Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from a friend of ours, who has been working as a counsellor through the pandemic, helping ease those addled minds. We’re still open for stories, so if it’s taken you a while to put it together, it’s all good with us – please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown.
“Oh zoom, you chased the day away
High noon, the moon and stars came out to play……”. Zoom 1982
“Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video conferencing “. Zoom 2020
“A brand of carbonated soft drink produced in South Wales”. Corona 1982
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing infectious diseases”. Corona 2020
In 1982, I was training to be a teacher and living in London.
In 2020, I had been a counsellor for thirty three years and was living in Cardiff.
I had spent the whole of my career meeting with people face to face in a variety of different rooms and settings and feeling enormously privileged to be able to do so.
Then … the world changed! Along came a global pandemic, forcing most of us to make changes to how we work and live. Many of these were eloquently described in “Letters from Lockdown “ which I really enjoyed reading last year.
I was also forced into finding other ways of being able to continue my counselling work and support my existing clients as well as offering a service to new ones.
Zoom was installed on my laptop and a new phase of my counselling work began, not without some trepidation. I worried about connections, both emotional and technological. What would be achievable working this way and would it be good enough?
I’ve had the good fortune to be able to access the counselling rooms I normally share with my two colleagues throughout this time.
Their situations and distance from our base have meant them working entirely from home so I’ve had the place to myself, which has felt very strange and rather lonely. A laptop stand and a comfy office chair were installed in one of the counselling rooms and my work online began.
I’ve been out of the house five days a week, dressed in my normal clothes and smelling of perfume (I feel weird without it) and garlic.
I realised early on that I didn’t have to limit my intake, as I usually do – an unexpected benefit!
So … same clothes, same hours, same rooms, just – no clients in the rooms!
All on screens or on the phone.
They see me in my usual working environment but I see them in very different surroundings – in their homes, their offices, their cars, their sheds. I see them in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms.
I’ve seen a few people in their beds!
People in their pyjamas. Men without shirts. Lots of lounge wear.
I’ve seen peoples’ partners, children, pets. Lots of pets. Cats, dogs, geckos, snakes and a parrot ( all bringing comfort and companionship to their owners).
Delivery drivers have interrupted sessions on a regular basis.
I’ve travelled to other countries with people whose professional or personal lives have taken them far and wide. To Poland, the Balearic Islands, Turkey.
I’ve spoken with people in London and Edinburgh.
Previously, I would not have considered continuing to support people as they moved cities or countries and that already seems rather strange!
My clients have generally been marvellously adaptable, embracing Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp video with ease and we have made the most of it together. People are saying that they like the flexibility it will give them ongoing; they will be able to choose between attending in person (increasingly happening now) or from some other convenient location.
Some people will appreciate not having to travel, negotiating trains, buses or parking spaces. Most people however are missing being able to step out of their lives and into the safe space of the counselling room, with the physical presence of another.
At a time when lots of people have been struggling to feel connected to others, I have been enormously privileged to be so very connected to so many.
There’s been a new dimension to “seeing into peoples’ lives” as I have seen into their homes too!
I have also seen peoples’ goodness and kindness find new expression as they have shopped for their neighbours, shared their food, made donations to various causes and taken sunflower plants to a hostel for the homeless.
I have experienced , as always, peoples’ resilience, tested now in new ways.
I have learned that it’s possible to achieve a depth of connection online that I would not have thought possible previously, not only with people I have met in person but also with people I’ve only ever met onscreen.
My preferred way of working will always be “in the room” but much can be achieved online as people bravely work through the things that trouble them and trust me with their fears, anxieties, griefs and traumas. They share their achievements, their hopes and fears, their courage and humour just as they would in the room and as always, I have loved my work throughout.
On a very shallow level, I have learned how to apply a Zoom “improve my appearance “ filter.
This makes me a little concerned about meeting people in person. “My god,” they’ll think. “She’s aged. And she stinks of garlic”.
Is giving in your blood? We need to give at least 350 donations of blood everyday to keep up with demand from hospitals in Wales. Did you know that a single donation can be broken down into its different components, so it can be used in various ways? These components all have differing life spans, which is why it’s important that we keep on giving! This is how long different parts of your blood will last after donation…
Platelets/White cells – 7 days
Red Cells – 35 days
Plasma can be frozen for up to two years.
Crazy blood stats, right??
Someone somewhere in Wales needs your help – they need your blood! The process usually takes around 15 minutes, and the Welsh Blood Service always have a full staff of very nice people on hand to accompany you through every part of the process, so there’s no need to be nervous!
Also when you’re done you get to enjoy a cup of squash and a Club! (*other sweet treats are also available, but my personal favourite is a Mint Club, in case anyone’s wondering)…
The Welsh Blood Service aims to have at least seven days worth of different blood types in stock. As you can see, a couple of different blood types are low …
Today’s article comes from Emma Mae Greaves, and includes an invitation for you to join the Immersed! festival this weekend!
How USW students created an online music festival under the shadow of COVID-19
The music industry has found itself in dire straits for the past few months. With live music gone, collaboration at a minimum, and our precious venues closing left, right and centre, morale amongst creatives has been at an all-time low. However, behind the scenes of 2021’s all-new Immersed! Festival we’ve been experiencing something amazing in all of this madness; hope; and this is something we endeavour to share with our viewers this weekend when they finally get to see Immersed! Festival 2021 in all of its virtual glory. Immersed! takes place this weekend (30/31 January) for free! And you can find out everything you need from our Immersed! linktree.
Streaming (for free, by the way – links at the bottom of this article) from the Immersed! YouTube and Twitch accounts as per the new normal, viewers will get to experience a truly immersive music festival from the comfort of their own homes, all in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust and the #saveourvenues movement. To support this, each performance was specially filmed in venues across Cardiff, and in artists’ bedrooms all across the globe. The students at the University of South Wales that are behind this event have definitely triumphed over adversity, and to do so in the midst of such a critical situation for live music throughout Wales, as well as for the worthy causes we’re supporting, is a fantastic achievement that each and every one of us should be proud of.
From adapting to solely online communication, maintaining a Covid-safe environment, and strictly abiding by lockdown rules, the hurdles in the race the Immersed team have had to jump this year have been higher than ever before, and we’ve been running with weights on our ankles the entire time.
However, though we’re tired, and some of us stressed, hope for a musical future is in the air – with a line-up of nearly 50 incredible acts, six virtual stages, and a massive 200 USW students involved in the creation and delivery of this award-worthy festival. That’s pretty incredible.
In September, when Immersed! 2021 began as a concept in the empty halls of the University of South Wales, it presented itself as more of a huge floating question mark than a festival. But by the start of October, this giant bundle of confusion had actually become something tangible. We had all these ideas, all of this research, and most importantly; we had a plan. This was a plan driven by the music we’re now bringing you, from up-and-coming artists such as Adwaith, Otto, Mace the Great, Yasmine & The Euphoria, Chroma, Telgate, as well as a vast selection of the Libertino Records roster including Bandicoot, KEYS and Papur Wal, among many more.
It was a plan driven by the inspiration we took from Tumi Williams (aka. Skunkadelic), Sam Dabb (Le Pub and #saveourvenues) and Sarah Cole (#wemakeevents co-ordinator for Wales) in our talks with them throughout this process. It was a plan driven by a simple message that is now the backbone of the Immersed concept: we are Cardiff, and we are vital. Though this plan changed drastically over the course of putting Immersed! together, it’s still, in my opinion, the most impressive product of teamwork I’ve ever seen, and for third year university students – music students no less – this is a HUGE feat.
This sense of teamwork reigned massively over the production of this festival. We all had our roles, and we all (well, most of us) carried them out with perfectly professional practice. The festival scene is something we’re all accustomed to in one form or another but experiencing one from this side of the music has been like stepping into an entirely new world – one which the pandemic has rendered unrecognisable anyway. Nonetheless we embraced it, as we imagined, produced, filmed, programmed, promoted and looked forward to a whole weekend full of true talent, a genuine celebration of Cardiff’s diversity, and a whole lot more online wonder that has exponentially broadened our hopes for the future. We’re genuinely excited to share Immersed! 2021 with the world.
It’s been a long few months of unanswered emails, uncomfortable ‘please-promote-us’ phone calls, and fourteen hour days filming sets in amazing venues across Cardiff such as Tramshed, Cultvr Lab, and Frontal Lobe Warehouse. But now, we’ve got a whole bank of industry email contacts ready for us to utilise, we can actually pick up the phone and order a takeaway without panicking about what to say, and we saw more bands play in our days spent filming than we have in the last three years. It’s been one hell of a ride, and an insanely rewarding one at that. So, here we are. We’ve made it to the home stretch, and as one final push from me to you I say this: please watch what we’ve been working so hard for.
Enter the festival via the Immersed 2021 Linktree (in our Instagram bio, and on our website). Immersed! begins on Friday at 8pm with a long-awaited workshop from Grammy-award-winning producer High Contrast. We hope to see you there.
It remains to this day one of the most read pieces on the We Are Cardiff site, and I am still emailed occasionally by people who have found the post while researching their family history, and have found their way to Newtown.
Mary was Chair and Co-founder of the Newtown Association, an organisation set up in 1996 to record the history of the Newtown community and to keep its memory alive. We’re grateful to her for sharing her memories of the lost neighbourhood of Newtown, and for setting up the Association, who have managed to reconnect a lot of people with distant relatives and family friends from the past.
For those of you interested in paying your respects, the funeral cortege will be visiting the Newtown Memorial Garden on Tyndall Street, on Monday 23 November 2020 around 11:15am.
If you do want to visit, please respect physical distancing rules and allow space around the memorial garden for members of the family. There is limited parking in the area, so we recommend parking at the top of Bute Street and walking over (it’s around a five minute walk from there).
If you’re unable to visit, the funeral will be at 10:30am on Monday morning, and will be streamed (there are strictly limited numbers allowed into the building). Link to the funeral livestream.
For those wanting to send flowers, please consider donating to Kidney Wales instead. The family have set up a JustGiving page to help fundraise for Kidney Wales, an independent charity whose provision of services depends on donations and fundraising events. Unfortunately due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19, a lot of those fundraising events have been cancelled or postponed meaning that a lot of funding that Kidney Wales was depending on is now uncertain. Please help the family support their work during this time of crisis by donating in memory of Mary: JustGiving – In memory of Mary Sullivan.
Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Rhian Pitt, of Cardiff Indie Collective. Although lockdown is lifting, we’re still open for stories, so if it’s taken you a while to put it together, it’s all good with us – please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown.
I’ve had three babies to tend to in lockdown.
One is your classic human shaped one with squishy thighs and a dribbly mouth. She was two months old when we entered lockdown. I had only just mastered leaving the house before the announcement was made and we were instructed not to do so. All of a sudden, the four walls of our house was the only world she knew. Sometimes I wonder the impact of it. She recently finished meeting the grandparents. They cried when they held her. So did she. The only other people to hold her since March were PPE clad nurses jabbing a needle into her leg. Lockdown lifting must be blowing her mind – all these people, places.
I won’t use this space to vent my woes of lost maternity leave – other people have been through much worse – and in many ways it was a positive experience, forcing me to slow down and connect with her in a way that ‘normal life’ wouldn’t have allowed, but it was solitary.
Me, my baby and the dog became a unit. We ate together, napped together, exercised together. As my partner left for work every morning we would stay at home. Together. Every day.
That’s my second baby, the dog. A hyperactive collie who is a lover of the great outdoors and a park snob. She was quite possibly the most affected in our household. Just two months earlier she had been pushed into second rank by the arrival of the baby – then all of a sudden we were at home all day, cramping her style, sitting in the armchair that she usually commandeered. It was very hard for her to come to terms with the five mile rule. No more mountains, beaches, open spaces, lakes (she treats Roath Lake like it’s a dirty puddle). The genuine disappointment on her face as we rocked up at Splott Park was palpable. She cottoned on and started digging her heels in like an overtired toddler, refusing to walk as I grappled to get her and baby out the house. She would wriggle out of her harness and hide under the coffee table, her legs quivering at the thought of having to walk past groups of teenagers who were struggling to grasp the concept of social distancing, sprawled over the pathways and smoking fragrant cigarettes. She found the clapping for carers a bit overwhelming.
We must’ve looked like a household lacking in enthusiasm for the carers – quite the opposite, it was incredibly emotional and a clap didn’t quite express the gratitude – but my partner and I had to take it in turns representing on our doorstep while the other had to play the radio really loudly and prance around distracting the dog. It was worse than bonfire night.
My third baby has been a project – a business, a social media campaign, a crowdfunder. It’s called Cardiff Indie Collective and is, if you hadn’t guessed, a collective of Cardiff’s independent businesses. The idea is to showcase them all in one space – many of us follow a select few on social media – but how good would it be to have one space where you can see them all together?
Lockdown has helped to highlight the fact that lots of us would like to shop more locally (Instagram even introduced a shop local tag), but it’s hard if you don’t know where to start.
From the businesses’ perspective, it’s about widening their audience, creating a support network for them to tap into, being a collective voice for when their own needs to be louder.
The plan for this started a couple of years ago when I instigated the ‘Cardiff Gift Exchange’. With the help and support of Business Wales the plan evolved and things got moving while I was pregnant – a slow thought out process – and then BOOM, covid struck and suddenly local businesses were screaming out for help – so it got propelled forward at 100mph – the Crowdfunder was a success with nearly 40 local businesses getting involved. We’ve raised enough money to get a website built, get some super eco-friendly loyalty cards produced, and do some marketing.
Shopping has changed, eating out has changed – but let’s take this opportunity to pull together and turn it into a positive change by helping our independents. You can sign up to our mailing list to hear about the launch at the Cardiff Indie Collective website.
Things I’ve learned from lockdown:
My dog is a great listener. She has been by my side daily and made it less lonely.
Starting a business with a newborn baby is hard – but when you can’t hang out at awkward baby groups, spend your days in cafes or hanging with the grandparents, then it is a welcome distraction from nappies and dribble.
My parents feel really far away. Four months of Whatsapp videos of the baby sleeping/eating/crying/pooing just isn’t the same as a hug.
Talking to adults during the day is very important. My vocabulary has reduced by approximately two percent, and forming sentences has become more challenging. When the postman strikes up a conversation I feel like I am in GCSE French oral exam.
Being at home all day on your own with a baby doesn’t feel natural. My partner used to come home from work to find the dog sitting in the window waiting. Now he finds me next to her doing the same thing. We are sociable creatures built on communities -we haven’t evolved to be alone at home every day.
I am so grateful to live with someone. To have a partner. To have a baby. The importance of human touch on mental wellbeing is profound.
Thanks Rhian, and good luck with your three babies! Follow Cardiff Indie Collective in the following places:
On the weekend of the UK’s first socially distanced festival at Gisburne Park, the music industry is in a state of uncertainty and mass disruption. Rising from the ashes of the digital apocalypse caused by file sharing and damage to physical sales in the 2000s, last year the UK music scene had grown to one of the most lucrative in the world, contributing over £5bn to the economy every year. Where artists once gigged to promote their new music, there has been a shift to releases generating ticket sales and contributing up to 70 per cent of a musician’s income, as fans flock to concerts and to buy merch. The UK has incredible international standing for both its vibrant festivals and creative talent.
Fast forward to today. Music events are cancelled, artists are struggling, the supply chain has collapsed and 90 per cent of music venues could face permanent closure. Many small limited companies and freelancers have been completely excluded from any funding, grant or support, including being furloughed. There is no current live music ‘industry’, and navigating the future means dealing with multiple complex issues. It’s clear that by its very nature live music will be the last industry to reopen, so the question is – can the sector survive? And if so, how? No one saw this coming …
But is this an opportunity to drive change and reshape the industry, specifically regarding how streaming income is shared out between different stakeholders? Low payouts to artists have been a cause for concern since Spotify launched in 2008. The Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy have called for the government to intervene. The UK government’s Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has been called to “investigate how the market for recorded music is operating in the era of streaming to ensure that music creators are receiving a fair reward”.
We are a long way from the 1994 Monopolies and Mergers Commission’s Investigation of the UK Music Market, which was prompted over concern about the high price of CDs and the huge associated profits being made. Post the heady heights of HMV and Virgin retailing, the shutdown of live music is a good time to put the spotlight back on the value of music and address perceptions of it being “free”.
The creative process has been further degraded by recent comments from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on the rate of album releases, stating it isn’t enough for artists to “record music once every three to four years”. The industry has to be nurtured, it does not serve to churn out hits, but when it does there, should be a comprehensive mechanism for monetisation.
Without doubt, the future will see a blended experience of live music; there is no substitute for physical connectivity, but there are opportunities to engage new audiences using technology. Covid-19 has accelerated this reach. In the first instance, barriers and obstacles to physical attendance at gigs have been removed, with virtual events opening up wider access, inclusivity and diversity. This has to be a good thing.
Going forward, forms of virtual access could run simultaneously to live festivals and gigs for those that can’t or don’t want to attend, ideally with interactive elements. There is a sense of fatigue surrounding live streams but new ground is being broken by events that can really bring a sense of “live”. Step forward Lost Horizons (3-4th July 2020) a fully interactive festival attracting 4.36m viewers, from over 100 countries which took place over six stages built-in VR events platform Sansar. More than 70 DJs and artists, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Frank Turner, performed and those who attended the festival in Sansar could visit six virtual worlds, with nine camera angles apiece, purpose-built for the occasion.
While it’s not everyone’s bag, and there can never be a replacement for the energy of physical live music, my mind turns to next-generation gig goers, the ones more used to inhabiting virtual worlds. Video games have been an important platform for discovering and consuming music since the early 1990s, and there’s an entire generation of players that owe their music tastes to games such as FIFA, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Grand Theft Auto. Virtual concerts are the next logical step in the relationship between video games and music and there’s certainly an appetite with more than 12 milliontuning in for Travis Scott’s ‘Fortnite’ event. Gaming platforms have the capacity to reach millions as well as generate creative new forms of consumer consumption.
There’s plenty of food for thought and experiments already underway, but the horizon can’t all be about tech. At some point, the industry needs to get back on its organic feet and we must ensure that the music industry ecosystem remains when the pandemic has finally passed. Creativity, determination and passion in our community have driven numerous successful campaigns during Covid-19 that raise awareness of the resolute need for more support from the government so that the industry survives in these desperate times. The huge societal response demonstrates just how important music is to our economy, culture, wellbeing and heritage. It can’t be sidelined.
#SupportWelshBusiness. There, that’s pretty much it. It’s all there needs to be said about the economy in Wales right now. I could go on, in fact I am going to go on, but if you take one thing from this blog, it is that. Think of it as the TL/DR version.
For a five minute version, please watch the video below.
Completely separately, but entirely related to this is an opinion piece I stumbled across in the Financial Times recently. It posited the idea that UK governments should stop providing financial support to small and medium-sized businesses and concentrate on large-scale companies.
The argument was that SMEs are disposable and will be replaced, or replicated, while large national, or even multi-national companies, are plugged so deeply into the UK economy that they cannot afford to fail.
They employ more people, both directly and indirectly through supply chains or even whole communities built around one plant (Port Talbot being an example). And if they were to fail, tens of thousands of jobs would be lost and communities would never recover (see former coal mining towns in the valleys for further details).
This, the columnist concluded, could irreparably damage the UK economy, setting us back years and ultimately lead to another Great Depression, swarm of locusts and world-ending meteor strike. (I might have made the last two up).
The reasoning was reasonable, carefully worded and played very nicely to the audience it was intended for i.e. not small businesses, but business and political leaders. It was a lobbying piece.
Disrespectfully, I disagree, i.e. you can fuck right off son!
As a small business co-founder I may be slightly biased in my view, although no more or less biased than big business wanting more support for big business. But I find the notion that small businesses are disposable and easily replaceable as nonsensical as a fish playing tennis, with a jelly racquet, and a cannonball.
I offer you this POV. A coffee shop closes down, then a few weeks later another sprouts in its place or just across the road. Some jobs are lost, but they don’t affect whole towns, or countries. I get that.
But the argument ignores the wider issue. The person who lost their job at the coffee shop has to find another job. Because they weren’t working for a massive company there is little in the way of financial support, retraining, redeployment etc. No politicians are lobbying ministers on their behalf.
It is a very personal and very lonely experience. It impacts on their mental health, their family, their income. They may need to take another job quickly to make ends meet because they have bills to pay, families to feed. They can’t weigh up their options or follow their dreams. There is no time.
So they gratefully take a job when it is offered, even if it is a zero hours contract and they don’t know from one week to the next how much work they will have. They also can’t then get another job to work alongside because the hours vary.
They may hate the job, hate the company, the manager, the commute, the time away from their kids, or their studies. They may take a credit card, or a loan to get by, which eats into their monthly income, meaning the household budget is stretched even further. That brings increased stress and depression. They may not be able to work because of it and end up on benefits. And so the circle goes on and on and on. They are trapped.
When a big company fails, everybody hears about it. Everybody is sad and shocked and supportive. The TV cameras, radio mics and photographers are there to feast upon the misery. It is tweeted across the world. There are hashtags, gofundme pages, messages of solidarity, politicians looking solemn and concerned with their arms around upset workers and their families.
But if you lost your job in a coffee shop, none of this happens.
Now, multiply that one coffee shop by hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands.
Depending on which Google result you tap on, anything between 40-60 per cent of small businesses fail within their first five years.
One result claimed as many as 600, 000 small businesses could fail this year.
If that’s true, and I’m not saying it is because, y’know, the internet, if each of those business employed on average two people, that’s 1.2 million people out of a job.
So, Mr FT opinion writer, tell me that 1.2 million people out of a job isn’t going to have a profound effect on the economy. And of those theoretical 1.2 million, how many will have to take the first job offered and face a cycle of low-income, hand-to-mouth, increased pressure existence. And what is the longer term impact on the country in terms of financial support through benefits, social care, health care and loss of tax revenue through lower wages.
Big business likes to believe it takes longer term view of things, but its view is always very narrow, and self-focused. That’s not a completely negative thing, nor is it the sole preserve of big business. There are lots of businesses, organisations, people, politicians and governments which have similar views.
But without the broader view, without seeing the whole picture, without seeing not just one small business fail, but tens of thousands like it and the impact that brings, then we miss the opportunity to make things better and to end the cycle.
I’m not saying don’t support big business. They still employ millions of people across the country and have a massive role to play in our recovery. But I don’t think supporting big business over and above all others is a productive, rational or responsible thing to do.
Yes, small businesses fail, for many reasons, and yes, they can be replaced. But what are the longer-term, broader, cumulative effects on the nation? That’s why small businesses need support. That’s why we made this video. We met loads of really amazing people all doing their bit to support each other, their community, to do something different, or to do something in a different way.
Each of the businesses we featured was run by passionate, dedicated people who cared about more than the bottom line. And there are thousands of small businesses across Wales run by people who feel the same way. That can only be a positive thing for the economy and for communities.
That’s why we’ll be doing all we can to tell these wonderful stories, highlight these amazing people and support companies which are trying to make things better one small step at a time.
Alex Feeney is a co-founder and director of EatSleep Media, a production house which makes cracking content showing what an organisation is doing but in a way its target audience finds entertaining and informative. He also hosts the Accidental Startup podcast which tells the stories of entrepreneurs, their experiences, their decisions and what they have learned along the way. The Accidental Startup is available on Apple, Spotify and most other podcast providers. Follow EatSleep Media on Twitter.
Clwb Ifor Bach and a number of other Cardiff venues have joined other grassroot music venue across the UK in this campaign. They are asking for support for the music sector to survive the next three months (July, August, September), and for help to recover in the future.
Clwb and other Cardiff venues are asking fans to join the campaign by sharing the hashtags #saveourvenues and #dotherightthing across Facebook, Twitter and Instagam, along with the link to the open letter here.
Clwb also say:
“We would also like to thank you for your continued support and generosity throughout the past few months. It is the kindness that you’ve extended to us, as well as other grassroots venues in Cardiff and across the UK, that keeps us going. We now need the momentum of your support behind this campaign to put the necessary pressure on the UK government to listen to our concerns.”
Helia Phoenix has been trying to write this Letter from Cardiff in lockdownsince March! Better late than never. We’re looking for your stories, so please carry on sending in your letters for our series …
Early lockdown was extremely unsettling.
In weeks beforehand, we watched the death toll mount in other countries, while still being encouraged to go out and about our business, like nothing was wrong. My last outing in the default world was watching Jon Hopkins at the Forum in Bath – the tickets were a birthday gift last year. We deliberated hard on whether to go – I’m glad we did, I think. It was an amazing show, but with a strange, sour edge to it. The chat all around – in the loos, at the bar – everywhere – was virus related, in hushed tones, the early scenes from a 50s B-movie. “They think someone in Frome has caught it. It’s only a matter of time before it gets here.” After we came home (a week before anything was announced), I stopped going out. Unofficial lockdown began.
There was no stockpiling in our house. But I definitely added an extra couple of ‘essentials’ to each shop. Lentils, rice, UHT milk, that sort of thing, just in case. I tried to keep calm waiting in queues at the shops. People who hadn’t grasped the two metre rule stood too close to me. I felt breathless in my mask, bringing on panicky thoughts about infection, which made it even harder to breathe. Early lockdown was a strange and eerie time, where the radio and TV were still advertising shops being open and events taking place, like nothing had changed – except everything had changed. Shops were closed. Everything was cancelled, just like that.
I’ve been working from home since my office in the valleys was flooded back in February (remember the floods?? Storms Jorge and Dennis?? Ah, a simpler time). I’m essentially a desk monkey, so no frontline stress, but work was still hard. I forgot Mother’s Day. I ran out of meds. And I couldn’t drink, as I was on antibiotics. Like everyone, I think, I was a bit of a mess.
The one constant thing that’s got me through (and has got me through many other things in the past) was/is exercise. I found the fitbit I abandoned last year, and I walked, and I ran. I was actually originally going to structure this piece like a running route. But then I realised running was just one thing I’ve done during lockdown. I have done a lot of it, but again – it’s only one thing. I’m grateful for how AMAZING exercise is for everything – mental health, appetite, sleeping. If you’re feeling like crap and you don’t exercise, PLEASE consider doing something. If you want to run, I recommend doing the NHS couch to 5k. It’s a wonderful plan and hardly takes any time out of your day.
When it first starts, suddenly lockdown opens up the roads – for walkers and runners.
Once I exhausted routes around the Docks, I headed to town. Queen Street was empty, quiet, and creepy. Suddenly the rough sleepers are hypervisible. They’re not hidden in doorways, or confined to benches along the edge. They’re the central attraction, because they’re the only people still there.Neil Cocker wrote about this in his Letter from Lockdown, the first one we published.
On my runs through the city centre, I started changing up my route so I could pass by some of Cardiff’s clubs. Places I spent so much time in, through my life. Gwdihw and the other buildings are just facades now, hiding the scaffolding and gaping nothingness behind. Fuel has a heartfelt note on the door. Undertone. We will be back.The Moon – how many more times are we going to have to save The Moon??
Clwb Ifor Bach
I run past clubs long gone: the Hippo, now some offices; the Emporium, still empty; Club X, unrecognisable; Apocalypse / Vision 2k / Top Rank / The Forum / Astoria, depending on when you went there, which is now Matalan; and Dirtbox (remember Dirtbox??) – nothing more than skeletal remains – a stack of deserted slipper limpets, attached to the side of the good ship Clwb.
Venues close, venues open, promoters make money, or they go bust. People have a gutsfull, move away. Younger people are hungry, move toward. But right now, the universal outlook clubs and pubs everywhere is bleak. I sit on the Cardiff Music Board, and our first Zoom meeting is just as you’d expect it to be. Many venues aren’t set up for anything other than mass gatherings – they can’t reinvent themselves to sell food, or do drink takeaways. Some have no outdoor space at all. Without gigs, how can they survive? The scene in Cardiff has been through a lot in recent years. How is it going to survive this?
As well as being extremely unsettling, the first few weeks of lockdown were a revealing time. I, like all of you, I imagine, Zoom-fatigued myself on video calls with many people – work meetings, family, friends, my therapist. (Not even joking about the therapist part although it does sound like the punchline of a bad Woody Allen joke). A lot of them were people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in a long time, and it was wonderful to catch up. But none of that matched the wild ecstasy of genuinely accidentally bumping into friends when out on one of my walks. That is, I suppose, the beauty of Cardiff – you can’t swing a cat without smacking someone you know. We only stood and spoke for about five minutes – we were all mindful of the rules, and didn’t want to mix, even socially distanced, at that early time. But just that five minutes was enough to totally revive me. That’s the thing about face to face contact, to actually being there with someone. Nothing can beat it. That’s why watching streamed gigs, or plays, or anything, is never as good as being there in person. Humans vibrate together. We charge the atmosphere. Bodies in a place, taking up space.
This idea of ‘bodies in a space’ is something I think about a lot through lockdown. Firstly because of the mass gatherings thing – and my love of music, and working in tourism, I guess you could say my life revolves around mass gatherings of some kind. Secondly, because George Floyd dies after being arrested by police in America, and the world erupts in anti-racism protests.
Cardiff had its first socially distanced protest on the lawns at the front of Cardiff Castle. The speakers were invited from the crowd that gathered. They encouraged people to join unions. They denounced racism. And although some people questioned why we need these kinds of protests here, because “we aren’t America”, two mothers spoke about the systemic racism their children have faced in the UK, and continue to face, on a day to day basis – being pulled over in cars, stopped and searched, about how their families were targeted and abused and beaten by police when they were younger. One woman was in tears talking about how she worries daily about the safety of her son. Younger people spoke about being racially profiled and denied entry into clubs here in Cardiff. It’s sobering.
I spoke to a number of friends who support the cause, but don’t go to the protests. Some have young children, or other caring duties, and are worried about taking their charges with them, just in case something happens. Some are frontline workers, in social work or healthcare. Some just don’t feel comfortable protesting during a pandemic. Because so many people can’t, I feel it’s important that I do. I appreciate that I experience a lot of privilege, being a light skinned Middle Eastern person. My parents were born in Iran. We are an immigrant family. I walked to the BLM protests, a 20 minute stroll from my house. I wore my mask, was diligent with the hand sanitiser, and stayed socially distanced from people, as did everyone else I saw there. Listening to the speakers was a humbling experience. I’ve had plenty of racist stuff said to me over the years, but I’ve never felt like my life was in danger just for the colour of my skin. No one should ever have to feel like that.
As well as my first socially distanced protests, the lockdown has given me a couple of other ‘firsts’. I’ve always been grateful for where I live – a quiet but friendly street down the Docks (I am chastised constantly by people who’ve grown up here when I call it Butetown or Cardiff Bay). During lockdown we have our first socially distanced street parties, where I learn the electric slide. A swan gets stuck on our road on one very hot day, and me and a group of us usher it down the street and back into the river. Some enterprising neighbours set up a Whatsapp group for our street, and we are now all in an endless dance of lending tools and swapping plants and gifting books and baking cakes for each other. I love it.
I also cook Persian food properly for the first time. There’s a point during lockdown where I’m feeling really low and I just want things my mum used to cook for me when I was a kid. I’ve never been an eat-your-feelings person, but suddenly that’s ALL I want to do. I want to consume comfort from the past, gorge on an illusion of proximity to my family through herbs and naan lavash and citrusy stews. I cook for my household and cook extras for friends, thinking maybe we could all do with a bit of comfort food.
I feel so much and so hard for all the people living alone, struggling. People who have no one. I scour the internet for recipes and cook things I never thought I’d manage. I make tadig, for cripes sake! You can keep your sourdough starter. I got these zesty rice pies on the stove. (All the recipes I cook are from Persian Mama and come highly recommended.)
I start growing things – sunflower seedlings (they’re my favourite thing to grow) until the house is overrun with them. My partner and housemate request a plant amnesty, so the plants find a new home at the Salvation Army Hostel on Bute Street, where a couple of residents are looking to improve the grounds. (If you have any you’d like to donate, they’re still looking for plants). I borrow some kit from Keep Grangetown Tidy and hit the streets, picking up litter during my walks.
Also I eat my first Michelin starred birthday cake from Restaurant James Sommerin. It is delicious. (They’re still doing them, and so I suggest you go get some). I do my first online workouts. My favourite one is still Fridays at 5pm, when my kitchen becomes a dancefloor for the Bristol Drum & Bass workout.
Michelin starred cake!
I also give blood for the first time, which is one of the most insane things I have ever done. I ask if I can touch the bag before they ferry it off. IT IS STILL WARM, and it is a complete trip for me. I’ve been there for ten minutes, they’ve extracted a pint of blood out of me, given me some biscuits, and I’m essentially totally back to normal.
If anything, trying to write something coherent about my experience of lockdown has just proved how impossible it is to describe it as a cohesive experience. Because it hasn’t been one. I’ve loved a lot of things – the lack of traffic, working from home. I’ve hated not being able to see or hug people that I love. Queuing is annoying. Also, I’m really glad this happened in the spring and summer and not during a bleak wet winter.
Also, it’s made me really think about all of those times we get told that things just aren’t possible. It’s not possible for you to work from home. It’s not possible for us to “solve” homelessness. It’s not possible to do anything about child poverty. It’s not possible to curb our fuel emissions. Somehow these were all unsolvable problems, wrapped up in immutable systems.
So I guess that all those things were always possible. The will to do them just wasn’t there. Think about that. And please, next time there’s an election of any kind, GO AND VOTE, for the things that are most important to you.
Twelve weeks into lockdown. Our rules are relaxing. Reality is flexing. So before anything else happens, and I have to rewrite this entire thing again, I want to finish this off. Here it is. The end.
Also, I have to mention my doggy, Zelda. She’s a disabled greyhound. (She broke her back a while ago, it was a whole thing). She’s old and a bit knackered but she still gets around. Look at that smile. I love her.
I also want to give a BIG shout out to all the local independents that have kept me fed and watered during the lockdown. It’s great that the bigger chains are opening up again, but don’t forget to shop local, and support the independent scene!
(PLEASE NOTE! THIS PAGE WAS LAST EDITED 12 JUNE 2020. IT IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY UPDATED).
CARDIFF’S INDEPENDENT BUSINESSES – OPEN FOR DELIVERIES AND TAKEAWAYS!
We love independent businesses here at We Are Cardiff. They make up the soul of the city. At the moment loads of these businesses are super vulnerable, so below is a list of ways you can support some of the city’s indies!
This page will be updated regularly and things are changing every minute (!) so please comment on this post if you think something needs to be added or removed.
I’ve done this list by location just to make it easier for you to see who’s local to you. Some businesses are delivering across the city, some only within a small radius, some are streaming services online. Please check with the businesses for full deets.
If you are going into these stores, remember – only shop for essentials, don’t stockpile, don’t be a dick, PLEASE RESPECT GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES ON SAFE INTERACTIONS IN RETAIL ENVIRONMENTS. KEEP 2 METRES AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE, USE CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS IF YOU CAN ETC. AND WASH YOUR HANDS!!!
Multiple locations / delivery only
MAKE SURE TO CHECK THE CARDIFF DELIVERS WEBSITE FOR A FULL LIST OF BUSINESSES DELIVERING ACROSS THE CITY
Beanfreaks – organic / health food shop, store locations are city centre (St Mary Street) / Canton / Roath. Check for opening hours. Call 029 2025 1071 or Beanfreaks Facebook
Bruton’s Bakery – this AMAZING local bakery delivered free goodies up to the Heath hospital this week for the staff there. SHOP LOCAL AND SUPPORT THEM. Shops in Grangetown / Fairwater / Canton / Splott / Penarth. They have a website but are more active on Facebook: Bruton’s website | Bruton’s Facebook
Curado Bar – if you simply must get that bottle of dessert wine and mojama to try and get through the week, Curado got your back! The shop is doing deliveries across the city, see their Facebook for full list of items. Curado Bar Facebook | Curado Bar Twitter
Holy Yolks – AMAZING HOLY YOLKS are doing Scotch Eggs AND ALSO co-ordinating food deliveries up to the Heath hospital for health care workers! PLEASE BUY THEIR EGGS AND DONATE TO THE NHS FUNDRAISER. Holy Yolks Twitter | NHS FUNDRAISER
Pop’n’Hops – BEERS! WONDERFUL BEERS! Help keep yourself nicely tippled and these dudes in business. They offer delivery across Cardiff, with a wide selection of ales / craft beers etc from all over the place. Pop’n’Hops Twitter
Totally Welsh – GET YOURSELF A MILK DELIVERY LIKE FROM BACK IN THE 80S! They also do juices, eggs, cheese, bread and other essentials. Direct to the doorstep, plus the bottles can go back to be cleaned and refilled. Totally Welsh website
Brodie’s Coffee – you can find Brodie’s in the lovely little wooden hut in Gorsedd Gardens (in front of the museum). They’ve just reopened! Go pay them a visit and pick up a tasty treat for yourself. Brodie’s Coffee Twitter
Riverside Sourdough – (Cathays Youth & Community Centre) I once bought a loaf of their bread and ate the whole thing still warm in the car before I got home. Didn’t share with anyone. No regrets. These dudes are supplying local stores but also doing a pre-order local pick up Tuesday and Saturdays from Cathays. Riverside Sourdough Facebook
Countisbury Fruit Supply – (Countisbury Ave) fresh supply of veg, fruit and bread available daily and the WONDERFUL man that runs the stall is offering free deliveries for those in need who live local and can’t get out. Please give this man all your monies and call on 02920791101 (there’s an answering machine, please leave a message, 24/7).
Albany Road Fruit and Veg stand – (Albany Road) this is open, plus owner Sam is a legend! go by and pay him and visit and pick up some lovely produce.
Eartha – (City Road) Eartha has now taken over the entire of the Blue Honey Local site (I still think of it as Milgi, because I am OLD) – head here for plant shop, café and restaurant focusing on working with local producers, growers and enterprises. Eartha Facebook | Eartha Instagram
Thornhill Farm Shop – (Capel Gwilym Road) these dudes have fresh local honey! As well as jams, marmalades, chutneys, pickles, fresh meats, fruit and veg. They’re open for collection or delivery. Call 029 2061 1707 or visit Thornhill Farm Shop Facebook.
Green Squirrel– greener living social enterprise are running online workshops, craft-alongs and storytelling in lieu of public workshops. Also delivering seed sowing kits and other treats! People can still book onto workshops to transfer onto a future date or buy a gift voucher to support. Green Squirrel website | Green Squirrel Facebook
So. There’s a lot going on. (I feel like I’ve said that multiple times, like way more times than I should have said it, since the start of this year?? Anyway.) Just wanted to round up some resources and events taking place that might be of interest at the mo.
BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTS
You may have noticed a couple of #BlackLivesMatter protests taking place in Cardiff this week. If you are attending a protest, please remember to keep socially distanced, wear a mask, and take sunblock and water to keep hydrated. Follow Black Lives Matter Cardiff on Facebook for more information.
If you’d like to undertake more reading, try this: Anti-racism resources for white allies (compiled by one of the BLM organisers – info ranges from articles to read, to anti-racism books for children, to anti-racism film recommendations).
This is the second time in a week we’re mentioning the BBC Sounds podcast Shreds by Ceri Jackson. But we really, really, REALLY recommend it. It’s an upsetting but vital listen about systemic police racism and corruption in Cardiff over the Lynette White case, which sparked off one of the biggest overhauls of the justice system in the UK. And it happened not far from where you live. Educate yourself and give it a listen.
COME TO THE PRIVILEGE CAFE
If you’re after something practical you can dial into from home, check out the Privilege Cafe. This virtual cafe is a safe space created by Mymuna Soleman, to make a new inclusive environment! Be empowered, be confident and let’s talk privilege! Their next event takes place 5pm on Thursday 4 June: Labels, Language and Linguistics.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION / THINGS TO FOLLOW:
(not exhaustive obviously – please add more sources in the comments…)
Remember we’re open to submissions about literally ANYTHING you want to write about – whether it’s just to talk to us about your community project, or write a poem about the city, or write us a Letter about being in Lockdown. We’re run on an entirely voluntary basis. What we are depends on what you want to write for us. So use that voice and send us your stuff.
Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Pete Sueref. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown!
Nurses? Forget nurses. They should give me a medal for being locked up with three kids for the last eight weeks. I mean honestly. It’s fine for Mr and Mrs Sourdough Starter and their darling cat, but for us parents, especially us SINGLE PARENTS, lockdown is literally hell. (Yes, literally. Not figuratively. This is actually what hell would be like for me).
It’s not that I don’t love my kids. There’s an expression – love the people, hate the job, right? But have you actually met kids? They’re awful. Just the worst possible humans to be stuck with for an hour, let alone 24 hours, every day, without a let up. Needy, whining, bickering, gross. If you’re thinking of having kids, then DON’T. (Note to We Are Cardiff editors – could we link to a contraceptive provider here?)
Today, this happened at breakfast: My three year old, who can most kindly be described as unhinged, was eating his Rice Crispies. His six-year-old sister decided, for reasons, that she had to have a poached egg for breakfast. Not a fried egg, not a scrambled egg. Poached.
For the childless, it’s worth mentioning that each interaction with your little angel has the potential to turn into a battle. Small decisions, like which colour dress to wear, whether or not to go to the toilet before getting in the car, or how to cook an egg, take on a level of seriousness and import usually more suited to high-level government meetings (I say usually. Not really the case with the current mob; their main decisions seem to be how to pick the policy which causes the most needless death and suffering and then figuring out how to lie about it.)
As with Boris’s daily briefings, every conversation with your child has the potential to end in confusion and tears.
At nine in the morning, after 50-plus monotonous breakfasts in a row, you have to decide if this is really the hill you want to die on. On the one hand: give-in, show weakness to the enemy and then suffer a conflict over every breakfast to come. On the other hand, play hardball, announce to the room that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” and serve up a hot dish of justice-flavoured scrambled eggs with a side-order of tantrum.
Dear reader, you know the punchline. After some tears and some stern words (from her to me), the poached eggs were served. The previously quietly chomping three-year-old took the opportunity to tell his big sister that he hated the smell of eggs. And by association hated her. Violence was in the air. Their eight-year-old brother, displaying admirable neutrality to that point, decided to play both sides like a cold war double-agent, announcing that he, too, hated the smell of eggs (thus lending credibility to the accusation), but also that despite this hatred he would tolerate it because he was older and “not a baby”. This final remark was the spark that ignited the powder keg, and moments later both the Rice Crispies and Poached Egg were no more. Spilt and splattered, like a metaphor for my family, indeed, for the nation! What joys will lunch bring? God only knows…
And this is just one small incident in five minutes of one day. Repeat this over and over and over again, every day, with no let up, no respite and limited alcohol. A medal, please. A big one. Made of gold.
Lest you all consider me a terrible parent and a terrible person (I won’t try to defend myself against either accusation), I should point out that I have been home-schooling diligently throughout, although we have deviated from the curriculum recently. My eldest is now learning about political revolutions in preparation for the post-COVID world that may emerge. His Machiavellian instincts, practised on his siblings, put in him in a good position to be the next Washington (or more likely Robespierre). My daughter has learnt to read which is a genuine delight, undermined only slightly by her absolute lack of desire to read anything not on an iPad.
My youngest has been building more and more elaborate shapes and patterns out Magna-Tiles. He may be trying to summon some kind of demon. I’ve decided to leave him to it.
It should go without saying that clearly we are in an immensely fortunate position – none of us are ill, none of our family or friends have been seriously affected and my wonderful employers have taken pity on me and allowed me to mostly forget about work and focus on taking care of my children. A word also for my wonderful mum who’s been living with us for the last five months, cannot possibly have expected to be locked up with small children again and has dealt with events like most Greek mothers in a crisis: cleaning and cooking constantly.
And there are some small pleasures to be had, particularly as a runner (I know – you already thought me insufferable, but a runner, too!).
Jogging the full length of Waterloo Road right in the middle of the street with no traffic is still weirdly fun. And crossing the normally log-jammed Newport Road whenever and however I like will be sorely missed once the world returns to normal.
And of course, loudly tutting all the people ignoring the one-way system around Roath Park almost makes the whole catastrophe worth it. Almost.
Anyway. After all that, I don’t actually want a medal. What I’d really prefer is for people to stop dying needlessly. I want doctors and nurses and carers and especially teachers to be paid a lot more. And for a kinder, better world to emerge at the other end.
But mostly, I just want this hell to end, all of us to be safe and happy and to have some time away from my fucking kids.
Before Pete became a full-time quaranteacher and part-time alcoholic, he worked in data science for Centrica. He hopes one day to return…