Tag Archives: blog about living in cardiff

“Cardiff has such a diverse range of people, humble, intelligent people” – Stephen

stephen-web

I’ve lived in Cardiff since 2010, moving here to complete the Master of Architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.

Good friends who lived in Cardiff previous to 2010 always said what an amazing place it is to live.

Many weekend breaks to Cardiff later, I decided to choose Cardiff over London to continue my Architectural Training.

This June, after working for a number of diverse South Wales Architects, I decided to commit to Cardiff, founding my own Architecture Studio.

Colleagues who practice in London can’t quite understand why I want to be on the fringe of the architectural profession.

For me, it’s being able to cycle to work in the morning, walking to meetings. It’s the fact that I work in a historic, beautiful office in the Castle Arcade, a stones throw away from, unsurprisingly, the Castle and Bute Park.

Being able to ride from one side of the city to another in 25 minutes dissolves any barriers. With a better cycle network, I’m sure we could move around our city even easier.

Without becoming too focused on the built environment, the people of Wales and Cardiff really make this city. Such a diverse range of people, humble, intelligent people. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.

I’ve just awoken from my slumber in the Victorian Terrace I share in Grangetown, and soon I’ll be off around town, visiting the rock climbing centre, the city centre and Chapter later.

Looking forward to another day in Cardiff …

Stephen Paradise was a young boy who had an interest in all things art and design, and from a young age started to build multiple creations out of just one box of Lego, discarding the manual after a day. As the number of sets grew, so did the complexity of the designs; a Lego Super Jumbo Jet took its maiden flight down a set of stairs – to his mother’s dismay. Fortunately, many other ground based designs; army bases, towns, towers, castles & houses managed to avoid this ill fated mishap. This influential past time recently led the slightly older boy (now a young man about town) to found his own architecture and design studio in the heart of Cardiff.

This passion and dedication for all things ‘design’ culminated in a nomination for the Royal Institute of British Architecture Bronze Award 2009, exhibiting at Portland Place. The formative years of his career were spent at a small contemporary local practice, PADstudio, in the New Forest National Park, South England. He completed the Master of Architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University and has since worked for a range of practices in Cardiff and Swansea for the past year.

Stephen was photographed by Jon Pountney in Castle Arcade.

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“There is so much to be inspired by in Cardiff” – Rosie

Rosie Oxley

I’ve lived in Cardiff for almost 17 years… just under half my life so far (I’m 35). There is so much to be inspired by…

Almost wherever you are in Cardiff you can see the hills of the valleys to the north and the Bristol Channel to the south. As the Capital city of Wales, there are a wealth of cultural landmarks, civic buildings and tourist attractions.

My father Andrew Fitton is an Artist by occupation. He studied at Cambridge College of Art from 1967 to 1969 and later Swansea Art School from 1969 to 1972.

Andrew has produced art through his working life. He has painted a number of views of his favourite places in Cardiff. Many of these are iconic views of our city.

Andrew’s influences include Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) and two artists influenced by Impressionism… Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 – 1938) and Robert Delauney (1885 – 1941) The Impressionist style is much loved for it’s use of vibrant colour, subjectivity and depiction of outdoor views with the artist’s own individual responses and creativity incorporated into the work.

I’ve been inspired to set up ‘Impressions of Cardiff (and Swansea) a business bringing together his artwork in an online gallery, and selling a range of Giclees, greetings cards and gifts featuring images from his art. www.impressionsofcardiffandswansea.org.uk

The title reflects the influence of the Impressionist Art style on Andrew’s work, and also the fact that the art hopefully gives a good impression of the locations depicted…!

Individually and together, the paintings offer an excellent depiction of some of Cardiff’s most iconic locations which are significant to the city’s culture, heritage and social life.

Some favourites are…

Andrew’s painting ‘An Impressionist View of Cardiff Castle’ offers a unique depiction of this tourist attraction, and symbol of Cardiff’s heritage.

‘The Hayes Island Cafe’ portrays the popular venue in the heart of the City Centre, and shows people visiting the cafe and sitting at tables outdoors in the Hayes.

Andrew’s view of ‘Castle Arcade’ highlights it’s Victorian style architecture, boutique shops and independent cafes which contribute to Cardiff’s lively cafe culture.

‘A stall on Cardiff Central market’ shows a stall offering an abundant array of vegetables and produce highlighting the contribution of independent and local retailers in the city.

The image of Roath park depicts the expansive lake, the Captain Scott Lighthouse, and looks across to the tree lined verges and Lake Road East beyond it.

The business also features art by Andrew featuring views of Swansea.

I’m enjoying operating Impressions of Cardiff and Swansea. Independent businesses bring unique and diverse goods and services, and offer alternatives to high street chains. I hope this sector continues to grow and thrive in the years ahead.

Rosie Oxley was born and grew up in Swansea, has lived in Cardiff for almost 17 years, and currently lives in Fairwater. She set up Impressions of Cardiff and Swansea in 2011 shortly before the arrival of her young daughter Jessa. She’s an enthusiastic fan of Cardiff and of Impressionist Art, and is thrilled to be selling items featuring images of iconic views in the city. Visit the Impressions of Cardiff and Swansea website at http://www.impressionsofcardiffandswansea.org.uk Twitter @ImprCdfandSwans

Rosie was photographed at the Roath Craft Market in the Mackintosh Community Centre, by Amy Davies.

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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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“Adamsdown is my favourite” – Ellie

ellie-pilot-web

I went to Aberystwyth University and had a few friends that moved to Cardiff when they graduated. A few of us hung around Aber for a bit not knowing what we should do and then decided we would all just move to Cardiff. I’ve lived in Riverside then Roath and now settled in Adamsdown. Adamsdown is my favourite, because it’s cheap and most of my friends live in the surrounding streets. Though I have fond memories of Riverside and my housemates, and Roath because I met a lovely landlord and his family who became my adopted Cardiff family! Cardiff is just so friendly and welcoming which is why it rocks!

By day, I am a legal secretary for a Patent and Trade Mark firm. It’s a job I fell into but it’s pretty great. In my spare time I do the admin for the Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club. If you haven’t heard of us we are a Cardiff-based (so far!) cabaret night. We began in 2010, staging themed shows in our local community hall that featured circus performers, musicians, dancers and actors from Cardiff and around the world. Our shows are immersive and intimate, driven by playfulness and good fun; the audience is invited to become part of the cabaret family for the evening. By 2011 these nights were growing in popularity, and we were invited by the Wales Millennium Centre to perform as part of the 2011 Blysh festival. Since then, Mary Bijou has been going from strength to strength. We recently performed at our second Machynlleth Comedy Festival 2013, of which we were invited back to before our 2012 first year’s festival was even over! We provide the after-hours’ entertainment in the evenings as well as daytime circus workshops.

We’re going to be back at The Centre’s Blysh festival this July and August, bigger and better than ever, with a show called “Hitch” in the Spiegel tent which is ever so exciting. This year we get a four night run!

We’re confident that this summer’s show for the Centre will be our best yet. We’re already planning our shows for Machynlleth next May, and hope to include a daytime family-friendly “children’s’ cabaret”.

Some of my favourite things to do in the city are head to the hula hooping class at the Nofit State Circus HQ or at a spin class after work, or trawling junk shops for 1950s kitchens at the weekend, going to any number of the wonderful gigs and shows happening around town, electro-swing hopping with the Kitsch n Sync girls at their Tuesday class, drinking Waterloo tea in Porter’s and catching up with friends.

There are a whole load of fun things to recommend in this city – but obviously the first one would be to come and see our show in the spiegeltent this July 31st until 3 August 2013!

Ellie Pilott has collaborated with Mary Bijou since the first show in 2010. Nofit State circus inspired her to take up hula hoop but she is too shy to perform so she stays in the background and does a number of jobs filling in where appropriate but mainly the administration and marketing. She is a proficient tea drinker, junk shop trawler, hula hoop teacher and property finder. She makes Mary Bijou Go, Go, Go! Catch Mary Bijou on Facebook or Twitter @themarybijou or on their website. She currently lives in Adamsdown.

Mary Bijou’s show Hitch premieres in their purpose-built Spiegeltent in Cardiff Bay outside the Wales Millennium Centre between 31 July and 4 August 2013.

Ellie was photographed with her hula hoops at Porter’s by Adam Chard

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“That neighbourly feeling is what I love about Cardiff” – Helia

helia_web

I’ve thought about writing a We Are Cardiff story since I set up the site back in 2010, but could never decide on an angle. What to write about? What to focus on? Cardiff has been so many things to me, been the backdrop to so many events and decisions and happenings and versions and re-versions of myself. How can I pick one, two, a dozen from the swirling pool? And yet that’s what I expected from other people – and everyone else who has written for the site so far has managed rather splendidly. So perhaps it’s high time I stopped whining and did the same.

What is the measure of a place? How can you distil that essence into a single piece of writing? Memories, tissue thin, layers of a skin laid over and over the streets and alleys and roads and the same cracks in the pavement you avoid, day after day, year after year. From a new-born to a toddler through to university student to working stiff. Cardiff has been a lot of things to me. It’s where I was born. My earliest memories are dark and fuzzy – my tiny hands, pulling at the thick velvet curtains in my room on Pen y Wain Road. Running a stick along the railings in Roath’s flower gardens. Carrying water in my hands from the fountains outside City Hall to a puddle nearby where some ill-navigating frogs had abandoned their spawn. I was worried the tadpoles would die in there without the extra liquid.

Cardiff housed me during my student years. It was the comforting bubble that enclosed me as I stayed up too late, spent too much time in pubs and clubs and at house parties. It was the wall I banged my head against, trying to work out ‘what I wanted to do when I grew up’. It gave me answers.  (Sort of.)

And surely this is the measure of a city – a place that can transform and mutate and mould itself around you, no matter what stage of life you are at. Nearly all my university friends have moved away, and I’m asked on a regular basis how I can stay in the same city I’ve been in for so long. I try and explain, but I never seem to nail the answer. It’s not the same city it was when I was a student, or even when I was in my mid or late twenties. There are enough opportunities and diversity and change here to accommodate you, no matter what stage of life you’re at. It’s a different place now. It looks after me differently. I’ve found different things in it, and it’s brought out different things in me.

One of my favourite things about the city is how connected everyone is. New people you meet have random connections with people that you already know. They are someone’s ex-housemate, friends with someone’s brother, or they worked in Fopp together years ago. Although there’s a lot on here, the offerings pale in comparison to a larger city – our neighbouring Bristol, or a little further afield to London. But because our scene is smaller, it’s friendlier. You see the same faces over and over again, whether you’re at a metal gig, a film festival, a circus performance, a street fair, a club night, or an organic food market. And I like that. I heard someone describe Cardiff as Britain’s biggest village, and it’s that neighbourly, close feeling that I love about it.

Cardiff’s an amazing place to come back to. Of course, I get frustrated with it and I get tired of it and sometimes the smallness annoys me and my favourite bands don’t gig here and I want to leave it and move somewhere more romantic or exciting like San Francisco or the moon, of course. But when I get back here, I’m always filled with that intense sensation of how nice it is to be back. To return home.

I thought I’d finish with a list of my favourite things to do in the city. Who knows how long it’ll be possible to do any of these for. But if you get the chance, you should.

–          Visit all of Cardiff’s parks. We have some amazing and diverse open public spaces (Cardiff Council – list of parks). I still haven’t been to them all. Roath Park is obviously lovely, but there are some undiscovered treasures just a little way out of the centre. Try Cefn Onn, or the Wenalt.

–          Wander around the indoor market. Get a cup of tea and bacon sandwich (or vegetarian equivalent) from the greasy spoon upstairs, watch the people bustling around below.

–          Fossil hunt. Wait for low tide then walk from the Custom House in Penarth around to the pier, looking for fossils. Once at the pier, consume ice cream.

–          Car booting. In the summer, visit Sully car boot sale (Sundays only).

–          More car booting. All year round – visit Splott market on a Saturday. Fruit, veg, baked goods, car booters. All of humanity are here.

–          Run. Do a 10k run to raise money for charity. There are a few races that take place throughout the year, most of them either taking in the lovely scenery around Cardiff Bay or Bute Park. (My favourite running route is the 10k Cardiff Bay trail, by the way).

–          Music. Buy records from Catapult and Spillers, ask the music junkies working in both places for recommendations. Ask about local bands and artists. Ask about what gigs are on. Buy music. Buy tickets for gigs.

–          Get cultured. Go to the museum and art gallery. Entry is free! My favourite room is the room in the museum with all the crystals and minerals and rock formations. Beautiful.

Helia Phoenix set up We Are Cardiff in 2010. In 2012 the site won Best Blog at the Wales Blog Awards, and in 2013 she produced a documentary based on the site called We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City, premiering at Chapter Arts Centre on 7 July 2013. She’s written a biography about Lady Gaga and entertains notions of writing a novel one day. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, listening to music, and long walks in the rain. Twitter @phoenixlily tumblr an antisocial experiment web heliaphoenix.com instagram @_phoenixlily_. She currently lives in Butetown.

Helia was photographed in Hamadryad Park, underneath the A4232 by Simon Ayre

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“Life and Death In The Diffusion City” – Plangu

plangu_web
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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We Are Cardiff on Facebook / Twitter @wearecardiff / We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City documentary

“Cardiff’s hockey community is rich and diverse” – Lucas

lucas-howell-web

When it comes to sports, there’s a great deal out there for a person to get involved with. But like so many boys that went to school in the city, a strict diet of rugby or football in the winter and cricket or baseball in the summer was the menu for my sporting education. That said, it’s far from a secret that I have never been (and never will be, for that fact) any good at football. I remember the success of the men’s field hockey team at the 1984 Olympics fired a desire to play that sport, but with no opportunity to try the sport at school, the interest soon faded. So as a much younger Cardiff boy, rugby was my sole sport. I enjoyed it, as it seemed to be ‘for me’. A sport with a good mix of competitiveness and ‘physicality’. And if it wasn’t for a ‘seminal incident’ (aged 16 outside a Llandaff pub – that left me with a fractured jaw and a couple of weeks of soft foods) that knocked my confidence in the national sport I probably would have stuck with it.

The sport held onto me, post playing, as I got rigged into coaching juniors for a while. But for me, rugby was fast becoming a spectator sport. For years, a void steadily opened in my life, creating a space for a new sporting challenge. And a challenge did indeed coming knocking on my door. A challenge that would not only require the use of a stick, but also to learn a skill, which had resulted in so many cuts, bruises and broken lips, courtesy of the childhood walls and pavements of Canton. I had to learn to skate. Hockey was beginning to sneak into my life.

Progress was slow at first. Not least as I had to save for kit (no mean feat, when you’re a twenty something, with an almost religious attendance at the Philly!). First came the stick. A second hand lumber. But it meant I could join in, running around like a mad man, whilst my mates glided almost effortlessly around our training ground (read: the car park attached to a Llanishen office building).

Slowly, but surely, stick was joined by skates and then came my first pair of hockey gloves – a second hand pair of red leather gloves, that were far too big, seemingly manufactured for the Hulk.

The summer was good that year and a nightly pilgrimage to our ‘training ground’ was followed by a return trip, with bloodied knees from over-ambitious skating, or the odd errant stick. It was a tough apprenticeship, but one that was to lead to some great experiences and also some great friendships. Like many other sports, hockey isn’t just about the time on the court, but it’s more about the community. And Cardiff’s hockey community is rich and diverse.

In time, the guys playing in the car park moved indoors, as roller hockey started to experience a renaissance during the late 1990s and informal training sessions, lead to the formation of my first team. Around the same time, a team mate who had been playing on the ice, virtually since the old Welsh National Ice Rink had been opened, suggested that I might enjoy stepping on the ice. I never found the transition was a complete success, but as training sessions were generally followed (and sometimes preceded) by a couple of beers in Kiwis, I stuck with it!

And I’m glad I did. Playing both roller and ice hockey, I’ve been lucky enough to be stood on the blue line and hear Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau played at internationals in Deeside and also at the home of the New York Islanders, in the US.

After a few years, study and career somehow distracted my enjoyment of the sport I loved and I gave up ice hockey, followed soon after by roller hockey. Years passed. I got married, became a dad and the rink was knocked down for the mighty St David’s 2. Despite previous passion, I was blissfully unaware of the building that was to become affectionately known as the Big Blue Tent, being built as a temporary replacement home for the City’s ice sports. During physio for a slipped disc in my back, I was offered tickets to see a Devils game at the Big Blue Tent. Curiously, I accepted.

I hadn’t watched a match for years. The Cardiff greats of Lawless, Hope, McEwan & the Cooper brothers long gone. It was a new barn and it was Elite League hockey. It was all strangely different. But what surprised me, was that it also felt oh so familiar. It felt like home and an unexpected, long dormant feeling stirred in me, urging me to strap on my skates and get out on the ice pad of this unfinished looking building. An old, but familiar face suggested the urge could be fed, by getting touch with a guy who’s known as ‘Big’.

A trawl through the friend’s Facebook friends located the aforementioned ‘Big’ and with the niggling thought of ‘why do they call him Big’, I made it down to a Monday night training session. The 6ft7inch guy I met welcomed me to the team and over the coming weeks, the passion was well and truly re-born.

I can’t even hazard a guess at how long I’ve been back playing – is it four years, five years? Who knows!? – because it feels like I’ve never been away. Sure, I’m older, no doubt much slower (maybe a little wiser!?), and less skilful, but hockey is still my passion. It’s my release from every day stresses. It’s the place I go to be ribbed. It’s the place I go to rib others. It’s my sport.

And what makes ice hockey special is that I play for the Cardiff Ice Hounds. Sure there are other teams playing out of the Big Blue Tent – some bigger, some more established, more successful – but at the end of the day, we play a sport that forces us out of our own city, to play away matches, pulling on our jerseys, representing our home City.

I play for the team, I’ve captained the team, I’ve coached the team and I’ve helped run the club at committee level. We’ve tried to establish the team to offer so much more than just a place for people to get involved in playing competitive ice hockey, but to also provide an opportunity for people to get involved in hockey as a spectator sport – for free. We’ve worked to put Cardiff’s amateur ice hockey on the map.

The City is the home to the sport that we love. We are the Cardiff Ice Hounds and Cardiff is us. And in return, at home and on the road, we are Cardiff.

Lucas Howell currently plays for the Cardiff Ice Hounds as one of their ‘veteran’ defencemen. As far as the old grey matter will allow, he’s been playing hockey (ice and roller), on and off for about 15 years and in that time he’s toured to New York with the Cardiff Titans, represented Wales in roller hockey, captained the Bridgend Bullfrogs & Cardiff Ice Hounds and coached just about every age group in roller hockey, from tiny kids, through to adults. He still misses his two front teeth – lost to hockey. Whilst now living in Splott, his ‘official’ roots make him a passionate Canton boy.

Lucas was photographed in the Big Blue Tent in Cardiff Bay by Doug Nicholls

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