

Under current regulations any  complaints regarding noise pollution would threaten the livelihood of the street’s venues.

In addition to the local planning changes, the campaign will lobby the Welsh Assembly to adopt the agent of change principle in relation  to planning permission, making it the responsibility of the developers of any new premises, commercial or residential, to find solutions to noise from nearby pre-existing business.


What can you do?

Lobby your councillors (see above)

Join the Save Womanby Street Facebook

Peace out


* (if any of you live in Butetown, like I do, good luck trying to lobby our councillor Ali Ahmed for anything, all he ever does is reply saying what’s happening and that there’s no way of changing anything, not once have I ever experienced him actually representing the views of local people – especially on the crazy bonanza of flat building that’s going on around Hamadryad Park. Although I just read he hasn’t been reselected to stand in May, and to be honest, good riddance. How can you live in Penylan and represent Butetown?)


Bacon to Doig: Modern Masterpieces from a Private Collection

Private art collections can sometimes appear artistically polarising and disjointed. An art collector’s personal taste is not always uniform and cohesive, so when private art collections hang on the walls of carefully curated museums they can appear somewhat out of place. For ‘Bacon to Doig: Modern Masterpieces from a Private Collection’ this thankfully isn’t the case. From Ian and Mercedes Stoutzker, this collection is simultaneously varied, cohesive and personal. Situated in the National Museum Cardiff, Bacon to Doig offers museum-goers an intimate interpretation of modern art. From the delicate sketches of Henri Matisse to the mind-bending pottery of Grayson Perry you are transported to not just a playground of different artistic mediums, but an interesting historiography of modern art itself.


Firstly,  credit must be given to the National Museum for their excellent use of space and composition in their presentation of the collection. The difficulties of moving a collection only enjoyed in a domestic setting to that of a museum was a challenge, but they have succeeded. The National Museum can somewhat go under the radar when people discuss Cardiff, but this collection will hopefully galvinise people’s interest in the museum itself. The museum, relative to other British museums, has always outdone itself in regards to the quality of its exhibitions and the professionalism it always operates under, so National Museum – big up yourself.

In terms of the collection, there’s plenty of room to take each piece in, marvel at it, scratch your head, mutter under your breath “Is THIS really art?”, etc even on busy days. The art is curated in a way that is sensible with each room having a really tangible sense of style and place. The exhibition is pretty low on photography, excluding one room of especially profound art and the collection of paper drawings. Photography is barred there and this also happens to be where all my favourite pieces were, so if you want to check them out you’re going to have to go yourself.


Thematically, the collection covers a lot of the major sub-sects of “modern art” from expressionistic canvases to post-impressionism (all these fancy words mean is that it’s all modern and varied). The art collection never becomes too highbrow and can be enjoyed by everyone, there isn’t a sense that you need a strong knowledge of art history or criticism to really appreciate the collection as a whole. Interestingly, a lot of this art was collected by the Stoutzkers was purchased when the artists were in the early stages of their career, so each piece has a sense of appealing innocence to them – there is a sense of each artist still struggling to find their own identity in a lot of the pieces, yet not in a way that it detracts from the pieces themselves. Instead, the sense of artistic innocence imbues a lot of the pieces with a certain playfulness; the collection appears wholly original by not just curating quality artists, but by curating them when they were all at a similar level of creative maturity.

It goes without saying that the art in the collection is of stellar quality, but this isn’t exactly where the appeal lies. The appeal of the collection is how original, yet similar, each piece feels. The zeitgeist of the modern artistic period is captured here in a visceral way. Particular highlights included Lucian Freud’s Girl With Closed Eyes, Francis Bacon’s  pieces, the Matisse sketch hidden away in the  filing cabinet Nude Model, Resting, and Grayson Perry’s Turner-prize winning vases which were, to me, the absolute highlight of the collection. At fear of spoiling too much, I’ll keep discussion of the actual pieces to that. The collection is best enjoyed without expectation, that way it’ll truly hit you at how important and visually stimulating the collection really is.


The collection will be at National Museum Wales until the 31st January 2018, so please be sure to pop down time and time again before it leaves. It really is one of the most important private collections of modern art in the world and it’s in Cardiff, it’s free, it’s on your doorstep, so get going!

Bacon to Doig: Modern Masterpieces from a Private Collection – 18 February 2017–31 January 2018, National Museum Cardiff




“No one wants to leave their life” – interview with Refugee Words

We spotted the #wearehumanjustlikeyou video on Twitter the other day, and wanted to find out more about the story and people behind it. We interviewed Kate Whiting of Refugee Words, a new project designed to encourage more people to see refugees as human, just like us. 

Right now, there are 21 Syrian refugees living in Cardiff, relocated under the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). Another 1,372 people in the city (of many nationalities, not just Syrian) are living in limbo, awaiting the outcomes of their asylum applications, which could take years. They usually can’t work during this time, and they can’t claim mainstream benefits, instead living off the £36.95 a week given to them by the Home Office.

These are the people lucky enough to make it to the UK. The ones who couldn’t make it across the channel are living in camps such as Dunkirk – they include unaccompanied children, families, older and vulnerable people, and they are just like us. 

We chatted to Kate of the Refugee Words team to find out more about their time in the camp.

What’s your story? 

There are two of us that make up the Refugee Words Team. I’m Kate, I’m from Norfolk. I met my Welsh boyfriend (from just outside Cardiff) while living in London. I guess you could say that I moved to Cardiff for love! I’d spent a fair bit of time in Wales before though, and have now got stuck right in. Dwi’n dysgu Cymraeg!

Our other member, Jess, is actually from Cardiff originally, but we met in Brighton, where we were both studying to become actors. We are hoping to continue the Refugee Words project in order that we can make a theatre piece using the words collected.

How did you end up in the camp?

A friend of mine suggested it after a discussion we’d had about wanting to do something about the general state of the world. Seeing as the refugee crisis is the biggest of our life times, we started there. We had also thought of doing some theatre workshops at the women’s centre, but when we arrived we quickly realised that it was last thing they would have wanted.

There were lots of people coming in and out wanting to do things with the women, to greater and lesser success, but all they really wanted was for us to lend a hand in a practical sense and speak with them. We distracted the kids by playing games with them.

We did hair, make-up, got our eyebrows (and upper lip – shhhhh) tweezed, and most importantly took a shopping list from the women so that we could go to the local supermarket and spend the generous donations family and friends had given us on EXACTLY what they wanted. No one had thought to buy wax, as it’s not ‘essential’, but these women just wanted to feel human again. They are collecting knickers as hand-outs, they just want a bit of dignity and choice back.

What motivated you to make the film?

We decided to collect the ‘stories’ of the people in the Dunkirk camp on our second visit. When we talked about our time volunteering in Dunkirk, it quickly became apparent that people just aren’t aware of it. Everyone knows about Calais, but Dunkirk has gone practically unnoticed. So much so that the unaccompanied minors in Dunkirk were not even included in the measly number eventually brought over under the Dubs amendment.

At the time we didn’t know what we would do with the words/stories, we just knew that we wanted the British public to hear them and that it had to be something immediate. In the end it was Jess’s idea to make a film, we originally had in mind that we would do it with famous faces to increase the exposure, but it’s not so easy convincing known faces to do a film for a couple of unknown women in Cardiff!

How did you make the film? Did you conduct the interviews with refugees? How did you get people to participate in the film? What were the challenges?

I sent a sort of introduction to what we were doing, to be translated. It was translated in to Sorani Kurdish, which is what most of the camp’s residents, at that time, spoke. I also translated it into Arabic on google translate. I didn’t bargain for the fact that in copying it over onto word the font would change and become unrecognisable!! Most speak Arabic as well as their first language, so I knew that we’d reach more of the residents and not just the Kurdish ones, but sadly when we showed them the paper cut outs with the Arabic translation, there were lots of very confused faces!!

Luckily the Kurdish one did the trick, it basically said that we are theatre makers and interested in getting the story of their lives across to the British public, especially those who are unaware of their situation. We said that we hoped to put pressure on the government. For those that agreed, we gave them a dictaphone and invited them to tell their story into it in their native language. We stood away from them to give them the space they needed. There were many tears. We then got these translated back into English when we got home.

In terms of actually getting people involved in the film when we got home, that’s a whole other story! I’ll try to keep it brief! We made a flyer inviting people to film themselves (on their smart phones) saying the words we had collected as if they were their own. We put the flyer up on social media and sent emails, and 70+ people responded. Including Guardian journalists Owen Jones, Gary Younge, and Nisreen Malik. We feel so lucky to have so many people involved. We then edited all the films together for maximum impact. Sadly we couldn’t include everyone’s videos in the final edit, but we hope to continue the project and release a longer version of the video in the near future. 

What do you hope is the effect of the film?

We hope that the effect is to humanise the camp’s residents. To make British people, particularly those who wouldn’t usually think about the refugee crisis, realise that this could be them. These people are just like us. In the words of the residents “we are all human”, “all humans deserve a life”, “we are human, just like you”. 

Our biggest hope is that if we can get this film seen by lots of people, they will join us by putting pressure on the UK Government to rethink their current position on allowing refugees to enter the UK. 

Please like and share across social media sites with our hashtag #wearehumanjustlikeyou

And visit our website for further information

Get involved, get informed

To volunteer your time or skills to refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff, get in touch with the Oasis Centre, Asylum Justice, the Trinity Centre, Oxfam Cymru or Welsh Refugee Council.

More information about volunteering your time or donating money, goods or food is available on the HelpRefugees website.

The National Assembly for Wales’s cross-party equality committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the support for refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. It will be publishing its findings and recommendations next month. You can see all the written and oral evidence here.


Ernie Sparkles: circus, boylesque, and all that glitters

We spent some time this week shooting the breeze with hula hooper, performer, lover of glitter and number #1 boylesque performer in Rhiwbina, Ernie Sparkles. Cardiff born and bred, Ernie – aka Gareth Pahl – tells us about growing up in Cardiff, his love of performance and explores a little of the cultural offerings of the city today. Take it away, Ernie!



I was born and raised in this wonderful city of Cardiff a long time ago! Well, 34 years ago, back in the days when Cardiff Bay was full of mud you could throw stones in and make epic splat noises – God that was fun!

Being the son of a builder we were lucky enough to get a great deal on a run-down house in Rhiwbina when I was young, just around the corner from the old Monaco cinema. It was a relatively quiet street with lots of young families so we spent a lot of time playing on the street on our bikes, roller-skates, go karts, whatever as long as it had wheels! We used to play insane games – one of us would have a stick tied to a rope, the others had to cycle around. The game was to throw them off their bike by sticking the stick through their spokes as they cycled past!

Growing up was awesome, I was lucky, I had a good family, good friends. My wonderful Nan would spoil me and my brothers by taking us to the circus, the Monaco cinema, the theatre and then we’d spoil her back by making her watch us re-enact the whole thing when we got home! Mum and Dad worked as hard as they could to raise three boys and keep a roof over our heads (although I remember one winter when the roof was off the house because dad was building a loft extension – the tarpaulin would be flapping away above us).

Cardiff as a city in my childhood was a lot different to now. Town and Cardiff Bay wasn’t as it is now. It’s a shame we lost things like David Morgan’s department store when it all changed, but I think Cardiff is a better place now. We’ve been lucky to receive the investment to make the city as it is now, and it does worry me a little about the future after the weird political shifts of 2016.

I was born at the University Hospital in Heath, and lived in Roath for a year or so before moving to a house in Llanederyn where I lived until the age of five. Then we moved to Rhiwbina to be closer to both sets of grandparents and a bigger house. I don’t really remember much before moving to Rhiwbina. I spent most of my life here in Rhiwbina and this is where I live now (in my wonderful Nan’s house, although unfortunately she’s no longer with us).

At the age of 18 I moved to a farm in Rudry for six months or so, I was helping to put a roof on a historical barn that had its roof blown off in the great storm 1987 (if I remember right). I then moved back to Cardiff and lived in Gabalfa for a year before deciding to move to London in 2003. I lived in Wimbledon for 3 years whilst I did my degree and then bought a house in Rochester with my partner at the time. We lived there for seven years before I moved back to Cardiff.

When I was five, my Mum and Nan bought me tickets to go and see Les Miserables in London. I already knew all the words because we had the soundtrack at home. I was utterly captivated and mesmerised by the show, and on seeing the barricades I knew that I wanted to be a barricade maker. I wanted to be the man who makes the magic that goes on the stage. I spent the rest of my childhood and teenage years watching every single show, studying set and costume design, and just being totally obsessed with theatre. If I wasn’t going to be a designer I was going to be a director, it was one or the other – but really, I wanted to be a designer. Santa bought me a toy theatre – it was run on magnets and it was magical! I used to make sets and characters for it and I’d put on every single show ever made haha! I bet Nan could’ve killed Santa as I made her watch them – she’d have a ticket, she’d have a programme, she’d have to come and watch these epic shows.

In 2003 I was accepted onto the BA(Hons) Theatre Design course at Wimbledon School of Art and there began my adventure into the real world of Theatre Design. I should’ve used this time a bit better to be honest – I did get seduced by the lifestyle of London and so sometimes I wasn’t as focussed as I should have been! But hey, I graduated in 2006 and then never stepped foot in a theatre for about six years – I had a mortgage to pay!

In terms of my careers, lord, what jobs haven’t I done! I’ve been a cleaner, a burger flipper, a carer, a builder, a theatre usher. I was a finance officer at Mencap Cymru for a couple of years before I moved to London, and in London I worked for Seasons Florists in Wimbledon – I loved that job! We made amazing floral displays including Venus Williams’ winner’s bouquet at Wimbledon Championships.

When I moved to Kent I was a finance administrator for Age Concern and later finance manager for Medway Cyrenians – a homeless charity. I loved those jobs too – they were interesting and I’d meet some wonderful people. In 2011 I then trained as a Primary Teacher at Canterbury Christ Church University.

At that time, I also used to teach performance workshops, and do a bit of set and costume design here and there. I ran an annual carnival with local communities and produced various events.

I moved back to Cardiff in 2012 where I worked as a primary teacher for several years until 2016 when I decided I had had enough and needed to go back to my love – theatre. I now work as a freelance set and costume designer, model maker, performance artist, director and choreographer at Sparkles Hoop Troupe and Scratch This producer. I do a bit of everything really and I always love it that way!

 In 2014 I became quite poorly after a child sneezed into my eye!  I was ill for so long after that and needed to get fit to get through it. I have always been rubbish at exercise and the gym so I needed to find something that would grab my attention. A friend recommended NoFit State circus community classes and I thought why not give it a go! I went to the aerial beginners’ class and have been hooked ever since! I started training in aerial hoop and static trapeze as well as my love – flying trapeze. I have been training for two years now and was starting to get good, but I haven’t trained for a couple of months now for various reasons, but I’m keen to start training again soon.

Around about the same time I started learning to hula hoop with Elliecoptor Pilott at the Abacus. I was useless at it but determined to nail it so I practiced every day for months and months. Six months later me and Ellie set up Sparkles Hoop Troupe as a fun way of encouraging people to use the hoop skills they had been learning by putting them into group dance routines. It really took off and here we are two years later having had so many gigs and bookings! Last summer we were performing at festivals and events nearly every weekend from May until September! We are lucky to have such fun and dedicated ‘Sparklettes’.

A lot of my time is now spent on managing Sparkles Hoop Troupe with Ellie. We’re a great team because she is great at managing the bookings and all the admin side, whereas I’m more creative so I make the costumes, edit the audio tracks, etc. We both take charge at directing and choreographing! We’ve taken off and now we’re starting to get professional bookings on the cabaret circuit which is great fun! Myself and Ellie have also started masterclasses in hoop choreography, we were recently in Bournemouth teaching and that was so much fun!

I also produce a circus scratch night called Scratch This! The circus scene in Cardiff is expanding what with NoFit State and their community classes, but also companies like Mary Bijou etc. It’s great that this scene is expanding and we love to give opportunities to performers both professional and community based who want a performance platform to try out new ideas and get valuable friendly feedback. Our first three shows were well received and all sold out! We’re starting to get a good reputation as a good fun show to come and try out ideas in a supportive and relaxed environment. Our show on the 11 February was our best yet and we were so lucky to have had so many wonderful cast and crew involved. We have struck up a great working relationship with Cardiff Speaker Hire – the venue we use, they are great and we love working with them!

Recently I have started following my interests in clown and have been on a few clowning courses. It’s been great fun and I’ve noticed big changes in my performances since. It’s something I want to do more of! I’ve been working with Alison John from Yello Brick and Hannah McPake from Gagglebabble setting up a regular play space where people can come and play games and mess around! You can find out more at Shakedown Cardiff or why not come and play on the 2 April at WMC!


Now, let’s talk about Ernie Sparkles – bless him, that silly jumpsuit obsessed boy always on the hunt for unicorns and fabulousness! He came from planet glitter or something ridiculous like that! Again, like most things that happen to me – it happened by chance! He started off as a bit of silly fun for a friend’s wedding cabaret. Having seen Immodesty Blaize in London back in 2005 I have always had a silly fantasy about being a boylesque dancer! So, when a friend wanted a cabaret at her wedding party I put myself forward to do a silly routine under the name Mr Sparkles. That was the first ever showing of Ernie’s ‘Milkshake’ routine and now two years later its being booked by various cabarets around the country! Hilarious really!

He grew from there really, he’s a bit like me in that he likes to keep his fingers in lots of pies! He’s obviously a regular at Sparkles Hoop Troupe and he compere’s Scratch This, he also has his boylesque routines. Last year Ernie and I created a ‘one man show’ for Made in Roath called ‘The Fabulous Unicorn Inquiry’ and it was a show exploring fabulous and whether it was a phenomenon limited to only unicorns. It was weird putting him and me on stage together but good fun!

Recently he was followed by some student film makers creating a documentary about Boylesque – Sparkles The Movie we like to call it! I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out!

I don’t know why but I always refer to him as a different person! I mean, he’s clearly me but then me and him are so different! I guess it just helps me to define him as a character if I do – he’s just an exaggerated version of me I guess but I couldn’t live my everyday life like that – people would think I’ve gone mad! Maybe I already have?!

So you want to know about my plans and ambitions for the future? NO! I promised myself to live every day for itself and not plan! I have dreams and hopes, and then I have realistic ambitions and plans! I guess I want to carry on developing and building my profile as a designer, model maker, theatre maker and make enough out of that to live happily ever after! A tough one I think, but I’ve been freelance now for nearly seven months and I’m still alive! I wouldn’t go back to a full-time job like before, na-uh, not ever!

Obviously, I’d like to build Ernie’s profile too, and this year we’re getting him into some good gigs in some respected cabarets and burlesque shows. Although I’ve got a history of performance, Ernie is relatively new and so he’s still trying to find his feet and define himself! Yes, we make mistakes but mistakes are proof that we are trying, we need them to learn and grow from and that’s the fun of living!

I have friends pass away too soon in jobs they weren’t happy in, I don’t want to be like that, I promised myself that wouldn’t be me. I want to love what I do, and the moment I don’t is the moment I find something else. I do know that I am lucky enough to be able to be able to live like that though, I am lucky and thankful for it.

I guess in the future you could possibly see more of Ernie on the performance scene here, more Scratch This Cabarets and eventually some other shows. You can see Sparkles Hoop Troupe continuing to grow and delighting audiences. You may one day also see more of my design work – but sadly I don’t think I’ll ever be the one that makes the barricade!


We are so lucky to have so many creative people in Cardiff. We’ve so many good things here across many genres. On the cabaret scene, we have Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club for circus cabaret, Cardiff Cabaret Club which is burlesque, and of course Scratch This which covers anything and everything! I’m sure there are more that I haven’t seen yet. It would be lovely if there was a regular cabaret bar or something but the frequency of these shows now means they really are something to look forward to! I think the biggest shame however is the loss of the Blysh festival, that was an awesome festival and it’d be great if we could have it back!

Cardiff’s art scene is incredible, it really is! Having lived in London for so long, I was spoilt by the arts scene and what was on offer, but it was expensive and exhausting. The arts scene here is so much more relaxed and enjoyable – I guess there are several factors – it’s a smaller city so there’s more of a community feel, creative people here are looking out for each other, people in Cardiff are generally very supportive and encouraging – and that really is magic! There are so many artists and performers here that work hard to create some incredible work. This last year I have seen some incredible stuff come out of the city across many genres. It’s also relatively easy to create opportunities here, and that’s wonderful.

I speak generally here, I mean I’m not naïve enough to believe it’s perfect, like everything there are politics and crap, but then everything has those aspects and we just must learn to get on with it and stay true to ourselves. I believe Cardiff’s art scene is ace and I think we should be proud of our arts scene here.

My perfect Cardiff weekend for visitors would depend on who was coming and what was on! One of my favourite ‘touristy’ places in Cardiff is St Fagans – just because it’s probably the cutest place in the whole world! I also absolutely love the waterfalls in Brecon – Pontneddfechan, Sgwyd Eira is just the most empowering and majestic place – especially after a heavy downfall – it’s incredible! If we were staying in the city, then I would take them for a coffee at one of the coffee shops like Penylan Pantry, or Barkers. Afterwards to a show – at one of our many theatre venues followed by lots of lovely beer in Porters, or Brewdog, followed by some live music down at Gwdihw.

The last group of friends that came to stay with me had to come and watch my last Scratch This cabaret. They loved it!

Find out more:

Scratch This Facebook

All photography by Lorna Cabble


Niamh Doyle’s adventures in radioland: Capital South Wales’ Next Generation Scheme

This is the next instalment from Atrium student Niamh Doyle, in her journey into radioland. Today she tells us about the Capital South Wales’ Next Generation Scheme!

I was very fortunate to be invited to be part of Capital FM South Wales’ Next Generation scheme. I found about this event through a fantastic Radio University lecturer at my University, the University of South Wales, where I was able to meet the presenters of Capital South Wales’ breakfast show, explore the office, and learn their great history.

On the day I was offered a place on the tour, I had no idea that on the actual day I would meeting the voices behind South Wales’ favourite breakfast radio presenters. Once I settled in and sat amongst Matt, Polly and Geraint, in between songs and them presenting on air, I was fortunate enough to get to know them and ask questions about how they became radio presenters, and so on.

It was lovely learning each of their different paths to how they got to Capital, which I found so encouraging since although I want to go into breakfast radio presenting, I haven’t actually got a degree in media, but am soon going to be graduating with a Music degree. Therefore, it’s so promising to hear that it’s not only about what degree you have, but also how much work experience you have done in order to make you more and more familiar with radio.

It was fascinating to see how well the presenters bounced off each other and how genuine their friendship was off air as much as it was on. I felt so comfortable in the presenter’s chair, and it really made me realise how desperate I am to become a breakfast radio presenter myself.

After the breakfast show, I was shown around the upstairs office where I met the many different areas that goes on behind the presenting. This included the commercial team, the marketing team and many more that make Capital South Wales possible. It was such a warm atmosphere where you could really see how well everyone got on and thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing.

After a full morning, I was taken into the studio again where I was informed on the history behind Capital South Wales, which was absolutely fascinating.

Over all, my Next Generation day was genuinely one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever been invited on. I was able to see what a day in the life of a breakfast radio presenter is like, how early you have to get up, but yet really how rewarding that early start is, and how much fun you have in the process. I was sceptical whether seeing the backgrounds behind radio presenting would scare me away, but if anything, it only made me hungrier for the profession.



Hev Winter and the Great Caerphilly Road Fiasco

Sounds like a Roald Dahl novel, right? Unfortunately no. Hev Winter has lived on Caerphilly Road in Cardiff since 1994. She’s here to tell us about the plight of the residents and their ongoing battle against the Carry on Cardiff Council roadworks that have been carried out there. In brief, all their trees have been cut down and not replaced, accidents at the junction are at an all time high, wing mirrors are constantly swiped off cars, there is a bus lane that no bus can fit in – and the bill for all the work is now at £2.2 million … and rising!

Read on for the plight of the Caerphilly Road residents … and how they’ve been taking action.

The Great Caerphilly Road Fiasco (A469 Cardiff)


You may recently have seen a number of features in the local news regarding Caerphilly Road in the Birchgrove/Heath area of Cardiff.

Caerphilly Road, (A469), runs from the Gabalfa Flyover and heads north towards Caerphilly, stopping outside Morrisons in Llanishen where the A469 continues over Caerphilly Mountain.

I have lived here since 1994 and am responsible for the ‘Caerphilly Road Concerns’ Facebook page which was set up in December 2015. I thought you may be interested to see what’s happening from a resident’s point of view.

This was Caerphilly Road in April 2015


Until a year ago, the stretch of road from the Birchgrove pub to Lidl had 31 roadside trees, nine were flowering cherries which produced beautiful white blossom in early spring. Seven of the trees towered above the houses and we think they were probably planted around the time the houses were built in 1935. They were a defining feature of the road; when the wind blew, the falling blossom was like a snowstorm. Under the trees was a grass verge and a two lane road with parking down one side and restricted parking on the other.

As it was – no problems – traffic flowed smoothly.

In the run up to Christmas 2015 the council announced they were going to start work on the Birchgrove regeneration plan. They planned to re-pave the area by the shops, putting in a flowerpot or two, adding a bit of parking and a few other changes to bring more business to the area. This part was good and nobody had any issues with it. The problems arose further up the road where they wanted to create new parking for residents and put in a bus lane. They were going to cut down most of the trees for parking spaces and re-paint the existing two lane road in order to squeeze in a bus lane as well.

Anyone with a scrap of common sense could see a bus lane wouldn’t fit, however, the council ‘experts’ were adamant it would.


The sad day they cut this tree down March 2016 – you can see the old layout – this road was to be repainted with a bus lane without widening the road at all.

The reason the bus lane had to go in was that the funding for the works was awarded by an EEC grant which was only given on the proviso that public transport links (i.e. a new bus lane) was a part of the plans.

The council told residents they’d have parking bays, although they already had parking on the road. The residents were then allowed to park on the grass verges under the trees as a temporary measure until the work was done. This predictably trashed up all the grass and left a muddy mess. The residents didn’t like the mess and some were therefore eager for the work to begin. Sneaky!

The council changed the plans many times and finally unveiled them at a public meeting one Thursday afternoon when most people were at work. The residents who attended were very upset and there were a lot of raised voices from the residents towards the councillors and planners. There were no trees or grass on the new plans and the residents firmly believed the bus lane would be a disaster. The planners and construction company who were there to show the plans were clearly overwhelmed by the level of anger of some of the residents.

Residents protested and set up a petition against the works which reached 1659 signatures. With the help from the local Women’s Institute they dressed the trees in knitted and colourful scarves and jumpers to bring attention to the proposals. There was a lot of media coverage.

The council ignored all of it and started work although they did promise the residents replacement trees and grass, providing when they dug up the road they didn’t find anything which would prevent new trees being planted. They said the new trees would have special root ball systems to ensure they too didn’t grow too big in the future and cause the pavement to lift.


The residents had a sit down protest under the old trees.

The residents set up a Facebook page ‘Caerphilly Road Concerns’ to keep people informed and so residents could have their comments logged in one place.

We explained ourselves over and over to anyone who wanted to listen, and many who didn’t. Anyone with half a brain could see a bus lane would not fit properly onto the road.

Once the bus lane was put in and each lane was made narrower there’d be no room for cars to filter around any car waiting to turn right, causing huge tailbacks. Cars turning right would be at risk as they wouldn’t see anything in the bus lane if there was a line of waiting cars on the opposite side of the road.

Ambulances from the University Hospital of Wales further down the road, would be delayed as traffic would have no room to pull over. Cars coming out of side roads would sometimes have to pull into the opposite lane in order to turn. Also the trees drank lots of the rainwater – where would it go if the trees weren’t there? Would the removal of the trees cause damage to the adjacent houses?

We went to the monthly council meeting in the City Hall in February 2016 to ask a public question. What would happen if two HGVs and a bus should pass on the same stretch of road? The council’s reply was, ‘All necessary measurements and assessments have been done.’  Hmmm.

In March 2016 they started chopping down the trees. On the day our campaign tree was cut down they sent about thirty police officers to make sure residents behaved. We had no plans to tie ourselves to the trees it was pretty pointless by this stage. When they finished, only three of the 31 original trees remained.


The residents had a protest

For a whole year the road was a total nightmare with roadworks, digging, mud, barriers, holes in the ground, piles of builders rubbish, temporary lights and general havoc.

Finally the work was complete and they planted little sticks which were our ‘replacement’ trees.

Since the work was ‘finished’ most of it has been either completely re-done within a few months or patched up. A total of £2.2m so far and every day they’re fiddling around with something – extending the width in one part, replacing the paving at another, shuffling a kerbstone. Some residents have unplanned water features in their front gardens because the new tarmac was laid over the drainage holes for their gardens. There were reports of a resident having a window shatter when workmen began drilling outside her house.

One day they cemented 61 street-sign poles into the pavement every twenty metres or so along the whole stretch of road, nobody knew why, not even the workmen who said they were merely following orders. It looked like some form of carnival preparation. Two days later all the poles were cut down again and the holes cemented over – apparently someone had put them in at the minimum spacing rather than the maximum.

Next, bollards went up at the corner of each side street and were cut down after six days with new ones put in a metre to the left. Nobody knew why.

Finally the new bus lane was painted in and looked every bit as bad as anticipated. We watched the first bus try to drive in it. To nobody’s shock and horror – it didn’t fit!  Residents considered investing in shares for a replacement wing-mirror company.


Then this happened over and over, – cars turning right hit by taxis which were using the bus lane.

Within weeks there had been a few cars written off exactly as we had predicted. There was a sudden increase in stationary traffic because again, as predicted, cars couldn’t filter around others waiting to turn right. Bus drivers themselves admitted they didn’t like driving in the bus lane. If a lorry was on the road they were as good as stuck. People in the roads nearby started to complain about increased traffic trying to avoid the main road.

Pedestrians got soaked as cars drove through the huge puddles on the porous tarmac. The pavements look like patchwork quilts my nan would be proud of.  The bill so far is over £2.2 million and rising. The council are considering stopping right hand turns or introducing a 20mph limit because of the accidents. Who knows, is this the most ridiculous road layout in Cardiff? Please feel free to visit our page and give us a like if you can!

For more information: Caerphilly Road Concerns Facebook page

Hev Ward was born in Cardiff ‘a fair few years ago’ and attended Cardiff High School. She moved to Caerphilly Road in 1994 where she has lived ever since. A mother of three children aged 13, 11 and 11 (twins), she is also a passionate skier, bear maker, local volunteer for St John Ambulance and advanced motorcyclist. She loves writing and is a published author. In December 2015 she set up the ‘Caerphilly Road Concerns’ Facebook page with a neighbour. The page was a place where locals could get together to jointly fight for what was right for the road they lived on. The plans had already gone through consultation and been passed and the page was an attempt to ‘do something’ to avoid the disaster they believed was imminent. Since then the page has had a growing number of readers and is regularly updated.


Meet Sarah-Jane Reeeves: multi-tasking mum and mature student


For this week’s piece, we’ve invited ultimate multi tasker Sarah-Jane Reeves to talk about her experiences of being a mum of three … and a full time mature student … and mixing with younger folks in the classroom. 

Sarah Jane Reeves

As I open my son’s book bag from school I spot yet another ‘reminder’ letter. It’s usually telling me he hasn’t returned his library book, permission slip, or most likely a ‘donation’ of cash for an up and coming project at school – which, by the way, is never a real ‘donation’ or why would I get a reminder to pay? Anyway, these little slips of paper only serve one purpose and that’s to remind me that I am not the wonder woman I strive to be.

In 2015, at the of 38 I decided to return to university. A year after my eldest child started university herself. I had my daughter when I was 18, and, like so many parents, I put my own dreams on hold. I have no regrets in doing so, I have spent the last 21 years enjoying raising my daughter and her two brothers and they have brought me nothing but joy …well not always joy, sometimes stress, (actually a lot of stress, parenting is hard!) but mainly joy. So, here we are in 2017, I’m in year two of my English and Creative Writing degree and my daughter is preparing to graduate.

The decision to return to education as a mature student wasn’t an easy one. There are the obvious financial implications of student life, and with a family to think of there is no doubt that I feel selfish in my decision. I was also filled with fear and perished the thought of looking, feeling and being so old! How would I cope in an academic setting surrounded by fellow students the same age as my daughter? How well will I take instruction from a tutor who might be younger or the same age as me?

If you’re thinking of returning to education as a mature student, I’m sure these thoughts have crossed your mind too. Well, firstly, I had to stop overthinking. This degree is for me, and hopefully my family will benefit from it too. Secondly, you need to get the issue of age out of your mind. I’m on a course with like-minded people, and that’s the focus – age has very little to do with anything.

Of course, the social side of Uni life is different as a mature student, I skipped Freshers week, for a start! At the same time, I’m more than comfortable going for a drink or coffee with my peers. They don’t make me feel old, they make me feel like me. They’re inspiring and it’s exciting to watch them blossom, I’m always impressed by how much more they know than I did 20 years ago. Likewise, I hope I bring life experience to our debates, not in a ‘know it all’ fashion but a helpful insight into life from a different perspective.

This is all starting to sound a little romantic don’t you think? Think again. I get weeks when I am filled anxiety. I want to be the best possible mum I can be, I need to remember appointments, arrangement, my husband’s shift pattern, and deadlines. It’s chaos, my home ends up looking like a war zone. Before I know it I’m giving the kids chicken nuggets for the second night in a row, buying pre-packed sandwiches from the corner shop on the way to school for lunch boxes and rubbing yesterday’s ketchup off my five year old’s school jumper with a wet wipe. Instead of clearing the kids’ toys off the dinner table before we eat the aforementioned nuggets, I’m clearing away my own lecture notes, whilst apologising for making a mess like a child.

Essay deadline week is a particularly spectacular time. I’m an argumentative, stroppy, chocolate-demanding rat bag who peers from behind the laptop once every five hours just to acknowledge my partner’s existence. He never complains, he brings coffee and waits for Sarah-Jane to return, so normal service can resume. I’m under no illusion that any of what I’m doing right now would be possible without his support. I need to tell him that more often.

And all the time this is going on and I’m seemingly ‘keeping it together’ my mind is thinking up stories. Stories to entertain others with tales of the weird and wonderful as though that’s not really going on in real life. Being a mum, aged 40 and a mature student IS very much weird and yet wonderful.

Sarah-Jane is a mum of three living, what should be, a very ordinary life in Cardiff. However, deciding to become a full time mature student at the age of 40 rather turned life upside down. Sarah-Jane loves to write short stories, flash fiction, poetry and blogs. Sarah-Jane also writes about the local community in her monthly Cardiff Times column. Her ultimate goal is to live and write in a cottage by the sea with her ‘Essex boy’ and three children.

Follow her:  |  |  Twitter @nearlymrso











Celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 in Cardiff!

It’s International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March! In case you’re wondering, IWD is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

You might think that gender equality isn’t an issue in a developed country like Wales, but recent research from the National Assembly for Wales (yep- I admit, written by me), demonstrates that while women outnumber men in the Welsh population, they are healthier, live longer, and are better educated, they still earn less, are more likely to be economically inactive, and are far less likely to be in the top positions in politics and business.

You can see the full dataset at the end of this post, but here’s a little round-up of the events going on in Cardiff to celebrate IWD 2017 this week (let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything):


Women’s Equality Network and Fizzi Events presents International Women’s Day 2017 – Sunday 12 March, Wales Millennium Centre, 3-10pm

This event sounds super exciting. Loads of inspirational people will be sharing their stories and taking part in the exciting programme, including: BBC all round hero Bethan Elfyn, Young Person’s Laureate  for Wales Sophie McKeand,  musicians Della Lupa and Swansea’s Sanctuary of Song, spoken word artists Hanan Issa and Durre Shahwar, young circus performers, comedians, athletes, firefighters, youth drama and school groups.

It includes Bethan Elfyn’s pocket guide to music, radio and blogging, which sounds bloody GREAT.

Audiences will be asked to pay a suggested £10 ticket fee or Pay What You Can towards the event. Bethan’s pocket guide is £5.  You can find more info here and here.


EMBRACE the documentary – Thursday 9 March, 6.45pm, Odeon Cardiff

When body image activist Taryn Brumfitt posted an unconventional before-and-after photograph in 2013, it was seen by more than 100 million worldwide and sparked an international media frenzy.

In her forceful debut, Brumfitt continues her crusade exploring the global issue of body loathing. She travels the world to interview an impressive range of women about their attitudes to their bodies, including: Mia Freedman, the youngest ever editor of the Australian edition of Cosmopolitan; Adelaide researcher Professor Marika Tiggemann; UK talk show host/photographer Amanda de Cadenet; body image blogger Jess Baker (a.k.a. The Militant Baker); and motivational speaker Turia Pitt. More info here.

International Women’s Day Concert,  8 March 2017 ,19:30 – 22:00, Wales Millennium Centre

Wales’ only national symphony orchestra performing at their home BBC Hoddinott Hall, at the Wales Millennium Centre. Tickets: £11.50 – £13.50 – more info here. 


Women Business Owners: How to make it work for the long haul – March 31, 10-2pm

This is a collaborative event run by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub, University of South Wales with FSB Wales, Chwarae Teg and SFEDI/IOEE. The speakers who have extensive experience as women business owners themselves will address the question ‘How do women sustain their businesses over time?’

During roundtable discussion sessions, we’ll be looking at and dismantling popular myths and stereotypes about the nature of ‘business success’, we’ll ask the question of whether growth is the only way forward, we’ll consider the potential of sustainability as an alternative strategy and we’ll discuss how motivations, barriers and aspirations change over personal and business lifecycles.

And, we’ll be celebrating the achievements of women business owners across the globe! The event will be held from 10am to 2pm in a Central Cardiff hotel close to the railway station.

There is no charge for participation. For information or to book, please email

27743-385Networking event and afternoon tea – Around the World Bar, Wood St, Cardiff CF10 1LA, 12-2.30pm

Join us on Wednesday 8th March to celebrate International Women’s Day by taking part in our networking afternoon tea in aid of homeless charity Llamau.

Wear bright colours and for those feeling even bolder take part in our 5 minute speaker session to share with others what you do. Network with like-minded women whilst enjoying bubbly and our afternoon tea treats.

£2.50 from each ticket goes to helping Llamau and there will also be a charity raffle as well as fashion and beauty stands for those who fancy some shopping too! Cost: £13.68 More info here.


A cocktail reception at Handsome Jack’s with networking group Sorelle and Breast Cancer Care – 8 March, Handsome Jack’s, St Mary Street.

Sorelle has teamed up with Cardiff’s newest bar Handsome Jack’s to bring you our 2nd annual International Women’s Day celebration. The event will support Breast Cancer Care Cymru with fantastic prizes to entice you throughout the night.

2 FOR 1 cocktails! To register please email Danielle: If you would like to donate towards the raffle please email or More info here.

What does the gender gap in Wales look like? Take a look at the National Assembly’s gender equality indicators: