So. There’s a lot going on. (I feel like I’ve said that multiple times, like way more times than I should have said it, since the start of this year?? Anyway.) Just wanted to round up some resources and events taking place that might be of interest at the mo.
BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTS
You may have noticed a couple of #BlackLivesMatter protests taking place in Cardiff this week. If you are attending a protest, please remember to keep socially distanced, wear a mask, and take sunblock and water to keep hydrated. Follow Black Lives Matter Cardiff on Facebook for more information.
If you’d like to undertake more reading, try this: Anti-racism resources for white allies (compiled by one of the BLM organisers – info ranges from articles to read, to anti-racism books for children, to anti-racism film recommendations).
This is the second time in a week we’re mentioning the BBC Sounds podcast Shreds by Ceri Jackson. But we really, really, REALLY recommend it. It’s an upsetting but vital listen about systemic police racism and corruption in Cardiff over the Lynette White case, which sparked off one of the biggest overhauls of the justice system in the UK. And it happened not far from where you live. Educate yourself and give it a listen.
COME TO THE PRIVILEGE CAFE
If you’re after something practical you can dial into from home, check out the Privilege Cafe. This virtual cafe is a safe space created by Mymuna Soleman, to make a new inclusive environment! Be empowered, be confident and let’s talk privilege! Their next event takes place 5pm on Thursday 4 June: Labels, Language and Linguistics.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION / THINGS TO FOLLOW:
(not exhaustive obviously – please add more sources in the comments…)
Remember we’re open to submissions about literally ANYTHING you want to write about – whether it’s just to talk to us about your community project, or write a poem about the city, or write us a Letter about being in Lockdown. We’re run on an entirely voluntary basis. What we are depends on what you want to write for us. So use that voice and send us your stuff.
Last year’s Bite! food festival was one of the highlights of our calendar. This year they’re returning, but with a new aim – sharing great food while reducing single-use plastics. Specially designed reusable cups will be available to buy at the bar (or order in advance)!
And now THIRTY incredible chefs are returning – bringing pop-up food at a street food price to the beautiful surroundings of Insole Court. They’ll all be creating a single dish each for just THREE POUNDS! Which means you can sweep the site and try loads of different dishes without busting the bank or your belt.
BITE! FOOD FESTIVAL – INSOLE COURT, CARDIFF – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Gareth Daw, Henry Webb’s Restaurant at St Mellon’s Hotel
Laurian Veaudour, Cocorico Patisserie
Vicky Crabtree, Shawarmarama
Stephen Terry, The Hardwick
Montserrat Prat, La Cuina
Antonio Simone, The Humble Onion
Nick Spann, Bao Selecta
Leyli Homayoonfar, Leyli Joon & Co.
Rob Haswell, Ceridwen Centre
Simmie Vedi, The Warden’s House
Sam Speller, Lazy Leek
Rhodri Evans, Pieporium
Lali Suto, Hoof
Debs Lewis, Dusty Knuckle
AND WHAT WILL BE AVAILABLE TO DRINK?
The 30 chefs and producers are joined by five great drinks providers. This year, Bite Cardiff has partnered with Freedom Brewery, a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).
Wrights Wines will also be serving a range of natural wines, and Skyborry will be offering a selection of Cider and Perry.
Both Little Man Coffee Co and The Handlebar Barista will be serving coffee – so don’t forget your re-usable mugs / flasks!
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE REUSABLE CUPS?
In an effort to cut down on waste this year and also avoid single use plastics, Bite are selling reusable cups for use at the bar. These will be on sale on the day for £3.50, or you can buy one in advance, for £3, by clicking here.
Buying a cup helps Bite to cover the costs of putting on the event, ensuring that it can be kept *free entry* for years to come. Purchasing one in advance will help speed up and lessen the queues at the bar on the day and mean you can fast track your way into the event. The cups can also be taken away as a memento and are dishwasher safe on the top shelf.
CAN I BRING BLANKETS ETC?
People are encouraged to take picnic blankets, and also, their own picnic crockery and cutlery if possible, as well as refillable water bottles.
IS THE EVENT CASH-ONLY?
Yes – you will need cash to buy tokens (stickers) which can be exchanged for food. £3 = one token = one dish. This is to prevent chefs from having to handle cash on the day. The bars will run as normal (you won’t need tokens) but the whole event will be cash only.
WHERE CAN I BUY THE FOOD TOKENS?
These can be bought from token stalls dotted throughout the festival. You can also pre-purchase these, on any day in the week before the festival, at the Insole Court visitor centre.
ARE DOGS ALLOWED?
Yes, well behaved dogs on a lead.
IS THERE PARKING ON SITE?
Parking at Insole Court is reserved for festival staff and disabled drivers only. There will be a limited amount of Bite festival parking available at Rookwood Hospital, at Fairwater Road Llandaff Cardiff CF5 2YN.
Though some parking is available at Rookwood, we are encouraging people to use public transport to access the festival as much as possible. The nearest buses that operate between Cardiff city centre and Insole Court are the 66, 25, 62 or 63 (operated by Cardiff Bus) and the 122 or 124 (operated by Stagecoach).
Insole Court is approximately a 25-minute bus ride from Cardiff city centre, and a 10-minute walk from Victoria Park.
Alternatively, the nearest train station is Fairwater. Insole Court is 500m from the Fairwater Road exit.
The main cycle routes to Insole Court are:
· From Cardiff Bay via the Ely Trail.
· From Cardiff city centre via the Taff Trail.
Bike parking is located near the Visitors’ Centre / in the car park.
In today’s interview, we meet Patrick Steed, the Musical Director for Technicolour – a new, inclusive choir that practises every week in Chapter Arts Centre. And they have a concert on Friday 28 June! If you’re into musicals and pop mashups, get along to their concert this Friday!
Q. Hello Patrick! So tell us – what’s your story?
A. Cardiff has been my home since 2005 when I came here for Uni. I live here with my amazing fiancé – Matt – and after being in Wales for 14 years now, I feel I’m a Welshman! I’m a musician with a massive passion for musical theatre and choirs. I’ve been leading choirs here for 11 years. I’ve worked as a composer and lyricist for musicals such as Stalking John Barrowman, Blink! and I’ve been composer in residence for Hello Cabaret for the past three years! Musical theatre songs have the capacity for such emotional depth and invite the audience to step into a moment with a character. That’s why I love what I do!
Q. What’s your favourite musical?
A. It changes on a fairly regular basis – there are so many fantastic musicals to choose from! I absolutely love ‘Hamilton’ and it’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an absolute genius. Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Legally Blonde, The Last Five Years, Wicked and anything Disney also hold a special place in my heart.
Q. Why did you create Technicolour?
A. I love musicals. I love epic harmonies. I love festivals. I love clubbing. I love glitter. And I thought, wouldn’t it amazing if I could turn everything I love into a choir? Our tagline is #musicalsremixed – and we love putting a twist on conventional ideas. That’s why we mix up Chicago with Dua Lipa and Wicked with Ella Eyre. And that’s why our gigs feel more like club nights that concerts! We’ve got 90 members in less than a year and more joining next season – which makes me think I’m not the only person to love musicals, epic harmonies, festivals, clubbing and glitter!!!
Q. What’s next for Technicolour?
A. ‘Life in Technicolour’ – our summer gig – is fast approaching! It’s all inspired by The Wizard of Oz and uses music from an eclectic range of musicals – everything from West Side Story, to RENT to The Lion King to reimagine the classic tale. We’re taking over Tramshed and turning it into an Oz inspired wonderland! And the amazing Disco Motel will be getting us dancing until the early hours! It’s all happening on Friday 28th June from 8pm at Tramshed – there’s still some tickets available @ www.tramshedcardiff.com
Today, we welcome Millennial Mother over to We Are Cardiff to give us some insights into the top things to do in Cardiff with your kids – when the weather sucks! Welcome, Millennial Mother!
The colder months are tough in our household. My three year old is one of those children who gets cabin fever after 9am. In the warmer months we can explore an array of countryside walks, beaches and parks around Cardiff. But in the winter months, with frost, rain and wind it is hard to get the motivation to change out of my loungewear and into 10 layers of waterproofs.
We have found some great indoor activities for children in Cardiff that have saved our skin more than once. This is a list of my top five. I hope you find them useful!
This was where I could usually be found on a Saturday as a child. I watched Jurassic Park about age six, and after that just wanted to be an archaeologist. I would spend days wandering around the dinosaur exhibition, pretending I was on an excavation! Now, I play the same games with my little one. After delighting in the dinosaur exhibition, you can enjoy the whale in the sky, and an intriguing creepy crawly section. Upstairs holds some beautiful pieces of art from Impressionist to Modernist, which are great to relax even the most busy of minds. I would recommend holding onto toddlers extra tightly to avoid orange crisp fingers staining 500 year old paintings though!
This swimming pool is a wonderful rainy day activity. The facilities are excellent, there are three large slides for older children and adults and a smaller slide for smaller children. The swimming pool doesn’t have a deep end, which is fabulous for someone like me (5 foot 3). It also has a small paddling area for younger children. The changing area is communal, which is ideal for families, as parents can swap and change to help out with kids there. On a rainy day there is nothing better than a family trip to the swimming pool. As my Nanna would say though ‘make sure you dry your hair probably before you go out in the cold as you don’t want to catch a cold!’
This is where science comes to life through interactive engagement. Children can learn how water currents are created in the water works, watch balls shoot up in the air, play on a giant piano and learn about all sorts of science. The museum is an excellent visit for children of all ages and the venue provides Toddler Days, Theatre Shows, and more. The museum is based in Cardiff Bay, so after you can enjoy a nice spot of lunch at one of the many cafes and bars.
P.S. I recommend a trip to Quantum Coffee because their coffee is insanely good, and friends have spotted A List celebs enjoying an Americano there!
This is my husband’s favourite place to take Nancy. As the name suggests, it tells the story of Cardiff’s rich history, and how it evolved from a small market town to the capital city we know and love. My daughter’s favourite part is the reconstruction of a house on Cathedral Road. It shows changes in these houses, and showcases how differently we live in comparison to our ancestors over one hundred years ago. There is also a variety of interactive resources that show the different people living in the Cardiff Docklands.
There is also a wonderful restaurant on the top floor that caters for children and adults alike. Milk and Sugar have a small but area with enough toys to keep your little occupied while you drink your latte. I would recommend keeping an eye on the Cardiff Story website as they often run special events called ‘Dinky Dragons’ which is a Rhyme and Story Time.
This is a hidden gem, right in the heart of Canton. Your little one can explore what it is like to be a doctor, a postman, a barista, a hairdresser, and even to do their own food shop! This imaginative playtown is a fantastic opportunity for your little one to develop their role-playing skills and to enhance their vocabulary as they come across new items. I always love to make up games and watch Nancy pretend to be me as she wanders around the shop. The centre opens in slots to allow the staff to tidy the rooms before new arrivals, I would therefore make sure you check the opening times to avoid disappointment There is also a family room for snacks and drinks, which is ideal, especially if you have more than one child and one needs feeding while the other needs entertaining.
Thanks to Millennial Mother for dropping by! You can catch Kelly on any of her channels:
We were VERY excited about this brand new comedy night in Cardiff, put on by Little Wander, the learned folks who run the Machynlleth Comedy festival. And the venue is a brand new one for comedy in the city! Read on to find out more.
We spoke to Little Wander to get some more info on Comedy at the Castle.
We’re almost certainly best known as the people that founded and run Machynlleth Comedy Festival which has its tenth birthday this May. But we do loads more than Machynlleth, including we run monthly comedy clubs for arts venues across Wales and the UK, we bring touring comedians to Cardiff, mainly at Chapter and Clwb Ifor Bach, we book and manage national tours for some of the UK’s best comedians, including James Acaster, Kiri Pritchard-Mclean, Jen Brister and Gein’s Family Giftshop. Last year we made our first TV show, Stand Up at BBC Wales which went out on BBC 1 and BBC 2 in October, and also started a second comedy festival in Aberystwyth last October, which will be an annual event. Alongside this we work for other festivals, so we booked and managed the comedy at Green Man Festival since 2008, and worked with Manchester International Festival in 2017 to deliver comedy programming. We’ve worked with NTW on numerous projects including NHS70, and delivering a specific element of the Roald Dahl City of the Unexpected celebrations. We do loads of stuff, almost exclusively in comedy.
We always said that we’d only ever run a regular comedy night in Cardiff if we felt that it could be perfect. I knew of the Undercroft, a medieval vaulted cellar underneath Cardiff Castle, from our work on Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected, and always felt it would be perfect for a comedy gig. So when Lloyd Glanville from Cardiff Castle approached us I kind of knew straight away we’d say yes. It’s a perfect space for it right in the centre of the city, but couldn’t feel further from the city when you’re down there. Lloyd had been to a lot of our shows in Clwb and Chapter so had a good idea of what we offer and so we’ve got the basis of a really strong partnership. It’s going to be monthly, and there will be four acts on each month. We plan to showcase our favourite acts from the live comedy scene, and we can’t wait to share them with the city.
Aside from our monthly night at the Castle we’ve got a fair bit on the way in Cardiff in the coming months. Keep an eye on the Little Wander Facebook page to see what’s coming.
*** We also recommend you take note of Machynlleth Comedy Festival is the biggie, held on the May bank holiday weekend, and the new Aberystwyth Comedy Festival held in October. Get them in your diaries, and come enjoy some world class alternative comedy in fabulous surroundings.
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.
So there’s nothing we like more on We Are Cardiff than supporting and celebrating local talent. So we dropped in to speak to good time rock and rollers Rainbow Maniac, who have just recorded their debut album, and will be playing on Tuesday 29 January at The Moon. Read on for a photo essay of the recording, and a Q&A!
So you guys have just recorded your album! Tell us all about it.
With Charlie Francis as our producer, we recorded most of it over two days cause we’re hipsters and we wanna be like the Beatles in the early days. It was pretty easy and relaxed because we’d thought about it for a while and we’re pretty well rehearsed.
Some of the songs have been around for two or three years, and some of the songs were finished in the last few months so it feels like we’re releasing a mini greatest hits album as our debut!
When is the album due to be released?
We want to find a label to release with first so a release date is very much TBC. We intend to put out some singles in the meantime though so don’t worry! We are going to promote our new single ‘Snowball’ and take it from there.
Can people see you live any time soon?
Yeah for sho. To promote ‘Snowball’ we booked a mini tour this month – you can catch us at the last show in Cardiff at the Moon, on the 29th January. The single is also being released on 29th so it should be a fun night getting boozy with our support acts Al Moses and Rotanas!
If you’re out and about this week, we strongly recommend you head to Tramshed on Thursday on 13 December for Immersed! – a music & media festival in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust.
The day long celebration will take over the cities iconic venue; the Tramshed Cardiff. The Cinema Room, Waiting Room, Courtyard and Cocktail bar will showcase the best upcoming talent from Cardiff’s music scene.
There will also be VR to play with and gaming tournaments (with chances to win prizes), glorious artwork, a photo booth, live guitar pedal demos (including an exclusive 40 per cent discount) plus delicious street food – all of this for £5 – a lot of bang for your buck!
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.
We’ve posted before about The Other Room (Cardiff’s only pub theatre, attached to Porter’s), and it’s nice to have an excuse to post about them again! There’s a great show on right now in The Other Room called Cardiff Boy, which has made us Very Nostalgic for growing up in Cardiff (and loving tunes!) in the 1990s.
It’s 1996 in the capital.
A seventeen old from Llanedeyrn estate, is our guide, as he and his school mates head into town and negotiate their way through the ever changing streets of Cardiff. This is a study of male friendship, the love and the violence, the codes, the loyalties and rituals, all set to a 90s mixtape. It’s just them and the music.
Cardiff Boy is a dynamic one-man show that explore’s the 1990s in Cardiff. It follows a group of young lads, desperate to make an impression in an ever-changing city. Set to a mix of 90’s music, Cardiff Boy explores the effect music can have on our lives in both times of joy and sadness. Read a review of the show over at The Stage if you still need convincing … “Jack Hammett imbues the role with the right combination of pent-up teenage energy and vulnerability, bouncing around the audience as he describes meeting the girl of his dreams in a club, then rooted to the spot and looking us straight in the eye in the moments of pathos that will go on to define his future.”
CARDIFF BOY IS SHOWING IN THE OTHER ROOM AT PORTER’S : 4/11 – 11/11