So I was in my trapeze class yesterday and my lovely teacher Olga said that a photo of me was on Facebook, and it was going to be in a photography book! Intrigued, I reactivated my Facebook account to check it out…
In the most Cardiff fashion ever, I was photographed riding my bike through a lovely park, past Bryce Davies’s (aka graffiti artist Peaceful Progress) van. In serendipitous style, Bryce had also recently done my tattoo (you can see it poking out of my right sleeve). If that’s not Cardiff, I’m not sure what is – cycling everywhere, parks, graffiti, everyone knowing everyone and a gorgeous photo of the whole thing.
Anyway, it turns out that the wonderful photographer Craig Kirkwood has gone and made a photography book about Cardiff! It features loads of incredible shots of lots of our friends. It looks really amazing, so we had a chat with him to find out more….
The Book of Cardiff is a hardcover bound portrait of the city told through around 300 stunning photographs taken over a 12-month period.
You can see some of the wonderful shots below, or on the book’s Facebook page.
Foreword to the 1st edition
The Welsh capital is fast becoming one of the great post-industrial cities of Britain. Full of optimism, open spaces, and renewed foreshores, it’s taking its place beside so many urban centres which have emerged, finally, from the collapse of industry, manufacturing and mining that so brutally shook the Kingdom in the 1980s and 90s. It’s also a city that’s changing quickly as the industrial spaces disappear to make way for new retail, commercial and residential projects.
“This book covers about a year in the life of the city. As an expatriate Australian, I don’t pretend to understand the history of Cardiff in any detail. Nor do I have the cultural ties that would give me an informed, insider’s perspective. But I do bring the eye of a resident tourist still delighted with just how pleasant it is to live in a city that can be covered largely by foot or bicycle.
At the time of writing, I’ve lived in Cardiff just over a year. It’s not such a long time really but to delay this book any further would be to miss the opportunity of seeing the town as a fresh outsider.
As a photographer, it’s important to grab that ‘new car feeling’ and breath it in before the sights that seem fascinating become commonplace.”
About the author
Craig Kirkwood is an Australian-born photographer, publisher and entrepreneur. He moved to Cardiff in 2015 and immediately set about documenting both the landscape and the cultural life of the city, taking over 20,000 photographs of hundreds of festivals, events, concerts and everyday life in the city.
Prior to moving to Wales, Craig was the CEO of high- profile creative media consultancy, Fearless Media, which he founded in 1999. At the time, Fearless was the largest organisation of its kind in Australia with offices and facilities throughout the country. He was also a regional manager of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and founded the renowned Flickerfest International Film Festival on Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach which continues today in its 27th year.
You can read a preview chapter from the book online here.
On Friday, I did an interview for a WalesOnline story about the launch of the We Are Cardiff Press and our debut book.
The reporter asked me why I decided to set up the Press, and I began to describe the hundred reasons why I wanted to get into a dying industry.
Here are the five top:
1. I love books
Words have been my closest friend since I was about six years old. I used to get told off for reading in the bath and making the pages go all crinkly, and staying up until 3am reading Point Horror when I had school the next day.
I tasted razor-sharp suspense reading Rebecca for the first time, and fell in love with Edmund Dantès on a 26-hour south American bus journey.
I’ve been on adventures with Graham Greene, Paul Theroux and Alex Garland.
I’ve weed myself laughing at White Teeth and Alexei Sayle. I discovered injustice reading 1984 and The Killing Fields.
I recoiled at Ian McEwan’s The Innocent, and read Roald Dahl’s short stories over and over and over.
My bookshelves strain under the weight of unexpected buys, swaps, gifts and mysterious acquirements.
I can’t imagine a day when I won’t buy books. My house would be empty, for a start, but I’d have no presents to give people, no more afternoons wandering the damp depths of Troutmark and nothing to accompany me on long journeys.
Many of my friends feel the same, and even though book sales have been plummeting for years, I think there is still a place for beautiful, physical books in our lives.
2. I wanted to contribute to a new kind of publishing
I received an offer for a publishing deal for our debut book, The 42b, in 2013. It was yet to be written, the illustrations were undrawn, and we didn’t know whether it would be any good.
The publisher told me that they could ‘turn around’ a 30,000 word book in three days – that meant editing, formatting and designing a cover. The unit price of the printing was suspiciously low, and the contributors would receive a tiny royalty for each copy sold.
It was tempting: easy, fast, on to the next project. But the publisher handed me a copy of a book they had recently launched… and they had spelled the author’s name differently on the cover and the spine. ‘Mistakes happen, it’ll be corrected in the second edition’, they told me.
The cover looked like it had been made on Microsoft Publisher, using Clipart from 1998.
It repulsed me. I hate seeing books with bad design or terrible marketing – the Lousy Book Covers website is almost too much for me – the grammar, the designs, the audacity…
The eleven people who had agreed to write and draw for the book are passionate about writing and art. They spend their free time writing stories, giving feedback to other writers, re-writing their work, attending creative writing classes, and submitting their work to journals and publishers and websites. They know that there’s no big money in writing, but they do it because they love it.
I wanted a publisher that cares about the work as much as we do. Someone that aches over a perfect cover design, proof-reads it a million times, and promotes it with all the intensity with which it was created.
And so I thought, ‘I can do this better’.
The Duracell bunny that is Helia Phoenix set up We Are Cardiff five years ago, with the intention of telling a different story of Cardiff to the one written in the tabloids at the time. She saw all the creative and cultural vibrancy of this city and created an outlet to champion it.
I came home from that meeting with the publisher and told her that I wanted to set up a small press to publish Cardiff’s best writers, artists and photographers, and I wanted to call it the We Are Cardiff Press. She said (as she always does) – ‘YES!! GO FOR IT!!!!!’ (with a hundred more exclamation marks). She also wrote eight blog posts while we had that conversation (or thereabouts).
After throwing the idea around with some incredibly talented and wonderful friends, and after getting inspiration from small presses such as Tiny Hardcore Books, the We Are Cardiff Press was born…
I decided that it would be completely non-profit – all the contributors work for free.
Any profit from the books will go into the Press to fund the next project, and to run writing workshops to help new people contribute to our future books.
We decided that we would only print what people wanted to read. If people didn’t want to buy the books, we wouldn’t print them: that’s why we are running a pre-order campaign to judge the level of interest in the book, and then print the right number of books.
I made a conscious decision to not apply for funding from the Arts Council or Literature Wales. This project takes up a lot of my spare time, and if I had to fit in writing applications and funding evaluations, I wouldn’t have time to write, edit, or promote our books. It also means that we’re free to do whatever we want with our books – we are not confined by funding restrictions.
3. Writers deserve to have their work showcased and nurtured
Typically, writers aren’t good at self-promotion; they need encouragement and exposure and confidence. Large publishers reject work without telling people what’s wrong with it, so it’s impossible for work to improve without feedback.
Creative writing classes such as Briony Goffin’s are brilliant spaces, where writers feel safe to read their work out loud without the fear of ridicule. The work written in these classes deserves to have a wider audience, if the writers want it.
People write for different reasons: some genuinely aren’t interested in publishing, they do it for themselves. Some want to make a career, and some want to create a legacy that will live in libraries and bookshelves for years to come.
There’s an opportunity for small presses to take risks on alternative, challenging literature that the larger publishers don’t consider marketable. We know that some work will have a niche market, but does that mean that it should only exist online?
Online publishing is fantastic, but it can be short-lived.
When we click ‘publish’ on We Are Cardiff, we instantly reach over 35,000 people for the moment that the piece flashes in their inbox, on their Twitter feed or Facebook timeline. But it risks being missed or forgotten.
By publishing the very best work we discover in printed form, the slow-burn of old fashioned books spreads slower, but lasts longer.
We may only sell a few hundred copies of our book, but a copy of it will sit in the British Library, the National Library of Wales, and Scotland and the Bodleian in Oxford. And, after only two weeks and minimal marketing, we’ve already received orders for The 42b from unexpected places – France, the USA and Scotland!
The acclaimed literary critic and writer Peter Finch recently told us that he is ‘so impressed with the way [we] are going about publishing and selling The 42b’. He said that it is ‘the best approach’ that he’s seen ‘in an age’. And he speaks as a former publisher, bookseller and a present day writer!
The best advice I’ve read on starting a small press is:
4. The We Are Cardiff community is capable of amazing things
As soon as I put a Batsignal out that We Are Cardiff wanted writers and illustrators for a new book, I received about 20 pitches for stories in a month.
While setting up the Press, I’ve realised the incredible strength of the We Are Cardiff brand and team. People and organisations want to support and grow the creative community in Cardiff, and it’s exciting.
Abbey Bookbinding is an amazing Cardiff-based, family-run printer; Darren has spent hours perfecting the print of our detailed cover design, and providing brilliant creative advice; and
I also got excellent guidance on the Press’s legal structure and finances from Branwen at the Wales Co-op Centre.
We found performers and musicians to play at the launch within days, and people have volunteered to proofread the book and give advice on stuff like distribution and ISBN numbers. Just look how gorgeous the book is:
Due to Helia’s incredible marketing skills, James’s design and video ideas, Alice’s events management expertise and Lisa’s proofreading, the book and the Press has come together in people’s spare time.
I also have to give a shout out to our developer Matt Harris, who made our gorgeous online preview chapter. He’s the only person who doesn’t live in Cardiff, but we figured Bristol is like an honorary Cardiff 😉
5. Our ideas are endless
As soon as we launch our first book, we’ll begin taking submissions for the next one. I have at least a million ideas, but here are a few:
a book of portrait photography and personal stories of refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff – how they got here, what they brought with them, and how they’ve made Cardif their home;
a book of recipes from chefs in the city. There has been an explosion in pop-up food in Cardiff, from Hangfire to Lia’s Kitchen, and it would be fantastic to bring together the best dishes that this city has to offer; and
a collection of street photography, paired with poetry or a piece of writing.
Well, this is so blimmin’ exciting that we’re tempted to write this whole post in CAPITAL LETTERS, but we’ll refrain for the sake of your eyes!
Our long-awaited new venture, the We Are Cardiff Press, is officially launching on Thursday 5 November 2015 , AND AND AND we are taking pre-orders for our very first book, The 42b, which is an anthology of short stories and illustrations based around a fictional Cardiff bus route.
You can be one of the first people to order the book by heading over to our Indiegogo page – the first 125 people to order will get their name printed in the back cover of the book! Other rewards include limited edition prints, and a place on a We Are Cardiff writing workshop.
Our launch party on 5th November is going to be part of Sŵn Festival, and will feature some dramatic readings from the book as well as a couple of spangly new Cardiff bands. The 42b Launch party Facebook event is here – make sure you come along for a drink and a dance!
Our debut book
‘The 42b’ is an anthology of short stories and illustrations based around a fictional Cardiff bus route.
Each story follows a different character as they get on and off the number 42b bus. It’s a series of warped kaleidoscopic reflections of the Cardiff that we live in today.
From wrestlers to adulterers, pensioners to murderers, the passengers on the 42b exist in a city of different realities, where everyday life brings the threat of grisly mutation, and citizens are bound by their occupations.
Although self-contained, the plots weave in and out of each other to form one whole piece of fiction: a journey through life, death, epiphanic moments, shopping bags full of intestines, and all the extras that can come with a bus pass.
Eleven writers and illustrators created the book, which is the first publication for We Are Cardiff Press. All books are beautifully designed and made with high quality materials to ensure that each copy is a piece of art that you’ll want to keep forever. There will also be limited edition prints of the illustrations available.
We Are Cardiff Press is a small, non-profit collective, publishing literature and art from creators in the city. We’ll be crafting collectable, limited edition runs of beautiful books, from literature to photography, and illustration to personal storytelling.
Each book will be a special, high quality piece that you’ll want to keep and read over and again. We’ll be working with the city’s best writers, photographers and illustrators to tell you the stories that make up Cardiff. These gorgeous publications will be sold online and in local outlets.
Founder of the Press and editor of the book, Hana Johnson, explains her reason for setting up the Press:
“I wanted to create the Press to showcase the city’s incredible creative energy by publishing work as a legacy to the writing and artistic talent of Cardiff.
“There’s a lot of creative talent here – writers, illustrators, photographers, and I want to harness that and make collectible books about Cardiff. It’s an exciting, vibrant place to live, with a long history and diverse population, and we’re looking forward to creating more books to celebrate that.”
We Are Cardiff Press is a non-profit small press, and all profits from sales will be put back into the organisation to fund new books, and run creative writing workshops.
We Are Cardiff photographer Jon Pountney publishes ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’
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.
“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.”
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.
Between April 14 – July 22 2011, We Are Cardiff took part in the BigLittleCity project at The Cardiff Story – the new museum dedicated to the capital of Wales. As well as displaying stories and photographs from the project, we had an interactive story wall, where visitors to the exhibition were invited to write their Cardiff story on cards and put them up for others to read.
Click on the image below to visit the Issuu website and read the booklet. There are some wonderful stories on its scribbled pages!