Tag Archives: jon pountney photography

The Gower Pub, Cardiff 1895 – 2014. RIP

Last week, one of the great old pubs of Cathays, The Gower, closed its doors after one final night of sunk pints. I spent many hours in this pub, watching dogs sitting on chairs next to their owners, doing crosswords, going to gigs upstairs, and it’s sad to see such a grand old building go the way of so many others.

There’s a short video you can watch about the last get-together that was held at the Gower, made by Panoptic Photography

Cardiff Before Cardiff photographer Jon Pountney went along to document the closing of the pub too. He says

“I hope these pictures will be seen as emblematic of a wider shift. Cut-throat supermarket prices, the smoking ban, and companies that feel no responsibility to their customer base have killed off many cornerstones of the community. Are libraries, swimming pools, and day centres next? Will anything that can’t turn a profit be closed?

Brains | Gower
The Gower is a huge old pub in Cathays, Cardiff. We pride ourselves on offering that true traditional pub experience.”

Amen Jon.

Here are the photos, all by Jon Pountney. A bittersweet end to this glorious old building…










































My Cardiff geography – Fireproof Giant

In today’s personal geography, we speak to Gareth Jones of Fireproof Giant. Read on for his map of the city!

Fireproof Giant by Jon Pountney

In Cardiff, home is…


How did you get into making music initially?

I’ve played music since the age of five but I really started creating music when I was in Italy performing an outdoor site specific theatre piece. The director encouraged me to write for the show and I haven’t been able to stop since.

Tell us about your band, Fireproof Giant

The band developed over a number of years. Whilst I was touring around with Nofit State Circus people in the audience kept asking where they could get the music or hear it again so I finally gave us a name (Fireproof Giant). Now we’re running away from the circus and playing music for music’s sake. I tend not to think of genre whilst writing and just let my mood direct the song. But now I’m having difficulty describing our music whenever we’re asked. The best way to describe it so far is Pop-rock/folkstep with classical influences.

Who were the last band you saw live?

Sigur Ros

Favourite Cardiff eatery …

Penylan Pantry

Ideal first date in Cardiff …

Walking a dog in Roath Park

Last album you bought?

If you leave by Daughter

Earliest Cardiff memory

Staying with my brother and watching Apocalypse now the directors cut. It’s very long.

Do you have a favourite record shop in Cardiff?

It’s a battle between Kellys and Spillers

Last book you read

I’m a massive comic book fan…..so…..death of the family. Does that count? If not, the hungry caterpillar.

Best Cardiff pubs

The City Arms, followed closely by Porters

Favourite Cardiff discovery

The tiny models in the metal pillars outside St David’s 2

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you

I have a fear of people touching my belly button

If you had friends coming to Cardiff for a weekend, what would you recommend they do?

If they’re around on the weekend and it’s a sunny Sunday morning then I would suggest Riverside market for some chai tea and the best butchers in Wales.

Gareth Fireproof Giant by Jon Pountney

Why don’t you go on over and take a look at the Fireproof Giant Facebook page? There is music and information there galore!

Gareth Jones grew up in Swansea and very quickly found a passion for the arts. As a teenager he went from instrument to instrument learning to play whatever took his fancy. Although music was a large part of his life he found himself heading towards acting and after completing school he went to study performance art in the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. During his three years there his music took a backseat role but occasionally crept forward as more and more directors asked him to compose music for them. After graduating from RWCMD in 2007 Gareth joined Nofit State Circus as a musician/performer and began touring around Europe meeting musicians from different cultures who would help him shape and develop his musical style. After three years of touring Gareth then became Musical Director and Composer for Nofit State and spent the next three years directing and leading a band in over 300 shows. Now Gareth is exploring his music for music’s sake and is running away from the Circus to share his sound with whoever will listen. If you see him around, don’t touch his bellybutton, whatever you do…

Gareth was photographed by Jon Pountney


“Malaysian – Cardiffian – a harmonious fusion between two cultures, two cities and two lifestyles” – Zainah


I am sat at my cafe having a cuppa and reflecting on the last 10 years living in Cardiff. It has been eventful in many ways, yet calming at the same time.

My husband and I actually met in 1991 when we were both studying at Cardiff University. In 1995 we got married in Kuala Lumpur during his year out for his Architecture degree. We returned to Cardiff a happily married couple and stayed for another 12 months. He could have continued his degree at another university, but opted to stay in Cardiff instead. Looking back I think it was because we felt at home in Cardiff but didn’t quite realise it yet.

We left for Malaysia and lived there for another seven years. In the following years, we had two daughters and several jobs. In April 2003, we felt we needed a big change and my husband wanted to study an MsC in Environmental Design. We had the whole of the UK to choose from, but chose Cardiff again. We felt it was the right place to bring up two very young children. When we arrived in Cardiff on the 18 August 2003, it was like we never left. I even caught up with Eastenders within a week!

Cardiff was wonderful for us and our children. Unfortunately recession hit and my husband was made redundant from an architects firm in Cardiff. I was still working at a solicitors office on a part-time basis.

Unable to find a job after 12 months, we made a huge decision for my husband to go back to Kuala Lumpur to work. The plan was for me to try to sell our house and move to Kuala Lumpur with the children once the sale was completed. When the house was put up for sale I had an uneasy feeling. We were well rooted in our lovely Penylan/Roath community and it seemed a little scary moving back to Kuala Lumpur after eight years in Cardiff.

Well, it’s 2013, and we are still here! We had to find a plan B and decided to open a Malaysian Cafe on Wellfield Road. It ‘s called called KL Canolog, named after KL Sentral – the main train station in Kuala Lumpur.

So, we are now in a perfect place. If I were to think back about what we remembered most about Cardiff is probably Roath Park. We used to imagine having a picnic there whilst our two young daughters ran about appreciating the fresh air, the lovely flowers and the friendly Welsh people. This still holds true to me but in the last few years I have had to face animosity for being foreign, for presumably overstaying, for taking what was not ours, basically negative press everyday. This seemed to be everywhere in the UK and not just Wales. We were able to overcome this as there was that Cardiff part in us and in our three children (oops I forgot to mention we adopted my son in 2006 from Malaysia). So we embraced the bad and good.

The 18 of August marks our 10th year in Cardiff (if you include our student days that’ll be 15 years). This is where we call home. We are supporters of the Welsh Rugby team and Cardiff City FC. We are very happy to share our Malaysian heritage with our community and feel that it is time we gave back to Cardiff what we have been enjoying for example Welsh cakes, barra brith, chips from Chippy Lane, to name a few.

I am also getting involved in several causes like the Depressed Cake Shop which has gone global from London to Cardiff, San Francisco and in Kuala Lumpur (organised by my sister living in Kuala Lumpur). This cause has also been mentioned on CNN and the LA Times. It is personal to me as I suffered a major breakdown before KL Canolog opened and have suffered with depression for most of my adult life. My father suffers from it too and it was difficult growing up with depression being such a taboo in the Far East. My daughters and I will be doing the Memory Walk on the 15 of September to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Sadly my mother-in-law is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. My life has changed from working in an office and being surround by four walls and the law. I am a lot happier and I feel working at KL Canolog has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who are giving back to society and trying to make it a better place to live.

Made in Roath is also fabulous and I am blessed to have met Wayne Courtney and champion for everything good. I would also like to thank Miss Cakehead who is a genius! She has made it possible for me to be brave about my depression.

With everything we have been through, I have come to realise that you can’t take the Malaysian out of us but at the same time you can’t take the Cardiff out of us too. A harmonious fusion between two cultures, two cities and two lifestyles.

Zainah Ismail first came to Cardiff in 1990 to study Law at Cardiff University. After graduating with an LLB Degree, she worked as a banker in Kuala Lumpur. In 2004, Zainah started working at Geldards LLP before deciding to start a Malaysian cafe-deli called KL Canolog with her husband. Besides being involved with The Depressed Cake Shop Cymru and taking part in The Memory Walk, Zainah has recently involved herself with Free Cakes for Wales which provides cakes for adults and children who are unable to afford a birthday cake. Zainah currently lives with her husband, her two daughters and son in Penylan.

Zainah was photographed at KL Canalog by Jon Pountney



It’s our 100th We Are Cardiff story! “Since moving back to Cardiff I’ve managed to keep my single girl status” – Stacey

Year three has been a year of milestones for We Are Cardiff – we hit 100k views of the website, we made a documentary film about Cardiff, AND WE’RE PUBLISHING OUR 100TH STORY! Read on and meet Stacey!


Okay, so I haven’t really fallen in love with ‘the’ Big Issue man.. In fact  I think it’s safe to say the single-girl-fairy-godmother has a vendetta for me (yes, there is such a thing).

Now I can only imagine how desperate I must’ve looked when purchasing It’s Called a Break Up Because It’s Broken and It’s Just A Date, but hey, when you’re faced with being single for the first time in the 21st century, you need all the advice you can get!

In a quick relationship summary, my high school sweetheart is now my high school best friend’s sweetheart (didn’t see that one coming!) and the guy I traveled the world and then got a mortgage with broke up with me one Saturday morning using the same nonchalant attitude you’d use to discuss the weather.

Heartbroken and, well, quite frankly broke, I decided to ditch the diet of junk food and re runs of rom coms and head to  Sydney, Australia (as you do). With just 796 dollars to my name I set out in the hopes of discovering myself without having a man there to hold my hand and pour milk on my Wheatabix. *Sigh*

What was suppose to be a three month trip turned into three years, and consisted of me swapping my days of asking ‘Would you like to keep the hanger’  for a  front row seat at fashion week , working not only as a registered business owner but alongside the editor of one of the most read magazine’ in the world as a features writer – the single girl features writer to be precise.

Yes, there would be no hiding my newly changed relationship status – I was being pimped out by my editor in the hopes of entertaining my fellow single ladies who were dating vicariously through me.

From doctors to lawyers, musicians to the real life kinda Dear John (who didn’t just want to ‘service’ me) I quickly realised that having your dream job didn’t entitle you to your dream guy…

…and even since leaving Sydney and moving back to Cardiff I’ve managed to keep my single girl status *sigh* and shall be documenting my life (post-koala bears and surfers) (major sigh over the lack of the latter) on my website – thatcardiffgirl.com

So, whether you have some dating advice or just want to hear about my last jaw-droppingly-awful-date put the kettle on, grab a biscuit and stay a while.

Stacey is 24 and turns the big 25 this year (the thought of which makes her want to projectile vomit). Since arriving back from Sydney she has moved back home to Cadoxton in the house her family have lived in since forever. Prior to this at the age of 19 she jetted off to LA the first stop on an around the world trip she embarked on and it’s safe to say she has had itchy feet ever since. Visit her blog at thatcardiffgirl.com.

Stacey was photographed in Cardiff city centre by Jon Pountney


“Cardiff owes a debt to its industrial history” – Stuart


In the 1790s, the ironmasters of Merthyr Tydfil decided to build themselves a canal to bring their goods to market quicker, and on a larger scale than was previously possible along the turnpike. Their target markets were abroad, and they needed a port where they could transfer their goods from the canal barges onto ships to carried out into the wider world. Land surveys determined that the easiest route for this canal was south down the valleys past Pontypridd to the coastal plains beyond, where the River Taff flowed into the Bristol Channel. Cardiff at the time was a small town clinging to the shadow of its ruined castle, neither capital city nor important port. It lay on the route on this little canal, and more importantly to the south had miles of abundant saltmarsh – the perfect place for the ironmasters to build their seaport.

The canal was the Glamorganshire Canal, and the sea port of the ironmasters became known as Sea Lock Pond.

Although the canal continued to operate through to the end of 1951 (in increasing states of disrepair), new industry soon meant that new transport methods were needed. Iron and tin quickly gave way to coal as the main export of the valleys, and during the 1800s and early 1900s five private railroads sprang up to compete for the business of bringing this black gold down to the massive docks that were built to the east of Sea Lock Pond to try and meet the demand.

Cardiff grew rich, prosperous and influential as the middleman in all of this trade. The profits to be had from the coal trade were immense for the time (did you know that the world’s first £1 million deal was done in Cardiff’s Coal Exchange?) and they paid for many of Cardiff’s wonderful parks and its magnificent Civic Centre, and much more besides.

Without this trade, the Cardiff we all know and love today would be a very different – and probably much smaller – place. And yet, the debt Cardiff owes to this industrial history seems to be largely unknown to the good folks of Cardiff, and it’s one that is seldom clearly acknowledged whenever there is an historical exhibition put on in the city centre.

Perhaps the reason why is because this story doesn’t have a happy ending – not for the valleys anyway.

By the 1960s, most of this trade had ceased, having been in decline since the 1930s, and the docks closed down. Over the next 30 years, as the coal mines of the valleys were declared unprofitable and also closed down, the towns and villages of the valleys sank into a deep decline that they have yet to recover from.

It wasn’t just the coal mining that went. None of the industry that lined this industrial corridor at its height exists today. The Merthyr iron forges, the world’s two largest tinworks, the many deep coal mines, the chainworks factory, the chemical works, the bakeries, the power station, and much more besides … every last one of them has closed. Little has come in to replace them.

Today, Merthyr Tydfil is normally mentioned in the media because of its terrible unemployment rates and benefits culture, and things aren’t much better in many of the former coalmining towns and villages that dotted the canal’s route. The valleys had a very small population before the mines came along, and although the mines are long gone, the people have stayed in the places they have made their homes in. It’s difficult to see how their fortunes will drastically improve in my remaining lifetime, as the days of mass employment in heavy industry show no sign of imminent return.

Cardiff too fell on hard times for several decades, but thanks in part to the influx of European funds to transform the former docks into Cardiff Bay, and the money that has been attracted by the setting up of the Welsh Assembly Government, Cardiff’s fortunes have turned out quite different from the valleys. Indeed, Cardiff instead is competing to be one of the top shopping destinations in the whole UK, and its council has announced ambitious plans for a new business district to further boost the local economy.

I’m originally from Yorkshire, a proud area that makes a point of teaching all of its children its major history, which dates back to Roman times. You have a proud and unique history too, and I’d urge you to put it proudly on display before it becomes lost and forgotten.

If you want to learn more about this industrial history, then I highly recommend reading the excellent two-volume set “The Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canal”, by Stephen Rowson and Ian L. Wright, available from Black Dwarf Lightmoor. You can also see some of my own writings about this at my Merthyr Road photography project.

Stuart is an amateur photographer who was first struck by the ruins of South Wales’ industrial past back in 2007 as he commuted past them every day to and from work. Over the last five years, he’s been slowly exploring and blogging about a history that he’s worried has already been forgotten. You can find his work at his blog.

Stuart was photographed at the Melingriffith Water Pump in Whitchurch by Jon Poutney



“Over the last 25 years, the Sherman has been a part of my life” – Katherine


I’ve lived in Cardiff for 42 years. So in thinking of a place that felt special to me, I had lots of choices. I love Donkey beach in Penarth, a secret little place under Penarth cliffs that my Nan and Gramps took me and my sister when we were little. I love the sea around Cardiff Bay and the docks. Bute Park, Roath Park, Victoria Park. Cardiff has good parks. I like sitting on Platform 7 on Central Station looking over to the Brains Brewery sign and the smell of the hops. I could have talked about lots of places that make Cardiff my home but I really wanted to talk about a place that has been part of my life for the last 25 years and I hope will continue to be so for the next 25 – Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru.

My first visit to the then Sherman Theatre was in 1985. I was 15 and had come on a school trip arranged by the English department to see Macbeth. I remember having to sit within hands reach of my teacher because my concentration wasn’t great and it was long. I was bored and fidgeting and desperately wanting to get back on the bus. When it ended I was relieved.

The next time I came to the Sherman was in 1987. I was being interviewed for a administration placement on a government Y.T.S. Scheme. I had left school with no qualifications to speak of so my choices were limited. I remember there was a matinee on. As I was lead backstage and down to the administration offices, various characters passed me by covered in copious amounts of blood, running from one side of stage to the other, backstage calls sounded out and dressing room doors opened briefly exposing a mixture of discarded costumes and everyday clothes. A blood curdling scream echoed through the maze of backstage corridors as I met the General Manager, ‘Sweeny Todd’ she smiled, ushering me in.

I began my placement the following week and my relationship with The Sherman Theatre began.

My placement was only for a year or so and as the end of the scheme approached I was dreading having to leave I felt like I’d found somewhere that I fitted. A permanent job came up in the finance department and I was offered the chance to stay. Although I worked in administration I spent all the time I could with the production team. I often volunteered to work on productions for the experience and did a lot of work for the Youth Theatre productions. It started to dawn on me that my heart was in the more creative roles in theatre and so after seven years I left the Sherman Theatre and went to Welsh College to train to be a Stage Manager.

Over the last 25 years or so the Sherman has been a part of my life. I’ve worked there and experienced making and watching some great theatre. This year Sherman Cymru are producing a play I’ve written called ‘Before It Rains’ and so my relationship with the building continues.

I couldn’t be prouder.

Katherine Chandler’s first play was a musical comedy called The Bankrupt Bride that was produced by Theatr na n’Óg in 2009 and toured nationally. She has had a long-standing relationship with the company and her play We Need Bees, a children’s play for the under-sevens, is currently on tour. As a writer, she has also had short plays produced by Dirty Protest and Spectacle Theatre. In 2011 one of her plays was selected by Pentabus Theatre as their We Are Here 2011 winning script and was developed in association with Sherman Cymru. Katherine is the recipient of an Arts Council Wales grant to write a new female-led comedy and is under commission from National Theatre Wales to develop a new piece of work with them. In early 2013 Katherine will be on a studio attachment at the National Theatre (England). Before It Rains runs at Sherman Cymru between 25 September – 6 October 2012. Katherine currently lives in Penarth.

Katherine was photographed at Sherman Cymru by Jon Pountney