‘Just a card’ can help keep Cardiff’s creative businesses alive

Running a business as a designer, maker, independent gallery or shop is really hard in any economic climate, but especially this one. The Just A Card campaign encourages people to support these creative enterprises by buying anything, however small- even ‘just a card’. The wonderful Charlotte from our favourite creative business Twin Made has written a quick round-up of Cardiff’s local creatives and their ‘Just a Card’ items.

Twin Made

Twin Made is a creative workshop that and sells crafts, supplies, clothing homeware and lots more.

Just A Card item: We have a range of postcards, which are scans of our original embroideries. These are just £1 each or 5 for £3. We do a happy dance everytime we sell something, however small!

Where to buy: The Bone Yard, Canton, Cardiff & www.twinmade.etsy.com

Home by Kirsty

Home by Kirsty is in a small but perfectly formed coach house in Roath. The shop brings you homeware by leading British and Welsh designer-makers who share a clean, contemporary aesthetic. From Tom Pigeon prints too Buddy & Bear’s amazing kids tableware.

I opened in 2014 in Cardiff City Centre, last summer I shock the businesses up due to massive over heads + changing shopping habits in Cardiff City Centre and relocating to the coach house in Roath. I run the business on my own being the shop assistant, visual merchandiser, Social Media the list is endless…. BUT I love it!! Shop in store (Thurs- Sat 10-6) + online.

Just A Card item: This Together Forever card (£3), and this beautiful magazine (£10).

Where to buy: 64a Glenroy St Roath  CF37 1SU OPEN Thurs- Sat 10-6 or homebykirsty.com 24/7

KA Graphic Design

Kirsty is a freelance designer that sells cards and prints. She also creates custom goodies, from wedding invites to season brochures.

Just a Card Item: You’re How Old?’ birthday card (£2.60).

Where to buy: www.kagraphicdesign.co.uk or in Not Socks again (Penarth) / Quirkey HQ (Pontypool)


PIPES makes and sells awesome craft beer. They specialise in their unique take on classic and contemporary styles from around the globe.

Just A Card item: Bottles of beer for take away (£3-£3.80 each. 5% discount on 6 bottles. 10% discount on 12 beers). Or £4 pints to drink in!

Where to buy: 183A Kings Road, Pontcanna and pipesbeers.co.uk

Not Socks Again

We sell quirky gifts, bespoke gift hampers and locally made gifts and cards.

Just A Card item: Cwtch/Bear Hug greeting cards by Folio (a Cardiff based company). £2.99 each.

Where to buy: 1 Windsor Terrace, Penarth or  www.notsocksagain.com

Baked by Lou

Lou designs and makes handmade jewellery and accessories

Just A Card item: I have a colourful range of A5 Giclée Art Prints from £6.

Where to buy: www.bakedbylou.etsy.com

Flamingos Vintage

We are a weigh and pay kilo store with branded concessions and also a functioning gallery and workshop space that we use for hosting events. Our goal is to offer accessible, sustainable and stylish clothing and accessories that we have carefully selected from all over the world.

Just A Card item: Any of our lightweight items… a blouse, t-shirt, hat or belt! They’re around £3 each!

Where to buy: Capitol Shopping Centre, Cardiff

Nelly’s Treasures

I design and make interior items for children’s rooms. I’m a textile designer/illustrator/ printmaker – lots of different things! I love creating illustrations I can make into cushions and art prints alike. All a bit cute and a bit quirky generally with lots of colour!

Just A Card item: I make cards with some of my favourite illustrations including this ‘go get em tiger’ design(£9), which is one of my favourites.

Where to buy:  www.nellystreasures.com


I paint anything I can get my hands on… canvases, plant pots and items I make from air drying clay. I make art, interiors and wearables.

Just A Card item: These A6 abstract prints – just £1.50!

Where to buy: geetlush.com

Fizz Goes Pop

I make colourful and fun jewellery out of laser cut plastic and plywood. I base my designs around floral and folk patterns but take a lot of inspiration from geometry.

Just A Card item: These geometric earrings (£11).

Where to buy: Fizz Goes Pop The PrintHaus, 70a Llandaff Road, Canton, Cardiff, CF11 9NL, instagram.com/fizzgoespopwww.fizzgoespop.etsy.com


Meet Sully’s tortoise lady – Ann Ovenstone, MBE

The last place you’d probably expect to find the International Tortoise Association is tucked away in someone’s back garden in the sleepy town of Sully, in the Vale of Glamorgan. And, yet, that’s exactly where it is. The Association and its sanctuary are run by Ann Ovenstone MBE (she is known to friends and associates as ‘the tortoise lady’), and she’s helped along by a team of dedicated volunteers.

A few weeks back, I went along to meet Ann and visit the sanctuary, to make a small documentary Ann the tortoise lady for the BBC (it was shared on BBC One!! I know, check us out!!). You can watch the final piece here, although it’s edited down from about an hour’s worth of chatting and wandering around the wonderful sanctuary…

But there was loads more we discovered on our chelonia tour (chelonia being the generic term for tortoise/turtle/terrapin) than I could fit in the short video, so I thought I would share the rest of the visit here.

The association started in a relatively organic way – Ann got her first tortoise aged around five (it cost six pence from the local market – and she still has it!), and then as she got older had some other friends who also had tortoises. The animals started laying eggs, but no one really knew how to look after them, so Ann started researching … and over fifty years later, has pretty much dedicated her whole life to the care of these weird reptiles.

She works with UK Border Force to help identify illegally smuggled species, which can be  challenging and upsetting work – she says that some of the largest hauls can contain up to 300 animals, half of which are usually crushed to death in transit.

While a few smuggled animals can sometimes be saved, they can never be returned to their natural habitats, as there is too high a risk of introducing bacteria or germs they might have picked up here. Instead, these animals have to be tagged, and they must be returned by their new owners to be checked every six months, to make sure they havenot been sold on for profit. It’s complicated and time consuming business, but for Ann – who has spent a lifetime in the company of chelonia – it’s worth it.

The Association’s members work tirelessly to ensure the welfare of tortoises, including caring for the sick and injured, rehoming, events, breeding and hibernation programmes. All aspects of the tortoise life are undertaken at the sanctuary and the specialist expert knowledge of those involved ensures that all tortoises who are born, bred and live there receive the utmost in chelonian care.

Although Ann says tortoises are perhaps not the ideal pets (when compared to more interactive animals like cats or dogs), they are definitely full of personality – being in the sanctuary felt a little bit like walking amongst very small and quite nibbly dinosaurs. They especially like painted toenails, as Ann told me they think they’re tiny tomatoes (both of us made the mistake of wearing sandals on the day of filming …).

The sanctuary (aka Ann’s garden) is an overwhelming complex of small runs, sheds, ponds, industrial fridges (to help with hibernation) and warm indoor tanks (to help with incubating eggs). They hold open days throughout the year, and also provide services for members like taking in tortoises to hibernate in optimum temperatures, and incubating eggs to hatch. If you have a tortoise in your life, or are interested in having a weird, tiny, prehistoric looking reptile join your family, then head to one of their open days to find out more.

Find out more:


Exciting performance beyond the stereotype – Mags at Sherman Theatre

We’re big fans of the theatre over by here, and so were excited to hear about Cwmni Pluen’s new show Mags – a devised piece that’s been developed over two years through work with three community groups across Wales. The show asks how far family bonds can be pushed, and how does it feel to belong, through following the story of Mags and her return to her hometown after chasing a hedonistic escape from life events. The show is at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff from 25-28 September (get tickets here!)

Reuniting with her past, Mags is determined to discover how we can continue to look after each other in a society that has let traditional community structures break down. Uplifting and provocative in equal measure, Mags prompts conversations on the complex role of care in society today, the impact of human connections, and celebrates the families we can create for ourselves.

“The show our audiences will see is a fusion of movement, bilingual text and live music as we follow Mags’ story – her past, present and future in the small Welsh village she both loves and loathes,” says Gethin Evans, director of Mags. “Her story is created from the people we have met through the community engagement with CAIN, Trans*Form Cymru and Dads Can”.

Like every Pluen production, Mags is bilingual in Welsh and English, and combines an eclectic mix of theatre, live music and physical performance. The original score has been written by Welsh electronic pop artist CASI, who will perform with musician Eddy Bailhache, remaining on stage throughout and performing live – bringing pulsing energy and a connection with the audience. Check below for the Soundcloud link to the beautiful song Rhyw Dynfa that they’ve created for the show – that they’ll be performing live on stage.

Performance Dates

Buy tickets for Mags at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff – performance dates:

  • 25 September, 7:30pm
  • 26 September, 2:30pm & 7:30pm
  • 27 September, 7:30pm (post show talk)
  • 28 September, 7:30pm (Captioned performance)

About Cwmni Pluen

Cwmni Pluen are a Cardiff-based theatre company, working across Wales. Their approach is to create a synergy between text-based and devised work that is always physical, always probing the human condition, always bilingual, and always engaging with new members of communities.

Following the success of their first production Llais / Voice, which the company presented in Wales and at the Edinburgh festival, Sherman Theatre’s artistic director Rachel O’Riordan appointed Cwmni Pluen as the Sherman’s inaugural Company in Residence.





Dog friendly Cardiff Bay – Zelda’s guide to great places for hanging with your pup

We told you before Christmas that We Are Cardiff had a mascot – a rescue greyhound called Zelda. Well, she’s not really been pulling her weight in terms of blog posts, so we’ve managed to pry her off the sofa for long enough to give us her recommendations. (If any of you have ever met a greyhound, you’ll know what we’re talking about. All she wants to do is sleep!). So anyway … here it is!

Zelda’s guide to dog friendly Cardiff Bay

Before we begin, you should just remind yourself of how adorable Zelda is.


To start off with, we’re going to focus on the places you can take your dog inside (because let’s face it, weather …). There’s a list of recommended outdoors places too, at the bottom of the post.

Coffee, snacks, and ice cream!

Coffi Co: Cardiff Bay and Mermaid Quay

There are two Coffi Cos in Cardiff Bay – one by the Wetherspoons and Carluccios (in the old Bosphorus unit) and one just over the water as you head towards the barrage. Both are dog friendly, though the Mermaid Quay one is our regular. Staff are all super lovely and very fond of dogs. The place is very popular. Beware if you have a silly long-legged dog like a greyhound though – there are lots of big stools that they might get enmeshed in, as per below. (I know, what is she like). Coffi Co FacebookCoffi Co TwitterCoffi Co IG.

Cadwaladers, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

Although Cadwaladers is best known for its incredible ice cream, the Mermaid Quay branch also serves great coffee and snacks. It’s a good place for brunch, has views of the bay, and best of all, your dog is allowed inside! Cadwaladers FacebookCadwaladers TwitterCadwaladers IG

Octavo’s Book Cafe and Wine Bar, West Bute Street, Cardiff

If your dog is of the literary persuasion, she will love Octavo’s: Cardiff’s only book cafe, located just a couple of minutes from Cardiff Bay train station and Mermaid Quay. Octavo’s serve food and drinks all day, and have a great selection of general fiction and local interest books. There are also author events, book clubs and all sorts of meet ups held there. Support independent local businesses and get thee down to Octavo’s! Octavo’s FacebookOctavo’s TwitterOctavo’s IG.


The Waterguard, Harbour Drive, Cardiff

This place is one of the best summertime drinking spots in the Bay due to its waterside location and lovely green lawn out the back. Dogs are allowed inside (at the entrance and also in a room towards the back). It’s very lacking in atmosphere inside and usually takes about five years to be served (they only ever seem to have one member of bar staff working whenever I go in), but hey, it’s the only dog-friendly boozer in the bay. Waterguard Facebook

Also, it’s not a boozer, but Pavers Shoes in the bay has a dogs welcome sign in the window (in case your pooch needs new pumps)

Nearby gems:

There’s one real dog-friendly gem within a ten minute drive of Cardiff Bay, where you can take your dog inside and the place is really something special – so it’s included (just in case your dog has wheels). Well worth heading for.

The Grange, 134 Penarth Road, Cardiff: lovely pub with a skittles alley and large beer garden. Great atmosphere, good food and super friendly staff. This place gets five bones out of five!


  • Cardiff Bay barrage (nice for a walk over to Penarth)
  • World of Boats (sit outside for a great view of the bay)
  • Mermaid Quay bars (The Dock, Wetherspoons, Las Iguanas etc … they all have outdoor seating areas where you and your dog can sit)

Zelda approves of all these places. She encourages you to take your pups to visit, then let us know how you get on!

Phew! We’re all tuckered out. Zelda’s off for a nap. So we’ll see you soon! Don’t forget you can follow her adventures on Instagram – @ZeldaPooch

Zzzz ….


A Welsh retreat for writers

You’ve probably noticed that we’re big fans of writing over here at We Are Cardiff. We presume some of you are as well. You might even be writers, or just want time to spend on your writing. So … it’s not in Cardiff … but if you need an excuse to head into the incredible countryside of north west Wales, and want some time to focus on your writing, Ty Newydd is the perfect spot.

Ty Newydd Gwynedd

The creative writing centre is run by Literature Wales, and features a series of courses, workshops and retreats throughout the year. Ty Newydd is a pretty sweet place to focus on your work … and Criccieth isn’t bad, either!




Tŷ Newydd

The courses for this year cover everything from poetry, to non-fiction memoir, to young adult mythology. View all Ty Newydd’s courses on their site (or scroll to the bottom of this article to go through them all).

We Are Cardiff went along to a Yoga and Writing class that took place in 2017 – a three day course that combines two creative practices that energise one another: yoga, plus writing. There was also meditation, breathing, and movement with writing exercises, added to some Hindu mythology and free time to write in the blissful surroundings of Tŷ Newydd. It was ace to meet guest reader Vivienne Rickman-Poole, photographer, film maker and outdoor swimmer who lives in Snowdonia (we followed her #swimsnowdonia project for some time now – she even took us for an outdoor dip!)

If you love the idea of attending a course at Ty Newydd, but aren’t sure you can afford it, Ty Newydd also offer bursaries and financial support for people to attend. Find out more: Ty Newydd financial support

Ty Newydd – view all courses 

More beautiful images of gorgeous Criccieth:





Celebrating Kathleen Thomas – the first person to swim the Bristol Channel

NINETY ONE YEARS AGO TODAY, a scrappy lady named Kathleen Thomas became the first person to swim the Bristol Channel between Wales and England. She set off from Penarth at 4.15am, and the crossing took her 7 hours and 20 minutes. Although the distance is 11 miles, it’s actually calculated to be 22.5 once you factor in the brutal currents.

Kathleen Thomas Penarth swimmer climbing into a boat

(Photo from History of Wales)

Plenty of men had tried and failed before her, but Kathleen wasn’t bothered by that, saying: ‘The Suffragettes were campaigning for women’s rights, but nobody thought a girl could cross to the other side – many men had tried and failed.’

It wasn’t a thing anyone thought a woman could do – or should do. The South Wales Echo had to print a clarification because no one believed the original article: ‘Miss Kathleen Thomas, the Penarth lady swimmer, whose decision to attempt the Bristol Channel was exclusively reported in yesterday’s South Wales Echo, reaffirmed in an interview today that our report was correct in its entirety.’

The story reads:

‘Crowds lined the beach to watch Kathleen wade into the chill grey waters, accompanied by a launch containing representatives from the Welsh Amateur Swimming Association and a rowing boat carrying her uncle Jack in a bowler hat. After the swim she was taken to a hotel where she had a warm and cold bath, a half-hour rest in bed, and a good fish lunch before returning to Wales a celebrity.

‘Seven hours and 20 minutes later she reached the shores of Somerset; fortified by beef tea and chocolate, Thomas received a rapturous welcome from the West Country. She was the first person, as well as the first woman, to swim the Bristol Channel. Compelling images from newspapers of the time show her exhausted, slumped in a boat, before she was taken to a hotel where she had a warm and cold bath, a half-hour rest in bed, and a good fish lunch before returning to Wales a celebrity.’

(Portrait of Kathleen Thomas)

You can see a plaque commemorating her achievement on Penarth Pier.

The second person to swim across the channel was another woman – named Edith Parnell, aged 16. She completed the swim across two years later.

So today, we celebrate our women swimmers!


We Are Cardiff – Helia Phoenix fifth on The Independent Happy List 2018!

YES YOU GUYS IT IS TRUE!!! We Are Cardiff’s director Helia Phoenix was nominated for the Independent’s Happy List 2018 – AND HAS MADE IT TO NUMBER FIVE IN THE LIST!!!!!

So this is The Independent’s tenth annual Happy List – naming 50 outstanding people whose volunteering, caring, fundraising, mentoring, charity work or selflessness make Britain a happier place to live

The Happy List was founded in 2008 as an antidote to the lists that celebrate status and big bank balances. Instead, it honours the “Great Britons” doing extraordinary things for others with no thought of personal gain; those who often go largely unnoticed and unrewarded.

Being called a Great Briton is a bit weird, but other than that, Helia is very excited and honoured and humbled and all the rest of it to be featured. A BIG THANK YOU to whoever nominated her!

Helia says:

“It’s really very exciting to be featured in the Happy List this year – I had no idea anyone had nominated me and it’s a real shock, especially when you read some of the other incredible people featured on the list. I started We Are Cardiff in 2010 because I saw there was a gap in the content I was seeing about Cardiff. I was reading endless negative news reports, and it just didn’t chime with the Cardiff I knew and lived in. My Cardiff has lots of people doing wonderful, selfless, altruistic things for the good of their neighbours and their communities. I see generosity of spirit and interesting alternative action and arts and culture all around me everyday, and I just thought it deserved a platform where it could be promoted and celebrated.

“We Are Cardiff has achieved loads since then – we’ve made a documentary film, won Blog of the Year, been named as one of the world’s best city blogs, been interviewed for overseas travel documentaries, and we’re one of the top 20 most influential Twitter accounts in Wales. Get in.

“Despite everything we’ve achieved, I don’t think we’re quite there yet – there’s plenty I’d still like to do with We Are Cardiff, and earlier this year I got a grant from UnLtd. I’d like to try and turn the brand into a social enterprise, moving the mission forwards in its endeavours to celebrate and integrate people who live in Cardiff, whatever their backgrounds.

“I particularly would like to turn We Are Cardiff into a platform where people that are under-represented in the media/journalism/PR can develop skills and experience to follow careers in those industries. I remember when I was younger and first trying to forge a career in the media – I did work experience and had small jobs in various media organisations (I won’t say which) – but in every one, I felt hugely out of place. I was female, I’m of Middle Eastern origin – these were workplaces that were male dominated, middle class, overwhelmingly white and straight. I think we should be celebrating difference and I want We Are Cardiff to be more of an embodiment of that.

“I really want to thank everyone who has supported We Are Cardiff throughout the years; people volunteering their time, skills, and experience to try and make Cardiff a better place – through blogging, at least.”

Helia would like it to be known it was excruciating trying to write this without humblebragging.

Follow Helia on Twitter @heliaphoenix or Instagram @heliaphoenix.

As well as us, there were TWO MORE great individuals featured from Cardiff:

More about the Happy List:

Our world can often feel dominated by fame, cynicism, disgrace and greed. The Happy List offers a welcome chance to celebrate a different set of values, honouring those who help others without thought of enriching themselves – in many cases at considerable personal cost. That’s something we should all feel happy and optimistic about. If you know of someone you think should have been included, then please let us know and we will consider them next year. 

The Independent – The Happy List 2018