All posts by Ellie Philpotts

The Actual History Museum of Roath

Every single suburb of Cardiff offers something different. But there’s something about Roath … Ellie Philpotts went along to investigate one project that certainly makes the area special.

actual museum roath

As readers of We Are Cardiff, you probably know just how vibrant this city is. Every day brings something new, while no resident has the same experience of living here. Plus, each suburb has its own cultural quirks. Where better to demonstrate this than Roath?

As a relative newbie to Cardiff, since moving here in 2014 to start English Lit and Journalism at Cardiff Uni, I’ve only ever lived in Cathays. Despite this, my favourite district has always been Roath. The place has it all – more international cuisine than you realised you could ever squeeze into a road (City Road, I’m looking at you); a beautiful lake, park and botanical garden; a tangible community spirit, with events such as the annual Made in Roath and Made in Spring festival; and now, of course, the Actual History Museum of Roath.

I’ve got to confess – I didn’t know much about this project, until We Are Cardiff’s wonderful founder, Helia, asked me pop along to do a piece on it. After as much research as I could do without ruining the suspense, I went along to the museum itself, and here’s what went down…

After getting kind of lost on the way (slightly embarrassing considering how close I live), I arrive at the address on Werfa Street, pretty soaked by that common thing called Cardiff rain, but excited to find out more. I’m offered a very warm welcome by the main curators, Dr Glen Roy and Sir Alfred Street, and before long we’re chatting away over a brew.

The first thing I want to know, from the horse’s mouth, is what it specifically is that the Actual History Museum of Roath represents? I’m told, ‘we bring knowledge to the ignorant, and open people’s eyes to the wonders of Roath. A lot of people know the aesthetics, of things like cafes, but they don’t think of the history much.’

Well now I’m intrigued. The Actual History Museum of Roath is a local project redefining Roath in a witty and unique way – leave your definitions of ‘truth’ firmly at the gate. The museum itself is in a garden shed at the Werfa Street home, featuring an interesting range of trinkets and artefacts which collectively form the north-eastern district’s rich history.

There are murals asking ‘what became of the Lake Roath Monster?’, plus maps, cave paintings and some rather amusing songbird rivalries with Splott…

The famous Roath vs Splott song goes as follows:

‘More beer landlord,
I’m a happy fella,
When I’m drinking in the Roath Bierkeller,
When I was young I travelled far,
I once went to Llanedeyrn,
The people there smelled funny,
And really did my head in,

(Repeat chorus)

Oh Roath it is a lovely place,
The pies are always hot,
Unlike those bits of gristle,
That they call pies in Splott,

(Repeat Chorus)

Oh landlord bring a flagon and we will make an oath,
To the greatest of all countries,
The place that we call Roath.’

 

This little hideaway and its connections play a vital role in Made in Roath, seeing visitors frequently flock to find out more about the true history of the place. The team behind the Actual History Museum of Roath all go by very Roathian names – there’s Dame Shirley Road; Dr Glen Roy and Professor Sir Alfred Street – and are keen to make Roath be considered independent. There’s no question about it – they certainly think it’s the pride of the capital, but this is taken to new heights with ideas such as their ‘Roatherendum’. 400 voted, with only eight preferring to stay dependent within Cardiff. Independence now!

A photgraph from the Museum's collection: Sir Lancalot Werfa, ever the Explorer of Roath, was already planning his next adventure with Sir Donald Street's grandfather Sir " Jimmy" Quality Street. This adventure never took place, due to his failure to successfully return from his Roath Recreation Park Crossing (1908, permission Actual History Museum Roath).
A photograph from the Museum’s collection: Sir Lancalot Werfa, ever the Explorer of Roath, was already planning his next adventure with Sir Donald Street’s grandfather Sir ” Jimmy” Quality Street. This adventure never took place, due to his failure to successfully return from his Roath Recreation Park Crossing (1908, permission Actual History Museum Roath).

Although of course unofficial and unrecognised by the government, the polls became quite the talking point around the close-knit community, and it seems even further afield – making it onto Radio Wales and Wales Online.

The Museum embodies the wacky charm that would surely only work on the good people of Cardiff. Engaging everyone by bringing a very new slant on what it means to be a Roath resident, I don’t think I’m alone in hoping the team keep up their open days; quirky Youtube videos and Made in Roath starring role for years to come. I’m just not sure their old rivals in Splott would agree…

PS – They’re expecting you to perhaps be a bit confused at first.

The actual history museum of Roath Facebook page

The actual history museum of Roath YouTube

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Ellie Philpotts

Ellie Philpotts is our writer on the ground in central Cardiff. Telling it like it is!

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Student Action for Refugees – Peace Feast and Refugee Rhythms

Ellie Philpotts headed along to some Cardiff Student Action for Refugees (STAR) events to see what good they’re whipping up in the local community. 

STAR

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that Cardiff is a seriously welcoming place to live. The diversity of city living is clear to see, as it seems like on every corner you’ll always be greeted with a friendly face and the choice of either a cup of tea /  shish kebab / bara brith / kimchi stew / proper Italian wood-fired pizza. Or all five of them if you feel like it. At the same time. Because why not.

Demonstrating the best of this is a team of Cardiff University students, who go by the name of STAR (Student Action for Refugees).

Student Action for Refugees is a national network spanning across 35 British universities. Everyone there is motivated by the common goal of helping to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers, by teaching them English, maths and other skills at weekly classes; fundraising and basically having a grand old time.

Speaking of which, there are plenty of ways to get involved, and you totally should. A recent way this was made possible was Peace Feast. The annual event sees members from all over the community gather together; eating a home-cooked meal or two and celebrating the role refugees and asylum seekers bring to the area. This year, it came to town on Sunday 21 Feb at Cathays Community Centre. Since 2012, the day has remained a success, and this year was no different. Working alongside Bridges for Communities, an organisation passionate at swapping negative stereotypes in favour of forming friendships between cultures, Peace Feast got everyone talking and sharing experiences, over the universally-enjoyed medium of good food.

As good as Peace Feast was, it wasn’t the biggest event of STAR’s calendar – an honour which can surely only go to Refugee Rhythms.

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Once again, Refugee Rhythms made a storm in the Students’ Union on Thursday 25 Feb. Again following its triumph from previous years, all of STAR’s volunteers put in the hours to ensure the smooth running what could only be called the best cultural celebration in all of Cardiff. Featuring a global array of cuisine, music and talent, it appears everyone came away wanting to take up some new instrument, even if you’re slightly tone-death, aka me.

Local  groups Afro Cluster, who specialise in an afro-funk hip-hop feel, and Bass 12, who describe themselves as ‘a riot jazz style band’, stole the show, but a whole host of other musicians (many of whom double up as students by day…) were found gracing the stage.

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If dancing off your food baby of hummus and falafel is your type of exercise, you were probably found at this week’s Refugee Rhythms. But if you couldn’t make it, remember there’ll be plenty of opportunities to give back to the local community. Like many cities, Cardiff thrives on its diversity, and that’s the way volunteers at STAR, plus a lot of others, want it to stay.  Check out the Cardiff STAR website for more reiteration of how easy yet rewarding helping refugees is.

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Ellie Philpotts

Ellie Philpotts is our writer on the ground in central Cardiff. Telling it like it is!

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Check out what’s going on with We Are Cardiff Press

The Escape Rooms Cardiff

We sent roving reporter Ellie Philpotts to the launch of The Escape Rooms Cardiff. Here’s what went on!

escape rooms cardiff

Geek chic is pretty celebrated in popular culture these days. Nerds worldwide can rejoice as science fiction, tech and gaming is now officially worth shouting about, not hiding away. And now, the tribe of geeks who double up as Cardiff residents can put their passions into action, with the brand new Escape Rooms Cardiff.

If you don’t yet know what the Escape Rooms are, I’ll try to set the scene. Basically, they’re a real-life escape game in which two to five players work together to find hidden clues and solve mysteries in order to escape a themed room within an hour. There are plenty of nooks and crannies, all of which could potentially hold the key to unravelling the puzzle. Forward-thinking and teamwork are the ingredients to success. (Admittedly, I wouldn’t know. I definitely needed a little help.)

They make a welcome addition to the city’s ever-growing entertainment scene. Sure, the abundance of bars, cafes, shopping centres, restaurants and art galleries here aren’t exactly boring, but sometimes we all need somewhere to release our inner techie.

With this in mind, I eagerly trotted off to their Media Launch Party. Having grandly opened their doors to the public the previous Friday, following months of preparation, they’d been fully booked, so I was expecting big things.

And it definitely delivered! I might as well throw a disclaimer in here – I am definitely not techy. Uploading We Are Cardiff articles to the site is just about as much as I can manage. But yep, even I enjoyed the evening and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

The entire thing is shrouded in mystery, before you even start the gaming. The Escape Rooms aren’t immediately obvious – they’re on the second and third floors of 119 St Mary Street in the city centre, and I did manage to walk past it a few times. I don’t want to give too much about the games themselves away, but here’s one non-so-subtle hint I think is justified: they’re above Costa.

The layout is split into three rooms – The Tomb; Finding Sherlock; and The Heist. If you’re a novice or a Cumberbitch, it’d make sense to start off in Finding Sherlock. Described as ‘the private office of the world famous Sherlock Holmes,’ it’s where it’s up to you to solve the clues he’s left for Dr Watson – since he’s conveniently gone missing himself. I’ve got to say it definitely looked the part. It seems three’s definitely not a crowd here – this one’s ranked 3/5 in terms of difficulty, with 3 also the best team size.

If you’ve proven to the world that you’re not going to remain Sher-locked in, it may be time to try your hand at something a tad more challenging. In The Tomb, make like Howard Carter and unscramble the ancient-themed puzzles, featuring realistic décor like a pharaoh and mummy in all their glory. If you’re feeling extra ambitious or just plain smug, The Heist is the place to be. Here, you and ideally four others adopt the role of bad, bad people who’ve broken into a museum to steal the collector priceless diamond. Working best if you split into a two and a three, you’ll have to sneak the goods out – but the laser trap in the vault is there to mix things up. Side note – if you’re arty, which seems to apply to many a Cardiff resident – you’ll appreciate the designs in themselves, from Mona Lisa and The Scream, to less iconic but equally aesthetically-pleasing others.

My favourite was Finding Sherlock, and yep I’ll confess the comparative easiness had something to do with it! It still got me thinking though, but I did manage to ask the faces behind the idea some of my burning questions.

The managers Calum Jones and John Lugsdin previously worked together in the field of finance. Which is all good. But even the keenest of mortgagers could hardly deny that gaming is just so much more fun. They agreed. So, they went careering into a new career direction, in setting up Cardiff’s first Escape Rooms. The building had remained derelict for the past 18 months, so they’d found the ideal venue to get to contributing to our city centre’s changing face.

As with every capital city, Cardiff is home to a vast range of people, but I’m sure they’d all come away from Escape Rooms Cardiff satisfied. Whether you’re a student; family; group of friends; or on the hunt for a quirky date venue, you’re bound to have found it here. It’s also perfect as an after-work alternative for a bit of team bonding. John told me a corporate group drove down all the way from Pembrokeshire to be the first to trial it out!

Calum’s looking to expand the Rooms, and keeping an ace up his sleeve, he has big plans for the fourth space. Judging by the Escape Rooms Cardiff’s recent successes – it’s appealing to mystery lovers far and wide throughout South Wales, with 100 players at January’s local Comic Can taking up six-minute versions of the challenges, many pros becoming victorious in just half the allowed time; and they’ll also be back at Cardiff Comic Con in March, Swansea’s Comic Con in May and Newport’s Geekedfest this August – I’m sure this will pay off.

Interested? Check it out – prices start at £17 per player in a team of five. You won’t be disappointed!

The Escape Rooms Cardiff – website

The Escape Rooms Cardiff – Facebook

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Ellie Philpotts Thanks Ellie! More from us soon …

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British Street Food Awards Wales and West – review by Ellie Philpotts

Our roving reporter Ellie Phillpots headed to the British Street Food Awards Wales and West a few weeks back, to sample the cream of local talent!

wales and west street food awards

I’m a foodie. My favourite way to spend a summer weekend or evening has to be revelling in the atmosphere, concoction of smells, and myriad of tastes that food so considerately provides. Food culture is growing even bigger in the modern age. Sure, for centuries people have enjoyed its experiences – culturally, eating is a social event, one to be savoured with others. At the recent Street Food Awards, this relationship expanded to not just the people we choose to eat with, but also the vendors and chefs, each charming in their individual way.

Since moving to Cardiff, where I find everything so easy to photograph anyway, I’ve noticed my camera-roll and subsequently Instagram seeming to incorporate more food than ever before. It’s fair to say food writing; food photography, and of course, food eating, are becoming slight hobbies of mine, and Cardiff is the perfect location to indulge in this. So of course I was eager to attend when it was Wales’ turn to host the awards last weekend, after already loving sampling the Street Food Circus that is neatly nestled on John Street during every May and June weekend.

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Even before I made it through the pearly gates of Heaven (otherwise known as the gates bearing a massive glittery burger and a sign reminding us it’s ‘British St Food Annual Awards – The Independent on Sunday’, the atmosphere was bubbling and merry. In I went, and was soon confronted with a bustling variety of street food stalls. From rustic pizzas to good old British mushy peas; Indian mango spiced lassi to mojitos; mini crème brulees and even vindaloo shepherd’s pie, there’s no way anyone could leave hungry or thirsty. The only hunger to be experienced upon finally exiting would be non-literal – hunger to stay for even more! But there were definitely plenty of cuisines to choose from.

Deliberating took up a big chunk of the day. I browsed between The Purple Poppadom; Ships; Patagonia; Slow Pig; Dirty Bird Fried Chicken; The Smallest Pizzeria in the World; Chucks; Cheeky Indian; the bar; Nelly’s Barn; Bristol Chai Guy and Wild Fig Farm, before eventually settling on the battered halloumi bites somewhat drowning in an array of sauces, from Dirty Bird Fried Chicken. As well as this stall’s delights, it did live up to the event’s promise of transforming a corner of Cardiff into Brooklyn. Must be the chicken, as I know that’s a popular food over in the Big Apple! And I wasn’t alone in thinking they were sublime – because DFC won Runner-Up in the overall category of the Welsh and South West leg of the awards. Very well deserved!

The actual winners, however, were Patagonia, whose head chef Jamie O’Leary enticingly describes their produce as ‘strictly beef, all Welsh, all local, with some Argentinean flair.’ You can say that again! I can confirm their classic steak sandwich was pretty sweet. (Literally savoury, of course. But a very sweet, good thing to experience. )

As well as Cardiff specifically, on a wider level the UK is gaining an even more positive name for food in recent years. Gone are the days when merely roast dinners and fish and chips spoke for the land’s eating habits – although nothing against them! Now, we’re home to the flavour of the world – and British Street Food Awards accurately embodied this. Which is why it also made sense for the Awards to tour the whole nation – stopping in Oxford; Cardiff; Scotland and Cornwall before the exciting Big Final in London from 25 – 27 September.

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Food in this country is so good that Blighty now boasts even more Michelin Stars than Italy – once arguably deemed the universal food capital. To honour this, The Smallest Pizzeria in the World was a Cardiff sell-out! But from my time browsing the selection on offer in the Sunday sun, I can conclude food festivals and specifically the British Street Food Awards made this feat seem believable. Each vendor gave a fantastic effort – so much so, my consumption wasn’t restricted to the site itself! Of course I had to nab an iced Earl Grey (which contained so many mint leaves that security mistook it for alcohol) and 5 adorable tiny cupcakes from Bristol Chai Guy, who are so good they hopped across the border for the event, to keep me going during my walk home!

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I couldn’t fault the day – a mantra clearly seconded by the crowds, whose enthusiasm showed no sign of relenting – and am looking forward to seeing the overall winners of categories such as Best Burger and Best Vegetarian in a few months’ time. Well done to all involved, and I’ll definitely be back – once my food baby subsides!

 

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Ellie Philpotts

Ellie Philpotts is in her first year at Cardiff University studying English Literature, Journalism and Media. Follow her blog or Instagram.

 

 

 

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“My teenage cancer experience” – by Cardiff Uni student, Ellie Philpotts

Today’s We Are Cardiff entry features Cardiff uni student Ellie Philpotts, talking about her experiences as a teenage cancer survivor.

black and white photo of Ellie Philpotts

There are many taboos in today’s society. Words that have entirely negative meanings, or just hush-hush connotations. Words we don’t talk about. Words that evoke feelings we don’t want to feel. Which, in some ways, is understandable. Maybe it makes sense to block some images out. Perhaps that’s a coping mechanism – if you’re not thinking or talking about it, it doesn’t exist. That might even be the recipe for more peaceful living. After all, who WANTS to be haunted by unpleasant things?

But there’s one relatively taboo term which can’t be avoided, however hard you try. And that’s cancer.

You might be a person who thinks, ‘What’s taboo about cancer?’ It is undeniable that it’s everywhere. Pink ribbons symbolising breast cancer; girl power in the form of Race for Life fever dominating the country; moving TV ads; Macmillan billboards in shopping centres, usually shouting the message, ‘No one should face cancer alone.’ Yet despite this, it’s still a topic a lot of families don’t want to delve into. So much so, there are even other terms for cancer – ‘the Big C’ and ‘the C-word.’

To be honest, those colloquialisms make me cringe. But I also see where their users are coming from. Cancer is connected to such horrors that it does seem partly logical to want them masked.

For me though, cancer has remained strikingly unmasked, as it’s become an integral part of my identity. And I’m now happy with this status!

I’m 19 now, healthy (if we ignore my inability to attempt any sport without tripping over 300 times), and in my first year studying my dream degree at Cardiff University. Life is running pretty smoothly for me, but this hasn’t always been the case. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 15. My 2011 began with a bang – in the form of Hodgkins Lymphoma, which NHS Choices describes as ‘an uncommon cancer developing in the lymphatic system, a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body.’ It continues, ‘Hodgkins Lymphoma is a relatively aggressive cancer and can quickly spread through the body.’ ‘Oh dear’, you may think. ‘That doesn’t sound too good.’ Well, I suppose it doesn’t, but to cut a long story short – I beat it. I guess I’ll have to tell you more though, considering this is a piece on my cancer story, and I’m working at making my text fit the title in at least some way.

In summer 2010, my symptoms began, as itchy hands and feet, not serious enough to warrant a doctor’s visit. Before long they’d accelerated into more serious stuff, which by January was intense breathlessness; drenching night sweats; fatigued lack of energy; no appetite and a lump in my neck. Even walking around my house would leave me panting for breath and overall my breathing sounded horribly laboured. The night sweats were unusual for me – I’d always tried to avoid PE like the plague (usually without fail, but I still didn’t exercise enough to break out in sweat.) So January 2011 saw me transport myself to my GPs three times. I was presumed to have the flu, a winter virus or glandular fever, which has symptoms similar to Hodgkins, so was given an inhaler and tablets, but my condition only seemed to worsen. So on 20 January I was finally hospitalised, where scans indicated a mass compressing my windpipe, and that the problem was too big for them to deal with. So two days later I arrived at my ex-second home, Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

BCH exposed me to my medical world – neck biopsies; bone marrow aspirates (checking if cancer had spread to my spinal fluid); PET Scans and drips, all before official diagnosis. This eventually came on Friday 28 January, when I was doing homework in the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) unit, in the form of Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 2B, meaning it’d spread from its original site, and comprised of a 9cm long, 6cm wide mass wrapped around my windpipe then two smaller lumps.

So January-May threw me into a new sphere, of chemo, steroids, scans and plenty of new experiences, both within the ward and beyond. I went on my first TCT trip less than two months after diagnosis, which included hanging out with Roger Daltrey and The Who before their Royal Albert Hall show in aid of the charity. Since then, I’ve been on numerous trips with my cancer friends, from sailing with the Ellen Macarthur Trust to long weekends of fun Find Your Sense of Tumour conferences at Centre Parcs, to meals with my Birmingham group. To look on the bright side of cancer (there is one!!), it’s a great way to make so many new friends, who understand what you’re going through. Although I finished treatment four years ago next month, I’m still attending charity events and meet-ups – they can’t get rid of me!

Of course, post-treatment isn’t solely fun and games. There’s the constant thought that it may come back, and my hospital group has lost a few members. Thousands will recognise one of them – Stephen Sutton MBE, who died last year having raised nearly £5million for Teenage Cancer Trust, with over 340,000 people donating. Stephen was one of the first cancer friends I began speaking to after diagnosis, and was a bright, funny and positive member of our group. It was absolutely breathtaking to see the entire nation be similarly sold by his story and inspiring nature, and for that volume of money, 454 per cent of his original target to be raised.

Cancer is literally formed of haywire cells, but figuratively of highs and lows, so here are my top 10 tips for anyone – patient, survivor or curious reader, regarding the whole cancer universe!

  1. If in doubt, check it out. It’s probably not cancer, but unfortunately the disease is getting all the more common. So if you’re unsure, there’s no harm in going to the doctor’s. Persistence is key – my symptoms could’ve been longer dismissed as asthma or glandular fever, so if I hadn’t kept going back, my prognosis would’ve been worse.
  2. Life gets better. It may seem like you’ll be confined to the ward forever and a day, but someday it’ll be a distant memory.
  3. Cancer can actually improve your life. I wouldn’t have thought it, but now I’m genuinely glad I had it. For me, I may have lost hair, some time in school and a peace of mind regarding health, but I gained incredible opportunities; inspiration; friends; experiences and confidence!
  4. There are people out there who understand what you’re going through – even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Here in Cardiff, I’m now also part of Shine, for slightly older patients and survivors. TCT were my original group, but Shine is also fab!
  5. Take each day at a time. Cancer can be overwhelming business, one where it’s easy to panic about your future and whether you even have one, so focus on the here and now – it makes daily life easier.
  6. Make plans. I know I just said to take it slowly, but working towards a goal – a holiday, party or just nice day out to mark the end of treatment or Cancerversaries (anniversaries of dates like diagnosis or remission) is motivational – plus you deserve a treat!
  7. Say yes to things! You may be surprised at just how many opportunities cancer brings. Work experience; chances to break your comfort zone and try new things such as charity abseils; extreme sports on Climbing Out camps; sailing; meeting celebrities; performing in London; even realising your dream career via cancer. Nothing to lose by trying new things!
  8. Don’t neglect your family or shut yourself off completely from the outside world. They may not understand exactly how you’re feeling, but it’s hard on them too. They’re there for you at your best and worst!
  9. Don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Cancer is tiring business, and you’re at the centre of yours. So listen to your body and rest!
  10. Your illness doesn’t completely define you. You’re still YOU. Just perhaps an improved version – having being made more emphatic of others, or now realising the importance of living life to the full.

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Ellie Philpotts is in her first year at Cardiff University studying English Literature, Journalism and Media. She is  a teenage-cancer survivor; is obsessed with travelling, and her favourite cities outside Cardiff are being Sydney, NYC, Nashville and Paris. Her ‘likes’ also include general Britishness, cups of tea, exploring, attempting to write songs, journalism, Italian food, finding new places, going out for dinner and taking photos – of everything. She is not a fan of maths, mashed potato, narrow minded people, her phone constantly running out of memory for photos, or people who are mean about Taylor Swift. Follow her blog or Instagram.

Photo by Ellie Philpotts

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“Things I’ve learnt since being swallowed up by the Diff” – Ellie Philpotts

Newbie in the city! New Cardiff resident Ellie Philpotts tells us about her experiences of living in the city since she moved here before Christmas.

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This is sort of a strange time period for me, because I’m still a relative newbie to the whole sphere that is Cardiff. Caerdydd has only been my home since September, yet these six months have truly made me feel like I’ve lived here forever. On the other hand, they haven’t improved my maths skills, as I still had to use that old finger-counting method to figure out how many months separate September from March.

It’s also a nice time period, because I feel I’ve lived here forever in that I feel so comfortable and secure, yet I’m also still excited by Cardiff on a daily basis, ever discovering new elements the city has to offer. The best thing about Wales’ epicentre has to be the fact that I can’t imagine this feeling ever diminishing – there really are countless things to both satisfy and challenge the interests of every single resident.

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If we ignore the minor maths problem, Cardiff has taught me a lot. I guess you’d kind of expect that, what with me attending university here, but in actual fact I’ve found the most important things I’ve discovered have been away from the classroom, or lecture-theatre if you want to be technical, but instead enrooted within the wider ‘Diff.

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I’ve learnt that The Grazing Shed serves the best burgers known to man; that many notable people are eager to visit Cardiff, from Asia’s first supermodel Tracy Trinita to The Chuckle Brothers to Scott Disick of Kardashians fame; the truth in the well-established stereotype that Cardiff Uni students consume a lot of chips; and not to mention some of my most crucial life lessons to date. I feel in this mere half a year, Cardiff is where I’ve most matured as a person. I’ve met and mixed with totally new groups and individuals – partly because far more opportunities are available here, secondly because I’m more willing to expand my personal horizons. I love being involved in uni events, but think it’s easy as a student, particularly during first year, to stay trapped within the comforting, non-literal walls of the university domain. However, I’ve found Cardiff’s general city vibe, and even that of its suburbs, astonishingly welcoming. Beyond uni, I’ve launched myself into new ventures such as fundraising for Shine, the cancer support group I met while here; attending Highfields Church; getting a job here; learning the art of pilates; and being shortlisted to interview stage with NUS and the BBC.

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I’ve always supported multiculturalism, but Kidderminster, my former town, isn’t particularly diverse, considering how close it is to Birmingham, which is home to many different communities. So for me, life in the Welsh capital has opened my eyes to just how many varying origins of people Britain accommodates – and I think that’s a wonderful thing to witness. In September, I began volunteering with STAR, teaching refugees seeking asylum in Cardiff skills such as English, in order to improve their prospects away from their native lands. There’s a palpable irony in the fact that teaching others has actually taught me the most important thing – the real joy of giving back to members of the community I’ve found myself a part of. And I have Cardiff’s essence to thank for supplying me with such life lessons.

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OK, Cardiff isn’t perfect. But if its biggest flaws are Hoffi Coffi never seeming to stock their salad boxes; silverfish dominating Talybont; and the, er, odd bit of rain, I think we’re in for a good deal.

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Ellie Philpotts is in her first year at Cardiff University studying English Literature, Journalism and Media. She is  a teenage-cancer survivor; is obsessed with travelling, and her favourite cities outside Cardiff are being Sydney, NYC, Nashville and Paris. Her ‘likes’ also include general Britishness, cups of tea, exploring, attempting to write songs, journalism, Italian food, finding new places, going out for dinner and taking photos – of everything. She is not a fan of maths, mashed potato, narrow minded people, her phone constantly running out of memory for photos, or people who are mean about Taylor Swift. Follow her blog or Instagram.

All photos by Ellie Philpotts

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