Joanne’s Cardiff: a tightrope-walking violin player, Doctor Who’s telephone box, a man in the town centre throwing a chainsaw around

joanne

After being accepted by The University of Wales Institute Cardiff I found myself moving into Plas Gwyn halls of residence ready to commence my studies on the BA (Hons) Graphic Communication course. For someone who had no intentions of ever leaving home and going to university it was a bewildering experience. Before I knew it my mother and grandparents were waving goodbye and I was left alone with no friends and no idea what to do with myself.

Having never lived in a city before, the whole experience took a lot of getting used to with busy, congested roads and people everywhere replacing the sleepy little village in Somerset where everyone sounds like a farmer that I had grown accustomed to.

Giving in to the temptation of this new city’s world full of shops, my bank card soon started to feel the strain! I have lots of great memories of shopping in Cardiff, including finding a few little treasures in the dainty little arcades. However I haven’t been able to find these shops since and it makes me wonder if I really did find them or just imagined them.

The one thing that I completely loathed about my time in Cardiff was the student housing. Myself and the people I lived with got more than a little stitched up with our first house. Upon viewing the property we discovered a square metre of thick mould growing on the wall in one room, a hole in the ceiling on the landing, mice exploring the kitchen, slugs, worms, and soil coming through the phone socket and a burglary just after Christmas. The burglary was very odd as there was money scattered around the house, an electric drum kit and a big TV yet they chose to steal the kettle which was a good five or so years old!

Thankfully our second house was a lot better and I had a great view of the army barracks from my bedroom window. I remember sitting at the my desk one day and peering out to see a military tank drive past with a little man poking out the top. I have seen a number of unusual things in my time at Cardiff but to name a few: A tightrope walking violin player, Doctor Who’s telephone box on the back of a van, a man in the town centre throwing a chainsaw around and a few famous people acting rather bizarrely.

Over my three short years in Cardiff I made some wonderful friends and gained valuable experience in both design and life. I recently moved away but I hope to visit again in the near future to see how things have changed (every time I returned from a holiday there was always a new shop), feed the ducks in the snow, and see a few friends.

Joanne Hawker is a Graphic Communication graduate who drinks too much tea and wants to own anything that has an owl or a bird on it. She would one day like a teashop and a pet owl. You can visit her website here: www.joannehawker.co.uk. Until very recently, she lived in Gabalfa.

Joanne was photographed in by the lake in Roath Park

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“What struck me is just how passionate people in Cardiff are” – Ed

ed walker

I’m sitting down to write this exactly six months since I moved to Cardiff. On January 7 2010, I loaded up my car, paid £5.50 to cross the bridge and decamped from England to Wales.

I was in a brand new city. The signs had two languages on them, rugby was the national game and everywhere I went there was Brains on tap. It might be part of the UK but Wales is most definitely a separate country.

Cardiff. What was I doing here? I’d been offered a job working for Media Wales as an ‘Online Communities Editor’ – read that as journalist, it’s much simpler. Job, get a community website going for Cardiff underneath the main WalesOnline website. Can’t just magic a community out of nowhere, got to build one.

So, I have had the pleasure of exploring the capital of Wales over the last six months. I’ve been wandering round Heath Park in the pouring rain with councillors pointing at where wooden bollards should be, I’ve sat in Council meetings waiting for a councillor to declare a national supermarket chain’s licensing application bollocks and gone rambling through the countryside just outside Cardiff with the local branch of the Ramblers Society.

What struck me is just how passionate people in this city are. Everywhere I’ve been there’s people willing to speak, to put it on the record, to lay it on the line and tell you what their dreams and hopes are. That’s refreshing. Welsh people are definitely more upfront with their views compared to the more reserved English (Note: This definitely helps a journalist, a lot).

This city is vibrant. I experienced my first Six Nations match day and will never forget being hugged by random people when Shane Williams popped that winning try over against Scotland.

For me though, the best way to describe my Cardiff story would be Saturday 5th June 2010. In that day everything I know about Cardiff was captured.

After a heavy Friday night on the beers watching Glamorgan in the blissful evening sunshine beating Worcestershire, I was up early and covering the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) march. Hundreds brought the city centre to a standstill, before finishing at the City Hall with a rally – where the day started to turn.

The Welsh (and English) Defence League arrived and made their feelings known, more protesters – perhaps not affiliated to the UAF – made their feelings known. And myself and the Police were in the middle. Political expression was alive and well in Cardiff.

Meanwhile, the Welsh national rugby team were battling South Africa in an epic over at the Millennium Stadium and the streets were filled with red, white, green and gold shirts.

In the evening, the Stereophonics played to some 20,000 people at the Cardiff City Stadium and I was lucky enough to be there filming. There was an air of celebration in the air as I ducked out before the end to go and frantically edit video so I could get some kip.

To me, this day showcased what Cardiff has become. A buzzing metropolis able to showcase the best sporting and musical events, while still welcoming political debate and not becoming completely commercialised.

It’s been a pleasure to tell the stories of Cardiff and its people. Here’s to another six months.

Ed Walker is a journalist working for Media Wales, running the yourCardiff community site and writing regularly for the South Wales Echo. When he gets chance, he also runs the fledgling City Centre Cardiff blog. His personal blog is edwalker.net and he is on twitter @ed_walker86. He lives in the city centre.

Ed was photographed on West Street by Geraint Griffiths.

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Alyson’s daily commute through Cardiff’s green spaces

alyson_fielding

This is a story about my ordinary, daily walk to work.

It started by bus, unsure of the city I was worried about becoming lost along the way. One evening I missed the bus and decided to walk back to my flat. It sparked a mini love affair.

My walk takes me through Pontcanna, through Llandaff Fields, past Llandaff Cathedral and across the village green.

Over the past year, I have watched cricket matches played out on a background of dazzlingly intense blues and greens.

I have heard owls hoot on early spring evenings. I have smiled at dog walkers appearing from the cathedral grounds; crunched and slipped my way through ice and snow; admired roses tumbling over garden walls; found lost mittens.

I have eaten wild strawberries from the side of the path, blown dandelion clocks past the cathedral – soft plumes of seed heads floating to earth in the hazy evening light.

All very ordinary, all very normal.

I am leaving Cardiff in August. I already know I’ll miss every last bit of ordinary from this extraordinary, beautiful city.

Alyson creates and manages digital content. You can follow her on Twitter at @alysonf. She currently lives in Pontcanna.

Alyson was photographed in Llandaff by Simon Ayre

***

“Six steps this way, eight over there, switch partners …” – Marc’s Cardiff story

Marc Thomas photographed for Project Cardiff

Yesterday. I just moved into my new flat in Cathays. It’s the first flat that I’ll ever share with my wife but we shan’t be living in it until the wedding is over because we’re Christians. That’s July 24th, 2010 (tomorrow). Nearly 3 years since I met her.

I guess those two things are the most important circumstances for our marriage. Christian and Cardiff. Had one of those not happened, we’d never have met.

***

“We’re going to be late, Marc,” she had said, “Have you got money?”

“Ei. Don’t worry. The later we get there, less chance we’ll have to pay,” I told her, “Shouldn’t have to pay to dance at a ceilidh anyhow.”

I turned Two Gallants off on my speakers, or possibly it was Bob Dylan, I don’t remember now. Plan had been to head on over to the Christian Union ceilidh that we had organised for Fresher’s Week in my second year of university and dance a bit, goof off and then go home. I was treasurer of Cardiff Uni Christian Union, which was basically a joke because I cannot add up. In fact, while clearing out my desk drawers, months after finishing in this position, I found £300 of CU money, which I had already explained away in the accounts.

Music over, lights out, door closed, lock done, we made our way from 26 Richards Street over to St. Marks out on North Road, by the Gabalfa Flyover. Never went before, never been since. Things had begun to jar with the old girlfriend, but now we were walking hand in hand to St. Marks, totally unaware of what would ensue or rather what wouldn’t follow.

We arrived and jumped in through the side door so that we didn’t have to pay – against my principles, paying to dance to folk music – and said, ‘hello’ to all of the faces we recognised. Hundreds of bright young faces filled the forward glance around the room. Dancing in time, seeming to be swaying eternally and jigging to the beat of a band of musicians vastly unexperienced. The caller called something furious. Six steps this way, eight over there, switch partners etc, etc. By day, he was a theology student.

The dance ended.

“You’ll need to get into pairs,” he screamed, “and once you’re in pairs, get into two sets of pairs.”

She gripped me tight. I let her. I was such an idiot back then. There was a girl with blackish hair falling down her forehead and her boy in the corner. The boy had a broken arm with a green cast on it. The girls hair was flicked to the side and I remember thinking to myself something derogatory about emos. He was a kid I’d said hello to previously as he was studying politics, as had I. We got together in a huddle and did the moves that the caller called.

The basket is infamous in ceilidh. The idea is, the guys put their hands around the girls waists and the girls hold on tight to the boys shoulders while all four in the basket swing around. Eventually, the girls go horizontal under the influence of the momentum or centrifugal force (if this exists in such dances).

We did so.

Swinging round, all four faces fixed upon the fulcrum of all three other faces, and sometimes, if fast enough, ones own face, the girls went levitating and something must have happened.

There was no lightning, neither of us saw a vision nor was there a hand brushed against another. We didn’t even realise that something had happened and went all our separate ways. The old girlfriend and I went to my house, the girl went to hers and the boy to his.

***

Four months later, I started going to a new church – Glenwood in Llanederyn. I recognised few people. A lot of stuff had happened since September: old girlfriend was gone and a memory. I had been surprised at how quickly she disappeared from memory. But that was the politics of ancient history, taught in the schoolroom of where I was at so that the children of the thence present, wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of their former fathers.

Hannah was there. Mousey emo girl from barn dance now looked a lot different in the light of new possibility. I didn’t remember her. She recalled me though.

Things got started from there. The rest isn’t history, it’s not even the present, it’s the future. I’m 22, in love, she’s 21 and an arts student at UWIC, and in love. We’re almost young but it’s taken us a long time to get so young… and mostly it happened in Cardiff.

Marc Thomas is a 22 year old student. He speaks 3.5 languages and studies Magazine Journalism in Cardiff University. He is the founding editor of Journal of Plastik, an online magazine which promotes creative culture in South Wales through in-depth articles and features. Check it out at http://journalofplastik.com. He can also lick his elbow. He currently lives in Cathays.

***

“I lost all dignity in front of that aesthetically pleasing boy” – Ellen

ellen-starbuck-web

Cardiff is six years’ worth of moves and kettles and fudge covered non stick pans, six years of house parties and Neighbours into Radio 4 into “I’m blossoming into a middle class liberal,” and six years’ worth of heartbreak, back scratching kisses and instant intimacy gone wrong then filed under “but that’s what you do at university”.

One of my earliest memories is being in Talybont halls of residence, and taking photos of a hedgehog with its head stuck in a crisp packet instead of helping it out, and one of my most recent memories is watching the kids from next door laying their plastic toys out in the road to die and nearly causing a car accident. I remember the days of post-house-party tears caused by student-targeting thieves who snuck in and took your phone and your laptop, and how I lost all dignity in front of that aesthetically pleasing boy when I threw up in a hedge after the summer ball.

I remember stumbling upon the wooden sculptures in Bute Park and decisively considering a move to Pontcanna before backtracking back to Roath, I remember thinking more about going to the Riverside Market then going and I remember the dairy induced stomach ache after the Cardiff Castle Cheese Festival.

I regret the places I had to avoid post-boy breakup and the restaurants I still haven’t been to, and I maintain at some point I will go to the bingo, play air hockey and visit Techniquest all on the same day. I rejoice in Chapter for the Shakespeare Reading Group which helped inspire a hint of confidence in my own voice, and the owner of the now shut La Casca, who always remembered what type of coffee I wanted and made me feel strangely relevant for five minutes on lonely days. Your backdrop is always important in terms of development and Cardiff has borne witness to and helped me transcend from insecure confused teenager to indecisive slightly befuddled woman, and I thank it.

Ellen Waddell has lived in Cardiff since she was 19. She enjoys the theatre though never goes and her turn-ons include greek yoghurt, doc martins and writing about herself in the third person. She often laments at the lack of places to play table football in this fair city and is sure if she hadn’t become a musician she would have made a top rate life model. She thinks being paid to sit naked and get stared at by artists seems alright. Her favourite childhood film is Willow and one day she hopes to give Warwick Davies a high five and a home made award for services to humanity. Follow her twitter: @ellenstarbuck. She currently lives in Roath.

Ellen was photographed on City Road by Simon Ayre

“One thing I love about being here is the squirrels” – Lily Mae

lily_mae_martin

I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia and how I came to live in Cardiff was a matter of chance.

I had never before been overseas and my life was beginning to stagnate in Melbourne. I had worked an amazing job at a gallery and attended a fantastic art college, but as that degree was drawing to an end I just couldn’t really see what I was going to do afterward. At the end of the school year there are always a few scholarships going and I found one that was for travelling. I applied for it and won.

My partner Gene and I got married, packed our bags and left Australia. We didn’t really know what to expect from our travels, but I think we just both felt that it was something we needed to do.

A lot of people tell me they think that is romantic.

We arrived in Berlin at the tail end of winter, from a very hot Australian summer (there had been bad bush fires that year) and wore every piece of clothing we had packed to try and adjust.

Berlin was amazing. We did so much and had so much happen to us in just six months … I met so many great artists, and had a solo exhibition; but there is little work there and we were running out of money so we had to look at our options. These were: move to somewhere we could find work and try our luck, or go home.

They say “you can never go home again”.

We knew there was work in the UK, and Cardiff is known to have lots of film and TV work (plus Doctor Who). So we took our chances and for the second time, blindly moved to another country.

I’d also been interested in Wales before, as a lot of my family came from here. I still haven’t had the chance to track them down as all I have is a tentative surname, Tibbet-Jones. That’s a bit frustrating. I always wanted to know more about my family and where this crazy drawing of mine comes from.

Before we knew it, Gene was working for some pretty cool companies and even did work on Doctor Who! Still when I think about Doctor Who, I think of Tom Baker, his hair, his awesome scarf (I gave Gene a scarf much like it once) and being frightened by the dodgy special effects.

I was working a lot on my art when I first arrived here, then I got a bit underwhelmed by the struggle to find my own employment. Minimum wage here is tough. In Australia, we have more of a selection of pay. Here, it really gets me down to see how many jobs pay so poorly.

I did eventually get some casual work at Chapter, which I was very excited about. However shortly after that I became pregnant and pretty unwell. I had to give up my job as I needed bed rest. It’s taken me a few months, but I am able to separate my association between Chapter and morning sickness, which is really good as it is such a great space to go and visit and I really enjoy their food.

Winter here was interesting. It was apparently colder and snowier than usual. I thought I couldn’t cope at first, but in January we went back to visit Berlin where it was minus seventeen degrees. When we arrived back in Wales to a measly minus two degrees, that amazingly seemed warm to us.

Cardiff was new, morning sickness was relentless and winter was isolating. I came to hate my bedroom and think of it as a prison. It was a pretty rough time, but when the end of winter was approaching Gene and I moved to a new house and left all of that behind us.

One thing I love about being here is the squirrels. Whenever walking past the university I’d watch the squirrels for a little while. My presence there confused passers by. But I’m confused that people can be so blase about squirrels. They’re the best thing ever, in animal form.

We began to see more of Cardiff and I finally got to know it as a city. I really like the parks here and like to catch the train out to random places and just walk for hours and hours.

What has surprised me the most is the culture shock I experienced. Every city is different, but I didn’t go through nearly the same struggle to adjust in Berlin as I did here. And the more history I read about this place the more confused I get; I recently found out about the trams they used to have here, and then tore up which, I assume, was to make way for the Queen Street we know today. I just think shopping centre after shopping centre kills any kind of culture or city atmosphere.

I’m not sure how long we are going to stay here. I’m never really sure of anything like that.

Lily Mae Martin is an artist. You can visit her website at http://www.lilymaemartin.com/. She currently lives in Roath.

Lily Mae was photographed at her studio by Simon Ayre

“Cardiff is a city in flux. And has been since the day I got here” – Neil

neil cocker

I moved to Cardiff in 1993 as a naive, and long-haired, student. It’s over 16 years (and almost half my life) later, and I still love the city. When I first indicated to my Dad that I was considering Cardiff as somewhere to study he pronounced that having visited several times in the 80s the place was a dump. A few months after his declaration we visited the city on a University open day – he was surprised by the transformation the city had undergone since his last visit. “It’s changed”, he said. “A lot”.

Cardiff is a city in flux. And has been since the day I got here.

Since I’ve been here the main catalyst seems to have been the Rugby World Cup in 1999. I remember looking out of the window of my first business, three stories above St Mary St, seeing people from all over the world thronging towards the stadium. And this influx of tourism bolstered the nightlife and cafe industry, and gave Cardiff a burgeoning European feel. And with the FA Cup being held at the Millennium Stadium for the next few years, the UK and the world would turn its attention to Cardiff every May. As I toured the world over the following years I suddenly found people in Japan, Australia, Germany and America knowing all about Cardiff, where once it had drawn a blank, or the inevitable “is it near London?”. Cardiff was again becoming a truly international city of note, since its post-coal decline.

As you walk around the city there’s a real sense of “growth” in every sense. Constant, dynamic, exciting change. There’s always something being upgraded, improved, polished.

I work in the creative and small business scene, and I’m constantly amazed by how many brilliantly talented people we have here. There are world-class artists, developers, entrepreneurs, comedians, and designers who are known and respected across the globe. But this is also tempered by a lingering small-town mentality that sometimes means people aren’t keen to be seen as ambitious or actively, and unfairly, criticise those that do achieve success. It may be part of a wider British malaise, but we sometimes lack a “Let’s just do it” attitude.

Having said that, this could just be hard-wired into the size of Cardiff. As a small city I’ve never felt that anywhere was too much hassle to get to, or out of the way. And there’s coastline and hills within 15 minutes of the city centre. Everything you need is right on your doorstep, and there’s always someone you know just around the corner.

I’m very proud of Cardiff. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else and it’s very much my home. I honestly believe it to be one of the best cities in Europe.

Neil Cocker is an entrepreneur, managing director of Dizzyjam.com, and in his spare time he enjoys holding free events to bring creative people together, most notably through his Network of Creative and Cultural Industries (NOCCI). Visit his blog at http://NeilCocker.com and follow him on Twitter at @NeilCocker. He currently lives in Wenvoe.

Neil was photographed outside the Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, by Geraint Griffiths

We Are Cardiff – looking for volunteers!

We Are Cardiff is a project that aims to showcase residents of the city and their memories, stories and favourite places.

We Are Cardiff - Patches

We’re looking for volunteers to feature on our website! You provide us with your recollections, anecdotes, likes or dislikes about the city, and we’ll arrange a photoshoot with you at your favourite location to accompany your entry on our blog.

lucas howell

There’s no word limit to your Cardiff story – it can be as short as one paragraph, as long a thousand words, it can be a narrative, it can be in the third person, it can even be a poem. We’ll provide you with a list of questions that you’re free to base your answer on, but they’re more for guidance than a strict rule. We’ll happily link to your blog / website / Twitter.

Wanna get involved? Email us at contact@wearecardiff.co.uk

We’re also interested in referrals of people who might not be online, especially grandmas or grandpas who have lived in Cardiff all their lives. We’re interested in everybody’s Cardiff story, not just the young and digitally able! If you think you know someone who’d be great for our project, please contact us at the address above.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Street scene - wing span

A blog about Cardiff, its people, and the alternative arts and cultural scene!

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