Today’s guest writer is Pip Gray, who is joining us to talk about the joys of urban nature – specifically in Cardiff, in the colder weather! Take it away, Pip!
With acres of green spaces, wild coast line and miles of waterways flowing through the heart of the city, Cardiff is a city full of wildlife and nature to appreciate all times of the year – including the best time to go out and see it, winter.
Spending time in nature is scientifically proven to improve our mood, mental and general health, there’s no better time to get outside than in winter! Full to the brim with some of our most dramatic and exciting natural experiences, which can rival any summers day in the sun – disconnect and get involved.
Wrap up in your big winter coat, pull on your wellies and let’s create some warming winter memories outside amongst our cities ancient trees and wild neighbours.
Whilst we’re wrapped up in scarves and boots, wildlife from our chillier highlands surrounding Cardiff flock to our city for a warm escape from freezing conditions.
Look for winter birds such as Fieldfare and Redwing, relatives of the Song Thrush, who will be visiting our parks and gardens to feast on berries and seek shelter from colder climes.
They’ll be joined by one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the UK, huge Starling murmurations.To enjoy this free performance, spend a little time looking up just before dusk at the Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve, or across the city’s parks including Splott Park to watch up to thousands of birds swirling and dancing in the sky together before they roost.
Get In The Garden
Winter isn’t best known as a popular time to get in the garden, but our garden birds really appreciate a little helping hand during this tough season.
Setting out a feeding station and/or water is a lifeline for birds such as Robin and House Sparrows whose populations have plummeted due to loss of places to live and feed in our suburban sprawl. A simple feeder from a pet or DIY store filled with suet balls and a water bath will reward you with close up views of our most colourful garden birds including Blue Tits and Chaffinches – it’s like a safari, but for your garden!
Now is also a great time to start thinking about how to make your garden wildlife friendly for the year ahead, whether it’s pots of wildflower for bees or a fruit bush which supports everything from butterflies to birds!
Signs Of Spring
Another easy way to connect with nature that’s accessible to all, is to get down to earth. No really, get down to the ground and start noticing our amazing wild plants! Here in Cardiff we have countless numbers of wildflower, grasses, fungi and ancient organisms such as lichen and moss. A really great way to get interactive with our botanical buddies is with #WildFlowerHour at 8pm every Sunday on Twitter, where you can share your finds, have help identifying and get involved with protecting the plants which support our wildlife, and us.
In winter, look for snowdrops in our wooded areas, which will begin to flower alongside delicate yellow primroses. Some of our most ancient plants such as ferns and lichen thrive in our oldest forests, visit Howardian Gardens or Coed y Wenallt to lose yourself in the magic of an ancient woodland without leaving the city.
Thanks Pip! Pip Gray runs a Cardiff based wildlife blog, Wildly Pip, where she documents her journey living wildly in the city centre.
We recently published our Guide to Local Christmas Shopping in Cardiff – with a comprehensive list of all the markets and indies we’d love you to consider when doing your Christmas shopping. But if you’re still feeling stuck, how about picking up some dope threads from Heads Above The Waves? They’ve had some new items just arrive in store, and if you’re looking for Merch with a Message, look no further!
Heads Above The Waves is a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness of depression and self-harm in young people. They promote creative ways of dealing with the bad days, and run workshops with hands-on techniques. And they also selling really wonderful merch! So let’s have a look at the new bits…
They’ve also got bags, enamel mugs, hoodies – loads of great gear! Go check out the HATW online store or stop into Castle Emporium.
We also like the ‘Things to try’ page on their website, full of tips for if you’re just feeling down or if you’re looking to stop self-harming – there are plenty of ways to distract yourself or replace the need to hurt yourself. They’ve put together a list from other people’s experiences. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else until you find some that do.
In the immortal words of Jerry Springer, take care of yourselves and each other.
Beth Girdler-Maslen takes a tour around some locations in Cardiff that you can see on the small screen! Fans of Doctor Who and Torchwood, take note!
Doctor Who is a cult classic television programme that is out of this world, in storylines and in Daleks. Exploring outer space is something that not many of us normal people (who aren’t timelords) get a chance to do, which makes Cardiff the perfect place to take a walk down memory lane and discover the amazing filming locations of the iconic BBC show. The Doctor Who Experience sadly closed down a year ago, but there are many walking guides and other places to indulge in your ‘Who’ obsession. Here’s a Cardiff based guide for Doctor Who locations to follow and maybe find some aliens along the way.
Cardiff Bay is the perfect place to go for all BBC filming sets, with Sherlock, Torchwood and Doctor Who all being filmed there. Roald Dahl Plass is the home to The Hub, Torchwood’s headquarters, a spin-off to Doctor Who. On the Space-Time Rift, the TARDIS can also use this spot to re-fuel. The Millennium Centre has been used for scenes in Doctor Who and appears in the background for Torchwood. The lobby has been used for hospital scenes, like the Cat Hospital in the 2006 ‘New Earth’ episode and another hospital for the 2011 episode, ‘The Girl Who Waited’. A little bit further down the bay, you can find The Shrine to Ianto Jones, a permanent memorial celebrating the life of the Torchwood character who ‘died’ in 2009. I had a look at it not too long ago, wondering who he was and was surprised and confused to see so many tributes from people all over the world, from Spain, France and Finland, to name a few. A weird and whacky find for those who would like to pay tribute and for others to have a bit of a giggle. Eddie’s Diner is used in two episodes and is a disguise for the TARDIS. Clara goes through a toilet door to a console room in the series 9 finale and Matt Smith later enters through that door. The American diner is now a regular tourist spot.
Cardiff Castle has been used for multiple episodes in Torchwood, the Sarah-Jane Adventures and Doctor Who as well as Sherlock (it’s the castle where Moriarty stole the crown jewels). It was used for the series 6 two-part episode ‘The Rebel Flesh’ and ‘Almost People’ as well as ‘The Snowmen’, the Christmas special episode.
National Museum of Wales
Again,the National Museum is in lots of episodes of Doctor Who, like ‘Dalek’, ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ and ‘The Big Bang’. Its probably most memorable for ‘The Day of the Doctor’ 50th anniversary special with previous doctors, David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt. An alien exhibition was held there, Vincent Van Gough visited, and it has been used as a base for different museums seen in the show.
St Fagans National History Museum
As an open-air museum documenting Welsh life from decades ago, St Fagans was the perfect setting for the two-part episode ‘Human Nature/The Family of Blood’, set in 1913. ‘The Woman Who Lived’ was also filmed there for series 9, starring Maisie Williams.
Best known for shopping and a very popular place in the city of Cardiff, filming Doctor Who was a public affair with tons of fans pouring in to catch a glimpse of Peter Capaldi. Who can blame them, when the Doctor, the TARDIS and Cybermen were in the centre of Cardiff?
The Main Building of Cardiff University is consistently used as the fictional Bristol-based St Luke’s University for the Doctor’s companion studies. Alexandra Gardens, a beautiful garden behind the main building and near the Bute building is the location for the series 3 finale ‘Last of the Time Lords’. The angels in the gardens also look like the angels from ‘Don’t Blink’, which is something to keep in mind as you walk through!
Take a walk along Westgate Street and you’ll find a hidden alleyway, that the Doctor and Clara found in ‘Face the Raven’ and where Clara meets her death. A sad visit but an exciting one, where you can disappear down a secret street.
A bit outside of Cardiff but worth the journey, Southerndown Beach has been used for numerous episodes but the most memorable and heart-breaking one has to be Rose’s exit from the show. Dead in her own universe and stuck in another, Rose and the Doctor meet on the beach to say their final goodbye. A tear-jerker episode and a beautiful place to visit for all the Whovians to re-enact the emotional moment.
Geriatric club kid Helia Phoenix reminisces about the Emporium, a Cardiff night life institution from the 90s-00s. She has a little chat with the club’s old manager, Tim Corrigan, plus a cast of thousands (well, tens) who remember the club in all its glory. Also, you might wanna bookmark this page to come back to if you get reading fatigue – it is officially the longest thing we have ever published. Possibly. #Fakenews.
I don’t feel like me and the Emporium ever spent enough time together before it was time to say goodbye. I spent hours and hours and hours – weekend after weekend – cocooned in her hot, sweaty darkness: having philosophical breakthroughs in the toilets with strangers; cementing friendships with my gang – we became pals for LIFE, yeah; experiencing spiritual awakenings on the dancefloor; and whirling around and around and around to the music. Every night in the Emporium was an endless explosion of possibilities. You know like in Human Traffic, when Jip says ‘this could be the best night of my life?’. That was how it felt. ALL the time.
I do realise how cliche that sounds. Human Traffic was one of the DVDs on heavy rotation during my early 20s. I know how rose-tinted my glasses are. But I miss those days. I loved dancing. And especially, more than anything, I miss the Emporium. Speaking of Human Traffic, you can see the club in some external scenes of the film …
My main memories cluster around 2000-2001 – back in a time when clubs could easily charge you £15 on the door, and you’d queue around the block, even with a ticket, desperately waiting out the Welsh rain, hoping you were just the right side of drunk that they’d let you in and you could put your stuff in the cloakroom without missing too much dancing.
You slipped through this discreet doorway next to the trendy student clothing shop – possibly it was called Westworld, but I forget – then you walked up those deadly stairs – no grip, wet with sweat from the hot gurners inside. It was like a slippery doorway into Narnia. I don’t even remember if there was a sign, but when doing my research to write this, I spend a bit of time Googling it, and there’s a story that comes up on the BBC about clubbers collapsing in there from dodgy drugs. I don’t remember that, but the photo does remind me of the very classy astroturf sign …
Back then, you could still drive up and down St Mary Street. I even remember one time the weather was so bad we drove there (from Roath … I know … we were lazy!). I loved dancing so much I would regularly go clubbing sober (who needs drink when the beats are good?), so I was always the designated driver – and I managed to get a parking space right outside the club, waited in the car until the queue was small and then we joined it at the back, holding plastic bags above our heads, trying to keep our spandex bodysuits / fluffy boots / massively flared trousers (delete as appropriate) dry. We were soaking when we got inside – but then once inside, the beat started beating, I ordered a Red Bull – and then … the music took over.
By some weird quirk of fate, David Owens of WalesOnline was in the club exploring it the week this piece was being finalised for publication, so there are a couple of brand spanking new photos of the flyer wall inside for you to enjoy …
One of my favourite things about Cardiff is how small it is. That hasn’t changed. It’s really too small to have scenes big enough to sustain their own discrete followings – where as in Bristol, you might have liked psytrance, there would be enough nights on that you’d never go to anything else. But in Cardiff, if you liked going out, chances are you’d try a techno night, you’d maybe try a drum and bass night. You might even go to the reggae parties down the bay, or a garage night (before everyone got stabbed and the parties got banned). And you’d see the same people – people who also loved going out, and were listening to all sorts of different music. The Emporium was a place where lots of these nights were held. Lots of friends made. Lots of hours danced well away. People I still see out and about to this day.
Tim Corrigan is better known these days as the boss of the Milk and Sugar chain. He used to run the Emporium and was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the club, when I told him I was writing an article about it. The office in Human Traffic was filmed on set, but was actually based on Tim’s office in the club.
“In the beginning, the club struggled. But when Lucy and the Catapult crew started a house music night there, it slowly started to pick up pace with people like LTJ Bukem doing nights there, along with huge residencies from every genre of music like Time Flies, Bulletproof, LAMERICA which started there, as well as as the infamous p’tangyangkipperbang…yeah with Jon Rostron, Neil Hinchley and Matt Jarvis.
“To this day, one of my biggest regrets is moving that from its original Saturday to Fridays to make room for more house orientated nights, I think that night could have gone on to huge things as it was the most innovative, random night we had and people loved it! The music was incredibly eclectic. Then there was Funkin Marvellous, National Anthems, Bionic and far too many others to name. There was a time where nearly every big promoter in Cardiff was under one roof. It was a great club to be in as well as giving people the chance to launch nights and try out random things, it was a club that really could cope with most things and it gained a great reputation for it.”
One of the reasons I guess I am so melancholic for the Emporium is because of the time it existed: straddling the 1990s – 2000s, pre-digital cameras, pre-mobiles (well, they were around, but definitely not as pervasive as they are now). Photos from nights went up on clubbing websites at the time – all of which have disappeared.
Because we tended to spend the nights in there fuelled on a deadly vodka-Red Bull mixture, my memories of the place are ambiguous and pixelated. I remember a deadly slippery flight of stairs, a cloakroom, the leathery sofas that some of my friends got sucked into one night when they thought a fistful of mushrooms would be a great enhancement to a house night (it wasn’t – I spent about half an hour trying to get them to stand up then just abandoned them to go and dance instead), the main room – long and thin, with raised stages on either side and the pit in the middle, a bar at the back, and a toilet where I met a girl who had spent an hour in there just staring at a film poster after taking some pills that were laced with acid.
Then there was the second flight of stairs – deadly and slippy, again – and then the upstairs room, which was hot and sweaty and always rammed. The upstairs ladies toilets had very harsh and unforgiving strip lighting and an aggressive ambience – always better to go to the loo downstairs, if you were female. I remember drum and bass and breaks upstairs, everyone crammed in, jumping up and down as one amalgamated lump of squashy humanity.
It was the Emporium that brought Tim Corrigan to Cardiff in the first place (where he’s stayed ever since). “I was running the Emporium in Kingly St in London and the owners bought a club in Cardiff and during the refurbishment of the London club, I was sent to Cardiff to help get it up and running and somehow managed to stay here!” he says. “It was a struggle at first as the Emporium was a very luxurious club when it first opened, it struggled to find its feet really until Catapult Records did a night there called 110%. Lucy and her team brought in people like Fruity Antics from Bristol (amongst others) and introduced the Emporium to house music.”
These very grainy photos give you an idea of the sort of japes that went on in those nights …
Nostalgic raver N told me about those nights:
“The Emporium in the ’90s – always a beautiful bunch! Catapult, Fruity Antics – the big-eyed, smiley people danced like their lives depended on it. Who needed Ibiza when we had our own kind of sunshine like this every weekend in Cardiff? Deep house, funky house and strictly for groovers. Moving up, getting down and letting that backbone slide! Elastic legs and hands in the air at the end of the night singing our hearts out with grins like Cheshire cats and eyes like saucers. One night a guy approached a group of us and said he’d never seen people genuinely having so much fun. He was serious! So were we – we loved it! Living for the weekend, butterflies in our tummies in anticipation of the night ahead, throwing shapes on the dance floor without a care in the world apart from the tunes of course! Absolutely Loved It!! Fond memories forever.”
It wasn’t just the punters who loved it. Henry Blunt of Time Flies moved his night there in 1997. “It was a fantastic venue to promote in,” he says. “The perfect blend of an underground party vibe with a touch of class, alongside professional management and staff plus a strong door team, Emporium soon became the central focus for Cardiff’s thriving dance music scene. Time Flies events there were some of the best we have ever done, and will live long in the memory.”
Another of Cardiff’s longest enduring house nights was actually birthed in the Emporium (does that sound gross? I don’t mean it in a gross way). Although LAMERICA has held parties in nearly every other venue in Cardiff now, Craig Bartlett still has fond memories of the Emporium. “It was the beginning – the place where we started LAMERICA. We put on some of the world’s best DJs there. It was the best and the worst club, for lots of reasons! I would love to do another party in there – Louie Vega’s first ever appearance in 2000 was one of the best nights ever. Also Dimitri from Paris and Danny Krivit playing back to back, and the Todd Terry / CJ Mackintosh Woody Records party in ’94 were big highlights.”
Not everyone loved the place so much. R used to work behind the bar there, and has less fond memories. “Always thought it was overrated as a punter,” he says. “Shit layout, shit soundsystem, not the best vibe. I worked there when it was The Loop. Was shit to work for.”
In its previous incarnations, the unit was The Loop, and before that, it was Tom Toms (the legendary rave club they actually reminisce about in Human Traffic). David tells me “Tom Toms was the heart of the Cardiff rave scene for a couple of years. I think it closed in December 1991, and reopened as The Loop, which was more a normal drinking club. It was that for a few years, then became the Emporium. I loved that club – the last tune every Friday after a night of hardcore was Zoe “Sunshine on a rainy day” – and then the lights would come on! Good times!”
Although David has fond memories of the Emporium, for him, nothing will beat Tom Toms. “There was a real lack of venues mid/late 90s in Cardiff. I had some good nights in the Emporium, but nowhere near as good as when it was Tom Toms! There was something missing I can’t put my finger on it, think it was the vibe as it wasn’t as underground as the Hippo, and not as cool as the City Hall but had some decent nights in there!”
Back to reality. The here and now. You might be wondering – why now? What’s the point of writing about a Cardiff club that’s been and gone, for so long? There have been so many others. The Hippo has Facebook group dedicated to it, while the Emporium has nothing like that.
I walk past the club’s boarded up front and wonder about it sometimes. Recently a note has been painted on the entrance, saying planning has been granted for flats.
It’s difficult to do that with other clubs. They’ve been taken over or knocked down, and new layers of memories have plastered on over the old ones. I can barely remember exactly where the Hippo was anymore, and I’ve forgotten the layout of Vision 2k. I remember that the Toucan was on Womanby Street – where the Bootlegger is now – but it’s really hard for me to visualise it. The city has appropriated all those spaces, absorbed them, and turned them into other things.
Not the Emporium. It’s stuck in this weird, in-between state. I actually started writing this piece back in 2011 (!), which was the first time I saw an image like this posted by someone who had been inside the building on Facebook …
That is an empty shell of a club. A shock when compared to the technicolour, fuzzy blur of memories I have of the place. It’s not quite an abandoned building in the traditional sense: the roof is still on, and it’s has neither humans nor pigeons squatting in it. But it’s also not a club anymore, that’s for sure.
There’s a psychological term that’s used in literature sometimes to describe characters (or situations) that are at an in-between point in a story. It’s usually the space in between key things happening right in the middle of a narrative journey (it’s the bit between when Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed and then when he decides to be Batman). You get the idea. It’s called liminality.
But a liminal space can also exist in the physical sense. It’s a place that has no fixed purpose. If the club was abandoned, it would have transformed into something else. But it’s not. So it’s waiting, empty, with no stamping feet to keep the floor down, and no heat from the wriggling, joyful bodies to give it life.
Without the people, what is this place now?
One of the most shocking things about seeing the photos for me – once I got over the emptiness of the place – was that the main dance floor had a glass ceiling?! Yep – there was a period of a year where I was probably in that club every other weekend at least. Who knows how many hours spent in there. And yet I had no idea about the glass roof until I saw these photos. I consulted with friends I used to go to the club with – they were all just as shocked as me.
Some of Tim’s favourite memories of the club revolve around that glass ceiling (even though I can’t remember it at all). “One of my most memorable nights was watching Louie Vega play a huge set. What a lot of people didn’t know was that the ceiling above the dance floor was glass, so when the sun came up it would suddenly be daylight. We had Louie Vega playing the most amazing deep house set and it was sunrise and he turned to me and said: ‘I fucking love this club’ … I mean, it was 6am, the club was rammed, everyone was really appreciating everything he was playing for them. That was pretty memorable!”
I asked Tim about whether he felt like clubbing had changed much since the days that the Emporium was open. “I don’t think there are any clubs that could ever conjure the same affection that the Emporium did for its clientele,” says Tim. “I don’t see the same response to nights out that people put on now as there used to be in the past. People just don’t seem that bothered about big nights out anymore, it always feels a little too edgy as well, the change in the licensing laws in Wales pretty much killed off the special nights in clubs as people were happy to stay in the bars later and later. Bars can now compete with clubs on a whole new level with regards to sound, design, and music.”
We chat about Cardiff’s current club scene. For me, Clwb is still a place that I feel guaranteed of a good night, and Tim agrees.
“I think the Welsh Club has stuck to its roots – it seems to have survived anything that being thrown at it. It’s such an institution. Hopefully that will never face the day when it needs to close its doors as I imagine that will be a loss to a lot of people. The world’s too clean a place with its health and safety and all its laws to ever let a club like the Emporium through the net again! The Hippo is another one I don’t think either would survive very long these days in the environment that the law makers have created for us. Ha, is that subtle enough!?!”
I wonder if Cardiff is missing an Emporium, or another Hippo. I guess the Full Moon is somewhere in the anything-goes vibe of the club, though obviously world’s apart in execution.
“I don’t think Cardiff is missing a place like the Emporium. I just don’t think it would happen again,” says Tim. “The original Sodabar that I owned was an upmarket version of it, and the new one was when it opened. But it’s a standard, run-of-the-mill place now. I wasn’t there when the Emporium closed, as I had opened Sodabar by then but I just think perhaps it had just had its day. The management had changed and perhaps they didn’t enjoy the music as much as I did. I also think it was just too run down at that point. Newer, cleaner clubs were popping up. Maybe people were starting to expect more for their money!? It was a shame that it closed but the capacity would have always been an issue for that venue, as we could never get it extended to let more people in.”
Even to this day, capacity or not, no one seems to have found a use for the venue, which is still an empty unit, albeit with planning permission for flats now.
Helia Phoenix is a geriatric raver who has long since exchanged her glo sticks for knitting needles. Just kidding. She’s still well up for a dance, if anyone wants to put on a rave that would finish a little earlier …? She lives in Butetown and her current most favourite place to go in the evenings these days is the Blue Honey Night Cafe. She also started writing this article in 2011 … in the future, she wants to be better at wrapping things up a little quicker.
Big thanks to all the geriatric ravers who contributed to this article. In no order, because we like to mix things up: Tim Corrigan, Neil Cocker, Matt Jarvis who provided the flyers, Henry Blunt, James Drop for many fun nights dancing downstairs in Las Iguanas, Rick Latham for all those hours listening to funky house in Catapult, Tyrone Rose, Lucy Thomas, Simon Thomas, Doug Nicholls, Carl Morris, Twm Owen, Lubi J, Dean Thomas, Matthew Miles, Gareth Coates, Craig Bartlett, Tony Davidson, David Tumulty, Jon Rostron, Rhys Thompson, Tony Davidson, Nadia, Lawrence, Stig, Luke, Nat, Gav, Eleri, Pam, Kaptin, plus all those I met on the way, whose names I can’t remember, but who shared warm embraces, warm beers, and a warm dancefloor with me over all those late nights, all that time ago. Also anyone else who talked to me about the Emporium, who I’ve forgotten to mention.
It’s hard to find photos of the place (maybe mercifully so), although some questions to a nostalgic Facebook group surfaced a lot more pictures than I was anticipating – and it’s their photos you can see throughout this piece. Big thanks to all of them for helping bring my ramblings to life.
Also RIP Ian Dundgey, who played many sets in the Emporium, and passed away 10 years ago.
Today, we’re taking a tour of Cathays, aka student-land – with local Beth Girdler-Maslen. So for today – We Love Cathays – our favourite spots for food, drink, art, fitness and shopping!
Cathays is right in the centre of Cardiff and full of vibrant and exciting places to eat, drink, shop and workout. However, being known as ‘Student Central’, it is overlooked due to its drunk and stressed inhabitants. Having lived in Cathays for the best three years of student hood, I’ve compiled a list of the best spots in Cathays that you may not know about.
Besides being a place for lectures and where students escape to after a busy day, Cardiff University’s Student Union has so many events over the year. Club nights aside, it has live music and concerts with the likes of George Ezra and Youmeatsix having performed there. The Great Hall also hosts many sales, like posters, plants and clothes. Events like these are open to everyone and a great spot to find bargains.
Nearer Roath but still close to Cathays, this market is a hidden in what looks like a garage but is filled with classic and vintage treasures. Rose Street Flea Market is full of antiques, pictures, instruments, books and much more. Virtually unadvertised, the market is known about through word of mouth and only open on weekends. It may look like a junk shop from the outside, but the two-storey house is full of collections and great bargains.
Right in the middle of Cathays, The Early Bird has everyone flocking to its yellow bakery/café. Open in 2015, The Early Bird has become a staple for brunch with amazing food and homely and rustic furniture. It uses local suppliers and businesses for their produce and makes fresh bread and sweet treats everyday as well as roasting their own coffee.
Stag Coffee is a unique independent restaurant, offering coffee, brunch, burgers and cakes. Their menu is full of comfort food as well as new and exciting vegetarian and vegan options. To try to keep things exciting and different from other restaurants, Stag hits at the Instagram obsessed side of people, by serving their meals in creative ways. Jam jars/mason jars full of milkshakes and coffees, chopping boards for burgers and cups for chips are served to keep with Stag’s effort to keep your visit memorable.
Gassy Jacks or ‘Gassy’s’ as it is lovingly called is a brilliant bar full of food and drink as well as great activities all year round. It has a sporty vibe to it, with football and pingpong tables as well as TVs and projectors for the big games. They have weekly events, like Monday Quiz nights, open mic nights, cocktail nights on Fridays and karaoke on Thursdays.
The Woody is right in the heart of Cathays and its student area. It’s a good old-fashioned pub with two makeshift beer gardens which are jampacked during the warmer months. It’s a famous spot for students and a pub crawl destination. It has an upstairs and a downstairs as well as a pool table. Their cocktails are definitely something to shout about with a classics cocktails as well as ‘hardshakes’ and summery cocktails served in cans with sweets on the side. Also, it’s dog friendly!
Right in the middle of Cathays, the Sherman Theatre develops work from Welsh writers and artists for its audience. This year it won an Olivier Award for its production of Killology, as well as the award of Regional Theatre of the Year, the first Welsh theatre to win. It hosts a range of comedy stand-ups, plays and musicals.
The National Museum is right in the heart of Cathays and inside it is full of exciting exhibitions. It has a big section on natural history with dinosaur bones and animals, art work and ancient Wales. It regularly has special exhibitions, including The First World War collections, specific artists collections and most recently, women in photography and a Remembrance Day exhibition.
For those who like to be more active and adventurous, Adventure Rooms is the place to go. It’s a live escape room, where you and your team are locked in a room and you must solve the clues to escape the room. There is a 60-minute time limit and different themed rooms ranging in difficulty, like The Mad Scientist, The Black Queen and Mafia. Prices depend on the size of teams but range from £15-25.
TeamSport is a multilevel go kart track that is a regular attraction for people of all ages. Upon entry, you are given a motocross suit, helmet, gloves and all the right clothes for go karting. After 20 minutes of being taught how to work the car and the track, you can race around the track as fast as you like, trying to beat the record for the day that has been set by others. You’re also given your statistics of how you did in the race to take home.
We told you before Christmas that We Are Cardiff had a mascot – a rescue greyhound called Zelda. Well, she’s not really been pulling her weight in terms of blog posts, so we’ve managed to pry her off the sofa for long enough to give us her recommendations. (If any of you have ever met a greyhound, you’ll know what we’re talking about. All she wants to do is sleep!). So anyway … here it is!
Zelda’s guide to dog friendly Cardiff Bay
Before we begin, you should just remind yourself of how adorable Zelda is.
To start off with, we’re going to focus on the places you can take your dog inside (because let’s face it, weather …). There’s a list of recommended outdoors places too, at the bottom of the post.
There are two Coffi Cos in Cardiff Bay – one by the Wetherspoons and Carluccios (in the old Bosphorus unit) and one just over the water as you head towards the barrage. Both are dog friendly, though the Mermaid Quay one is our regular. Staff are all super lovely and very fond of dogs. The place is very popular. Beware if you have a silly long-legged dog like a greyhound though – there are lots of big stools that they might get enmeshed in, as per below. (I know, what is she like). Coffi Co Facebook, Coffi Co Twitter, Coffi Co IG.
Although Cadwaladers is best known for its incredible ice cream, the Mermaid Quay branch also serves great coffee and snacks. It’s a good place for brunch, has views of the bay, and best of all, your dog is allowed inside! Cadwaladers Facebook, Cadwaladers Twitter, Cadwaladers IG
If your dog is of the literary persuasion, she will love Octavo’s: Cardiff’s only book cafe, located just a couple of minutes from Cardiff Bay train station and Mermaid Quay. Octavo’s serve food and drinks all day, and have a great selection of general fiction and local interest books. There are also author events, book clubs and all sorts of meet ups held there. Support independent local businesses and get thee down to Octavo’s! Octavo’s Facebook, Octavo’s Twitter, Octavo’s IG.
This place is one of the best summertime drinking spots in the Bay due to its waterside location and lovely green lawn out the back. Dogs are allowed inside (at the entrance and also in a room towards the back). It’s very lacking in atmosphere inside and usually takes about five years to be served (they only ever seem to have one member of bar staff working whenever I go in), but hey, it’s the only dog-friendly boozer in the bay. Waterguard Facebook
Also, it’s not a boozer, but Pavers Shoes in the bay has a dogs welcome sign in the window (in case your pooch needs new pumps)
There’s one real dog-friendly gem within a ten minute drive of Cardiff Bay, where you can take your dog inside and the place is really something special – so it’s included (just in case your dog has wheels). Well worth heading for.
The Grange, 134 Penarth Road, Cardiff: lovely pub with a skittles alley and large beer garden. Great atmosphere, good food and super friendly staff. This place gets five bones out of five!
CARDIFF BAY – OUTDOORS PLACES TO VISIT WITH YOUR DOG
Cardiff Bay barrage (nice for a walk over to Penarth)
World of Boats (sit outside for a great view of the bay)
Mermaid Quay bars (The Dock, Wetherspoons, Las Iguanas etc … they all have outdoor seating areas where you and your dog can sit)
Zelda approves of all these places. She encourages you to take your pups to visit, then let us know how you get on!
Phew! We’re all tuckered out. Zelda’s off for a nap. So we’ll see you soon! Don’t forget you can follow her adventures on Instagram – @ZeldaPooch
I recently spent a few hours lost in the internet when I came across Nick Sarebi’s wonderful photographs of Cardiff in the 1980s. I messaged Nick who kindly agreed to let us publish them, and even did a mini interview with me, which I present, here, for you. Do enjoy this wonderful dip into the archives, back into Cardiff in the late 1980s and very early 1990s. Over to Nick …
Nick: I originally came from London. I lived in between Grangetown 1988 – 95, although I was still working in London for much of that time. I always thought Cardiff was a lovely city.
I was doing a City and Guilds photography project at the time. I loved the sense of history that the Docks had, and obviously it was just on the cusp of change. I wish I took more photos back then, but it was before digital.
I lived in Pentrebane Street in Grangetown. I remember my neighbour saying that she knew Shirley Bassey and went on a works outing with her, where she sang, but then again everyone claimed to know her at that time! I think there were still close-knit families in Grangetown then, which was changing at that time. The neighbours were all very friendly. The house was covered inside with Artex when I bought it. It took ages to scrape off, I must have been mad!
Nick: I loved wandering round the Docks at that time, before it was all developed. It was pretty much deserted at the time. I also remember visiting the Sea Lock and some other Docks pubs. I wanted to go into the clubs down there but was a bit wary as an outsider. The Sea Lock was definitely stepping into the past. The main bar was closed and they only had a tiny bar left open. They frowned on women going in there alone! It was demolished soon after, I think. The publicans were really friendly. I recommend Trezza Azzarardi’s The Hiding Place – it’s a brilliant take on Tiger Bay. It conjures up Tiger Bay so well for me I had to go back and take another look. It was criminal how the knocked the place down. It can still be seen in the classic film Tiger Bay, which you should watch if you haven’t seen already.
There’s a nice interview with Neil Sinclair here, talking about the story of the place that inspired the Tiger Bay musical that was out year …
I remember meeting Neil Sinclair, who is at the start of Tiger Bay talking with Hayley Mills. We met at a nice pub which was on the Bay front and was very isolated, out on the way to Penarth. This was before they built that flyover. I forget its name, I think it must have gone now.
Cardiff – the city
Nick: Why did I move to Cardiff in the first place? That’s a good question. I wanted to move out of London, as it was expensive to buy a house there (even then!) and it was so big. Of course, no one could imagine that house prices would rise to the crazy levels they are now…
I couldn’t decide on Bristol or Cardiff. My girlfriend at the time lived in Bristol, but we split up just before I moved, so I chose Cardiff. In retrospect, what was mad was not looking for work in Cardiff. So I just travelled thousands of miles up and down the M4!
Eventually after Cardiff I moved to Bristol and I worked there for a couple of years, but was offered a part-time job in London, which went from two to four days, so I started commuting again, from 1997 right through to 2013.
I now look back and wonder why I did that! I spent seven years in Cardiff, but somehow it doesn’t feel that long – it flew by. I arrived in Cardiff only a few months after Lynette White was murdered. Someone wrote a book on it called Bloody Valentine, but it had to be pulped for libel reasons.
Nick: It was a bit ridiculous travelling backwards and forwards to London for all those years I lived in Cardiff. Cardiff was all changing at that time. I studied at the Arts Centre – I can’t remember what it was called now.
I have visited Cardiff a few times since I lived there, walking all round the barrage with my son, and have been to watch my team, Fulham, play Cardiff. It always brings back memories. I’m glad I lived there when I did, and saw the bay before it became “the Bay”.
Thank you so much Nick! He has a couple of really great albums of 1980s photography. We particularly love these albums:
Miners strike 1984 (photographs of mining families on holiday in London during the strike)
Writer Ben Newman gets stuck into Peter Finch’s fourth instalment in the Real Cardiff series.
How well do you know Cardiff, really? For a city of only roughly 350,000 people, nestled between valleys and the sea, there is a surprising amount of history, tales, fables, and important spots that remain hidden to the majority of us. Thankfully, Peter Finch’s Real Cardiff The Flourishing City has been published and is, to date, one of the most readable yet comprehensive histories of Cardiff.
By splitting the book into five main parts – Central, East, North, West, and South – Finch interprets how the city’s linguistic, cultural, artistic, and economical heritage is preserved and built upon today, whilst contextualising how all these factors contribute to Cardiff’s booming trade. No matter which part of the ‘diff you live in, there will be some coverage of it in it here, and may make you approach your morning commute or next trip to the shops a little differently.
The book opens with a short discussion about Cardiff’s role as a boom city, before descending into an overview of the city’s history. Finch then muses on the cultural melding, or lack thereof, between Cardiff and the northern valleys, and how economic and population pressures may push Cardiffians out into the valleys. It is an interesting discussion to be had where Cardiff’s influence and parameters end, with Finch stating that “Cardiff finishes at the roundabout just south of Castell Coch.” This book attempts to discuss more than just Cardiff itself, but the degree of its wider influence in the fabric of south Wales.
Furthering on that, the author discusses how the city is changing architecturally, with our beloved skyline being threatened by all sorts of wider economic advancements. The book opens by providing a full framework of what has happened and what is to come, threading in loose descriptions of a multitude of factors. Whilst Finch does not go into impressive depth in this book, he does display an amazing breadth of knowledge; this book is not necessarily for those inclined to the nitty-gritty, but more for those who want a full understanding of what it means to be Cardiff.
Finch, already famous for being a wonderful writer, employs a direct and simple writing style, with the kind of preference for understatement you see from any old man telling a story. Even if he shies away from hyperbole, he still manages to capture the contradictory and idiosyncratic nature of Cardiff. His writing is underpinned by an implicit understanding of what makes us Cardiffians tick, allowing his writing to gravitate towards highlights that would naturally interest locals.
Without wanting to spoil too much, the book traverses through geographical spots throughout each part of Cardiff, focusing on those bits that appear relatively different or important. In a way, it is as if Finch is taking you on a tour – albeit a politicised one – throughout spots in Cardiff. He starts off with easy parts such as Queen Street, before slowly making his way through the nooks and crannies of central Cardiff, ending in the quieter streets of Tredegarville. This occurs throughout each section, beginning at a central hub, and slowly meandering out to the peripheries. Each street reveals something different and hidden away. To give them away here would ruin the experience, but the important point Finch takes away from each idiosyncrasy is that Cardiff deserves to be treasured. Underpinning his textual tour is an argument that we, like the rest of Wales, need a plan. Issues such as traffic concerns, architectural issues, and Cardiff’s disconnect from Welsh culture are all discussed, leading to a book that not only entrenches itself in the city, but in the city’s concerns, troubles, and future.
Real Cardiff is, at heart, a book for the people of Cardiff, half-love-letter, half-history.
Author Peter Finch has a number of events throughout the rest of 2018/9 where you can join him on walks through the city, or hear him talk. Make sure to check Peter Finch’s Twitter for more details, but we recommend:
Saturday 8th September, 2018 Banging Out The Poems at The Park Hotel Cardiff Book Festival. 3.15 pm at Cornerstone, Charles Street
A brief literary history of one of Cardiff’s major landmarks. Peter Finch, author of the new Real Cardiff The Flourishing City, tracks some of the creative outrages perpetrated in the name of literature at this 150-year old institution. We’ll also hear a little about how, in an age of windpower, the world’s greatest coal port has boomed again. Cardiff – as much a destination now as it is a place to live.
Tuesday 23rd September, 2018 Real Cardiff The Flourishing City
Rhiwbina Library. 7.30 pm.
Thursday 18th October, 2018 Arts Society Central Cardiff Walk Psychogeography and the Real City
Friday 9th February, 2019 The Cardiff Mash Up
Mezzanine: The Seren Cornerstone Poetry Festival, Charles Street, Cardiff, 2019
The polymath poet, editor, essayist and psychogeographer presents his newest work on the city. 12.00 noon.
You might have spotted the super exciting Kickstarter campaign for a new zero-waste store in Cardiff called ripple. As you know, we LOVE small actions that turn into big changes. So today, Sophie Rae – the kick-ass woman behind the idea – tells us all about her amazing concept…
Ripple, Cardiff’s first not-for-profit zero-waste store, has launched a Kickstarter to bring the shop to the city in time for a new wave of conscious consumers.
Inspired by the independent community of Cardiff, ripple founder and Cardiff native, Sophie Rae, launched the crowd funding campaign on 16th July at fellow not-for-profit business Big Mooose Coffee.
Pledgers have shown their support in vast numbers, with the campaign reaching 25% of its target within 72 hours! Here’s why you should back the project too:
So, what’s ripple about?
It’s simple really. Ripple is all about conscious consuming; from food to fashion choices. We think everyone deserves the chance to shop more ethically. When one person makes a change, everyone else pays attention, because ripples create waves. That, and you know… plastic.
What’s wrong with plastic?
Don’t misunderstand us, we’re not anti-plastic. It’s a material that’s saving lives and has a much-needed purpose worldwide.
But single-use plastics? Yeah, they suck. BIG TIME. Plastic bags, water bottles, coffee cups, straws, packaging, wet wipes, sanitary products… the list is endless and it’s getting longer.
The ugly truth
By 2050, it’s estimated there will be more plastic than fish, in our world ocean. Studies estimate that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean each year and by 2025, that’s set to double.
Worried yet? Us too. Plastic packaging accounts for an eye-watering fifth of the cost of your weekly shop. What if you could shop package free? Well, we’d all be saving a lot of money and precious resources.
So what is a zero-waste store?
To help the people of Cardiff pass on plastic, ripple will offer over 120 bulk wholefoods and encourage customers to bring their own containers, jars, tubs and bags to refill every time they shop. And because the team believe in treating every creature with kindness, they’ll be be stocking the best natural and cruelty-free home and beauty products too, from eco laundry detergent to shampoo, soap and washing-up liquid.
There’s even going to be some sustainable homeware and ethical fashion thrown in for good measure. Think bamboo socks and organic cotton underwear!
Sophie tell us:
I watched Blue Planet II in 2017 and was deeply shocked to see the devastating harm humans are having on our planet. Since then, I’ve felt pretty ethically queasy. My zero-waste journey started not long after, I’ve been making small changes to help lighten my personal plastic footprint.
The campaign is helping create sustainable foundations for ripple, so our impact can be bigger and bolder than we could have ever imagined on our own. It really is a community project, led by the people of the city.
I hope ripple will change the way Cardiff consumes, so that we can turn Wales’ capital into a true green city. That’s what ripple is all about:making small, sustainable changes to help create a bigger impact.
Ripple’s Kickstarter campaign will close at 11:59pm on Sunday 29th July, when the target of £30,000 must be reached or no funding will be released.
To help entice supporters to pledge, ripple has collaborated with local independent businesses to offer rewards,including zero-waste starter kits, Hot Pod Yoga class passes and ethical accessories from Cardiff-based fashion brand Maykher.
Over the past couple of weeks, the City of Arcades campaign has been encouraging people across Cardiff to VOTE FOR THEIR FAVOURITE INDEPENDENT BUSINESS in any one of our wonderful arcades. THERE ARE ONLY 10 DAYS LEFT TO VOTE PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
HERE’S HOW TO VOTE:
Go to the City of Arcades website and click through to the arcade where your favourite shop is (you may need to explore the site first to work out which is which).
We voted for Spillers Records! Which you can find in the Morgan Arcade section, bbz. Although we’re not telling you how to vote, obvs.
When you find your store listed, CLICK THE HEART ICON (circled below). You can’t vote from the store’s actual information page (as they don’t all have them) – you can only vote in this list view.
The top 10 stores will be featured in an ad campaign in Cardiff, Bristol, and Bath, so it’s some great exposure for our lovely local independent businesses! ALSO anyone who votes will be entered into a draw to win a £100 FOR Cardiff Gift Card.
Voting is open until midnight on 22 July 2018. VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE ARCADE BUSINESS and help them get a spot in the City of Arcades Top 10! Go to thecityofarcades.com, follow the steps above, and KABOOM.
Once you’ve voted (or maybe before), do spend some time exploring the City of Arcades website. There are some lovely video interviews with different businesses – this is the Spillers Records interview with Ashley …
Also we love this interview with Matthew Pritchard, owner of Sleep When You’re Dead in the High Street Arcade …
Aaaaand this with lovely Kas from Waterloo Tea in the Wyndham Arcade …
As Adrian Field, Executive Director of FOR Cardiff, says: “If you frequently visit a café or buy gifts from a certain shop, make sure you get behind the business to help them get on the top 10 list. Looking at the current top 20, it’s all still to play for!”
Dyfed Bowen, General Manager of Rules of Play in Castle Arcade, says: “The support we’ve received since the campaign launched has been incredible. It makes us feel special to see that hundreds of people have voted for us so far, especially when you look at all the other well-known shops in the arcades such as Barkers Coffee and Science Cream.”
Aw. All the feels.
To make sure your favourite independent gets the recognition it deserves in the campaign later this year, MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!
There’s more about the City of Arcades on the socials …
The campaign is being run by For Cardiff, an organisation that represents businesses in Cardiff’s city centre (known as the business improvement district, or BID). A BID is an arrangement where central businesses can make decisions about the improvements they want to make in their city centre, and have a say in the amount they think should be spent on these improvements. BIDs are usually run by not for profit companies, controlled by the businesses that fund them. This post is kindly sponsored by the City of Arcades, helping us keep the social purpose at the heart of We Are Cardiff.
Journalist Ben Newman explores four sustainable businesses on the west side of town.
Cardiff, in our (sort of) biased view, is full of businesses that give back to the city, community, and the entire cultural fabric of the Welsh capital. From cafés to corner shops, many of the people and businesses of Cardiff are charitable and utilitarian, so to celebrate that, we’ve collated four Canton-based business that have been giving back in a big way recently.
Hey Clay! At Cardiff Pottery Workshops
Everyone, at some point in their lives, has said to themselves that they want to try pottery “one day”. Who knows what it is that attracts so many people to ceramics, but for some reason, the discipline feels oddly impenetrable, reserved for arty types and the creatively-inclined. However, Hey Clay!, an event at Cardiff Pottery Workshops, is an attempt to bridge the gap between ceramics and the people. Essentially, the event is a free lesson to allow anyone, especially those who are disabled, to have a chance at pottery and learn a thing or two. Hey Clay! is a Crafts Council national celebration of clay which aims to give people across the UK the chance to unleash their inner potter, so Cardiff Pottery Workshops deserve commendation for providing an insight into a tough industry that’s open for anyone.
Bee & Honey
Just off Cowbridge Road, in the heart of Canton, you’ll find Bee & Honey, a café that, on the surface, looks like a quaint place to eat. However, under the surface, Bee & Honey provides some of the best food in Cardiff, as well as acting as a support for other businesses in Cardiff. You’ll only find Bee & Honey goods here, but goods from other Cardiff-based businesses, including Canton Tea Co. and Riverside Sourdough. Additionally, the café has recently staged meditation lessons, diversifying its appeal beyond cuisine. Bee & Honey are an example that businesses in Cardiff, however small, do their best to support their neighbours financially and mindfully, as well as making a pretty banging dish along the way.
Lufkin Coffee is a little hard to find, located down a small alley near the Co-Op in Pontcanna (where they have the Pipes Beer Festival). It joins a cluster of local, wonderfully small business (Canna Deli, etc.) The owners along with the rest of the staff are always open for conversation, lending to the comfortable and pastoral feel of the entire business. After recently hosting a small ceramics exhibition for Frances Lufkin, a student at Cardiff Met, the business has showed that its small location has a wide reach. However, this is not the reason why this small café is on the list. Lufkin deserves this place, quite simply, because of the quality of its roasted coffee beans and product. It’s not the only the best quality coffee in Cardiff, but it’s also, according to Brian’s Coffee Spot, one of the best roasters in the entire United Kingdom. It may not be flashy, but Lufkin has all that’s needed to succeed as a community coffee shop: excellent coffee, even better conversation, and a cruelty-free product.
This one may be cheating (a little bit) as they’re not strictly Canton-based, but they deserve a mention anyway! Green Squirrel, as part of Green City Events, brings together a myriad of different practices underpinned by an environmentally-friendly ethos. Essentially, these events range from Wasteless Kitchens, which involves the cooking of food with no waste, to food foraging, to carpentry and yarn spinning. By bringing together the multiple skills of Cardiff-based professionals and tutors, the events help form links between vastly different businesses in the city. The skilled local tutors teach practical sustainable living skills that benefit people and communities, and bring rural and traditional skills to the heart of Cardiff. Loads more info can be found on the Green Squirrel workshops page, with events that span the entirety of the city. Green Squirrel not only give back to Cardiff communities, but to nature.