Tag Archives: city centre

A-Z of Cardiff – U is for Cardiff University

Katie Hamer continues her A–Z series of Cardiff by taking a walk along the corridors of learning. Here’s what she discovered!

Mythical beasts emerge from the earth at Bute Park

They say that travel broadens the horizons. What is equally true is that learning a new skill can have a similar effect. This is the discovery I made when I signed up for a creative writing course through the Centre for Lifelong Learning just a few months ago.

What course did I sign up for? Well, it began with ‘Once upon a time’ and finished with ‘they all lived happily ever after’. Is that enough of a clue? I signed up for a ten-week workshop: an ‘Introduction to Writing Traditional and Modern-day Fairy Tales’.

What inspired me to take up such a course? As I am an enthusiastic scribbler of short stories and poems I’m constantly aware that there is more I can learn. And Cardiff is the kind of place to inspire a creative writer with magic and fairy tales.

In fact, while writing this A–Z series, I have had many experiences to fill me with wonder. I’ve experienced a Medieval castle, ghosts at Llandaff, and even time travel in a matter of minutes at St Fagans. All these experiences have filled me with a sense of wonder as well as a curiosity to see what’s around the next corner. It’s this magic that is at the heart of fairy tales and I couldn’t have chosen a better place to study the ancient art.

I met like-minded people who had all been touched by fairy mythology in some way. We all sensed the otherworldliness, the escapism and the feeling that anything could be made possible from these stories.

Each week we wrote a new installment of our own stories before reading them aloud to the class. I loved this part, as I believe stories should be read aloud and not left static on the page. I wish we could just switch of our televisions and computers from time to time in order to share the experiences that previous generations took for granted.

Will this frog ever be a prince?

Each installment of the stories served a different purpose, for instance to introduce the main characters or send them on a quest, or present them with a different challenge or obstacle. It was a pleasure to hear each story develop towards its conclusion. Although we all chose from the same ‘dressing up box’ of characters and settings, typical to most fairy tales, our destinations couldn’t have been more contrasting.

As a result, I have my first completed fairy tale, although I intend to write more. Thanks to the corroboration of my fellow students, I also have a small anthology of stories to cherish for many years to come.

So, I’d like to thank Cardiff University for providing me with the opportunity to continue expanding my horizons through their prospectus of day and evening classes. I would also like to thank Briony Goffin, the course tutor, who has provided me with the motivation to delve into a deeper exploration of fairy tales and fairy tale writing.

You can find more information about courses available at Cardiff University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning here:
Their website

Thank you for reading my article. I hope you enjoy looking at my gallery of magical sights from around Cardiff!

A Celtic Ring in Cardiff Bay
A Tale of Three Geese in Roath Park
A Mother Goose Tale
A boat flying over the lighthouse at Roath Park
Fire-breathing dragons on Queen Street
The ghostly image of an owl at the National Museum
A giant dragonfly at the National Museum
Llandaff at night – a truly spooky experience on the Ghost Trail
Even nature is skeletal in Llandaff during the winter
Snarling creatures bare their fangs on the Animal Wall
Under the watchful gaze of the Animal Wall
East meets West
Back to the 1980’s in St Fagans
Then even further back in a matter of minutes
The remains of St Mary’s Church from the Caerau Hill Fort
An ancient flint at Caerau Hill Fort brings ancient battles to mind
Time travel from the safety of my sofa!
An ornate ceiling fills me with wonder at Cardiff Castle
An archer’s view of Cardiff Castle
A steep climb to the summit is avoided by some, including me!
Birds, who are often messengers in fairy tales


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S is for Specialists in Vinyl. Part Two: Shops Selling New and Second-hand

Katie Hamer continues her A–Z series of Cardiff with her second and final article on the Cardiff music scene in the run up to Record Store Day 2015.

DSCF3355Last time, I investigated Spillers Records, the world’s oldest independent record shop. This time, I decided visit Cardiff’s newest independent record shop, Retro-Vibe Music.


Strategically positioned at the top-end of the High Street in Cardiff, Retro-Vibe Music can be identified by its bright orange and black fascia. There’s a mosaic of record covers on the shop windows, which reassuringly confirms that they sell vinyl. Approaching their bold shop front you would never guess that they hadn’t been there long.

In fact they opened their doors in Cardiff a few months ago, having moved from Barry, where the business started in 2012. The shop, a hit in its original location, quickly out-grew its premises. Hence owners Claire Richards and Mark Owen made the decision to move to a more central location where they can really showcase their vinyl.


Having only recently heard of this shop, I decided to pay them a visit. I didn’t know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. They have a whole basement full of vinyl, and, as I have a life-long love of spinning discs, that’s where I headed first. I was amazed by how much space there is for records both old and new. They stock a wide range of artists and have something for everyone.

Although underground, the space is light and airy. There are comfy sofas to chill out on while listening to the music on the turntable hi-fi system and memorabilia to feast your eyes upon. They also have plans for sound booths for customers to listen to records, a really great idea to engage customers.


While I was in there, I chatted to Claire Williams, one of the owners who very happily provided me with a potted history of their business. She enthused about how she had come into possession of a gramophone record and a whole load of 78s, which she decided to sell on. This led to a thriving business in gramophone records, from which she and her business partner, Mark, branched into other formats and eventually into their business as it is today. Indeed it’s encouraging to see new businesses arriving in what has proven to be a challenging time for the music industry.

Involvement in Record Store Day 2015

The team behind Retro-Vinyl Music are clearly very passionate about the autonomy of the independent record business. Along with Spillers Records, they have signed up to the Record Store Day Pledge to supply Official Record Store Day releases to customers on a first come, first served basis. Their doors open earlier than usual, at 8:00 in the morning, especially for the occasion. Supplies of special releases are limited so it’s best to turn up early if you’re after something specific.

As well as the official releases, they also plan to have live acts perform on the day, billings yet to be confirmed.


Other Events in Cardiff for Record Store Day

Kellys Records, while not officially signed up for Record Store Day, will be providing customers with generous discounts on many of their records for the occasion. They are also hosting a huge party, after hours, at 10 Feet Tall which promises to be an ‘All Vinyl, All Night’ extravaganza. The party starts at 6:00 in the evening and continues until 2:00 in the morning. Full details of the event can be found here:

All Vinyl, All Night 


If you’ve never been to Kellys, they are well worth a visit. Situated on the upper floor of the Cardiff Indoor Market, they are an Aladdin’s Cave of vinyl, among other formats, and have an amazing collection of memorabilia from yesterday. You have to visit to take your selfie with the Elvis statuette, if nothing else!


You can find out more information about Retro-Vibe Music here: 

Their Facebook Page

Their Record Store Day Page 

On Twitter 

Their Website

You can find information about Kellys Records here:

Their Facebook Page 

On Twitter

Their Website 

More information on Record Store Day 2015, including official releases, can be found here:

Record Store Day Website

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you all at Record Store Day in a couple of week’s time!



“Cardiff is like a smaller, friendlier version of London, and that suits me just fine” – Sarah


It’s not often you’ll find someone who can say that a car park was instrumental in the biggest change of their life, but I can. Standing on the top level of the St David’s 2 shopping centre car park, dangling my camera over the edge to get what turned out to be a near perfect shot of the insane lines and shadows, I knew then that I really, really didn’t want to go home. That if I made the decision to move to the Welsh capital instead of London like I’d originally planned then it would be the best decision I ever made. Luckily for me it turned out to be right.

Can you guess the plot? It started when I was introduced to a lovely Welsh boy through a mutual friend, whilst I was back living at home with my parents after a break up and a break down in Cambridge. He was the nicest person I’d met in a long time, and everything started to click. We umm’ed and ahh’ed then fell in love and my god was it glorious. We sent letters back and forth, and took advantage of snatched weekends together during the summer. Wandering around, getting to know the people and the pace of the city and, of course, hanging out on the roof of the car park every now and again. It’s quiet up there. There are no cars, just empty spaces and amazing views of the city. Plans to move to London disintegrated – who needs a big wheel and a jam packed underground when you can have green space and as many hoagies from the New York Deli as you can manage?

It wasn’t just a courtship with the lovely Welsh boy – I felt like I was dating Cardiff as well and let me tell you, it’s a pretty great date. Delicate sparkling snow flakes in the winter, the biggest library I’ve ever seen, fresh flowers in the spring and as much sushi as I could get my grubby little paws on. I was smitten.

Although the LWB never gave me flowers he did bring me back a spherical panda (Hi Eric!) from a trip to Macau in October, so I quit my job in Cornwall and packed my bags in November. I’m not saying the two were related but it was a pretty sweet gesture, heh. November is probably not the best time of year to move; aren’t all cities cold, wet and dreary during winter? Cardiff felt like it was holding a warm spot for me though as a welcome party and I was grateful. I got a job working for the Council where I could (and do) walk to work, and moved into an apartment that couldn’t be more central if it tried – we live on top of the shopping centre (it’s amazing for location, killer on the wallet).

I’ve lived here for seven months now but it only took me about a fortnight to hand over the keys to my heart to this city (plus the boy who lives in it, of course…) I genuinely, unashamedly love Cardiff. As an English transplant, I love feeling like I’m living in an episode of Gavin and Stacey, being surrounded by Welsh people and laughing to myself at how bad my attempts to pronounce the place names are.

This place is amazing. I grew up in Cornwall, in a rural town by the sea. It’s idyllic but slow paced – nothing much happens there. Cardiff in comparison is like a smaller, friendlier version of London and that suits me just fine. Living where we do we’re right on top of the action. Fancy a takeaway? We’ll pop to the infamous chippy lane. A sudden need for chorizo, wheat free crackers or obscure flavours of pop-tarts? I can pop to Wally’s on my short walk home from work. (There is never a time in my life, by the way, where I don’t have a need for pop-tarts. After all eat every flavour of pop-tarts is on my Life List).

I wrote a Life List just before I moved. It now has a whopping 123 items on it, and the longer I live here the more I add. There are so many opportunities available to me it seems a crime to ignore them. I can tick off try a pole dancing class, take ice skating lessons and spend a day watching films in the cinema. I can work my way through try 100 cheeses and with the help of the friendly locals I’ve met through twitter I should be well on my way through my try 100 cocktails bid by the end of the summer (and probably pretty sozzled too).

There always seems to be something happening here that I want to be a part of. I barely meet anyone that wants to move away and I’m starting to understand why. Bands play here! And not just any old band but good bands, that people actually want to see! This was something of a revelation to me. Falmouth did not get good bands, just so you know. Of course, it’s not just the music. There are food festivals and exhibitions and twitter meet up events that I get to be involved in. There are Secret Supper Clubs and trampolining classes and a shop that only seems to sell olive oil and vinegar. There are walks to Cardiff Bay to stare at the slightly disturbing memorial to Ianto Jones and then a stop off at Eddie’s Burgers to load up on chilli cheese fries. God help me but I’ve even started watching Dr Who. (I’m actually starting to enjoy it too but don’t tell the other half, he’ll gloat for weeks). Living in Cardiff has made me a bit sad that I’m not a real Welshie – the sense of love and pride for their country that Welsh people exude is infectious.

It’s a cosy little life we’re building, here. Whenever I go back to Cornwall now I feel a bit displaced. The town I grew up in is so altered these days it could almost have been a different place completely. When the LWB proposed to me in February I couldn’t have been happier. Cardiff feels like a warm blanket, wrapping me up and keeping me safe. Planning our future together – where we want to live and what we want to do, who we’d like to be – has brought the most joy to my life. The fact that I can do it in a city that I actually feel like I can call home and mean it? The icing on the cake.

Sarah Hill is a 27 year old recent Welsh convert. She lives with her fiancé and pet panda in the city centre and spends her spare time making lists and reading a lot of books. You can find her on twittter (@miametro) or on her blog. She’s also the editor and creator of Télégramme Magazine – issue 3 of which is due out as soon as she stops hiding under the duvet. She currently lives in the city centre.

Sarah was photographed on the car park on the roof of St David’s 2 by Amy Davies. You can see more snaps of Sarah’s photoshoot here.


‘I’ve loved Cardiff’s arcades for as long as I can remember’ – Amy


It took me five years to fall in love with Cardiff. Maybe I’d been in love with it from day one, there was certainly some kind of mysterious force keeping me here. But I only realised how hard I’d fallen a few months ago.

I’m not a native Cardiffian. I’m not even Welsh (although for some time I did believe I had Welsh grandparents…). I moved here for the same reason I imagine many thousands do – university.

The strangest part about my decision to move to Cardiff was that I’d never even visited the city before I agreed to come and live here. It just seemed like the right thing to do. So up I rocked on day one, no clue where anything was, no clue about the history of the place, just sureity that this was where I was meant to be – and thankfully, I was oh so right.

Fast forward five and a bit years (and it really does feel like fast forward) and I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. Even after I graduated and got a job in Bath, 50 miles away, I took the decision to commute rather than move. Now, while commuting has the odd strange benefit, believe it or not, it’s not exactly a picnic, so what is it about this place that still keeps me in its clutches?

I probably don’t need to tell anybody reading this about the many marvels of Cardiff, but I think it’s only now that I’m not a student and I actually spend a lot less time here than I used to, that I really appreciate it for what it is.

I’ve ended up with a city centre flat surrounded, pretty much, by all the things I love. I have the wonderful Bute Park only a few minutes round the corner, the magnificent Castle is opposite and the extra special Victorian and Edwardian Arcades line the street I live on – I couldn’t really ask for more.

The funny thing is, a lot of the places that I love, I didn’t really discover until after I’d made the decision to stay here after graduation. It sounds blasphemous, but it took me until last year to discover Wally’s – if you can believe that – I’d walked past it a few times but for god knows what insane reason not been in. Jacob’s Antiques, just behind Central station is another place that I often find myself in on a lazy Saturday afternoon, shamefully again something I’d seen from the train window a million and one times before I actually went in.

I could go on (and on) and list a thousand other great places, but I simply wouldn’t have time, because there’s too many, and you probably already know about them. Suffice to say, now that I know what I’d be missing out on if I left, I’m more in love with the place than ever before, and I also know there are so many more gems that I’ve probably also missed just waiting for me to explore.

It’s my love of all things Cardiff that led to the sudden lightning bolt of inspiration I had just the other night. I’ve been taking part in a Project 365, where you take one photo a day for a year, when I casually strolled into the Morgan Arcade one evening looking for that day’s picture. I’ve loved the arcades for as long as I can remember, and I think it’s fantastic that there’s a place that’s so uniquely Cardiff literally on my doorstep.

I tweeted that it might be a cool idea to do a photography project based entirely around the arcades and since then it has snowballed, there’s been a lot of interest and it’s now a full-blown project. So now you see, I really can’t leave, because I’m committed now to seeing through my Arcades project develop into something that I can be proud of, and it’s hopefully something that other people will get a lot of enjoyment out of.

So that’s my story, in a very tiny nutshell. I wonder what else Cardiff will ensnare me with over the coming years? Whatever it is… I can’t wait to find out.

Amy Davies is a journalist and photographer living in Cardiff city centre. Having moved to Cardiff 5-and-a-bit years ago for University, and never having the decency to leave, she now calls it home. During the day she boards the train of fun for her daily commute to Bath working on a photography website, and most of the rest of the time she’s either taking photos, writing things, baking cakes or a combination of all three. Visit the Cardiff Arcades Project website for more details on her latest project of insanity.

Amy was photographed at Cardiff Castle by Adam Chard


“What struck me is just how passionate people in Cardiff are” – Ed

ed walker

I’m sitting down to write this exactly six months since I moved to Cardiff. On January 7 2010, I loaded up my car, paid £5.50 to cross the bridge and decamped from England to Wales.

I was in a brand new city. The signs had two languages on them, rugby was the national game and everywhere I went there was Brains on tap. It might be part of the UK but Wales is most definitely a separate country.

Cardiff. What was I doing here? I’d been offered a job working for Media Wales as an ‘Online Communities Editor’ – read that as journalist, it’s much simpler. Job, get a community website going for Cardiff underneath the main WalesOnline website. Can’t just magic a community out of nowhere, got to build one.

So, I have had the pleasure of exploring the capital of Wales over the last six months. I’ve been wandering round Heath Park in the pouring rain with councillors pointing at where wooden bollards should be, I’ve sat in Council meetings waiting for a councillor to declare a national supermarket chain’s licensing application bollocks and gone rambling through the countryside just outside Cardiff with the local branch of the Ramblers Society.

What struck me is just how passionate people in this city are. Everywhere I’ve been there’s people willing to speak, to put it on the record, to lay it on the line and tell you what their dreams and hopes are. That’s refreshing. Welsh people are definitely more upfront with their views compared to the more reserved English (Note: This definitely helps a journalist, a lot).

This city is vibrant. I experienced my first Six Nations match day and will never forget being hugged by random people when Shane Williams popped that winning try over against Scotland.

For me though, the best way to describe my Cardiff story would be Saturday 5th June 2010. In that day everything I know about Cardiff was captured.

After a heavy Friday night on the beers watching Glamorgan in the blissful evening sunshine beating Worcestershire, I was up early and covering the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) march. Hundreds brought the city centre to a standstill, before finishing at the City Hall with a rally – where the day started to turn.

The Welsh (and English) Defence League arrived and made their feelings known, more protesters – perhaps not affiliated to the UAF – made their feelings known. And myself and the Police were in the middle. Political expression was alive and well in Cardiff.

Meanwhile, the Welsh national rugby team were battling South Africa in an epic over at the Millennium Stadium and the streets were filled with red, white, green and gold shirts.

In the evening, the Stereophonics played to some 20,000 people at the Cardiff City Stadium and I was lucky enough to be there filming. There was an air of celebration in the air as I ducked out before the end to go and frantically edit video so I could get some kip.

To me, this day showcased what Cardiff has become. A buzzing metropolis able to showcase the best sporting and musical events, while still welcoming political debate and not becoming completely commercialised.

It’s been a pleasure to tell the stories of Cardiff and its people. Here’s to another six months.

Ed Walker is a journalist working for Media Wales, running the yourCardiff community site and writing regularly for the South Wales Echo. When he gets chance, he also runs the fledgling City Centre Cardiff blog. His personal blog is edwalker.net and he is on twitter @ed_walker86. He lives in the city centre.

Ed was photographed on West Street by Geraint Griffiths.