Category Archives: Out of Cardiff

A Welsh retreat for writers

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

Ty Newydd Gwynedd

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

Cricieth

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Tŷ Newydd

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

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

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

Ty Newydd – view all courses 

More beautiful images of gorgeous Criccieth:

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Green Man 2018 – festival in review

It was the sixteenth Green Man Festival this year. It remains a wonderful and immersive experience – free from blaring corporate sponsorships and steeped in the magical Welsh mountains. In our opinion, this was the best Green Man yet.

The Mountain Stage, with Crug Hywel (Table Mountain) off in the background

The Guardian and Telegraph have already given the festival 5/5 stars, which we’d agree with – read on for our comprehensive romp around one of the best blinking festivals we’ve ever been to!

The fact that Green Man sells out – year after year – should tell you something about what happens to people that come to this festival. This year was my eighth Green Man, and as far as I’m concerned, the best yet.

Even when not adorned with miles of bunting, walkabout performers and stages large and small offering up musical wonderments, the Glanusk Estate is a beautiful environment. The Mountain Stage sits at the bottom of a grassy amphitheatre, with stepped ledges allowing for maximum relaxing while you’re listening to music waft up the hill, while Crug Hywel (the Table Mountain for which the Table Top area is named) dominates the backdrop.

Add in 20,000 glittering, tie-dyed people of all ages, the option of a full week of activities through the Settlement camping beforehand, and a whole beer festival within the actual festival – and you’re getting closer to the spirit of Green Man. There’s no corporate sponsorship anywhere – no Carlsberg tent, or Volvo spa area. Pints of beer and cider – all independently produced – are reasonably priced. Considering some day festivals in London charge £80 a ticket and £6.50 for a can of Red Stripe, and you’re starting to wonder why people would bother when you can come here instead.

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Revellers in the glow of the Mountain Stage
The ‘man’. This year, the Green Man sported a very natty pair of horns, and is covered in written wishes that all go up in flames on the Sunday – delivering them to the universe!

General camping opens to the public on Thursday morning at 10am, and so after a hearty Wetherspoons breakfast en route (don’t judge) we rolled into the campsite. As there were a few of us this year all squeezed into my tiny car, we opted for a pre-erected tent rather than hiring a bigger vehicle to hold all our tents. And I must say, if there’s a few of you, or if wrangling tents just isn’t your thing, the Tangerine Fields campsite is brilliantly located at Green Man – directly behind the Mountain Stage, meaning you still feel totally embedded in the action even when you’ve just popped back to get a jumper.

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Once our minimalist camp was set up, most of Thursday was spent doing a lap of the site, and trying to find somewhere open early enough for us to get our first cider on. The ever-reliable Chai Wallahs opened earliest, with the Diplomats of Sound DJs serving funky beats and the bar serving whiskey coffees (a recommended mid-day pick me up). The rest of the day was spent puzzling over the popularity of Jimothy Lacoste (an old editor of mine once said if you’ve got nothing good to say about an artist, don’t say anything at all. So it’s best I say silent on this one, but I can at least convey some facts: 1 – he mimes, 2 – the kids seem to love it); enjoying a quick trip to the Cinedrome tent (which can provide a welcome respite from the weather and noise outside) for a screening of Anorac, Huw Stephens’ documentary film about the Welsh language music scene across the country (well worth catching if you can).

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
“I would like to think that our nationalism, our Welshness, is defined by something bigger than just historical oppression”

We then headed up to the Far Out stage for Thursday night’s closers. We enjoyed bouncy Scot The Pictish Trail, then ended the night with a rousing and spine-tingling Public Service Broadcasting show. Their last album Every Valley took listeners on a journey down the mineshafts of the South Wales valleys, and although the purpose of the record is to shine a light on the “disenfranchised working class in this age of turmoil”, there was something particularly haunting about hearing the music just a few miles from the heartlands of the Welsh coal mining industry. Also, they brought the Beaufort Male Voice choir onto the stage. No, you’re crying. Blep.

On Friday we were up early and back up to Table Top to catch the “official” druid opening of the festival. This year Archdruid of Glastonbury Rollo Maughfling performed the opening solo (some other Stonehenge druids were on their way but had got lost …). We wished for peace throughout the whole world, chanted a bit, and then having blessed the festival, gave a large round of applause and went about our day.

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Archdruid of Glastonbury Rollo Maughfling blesses the festival
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Finding critters
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Nature activities for big and small kids

We lazed in the sunshine and enjoy the shiny pop of Amber Arcades followed by the spacious ditties of Eleanor Friedberger, before deciding to explore the festival a little more.

The Nature Nurture area is where to head to if you’re looking for something for your body, your mind, or a bit of both, with the area offering every massage you can imagine, nutrition from a vegan cafe, or even shamanic journeys or gong baths, if you’re so inclined. After wandering the area for a while, I decided on some inversion – being strapped to a board and hung upside down for ten minutes, which is supposed to reduce pressure on your back and neck, allowing it to stretch out and recover from all that sitting on hard ground and lying on lumpy camp beds. (I enjoyed it so much I went and did it again on Sunday).

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Having a good stretch

For the rest of Friday, we enjoyed the psychedelic noodlings of Beak>, aka Geoff Barrow of Portishead, the weird rnb/indie pop of Dirty Projectors, and then it was back up to the Far Out Stage, where the programming was a bit skew-whiff. Firstly it was Floating Points live, which felt like a very Berlin style minimal set you’d expect at 4am in a weird dive bar down some hole in Alexanderplatz, followed by one of my festival highlights, Mount Kimbie. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them – the last time was a very different kind of ‘live’ gig at Cardiff Arts Institute in 2010, which you can listen to here: Mount Kimbie Live at Cardiff Arts Institute 2010). This was full live band, with pounding intensity and great upbeat tunes. And then, what we were waiting for – the main event for After Dark – John Talabot. What we were expecting was techno – but what we got was some weird cheesey rnb disco. It wasn’t until some time later after we’d all left Far Out, somewhat confused, that someone in Chai Wallahs told us John Talabot had pulled out due to illness, and it was in fact a Floating Points DJ set.

I was very drunk and belligerent by this point (apparently all I said for an hour was “where’s the f***ing techno” until my second brandy chai, where I lost the ability to speak completely). We headed for the ferris wheel, which often has the most banging tunes of any venue on site – no jokes, you get on there and get whizzed up and down, and then see if you’re not screaming with glee while they play Whitney Houston’s ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ followed by DJ Zinc’s ‘Wile out’.

Luckily, the Walled Garden is on the way home from the top end of the site, meaning we got to stumble into the brilliant Heavenly Jukebox, where I’m pretty sure we stayed for about an hour, although the only song I can definitely remember was something by Lionel Ritchie? Anyway, big up to Jeff, Diva and the crew who mercifully I didn’t go and talk to, because I was beyond speech and no one except my nearest and dearest should ever had to deal with me in that state.

After such a heavy Friday night, I think it’s fair to say everyone in the tent cursed me at least five times when I woke them all up at 8.30am with the bright and breezy news that ‘WE’VE GOT A HOT TUB AT TEN AM GUYS!’. Bathing Under The Sky have been bringing their wood-fired hot tubs to Green Man since 2015, and although it might not seem like it, there’s nothing better for sorting out that hangover than slowly boiling in hot water, then submerging yourself in a freezing cold plunge pool, and repeating for two hours.

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Saturday morning hot tub

It’s a luxury that’s worth investing in, although one member of our party was so hungover all he managed was five minutes in the hot tub (he did also vom in one of the bins right in front of the Mountain Stage on the way back – yep, the bit where all the kids play – just as Sweet Baboo struck his first chords to open the stage on the Saturday). “GREEN MAN! YEAH!”

After depositing our worse-for-wear tent mate, we headed back out into the festival, feeling fully refreshed, where Westerman was playing in the Walled Garden, and we picked up our first cider of the day (my drink of choice throughout the whole festival was a nice half of the Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry cider. Mmmm).

Westerman in the Walled Garden
Walled Garden in full swing
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
The black hole for all my cash on site, the Rough Trade stand

After that, the afternoon was a haze of sax-lead jazz from Nubya Garcia and crunchy guitars and huge trousers from Bo Ningen.

Bo Ningen

After that, we waited around Far Our for another one of the other acts I’d been really excited about seeing – north Walian nu techno kween Kelly Lee Owens. Instead, some gal with a guitar took to the stage … again, with no announcement about the line up change, but we did find out from a steward she also had pulled out due to illness (techno flu must be going around). I wasn’t drunk enough to be livid this time, but did bemoan the lack of screen outside Far Out notifying people of line-up changes. The night still ended on a high as I had a spiritual experience to the magnificent John Grant (who is 50! Can you believe he’s 50??), followed by Simian Mobile Disco with the Deep Throat Choir playing their latest album, Murmurations.

Although I didn’t spend any time at the Green Man Rising Stage this year, the fact that Deep Throat Choir were headlining the Far Out stage is a testament to the stepping stone that Rising plays in the careers of so many acts – I first saw them on the Rising Stage in 2014. But there’s so much to do every year … it’s impossible to get around to doing everything …

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Bubbles

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So when Sunday rolled around, and I realised it was our last day (last day!), we rolled the picnic blanket out in front of Xylouris White and enjoyed some wonderful jazz by way of Crete and Australia, before I decided to go and hang myself upside down in the Nature Nurture field one last time, and then topped up the wellbeing with a half hour massage. Well worth the investment, you could have poured me out of that field back into the festival.

Another area of the festival I’ve not mentioned yet is the Back of Beyond – the performance area, with an aerial rig for trapeze, hoop and rope performances (right next to a flying trapeze you can have a go at if you’re feeling brave!). This year the hosts of the afternoon entertainment were the usually NSFW Mr and Mrs Clark, who brought much merriment and shenanigans to the stage.

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Mr and Mrs Clark

And here’s Mrs Clark, leading the crowd in some festival yoga.

Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Mrs Clark
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
The Kitsch n Sync ladies…

Other highlights of Sunday were the totally demented Nine-Inch-Nails-psych of Follakzoid, smooth r’n’b stylings of Curtis Harding, the huge lung capacity of Anna Calvi, and then the Mountain Stage finale – epic rock-n-roll from The War on Drugs, who I was expecting little from, but really enjoyed. It’s familiar and huge-sounding – much more engaging and demanding than the band are on record.

Once the headliners had finished we ambled up the hill to watch them burn the Green Man from the safety of the large safety perimeter fence. A lot of people use the burn as their festival watershed, but I felt revived after hanging upside down and getting pummelled earlier in the day, so wandered over to Far Out, where High Contrast challenged everyone to bring their best bass face and smashed out some incredibly dark drum and bass to finish the weekend off.

Stumbling around the site, I decided to do what I always do at the end of the festival, and do one final victory lap. The Deptford Northern Soul Club were still going strong in the walled garden, full of an energetic audience filled with plenty of cross-dressing (did anyone else notice that as a thing this year?), tie dye, and plenty of biodegradable glitter.

It’s impossible to round it up in a sentence, other than to say the bands were wonderful, the food was great, the weather held out – and it’s still, by a long way, one of my favourite festivals. The lack of corporate sponsorship and the beautiful setting makes for a special experience – where you really do feel like you’re immersed in a completely different, magical world. Long live Green Man – mark out the 15-18 August 2019 in your calendar, and make sure you follow Green Man on all their channels for early bird tickets.

Waiting for a go on the Ferris Wheel
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
More bubbles
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Waiting for liquid refreshments
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Some downtime with the Guardian crossword
Green Man 2018 #GreenMan18
Far Out!

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To see our full round up of Green Man photographs and see all the We Are Green Man festival portraits from this year, head to the We Are Green Man Facebook page!

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Green Man 2018 – final line up announcement! Got your tickets yet?

Our favourite Brecon Beacons based arts extravaganza Green Man Festival is looking REAL FINE this year, with a line up that includes plenty of Cardiff talent (boom) and headliners from ACROSS THE GLOBE. Tickets usually sell out early summer, so make sure you get yours in soon!

New music line up additions today (we’ve highlighted our We Are Cardiff fav picks in bold – in particular we can’t wait to see Bristol gig legend Big Jeff making his Green Man DJ debut …!)

Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men | Frankie Cosmos | Eleanor Friedberger | Ari Roar | J. Bernardt | Horsey | Celebrating Bert Jansch | Black Midi | The Cosmic Array | Squid

DJs – High Contrast | Huw Stephens | Tom Ravenscroft | Alfresco Disco | Heavenly Jukebox | Lycra | Dutty Disco | Big Jeff | Fever Club

Chai Wallahs Stage – Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu | Agbeko | Amy True | Animal Noise | Animanz | Ben Catley | Berget Lewis | Edd Keene | Friendly Fire | Gringo Ska | Groovelator | Holly Holden y Su Banda | Joncan Kavlakoglu | Kiriki Club | Lazy Habits | Lost Tuesday Society | Monster Ceilidh Band | Samsara | Snazzback | Solana | Soul Grenades | Sounds of the Siren | The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble | Tropical Tea Party feat DJ Hiphoppapotamus | Will Varley | Wrongtom

And in case you need more convincing, have a look at our Green Man video from last year …

Previously confirmed music line up:

The War On Drugs | Fleet Foxes | King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard |

John Grant | Grizzly Bear | Dirty Projectors | The Brian Jonestown Massacre | Public Service Broadcasting | Anna Calvi | Cate Le Bon | Mount Kimbie | Floating Points (live) | The Black Angels | John Maus | The Lemon Twigs | Joan As Police Woman | Teleman | Kevin Morby | Baxter Dury | Curtis Harding | Tamikrest | Courtney Marie Andrews | Susanne Sundfor | John Talabot | Simian Mobile Disco (live) featuring Deep Throat Choir | Wye Oak | Jane Weaver | Alex Cameron | Phoebe Bridgers | Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | Kelly Lee Owens | Bo Ningen | Beak> | Chastity Belt | HMLTD | Sweet Baboo | A Hawk and a Hacksaw | Xylouris White | Lost Horizons | Shannon Lay | Pictish Trail | Marlon Williams | Lucy Dacus | The KVB | Omni | Goat Girl | Duds | Snapped Ankles | Jade Bird | Boy Azooga | Snail Mail | Nubya Garcia | Charles Watson | Ider | Ed Dowie | Haley Heynderickx | Bas Jan | Seamus Fogarty | Juanita Stein | Sacred Paws | The Murlocs | Jim Ghedi | Sorry | Stella Donnelly | Spinning Coin | Group Listening | Haze | Fenne Lily | Adwaith | Accu | Sock | Aadae | Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men |

ERMEGERD right?? All of this in addition to the amazing Talking Shop and Last Laugh announcements made earlier this year … Get your tickets and join the annual decamp to the beautiful Brecon Beacons!

Buy Green Man tickets now

Green Man website

Images from last year’s birthday bash!

More We Are Cardiff – Green Man coverage:

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Green Man Festival 2017 – 15th birthday bash review!

I think you can take as a testament to quite how good this year’s Green Man was that it’s taken me over a week to get myself together enough to write this review.

If you’re in a rush and just want the headline: Best Green Man yet!

Green Man Festival 2017

For more: read on!

If you’re not in the Settlers camping, general admission starts at 10am on Thursday. In Green Men past, I’ve always liked to be one of the first people in on a Thursday (gotta make the most of it, right? Also means you get to camp near Orange parking, which makes the get-in and get-out easier) but we were delayed a bit this year, meaning we ended up fenced out of our normal spot, and instead deeper into the camping areas – pretty much right behind the Mountain Stage. Which made our tent-festival-tent commute a staggering five minutes. YAS!

We put the tent up (we indulged in a trolley this year to assist us), had a tent cider, then wandered into the festival. We headed straight for Nature Nurture with swimming cossies, just in case there were any spaces in the hot tubs. And guess what … there totally were! So we splurged the £25, had a lovely shower, and then spent two hours intermittently boiling in hot water and then dunking in the cold plunge pool.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Thursday night was finished off with a viewing of the Ben Wheatley film Free Fire in the Cinedrome (which, judging by the number of napping adults in the tent, also doubles as a grown person creche).

On Friday morning we  scrambled out of bed in time to see the Druids of Stonehenge open the festival. This year it was Rollo Maughfling on his todd, and he opened the festival with the traditional series of blessings and group chantings and wishes for peace throughout the world. He did also hope for good weather, but as if by magic, the heavens opened and it poured down during the ceremony.

Green Man Festival 2017

The rest of Friday was mostly spent pootling around between the Mountain Stage and the Back of Beyond, a relatively new stage for the performing arts. Like many of the people at Green Man, we were with people who had kids in tow. But luckily for all of them, it’s a festival that’s built with families in mind.

You’ll see various families pulling these trolleys around the festival: they’re the same trolleys you can use to help drag all your camping crap in during the set up. You can also rent one out for £25 a day, complete with cushions inside and roof to protect your little ones from the weather.

They were an absolute godsend – like mini pillow forts on wheels. The kids slept, ate, and played in and around them all day – and more importantly, they weren’t as tired and crabby as if they’d been walked around.

Frankly, I was a little jealous that no one was pulling me around in one.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

We managed to catch quite a bit of music on Friday. The weather was holding steady, which meant sitting on the floor (or rolling around if you needed to) were still possibilities. On the Mountain Stage we caught Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit (who we’d seen at Green Man a couple of times before – and has never disappointed), and the grungey, slow-roasted rock of US band Lift to Experience, who had on stage with them the biggest Texan flag I have ever seen.

We also enjoyed British Sea Power (who turned the stage into an arboretum for their powerful set).

Green Man Festival 2017

For the big finale of the night, it was a toss up between Future Islands and Kate Tempest, which split our group. Personally I was in favour of staying in Round the Twist, which was busting out some 80s classics (and had handed out inflatable guitars to everyone for some serious moshing), but plumped instead to head to see Kate Tempest.

Green Man Festival 2017

And my word, am I glad I did. I’ve never seen her live before, and she performed Let Them Eat Chaos, all the way through. Despite some ill-timed whooping from hammered ravers whenever she mentioned drugs, it was one of the most effective performances I’ve ever seen. I’ve listened to the album before, but there was something incredibly special – raw – vital – about her voice, about the words, about experiencing it live.

When she finished, I was so overwhelmed by it that I couldn’t even clap. We staggered out of the tent and headed to Chai Wallah’s to get a drink.

We headed back for Roni Size – I was hoping that listening to New Forms all the way through might help ease the tension, but the first 20 minutes was some straight jump-up, which I just didn’t have the energy for. We rambled back down the hill and to bed at 2am – a relatively early night – to get ready for Saturday.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Slightly bruised by our late night politics, we spent much of Saturday moving slowly from stage to stage, absorbing music, talks, djing, and many, many pints of Growler, which has now become the festival’s ‘house pint’.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

We caught a couple of bands in between moving very slowly, many children in tow between stages: the excellent H.Grimace, who played on the Green Man Rising stage (and very kindly let us use one of their tracks for our video above – thank you Hannah!), folk veteran Shirley Collins, old school rnb revivalist Michael Kiwanuka, experimental disco-punkers Liars (although they were a bit loud for the kids, so we hung outside with Bloody Marys for their set), sludgy garage-rockers Thee Oh Sees.

There was also plenty of food explorations on Saturday – and although the jury’s still out, here are the best eats at Green Man (sorry there are no pics, we ate everything before we had a chance to take photos!):

  • the Vietnamese place up by Fairy Power (I ate here three times can’t remember the name …!). They had the MOST AMAZING sweet and sour broth, stuffed full of veggies and noodles with pork balls on top … for £8 …
  • the Roaming Rotisserie chicken place. Half a chicken, stuffing and potatoes for £8.
  • Strumpets with Crumpets. Just do the blue cheese, jam and bacon one when you’re pissed and on your way back to your tent – and don’t even trip, dog.

So anyway, back to the festival, I guess …

My highlight for the weekend was always the Saturday night … Jon Hopkins into Daniel Avery (be still, my beating techno loop).

And it was, predictably, absolutely amazing. I’ve been a Hopkins fan for years now, and Daniel Avery’s Drone Logic is one of the best dance albums released over the past ten years. Hands down.

Green Man Festival 2017

Myself and the We Are Cardiff technical futurologist have a fun tradition of waiting until we are the drunkest we can possibly be, and then rugby tackling each other down the between the hill between Chai Wallah’s and the Nature Nurture area. This is us, by the way (during the daytime).

Green Man Festival 2017

This year was no different, but unlike previous years, we were either not quite drunk enough for this escapade (or far too drunk). So upon waking, I was a bit worried to feel extreme pain all around my ribcage when I moved, or coughed, or just breathed.

We decided to take Sunday a little bit easier. hiding from the rain in alternate locations (mostly between Chai Wallah’s and Far Out), grabbing slices of pizza and pints of Wrexham lager when the weather allowed, and absorbing Actress, Sunflower Bean, Richard Dawson, and Manu Delago.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

As Sunday night drew to a close, and the weather drew in, Mountain Stage headliner PJ Harvey took to the main stage. You can hear her performance here on the BBC, and I read a great review of her set (and actually of the festival as a whole in the Quietus) so why not head over there, show them some love, and so I can pull this thing to a close!

My camera always falls to pieces every year when I try and capture the burning of the Green Man, so this year I thought your photos would be better to try and represent the ritual. Earlier in the festival I would check the wishes that were written on tags and tied to the man and dragon combo. They ranged from the fairly standard (I wish I was a fairy, please can I have a pay rise) to more fatalistic (my favourite: everything is fucked).

And maybe it’s just me – but after such a wonderfully rich weekend, with good music, good people, and good booze – was burning all those thoughts that we are troubled with – some sort of opportunity for a new beginning?

Radical ritual, folk hearted celebrations of art, music, literature, and people. This was the best Green Man yet. And I cannot wait to see what they pull out of the bag for next year!

GREEN MAN 2018 EARLY BIRD TICKETS ARE OUT SOON! Make sure you’re following:

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR NEWEST SERIES OF WE ARE GREEN MAN FESTIVAL GOER PORTRAITS! OVER AT WE ARE GREEN MAN

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Yoga and Writing: The Sun in the Self writing retreat

This summer, blog kween Phoenix headed up to Criccieth for a short writing retreat at the Literature Wales house, Tŷ Newydd. Here’s what she got up to.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a reluctant writer. I long to indulge that part of myself that creates words, but I find sitting down for periods of time difficult. My day job involves a lot of spreadsheets and emails, which makes the occasions where I’m trying to do creative work that involves my laptop even harder. Also there’s all that stuff about YOU’RE A WRITER CALL YOURSELF A MOTHERFLIPPING WRITER. But also cringe, and pride, and all those things.

Anyway. So I’d been thinking about doing a writing course for a while, but the thought of being so stationary (sit down and write!) kept putting me off. Some joyous synchronicity in my life, then, that drew my attention to a Literature Wales course, Yoga and Writing: The Sun in the Self. The course promised to combine meditation and movement, seeing what ideas we could generate – what we could churn up from the milky sea within – over five days in the beautiful house up in Criccieth. (Also an amazing excuse to get myself up to north Wales – in amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK). 

And it really is an incredible setting. Originally built in the fifteenth century, Tŷ Newydd is a Grade II* listed building that was the last home of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and the grounds were restyled by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (of Portmeirion fame) in the 1940s. The gardens are full of thick, edible hedgerows (the rosemary bushes are thick and pungent, and absolutely amazing in Tony’s focaccia – more about Tony shortly!).

Our programme over the week consisted of morning meditation, storytelling, writing exercises and yoga practise every day, with free time in the afternoons for wandering and absorbing from the beautiful surroundings. Our practice was facilitated and led by yoga instructor and writer Sian Melangell Dafydd, who is totally fabulous and is currently based in Paris (which just adds to her fabulousness as far as I’m concerned), but leads workshops back in the UK throughout the year. She told us stories from Hindu mythology, focusing around water as the main theme for the week. The milky sea was a reference to our own deep consciousness … and how the practical aspects of the week and the exercises would help us churn up ideas and new themes for our own artistic work.

We also had two awe-inspiring female artists come to share their work with us: the first was Vivienne Rickman-Poole, a wild swimmer whose photography has been featured in the Guardian and other places … and Amali Rodrigo, a Sri Lankan poet who now lives in London, and who focuses on using mandalas in her creative work.

Also Vivienne took us wild swimming to a Snowdonia mountain lake! A lifetime highlight. No jokes.

On the last day, I took advantage of the afternoon free time to do some solo exploring, seeking out an abandoned local mansion that Sian had visited some years before: Plas Gwynfryn Mansion. I got covered in soggy cow pats and possibly wandered a little way off the public footpath. But it was so incredibly worth it.

It was one of the most stimulating and challenging experiences of my entire life. Besides the visiting artists, and Sian, the other people on the course all brought with them their own ideas about writing, poetry, art, yoga, and artistic living. The exercises that we did, along with the visiting artists and the free time all served to challenge me to generate new ideas, and challenge existing modes of thinking I was stuck in, especially with my writing.

Also, I can’t really complete the review without saying something about the house’s chef, Tony. I’m not a vegan, or even a vegetarian – but we had vegan food all week, and it was absolutely delicious. I volunteered in the kitchen one afternoon, and Tony even showed me how to make focaccia, a skill that I have brought home with me … and don’t intend to forget.

So in conclusion: it was the perfect retreat, and I would absolutely recommend to anyone who’s looking for a few days out to indulge their “inner child” in. 

And if all the yoga and meditation sounds a bit much for you, Tŷ Newydd also has a whole range of other kinds of writing courses – specialising on poetry, non-fiction, memoir, scripting, short stories, and even modern mythology, delivered in English and also some courses in Welsh. A highly recommended investment in your writing self.

Ty Newydd

Literature Wales

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We Are Green Man Are You Green Man?

Okay, so if you haven’t got your tickets yet, you’re probably not going  … (although a quick look on the Green Man Facebook page tells me there are still some folk selling theirs! BE QUICK! SEIZE THE DAY!) …

BUT ANYWAY, We Are Cardiff are off to the magnificent Green Man again, carrying out our We Are Green Man project! We’ll be doing our usual festival coverage bonanza, with We Are Green Man festival go-er portraits and general vibing around the site!

Make sure you follow us @WeAreCardiff on Instagram for all the shenanigans. We be IGstorying that shizbaht. Yeah, I said it.

Our stuff from previous years …

If you see us around, come say hi!

This is who you’re looking for …

Phoenix

Preece

And Kirsten!

See you all on the dancefloor (Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery After Dark Saturday night, amirite???)

Word!

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Freaking out in Taff’s Well – Wales’ only thermal spa

Did you know that Wales had a thermal spa? Even more incredibly, that it’s in Taff’s Well?

I recently finished my fifth column on the River Taff for the gorgeous Caught By The River. All my other pieces have been very much situated in Cardiff, but for this one we zoom north a few miles to Taff’s Well. The actual well – the warm thermal spa, which the village gets its name from.

Don’t get too excited though. This is what it looks like:

The concrete bath house was constructed in the 1890s, and since then it’s been abandoned and saved repeatedly. Recently some investment has gone into preserving and reopening the well for the public to enjoy. There’s a tall blue fence all around it, but you can still get close enough to wonder and enjoy.

Back in the 1950s, the spring’s waters filled a swimming pool. Image from Wales Online

As usual, I did a bunch of research and found some wonderful stuff that didn’t make it into the final article, so if you’re interested in reading up on Taff’s Well – Wales’ only thermal spa – go read my piece for Caught by the River, and then head over to these:

Why freaking out, as per the title? Well, I went there alone, and the place freaked me the fleek out.

The Healing Waters of Taff’s Well

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Anyway, if you plan to visit, take a friend!

Peas

Helia
x

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Not too shabby, Tintern Abbey!

Tintern Abbey is just 50 minutes out of Cardiff, but the wooded, mountainous surroundings feel a million miles away from the city. We spent the afternoon testing out a new camera lens, so here’s a little photo blog for you! 

The present-day remains are a mixture of building works covering a 400-year period between 1131 and 1536. Very little remains of the first buildings but you will marvel at the vast windows and later decorative details displayed in the walls, doorways and soaring archways….

Out of Cardiff: Mini adventures in Mwnt, west Wales

Just to mix things up, this is a new addition to our ‘Out of Cardiff’ section. There are so many beautiful places to visit within driving distance of Cardiff, and Mwnt is definitely one of them.

When I mentioned to friends that we were heading to West Wales, so many people told us to go to Mwnt that I knew we had to head there.

It’s a stunning location. It wasn’t a great day in terms of weather when we visited, but the dark skies and whipping wind only added to the drama and romance of the place.

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Mwnt is also an ancient holy site. You can sit and contemplate higher meanings in the beautiful and tiny Church of the Holy Cross (Eglwys y Grog). It was probably built around the 14th century, and served as a medieval sailors’ chapel of ease (where you could pop in and worship when you were away from home). Wikipedia says it was a welcome refuge for medieval pilgrims en route to the patron saint of Wales’ shrine at St Davids, mystical Strata Florida Abbey or Bardsey Island in North Wales (all places on my list to visit!).

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If you’re into your wildlife, Mwnt is located within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation, protected for the diversity of its the fauna here. Mwnt is an ideal place to spot bottlenose dolphins, basking sharks and porpoises. If these aren’t quite exotic for you, you can even see the sunfish here (aka – mola mola … see below!)

It was pretty cold while we were there, but we had a nice walk up the Wales Coast Path here. There are fields of horses lining the cliffs, while you look out on a seemingly endless sea.

We also made friends with this cheeky little dog in the car park, who smelt us cooking sausages!

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Wales Coast Path – Ceredigion

Mwnt – facilities information

All photos my own apart from the first, which is from Discover Ceredigion

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Porthcawl Elvis Festival 2016 – in pictures

Yes kids – we’re celebrating the 12th annual Porthcawl Elvis Festival!

Photographer Lorna Cabble headed down to the seafront to capture the glamorous men and women as they donned their best outfits, and the impersonators battled to be crowned ‘Best Elvies’ (sic).

Lorna says: “The weather wasn’t as sunny this year, but people still looked amazing. As usual the vibe was fab and everyone was just having a great time. I won’t be a student next year, but I’ll definitely be going back!”

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For more, see Lorna’s Porthcawl 2016 Elvis Festival Facebook album

Lorna Cabble is in her final year of Photojournalism at the University of South Wales. Her favourite area of photography is theatre and social documentary: she is obsessed with people and their stories. When she graduates, she would love to work in theatres and to do as much NGO work as she can. She’s the resident photographer for This is Kizomba, Cardiff. Lorna’s Facebook page / Lorna’s Instagram

See also: The Elvies: Porthcawl Elvis Festival website

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Green Man 2016 festival in review – Saturday and Sunday

SATURDAY

Given the late Friday night, we woke up feeling extremely pleased we had booked ourselves two hours in a hot tub. Bathing Under the Sky do wood-fired hot tubs in wooden tubs (with some VIP tubs on the upper deck of a bus), and for the past few years have been situated on the edge of the Nature Nurture health and spirituality area in Green Man (it’s a lovely tranquil space where you go to do yoga or get pummelled by a masseuse).

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And while slowly boiling in hot water might not sound like a great way to spend a couple of hours at a festival, it was worth every penny. You get to have a nice hot shower before We lucked out by joining a lovely couple from London in the tub (I stupidly only wrote down her name and forgot his – so hello Jess, if you’re reading this!), and felt pretty smug about the intermittent downpours while we were happily sipping gin and tonics and listening to the Deep Throat Choir, who had just started on the main stage.

The afternoon was then mostly spent in Einstein’s Garden, where we learned the following: how viruses could spread with the Llama Control centre; how the weather works (they also provided a live weather update on a blackboard for festival goers to plan waterproof outfits); and how propulsion works.

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Speaking of the weather … you can’t avoid talking about it, can you? Especially not at a festival. For much of Saturday, there were announcements on all stages for people to make sure their tents were tied down, as gale force winds threatened to blow through the site. Dear god, we prayed, as we downed our fourth (or fifth? We stopped counting after the first) Growler (the Official Festival Beer) … please don’t let our tent be blown away before we’ve seen the man burn tomorrow night!

On Saturday night, we were excited for headliner Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but they seemed to lack something without Jade in the band. Bored halfway through, we wandered up to Far Out to have our heads blown off by Jagwar Ma’s next level live show. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but think electronic techno strobe light vibes.

We then headed back to Chai Wallahs to see the crazy energetic They Say Jump, followed by Parker & Moneyshot’s fast-paced ADHD cut and paste hip-pop disco.

After this it was back to Round The Twist, where the Alfresco Disco were pumping out some current house bangers with the odd classic thrown in (we very much enjoyed Alan Braxxe, Layo & Bushwacka and Leftfield), and then down to the Walled Garden, where someone literally had to peel me off the floor when Pete Fowler played Prince’s Controversy. Awesome Tapes from Africa played a suitably tribal set that induced much rump shaking. We were left somewhere after midnight, many Growlers in, to stumble back down the hill and fall into our tent.

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The torrential rain and gale force winds never materialised, although there were (of course) occasional downpours. Sunday morning was surprisingly sunny, and so, in optimistic mood, we packed waterproofs in our rucksacks, grabbed some delicious coffee from the Table Top Coffee stall (which had expanded into a Green Man franchise this year, a second location appearing next to the Rough Trade shop), and then continued to watch the National Dance Company of Wales and their performance at the Back of Beyond, a new stage designed to showcase the best in performing arts. Unfortunately, the stage had no roof and so a couple of the performances over the weekend were rained off, but thankfully we managed to catch NDCW on Sunday with their beautiful dance piece – their first ever festival performance (we must also give mentions to Flossy and Boo, Citrus Arts & Circomedia and Kitsch n Sync – all of whom entertained greatly).

We also wandered over to Salon Mirela, where a long line of festival people were waiting patiently to be bejewelled and a-glittered. We managed to catch a couple of roaming performances from Kitsch N Sync (to Eddie Murphy’s Party All the Time) and Sparkles Hoop Troop (to Sarah Brightman’s I Lost My Heart to A Starship Trooper).

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I hadn’t intended on watching any music in the afternoon, but wandered into watch probably my most stand-out band of the festival: The Moonlandingz. We had no idea who they were when they started, and my companion commented “they look like they’re from about four different bands”. Consulting the programme quickly, we realised that they are: The Moonlandingz is a ‘fictional’ band led by Sean Lennon, and at Green Man featured members of Fat White Family, Electronic Research Council and Rebecca Taylor from Slow Club (who had to peg it off 15 minutes before the end as Slow Club were about to perform on the Mountain Stage).

The Moonlandingz may be a fictional band, but they’re absolutely amazing on stage. Sean hollered, strutted and pouted his way through the set, supported by some hardcore shrieking from Rebecca and also by a bottle of red wine he swigged from every so often. The music ranged from psych to glam rock to almost metal, with my highlights being the stompy Glory Hole and nuclear-powered Sweet Saturn Mine.

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I was a bit overwhelmed by how good they had been, so we recovered with a giant plate of nachos (get them in the Mexican place opposite the Mountain Stage people – you get a lot of nacho for your cash there) and then down to the Talking Shop, where I had made a note to see author Amy Liptrot talk about her book, The Outrun.

Do you ever get occasions where you’ll see something literally everywhere – like a book, or a film? I don’t even mean through advertising – just through seeing it in shops, or Around The Internet. Anyway, over the past couple of months, that thing for me has been Amy Liptrot’s book. And so it was very frustrating to get down there and see the timings of the day had been moved around – I had missed her!

She was the only literary type person I had pencilled in to see, so even though James Yorkston was talking probably very eloquently about his book Three Caws, I was bummed, so went to pick up a copy of The Outrun from Rough Trade and then went on a wander up to Chai Wallahs, where we collapsed on the floor, Growlers in hand, while uptempo Irish gypsy folk band The Eskies inspired the raucous crowd to do some energetic dancing (considering it was Sunday afternoon). Highest point of the set was Jesus Don’t Save Me, where lead singer Ian taught the crowd the call and response chorus parts, and then sang the song all the way through with a supporting choir of hundreds of stamping people.

We stayed in Chai Wallahs to watch The Gypsies of Bohema (and very much enjoyed how they started over with a cover gypsy-style cover of Backstreet’s Back by the Backstreet Boys), and then wandered back down to see comedian Alex Horne leading The Horne Section in some musical-based interactive comedy (some impressive, some incredibly impressive – and blindfolded!).

As it started getting dark, we put on our ponchos and headed for the Mountain Stage to bop around to Belle and Sebastian, who brought the perfect mixture of nostalgic pop and catchy tunes to round off the festival. We then headed up to the relocated man, for the symbolic burning. The new location, for the record, is much better than previous years – I was nowhere near the front and could still see way more than in the past!

To round things up, we wandered over to bop around to some of surprise guest DJ Yoda, before finally stumbling home.

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While the line up may have been less ‘late night bangers’ than the last couple of years, this Green Man was every part as lovely. It’s one of the best festival weekends you can spend in this country; with so much to do, it’s almost impossible to get round to doing and seeing everything. The small size of the site means you can get from bed to bopping within minutes, and also that you’re not exhausted from traipsing for miles and miles, day after day. Green Man continues to dominate amongst small-to-medium-sized UK festivals, and we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for next year – their 15th anniversary!

Earlybird tickets for Green Man 2017 – the 15th anniversary – go on sale September 29. Don’t miss out!

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WIN! Tickets with camping to The Good Life Experience Festival!

Further celebrating our summer of festivals, we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for The Good Life Experience Festival!

The Good Life Experience was named as one of the best festivals in the world by Conde Naste earlier this year (and also features in our new Festival Guide).

A weekend of fun and discovery, with music, books, food, and the great outdoors, The Good Life Experience was founded by Cerys Matthews, Steve Abbott & Charlie and Caroline Gladstone. This year the line up includes Gilles Peterson, Mercury Rev DJ set, John Cooper Clarke, Cerys Matthews, Max Richter and a whole load of literary / cultural / fun activities for all the family.

AND WE’VE GOT A PAIR OF TICKETS WITH CAMPING TO GIVE AWAY!

To WIN:

1 – go sign up for the We Are Cardiff weekly newsletter (if you have already, you don’t need to do this again!)

2 – share this post on Facebook or this one on Twitter and tag in the person you’d take with you

BOOM! THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED AT 7PM THURSDAY 1 SEPTEMBER – YOU DON’T HAVE LONG TO ENTER!!

WIN! TICKETS TO THE GOOD LIFE

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