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Cardiff: my personal geography, by Gwion Thorpe


In Cardiff, home is…

Canton with the wife, kids and the coolest 3-legged dog in Wales.

Favourite Cardiff eatery

Hangfire Smokehouse at The Lansdowne

Ideal first date in Cardiff?

Fry up at Saffron, boating on Roath Lake, watch Wales beat England (again!) at the stadium, pints at Tap House, curry at Purple Poppadom, early night 😉

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you

I have the longest tongue in Wales (unofficial)

Earliest Cardiff memory

Watching Paul Bodin miss THAT penalty at the Arms Park and seeing grown men cry

What was the last film you saw?

Frozen (for probably the 20th time this week)

Favourite Cardiff shops

Rules of Play, Riverside Market

Best Cardiff-based leisure activity

Chilling in the park (take your pick). Simples.

What was the last book you read?

The Prodigal Daughter, Archer.

Biggest ambition

For my children to be proud of me and not to have any regrets on my death bed

Best Cardiff pubs

Urban TapHouse and The Lansdowne

Favourite Cardiff discovery

The New York Hoagie

Last album you listened to

Gipsy Kings, self titled (instant sunshine).

If you had friends coming to Cardiff for a weekend, what would you recommend they do?

Take me out on my ideal first date (minus the early night)!

Your ambitions for the future?

No regrets and make my children proud

What do you want to achieve this year?

Four million people taking part in The Big Lunch on June 1st!! 

Gwion Thorpe is involved in a number of social / community projects in Cardiff / Wales. Current day job is social marketing for The Big Lunch, a wonderfully simple campaign to help strengthen communities and spread a bit of happiness by encouraging people to have lunch with their neighbours annually on the 1st Sunday in June.  Also proudly a Director for Cardiff’s award-winning RCMA Social Enterprise (home of the Riverside Market) and a (very) part-time blogger at inspiringcardiff.com, sharing the stories of awesome people doing really cool things across the city. Cymro Cymraeg!

Gwion was photographed at The Lansdowne by Adam Chard


Limited edition poster prints available at our film premiere Sunday 7 July…

It’s just a few days to go now until the premiere of the We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City documentary! Haven’t got a ticket yet? You can book one here!

Our AMAZING designer Adam Chard (aka Croatoan Design) will be manning a stall at the premiere at Chapter. He’ll be selling a brand-new limited edition print of our pretty city of Cardiff!

The design will be revealed at the weekend but it’s going to become clearer throughout the week – think you can work out what’s on there? Have a look at Adam’s blog!

It’s an edition of 50, all hand-numbered and signed. The 420x297mm print will be available at the bargaintastic price of £10 to anyone who goes to see the WAC movie – after next Sunday any remaining prints will be priced at £15. Want to reserve one in advance? Drop Adam a line at adam@croatoandesign.co.uk

There will also be We Are Cardiff t-shirts and prints of the movie poster available on the day.

We all hope to see you there!

We Are Cardiff


We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City – film poster unveiled!

Cardiff-based designer and artist Adam Chard (aka Croatoan Design) was one of the original troop who set up We Are Cardiff back in 2010. And wouldn’t you know it – he’s only gone and designed us an amazing poster for our film!


Pretty spiffing, eh?

A reminder that our FILM is PREMIERING at Chapter Arts Centre on Sunday 7 July at 1pm. Tickets are £6 in advance. Get em while they’re hot! Adam will also have a limited edition print of the poster for sale at the premiere …

“I’ve embraced all the opportunities Cardiff has offered me” – Anna


You never really stop to think about what you like about the place you live, do you? You just, sort of, live there. You go through the motions, ride out the bad times and enjoy the good times; but you never really stop to think what it is about that place that you love or just what it is that keeps you there, do you?

Well, that’s how Cardiff’s always been for me, anyway. The seven years I’ve lived here have definitely been mixed, and it’s only during the latter few that I’ve truly settled and stopped gazing at the Severn Bridge!

In fact, when I was first asked to do a We Are Cardiff entry I remember stalling for ages before telling Helia (founder of WAC), “to be honest, I’m not sure I really like living here.”

I can’t really pretend that my ending up here was the result of informed, well thought-out ‘life choices’ like you’re encouraged to make by teachers at school. My decision to move here seven years ago from Pembrokeshire, for university, was shaped largely by circumstance really, and my decision to stay here after university was, at first, a reluctant one.

I certainly loved university; I enjoyed my course and made some great friends. But as soon as I graduated I was desperate to join the rat race and get to London, so I was secretly a bit disappointed when my boyfriend moved to Cardiff and suggested I stuck around and moved in with him, but it did make sense.

I remember having a conversation with my mum who said everyone should ‘do London’ at some point; I felt sure she was right. Despite having a job in Cardiff, I remember trawling the London job sites looking for my ticket out of Wales and I even secured a job there and was ready to make the move. Something stopped me from taking it and I carried on as I was, albeit unenthusiastically.

So the first few years after university in Cardiff were reluctant, to say the least. I watched my friends fly high in London and elsewhere and I resented staying here. I started to pave my own path – but at the back of my mind I always felt the Cardiff chapter was one I was simply skating over.

I’m not quite sure exactly when things changed; but I remember around two years ago driving across the barrage back into Cardiff Bay after netball training and feeling a real sense of contentment. It was a gorgeous sunset and I remember feeling really at ease.

Since then I’ve really changed my view of where I live. I’ve realised how much control you can have over your own fate and I’ve embraced all of the opportunities Cardiff has offered me. My roots have been firmly planted here now and I can’t imagine started afresh anywhere else. I’ve also realised the value of being relatively close to family in West Wales.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that this is THE place for me or that I’m ‘meant’ to be here, but what was an initial reluctant acceptance has morphed into a ever-growing appreciation. Cardiff really is a great place to live, it’s become my home and I’m here to stay.

Anna Milewski works for the Federation of Small Businesses in Cardiff. Away from the office, she is an avid netball player (for MJM), an occasional horse rider and an average jewellery-maker. She loves the countryside and says there’s nowhere she’d rather be than on a deserted Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire. Failing that, she’s happy wandering around Splott market on a Saturday morning picking up all sorts of tat for the flat – or having lunch in Cowbridge on a sunny Sunday. She currently lives in Cardiff Bay.

Anna was photographed in a field at Culverhouse Cross by Adam Chard

“I love sitting in the Packet and looking at the old photos of the ships” – Hannah


When I first arrived here, Cardiff was an airport waiting lounge to me – a transitory, temporal place where I could have a rest before embarking on another journey.

I ended up here by accident after an exhilarating year of travelling and working abroad, which had ended abruptly with my parents splitting up and the acknowledgement of £8k’s worth of debt. Before I went away, I’d always lived with certainty; going to college, going to university, going travelling … arriving home was disconcerting on many levels, and it was compounded by the series of events that immediately followed it.

Armed with a first class degree and a misplaced sense of worldliness and entitlement, I assumed that offers of policy and campaigns jobs would be piled up onto my doormat when I got home. The reality was that, in 2009, everyone was struggling to find work, and apparently people aren’t entitled to Jobseekers Allowance if they’ve been swanning around south America for the past year. So, my boyfriend and I had to sleep on the floor of my parents’ tiny two-up, two-down house that was barely big enough to fit a double airbed in to. When they split up after two months, we had to move in to a holiday caravan.

Over the summer, I filled in 87 job applications, wrote articles for numerous websites and magazines and volunteered with a local charity. When I was finally offered a part time, six month research contract in Cardiff, it felt like it was the biggest career break that anyone had ever got, in the world, ever.

On the day I got the job, my friend took me out for a celebratory meal. As we drove around Roath Lake and bathed in the late summer sun on the Juno Lounge terrace, I thought ‘I can deal with this for a few months – it’s not Buenos Aires, but I can live here, it’s not too bad’.

We moved into a little flat in Heath, with one part-time, temporary job between the two of us. A week later, two bailiffs walked through the door and told us we had 10 minutes to get as much of our stuff as we could pack, and get out. The landlord hadn’t paid his rent for nine months, and the flat was being repossessed. We had nowhere to go. We’d paid agent’s fees, the first month’s rent and a deposit on the flat, mostly from cash advances on the credit card, and now we were homeless. Suddenly, the city seemed threatening and aggressive. It was telling us ‘this is real life, kids, deal with it. The fun part of your lives is over’.

Of all the experiences we had while travelling, all the sticky situations we got into and all the people that we met, nothing taught me more about life than those three months after coming home. Cardiff had given me some important life lessons, but it had also taught me that I can deal with a lot of shit that life can throw at me.

Two and a half years later, after two jobs and three houses, I’m attempting to reconcile my original reaction to the city with how I feel about it now. My intention had been to live here for a few months, earn some money and go away again. I deliberately refrained from signing up to long phone contracts, making close friends or acquiring too many possessions, in the belief that I’d have to get rid of everything all over again. For the past two years, I’ve desperately tried to embrace this Zen-like impermanence to an extreme extent, but the people I’ve met, the jobs I’ve had, the houses I’ve lived in and the things I’ve realised have made the city into an inextricable and permanent part of me.

It’s easy to think of travelling as an all-encompassing cure to naivety, and while I still spend all of my money on travelling, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a very false, privileged and Western thing to do. Being in a place for, at most, three weeks, is an incredibly shallow way of experiencing it. Zipping between continents and not really penetrating the surfaces of places is fine, but now when I travel, I take the time to stay with local people; I attempt to get a sense of what it’s like to be in a place permanently, for better or worse.

I’m still only beginning to scrape the surface of what Cardiff has to offer. I am continually meeting creative, interesting people who are involved in all sorts of activities (like this website).

I love sitting in the Packet and looking at the old photos of the ships.

I love talking to my 80 year old neighbour in Grangetown and hearing about what this part of the city used to be like.

I love working in a place that is like a microcosm of the city.

In many ways, Cardiff has given me a much more genuine ‘life experience’ than I ever got by flitting around the world, by embracing the permanence of it as a place – its people and its culture, rather than treating it as a temporal space. I guess you can get as much or as little out of a city as you like. I’ve inadvertently put time into this city, and it’s rewarded me.

Hannah is a travel writer, designer and photographer, originally spawned in the mysterious depths of Nottingham. Following a bout of education and swanning around the globe, she arrived in Cardiff to work as a freelance researcher and designer in the voluntary sector before being lured into the dark art of parliamentary research. She spends her time travelling, taking photos, cooking, writing, designing and studying Spanish and human rights law. She currently lives in Grangetown, and you can see some of her work at www.hannahjohnson.co.uk.

Hannah was photographed at The Packet by Adam Chard




“ME is debilitating, misunderstood, confusing and unpredictable” – Pippa


12th May is International ME awareness day. You know ME, it’s the lazy people’s disease? Well, it’s estimated that over 28 million people now suffer from it in the world and in the US alone, more people now have ME than AIDS.

I have suffered from ME for 13 years, since I was 14. I got glandular fever and it simply never went away. Instead it mutated into a new, terrifying beast. ME is debilitating, misunderstood, confusing and unpredictable. Even the name is debated. Many people prefer the term CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome over ME which stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is pure medical semantics, but they both generally describe the same condition – depending on your doctor’s preferred interpretation! The prognosis is ill-defined and unknown too. The best anyone can tell you is that if you contracted is when you were under 18 then you stand a better chance of one day getting better than if you contracted it over the age of 18.

I first came to Cardiff because of my disease, but this was ultimately an extremely happy and serendipitous event. I had been told by my doctors I wasn’t well enough to go to university, but that wasn’t a very sensible thing to tell me, a stubborn over-achiever –  Cardiff was near enough to home for me to be a part time student and have my wonderful mother drive me to each lecture, then straight home to bed again. The understanding and kindness afforded by Cardiff University’s English Department – especially Prof. Martin Coyle – was what made me first love the city. I didn’t just feel welcomed by the university, but the place. After battling through school and a system not set up to understand my disease, I was met by people determined to help find a way to make it easy for me to study because they saw the passion I had for the subject. Without their dedication I would never had gained the confidence to explore Cardiff, make friends here and make this city my home. I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the UK.

Cardiff Council on the whole is pretty terrible with regards to disability – but the people more than make up for that. Certain councillors and fabulous people like journalist Hannah Waldram (ex of Guardian Cardiff) have helped me, for example, when the council wouldn’t let me park outside my home (pretty vital when you often need sticks to walk with!). Also, Cardiff is a small enough city (and a flat one!) to make city living easily accessible to me.

The welcoming, friendly mood of the city has helped me grow in confidence with my illness. The stigma with ME/CFS is so strong I have spent much of my life terrified to tell people I am ill, but of course you have to. Firstly, because you need to know if your friends are ok with it otherwise they’re pretty lousy friends, and secondly, because people need to know they are encountering people with the disease – otherwise how will we ever help spread awareness?

I feel I have received such positive reactions from my friends in Cardiff. It’s been so different from other experiences when people are too uncomfortable after a while to talk to you again. Even my parents have lost friends because of my illness – it made their friends embarrassed, uncomfortable. Instead, the people I have met and come to cherish in Cardiff, if they don’t know about it, they ask, or they just accept it. Perhaps in Cardiff we’re all slightly odd and so we are ready and willing to accept each others’ foibles and issues. Who knows? Whatever it is I can’t help but feel it is unique to the city as it is an attitude en masse that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

I have always loved music. My ME only really got very severe when I was 19 and before that I was training to be an opera singer. I come from a musical family too and so, unsurprisingly, the often-dubbed ‘friendly incestuousness’ of the Cardiff music scene is something that I cherish about the city. We are so lucky here to have a ridiculously talented pool of musicians and music professionals; Gruff Rhys, Future of The Left, The Gentle Good, Swn, Spillers Records, Musicbox. I do a lot of music photography and my favorite event each year to shoot is undoubtedly Swn festival. I hate stadium shows, I hate the impersonality of the photographs they produce. I like sweaty, cramped gigs where you feel the music, which is what Swn provides. Shooting that passion and energy is exciting and energising in itself. Each year I have been lucky enough for my photos to be used by various news outlets such as BBC and Guardian Blogs, so even in the face of this horrible disease, I make sure when I am having good periods, I make them count. I don’t miss out. I am trying my damndest to build a life and a career that can sometimes be dipped in and out of, although it is often an impossible struggle, and the older I get the more difficult this seems to be.

Each year I live in Cardiff I watch it develop, become more creative and exciting with the introduction of things such as Third Floor Gallery. And yet one of the most exciting artistic elements of the city has stood here for nearly 100 years. Once described by a Daily Telegraph art critic as Britains “hidden artistic gem”, The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff is my favourite part of the city and I still remember my first visit there in technicolor with each painting and sculpture still perfectly arranged in my mind. I remember seeing some of the Monet Rouen cathedral paintings and being bewildered. I’d seen others in the series in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris but some of them had been missing, and they had been here, in Cardiff, in this beautiful white marble home. In short, its collection of art is breathtaking. It houses such important and beautiful pieces that take so many people by surprise. The gallery works as a metaphor for Cardiff. We get a bad wrap for being the “binge drinking capital of the world” and such, but when people actually take the time to truly experience cardiff, walk through the rooms and study the pieces and “gems” that make up this city, they are astounded it was here under their noses all along and that such a small corner of Wales can house such talent, compassion, and culture.

At times I have been almost completely well, which has been magical. I have managed to do long distance swimming (keeping as fit as possible is definitely the key to keeping on top of the disease), I’ve travelled the world (if only to sit in the sun, but that doesn’t make me much different from anyone else), and I’ve enjoyed a full social life. I’ve had to fit all of my life’s experiences, however, into about 20% of my time, because the flip side to the last 13 years have been overwhelmingly debilitating, unpredictable, and totally devastating relapses that take months to years to rehabilitate from. I get to a point where I am in bed, struggling to reach for a drink, or turn over without help, unable to hold a book. I’ll need help getting to the toilet, washing, brushing my hair, dressing. Most people’s belief of ME is that it makes you tired. Which it does, but in the most extreme way that would be, in layman’s terms, more akin to military sleep deprivation. However, it also causes many other symptoms relating to your central nervous system, cognitive problems – the most common being a ‘foggy’ brain with short term memory loss and concentration problems, muscular pain (fibromyalgia), a compromised immune system leading to higher rate of infection and constant flu like symptoms, sleep disturbances, photo and phonophobia and many more besides. When I relapse I am unlucky enough to be put in the worst five percent of M.E sufferers. Some people with M.E/CFS experience a more constant low level tiredness which is no less debilitating or upsetting – there are simply varying levels of severity of the disease. To be in the most severe five percent means I have been ill enough to be hospitalised, and many sufferers even need feeding and oxygen tubes – Something I am grateful I have never had to experience. In short, M.E can kill you because you are left without the energy to keep yourself alive.

There are other worrying medical abnormalities associated with your body being too tired to regulate itself too. For example, last June I was in a hypoglycemic coma (though I’m not diabetic), and more recently spent nine days in hospital because I had a rare form of migraine that mimicked a brain tumour – all caused by my brain and body being exhausted from the ME.

Sadly, and I can honestly say I understand why this would happen, many ME sufferers cannot overcome the horrific reality of their illness, especially in adulthood where it can break up marriages, cause infertility (if you are well enough to look after children at all), and leave you unable to work. The desperation is made all the more pressing so little is known about the disease. Unsurprisingly, the suicide rate among ME sufferers is very high. Some months I manage to work part time as a photographer. But many I can not. It drives me mad. The unpredictability. Not knowing when you might relapse is heartbreaking sometimes. You learn life is about compromise early on with ME. You learn you don’t get to socialise unless you pace yourself and rest and you don’t get to work unless you pace yourself and don’t really let yourself have too much fun.

Many people believe that ME is a modern illness – an indulgence, if you will. It is anything but. ‘They’ think the modern world panders to eccentrics, that ME is ‘allowed’ to go on and it is almost too painful to write the things I have been told over the years to this effect. Obviously the most common stigma we have to overcome is that often, because we have good periods and bad periods is that people will say we don’t look ill. Also, it is impossible for some people to accept that even young people in their 20s can be disabled. This sounds weird but it is true. I have a disabled badge for my car, but I still have to argue most trips to the supermarket, as I am being helped out of my car by my boyfriend, that I have the right to park in a disabled space. People see a young person with no disfigurement, not in a wheelchair and cannot connect that with disability. The fact that swimming has been my main physiotherapy causes similar problems too. I often need help getting into the pool, but when I’m in the pool I am pain free because my body and blood pressure is supported and can move so much more freely. So I can’t be ill, right?

ME is anything but a modern disease, however. Literature chronicles people dying of ‘failing’ going back hundreds of years and there is a strong argument that this ‘failing’ in many cases could have been ME. For example, if you had ME just 50 years ago you were either put in a mental institution, many believing this ‘refusal’ to move being some sort of madness, or died from not having the energy to feed yourself or from the inability to fight the constant infections you were subjected to due a compromised immune system and a lack of antibiotics. There was no sick pay. If you couldn’t work, you couldn’t earn, you couldn’t eat, you couldn’t live. I grieve for those who have suffered from this disease before me. We are still in the dark ages. We still desperately need more research as every glimpse of ‘proof’ or theory is disputed by each country’s scientists, but at least we live in a time where this disease is now ‘indulged’ enough to mean that ME sufferers have medical help to be kept alive.

In Wales we are worse off than most areas of the UK for ME specialists. We have one consultant in Newport and there is a pain management centre in Brecon, but even people like me aren’t eligible for funding for it. And it is for pain. Not ME. This illness ruins lives. I was almost better then an inexplicable relapse put me in hospital and left me unable to work for an unknown length of time. Many people severely affected even need oxygen and feeding tubes. It is so much more than people think and the USA is doing fantastic research, but here we need to improve understanding and increase research funding.

So please support International ME Awareness Day. The best thing you can do is to learn a bit more about the disease – The best place to do it is at the ‘Get Informed‘ page at the actionforme.org.uk charity site. On May 12th, tweet the link, post it on your profile and help increase awareness and understanding for this stigmatised disease. We need the government to put more money into research. You can also support the Facebook page for ME awareness day. Or donate to ME Research UK, the UK body funding biomedical research into the disease.

You can see Pippa’s photography including music photography online at pippabennett.com and she writes a blog about her experiences about living with ME. She currently lives in Cardiff city centre.

Pippa was photographed at Clwb Ifor Bach by Adam Chard




“I don’t think things would have worked out if I wasn’t living in this brilliant city” – Alex


I moved to Cardiff when I was 18. All I wanted to do was leave home and get out into the world on my own, and university seemed like the best way to do this. I’m not sure why but Cardiff had always appealed to me, long before I’d even visited the place. I still to this day have no idea why that was.

From a young age I have been obsessed with film, mainly horror and fantasy but I’ll pretty much watch anything. I was watching films that should have sent me running and hiding, but from talking to my sister (the main culprit for letting me watch them) I was absolutely fascinated by them. The creatures and effects I was seeing on the screen captivated me. I went to my local college with the intention of getting into the world of special effects make-up, however I was shot down by a tutor who told me it was a pipedream and that it was completely unrealistic as a real career path. This “advice” sent me into the direction of graphic design but it was never truly what I wanted to do.

I was miserable, I disliked everything about what I was doing and I really needed to change my situation or forever think “what if?”. So I decided to have a go at getting into special effects make-up with a real “now or never” attitude and I haven’t looked back since!

I started doing special effects at home while learning the basics of make up at a local college. I’m my own biggest critic when it comes to my work but I knew I was doing something right when I uploaded the first pictures of my make-up to Facebook and I had a barrage of texts/calls/emails asking if I was ok. This carried on for a few months; experimenting at home, reading books and watching tutorials online and my passion began to grow into almost an obsession!! I realised this was my true vocation.

Probably the biggest thing to me career-wise was when I entered a competition with the Stan Winston School of Character Arts (only after a bit of arm-twisting from friends). The competition was for a zombie artwork/make-up and the unexpected happened – and I won! It was the first thing I had ever won of this nature and I was totally blown away by it all. My work was reviewed by Greg Nicotero who has worked on some incredible films but at the moment is most well known for his work on The Walking Dead…. And he liked it! It was like a dream come true.

Since then it’s been pretty non-stop for me, working on local projects with some amazingly talented people such as 441 films. I also have work coming up on a slasher movie being filmed in south Wales and a music video where I will be turning about 30 people into zombies and letting them loose on a local band by the name of Inhalite.

My knowledge is what I would consider basic in the world of special effects but I’m determined to carry on learning and developing, I send emails everyday to various companies and people asking them for even a few hours of work experience even if it’s just making tea or letting them use me to experiment make-up techniques on. Hopefully one day an opportunity will arise.

Cardiff has such a strong creative community and I don’t think things would have worked out like they have so far for me if it wasn’t for the fact I was living in this brilliant city. The fact is you’re only a short walk away from seeing something creatively amazing be it some graffiti on a club’s wall, a poster outside a shop or a local band doing a set in a small bar down a side lane, the city is full of artistic influence and no matter what happens with my career I’ll always happily say this is where it all began.

Alex Harper is a make-up artist working from his house in the heart of Cardiff. You can contact him and see more of his work at Facebook. He currently lives in Adamsdown.

Alex was photographed in front of the National Museum in Cardiff by Adam Chard




“Cardiff, it has been the most wonderful dream” – Sarah


When I first came to Cardiff on a University open day in 2007, rain soaked and fearful, I never expected that this would be the place that I would make my home. At the time I thought that Cardiff was just a place to study, and that after my undergraduate degree, I would move back to my real ‘home’.

And yet, four years later, I have fallen head over heels with Cardiff, and it is a love affair that looks set to continue as I have just accepted an offer of a postgraduate diploma in Broadcast Journalism right here in this beautiful city.

You see, after four wonderful years, Cardiff has become my true home. That may sound cliché, but it’s absolutely true.

In this city I have lived my life, and become an adult. I have gained my independence, experienced freedom for the first time, and learned how to cook.

In this city I have loved. I have held hands under the neon glare of Winter Wonderland, shared whispered dreams for the future and danced in the arms of lovers.

In this city I have explored. I have wandered through kitsch, rambling arcades, sought bargains and eaten strange foods in new restaurants. I have lost myself in the winding terraced streets of Cathays, and I have rowed on Roath Lake.

In this city I have laughed. I have made great friends, shared experiences and cried over good-byes. I have lounged in Bute Park, celebrated birthdays and said met some wonderful strangers.

In this city I have been inspired. I have marvelled at the beautiful University buildings, and stared in awe at the war memorial. I have been a journalist and I have let this city sculpt the experiences that I write about.

I have worked, played and learnt so much more about the kind of life that I want to have. And I have been very lucky to do all of that right here.

Cardiff, it has been the most wonderful dream. Thank you.

Sarah Powell graduated from Cardiff University in 2010, and has since spent a year working as Head of Student Media and gair rhydd Editor at Cardiff University Students’ Union. She is due to spend next year studying Broadcast Journalism, and generally contemplating whether life will exist without gair rhydd. She currently lives in Cathays, where she spends a lot of time drinking tea and trying to write. You can find her on twitter @sarah_powell.

Sarah was photographed in the gair rhydd offices in Cardiff University’s Student Union by Adam Chard


“Riverside? Why do you wanna live round there?” – John


Clare Place doesn’t exist.

On all correspondence, my address reads Clare Street. None of the walls of my house are on Clare Street. My front door leads out to Clare Place. My back door leads out to my back yard, my back yard leads out onto Clare Place. When I applied for a residents’ parking permit, Cardiff City Council’s highway department offered me a permit for Clare Street. I told them I lived off Clare Street, on Clare Place.  If I leave my bins outside the front of my house, on the pavement of Clare Place, they do not get collected, they only pick up from Clare Street. I have become the main food supply to seagulls that – as a result of the non-bin collection – have nested on my bedroom windowsill.

I discovered seagulls don’t sleep. One seagull swooped down, flapped his wings in my face, and snatched a bacon sandwich from my hand as I was closing the front door behind me.  Now I take the bins to Clare Street.

When I book a taxi, I tell them, 37b Clare Place. “Do you have a postcode?” CF12 6CE, I tell them. “OK, a taxi will be with you in ten minutes”. Thirty minutes later I ring Capital Cabs asking them where my taxi is. The taxi driver had waited outside 37b Clare Street for fifteen minutes, and then left.

My council tax bill is addressed to Jackson David, 37b Clare Place.

When a native picks up on my Valleys’ accent, they think I commute. “Long way to travel isn’t it. Haven’t you got any hospitals in the Valleys?” I tell them that there are plenty of hospitals in the Valleys; I also tell them that I have lived in Riverside for seven years. “Bit rough round there innit” followed by “lots of ethnics” and finally “why do you wanna live round there?”

I tell them the rent is cheap, there is a great community spirit, it’s a five minute walk to the city centre, train and bus station and – just for fun – it’s the new Shoreditch.

Riverside is a triangle; the base, Fitzhammon Embankment, running parallel with the River Taff and overlooked by the Millennium Stadium. On Sundays the embankment is transformed. You can buy ostrich burgers farmed in Tenby, organic potatoes from Llanrumney, and oysters from Tonypandy at the Riverside Real Farmers Market. It is a great place to catch the  First Minister of the National Assembly mingling with his voters who have cycled down Cathedral Road from Pontcanna. Every other day of the week, you can hang out on the embankment with the destitute, prostitutes and seagulls at drunk corner.

Two roads, Tudor Road and Cowbridge Road East, then lead off opposite ends of the embankment and come together and join at Riverside Primary school. A mural on the school wall depicts children from various nations holding hands in and the words, “We all live together in Riverside.”

The first time I switched the television set on in Clare Place the screen showed blue skies, then a plane smashed into one of the twin towers. I thought it was a movie. One week later I was awoken at three am by screams. I pulled back my coverless duvet, opened the curtains and witnessed fourteen Cardiff hoodies being chased by the restaurant staff of the Riverside Cantonese who were waving machetes. I thought they were shooting a film.

“So where exactly in Riverside do you live boy?” I try my best to explain to the patient as I wash his balls. Does he know the mad house? “Nope”.

In 1984, Gerald Tobin became so frustrated with a dispute he had with Cardiff Council that he started to put banners up outside his house. He then barricaded himself in. The house was mentioned in Matthew Collins’ Blimey as a piece of outsider art, Tobin had depicted a picture of Munch’s Scream on one of his boards. My favourite board has the slogan “Nightmare on Clare Street”. His house is now totally covered in boards. You sometimes forget that there is someone living there. From my bedroom window I get to see what he has written on the flat roof of his kitchen. “Tony Blair You are the Devil’s Spawn” is a treat only few of us Riverside residents get to see. I feel special every morning when I open my curtains, until a seagull pecks at the window and stares blankly at my bloodshot eye. So I asked him why, why here? He replies, “It’s the new Shoreditch”.

Do you know Backpackers? “Nope, but my back needs a good scratch.” I look at his moles and his psoriasis, and reach for the latex gloves. I double up. What about Club Rumours?

On the weekend, the seagulls are quiet. It is peaceful until five am, when drunks leave Club Rumours. Glass bottles smash on the pavements, arguments between lovers are muffled by my pillows, friends singing Abba medleys and the slurp of tongues diving into another’s throat flow through my not-very double glazing. I realise why the seagulls are quiet on the weekend. They go to sea.

The tetraplegic in the bed opposite shouts through the curtains, “You know, Bill, the parachute club, guaranteed to get a jump.”  Bill laughs and coughs up black mucus. “Pass me one of them sputum pots, they wants to take a sample”. I wonder what for. Bill has cancer of the brain, lungs, heart, lymph nodes and lower intestine. I have no idea why they need to do any more tests. Then my foot kicks over a sputum pot under the bed that he has been collecting, and so I wipe the spit off my Vans (all the other nurses wear Crocs, but I wear Vans) with the soiled sheets that I have just removed from underneath his nakedness.

Well, have you seen the ambulance that’s permanently parked in-between a hearse and an old British Telecom’s van, complete with the fading image of Busby the bird on the side? “Nope”. Well. That’s where I live.

I fall asleep listening to the seagulls having a quiet conversation about the sub-standard food waste. “Riverside is changing for the worse”. Then lights dance around the bedroom, a real ambulance pulls up outside the old ambulance. Out jumps a prostitute, screaming “e’s fuckin dying, he’s ‘aving an overdose, do something!” I climb out of my bed, my feet are freezing on the trendy wooden floorboards, I make a mental note, again, to buy a nice Persian rug from Grangetown Ikea. The floorboards creek underneath my feet, and the gulls turn around and stare. I tip toe to the window, open it, an articulated lorry rumble-shakes the picture of Johnny Cash on wall above the dresser that was left by the prior tenant,  and shout at the prostitute who now has blood sprouting from her ears to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

“E’s dying man, for fuck sake e’s dying.” Then the boyfriend / pimp walks out of the ambulance holding their crackhead dog (that has frightened my cat into living in the airing cupboard). “It’s too late, e’s gone.”

The real ambulance back doors slam hard. The Johnny Cash picture gives in and jumps from the wall. The paramedics stare up at me, shaking their heads. The prostitute stares at me, the pimp stares at me; all shaking their heads, the gulls stare at me. Problem? I shout, and slam the window, close the pink curtains, and catch a glimpse of my naked body in the long wardrobe mirror.

“You know the ‘ouse of taboo, Bill,” slurs the five day old stroke victim from the cubicle. “Aye,” says Bill. “Well he lives next door to the ‘ouse of taboo.” Bill turns onto his back, looks down at his clean crotch, “I have that licked a few times in the ‘ouse of taboo.” I hear a buzzer from the other four bedder and throw Bill a gown, get dressed I better get that. “Oy don’t leave me here all alone and cold.”  I open the curtains, the tetraplegic stares at me, “Better get the buzzer boyo, hurry along.”

The automatic doors don’t automatically open. I slide them apart. Pull out a cigarette and borrow a light from a patient sheltering from the rain. Thanks, I say to him. He puts his pointing finger over the hole of his tracheotomy, “No problems”. I walk away from the University Hospital and head to my house in a street that doesn’t exist, while not contemplating any other professions.

John Davies has moved to Cardiff three times – in 1999, 2001, and 2010 (the last two times, he’s moved back to the same house in Riverside). John performs under the name John Mouse, and is a self employed music promoter. He is married with two young children and supports Swansea City.

John was photographed in Riverside by Adam Chard