Tag Archives: Cathays

We love Cathays! Our favourite spots for food, drink, art, fitness and shopping!

Today, we’re taking a tour of Cathays, aka student-land – with local Beth Girdler-Maslen. So for today – We Love Cathays – our favourite spots for food, drink, art, fitness and shopping!

Cathays is right in the centre of Cardiff and full of vibrant and exciting places to eat, drink, shop and workout. However, being known as ‘Student Central’, it is overlooked due to its drunk and stressed inhabitants. Having lived in Cathays for the best three years of student hood, I’ve compiled a list of the best spots in Cathays that you may not know about.

Cardiff University’s Student Union, 45 Park Place

Besides being a place for lectures and where students escape to after a busy day, Cardiff University’s Student Union has so many events over the year. Club nights aside, it has live music and concerts with the likes of George Ezra and Youmeatsix having performed there. The Great Hall also hosts many sales, like posters, plants and clothes. Events like these are open to everyone and a great spot to find bargains.

Rose Street Flea Market, 37 Rose Street

Nearer Roath but still close to Cathays, this market is a hidden in what looks like a garage but is filled with classic and vintage treasures. Rose Street Flea Market is full of antiques, pictures, instruments, books and much more. Virtually unadvertised, the market is known about through word of mouth and only open on weekends. It may look like a junk shop from the outside, but the two-storey house is full of collections and great bargains.

The Early Bird, 38 Woodville Rd, @theearlybird_uk

Right in the middle of Cathays, The Early Bird has everyone flocking to its yellow bakery/café. Open in 2015, The Early Bird has become a staple for brunch with amazing food and homely and rustic furniture. It uses local suppliers and businesses for their produce and makes fresh bread and sweet treats everyday as well as roasting their own coffee.

Stag Coffee, 83 Crwys Rd, @StagCoffee


Stag Coffee is a unique independent restaurant, offering coffee, brunch, burgers and cakes. Their menu is full of comfort food as well as new and exciting vegetarian and vegan options. To try to keep things exciting and different from other restaurants, Stag hits at the Instagram obsessed side of people, by serving their meals in creative ways. Jam jars/mason jars full of milkshakes and coffees, chopping boards for burgers and cups for chips are served to keep with Stag’s effort to keep your visit memorable.

Gassy’s, 39-41 Salisbury Rd, @Gassy’s


Gassy Jacks or ‘Gassy’s’ as it is lovingly called is a brilliant bar full of food and drink as well as great activities all year round. It has a sporty vibe to it, with football and pingpong tables as well as TVs and projectors for the big games. They have weekly events, like Monday Quiz nights, open mic nights, cocktail nights on Fridays and karaoke on Thursdays.

The Hellenic Eatery, 100 Crwys Rd, @TheHellenicEatery

The Hellenic Eatery is a family-run Greek restaurant with ingredients imported from Greece with traditional dishes and music. On most Sundays, they invite you to come try Greek dancing.

The Woodville, 1-5 Woodville Rd, @TheWoodvillePub


The Woody is right in the heart of Cathays and its student area. It’s a good old-fashioned pub with two makeshift beer gardens which are jampacked during the warmer months. It’s a famous spot for students and a pub crawl destination. It has an upstairs and a downstairs as well as a pool table. Their cocktails are definitely something to shout about with a classics cocktails as well as ‘hardshakes’ and summery cocktails served in cans with sweets on the side. Also, it’s dog friendly!

Locos, 7-9 Miskin Street

Similar to and overlooking Gassy Jack’s, Locos is another very busy pub with great food and cheap drinks. It’s very spacious and at night shifts to a darker scene with great music.

The Vulcan Lounge, 2 Wyverne Rd, @TheVulcanCdf

Another great pub with a friendly atmosphere and affordable food and drink. It’s mainly known for the pizza and is very wallet-friendly.

Sherman Theatre, Senghennydd Road, @ShermanTheatre

Right in the middle of Cathays, the Sherman Theatre develops work from Welsh writers and artists for its audience. This year it won an Olivier Award for its production of Killology, as well as the award of Regional Theatre of the Year, the first Welsh theatre to win. It hosts a range of comedy stand-ups, plays and musicals.

National Museum, Cathays Park, @Museum_Cardiff

The National Museum is right in the heart of Cathays and inside it is full of exciting exhibitions. It has a big section on natural history with dinosaur bones and animals, art work and ancient Wales. It regularly has special exhibitions, including The First World War collections, specific artists collections and most recently, women in photography and a Remembrance Day exhibition.

Adventure Rooms, 47 Newport Rd

For those who like to be more active and adventurous, Adventure Rooms is the place to go. It’s a live escape room, where you and your team are locked in a room and you must solve the clues to escape the room. There is a 60-minute time limit and different themed rooms ranging in difficulty, like The Mad Scientist, The Black Queen and Mafia. Prices depend on the size of teams but range from £15-25.

TeamSport Go Karting, 11 Dominion Way, Newport Rd

TeamSport is a multilevel go kart track that is a regular attraction for people of all ages. Upon entry, you are given a motocross suit, helmet, gloves and all the right clothes for go karting. After 20 minutes of being taught how to work the car and the track, you can race around the track as fast as you like, trying to beat the record for the day that has been set by others. You’re also given your statistics of how you did in the race to take home.

Stretchy Suzie’s, 99 Woodville Road, @StretchySuzies

stretchy suzies

Along Woodville Road, Stretchy Suzie’s is a yoga studio and therapy room. It offers massages and retreats as well as fitness classes. It also hosts workshops and events.


This piece was by Beth Girdler-Maslen – Beth is an English Literature and Journalism graduate, with a love of books, running and pugs. An aspiring author and journalist, you’ll mostly find her compulsively writing or with her nose in a book. Follow Beth’s Instagram: @bethgirdlerm / Follow Beth’s Blog – Reading On The Treadmill

“Things I’ve learnt since being swallowed up by the Diff” – Ellie Philpotts

Newbie in the city! New Cardiff resident Ellie Philpotts tells us about her experiences of living in the city since she moved here before Christmas.


This is sort of a strange time period for me, because I’m still a relative newbie to the whole sphere that is Cardiff. Caerdydd has only been my home since September, yet these six months have truly made me feel like I’ve lived here forever. On the other hand, they haven’t improved my maths skills, as I still had to use that old finger-counting method to figure out how many months separate September from March.

It’s also a nice time period, because I feel I’ve lived here forever in that I feel so comfortable and secure, yet I’m also still excited by Cardiff on a daily basis, ever discovering new elements the city has to offer. The best thing about Wales’ epicentre has to be the fact that I can’t imagine this feeling ever diminishing – there really are countless things to both satisfy and challenge the interests of every single resident.


If we ignore the minor maths problem, Cardiff has taught me a lot. I guess you’d kind of expect that, what with me attending university here, but in actual fact I’ve found the most important things I’ve discovered have been away from the classroom, or lecture-theatre if you want to be technical, but instead enrooted within the wider ‘Diff.


I’ve learnt that The Grazing Shed serves the best burgers known to man; that many notable people are eager to visit Cardiff, from Asia’s first supermodel Tracy Trinita to The Chuckle Brothers to Scott Disick of Kardashians fame; the truth in the well-established stereotype that Cardiff Uni students consume a lot of chips; and not to mention some of my most crucial life lessons to date. I feel in this mere half a year, Cardiff is where I’ve most matured as a person. I’ve met and mixed with totally new groups and individuals – partly because far more opportunities are available here, secondly because I’m more willing to expand my personal horizons. I love being involved in uni events, but think it’s easy as a student, particularly during first year, to stay trapped within the comforting, non-literal walls of the university domain. However, I’ve found Cardiff’s general city vibe, and even that of its suburbs, astonishingly welcoming. Beyond uni, I’ve launched myself into new ventures such as fundraising for Shine, the cancer support group I met while here; attending Highfields Church; getting a job here; learning the art of pilates; and being shortlisted to interview stage with NUS and the BBC.


I’ve always supported multiculturalism, but Kidderminster, my former town, isn’t particularly diverse, considering how close it is to Birmingham, which is home to many different communities. So for me, life in the Welsh capital has opened my eyes to just how many varying origins of people Britain accommodates – and I think that’s a wonderful thing to witness. In September, I began volunteering with STAR, teaching refugees seeking asylum in Cardiff skills such as English, in order to improve their prospects away from their native lands. There’s a palpable irony in the fact that teaching others has actually taught me the most important thing – the real joy of giving back to members of the community I’ve found myself a part of. And I have Cardiff’s essence to thank for supplying me with such life lessons.


OK, Cardiff isn’t perfect. But if its biggest flaws are Hoffi Coffi never seeming to stock their salad boxes; silverfish dominating Talybont; and the, er, odd bit of rain, I think we’re in for a good deal.


Ellie Philpotts is in her first year at Cardiff University studying English Literature, Journalism and Media. She is  a teenage-cancer survivor; is obsessed with travelling, and her favourite cities outside Cardiff are being Sydney, NYC, Nashville and Paris. Her ‘likes’ also include general Britishness, cups of tea, exploring, attempting to write songs, journalism, Italian food, finding new places, going out for dinner and taking photos – of everything. She is not a fan of maths, mashed potato, narrow minded people, her phone constantly running out of memory for photos, or people who are mean about Taylor Swift. Follow her blog or Instagram.

All photos by Ellie Philpotts

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“Cardiff will always be synonymous with friendships, good music, and unlimited fun” – Gwen

Today’s We Are Cardiff piece goes back in time … and visits a lively gal by the name of Gwen Love, who – in 1996 – is enjoying her 20s in the city of ‘cool Cymru’. Read on to find out what she’s been up to!

gwen love


I cannot imagine being anywhere more exciting than Cardiff in 1996. I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing city at such a buzzing time. Right now, Cardiff is at the heart of the Cool Cymru movement. It has been amazing to witness the explosion of the Welsh music scene before our very eyes – watching our home-grown talent become part of the Britpop brigade has made us all proud of our heritage and roots. I have been lucky enough to see Catatonia and Super Furry Animals morph from obscure Welsh language bands to being on Top of the Pops and playing with some of the biggest bands of our time. I love the fact that I have seen these bands live several times at venues around the city – and that they just get bigger and better.

I knew I wanted to study in Cardiff as soon as I set down my country-bumpkin-North-Walian feet in the bus station in 1993 – three years ago. An excited gaggle of us were here for the university open day and it was as though we had found utopia. Cool people, friendly bars, and live music. This was what I had yearned for throughout my awkward, frustrated teenage years. I’m ashamed to admit that I paid a lot less attention to the details of my course of study than I did to the events calendar.

It’s not just live music that Cardiff excels at either. The variety of night life is endless. As students we are spoiled with our fantastic Student’s Union and we have all enthusiastically taken part in Fun Factory, Jive Hive, or Cloud 9 at some point in time. The town centre offers everything from the sterility of Zeus (RIP Cocos) to the dirty, dingy yet delightful Metros. At the moment my favourite venue and night out is Clwb Ifor Bach’s newly opened Popscene. A fantastic indie club upstairs playing everything from Oasis to Puressence, where the DJ will kindly oblige to the musical whims of most indie kids. Then, downstairs, for a change of tempo is the Cheesy Club; funk, disco and cheese. It is impossible to dance without a smile. It’s the happiest dance floor in town.

Downtime, when I’m not studying hard, can be spent idling in the beautiful parks with friends after a magnificent breakfast from Ramones. What better way to cure a hangover than by watching the beautiful people play baseball, turning slowly pink in the sun amidst the sleepy floral scents.

When the student loan has been freshly deposited in my bank account my other method of relaxing is to shop, shop, shop. I love Cardiff for its independent shops. I love exploring the arcades to find an elusive vinyl, that perfect 70s shirt to emulate Jarvis, or some beautiful, hand crafted jewellery. It is so easy to buy retro in Cardiff and develop your own sense of style.

I hope to graduate this summer but have no plans to leave Cardiff just yet. I love this city and feel very proud to be studying and partying here. Whatever the future holds, whereever I will be in 20 years time, Cardiff will hold a very special place in my heart and will always be synonymous with friendships, good music and unlimited fun.


Having graduated from Cardiff University in 1996, Gwen Love then moved to Bristol and spent many years in marketing until she retrained as a primary school teacher. She has been teaching for 10 years and is a mother of two young children. Her retroblog came about through her love of music and through a selfish need to do something creative for herself. She always wanted to write and, as she was still in possession of her eventful diary from ’96, she was inspired to write a blog set in that year. During ’96 she left her long term boyfriend, reached the grand old age of 21, and graduated with a respectful drinker’s degree – all to a thoroughly researched Britpop soundtrack. Follow Gwen on Twitter @GwenLove3 and on her blog site www.gwenlove76.wordpress.com. She hopes to publish as a novel in the near future. During 1996 Gwen lived in Cathays. She currently lives in Canton.


“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



“The wonderful bubble world of Cathays” – Tim


Just over three years have now passed since I first started life as a student here in Cardiff. three years of living in what, I, personally can only characterise as a bubble. A big shiny bubble cast from the disposed fairy liquid bottle that is the ‘studentville’ land of Cathays. This bubble is itself filled with smaller bubbles, with posh, flip-flop wearing, hands-free talking, ‘Walkabout loving’ numpties living inside. These smaller bubbles bounce along in unison to an overplayed Kings of Leon track in the glorified infant school disco that is the Cardiff Student Union. Wait a second … it gets better. These bubbles are not bouncing around without purpose, oh no, they do have purpose these bubbles … yeah; they call it ‘a degree’. So this bubble world is now even better, because all the bubble people bounce around in lecture halls to the bemused expressions of unshaven ‘slightly good looking in a weird way’ lecturers who have no idea why they themselves are even here in this strange smelly bubble world.  So, all we need now is Sean Bean to narrate this, because it’s already looking like an O2 advert.

Allow me to speak personally about my place in this bubble world. When I first arrived in Cathays as a fresher, I was an Alien. I was at first, bubble free. Before I knew it however, I was walking around in a bubble that was a lot bigger than everyone else’s. To put it more plainly, I was a massive twat. Living in the absolute shite hole that is Senghennyd Court, or rather ‘Senghetto’, (yes, I was not the only massive twat) myself and my bubble friends drank a lot of alcohol, damaged a lot of playing cards and drank a lot of alcohol. Looking not too dissimilar to a homeless man’s first bubble bath, my bubble self and my bubble friends soaked Cardiff by crowding into pubs and clubs dressed as golfers, becoming emotionally attached to fish and chip shops workers and constantly singing, or rather belching the words ‘House G!’ everywhere we went, in homage to our decrepit nest.

I would like to say that when starting this article, I did actually plan just to refer to Cathays and University life in general as one singular bubble. This was so that later on I could make an insightful, meaningful point about the bubble bursting when you graduate and how all of us ex students have to struggle to find our place in this world. But then I thought fuck it, that’s boring and students annoy me too much now so I am going to have a good old fashioned moan about them. This is the thing really. I wanted to illustrate Cardiff University students living in bubbles because it is the one style of life that inevitably has to end, the same way in which bubbles eventually have to pop. When this experience does end, and your shaking the hand of that ‘bloke’ at the graduation ceremony, it feels very much like you’ve been popped by a massive drawing pin. You then find yourself flapping around on the floor, gasping for air like an ambitious fish that wanted to see more of the world outside of his fish tank. However after jumping out of the tank, he realises when it’s too late that he cannot actually breath in this world. I, myself am one of those graduate people and in between trying to be a sitcom writer, playing Fifa 12 and furiously masturbating, I sometimes chat with my friends about how different we all were back then or rather, ‘how silly we were’.

When you try looking at all this objectively, I think you actually realise that maybe, the bubble has not actually burst. Instead, the bitter little masturbating graduate inside probably feels like that they don’t deserve to be like they once were in their student days because life is now apparently ‘hard’. Well it’s not though is it? The fear is based on having to get a job isn’t it? A boring job that everyone inevitably has to get stuck into. So, to all you graduates out there, get back in your bubbles and bounce around like you once did. Bounce around and be annoying by talking to your friends in the street really loudly so that other people can hear how cool your are, go out and get blind drunk … I can hear ‘Sex on Fire’ already.

After graduating from Cardiff with some degree to do with Religious Studies, Timothy Collins currently still resides in Cathays, and outside of working in the University libraries he is attempting to get to grips with sitcom and comedy theatre writing.  He also does other things. For example … erm, what else does he do? Oh yeah. BUGGER ALL!

Tim was photographed in The Vulcan Lounge in Cathays by Doug Nicholls




“three floors of music and a cold staircase guide you skywards” – Richard

richard arnold by Ffion Matthews

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

Richard Arnold by Ffion Matthews


“Cardiff is on the cusp of something quite brilliant” – Matt


I grew up in Aberystwyth and had spent most of my childhood, teenage and adult years there – I moved away for a short period during university to study in Canada, but I’d never been away for longer than seven or eight months at a time – so moving to Cardiff is probably my first big break away from home. I probably shouldn’t be admitting this at close to 24 years old.

I’ve felt close ties to Cardiff for a few years now. Many of my school friends ended up here and I was a fairly frequent visitor for that reason. During university I also managed to form some ties with the Cardiff music scene – inviting a few (locally) renowned Cardiff bands to play in dingy back-rooms in Aberystwyth and travelling down here on a semi-regular basis for gigs.

I finally moved to Cardiff in June 2010 after having spent six months travelling to and from the city to spend the weekends with my partner. Moving here had been in the pipeline for over a year before I finally made the move – Hannah and I had agreed that we would both move here once she’d finished a number of internships abroad, it seemed like a logical place for us both to look for long-term employment. However, it took me quite a long time to find work, especially as I had a good, secure job in Aberystwyth that I didn’t want to abandon for something less appealing. In the end I’m glad I held out to find a job I wanted, as I now have the privilege of doing a job I enjoy at Positif Politics. I work with a great group of people and it’s an exciting time to be involved in public affairs/politics – what with the Assembly elections in May 2011, and the vote on further powers in March.

I have a fantastic cycle route to work through Bute Park and along the river, and it’s a brilliant way to wake up in the morning, and to finish off the day – though with the nights drawing in I shall once again be relegated to the dreariness of a commute on my beloved Cardiff Bus (that’s a lie, we really don’t get on very well at all but there’s another story for another day). I feel privileged to live in a city with so much green space, I live almost exactly halfway between Bute Park and Roath Park and there are plenty of other spots to go hide in scattered around. The city is also surrounded by beautiful countryside – the view from Castell Coch is one of my favourite in the world.

Cardiff is also giving me the opportunity to further indulge my love of music. The annual Swn festival is a great chance to enjoy music around the city in a condensed format – it was brilliant fun this year. Going out to gigs in different clubs and pubs has allowed me to meet some interesting characters and make some fantastic new friends.

Cardiff seems to be a great place to be for music at the moment, I feel like the city is on the cusp of something quite brilliant with a number of fantastic bands beginning to emerge and a seemingly thriving community-based approach to the arts and culture. My particular favourite of the current crop of Cardiff based bands (like so many others) are of course the wonderful Islet. But the hard work and dedication of so many others is really at the heart of what is going on, and for that I thank all the citizens of Cardiff who try so very hard, and more often than not succeed in making this city a wonderful place to live and work. Apart from the buses. I hate the buses.

Matt Williams is 23 and a bit years old and lives in Cathays with his partner Hannah, close friend Grace and two Guinea Pigs, he works at Positif Politics in Cardiff Bay and tweets at @mdwaber, he can also be found online at LastFM. In his spare time he tries to attend as many gigs as humanly possible and dances badly to loud music wherever he can find it. He can also often be found somewhere in or around the city exploring on his bike.

Matt was photographed at the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay by Adam Chard


“I packed my bags, without a job, without a place to stay, without any friends, and Cardiff embraced me” – Roopa

RoopaCheema small

Been there. Got the t-shirt.

I do not live in Cardiff. But I used to. I am from Canada and live in Toronto.

I hated to fly. I was not “afraid” to fly, meaning I was not afraid of terrorists or the plane crashing. I just hated the whole experience and so did my body. I would always find myself sick at the other end of my destination. I hated it so much, in fact, one summer I was willing to take the 36-hour train ride from Toronto, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada is really effin’ huge). I thought to myself, “Roopa, if you don’t get on the 2-hour flight to Halifax now, you may never fly again.” I got on that flight in the summer of 2002, victoriously.

The next summer I braved the 8-hour flight and went to Cardiff.

I ended up in Cardiff because I had a met a Welsh guy in university. He was in Toronto on exchange. He made me fall in love with all things Welsh. He was very patriotic, but in an endearing way. We became very good friends. Unfortunately, before I was to make my way to Wales we had a falling out and I ended up in Cardiff without knowing a soul. You know what, though? I would not have had it any other way. Cardiff became mine and mine alone. I did not have to share those memories with anyone.

I arrived at the train station and hailed a cab to the Cardiff Backpackers where I had paid for three nights. I was ready to meet Welsh people and delve into Welsh culture, only to be driven through a very East Indian part of town! WHAT??? I am Indian! I did not want to see Indian people! I wanted to meet Welsh people!

I found a place to stay in Cathays via the Cardiff Free Exchange. I met my future roommates outside Cardiff Castle and trotted back to their home. I could not believe how cold it was in Wales. It was late April and the nights were freezing! I know. A Canadian girl who cannot handle the cold? Canada cold and Wales cold are two different colds: Canada is dry and Wales is damp. The cold got into my bones like no other cold. And because heat is so expensive in Wales my roommates only turned it on for one hour in the morning and maybe two hours in the evening. I even had to buy a winter duvet for sleeping.

Next thing I needed was a job.

I went to St. David’s Centre and looked around. I went to shops I recognised and landed an interview at The Body Shop (we have those in Canada, too). I continued walking around and found myself on The Hayes and in front of MVC. I had many years of music and video retail experience from Canada and thought they might like a foreigner who is into music. I walked in and heard U2. I am a huge U2 fan and I took it as a sign. I knew I was going to get that job.

My days at MVC were so much fun. The staff was awesome, the customers were nice (especially when they found out I was Canadian and not American), and I have never been hit on by so many men in my entire life! White boys in Wales sure do like their brown girls.

Going to Clwb Ifor Bach, drinking at the Owain Glyndr, buying jewellery in the arcade, visiting Caerphilly Castle, trying to understand why everyone thought people from Merthyr Tydfil were weird, stumbling around drunk and taking pictures on the stairs of Marks & Spencer’s, walking to and from Tewkesbury Street in Cathays to MVC on The Hayes are just some of the memories I hold dear of Cardiff.

Cardiff, to me, means overcoming a fear of mine and finding out more about who I am. I packed my bags, without a job, without a place to stay, without any friends and Cardiff embraced me. I have nothing but fond memories. Everyone was so nice.

In 2006, my old friend from Wales (the one I had had a falling out with) and I rekindled our friendship. I was over the moon because he and I were meant to be lifelong friends. Two years later, in the summer of 2008, I returned to Cardiff and found it as lovely as ever.

I fell in love again.

Roopa Cheema is a high school geography and dance teacher in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She likes to rock out. She used to live in Cathays.

Roopa photographed herself wearing a Spiller’s Records t-shirt


“Six steps this way, eight over there, switch partners …” – Marc’s Cardiff story

Marc Thomas photographed for Project Cardiff

Yesterday. I just moved into my new flat in Cathays. It’s the first flat that I’ll ever share with my wife but we shan’t be living in it until the wedding is over because we’re Christians. That’s July 24th, 2010 (tomorrow). Nearly 3 years since I met her.

I guess those two things are the most important circumstances for our marriage. Christian and Cardiff. Had one of those not happened, we’d never have met.


“We’re going to be late, Marc,” she had said, “Have you got money?”

“Ei. Don’t worry. The later we get there, less chance we’ll have to pay,” I told her, “Shouldn’t have to pay to dance at a ceilidh anyhow.”

I turned Two Gallants off on my speakers, or possibly it was Bob Dylan, I don’t remember now. Plan had been to head on over to the Christian Union ceilidh that we had organised for Fresher’s Week in my second year of university and dance a bit, goof off and then go home. I was treasurer of Cardiff Uni Christian Union, which was basically a joke because I cannot add up. In fact, while clearing out my desk drawers, months after finishing in this position, I found £300 of CU money, which I had already explained away in the accounts.

Music over, lights out, door closed, lock done, we made our way from 26 Richards Street over to St. Marks out on North Road, by the Gabalfa Flyover. Never went before, never been since. Things had begun to jar with the old girlfriend, but now we were walking hand in hand to St. Marks, totally unaware of what would ensue or rather what wouldn’t follow.

We arrived and jumped in through the side door so that we didn’t have to pay – against my principles, paying to dance to folk music – and said, ‘hello’ to all of the faces we recognised. Hundreds of bright young faces filled the forward glance around the room. Dancing in time, seeming to be swaying eternally and jigging to the beat of a band of musicians vastly unexperienced. The caller called something furious. Six steps this way, eight over there, switch partners etc, etc. By day, he was a theology student.

The dance ended.

“You’ll need to get into pairs,” he screamed, “and once you’re in pairs, get into two sets of pairs.”

She gripped me tight. I let her. I was such an idiot back then. There was a girl with blackish hair falling down her forehead and her boy in the corner. The boy had a broken arm with a green cast on it. The girls hair was flicked to the side and I remember thinking to myself something derogatory about emos. He was a kid I’d said hello to previously as he was studying politics, as had I. We got together in a huddle and did the moves that the caller called.

The basket is infamous in ceilidh. The idea is, the guys put their hands around the girls waists and the girls hold on tight to the boys shoulders while all four in the basket swing around. Eventually, the girls go horizontal under the influence of the momentum or centrifugal force (if this exists in such dances).

We did so.

Swinging round, all four faces fixed upon the fulcrum of all three other faces, and sometimes, if fast enough, ones own face, the girls went levitating and something must have happened.

There was no lightning, neither of us saw a vision nor was there a hand brushed against another. We didn’t even realise that something had happened and went all our separate ways. The old girlfriend and I went to my house, the girl went to hers and the boy to his.


Four months later, I started going to a new church – Glenwood in Llanederyn. I recognised few people. A lot of stuff had happened since September: old girlfriend was gone and a memory. I had been surprised at how quickly she disappeared from memory. But that was the politics of ancient history, taught in the schoolroom of where I was at so that the children of the thence present, wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of their former fathers.

Hannah was there. Mousey emo girl from barn dance now looked a lot different in the light of new possibility. I didn’t remember her. She recalled me though.

Things got started from there. The rest isn’t history, it’s not even the present, it’s the future. I’m 22, in love, she’s 21 and an arts student at UWIC, and in love. We’re almost young but it’s taken us a long time to get so young… and mostly it happened in Cardiff.

Marc Thomas is a 22 year old student. He speaks 3.5 languages and studies Magazine Journalism in Cardiff University. He is the founding editor of Journal of Plastik, an online magazine which promotes creative culture in South Wales through in-depth articles and features. Check it out at http://journalofplastik.com. He can also lick his elbow. He currently lives in Cathays.