Tag Archives: living in canton

“We all gravitate back to Cardiff” – Cerys

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I grew up in a small village eight miles outside of Cardiff. Cardiff was the big town we were allowed to get the bus to on Saturdays. The last bus home on a Saturday was ten past five! One of my last school trips in primary school was to Cardiff Bay- “Europe’s most exciting waterfront development”- the slogan sticks in my mind with the image of remaining piles of coal and remnants of industry amongst promised development. A few years later, along with my friend Paul, I was a school-rep on Cardiff Council’s Young People’s forum. We only went for the free sandwiches and time off school. At the time County Hall, Atlantic Wharf was virtually the only new building down the Bay. Little did I know then I’d be spending so much time there.

While I have amazing memories of Cardiff as a child- being smuggled into rugby matches at the Arms Park under my dad’s jacket and picnics in Bute park stick in the mind- by the time it came to go to university I knew I wanted to be somewhere else, learn new neighbourhoods, and new people. I only went as far as Bristol, but it was so big, so different, so vibrant and mixed –I still miss it sometimes. But strangely, being in Bristol only strengthened my love of Cardiff, and Wales.

I’d said I’d never come back, I probably sneered slightly at my friends who never left. A year or so after graduating I got a job working for an MP in Bristol. Although I’d grown up with actively Labour parents, and been a member of the party as a teenager, my membership had ‘actively lapsed’. Politics was far from my mind in Uni. I’d marched against the war, voted green, maybe even voted lib dem. It didn’t matter to my boss that I wasn’t a party member- she must have seen it in me. After a while, I wanted to do further study. I was really interested in the things going on in Wales, in Cardiff. Since I’d been away the Assembly had been established, there seemed a new momentum and purpose in Cardiff- like it had begun to realise its identity as a capital city.

I’d never actually lived in Cardiff, only in the leafy privileged green belt. It was exciting looking for somewhere to live, from Splott and Roath to Llandaff North and eventually Canton. I remember house hunting- we kept getting confused between City Road and Cowbridge Road East. Seems ridiculous now, but although I’d always said I was from Cardiff, I realised I didn’t know its geography, the short cuts, the hidden gems. I landed on my feet and have loved Canton ever since. I love living in a neighbourhood where you can walk to work, to parks, the shops, and back from town at two in the morning when it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I love living in a city where as well as all those things, you can be on the beach, in the mountains, or the rolling countryside in within half an hour.

Maybe a little bit of me felt like a fraud when I decided to stand as a Councillor for Canton two years ago- I’d only been living here for five years. But then it’s a neighbourhood where people do come and go, a mixture of old and young, new radicals and die-hards Cantonians. And now my home, and that of my family.

Friends from other parts of the UK still can’t quite understand how we still have such a close knit group of friends from home, from school, from Cardiff. That’s the thing you can’t pin down. We all gravitate back to Cardiff- we don’t want bigger, maybe we don’t even want edgier- it’s our comfort zone, I’m proud to say my comfort zone, and I salute you for it Cardiff.

Cerys lives in Canton, Cardiff. She works for the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and is a Labour Councillor, representing Canton since 2008. Cerys has worked in education for the last six years, and been an active in Labour politics for far longer. You can follow her on twitter @cerysfurlong. She has one daughter and currently lives in Canton.

Cerys was photographed at Canton Library by Ffion Matthews

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“My city has its ups, my city has its downs … bad boys, and bad girls, geniuses and clowns” – David (Verso)

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I was a babe in arms when I first came to Cardiff; however, my very first memory of it was when I was sat in the window seat of a bus going down a then almost squalid ‘Cathedral Road’. I distinctly remember asking my mother why all the lovely houses were boarded up.

My parents met at a dancehall down the docks. My father was a boy from the Merthyr Valley; born of Welsh, Irish and French descent. On my mother’s side of the family I inherited African, South American Indian, Italian, Irish and English; so to say I am mixed race is a bit of an understatement. However, I am a proud and patriotic Welshman and Cardiffian, along with the rich multi-cultural genetic rainbow of nationalities within me. It is worth noting the word Welsh is actually an Old English word meaning “foreigner; slave” and at first was applied by the Anglo-Saxons to all the native peoples of Britain.

I detail the race and cultural accent here because that is what makes me especially proud of Cardiff as a place unlike most others. I once spoke to a Nottingham born second-generation Pakistani man who could not believe his eyes on seeing that Sikh, Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistanis were friends and next-door neighbours.

It may be of little consequence to the average white native, but for a man of another race, it does make a significant difference.

Cardiff is like a village that happens to be a city; and a county that feels like a country. Not that it is apart from the rest of Wales, it’s just that there are representatives from all parts of Wales, mixed with a lot of English, Irish, a broad mixture from sea-faring nations, and now from every corner of the globe. Such diversity enriches the experience of both dweller and visitor.

For some, Cardiff is like a practice for London or another city; and for plenty of others, a perfect place to settle. Many students end up staying for many years after their studies are complete; if not for the rest of their lives. Cardiff is a place that people return to; not run away from.

There’s something here to remind them of home, and many more things that their last home can never have. Although Cardiff is the hub of the creative and financial industries, it is unlike London; thankfully. People still smile and say hello, give you the time of day. They still say please, thank-you and excuse me… well, usually ;). It is a place where you can find enough people alike yourself to feel a part of a movement / tribe / community … from artisans to anarchists.

I love the stunning parklands throughout the city; and a real jewel of the inner city that is the oasis of Bute Park.

Also, the stunning and varied coastline and wild national parks all around us within walking/cycling distance; or a short train/bus/car ride away. Cardiff is a worldly city; despite its size and population. I would like to see it be ambitious and evolve to be considered among the best cities in the world. No city is perfect, nor ever will be. We have our share and experiences of the negative as well as the many positives. I recorded a song with a designer/musician friend, Matt Harris, which captures my perspective. It’s called, The City in Me (“My city has its ups. My city has its downs / Bad boys, and bad girls, geniuses and clowns”).

I was extremely disappointed when the winning design of Zaha Hadid was vetoed by the unimaginative old-order of councillors of Cardiff. The Armadillo is ok because of its nod to the industrial past. But we’ve been there, done that, and got the postcards. Neither am I too keen on the lack of creativity down at the homogenised, indistinctive Cardiff Bay.

What about the future? I would love to see our city reaching boldly into the future, rather than just clinging to its past. My hopes are high though. There are a decent number of creative folk, and an entrepreneurial zeitgeist running through the city right now fuelling a new agenda that doesn’t depend on the backward thinking policy makers in the greasy seats of power and influence

David (Verso) is a poet for non-poets and poets alike, creator of wordplays like ‘Cardifferent’, singer/songwriter, dancer, artist, visionary designer, innovator, businessman in the making… procrastinator in the doing. Find him on Scrib and Myspace. He currently lives in Canton.

David (Verso) was photographed in Chapter Arts Centre by Adam Chard

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“all i needed was to come home” – ian

Ian England by Adam Chard

i had never truly seen cardiff before that christmas.

the ferris wheel was a beacon home.

plymouth’s lighthouse had warned ships not to come nearer, this now beckoned me into the crowds wearing knits and skating on a temporary fake frozen lake. i had spent four years away, i had changed my life; i didn’t expect to want to come back to cardiff.

cardiff had always been there, at the end of the train line, waiting to fill my bags with shopping. given my pocket money, i would ensure i would return with no change.

my parents would begin each new year by parking the car in frosty sophia gardens and walking my sister and i along the castle’s animal wall until we reached a restaurant to celebrate in.

as a teenager, cardiff was the place i went to see bands, smoking weed while leaning out of my friend’s bedroom window, drinking vodka and orange, my baggy jeans being stepped on and ripped in the mosh pits.

the lamplit streets became a blur, the crowds became my friends, i would wake up on my friend’s sofa and her mother would drive us to school.

i wasn’t comfortable living in the valleys, and enjoyed escaping into the crowds of cardiff.

when university came along, i couldn’t have been more excited, and relished a final farewell before a clean slate, surrounded by artists and country lanes. living in devon was a lovely way to spend four years, and i really should see more of the friends i made there. but uni finished and i remained recklessly independent.

it wasn’t until i was blinded by that massive neon ferris wheel that i realised that all i needed was to come home, where it was greener than i remembered, where i could walk the streets and find traces of my history converging with the places and things that were suddenly new, where my family were.

i find myself thinking of the ian that visited cardiff, before the move, as a different person from the ian i am now, living in cardiff, slightly settled, trying to surround myself with interesting people, and forcing myself to write a magic-realism story about curses and cockerels set in the pre-industrial welsh valleys.

i dream about moving again, finding another adventure and another lighthouse, and considering that now, i wonder whether i will return to cardiff yet again, to find another ian waiting to welcome me.

ian england (www.warmstrings.co.uk) lives in canton, cardiff, with his boyfriend and two neighbourhood cats he secretly feeds. he is a writer and a collector, and drinks vanilla lattes (remember that if you see him and fancy a chat).

ian was photographed in Thompson’s Park, Canton, by Adam Chard.

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