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Two Cardiffs Caught on Camera: Images of a City, Stories of its People

We Are Cardiff photographer Jon Pountney publishes ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’

Cardiff Before Cardiff book cover jon pountney

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.

Jon Pountney
Jon Pountney

“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.”

Alun Gibbard
Alun Gibbard

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.

 

 

 

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“I can’t imagine living anywhere else” – Matt

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I didn’t really know Cardiff despite growing up only half and hour away in Pontypool. I don’t remember coming here as a child apart from the odd Christmas shopping trip. I was well into my thirties before anyone took me to Roath Park.

Newport became the usual night out of choice for most of my friends, but there was a small group of us who’d stay on the train. Safer in Cardiff, quieter than Newport and more exciting – our first taste of Brains in the Park Vaults followed by the Philharmonic and chicken curry off the bone. Or long days in the Old Arcade to watch the rugby before missing the train home.

Cardiff was abuzz by the time I got back from a uni stint up north and started working here in 1996. You couldn’t pick up a paper without reading ‘the eyes of the world will be on Cardiff’ for something or other. There was a palpable air of anticipation about the city.

We had European Summits, referenda, a barrage and our first five star hotel, the Millennium Stadium and Centre, a Rugby World Cup, FA Cups, water taxis and cranes everywhere. It felt like just as one major event finished, another was revealed. Even London newspapers proclaimed Cymru was Cool – no need to tell us, we were living it.

It also awakened my Welshness. It was not something I’d been conscious of growing up in the Eastern Valley and I didn’t hear the language in daily use until I worked in Cardiff. But there was so much to be proud of from the city and the nation. I was signed up to Welsh lessons within the year.

This excitement of being in a city on the rise was what I loved about it, what made me want to live in the thick of it as 99 became 00.

I moved into my first Cardiff flat in the first week of the new millennium. Three storeys above High Street, I saw the city transformed in five years.

I had a bird’s eye view of the city. It was the explosion of St Mary Street – of minibuses decanting already drunks at the top end so they can work their way down towards the train home at the bottom. I’ve seen women fighting in their WRU pants and shop doorways used for everything you can imagine. And I’ve suffered through raging hangovers as a full military band – complete with goat – troops past at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning.

Then there were whole nights, sitting out on the roof of the building with best friends, laughing until the sun came up with a soundtrack of sirens, singing drunks and Cardiff Castle’s peacocks. All the while drinking so much rum that we couldn’t climb back down and through the window to get back into the flat.

I lived in an area not much bigger than a couple of hundred square metres for years – flat on High Street, office on the Hayes, more than enough proper old pubs in between, Cardiff Market and the arcades for shopping.  I’d go three weeks without needing to get in a car.

One of the best parts of it was discovering the lively little community that shares that area – the people who work in the arcades and the pubs, who fill up the coffee shops in the days and the lesser-known late night bars in the night.

In the thick of it all at home, I’ve also been lucky enough to be involved through my job in a lot of the most exciting Cardiff events of the last ten years – from the opening of hotels and bars through a first Grand Slam in 27 years to the launch of the St David’s shopping centre.

As I turned 30 I left city centre life for a few years among the leafy streets of Pontcanna before finally landing in Roath five years ago.

Roath’s been a revelation – from the obvious walks round the lake and pints in the Albany to discovering Allen’s Bakery or that you can eat in at Troy. It’s everything I love about Cardiff concentrated into one small area.

I felt immediately at home in Cardiff and after my first decade, can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love that it’s a city you can walk across in half and hour, mostly through parks if the mood takes you. I love its creativity, friendliness, informality and that more often than not, it feels like the capital village of Wales.

Matt Appleby works as a PR consultant in Cardiff and can be found at www.about.me/mattappleby. He’s on the team that set up www.roathcardiff.net , helps out with Cdfblogs and writes a food blog www.easyteas.co.uk. He’d like to solve Cardiff’s public transport difficulties by reopening the canals and launching a singing gondola service. He currently lives in Roath.

Matt was photographed in Roath by Lann Niziblian

 

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“there are so many great green spaces in Cardiff” – Patches

patches_web

I may well have been born in Cardiff but my first real home began in Spring 2010 in Grangetown. They picked me up from the re-homing centre in Aberdare and I was a bit nervous when they first bought me indoors, took my lead off and told me I was home. I remember settling in fairly quickly though and enjoyed jumping all over the leather furniture and sitting in the window. It wasn’t long before I’d assumed the role of park warden for the park opposite our house. So many dogs coming and going but no one else seemed to be keeping an eye on them.

They really love me, the folks. They say I’ve made them into a little family. The three of us together. We cuddle up a lot and they throw my toys. I often call them The Ball-throwers. I really love my toys and I play with them all the time. They say I smile when I’m playing with them and it’s true.

I will never forget my first visit to Bute Park. It is huge! (Although a large dog did try and rugby tackle me which was scary). I loved the time they took me there for a picnic to meet a few of their friends not long after I moved in with them. I got a lot of attention. Lots of people in Cardiff know me. Apparently the first thing most people say to them now is ‘How’s Patches?’.

There are so many great places to go walkies in Cardiff. One of my other favourites is the Barrage. I like to try and go in the water but they don’t let me. I like walking around the museum, Roath Park, Sevenoaks Park, Thompson Park, Victoria Park … there are so many great green spaces in Cardiff.

It may surprise you to know that I am the Executive Director of a business in Cardiff called Patches & Co. It’s a website that sells bits and bobs….it’s all very cute. We like doing it and there’s a drawing of me in the logo, which was designed by The Boy (theboytattoo.com) who works over at Alpha Omega on St Mary St.

I don’t get on very well with other boy dogs. But I do have two good friends who are female and they live by me. They are called Ruth and Tamsin. Ruth gives me a lot of attention but Tamsin snaps.

Beyond Cardiff my favourite places are Criccieth and Tenby. I also often go for a ramble in the Vale of Glamorgan. In fact, take me pretty much anywhere outdoors and you can’t go far wrong.

Patches is a Parson Russell Terrier and has lived in Cardiff for two years. He is the executive director of Patches and Co (patchesandco.com) where he sells cute bits and bobs with the help of his doting humans Julie and Kai Jones. He is a very active citizen of Cardiff and loves the amount of green spaces on offer.

Patches was photographed in Alexandra Gardens, Cathays Park, by Doug Nicholls

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“Cardiff – I wouldn’t change you for the world” – Adam

adam-rees-web

Dear Cardiff,

We see each other every day, but after a lifetime of acquaintance and a decade of cohabiting I thought it was time I told you what you mean to me. I’d like to think we had something special, but I know that I am but one of many for you. While you have played a truly exceptional role in the way I grew as a child and developed as a man, I often ask myself if I have had any influence on you.

I don’t remember the first time we met, but growing up on the other side of the M4, you were a neighbour that we would often visit and who would offer me exciting peeks at a different world. My earliest memories of you are summer afternoons in Roath Park, Christmas breakfasts with Santa in the restaurant in Howells and the metallic and sea salty tang of fresh fish in the indoor market.

As my teenage years progressed and village life became claustrophobic, your friendly neighbour became a Mrs Robinson figure, offering new and more mature experiences for me. I couldn’t wait to learn to drive so that I could spend as much time as possible in your shadow, and a weekend cinema job and new friends provided even more excuses to spend time away from home. Even when I chose to study at the University of Glamorgan, you were only a train ride away.

You’ve witnessed my peaks and my troughs; you hold secrets that I have never shared with anyone else and through it all you have kept my glass half full. It is within your borders that I met my partner Yusuf and the people who have become my best friends.

I’ve seen you at your most extrovert, on match days when the city is a-buzz with scarves, inflatable daffodils and those bloody annoying horns. I’ve seen you at your most introvert when the clouds are low, the rain has driven everyone out of the streets and your eclectic beauty stands out the most. But without a doubt, my favourite times with you have been when nothing much happened at all. Sunny afternoons sitting in Bute Park watching the river run by on one side and the people on the other, or snuggled into any one of a number of your inns, drinking, talking, and laughing.

We may be quite different people now from those early days before you had all that work done (and may I say you are looking all the better for it!) and I was just a shy boy.  These days I see you more like an older sibling, that I may sometimes take for granted and regularly bitch about, but dare an outsider start to criticise you and I will defend you till the end.

We’ve been through our bad patches, indeed there was a time that I escaped every weekend I could, and when I couldn’t wait to “Get out of this job and out of this city!” But we worked things out and I wouldn’t change you for the world.

Adam Rees is a Communities First Officer for Cardiff’s Third Sector Council. His interests include Baking, books and crafts and blogs about it all at adam-rees@tumblr.com . He lives in Grangetown with his partner Yusuf and two dogs, Arthur and Edward.

Adam was photographed at his home by Adam Chard

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“It’s unusual to perform burlesque in a Masonic Hall, but it works for us” – Cherrie

cherrie-pips1_web

During my decade in Cardiff, I’ve gained a degree, worked in the music industry, been backstage at some of the greatest festivals in the UK, made some amazing friends, been to some of the best gigs of my life, and transformed myself into a burlesque artiste amongst many other things.

All of these things happened to me because I moved to Cardiff.

There are so many talented people here, from Santa Macabre – who makes jewellery that just blows my mind – to Ewan Jones-Morris and Casey Raymond who create fantastical music videos, the people who make Chapter Arts Centre so amazing, Swn festival, and Caroline Duffy – a beautiful graphic designer (a physical beauty and beautiful work!) to name but a few!

I have battled with depression for the past few years, and one day a friend handed me a flyer advertising burlesque classes, with the intention of going for a bit of a laugh. I was nervous, but agreed to try it out. We were introduced to Miss FooFoo La Belle and took our first, somewhat wobbly, high-heeled steps into the world of burlesque.

And what a world it is! That was four years ago, and since then I have become a chorus girl of FooFoo’s ‘Burlesque Cardiff’ troupe. After venturing into a duet or two, I slowly gained the confidence to become a solo performer in my own right, and so Cherrie Pips was born!

In the beginning of my burlesque life, fellow Cardiff performer Violet Noir was a huge influence on me. She really inspired me to make the leap and become a solo performer. I was captivated by her style and grace, and her music choices showed me I could be bold and unusual with my performance.

Burlesque Cardiff’s first outing was with 25 of us crammed onto the tiny stage at Ten Feet Tall, but we’ve come a long way since then. Our current home is at the majestic Guilford Hall, just around the corner from Gwdihw. It’s unusual to perform burlesque in a Masonic Hall, but it works for us! FooFoo LaBelle has put together some incredible shows for us, including a tribute to Hollywood, some memorable characters such as Beetlejuice and Tony Montana, and even some Mexican all-female wrestling thrown into the mix. She sets a new theme for each show, choreographing group routines, as well as performing her exceptional solos. We also have the gorgeous pole dancing doubles with Sminxie and Cariad Cwtch, to add an extra bit of tease to our shows.

Some of the starlets currently performing with Burlesque Cardiff are: Miss FooFoo LaBelle, Poppy Vanguard, Sandy Sure, Miss Betty Blue Eyes, Evie Wonder, Katie Von Cupcake, Sunshine Sparkle, GiGi Sextone, Scarlet Blush, Molly Toff Cocktail, Sassafras Sundae and Luna C Fur. Each performer has a unique style and our fans are equally fabulous! I love being a part of Burlesque Cardiff, because no two of us are the same. We are of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. Our troupe does not conform to consist of only skinny young girls – we are all different and that’s what’s so great about being a Burlesque Cardiff girl. We’re like a family, we support and love one another, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Cherrie Pips hails from Kidderminster, and moved to Cardiff to study for a Fine Art degree. She loves photography and collecting photographic paraphenalia. She teaches photography classes during each term at Celtic Learners Network, an adult learning initiative set up in 2010. She currently lives in Canton.

Cherrie was photographed in the bar upstairs in Ten Feet Tall by Ffion Matthews

 

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“More and more Cardiff is less my city” – Lee

leemarshall

Cardiff looms large in my life. I slag it off, complain about all and sundry, move elsewhere and still end up coming back. It’s that baggy old mis-shapen t-shirt you would never wear outside but is the first thing you put on when you have the flu and feel crappy.

It’s my first kiss, closed eyes and disbelief on my bedroom floor in Fairwater. It’s my first betrayal, my first break-up, The Cure in my headphones and tears down my face. It’s playing my first gig, 17 years old, downstairs in Clwb Ifor Bach, the stage lights making sweat run down my face, over in a blur, my hands shaking like mad till I fretted that first chord and muscle memory took over propelling me through the set, a bundle of teenage nerves and elation.

I was born in East Glamorgan hospital, and lived the first years of my life in Llantwit Fadre, my family moved us to Cardiff when I was two years old, determined for me and my brother to have the best opportunities for school and work, and partly to make sure I didn’t end up with a Welsh accent, something that my family have always hated. I always got corrected, and as such have ended up with a bizarre posh half accent that doesn’t really belong anywhere. I get everything from Australian to Bristolian thrown at me. “No, I’m Welsh” is always my response.

Cardiff has changed massively in my time here. Growing up as a teenager I was introduced to a warren of crazy small shops in the city’s beautiful indoor Victorian arcades, which seemed to sustain a colony of weird and fascinating shops like a coral reef. Places like Emporium, which was more like 50 small shops all crammed into one big one, reeking of incense, dope smoke and musty second hand clothes, you could buy anything from a seven inch record to a world war 2 mortar shell and everything in between. Shops like Partizan, all long hippy skirts and moon and star paraphenalia, that pretty much defined the early 90s for me. Tie dye and candle holders, incense and adhesive stars on bedroom ceilings, first cigarettes, band posters, red wine in the park, falling in and out of love.

The building of the Millennium Stadium was the death knell of a lot of these shops, as rents doubled overnight, many of the shops and stalls folding immediately. It’s only got worse since, and it’s been terrible to watch, as shop by shop has vanished to be replaced by another identikit franchise that you could find in any city, and the heart of Cardiff died. Spillers Records, Troutmark books and Wally’s Deli are the only survivors from those days, and they took casualties on the way.

I never understood the logic of putting a stadium slap bang in the middle of a city which struggles with its infrastructure at the best of times. For a capital city, Cardiff has one of the smallest city centres I have ever encountered. Everything is on top of everything else. You could probably throw a stone across town if you tried hard enough. Come 5pm there are queues in and out of the centre, long before the rugby dumped 70,000 people on top of that to create bedlam and bring the city to a standstill.

Full disclosure. I hate rugby. Yes I know, I should be banned from Wales just for that, but there we are. Why the stadium couldn’t be outside the city, like the Cardiff City stadium, with its own rail station and transport links I will never understand. Then maybe we could have kept the bits of the city that I liked the most.

Similarly the arrival of the hulking behemoth that is the St. David’s 2 centre ground out a few more of the independents, and put Starbucks and the Apple Centre in their place. Attack of the Clones.

More and more Cardiff is less my city, and more a place that I wouldn’t want to go, and I don’t feel I belong in.

It will always be the place I grew up, it will always be my first kiss, it will always be my first cider in Llandaff Cathedral graveyard, but it might not be my home any more.

Still, Bristol is just over the bridge eh?

Lee Marshall is a freelance music producer, dj, remixer and sound designer,as well as recording albums under the name “Underpass”. His new album “Submergence” is released on the 21st November by Mutate Records. He makes a mean veggie spag bol and is obsessed with camouflage. Visit the Underpass website, Lee is also on twitter, @leeunderpass. You can listen to his work on Soundcloud. Lee currently lives in Riverside.

Lee was photographed in the Castle Arcade by Amy Davies – you can also see more shots from Lee’s photoshoot on Amy’s blog

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