Cardiff is rapidly changing; the new shopping mall is only the physical side of this growth coming to fruition. It is colossal; it is grand, yet it is anonymous. Now progress is natural, and I am little too young to daydream in sepia but I am concerned that any sort of unique character in Cardiff is becoming too rare a delicacy. What Cardiff will look like in the future is a mystery to me, but I would like to briefly write about a place that I hope survives the evolving landscape, where others have fallen (the Point). That remains, even if just for my own selfish memories.
Clwb Ifor Bach, or Welsh Club to those of an English disposition, sits on Womanby Street, in the shadow of Cardiff Castle. It looks unremarkable. Illustrated posters of upcoming events line its outside wall. Occasionally a queue and puffs of cigarette smoke line the air as mobile phones illuminate the dark, the time reminding impatient hands how long they have been waiting. Other times the emptiness of the cobbled street follows with the absence of bodies on the dance floor. On such occasion the emptiness is only exaggerated by a green laser, which trickles from bulb to the tapping feet of the few dancing. My mind is filled with fond memories of my friends and I dancing to Le Tigre, Hot Chip, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and miming the Smiths to the unimpressed ceiling.
There are three floors of music and a cold staircase to guide you skywards. Music seeps from each level creating a cocktail of sounds. People crowd to talk, their tones varying from the joyous to the bleak. Eyes lined thick with mascara are the most telling in sadness, a trail of black make up thinly descends down their cheeks.
The majority of the time you barely catch a glimpse of smiling expressions as groups rush from room to room chasing a song, meeting people, enjoying the playground that is Clwb Ifor Bach.
I enjoy the scope of fashion you see paraded in Clwb Ifor Bach, it accepts the eccentrics. Its red brick interior provides the backdrop to polka dot dresses, arms swathed in tattoos, flat caps tilted to impossible angles and piercings protruding from the faces of strangers. The eclectic tastes of the punters are mirrored by the different types of music played there. From indie to dubstep, drum and bass, electro, pop and (although rare) hip hop. It is nice going out to a night, and the songs not being inane and bile educing as Lady Gaga crooning that she wants to ride your disco stick. Wales is a country that loves music, and Welsh Club caters for those whose thirst goes beyond the Radio 1 daytime playlist.
We live in a western world connected by chains and franchises that mean every city centre is all too familiar; any mystery vanquished under the strain of luminous logos and the sea of striped shirts and squeaky-clean shoes. In Clwb Ifor Bach there is a sea of styles, of stories waiting to unfold, of romance and rejection, of bravado and bravery spurred on by music, alcohol and dance moves. It has been the host of many of my happy memories, and I hope it will continue to be a venue that will offer a haven from the beige discothèques that line the more commercial St. Marys Street.
Richard Arnold is in his third year at Cardiff University studying History and Politics. He currently lives in Cathays.
Richard was photographed at Clwb Ifor Bach by Ffion Matthews
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