All posts by Hana Johnson

‘Ride me all day’ bus advert gets We Are Cardiff really angry – ads are withdrawn!

‘Ride me all day’ bus pisses everyone off on a rainy Cardiff Monday morning

I was cycling down Cowbridge Road this morning, feeling very pleased with myself for not puking in the dentist’s chair, when I got stuck behind this bus:

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It said lots of things to me. It said that, in 2015, an advertising agency and ‘family-run’ company still found it acceptable to run this ad. It said that a bus journey needs to be sexualised in order to sell itself. It said that prostitution is something to be trivialised and joked about.

What it didn’t say is: “this company is for people like you”.

It was aggressive, offensive and impolite. After I tweeted about it at 9.30, we had literally hundreds of responses. Not from ‘bleeding heart, whiney liberals’, but from people who didn’t want this kind of advertising shoved in their face first thing in the morning.

We then found out that the company receive Welsh Government funding, and run school buses.

With our following of 30,000 people, we try not to use We Are Cardiff to express opinions, but we felt like we had an obligation to the women and men of the city to call this company out on the commodification of a woman’s body, and the trivialisation of prostitution.

The story was covered by the Guardian, the Huffington Postthe Independentthe Mirror, Western Mail and ITV, and by the Everyday Sexism campaign. Even the Daily Mail and Daily Star reported it! As a result of such incredible pressure, the company told Cardiff MP Stephen Doughty that it was a ‘misjudgement’, and that the adverts would be withdrawn within the day.

The company made a statement saying that the “objectives have been to make catching the bus attractive to the younger generation”. Do young people buy stuff because it uses prostitution as a marketing tool? We don’t think so!

Well done, people of Cardiff (and everywhere else), for making your voice heard and getting results.

Moral of the story: GET ANGRY AND GET SOMETHING DONE! Never stay quiet!!!

Big love from your We Are Cardiff women – Hana & Helia x

 

 

We Are … Changing!

We Are Cardiff is five years old. Can you believe it?? In that time, we’ve published over 400 articles, racked up nearly 300,000 views and we have 30,000 followers on social media.

The Guardian chose us as one of the best city blogs in the world. We won the People’s Choice Award at the Wales Blog Awards. We made a film. We made a radio documentary. We’ve had exhibitions and a stage at Swn festival. We even have an official sister site in We Are Chester.

Now, we are changing …

We’ve already mentioned that we’ll soon be launching a small press called We Are Cardiff Press. Based on that, we thought we’d try and refine what we’re doing a bit. So here’s what we’ve decided!

The We Are Cardiff site will be split into four brand new, easy to see categories:

  • The People: featuring the personal stories that we’ve been documenting for five years;
  • The City: historical and documentary posts about the city, and local campaigns;
  • The Arts: reviews, interviews and all the news on music, art, photography, performance and film: and
  • What’s On: ever-popular events listings and previews of upcoming awesome things.

The site will continue to feature factual, ‘people-powered’ blog posts with minimal editorial oversight. We will aim to commission more work, but focused around these four categories. Helia will pretty much be in charge of all of this stuff, and Hana will still be running the Twitter feed.

The We Are Cardiff Press will publish beautiful, collectable books to showcase new creative work from Cardiff, which could be literature, art, photography or personal storytelling. It will have a stronger editorial influence to ensure that the quality of the physical end product is incredibly high. Content from the books will not be available online, only in the limited edition books, bought online or in selected retailers in the city. Hana is running the Press, which will be announcing its first publication very, very soon…

We are so excited about the future, and looking for MORE writers, photographers, historians, artists, campaigners, citizens, musicians, businesses, performers, experts and EVERYONE ELSE to feature on the site or in our books, films and everything! If you want to be featured on the website, get in touch on wearecardiff@gmail.com, and if you have any questions about the Press, contact hello@wearecardiffpress.co.uk.

We can’t wait to fill the next five years with Cardiff stories.

Big love

Helia and Hana xx

Photo by Simon Ayre
The We Are Cardiff joy monkeys, photographed by the wonderful Simon Ayre

Can you dig it? Canton community garden opening party!

The bees were partying this morning at the official opening of Canton’s community garden! Canton Grows Wild are a group of residents who are turning various plots around Canton into community gardens, with the permission of the council.

Seed bombs, bee hotels and cake were the order of buzzness (sorry, couldn’t resist)this morning, and the garden is already looking great. If you’d like to get muddy, get yourself down to Lansdowne Road, just near the pub, at 10am every Saturday.

Check out Canton Grows Wild’s Facebook page or Twitter to keep up to date with how the garden grows. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with community environmental activist and all-round local hero Gareth Sims garethcsims@gmail.com.

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Photos by Hana & James

Cirkopolis at the Millennium Centre: fast, funny, sexy and unmissable

Cirque Éloize’s Cirkopolis turns greyscale to technicolour in a heartpounding performance that traverses circus, dance, comedy and theatre. 

With echoes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and 1984, even flashes of The Hudsucker Proxy, the show portrays a drab, grey world punctuated with joy and colour. Mechanical movements and tightly-performed dance routines make way for fluid, effortless acrobatics within a few minutes and it doesn’t lose pace for the entire 90 minutes. 

From an electro-swing Andrews Sisters-style juggling routine, to the solitary, mesmerising cyr wheel, the first half is incredible. It also includes the sexiest German wheel performance that you’ll ever see (I guarantee).

Photo credit: Cirque Eloize

If it’s even possible, the second half is better. It begins with a perfect tandem trapeze routine (I’ve been learning trapeze for half a year, and I don’t think audiences really appreciate just how hard it is to make it look so easy!). 

The Chinese pole performance was easily the best of the night- the twirling, fast-paced climbs and HUGE drops harvested so many gasps from the audience that I’m surprised there weren’t a few asthma attacks. The three primary performers didn’t make one wrong move, and did it all in time to banging music. This scene is worth the ticket price alone. 

The finishing routine, complete with seesawing, flying acrobats is fast, perilous and fun, just like the rest of the show. None of it wears thin, and the whole thing passed in an instant because of its unfaltering magnetism.

The CGI scenery gives the set a depth that I’ve never seen on stage before – from rising skyscrapers during the handstand tower to the twisting door panels in the comedy interlude.

There is little to complain about- the performance was essentially flawless but for a few imperceptible hiccups, and the music is hit and miss. 

Don’t miss your chance to see the show, which is on at the WMC until Saturday. You’ll never look at office furniture the same again…

From Cardiff to Istanbul and back, on a bike

In 2012, John Chick decided to ditch his job in Cardiff for a few months and bike to Istanbul…. nope, he wasn’t escaping the law, he was raising money for charity. On 28 March, he released an e-book documenting this adventure, and within a couple of days it made it into the Kindle top ten cycling books! Today, he tells us a bit about how the bike ride became a best-selling book. Kind of.

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Writing a book about my adventures rolling around Europe’s less travelled roads was never on the cards at the inception of the 10,000k challenge. The ‘challenge’ of the title was supposed to reflect the difficulties of a solo bike ride from Cardiff to Istanbul and back. That, as it transpired, was the easy part – the cycling turned out to be an extended holiday with me sauntering across the continent, getting lost, getting sunburnt and getting drunk with friendly locals (repeat to fade).

It would be more accurate however to say that the challenge actually refers to two other things: raising £1 for every kilometre that I cycled for local charities; and finally putting pen to paper – or rather finger to keyboard – and capturing the adventure for posterity.

I always anticipated that the fundraising was going to be a difficult slog, the real challenge where my mental fortitude and resilience were to be tested. In the year before I set off, I spent countless hours on a variety of cunning plans to try and persuade, bribe, cajole, or emotionally blackmail people into parting with their cash. In return, all I could offer was that they could avoid having a guilty conscience for a short while. And maybe a raffle ticket.

Selling emotional salvation though isn’t an easy gig but luckily there are some energetic, optimistic, creative people out there who, unlike me, are fantastic at this kind of thing. Even more fortunately, I managed to round up a gang of them to support me. The result was that we eased passed the £10,000 target not long after I set off and finally raised over £15,000 by the time I sauntered back. Every penny I should point out, as was our mantra, went to charity.

A decidedly short while after returning however, when the pain of the fundraising and the joy of the cycling had diminished, I decided to submit to underwhelming public demand and ‘publish my memoirs’. This, it has to be said, sounds rather grand and was also very optimistic on my part. Up until that point, the sum of my written body of work extended to signing birthday cards and scribbling notes around the house telling the kids to tidy up while I was in work. I immediately wondered if I actually knew enough words to fill a book (personal research revealed that you need at least 60,000, but fortunately you can use the same word more than once).

Apparently everyone has a good book inside them and so maybe the story of cycling to Istanbul and back would be mine. The motivation of course would be to share my experiences with the world, leave a permanent record of my adventures and demonstrate my literary credentials. And become rich.

I had kept brief notes on my smart phone during the trip which could possibly form the basis of a book but converting the excited ramblings of an endorphin-fuelled and occasionally drunken cyclist into any sort of coherent order was another matter. Most cycle-touring books are written by cyclists who write, as opposed to writers who have cycled. Unfortunately, I am neither cyclist nor writer, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I envisaged knocking off the novel in a month or two, then kicking back and watching the royalties flowing in.

The final book!
The final book!

When you’re a kid, you dream of being a racing driver or a ballet dancer, maybe an astronaut. As an adult, in my experience, people dream of opening a coffee shop somewhere exotic or maybe writing a best seller. In this technological age however, the opportunity to actually be a real live novelist is open to any of us who have access to a PC and a modicum of imagination – it’s like the new punk, anyone can do it! Although again like punk, there is no quality control and for every Clash, there are many thousands of Crispy Ambulances and Stinky Toys.

As I write, I have just finished the long ordeal of having my work re-written, deconstructed and rebuilt, and then battled my way past the Amazon survey process which bizarrely included a check that I am paying the correct amount of income tax. Amazon being in charge of income tax checks is akin to putting McDonalds in charge of a healthy eating initiative. After Amazon had conscientiously ensured that I wasn’t avoiding my tax obligations, my crack IT team (daughter and her boyfriend) then suffered endless formatting problems as we converted a Word document into the correct format for web publication.

The book has finally just been published and its already been read hundreds of time! Unfortunately each time by me as I corrected and re-corrected things I had earlier missed, ad nauseum. After two days sales, my son proudly informed me that it was at number 503,114 in the worldwide eBooks best sellers list. Never mind encouraged my wife, it’ll be different tomorrow. She was right. I was at 613, 438. It may be a while before I can add writing a resignation note to my oeuvre.

You can download the 10,000k challenge e-book for just £2.49 here: 10,000k challenge

Paper Aeroplanes – luminescent folk, guaranteed to bring you joy: review and interview

Paper Aeroplanes
Paper Aeroplanes

Cwtching snugly between the sounds of Laura Marling, Feist and Marika Hackman, Paper Aeroplanes are easily one of the best alternative folk bands in Wales at the moment. Their fourth album, Joy, is released on 8 April, which was written and recorded in Cardiff with the help of producer Mason Neely (Cerys Matthews, Sufjan Stevens). The band are gearing up for a 30 date European tour to promote the album, which heads to France, Switzerland and Germany before returning to the UK with a date at Clwb Ifor Bach on 16 May.

Joy is a, ahem, joy. I have to admit that their comparison to Lykkie Li didn’t enthuse me about the sound of this band. But this album is not unrelentingly mournful- quite the opposite. It sweeps you up in a breeze through rolling 80s beats (Good Love Lives On) to sparkling folk (Race You Home), and from cute, dreamy pop (Books and Joy) to haunting pianos (Caravan). It soars from being shimmeringly upbeat to powerfully atmospheric, all with a surprising depth. The flourishes of synths, strings and pianos are a welcome addition to Sarah Howells’ delicate (but never weak) voice. Richard Llewellyn’s masterful guitar shines through on tracks like Race You Home with echoes of John Martyn and Bert Jansch.

This album is a joyful celebration of unconditional love, making stories and finding warmth from the cold. Steeped in the salt-tinged air of West Wales, but with the unmistakeable influence of Cardiff’s diverse music scene, Joy is guaranteed to a be a hit.

*****

We caught up with the band’s Cardiff-based guitarist Rich Llewellyn for a quick Q&A.

Q. What was the last book you read?

A.  Intermission by Owen Martell. A contemplative, fictional shortish story which takes a little-documented part of the life of jazz pianist Bill Evans as its starting point. I’ve also been reading The Rough Guide to Germany so I can appear knowledgeable during our forthcoming tour.

Q. Tell us a secret.

A. I have a crush on posh BBC4 historian, Lucy Worsley.

Q. What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?

A. For an old-fashioned hearty fry up, Café Fresco in Canton.

Q. What’s your local pub?

A. The Lansdowne – great beers, lovely staff and 2 minutes from my front door.

Q. Tell us about a hidden part of Cardiff that you love. 

A. There’s a place I like to escape to when I need to clear my head, which is a very short drivefrom Canton. Countryside walk, feels like you’re miles away from the city. I can’t tell you where it is though, because then you’d go there too.

Q. If you had some friends coming to visit for the weekend, where would you take them?

A. Lilo’s Grill on city road. Great juices, tasty meze and a platter of grilled meats and rice for everyone to share.

Q. What’s the next gig that you’ll be going to in Cardiff?

A. We’re away touring a lot over the next couple of months but I’ve just seen that Chris Wood is playing in St David’s Hall in June, so I’ll definitely be getting tickets for that.

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Joy is released on 8 April on Diverse records. Photo from Paper Aeroplanes.

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

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

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

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

Exhibition organiser Gareth Sims said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you need for your first microadventure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyday adventure: escaping the routine

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

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

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

Off the beaten track

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

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

That’s when I told Anna about Alastair.

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

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

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

“Let’s do it!”

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

“But yes, let’s do it!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, let’s do it!”

So, what’s stopping you?

This article was originally published on Bethan’s blog.

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Get your folk on for future generations!

Folk for future generationsA group of musicians will be holding a gig on Friday 5 December at Koko Gorillaz in Cathays asking for a strong sustainable development law for Wales in the shape of the Well-Being of Future Generations Bill.

Folk for Future Generations will feature a number of local folk acts and is being held to support the Sustainable Development Alliance’s campaign for a stronger bill. The Alliance is a group of nearly 30 Welsh charities and NGOs.

The night will be a call to action by concerned members of the public who want to tell the Welsh Government that they want Wales to be a truly sustainable nation and want a law that addresses issues such as international impacts, living within environmental limits, and setting legally binding carbon reduction targets.

Event organiser, Gareth Sims, said:

“It will be a great night with some very talented musicians playing. We would like to invite as many people as possible to attend and be a part of the campaign to make Wales a truly sustainable nation that prioritises the well-being of people, communities and the environment. 

The people of Wales are becoming increasingly concerned about these issues and want the Government to take urgent and robust action.”

The musicians playing are Harri Davies and band, Aled Rheon, Kirk Morgan and the Dock Town Pearls, and Art Bandini.  Local artists and photographers will also be displaying environmentally themed pieces of work.  The night will start at 7pm at Koko Gorillaz, Miskin Street, Cathays. Tickets are £4 in advance. 

For more information contact Gareth Sims on garethcsims@foe.co.uk

We Are Cardiff Press

We have a very exciting announcement over here at We Are Cardiff towers…. we’re launching a small press!

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The We Are Cardiff Press will publish collections of writing and art from creators in our city, from fiction to photography, and illustrations to poetry.

Our first book is something we’ve been working on for a little while, and will be published in early 2015….

We’ll also be taking submissions for future publications very soon! For more information about the Press or the book, contact Hana on hana@wearecardiffpress.co.uk.

Keep your eyes on the website peeled for more updates…