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“Butetown is my hometown” – Beatrice

Gavin Porter Giving a tour of Butetown-by Angelo Gianpaolo Bucci

Butetown and me have never been more than acquaintances. As a journalism student at Cardiff University back in 2009, I used to walk down Bute Street only to head to the Bay, unaware of what laid behind the terraced houses that decorate the sidewalk: I would glance at the African shops and the colourful murales on the right hand side of the street and assume I knew something about the place.

I couldn’t be more wrong about it. I ignored that since the early 18th century Butetown has been the multicultural spot of the city, a place where people from different continents lived in the same Victorian house; nor I knew the first Yemeni and Somalis sailors making landfall to the Bay where also the founder of Britain’s first mosque in 2 Glynrhondda St, Cathays. I knew very few about Butetown up until March 2013 when I visited the Diff again after working in London. This time I was determined to learn more about the area for personal and professional reasons.

On the personal side I needed to know more about African culture and migration. Despite being in Italy from Congolese parents I haven’t lived in an African community and so my knowledge of the  continent and its cultures was limited to what I read, watched and was told. The hunger for information wedded so well with my professional soul as I started to work on a documentary on migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Back in 2011 and throughout 2012 few trips brought me to Oslo, Brussels and Istanbul. And in these cities I couldn’t help but notice the urban isolation of African migrants. In Istanbul, tall, muscled men would appear during the day, selling goods on the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn and disappear when the sun sat down, like invisible presences. After doing some research and discovering how few has been written on these communities, I decided to work on a reportage called “Where we are”, with the aim of discovering and let emerge un(der)reported ethnic groups and cultures, baring two questions: are these groups isolating or isolated? How are people living there?

With these queries in mind and the will to avoid the same old representation of migrants, I began working with Gianpaolo Bucci, an Italian filmmaker who quitted his job at RAI, the equivalent of the BBC in Italy, to focus on social issues and human rights.

From a reportage confined to few European cities, the project became an ambitious multimedia documentary to be shot in 12 different cities of the world. It brings the name of (IN)VISIBLE CITIES.

Among those cities, Cardiff was the first stop and Butetown the main focus.

Butetown and me have always been acquaintances maybe because nobody properly introduced to each other. Our relationship status updated in March 2013 when the first episode of (IN)VISIBLE CITIES was shot and when I befriended with people who have lived in the area sometimes for their whole lives.

It was a long chain of people introducing us to other people that made everything possible. Never the “everyone knows everyone” expression was more adequate. Although Butetown might appear as a closed space, confined between a railway and the Taff river, it is a “town” where doors are literally always open. This works for historic institutions like the Butetown History and Arts Centre as well as for private houses. So shows the way Himmat welcomed us.

Himmat came to Butetown few years back after living in other areas of Cardiff and in Denmark. He’s originally from Sudan, but loves the idea of his two little girls growing up in an environment where children gather in the yard and don’t even notice whether they’re from Yemen or Somalia or Malta.

Race was never an issue for the Borge’s either, an eleven-people-family whose ethnical roots can be traced back to Malta, France, Somalia, India … just to name a few. So it’s entrenched their love for Butetown that one of the daughters, sitting in the loud and crowded kitchen a stone away from the Bay touristic restaurants, proudly told me she’ll never leave, because that’s her “hometown”.

Very few people told us about government benefits, how they have struggled to get where they are or crime, but those who did have diverse opinions on these issues. Some mentioned about how Butetown is considered or is a “tough area”, or has been isolated by the government or the place has been a safe haven for multicultural groups. But mostly we discovered intimate stories and African tradition we did not know about.

Like when we first met Maher, a single dad who lives near what was the historic Loudoun square. After recounting his tales of a former sailor coming from Sudan, he let us in his kitchen where we had a taste of Sudanese culture. Maher’s house was filled with a pungent and exotic perfume which he revealed being an incense women use before getting married. Back in the days, his mother might have used that too. He smiled when showing some pictures of his family and parents, especially his mom, who had two long excavation on her cheeks, apparently scarves resulting from a traditional mark made to differentiate tribes. He commented only by saying: “That’s what they do!” Like he wasn’t part of the Sudanese frame anymore.

This is something that happens to migrants and second generations: crisis and loss of identity. I experienced it myself when others were asking whether I feel Congolese or Italian. British actress Thandie Newton talked gorgeously about her identity crisis as a girl born from Zimbabwean mother and British father, in a TED Talk. But finding the same paths in people in Butetown just brought me closer and closer.

Hassan for example, was the youngest of the people we talked to. Born Somali in Denmark and now a happy resident of Butetown, he confessed he’s a bit confused about his cultural identity and hopes his children will have a clearer vision about this. Hassan is a poet, one of the group that together with producer Gavin Porter, created a two-day show on Somali culture in Butetown. The pièce, De Gabay, took place early in March and introduced to other people living in Cardiff a culture that is now embedded in the history of the capital.

I could go on and on talking about people met in Butetown and how they broaden the idea of (IN)VISIBLE CITIES, but it’s better not to spoil the contents of the documentary, that will soon be screened in Seoul in South Korea after being promoted in the U.S.

Not too long ago our chase for African migrants led us to Los Angeles and then continued as we crossed the US from coast to coast.

No question we’ll be back in Cardiff to show the documentary as well and catch up with what are now not only protagonists and makers of this adventure, but also friends.

Ngalula Beatrice Kabutakapua is an investigative journalist and photographer born in Italy but with Congolese roots. In her seven years spent working in the media she has collaborated with media companies such as The Guardian, L’Espresso, Radio France Internationale and the BBC. Focused on international development, migration and human rights issues, she has also been a staff member of the UN Department of Information and is currently an editorial trainer for the US-based NGO World Pulse. She is an active volunteer and works in Italian, English and French.

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It’s our 100th We Are Cardiff story! “Since moving back to Cardiff I’ve managed to keep my single girl status” – Stacey

Year three has been a year of milestones for We Are Cardiff – we hit 100k views of the website, we made a documentary film about Cardiff, AND WE’RE PUBLISHING OUR 100TH STORY! Read on and meet Stacey!

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Okay, so I haven’t really fallen in love with ‘the’ Big Issue man.. In fact  I think it’s safe to say the single-girl-fairy-godmother has a vendetta for me (yes, there is such a thing).

Now I can only imagine how desperate I must’ve looked when purchasing It’s Called a Break Up Because It’s Broken and It’s Just A Date, but hey, when you’re faced with being single for the first time in the 21st century, you need all the advice you can get!

In a quick relationship summary, my high school sweetheart is now my high school best friend’s sweetheart (didn’t see that one coming!) and the guy I traveled the world and then got a mortgage with broke up with me one Saturday morning using the same nonchalant attitude you’d use to discuss the weather.

Heartbroken and, well, quite frankly broke, I decided to ditch the diet of junk food and re runs of rom coms and head to  Sydney, Australia (as you do). With just 796 dollars to my name I set out in the hopes of discovering myself without having a man there to hold my hand and pour milk on my Wheatabix. *Sigh*

What was suppose to be a three month trip turned into three years, and consisted of me swapping my days of asking ‘Would you like to keep the hanger’  for a  front row seat at fashion week , working not only as a registered business owner but alongside the editor of one of the most read magazine’ in the world as a features writer – the single girl features writer to be precise.

Yes, there would be no hiding my newly changed relationship status – I was being pimped out by my editor in the hopes of entertaining my fellow single ladies who were dating vicariously through me.

From doctors to lawyers, musicians to the real life kinda Dear John (who didn’t just want to ‘service’ me) I quickly realised that having your dream job didn’t entitle you to your dream guy…

…and even since leaving Sydney and moving back to Cardiff I’ve managed to keep my single girl status *sigh* and shall be documenting my life (post-koala bears and surfers) (major sigh over the lack of the latter) on my website – thatcardiffgirl.com

So, whether you have some dating advice or just want to hear about my last jaw-droppingly-awful-date put the kettle on, grab a biscuit and stay a while.

Stacey is 24 and turns the big 25 this year (the thought of which makes her want to projectile vomit). Since arriving back from Sydney she has moved back home to Cadoxton in the house her family have lived in since forever. Prior to this at the age of 19 she jetted off to LA the first stop on an around the world trip she embarked on and it’s safe to say she has had itchy feet ever since. Visit her blog at thatcardiffgirl.com.

Stacey was photographed in Cardiff city centre by Jon Pountney

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Two Cardiffs Caught on Camera: Images of a City, Stories of its People

We Are Cardiff photographer Jon Pountney publishes ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’

Cardiff Before Cardiff book cover jon pountney

During the 1970s and early ’80s, hundreds of prints and negatives of Cardiff were taken by the photographer Keith S. Robertson.

These were left forgotten in drawers in an artist’s studio in the city, with the photographer being told that his years of work had been burned and destroyed.

However, exactly two years ago the photographs were finally recovered by another photographer, Jon Pountney, who realised their value immediately.

The result of his restorative work on the photographs, and the reaction generated from the people portrayed or who have seen them, is published this week by Y Lolfa in a new book called Cardiff before Cardiff.

Jon Pountney
Jon Pountney

“I discovered the prints and negatives whilst renovating Warwick Hall, a building in the Gabalfa area of Cardiff, and was instantly struck by the quality of the prints,” explains Jon Pountney.

“The pictures were amazing; ordinary people going about their day, looking as if they could step off the page… What was very striking was the rich vein of community, smiles, winks and laughter.

“A couple of these pictures were stamped ‘Keith S. Robertson’, but that was all. So I created a new blog, called Cardiff before Cardiff, and shared a few photos on the website in an effort to learn more about this photographer. They were seen by a journalist, who subsequently put a number of the prints in a newspaper. The response was immense, and resulted in me being able to reunite Keith with his photographs once more.”

In Cardiff before Cardiff, Robertson’s powerful black and white images show the people and streets of Splott and other areas of Cardiff during the 1970s and the early ’80s, and Pountney’s work revisits some of those same areas today, showing how little has changed, and vice versa.

“Ever since I found those photos, I’ve been shooting Cardiff in a response to Keith’s work,” adds Jon. “It’s inspired me to step out into the streets of Cardiff and make the work I’ve always wanted to do. In this new book, my pictures appear side by side with Keith’s, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Alun Gibbard
Alun Gibbard

The book’s author, Alun Gibbard says, “What has breathed life into Cardiff before Cardiff is the response of the city’s people. On seeing the black and white images in the press, on the blog and Facebook, people began to respond. Someone would recognise themselves in a photograph, or their father, mother or child. Some saw photographs of their family for the first time.”

Jon Pountney and Alun Gibbard will be signing copies of Cardiff before Cardiff in the city’s WHSmith on Thursday, 20th of December between 4 and 5pm. YourCardiff has also published an interview with Jon today.

 

 

 

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“Cardiff Food Project has changed the way I think about food, photography and of course, Cardiff” – Lauren

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I grew up in the Vale of Glamorgan, Penarth to be exact, and although it was a great place to grow up in, as I got older I started to feel disconnected, and longed to live somewhere else. When I finished school at sixteen, I decided to skip sixth form and head straight to Coleg Glan Hafren. I still – to this day – believe this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It got me out into the world and gave me a chance to make new friends. In fact, it was at Glan Hafren that I made friends for life. All my friends there grew up and lived in Cardiff, and most of them still do.

After college, many of them went off to university and I stayed around to work, do some travelling and generally trying to figure out what I wanted to do. At some point, I needed to start making some decisions and one I really needed to make was the choice to go to university. I knew that economically it would make sense to study in Cardiff, I had job security and all my friends were here, so I moved to Roath and went back to college. Then at the grand old age of 23 (believe me, when the majority of your classmates are 18, 23 feels really old) I started university and never looked back.

Now, I am about to embark on my third and final year, I had one more decision to make – do I stay here after university? Or do I sail off into the sunset and see where the wind takes me? It was a tough decision, but I have spent my first 25 years of life here, so I think it is time to sail for a bit. However, I needed to remind myself of what Cardiff has given me over the years, and I wanted to create something that could represent that.

So this led me to creating a project that I could really connect with. I spent a few weeks going over ideas and came up with the Cardiff Food Project. I wanted this to be a blog that offered people a chance to find a new market or a new little corner of Cardiff they may have never knew existed. Through the blog, I have found new places and opportunities, and it has changed the way I think about food, photography and of course, Cardiff.

I’ve learned so much in the two months I’ve been running it, and I know I still have a lot more to learn. It has provided me with the confidence to try my hand at new things. I have set up a supper club, and am working on a new photography and travel website, and I hope to continue my writing. I have also become more aware of what is going in and around Cardiff and my local area. It has opened up my world to new possibilities and new connections, and really the only thing I have to thank for that is Cardiff.

I still have plans to head off in other directions, plans to work and live in different parts of the world. However, no matter where I go, Cardiff will always be home.

Lauren Mahoney is currently an event management student, often dodging the ‘typical’ students of the Roath area on her way to work. When she is not doing any of those three things, Lauren is working hard on her blog cffoodproject.blogspot.co.uk and her new travel and photography website (not yet launched) and getting involved in as many food, travel and photography projects as she can.

Lauren was photographed at Gelynis Farm by Ffion Matthews

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“It’s refreshing to see how many talented DJs, producers and promoters we have” – Lubi J

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Despite being born in England, I’ve always considered myself an honorary Welsh girl. I moved to Cardiff when I was four years old, so have very much grown-up feeling Welsh and I even started to learn the language again a few years ago. I grew up in Rhiwbina and have a lot of weird and wonderful memories from there as a child, going to Parc-y-Pentre on my roller boots (or ‘Parka P’ as we used to call it), and up the Wenallt for bonfires, as well things like Rhiwbina Junior’s old headmistress Mrs Harry’s leather trousers, stiletto shoe and Diet Coke obsession!

I left Cardiff for Staffordshire Uni to study the media, and then returned with a newfound love for the city in 2002. Since then I’ve lived in many of the boroughs that surround the centre; namely Roath, Splott and Grangetown. I love Roath and Splott. The local shops, pubs and eateries are excellent. Albany Road and Clifton Street have some great independent shops; as a DJ, D’Vinyl and The Record Shop have a plethora of gems waiting for you to hunt them down, plus there are the charity shops too!

Right in between Splott and Roath are the lanes that run behind the Blue Dragon Hotel on Newport Road. There’s a constant supply of amazing art here, much of it done by close friends representing the Cruel Vapours crew. I used to sit and watch in the sun when I lived on Elm Street – the most colourful street in Cardiff.

I now live right in the thick of it, on High Street. Despite being in the middle of a busy town centre, I love living here. The location is ideal – just a 10 minute walk to the Radio Cardiff studio where I present a weekly music show and a stone’s throw from a number of quality haunts.

One of my favourite places in town has to be the indoor market. Being able to buy fresh produce without going to the supermarket is a blessing, and you can always guarantee great banter from the people that work there! There’s also the weekend farmers market and Wally’s Delicatessen offering amazing treats when you’re feeling a bit more flush. Catapult Records, in the Castle Arcade is an essential shop for any DJ and to have the oldest record shop in the world, Spillers, definitely makes me feel proud as a vinyl lover!

DJing drum and bass and also funk and soul in Cardiff for a number of years has meant I’ve been able to play in some great clubs and bars, some are still around, like Clwb Ifor Bach and Milgi’s, but some have been shut down. This is one of the things that is always disappointing to see, as a DJ and a punter. The Emporium still stands as my favourite club of all time and living opposite its empty building, I’m constantly reminded of the great times I had in there and how gutted we all were when it was shut down. The bouncy wooden dancefloor (which we all thought would give way at some point) will never disappear from my mind! The Toucan club, despite having a number of different venues, is somewhere I loved playing in and I’ve always wondered if it would ever find another place to open up again. I could mention many others… As a clubber, the old Natwest bank down the bay now known as The Vaults has to be the best venue around right now. Backroom gave it legendary status bringing some of the worlds best house and techno DJs to Cardiff with a real family-run atmosphere.

Whether a venue closes or the nights stop though, Cardiff always manages to brush the dirt off and keep putting on good nights for clubbers, bringing some of the best DJs from all over the world to this tiny capital city. It’s also so refreshing to see how many talented DJs, producers and promoters we have. We’re literally bursting at the seams with talent and this is something I heavily try to promote through my show on Radio Cardiff (which is a community station, so, it’s all about giving something back).

For me, Cardiff does quite well in catering for all musical preferences so you really can’t complain. Similarly, if you love food and cooking, you can enjoy any kind of food here. Too skint to eat out? Grab some dragon sausages from the market and have a BBQ over the Castle grounds! That really is a feast fit for any Cardiff carnivore!

Lubi J is 31 and has been DJing for nearly 12 years. She presents a weekly music show called ‘System Check’, on Radio Cardiff, Tuesdays from 9-10pm (www.radiocardiff.org) with local DJs and producers regularly live in the studio and can sometimes be found playing drum and bass or funk and soul in some of the bars and clubs of Cardiff. She has a passion for cooking which is shared in her food blog, ‘This week I have been mostly cooking’ (http://thisweekbeenmostlycooking.tumblr.com/) and she also has a fine collection of trainers and hats.

Lubi J was photographed in Roath by Doug Nicholls.

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“Over the last 25 years, the Sherman has been a part of my life” – Katherine

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I’ve lived in Cardiff for 42 years. So in thinking of a place that felt special to me, I had lots of choices. I love Donkey beach in Penarth, a secret little place under Penarth cliffs that my Nan and Gramps took me and my sister when we were little. I love the sea around Cardiff Bay and the docks. Bute Park, Roath Park, Victoria Park. Cardiff has good parks. I like sitting on Platform 7 on Central Station looking over to the Brains Brewery sign and the smell of the hops. I could have talked about lots of places that make Cardiff my home but I really wanted to talk about a place that has been part of my life for the last 25 years and I hope will continue to be so for the next 25 – Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru.

My first visit to the then Sherman Theatre was in 1985. I was 15 and had come on a school trip arranged by the English department to see Macbeth. I remember having to sit within hands reach of my teacher because my concentration wasn’t great and it was long. I was bored and fidgeting and desperately wanting to get back on the bus. When it ended I was relieved.

The next time I came to the Sherman was in 1987. I was being interviewed for a administration placement on a government Y.T.S. Scheme. I had left school with no qualifications to speak of so my choices were limited. I remember there was a matinee on. As I was lead backstage and down to the administration offices, various characters passed me by covered in copious amounts of blood, running from one side of stage to the other, backstage calls sounded out and dressing room doors opened briefly exposing a mixture of discarded costumes and everyday clothes. A blood curdling scream echoed through the maze of backstage corridors as I met the General Manager, ‘Sweeny Todd’ she smiled, ushering me in.

I began my placement the following week and my relationship with The Sherman Theatre began.

My placement was only for a year or so and as the end of the scheme approached I was dreading having to leave I felt like I’d found somewhere that I fitted. A permanent job came up in the finance department and I was offered the chance to stay. Although I worked in administration I spent all the time I could with the production team. I often volunteered to work on productions for the experience and did a lot of work for the Youth Theatre productions. It started to dawn on me that my heart was in the more creative roles in theatre and so after seven years I left the Sherman Theatre and went to Welsh College to train to be a Stage Manager.

Over the last 25 years or so the Sherman has been a part of my life. I’ve worked there and experienced making and watching some great theatre. This year Sherman Cymru are producing a play I’ve written called ‘Before It Rains’ and so my relationship with the building continues.

I couldn’t be prouder.

Katherine Chandler’s first play was a musical comedy called The Bankrupt Bride that was produced by Theatr na n’Óg in 2009 and toured nationally. She has had a long-standing relationship with the company and her play We Need Bees, a children’s play for the under-sevens, is currently on tour. As a writer, she has also had short plays produced by Dirty Protest and Spectacle Theatre. In 2011 one of her plays was selected by Pentabus Theatre as their We Are Here 2011 winning script and was developed in association with Sherman Cymru. Katherine is the recipient of an Arts Council Wales grant to write a new female-led comedy and is under commission from National Theatre Wales to develop a new piece of work with them. In early 2013 Katherine will be on a studio attachment at the National Theatre (England). Before It Rains runs at Sherman Cymru between 25 September – 6 October 2012. Katherine currently lives in Penarth.

Katherine was photographed at Sherman Cymru by Jon Pountney

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“Life and Death In The Diffusion City” – Plangu

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17:00

Step off train.

In Cardiff.

But am I Cardiff? Is Cardiff me?

One year to find out, one journey to commence.

Problem: where’s the exit?
Resolution: straight ahead, I should have seen it.

Walking.

Man: where is Platform 2?
Riposte: I am sorry, I don’t know. Are you on Facebook?

An awkward silence like moss on a Norweigan tree in June. Is this the Day of Thunder?

I feel lost. Draw me a metaphorical mind map and I’ll lay down on your molten train tracks.

17:15

Exit the train station.

Flashing neon lights of the Burger King. Fast food generation nation. I think of fresh cod and trout, but this ain’t no rainbow city.

Me: Excuse me, where can I see a map for directional advisement?
Man: You don’t need a map, you need a new hat.

A languid finger points to a direction collection encased in grimy glass and ripe for intro-outro-meta-spection.

I walk 5-10 meters. Symmetry achieved.

17:45

Walk walk walk, stop, walk walk, stop.

St Mary’s Street, carnival and revellers. Sundown smile, my vision becoming multi-peripheral.

An Asgardian clock encased in glass, tick tock tick tock. Time flies when you’re coke and rum.

Friday the day of wages.

Factory workers reminisce of steel shaping shifts, blackened hands and tankards of ale.

Estate agents close a sale, suits pinstriped and pressed for success at half past wine.

Boozer, the Borough, Yates the wine joint.

Our money is the all the same and the drink takes the blame… or close acquaintances.

Closer yet further still, to whit the steel worker motions to a call centre executive with a closed fist and stiffening shoulder ensemble.

Conflict in Cardiff. Welsh Warriors. Fear flights through the five boroughs but I see no painted baseball clowns, only enraged dragons wearing culture crowns.

18:40

Drunk and a stumble. The Isle of Hayes.

Waterstones has a buy one get one half price.

Reminder: I’m here to learn, academia awaits.

19:30

Roath. Elegant two bedroom apartment; both en suite, but who’s counting?

Full media connection, but I need to interface with me.

This year is my journey, I need to make Cardiff my city.

I bite into an apple and open my Mac.

An email for an internship; please sir, can I have some more? Disaster interaction: the editor vexed with my corrections of his holy words. My direct style of communication is not in relation to the egos borne of procrastination and Big Ideas.

Culture: what is it? I am a force for my own stylings; drip drip drop drop, I need a trip to the shop.

20:05

Open my journal.

Words spill like snow in the winter from the requisite clouds and their multiverse formations: Afraid. Excited. New. Old. Castle. Take away food. City. Capital. Uncle Torr.

Entrance to the scene.

Roommate: I am your roommate.
Me: I am your roommate.
Roommate: We are at A, let’s get to B.
Me: And then C and D.
Both: This feels right.

Nods and smiles and flowing conversation covering a complete collection of crazed recollection. Squared. Rooted. Rebooted. Nostalgia nightmares of animatronic bears.

22:09

Speech slurring, world whirring.

Roommate: How about that 2 Fast 2 Furious?
Me: Yes! I own it on digital video disk, truly the filet of the franchise.
Roommate: Bond now assured and let me be clear; we are friends in concrete absoluteness, to which cannot often be said over such brief interaction. Rare.

01:11

Walking home to Roath.

Roommate has long since expired ‘pon a corner of the castle. Grassy knoll, well don’t we all? Life and death in the Diffusion City.

I look up to the sky, the stars aligned I see Oslo, Norway.

Focussing my spiritual and atomic distribution here I am in Cardiff, Wales.

I access, accept, and assimilate my fate for one year less one month. A beautiful city with opportunity aplenty and unto much learning to be anything less than a fleeting yearning.

We Are Cardiff? Yes. Yes we certainly are.

A writer, poet, artist and polemicist, Plangu, originally from Oslo, Norway, resides in Roath where he is undertaking a year of study at Cardiff University. Plangu’s debut short story collection, ‘Grenene Av Våre Trær’, is due for publication in late 2013.

The image above is a self portrait by Plangu.

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“Cardiff is gentle, real and always grounded” – Amy

amy mcclelland

As I write this, I am sitting in my front room in Cathays. I can hear those seagulls we all hear on the roof and can smell “student cooking”. A thought comes into mind. No matter how hard the council tries to ‘Keep Cathays Tidy’ (and I know how hard they try) … it never really is tidy. I am starting to feel that somehow this is meant to be. Discarded pizza flyers and nibbled bin bags appear to be part of the shabby chic ephemera which typifies Cathays.

I love Cardiff. It is gentle, real and always grounded, no matter how many students, well-oiled rugby fans or naked cyclists pass through its streets.  When I tell people that I live in Cardiff, they always say ‘’I have heard that Cardiff is meant to be a great place to live’’. They are right. Having happily lived here for nearly ten years with my partner, I always speak extremely highly of this wonderful town. Where else in the British Isles can you walk in a beautiful park, see a man banging sticks on a bin, see absolute stag and hen hedonism, an Indian City Hall wedding and the delights of a Norwegian church all in one day?  Walking through Cardiff offers so many delights besides the great culture, architecture, museums and shops. If you look carefully enough, you may get to see its hidden treasures, like the teenage PDAs outside Blue Banana, the lady with the hat and black boots who spends hours dancing in front of buskers, the RAC man who seems to be everywhere, the religious preacher with his speakerphone or the almost edible kittens upstairs in the market. In Cardiff, no matter how crowded and busy things get, there is always somewhere for you to escape to. There is always a haven. One of my favorite havens in Cardiff has to be the ‘Summer House’ in Bute park. Just a five minute walk from my office or the town centre, it is the perfect place to sit and breathe, be it the middle of winter or the peak of our wet summers. Full of children with sticky fingers rushing around panting dogs, people getting lost in books and mums and dads on health kicks with bike helmets on, you can never be bored.

I first came to Cardiff to study Psychology in 2003. My sister loved it so I figured I would too. Being from Birmingham originally, Cardiff initially felt small and a bit old-fashioned. In my mind, I would stay for the three years of my degree and then go with my partner to somewhere more ‘exciting’. However, one night, as we walked under the bridge by the Hilton, my friend said ‘’Amy, I think you will find your Karma here’’. Little did I know, he would be absolutely right. I can’t see myself settling anywhere else anytime soon.

Cardiff has many wonderful resources. It is clever yet humble and gives often without wanting anything in return. May our wonderful town live on. Thanks Cardiff, you have been good to us.

Amy McClelland is a local Psychologist who runs the Cardiff Sleep Clinic ‘Sleep Wales’ and ‘Optimis Psychology’. Away from her office, she is a passionate linguist, likes singing, collecting her niece from nursery, yoga and spending free time in the College House chatting to Salvo, Dan and Michaela. Her favorite place in the world is the Blue Marlin in bar in Ibiza.

Amy was photographed in Bute Park by Lann Niziblian

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“Cardiff’s buildings may change, but the feel of the city never does” – Bazz

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That famous Thomas Wolfe quote – “you can’t go home again” – doesn’t really apply when you’re referring to Cardiff. Buildings may change, but the feel of the city never does.

When I was growing up, to take a trip down to Cardiff Bay seemed nothing short of ‘danger tourism’. It might just be my over-active imagination embellishing these memories, but the Docks were like the set of a post-apocalyptic film back then: derelict warehouses seemed to be everywhere. Now it’s one of the gems of South Wales: a hive of family-friendly activity as well as late-night revelry.

The Hayes, in the town centre, used to be where you went to get your bike fixed (Halfords), or your photos developed (Jessops, which had a little robotic man in its shop window that haunted my dreams for a worrying period of time). In late 2009, I came back from a long trip to Australia to discover the retail Mecca that is St David’s 2, built over that once-dreary site; a centre so impressive that people from as far afield as London prefer to come here to do their shopping.

The fear of missing out is a powerful one. If you’re coming back to this city after moving away, you’re not coming back to the small village where nothing ever changes; where everybody shops at the local petrol station. You’re coming back to a city where exciting things are happening, be it in sporting, cultural or business terms (or all three). I’m appreciative of the fact that I’m living in Cardiff at a time when it’s experiencing a renaissance.

Some people are quick to drop everything and leave for another city, or country, and in some cases that’s understandable. For me, I have cultivated many friendships over the years that I would find hard to turn my back on so easily. Many of these were formed at places such as the gym in Sophia Gardens, which hosts the richest tapestry of characters I’ve ever encountered. One of the more outlandish individuals is a Phil Collins lookalike who accessorises a skimpy leotard with a bumbag. I’ve made some great friends there (though not so much with Leotard Man, for obvious reasons), and the storylines that have emerged from within the four walls of a single weights room have convinced me that I will one day write a book on these people.

I went to Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr in Fairwater. It’s an amazing school. There were only three years there when I started because it had gone from being a lower school to a new, standalone institution. It meant that everyone knew each other, which was definitely not the case in the rest of Cardiff’s huge schools. My little brother goes there now, and to hear of all the developments it’s undergone since I left (including, to my eternal jealousy, an astroturf pitch and a new gym) reinforces my belief that the Welsh language continues to grow in the city.

Most of my friends in their mid-twenties are teachers, and I realise that my teachers in Plasmawr – back then, all around the same age that I am now – were still finding their way; their experiences as educators were just as new as ours were as pupils and, on reflection, they did an impressive job. English classes were a highlight, and my teacher Mr Jones was an inspirational presence who had a profound effect on the path I chose upon leaving school.

I wasn’t the perfect student by any stretch of the imagination, and my friends and I were prone to the odd displays of smartarsery. In history class one day, our new teacher immediately regretted asking our disruptive group if one of us wanted to take the lesson, because one of us stood up and did just that. But those are the good memories you take with you.

Studying for my undergraduate degree in Aberystwyth some years ago, I encountered certain Welsh people from outside of South Wales from whom I got the impression they thought people from Cardiff were somehow ‘less Welsh’ than them. Now most of them live here. A microcosm of North Wales can even be found in Canton, adding to the melting pot (or, better yet, fruit salad) already inherent in Cardiff’s DNA.

Three years ago, I was lucky to be accepted into Cardiff University’s International Journalism Masters programme. In a large group of students, I was the only Welshman (and one of only three Brits) on the course, and the UN-like environment of the ‘newsroom’ was incredible. It was interesting to see these foreigners’ perceptions of my hometown too. Maybe they were just being polite, but they seemed utterly sincere when they told me they loved Cardiff. It was a unique experience at the Bute Building in Cathays Park.

My favourite part of Cardiff is the sprawling Pontcanna Fields. There aren’t many cities that can boast a park where you are literally surrounded in all directions by greenery, and it’s one of the prime examples of why the city is one of the greenest in Europe. You can even see Castell Coch from the fields, which emphasises Cardiff’s accessibility to other distinctly non-cosmopolitan regions. Whether I’m there walking the dog or running with my friend, this place has a calming effect on my soul.

As a youngster, I had no reason to go to Cathays or Roath – now I’m there regularly. It is the bohemian heart of the city, and the elite unit of Cardiff’s intelligentsia that is my quiz team has often been known to storm the competition at the magnificent Pear Tree bar on a Sunday. (In the past, we’ve been affectionately referred to as the ‘Seal Team 6’ of quiz teams – mostly by ourselves.)

I want to be here when Cardiff reaches its tipping point and gets the global recognition it deserves as one of Europe’s finest capital cities. It won’t be long.

Bazz Barrett works in PR and lives in Pontcanna. He blogs for therugbycity.wordpress.com, tweets as @bazzbarrett and can sometimes be found avoiding leotard-wearing Phil Collins lookalikes in the gym – a workout in itself.

Bazz was photographed at the War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens by Ffion Matthews

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“This is still the place I want to be” – James

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This is the place…

I’ve always thought there are two types of home: the one you have, and the one you want. Roath was definitely the latter for me. I moved here from Stoke in 2002 and straight away it felt right. In a short space of time I met an incredible group of friends, and this, together with my love of the city, gave me a sense of belonging. Aged 23 I thought this is the place I want to be.

Recently I’ve begin to question the choice I made 10 years ago. There are those friends who move away to bigger cities – some come back, some don’t. And there are those who never make the journey and ask themselves that meaningless question, what if? Big cities are naturally more conducive to creativity, offer more opportunities, and provide a bigger network to plug yourself into to find out what sparks, if any, may fly. Of course, you know this, but still, what if?

When I find myself thinking about this, I put on my running shoes and go to the one place I love more than any other in Cardiff – a home within a home – the Rec (aka the Roath Recreation Ground). I must have run, and walked, around this small park hundreds of times, and spent countless hours there lying under rare summer sun until my pale skin turns pink. It’s hard to convey why I love it – after all it’s just a park – bit if pressed I would say it’s a combination of the space and the skies above it. I’ve seen the most amazing sunsets, and formations of clouds and light, over the Rec. It may sound pretentious, but I feel like those skies have sheltered me over the years whenever I’ve been feeling low.

The final key ingredient that makes the Rec so great is the people who inhabit it. On any one night you can watch people playing rounders, rugby, football, cricket, or just reading, talking, and drinking until the sun goes down. It’s a reminder of how vibrant and eclectic this city is – I remember seeing one football game where each player wore the football top of their country of origin and no 2 shirts were alike. Having a garden is a luxury, but it’s not essential in Roath, as there is always the Rec.

When I’ve finished my run I always turn off my iPod and walk across the width of the Rec towards the Community Centre. I don’t think about work the next day, or what I’m going to do when I get home. I try not to think at all. Instead I just listen to the evening and look around me. It always gives me a sense of calm, and reminds me of how lucky I am to have this on my doorstep. Moments like this brush away all of my doubts and reaffirms that this is still the place I want to be.

James Nee works for The Festivals Company (where he directs the occasional promo and is the Director of ffresh) and is the creator of ernest – a collective of artists based in Roath who make short films and sketches. He currently lives in Roath.

James was photographed on Roath Recreation Ground by Jon Pountney

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“Rhiwbina is a great place to see what community spirit is really like” – Beth

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You always realise how much you miss home when you leave. When you come back, you realise that home is the thing that’s been missing. When I left for university six years ago, I was relieved to leave home at home and get on with living somewhere else. However, coming back to Cardiff has been the best move I could have made. When you live here you don’t realise how great you really have it; with the fantastic range of things to do, mixture of places to visit and the friendliness of Welsh people. But there’s one place in Cardiff I class as ‘Home Sweet Home’.

If you’re looking for somewhere friendly, cute and a little bit different, I’m going to big Rhiwbina up to you.

Yes, it is thought of as being a slightly older person’s hang-out and yes, it may not be your first destination choice on a Saturday morning but there is a lot going on. Dr Who was filmed here, nostalgic festivals are held here and community spirit is second to none so why wouldn’t you want to visit?

Picture this…

It’s a miserable Saturday morning (let’s face it, the Welsh weather has been somewhat of a letdown) and you don’t fancy a venture into central Cardiff battling the crowds. Instead, you decide to take a trip to Rhiwbina to the north of the hustle and bustle. With the choice of Coco’s Hairdressers for a quick snip, Aquarius Revived for a nice beauty treatment and Fragrant 227 for a relaxing massage, you find you’re already feeling refreshed.

But all that spoiling and relaxation is hungry work … which is where the Olive Branch Cafe and Bookshop comes in. Friendly staff, a comfortable atmosphere and delicious Carrot Cake awaits you. This is always a first choice stop off for a bite to eat and a quirky Maltesar–based milkshake!

After you’ve had your fill of tasty homemade food and attractive lattes, take a stroll to Rhiwbina library to browse the display of books, have a walk around Caedelyn Park or why not see what vintage home shop The Nest has in stock? If, however, you’ve decided your day so far has been thirsty work, visit one of the many pubs in Rhiwbina like the Butcher’s Arms (where there’s a farmer’s market every Friday morning), The Deri Inn, The Mason’s Arms and The Nine Giants.

With excellent links to the city centre and only 10 minutes by foot to Whitchurch village (with its selection of nice eateries and shops), Rhiwbina is somewhere to spend more than an hour of your time and a great way to see what community spirit is really like.

Beth Rees is a keen writer, poet and film lover with a very sociable side. She loves meeting with friends, going to Zumba and sitting in her pyjamas with a big slice of cake after a hard day’s slog. She writes a poetry blog (http://shakespeares-sister.tumblr.com/) and would love to write her own book someday. Beth lives in Rhiwbina.

Beth was photographed at the Olive Branch in Rhiwbina by Kayleigh Ancrum

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“I still have the ration book I used to buy sweets from the shop next door” – Jenny

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Jenny Criddle - childhood

My memories of growing up in Cardiff are clearest from the age of around four to five years. We lived on North Road in the Maindy area of Cardiff with extended family, which consisted of my grandparents, an aunt and an uncle.  We had a front room, used for special events and which also housed the old piano which I would learn to play from the age of seven.  The middle room was where our family of four lived and it contained our table and chairs, easy chairs, the very large old radio, coal fireplace and gas cooker.  In an age where we want our space, I can only be amazed that we all fitted in there and never seemed to be aware of how small it must have been. The back room was where my grandparents lived. Upstairs, there were several bedrooms and this always seemed very big to me as a child. I used to love climbing the extra little set of stairs up to the attic room and from there we could see right into the Maindy stadium when sporting events took place.  Our little family had the front, very large bedroom for us all to sleep in and I do remember how cold it was in the winter, especially getting up in the morning.  It never took long to get dressed.

One of the first personal events that I can clearly recall is the birth of my sister who, less than a year later, burned her arm and was taken to hospital. Her physical scars remain to this day but while they have faded somewhat my recollection of that day has not. I also clearly remember my first day at school, at the age of five. As I had had to wait until the actual day of my birthday to be able to attend, I was very keen to start in Allensbank Primary School.  The faces of some staff and children who were at the school with me still remain in my memory.  By the age of seven I was allowed to walk to school on my own, a freedom that children would rarely be given now.  From there I went to Cathays High School, which was just literally just across the road.  One day, as I sat at my desk in school, I watched a small plane as it circled outside my window and then crashed down into the road just next to my family home. The thing I remember most was how concerned I was about my mother’s safety and I asked to go home. The plane had tried to avoid the Maindy Stadium where a sports day was being held, with many children there.  It did manage to do this thankfully but unfortunately the occupants of the plane did not survive.  As I lived so close to where the plane came down, I was interviewed by a reporter from the South Wales Echo and remember how strange it was to see my name and account in the paper not long afterwards.

As our family home was located on the main road, my parents refused my request to have a dog. My mum was afraid it would get run over by the closely passing traffic but compared to the traffic today it must have been fairly light as I was allowed to walk on my own to the library further up North Road on a Saturday morning.  I was also allowed to walk up to the Plaza cinema, now a block of flats, without adult supervision.  We only had a small back yard in which to play outdoors but there was a large covered area that served as a utility room, complete with mangle. I well remember being allowed to turn the handle and watched as the water was pressed out of the clothes on washday, which was always Monday, come rain or shine.  However, growing up in post-war Britain, the side-roads became an extended yard in which to play. They were not busy with vehicles, except for the occasional horse and cart selling fruit and vegetables.  We skipped and played marbles and hopscotch for hours on end.  Even though we did not live in an affluent area, I remember it as a happy and carefree time.  Front door keys were never needed as all I had to do was put my hand inside the letterbox to pull the string and gain entry.  In those times it was easy to close off a street for a street party and I clearly remember the one held for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I still have photos of that event, with myself and my sister dressed in costumes made by my mother for the occasion. The Diamond Jubilee has been a good excuse to get them out and show them to younger members of the family, creating amusement. As I looked at the photos, Cardiff seemed a much different and far away place as, indeed, our modern life-style does, compared to the one I knew as a child growing up in post-war conditions.  I still have the ration book that enabled me to buy sweets in the conveniently located shop next door to our house.

We often used to walk from North Road to Roath Park and I recollect walking there while holding onto the pram that held my baby sister.  We would walk up to Whitchurch Road, through to Allensbank Road and down Wedal Road.  I remember getting so excited as I realised we were almost there and our first stop was always to feed the ducks. The highlight of the visit was to sit in the little boats and pedal them around the small area reserved for children.  It is great to see so many people of all ages still enjoying the simple pleasures that Roath Park has to offer.

Cardiff City Football Club was another place I remember well, being taken there regularly by my father, who was also a keen football and baseball player.  He proudly told us how he had had trials for Cardiff City Football Club but this was curtailed when he was called up into the armed forces during the Second World War. My elderly mother still has an old suitcase full of medals and cups that he won playing locally in his youth.  Indeed when I began to knit, my father suggested that my first project should be to make a blue and white scarf. I remember this taking me some time but I proudly wore it to watch Cardiff City when it was finished.  I particularly thought of this when recent proposals to change their colour to red were announced.

We moved to the Whitchurch area when I was a young teenager and, while I remained at Cathays High School, my sister went to a Whitchurch school.  We now had a small garden and, it seemed to me at the time, a more affluent life style than before but I now realise that conditions were generally improving in the country as a whole as people settled back into civilian life.

My own working life was mainly spent in Cardiff too and, as an adult, I became a lecturer after studying in local colleges.  This chapter of my working life was the most interesting and even led me into Cardiff prison.  In case you are wondering, I was not an inmate but a teacher in the Education Department for five years.  Now, in retirement, we can enjoy Cardiff even more. The Bay, where once we used to go through the dock gates, at the end of Bute Terrace, to see the banana boats come in, has become a vibrant and interesting place to go and walk across the barrage, or sit and people watch.  The recent 2012 Olympic Torch relay was probably my earliest ever visit to the Bay, however, arriving in time to get a good viewing point, when Dr Who (Matt Smith) started the 6.30am run from the Norweigan Church.

My life in Cardiff has been a very enjoyable one with many fond memories and it has been good to see it develop over the years into the lively city that it now is.  There is even more to look forward to with the planned additions to the sports village, including the building of a Snow Dome, which has been promised for 2013 and we look forward to that.  I feel sure that Cardiff will remain a place where families can happily work and play, just as we have always done.

Jenny Criddle is a retired lecturer/ trainer and is actively involved in supporting voluntary work with young people. In April 2012, she went to South Africa with a large group to help build a Child Development Centre. Jenny and her husband also help with Spree Wales, an annual large youth camp as well as their local church events. Details can be found at www.bethesdacardiff.org / www.SpreeWales.com / www.rycsouthafrica.org

Jenny was photographed at Roath Park lake by Ffion Matthews. Next to that image is a photograph of Jenny taken at the same spot when she was four years old.

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