Tag Archives: music

Get your folk on for future generations!

Folk for future generationsA group of musicians will be holding a gig on Friday 5 December at Koko Gorillaz in Cathays asking for a strong sustainable development law for Wales in the shape of the Well-Being of Future Generations Bill.

Folk for Future Generations will feature a number of local folk acts and is being held to support the Sustainable Development Alliance’s campaign for a stronger bill. The Alliance is a group of nearly 30 Welsh charities and NGOs.

The night will be a call to action by concerned members of the public who want to tell the Welsh Government that they want Wales to be a truly sustainable nation and want a law that addresses issues such as international impacts, living within environmental limits, and setting legally binding carbon reduction targets.

Event organiser, Gareth Sims, said:

“It will be a great night with some very talented musicians playing. We would like to invite as many people as possible to attend and be a part of the campaign to make Wales a truly sustainable nation that prioritises the well-being of people, communities and the environment. 

The people of Wales are becoming increasingly concerned about these issues and want the Government to take urgent and robust action.”

The musicians playing are Harri Davies and band, Aled Rheon, Kirk Morgan and the Dock Town Pearls, and Art Bandini.  Local artists and photographers will also be displaying environmentally themed pieces of work.  The night will start at 7pm at Koko Gorillaz, Miskin Street, Cathays. Tickets are £4 in advance. 

For more information contact Gareth Sims on garethcsims@foe.co.uk

Green Man 2014 – festival review

A couple of weeks ago, I packed my bags and headed to the Brecon Beacons for Green Man Festival. Having won Best Medium Sized Festival in 2010 and Best Grassroots Festival in 2012, Green Man has slowly etched itself onto the bedpost of the must-go-to UK summer festivals for its family-friendly vibe, support for up-and-coming alternative music and also general all round attention to awesome fun things you can do around the headline acts.

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This was my fourth Green Man, but every time I’ve been to the festival I’ve had a completely different experience. And I’ll give it to you straight: this one was my favourite so far. The day-time line up was great, the late-night stuff consisted entirely of acts I’d have made an effort to go and watch at gigs, the food and drink were awesome, the education and entertainment around the music were all really well thought out, and it didn’t rain! (Much).

Also as part of my festival duties this year, I was taking a load of portrait photographs of people around the festival site for a side project called We Are Green Man, so I ended up talking to a lot more random people than I normally do at festivals.

Every one of the above factors led me to having my favourite Green Man experience to date. Want to get to the meat of it? Of course you do, unless you’re a vegetarian. Don’t worry, there are also meat-free options on offer. Read on!

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I’ve also condensed my Green Man experience into a playlist, which you can listen to while you read this. Just to make you feel like you’re really there. Not all these artists played there, of course, but were snippets of things we heard going from place to place.

 

Thursday

Green Man 2014

With its modest punter count of 16,000, the Green Man site is the perfect size for a festival. Just big enough to fill a couple of big stages and fields, but small enough that you can still pop back to the tent for a nap or to grab a jumper for when it gets nippy in the evenings.

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I turned up to claim some camping space at Thursday lunchtime. We camped fairly near the West Gate entrance to minimise the trip distance to and from the car, and our initial campsite antics consisted mostly of pegging out a huge area for our people to deposit themselves in using wellies and plastic bags full of bags of crisps, putting up everyone’s tents in a mad rush trying to avoid the rain showers, and then realising we’d put up our goliath structure, a 15-man tent, inside out (“Strange – maybe you peg down the ropes inside? Oh wait….”).

I’d arrived early with my friend Leanne (Green Man was her first festival ever), and like proper nerds, we both had waterproof coats, trousers and umbrellas, so we could stand smugly watching optimistic festival goers (most of them under the age of 25) struggle past wearing only flip flops, denim shorts and vest tops (and that was just the boys, etc) under torrential downpours of rain. We were smug, but I was a bit disheartened. Festivals are a bit crap when it’s freezing, you’re sleeping outside and you can’t sit down anywhere.

The last Green Man I went to (2012), it had been raining solidly up to the festival so the ground was sodden, but the actual weekend was roasting, so you were sliding around in the mud in the mid 20 degree heat sweltering in your wellies, unable to sit down anywhere. This time, despite the rain that had been battering most of Wales in the weeks leading up to the festival, when we arrived on site it was surprisingly dry underfoot, and the rain helped our weedy hands get tent pegs in to softened ground. Bonus!

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Rainbows! Get lost, rain

As it had taken so long to get the tent set up and then to wait for our other campees to arrive from Cardiff, we ended up missing Jimi Goodwin, who was on at the insanely early time of 5pm (and was the reason a couple of people came on the Thursday … oh well!).

By the time we got in, we went wandering around and ended up in Chai Wallahs for DJ Moneyshot and his reliable blend of party-pop hip-hop, which was a nice party starter, then headed for an early bed time.

 

Friday

Friday morning we had an early start so we could join the opening ceremony for the festival. So, at 11am, we made our way to Table Top, the flat area overlooking the Mountain Stage, to join the Druids of Stonehenge. They were wearing white robes, and by god, they were proper hippies.

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Rollo, head of the druids…

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Sending peace and love

We sent love to everyone at the festival, all over the UK and then all over the world (with a special shout out to Gaza), and then sent peace to the east, then the south, then the west, and then the north. We were told about how festivals were special symbolic gatherings of humans that go back for thousands of years, and how we were just carrying on that tribal tradition there at Green Man, and at all festivals we ever attend.

I had a quick chat with the druids afterwards who told me they were marrying a couple that afternoon at the Green Man, hand-fasting them. Congratulations by the way, Jo and Dave!

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The rest of that day was spent exploring the site, enjoying a couple of the ciders from the Courtyard Bar and getting ready for that night’s festivities. I spent a couple of hours at the Green Man Rising stage, where upcoming talent is given a chance to tickle a festival audience, and we managed to catch Instructions (headed up by Spencer Segelov), who played some uptempo, brightly coloured 1970s tinged pop’n’roll.

After that we headed up the hill to the Far Out tent for Caribou with live band (along with the rest of the festival, who packed themselves in tightly for the set). It was a nice and deep electronic set, with some old and new tunes, although his need for a live band seemed  questionable when half of the electronic stuff that could easily have been played live on a keyboard was still sequenced. Still, it’s always nice to have live drumming.

After Caribou the tent cleared out a lot (the end of the set was probably curfew time for a lot of mums/dads), and there was enough space to move around again and get ready for the Two Bears and their unhinged drag dancers, who sashayed,vogued, clashed with each other, marched on and off the stage (presumably to refuel themselves) cat called at the audience, and burst into impromptu routines every so often. I couldn’t tell you much about the set to be honest, but the dancers were most entertaining.



(photo credit: Credit Dave Lawrie M&C Saatchi for Green Man)

 

Saturday

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DJs Huw Stephens and Adam Walton

 

On Saturday we caught a lot of music at the main stage, including Angel Olsen (who was a little boring for me in all honesty) and Neko Case, who I enjoyed a lot. Some of our camp broke away to go and watch I Break Horses (who I heard were amazing, so quite annoyed I missed that), while I went to the Walled Garden to nerd out to singer songwriter and comic book artist, Jeffrey Lewis and his Jrams.

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One of the many thousands of Spillers Records t-shirts spotted onsite over the weekend

The main attraction for Saturday was Mercury Rev – we got ourselves a viewing patch up on the hill around the stage towards the back for a nice view sat down. There was a lot of talk beforehand about whether playing Deserter’s Songs would make for a good headline slot, but they were great – my particular highlights having a little rumpshake to Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp and the massive expansive sound of The Dark Is Rising, that was so big that the  Mountain Stage might as well have reached out and enveloped the entire universe.

After we had all rolled around on the floor for a bit, consumed by Mercury Rev’s warm fuzziness, we started the long walk up the hill, getting waylaid by toilets and cider and food on the way, towards the Far Out tent for The Field. This show was a particular highlight for me – he was playing solo without a band, and started off on his own on the stage in the dark, playing just one singular note. Then he played another, and added more sounds, a light came up, and slowly light and music increased until there were two huge blocks filled with light bulbs behind him wheeled out and blasted on towards the end of the set for the climax.

For those who had been warmed up enough, Luke Abbott took to the stage to bang out some tasty techno. We were many ciders to the wind by now so stayed for the entire set. It was a bit ‘too techno’ for some people we were with, though you’ll never hear me complaining about anything like that, so I stayed for the whole thing and then rolled with the remaining crowd into Chai Wallahs to drink some gritty and rather revolting, bottom-of-the-pan chai.

I have no idea what happened next, other than Chai Wallahs closed and we then rolled with the remaining people to the Denture Disco, where they were playing some tasty old skool jungle. Then that finished, and unsure of what time it was, we decided we better roll home if we were going to get any sleep at all and see anything on the Sunday. Part of the rolling home did actually take place with rugby tackles down the hill by the Nature Nurture spa … shortly after which I realised my purse had dropped out of my pocket. Despite a quick, very drunken search, I couldn’t find the thing, so had to spend a confusing 20 minutes on the phone to Barclays trying to explain where I was. “It’s a festival! No, it’s not a fairground … or a car park …”. Card cancelled, I rolled into bed just before sunrise.

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Sunday

Sunday’s music was provided mostly by the Mountain Stage, mostly for the reason that we got to the Table Top, found a place to collapse, and then stayed there as half of us had passed out. There was the occasional break for food or a flat white from the Welsh Coffee place. Luckily for us lazy (or exhausted) music lovers, Sunday’s Mountain Stage line up gave us Boy and Bear (who were uptempo and a lot more rocking on stage than their records suggest) and Anna Calvi, whose huge, powerful voice filled the amphitheatre and roused many of the Mountain Stage watchers to their feet (good work for that time on a Sunday).

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A couple of the group wandered off on Sunday to explore Einstein’s Garden, and be taught some science. They wore prism glasses and learned about depth perception and how the brain adapts to that, and learned about nanos. I also briefly joined a flora identification tour, where we wandered around the site and learned the names of different trees, and we blew bubbles with some university students who taught us how surface tension worked.

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After all that learning it was back onto the cider and then up to the Mountain Stage for Simian Mobile Disco who were playing Whorl live, and bringing with them all the new technologies they’d built to make new sounds – sounds that had never been made before! I’m not sure whether I recognised any of the sounds as anything particularly new but I did enjoy their set. My favourite part of Whorl though was making friends with the guy behind us, and his two young daughters. The older one was at that age where everything Dad did was embarrassing (especially his dancing), while the younger one just wanted to run around. They asked us where we had got our faces painted – I had a box of neon face crayons in my bag. And lo! The friendship was sealed. Dad got to listen to the whole of SMD playing Whorl, while his kids (Alex and Anna) got to paint each other (and us – though dad wasn’t mad keen on any painting himself).

Other musicals highlights of the Sunday were Kurt Vile (his big guitar sound was perfect for the Far Out stage), Real Estate and, finally, the Miserable Disco in the Walled Garden (which was a little bit like someone had moved weekends at Dempseys into a field in the Brecon Beacons). The best bit of that was when they played Kate Bush and the field turned into a mass of amateur prancing ballerinas.

The symbolic ending of the festival was the Green Man burning, but we got there a little late and being a tiny human, I couldn’t see anything. I just about saw the top of his head explode, which was pretty good, but he’s too small to have really seen anything. Next time stewards, get everyone to sit down, especially if it’s dry – then everybody gets to see!)

 

In conclusion then…

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It will tell you, probably, all you need to know about the kind of people who go to Green Man when you hear that when I returned back to Cardiff after the festival, I was messaged on Facebook on Wednesday by a kindly lass who had found my wallet, seen my address on my driving license was in Cardiff, and brought the wallet back to Cardiff (where she also lived) to drop it off to me (thank you, Katy!!). I received it with all cards and cash still intact. And that is Green Man people in a nutshell.

Although this year I wasn’t camping with anyone who had brought their kids, we met up with some friends live in Crickhowell, who had brought their little boy for the first time this weekend. My friend Caz said their festival was pretty much the same – lots of frolics and silly antics, blowing bubbles, messing around – just a slightly earlier bed time.

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If you’ve never been to it before, on first glance Green Man probably seems a bit like a giant creche. There’s an entire field dedicated to children (the Kidz Field), a garden dedicated to educational science mostly to do with nature and the universe (Einstein’s Garden) and even a section that’s for teenagers only (that’s right mum, why don’t you go listen to Simian Mobile Disco, you’re so lame). There are scores of teenagers roaming around, covered in facepaint and doing circus workshops with NoFit State Circus, while younger kids stick around mum and dad and learn about nanos and wear prism glasses to see how light affects your depth perception.

In case I haven’t spelled it out enough, Green Man is a very, very child-friendly festival, which makes it a family-friendly festival, which makes for a lovely atmosphere for other festival goers. After all, whether you’re related to them or not, you turn up with a bunch of people, share food and shelter with them for a weekend, help them out and have them help you out when you need it. That’s pretty symbolic of idealistic family life, isn’t it?

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Editor’s note: food and drink at Green Man

There wasn’t really any easy way to get this into the review, so I felt like it needed its own section. Out of the nine people I came to the festival with, none of them had ever been to Green Man before. Between them, they’d done a load of other festivals, but agreed unanimously that the food and drink available at Green Man was the best.

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The only negative thing any of them had to say was about the Courtyard Bar, which sold all the amazing ales and ciders – and that was only that whatever time you turned up there, they never seemed to have enough bar staff – the queues were pretty and it took ages to get served. But it was so very worth it. I met a couple of people who said they’d challenged themselves to try and work through every cider or ale on the list (bear in mind there were over 70 of each!), but all failed – they found one they liked, then didn’t bother with any of the others.

As a group, our favourite meals came unanimously from the Grazing Shed, for their burger with gorgonzola cheese. The Grazing Shed was also where my friend Bedwyr had his festival highlight – he saw the lady in front of him in the queue was having trouble getting ketchup on her fries. He offered to help her, and then realised she was festival regular (and his long time heroine) Caitlin Moran. He got a kiss on the cheek for his troubles, and was hopping around like the happiest man in the world for the rest of the  weekend.

My only regret? I waited until Sunday night to queue up for that Goan Fish Curry everyone said was so good … only to get to the place at 10pm and find it closed. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I also have to give some festival love to the Welsh Coffee Company, who were providing the coffee at the Table Top Bar, overlooking the Mountain Stage. I had a flat white there on Thursday when we arrived at the site, and then queued up religiously every day for another. Seriously, their coffee is addictive. Also they were a really lovely bunch of people. On the Sunday night after the man burned, the Walled Garden closed and we were kicked out of Chai Wallahs (because frankly 4am on Monday morning is probably time for you to be getting back to your tents, hippies) we found them roaming around the festival site having their staff party, which we gatecrashed, and ended up sitting with them on the grass sharing my cucumber gin (which they christened a ‘courgette smoothie’. Also they have a member of staff who can say thank you in 22 different languages, which is a pretty good party trick. So thank you Welsh Coffee Company for making coffee like crack, and turning us all into addicts for life.

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I can’t wait for next year. I’m going to get one of those damned Goan fish curries, if it’s the last thing I do!

Review by Helia Phoenix

Early bird tickets for 2015 are already sold out. Boo hoo! Keep your eyes on the Green Man Tickets page for when general release tickets go on sale.

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Green Man website

Have a look at the We Are Green Man festival portraits project: website / Facebook

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the author, on a mushroom, of course …

 

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Street seen: pick up your guitar

Nic Thomas

“I started playing guitar at around the age of 12 after becoming hooked on classic rock music. I wanted to be like them! I still love Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi! Started writing songs at 15 and have just done it ever since. Cardiff is a great place to play gigs, but it can be quite cliquey. Having said that I’ve met some great musicians and promoters and have seen some great bands here. It seems to be getting better, but a lot of the alt-country-style bands I love seem to go unappreciated or seem to play Bristol more.”

As seen in: Cardiff city centre

Nic Thomas Music

Photograph by Gareth Davies

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The We Are Cardiff stage at Swn Festival 2012: presenting Laurence Made Me Cry

Not sure if we mentioned it or not, (have we? HAVE WE?) but we’re curating a stage at this year’s Cardiff-based musical cornucopia – SWN FESTIVAL! In the run up to the festival, we’re going to be running short profiles on each of the lovely people performing on our stage. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Laurence Made Me Cry (aka Jo Whitby). Jo has been involved with We Are Cardiff before (she’s like our resident songstress!) – and you can read the entry she wrote for the site here.

Q. You’re playing the We Are Cardiff stage this year! Can you describe your music / your sound please? What can people expect?
A. I’m very excited to play the We Are Cardiff stage, so great to be a part of it. My music has developed into something quite different in recent months. The EP I released last year was pretty much all acoustic based lo-fi folk music but since working on my new album I’ve started to explore more of my musical influences. I guess you could call it electonica-folk-pop? Something like that! My performance will still be very much acoustic based but I will definitely mix in a few of the more electronic tracks. That’s what laptops are for!

Q. Describe the music scene in Cardiff for us
A. As Cardiff is a relatively small capital it’s quite easy to follow what’s going on in the music scene. There are plenty of venues hosting music events every day of the week so loads of opportunities to see the local bands and musicians. Most of the Cardiff-based acts and promoters are really friendly so it’s quite easy to build up a great network of folks you know you can rely on.

Q. Any local bands/artists/producers you’d tip for people to check out?
A. It goes without saying that you should all check out two of my album collaborators Alone and Dementio13 both of which create the most awesome electronica. For some folk loveliness I would definitely check out Horizon, Scriber and Albatross Archive. Then there’s Inc.A of course who are fab live.

Q. What’s your favourite thing to do in Cardiff? (music related or otherwise)
A. My favourite thing to do in Cardiff is to take a walk from my house, through Wellfield Road then up for a slow stroll around Roath Park making sure I come back via a coffee shop. Simple pleasures.

Q. Have you ever played Swn Festival before? Have you got any good Swn memories? And… who are you most looking forward to seeing at Swn Festival this year?
A. I’ve not played Swn before and this will be my first festival performance as a solo artist which is terrifying but also quite special. I’ve rarely been in a financial position to attend the festival and when I had the opportunity my body had the audacity to become sick. There are so many acts I want to see! My current ‘must see’ list includes Pulled Apart By Horses, Trwbador, Jewellers, Alone (if we’re not clashing) and Ratotosk. I’m really looking forward to making some new discoveries too!

Q. If people want to check out your stuff online, where can they do that?
A. You can find lots of info and music on my website: http://laurencemademecry.com or if you’d rather access all the sounds in one click: http://soundcloud.com/lmmcmusic

“The Cardiff music scene is very much alive” – Ben

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I returned to Wales to live in Cardiff in 2009 after spending the previous ten years flat-hopping around London. When I left the mothership, there was no such thing as the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Bay was just a glint in a developer’s eye and my beloved Cardiff City were still in the lower reaches of the league, and playing at a stadium which advertised bread on its roof.

During my time in the ‘other’ capital, I was part of a band and so was regularly setting up, playing and dismantling equipment two or three times a week, but I also got to sample many of the up-and-coming bands on the London pub-circuit. When I left and came back to Wales – or Cardiff in particular, I felt that I was going to miss out on the nightly gigs.

My memories of going to gigs centred on Newport which was still embarrassingly being touted as the ‘New Seattle’; my memories of the Cardiff music scene were few and far between and I feared that my days of enjoying new music may be numbered.

However, this luckily wasn’t the case. Almost as soon as I passed the ‘Croeso I Gymru’ sign as I came off the Severn Bridge, I was thrust into an amazingly busy scene, with many venues playing host to exciting bands. On one of my first evenings back, some friends took me to see Los Campesinos! playing a stage in front of many hundreds at the front of City Hall. Soon after, I went to Clwb Ifor Bach and witnessed one of the greatest gigs I have been to; the wall of math-rock noise that is Truckers Of Husk supporting the off-kilter pop of Steve Black aka Sweet Baboo. My mind was made up, I was never going back.

Since then, I have tried to juggle my day-job and my love of music to the best of my ability. The one thing about Cardiff that you never get in London is that you are forever bumping into friends. The only time it happened in London was when I took a sickie and (literally) ran into my boss at the train station as I headed off for a day of sightseeing. Pretty much everyone knows everyone in the Cardiff music scene, and because I managed to get in with the right ‘crowd’, it was easy for me to pick up on who I should go and see, and of course who I shouldn’t.

The number of venues in Cardiff may have dwindled over the years, but new venues keep popping up all the time. Clwb is obviously still the most loved, but the new kids on the block – or at least new to me – like Buffalo, Gwdi-Hw and Ten Feet Tall have provided me with lots to see and write about over the past few years.

So it basically seems that none of my fears have been realised. The Cardiff music scene is very much alive and even though I am advancing in years, I still try and get to as many gigs as possible – the trainspotting element to my psyche will just have to be put on hold for now.

Ben Gallivan is a freelance writer and works within the SEO industry. He lives on the longest road in Cardiff without any junctions (it’s in Victoria Park) and writes a music blog called BenLikesMusic when he has the time. He likes being quizzed.

Ben was photographed at Gwdihw by Ffion Matthews

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“ME is debilitating, misunderstood, confusing and unpredictable” – Pippa

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12th May is International ME awareness day. You know ME, it’s the lazy people’s disease? Well, it’s estimated that over 28 million people now suffer from it in the world and in the US alone, more people now have ME than AIDS.

I have suffered from ME for 13 years, since I was 14. I got glandular fever and it simply never went away. Instead it mutated into a new, terrifying beast. ME is debilitating, misunderstood, confusing and unpredictable. Even the name is debated. Many people prefer the term CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome over ME which stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is pure medical semantics, but they both generally describe the same condition – depending on your doctor’s preferred interpretation! The prognosis is ill-defined and unknown too. The best anyone can tell you is that if you contracted is when you were under 18 then you stand a better chance of one day getting better than if you contracted it over the age of 18.

I first came to Cardiff because of my disease, but this was ultimately an extremely happy and serendipitous event. I had been told by my doctors I wasn’t well enough to go to university, but that wasn’t a very sensible thing to tell me, a stubborn over-achiever –  Cardiff was near enough to home for me to be a part time student and have my wonderful mother drive me to each lecture, then straight home to bed again. The understanding and kindness afforded by Cardiff University’s English Department – especially Prof. Martin Coyle – was what made me first love the city. I didn’t just feel welcomed by the university, but the place. After battling through school and a system not set up to understand my disease, I was met by people determined to help find a way to make it easy for me to study because they saw the passion I had for the subject. Without their dedication I would never had gained the confidence to explore Cardiff, make friends here and make this city my home. I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the UK.

Cardiff Council on the whole is pretty terrible with regards to disability – but the people more than make up for that. Certain councillors and fabulous people like journalist Hannah Waldram (ex of Guardian Cardiff) have helped me, for example, when the council wouldn’t let me park outside my home (pretty vital when you often need sticks to walk with!). Also, Cardiff is a small enough city (and a flat one!) to make city living easily accessible to me.

The welcoming, friendly mood of the city has helped me grow in confidence with my illness. The stigma with ME/CFS is so strong I have spent much of my life terrified to tell people I am ill, but of course you have to. Firstly, because you need to know if your friends are ok with it otherwise they’re pretty lousy friends, and secondly, because people need to know they are encountering people with the disease – otherwise how will we ever help spread awareness?

I feel I have received such positive reactions from my friends in Cardiff. It’s been so different from other experiences when people are too uncomfortable after a while to talk to you again. Even my parents have lost friends because of my illness – it made their friends embarrassed, uncomfortable. Instead, the people I have met and come to cherish in Cardiff, if they don’t know about it, they ask, or they just accept it. Perhaps in Cardiff we’re all slightly odd and so we are ready and willing to accept each others’ foibles and issues. Who knows? Whatever it is I can’t help but feel it is unique to the city as it is an attitude en masse that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

I have always loved music. My ME only really got very severe when I was 19 and before that I was training to be an opera singer. I come from a musical family too and so, unsurprisingly, the often-dubbed ‘friendly incestuousness’ of the Cardiff music scene is something that I cherish about the city. We are so lucky here to have a ridiculously talented pool of musicians and music professionals; Gruff Rhys, Future of The Left, The Gentle Good, Swn, Spillers Records, Musicbox. I do a lot of music photography and my favorite event each year to shoot is undoubtedly Swn festival. I hate stadium shows, I hate the impersonality of the photographs they produce. I like sweaty, cramped gigs where you feel the music, which is what Swn provides. Shooting that passion and energy is exciting and energising in itself. Each year I have been lucky enough for my photos to be used by various news outlets such as BBC and Guardian Blogs, so even in the face of this horrible disease, I make sure when I am having good periods, I make them count. I don’t miss out. I am trying my damndest to build a life and a career that can sometimes be dipped in and out of, although it is often an impossible struggle, and the older I get the more difficult this seems to be.

Each year I live in Cardiff I watch it develop, become more creative and exciting with the introduction of things such as Third Floor Gallery. And yet one of the most exciting artistic elements of the city has stood here for nearly 100 years. Once described by a Daily Telegraph art critic as Britains “hidden artistic gem”, The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff is my favourite part of the city and I still remember my first visit there in technicolor with each painting and sculpture still perfectly arranged in my mind. I remember seeing some of the Monet Rouen cathedral paintings and being bewildered. I’d seen others in the series in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris but some of them had been missing, and they had been here, in Cardiff, in this beautiful white marble home. In short, its collection of art is breathtaking. It houses such important and beautiful pieces that take so many people by surprise. The gallery works as a metaphor for Cardiff. We get a bad wrap for being the “binge drinking capital of the world” and such, but when people actually take the time to truly experience cardiff, walk through the rooms and study the pieces and “gems” that make up this city, they are astounded it was here under their noses all along and that such a small corner of Wales can house such talent, compassion, and culture.

At times I have been almost completely well, which has been magical. I have managed to do long distance swimming (keeping as fit as possible is definitely the key to keeping on top of the disease), I’ve travelled the world (if only to sit in the sun, but that doesn’t make me much different from anyone else), and I’ve enjoyed a full social life. I’ve had to fit all of my life’s experiences, however, into about 20% of my time, because the flip side to the last 13 years have been overwhelmingly debilitating, unpredictable, and totally devastating relapses that take months to years to rehabilitate from. I get to a point where I am in bed, struggling to reach for a drink, or turn over without help, unable to hold a book. I’ll need help getting to the toilet, washing, brushing my hair, dressing. Most people’s belief of ME is that it makes you tired. Which it does, but in the most extreme way that would be, in layman’s terms, more akin to military sleep deprivation. However, it also causes many other symptoms relating to your central nervous system, cognitive problems – the most common being a ‘foggy’ brain with short term memory loss and concentration problems, muscular pain (fibromyalgia), a compromised immune system leading to higher rate of infection and constant flu like symptoms, sleep disturbances, photo and phonophobia and many more besides. When I relapse I am unlucky enough to be put in the worst five percent of M.E sufferers. Some people with M.E/CFS experience a more constant low level tiredness which is no less debilitating or upsetting – there are simply varying levels of severity of the disease. To be in the most severe five percent means I have been ill enough to be hospitalised, and many sufferers even need feeding and oxygen tubes – Something I am grateful I have never had to experience. In short, M.E can kill you because you are left without the energy to keep yourself alive.

There are other worrying medical abnormalities associated with your body being too tired to regulate itself too. For example, last June I was in a hypoglycemic coma (though I’m not diabetic), and more recently spent nine days in hospital because I had a rare form of migraine that mimicked a brain tumour – all caused by my brain and body being exhausted from the ME.

Sadly, and I can honestly say I understand why this would happen, many ME sufferers cannot overcome the horrific reality of their illness, especially in adulthood where it can break up marriages, cause infertility (if you are well enough to look after children at all), and leave you unable to work. The desperation is made all the more pressing so little is known about the disease. Unsurprisingly, the suicide rate among ME sufferers is very high. Some months I manage to work part time as a photographer. But many I can not. It drives me mad. The unpredictability. Not knowing when you might relapse is heartbreaking sometimes. You learn life is about compromise early on with ME. You learn you don’t get to socialise unless you pace yourself and rest and you don’t get to work unless you pace yourself and don’t really let yourself have too much fun.

Many people believe that ME is a modern illness – an indulgence, if you will. It is anything but. ‘They’ think the modern world panders to eccentrics, that ME is ‘allowed’ to go on and it is almost too painful to write the things I have been told over the years to this effect. Obviously the most common stigma we have to overcome is that often, because we have good periods and bad periods is that people will say we don’t look ill. Also, it is impossible for some people to accept that even young people in their 20s can be disabled. This sounds weird but it is true. I have a disabled badge for my car, but I still have to argue most trips to the supermarket, as I am being helped out of my car by my boyfriend, that I have the right to park in a disabled space. People see a young person with no disfigurement, not in a wheelchair and cannot connect that with disability. The fact that swimming has been my main physiotherapy causes similar problems too. I often need help getting into the pool, but when I’m in the pool I am pain free because my body and blood pressure is supported and can move so much more freely. So I can’t be ill, right?

ME is anything but a modern disease, however. Literature chronicles people dying of ‘failing’ going back hundreds of years and there is a strong argument that this ‘failing’ in many cases could have been ME. For example, if you had ME just 50 years ago you were either put in a mental institution, many believing this ‘refusal’ to move being some sort of madness, or died from not having the energy to feed yourself or from the inability to fight the constant infections you were subjected to due a compromised immune system and a lack of antibiotics. There was no sick pay. If you couldn’t work, you couldn’t earn, you couldn’t eat, you couldn’t live. I grieve for those who have suffered from this disease before me. We are still in the dark ages. We still desperately need more research as every glimpse of ‘proof’ or theory is disputed by each country’s scientists, but at least we live in a time where this disease is now ‘indulged’ enough to mean that ME sufferers have medical help to be kept alive.

In Wales we are worse off than most areas of the UK for ME specialists. We have one consultant in Newport and there is a pain management centre in Brecon, but even people like me aren’t eligible for funding for it. And it is for pain. Not ME. This illness ruins lives. I was almost better then an inexplicable relapse put me in hospital and left me unable to work for an unknown length of time. Many people severely affected even need oxygen and feeding tubes. It is so much more than people think and the USA is doing fantastic research, but here we need to improve understanding and increase research funding.

So please support International ME Awareness Day. The best thing you can do is to learn a bit more about the disease – The best place to do it is at the ‘Get Informed‘ page at the actionforme.org.uk charity site. On May 12th, tweet the link, post it on your profile and help increase awareness and understanding for this stigmatised disease. We need the government to put more money into research. You can also support the Facebook page for ME awareness day. Or donate to ME Research UK, the UK body funding biomedical research into the disease.

You can see Pippa’s photography including music photography online at pippabennett.com and she writes a blog about her experiences about living with ME. She currently lives in Cardiff city centre.

Pippa was photographed at Clwb Ifor Bach by Adam Chard

 

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“Cardiff’s nightlife might be a haphazard affair…” – Adam

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Arriving in Cardiff fresh and slightly chubby-faced in late September 2001, I couldn’t have predicted I’d still be here, more than 10 years later. Through a combination of Cardiff’s unique charms and my heroic lack of geographical ambition, I lived in such far-flung nether-regions as Cathays, Roath, Canton … and Roath.

Like a lot of people, my first three years in Cardiff were spent slowly – oh so painfully slowly – refining my interests from ‘drinking heavily in terrible bars during the week’ to ‘drinking heavily in more interesting bars at the weekend’. But one of the ways that I can track my time in Cardiff is through the music venues and events that have come and gone while I’ve lived in the city.

I arrived in Cardiff at the tail end of Cool Cymru – when the Manic Street Preachers (post-Richie) and the Super Furry Animals were some of the biggest indie names around. The Millennium Stadium had just been built, Tiger Bay had been refurbished within an inch of its life, and Charlotte Church was still young enough to have not realised opera was for losers.

Coming from a small-ish town in the South West (Yeovil), the prospect of live music most nights of the week was something to get excited about, and the Barfly (now replaced by the weirdly named Bogiez) more than provided. Tiny gigs by bands who would later go on to much greater things – The Libertines, The Futureheads, and, err … Grand Drive – stick in my mind.

The Toucan – a Cardiff institution with a habit of closing and re-opening down the road several times a year – was on St Mary’s Street when I first started to frequent it, providing a reason to venture into Hell’s Hen Party. Even with its weird giant pillars blocking views of the stage from almost all positions other than right-down-the-front, some formative musical moments occurred in that place. All the big names of the (then) burgeoning UK hip hop passed through – Jehst, Braintax, Mystro, Rodney P … and when the Toucan moved to Splott (and then eventually back into town before closing for good) it was never quite the same.

Down in the Bay, initial enthusiasm about its face-lift had faded to a general acceptance that studio flats, executive hotel rooms and ‘world’ cuisine were probably not going to be producing the sort of cutting-edge culture that Cardiff was craving. The Point – a beautiful renovated church –  was hosting some incredible gigs for a few short years (Four Tet, Cinematic Orchestra and Deerhoof stand out). And the Coal Exchange was always there for bigger bands – with a set by Mogwai remaining the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. But both these venues went the way of the Dodo, occasionally re-opening in name, if not in spirit.

The closure of key musical venues in Cardiff is a constant throughout during the decade I’ve lived here. Its always sad to see the passion of promoters dashed on the rocks of reality – but unfortunately, although Cardiff has some great musical culture, it doesn’t have the strength in numbers to support much in the way of an ‘alternative’ scene. We can basically only handle one or two successful venues at a time – and the only place that has ridden this bumpy road successfully for the entire time I’ve been here is Clwb Ifor Bach.

My first forays into Clwb were for Friday night mind-manglers – with Hustler running tings on a decidedly student-ey hip hop tip. I saw my first ever dubstep set in Clwb – way back when Digital Mystikz were just emerging out of Plastic People in London, and long, long before dubstep was providing the soundtrack for everything from shit mobile phone adverts to shit mobile internet adverts.

The family of venues that began with Moloko (home of the much-loved drum’n’bass Thursday nighter that launched High Contrast’s career) and now includes Buffalo and 10ft Tall has proven another resilient strain of Cardiff’s nightlife. Buffalo is still the closest thing Cardiff has to a trendy East London hangout, and although Cardiff Arts Institute looked like a strong contender for that crown for a few happy years, it too became a victim of the Cardiff curse: shitloads of interest and enthusiasm, but not enough punters through the doors.

That pretty much brings us up to date, and I’m about to hotfoot it over the bridge to Bristol after nearly 11 years in Cardiff’s familiar folds. Bristol’s a bigger city – it doesn’t suffer from the Cardiff curse. But what are the odds of running into half a dozen people you know on a random night out in Bristol? Cardiff’s nightlife might be a slightly haphazard affair, but there’s something reassuring about seeing the same faces in the same places wherever you go.

Don’t be a stranger Caerdydd …

Adam Corner is a male human who lived in Cardiff until 2012. He loves music, food and fine wines (e.g. Buckfast). He does research on the psychology of communicating climate change at Cardiff University and writes about this kind of thing for the Guardian. Nose into his life on twitter @AJCorner.

Adam was photographed at Catapult Records in the Duke Street Arcade by Doug Nicholls

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“Cardiff was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure” – Bethan

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“We took the Porsche down to Tiger Bay,
Drank the pubs dry where bands used to play in their heyday.
Cardiff in the Sun”

– Super Furry Animals

We must’ve been skinny, because there were five of us squashed into a mini metro. We’re driving around Fishguard, recklessly, in Dan’s car. Blaring on the stereo are the Stone Roses. “Send me home like an Elephant Stone, to smash my dream of love, Dreaming till the sun goes down, and night turns into day!” Life is great! I’m a fresh faced minister’s daughter from the mountains of mid Wales and family friend, Daniel Evans, is introducing me to life in the fast lane, and adopting me to the Glantaf gang. Life was about to change. From one weekend out West to hauling life and future from North to South.

These were the kids that made me fall in love with Cardiff, the beautiful, cocky, fun, brazen, colourful, earthy, yes, even hippy, music-breathing kids from Ysgol Glantaf. Unlike anyone I knew back in my home school. At home it was small town clubbing and nosey neighbors (closest friends aside of course), here it was house parties, jamming till dawn, discussing the world, creating art, creating music and this breezy rush of freedom! It was idealistic, naïve, preposterous, yet it was new, it was youth, and it was an awakening.

With these naïve and wide-eyes I saw the city, and felt like I belonged. From boot sales in Splott, to Jacobs market’s spiraling treasure trove. From squeezing into Spillers and bacon butties in the Hayes, to the stretch of vinyl at Kellys – it was riding buses, walking railway tunnels, driving flyovers. It was dressing up retro, it was cherry tobacco, it was the Astoria’s all nighters, or Time Flies’ raves under chandeliers at the City Hall, it was dark and dangerous at The Hippo Club, it was the docks, it was the City Arms, Model Inn and Clwb Ifor Bach combined, it was Marcello from café minuet and the historic arcades. There were rituals and there were parties, oh, there were so many parties. From parties on Penarth beach to fires up the Wenallt, to student kitchens, to famous lock ins – it was a big neon sign pointing towards adventure.

Dan and anyone else from class of ’91, I’ll salute you for bringing me here, making me fall in love with the life you were living, just school kids on the brink of the future, and anything was possible.

My plans to have a gap year in France fell by the wayside as I fell in love with the city and the engrossing music scene. Every weekend was spent at Clwb Ifor Bach, till you knew every name in the building. Weeknights were full of big NME/Melody Maker bands on tour at the Uni like The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Pulp, St Etienne, Catatonia and erm Bjorn Again! I got a job, I was ‘saturday girl’, at Spillers Records. The Newport gigs were kicking off at TJs with 60 ft dolls, Disco, Gauge, Gorky’s and others. When you’re busy living in the moment you don’t quite realize the significance of all this. When venues later close, and legends start to disappear, you regret that photo you didn’t take or that chat you didn’t have, but you’re busy being young and being invincible.

I was in the busy heart of Cool Cymru (a term which we all hated), running around in the veins of the city, and would drive the length and breadth of the UK, to see live bands. A National Express to Sheffield to see Primal Scream and the Orb stadium tour, a club in the Valleys for the famous Splash tour where the Stereophonics supported The Big Leaves, college friend Denis Pasero’s 2cv shakily bombing down the M4 taking us to Y Cnapan festival, being gobsmacked at the SFA’s tank on the Eisteddfod field and the news crews in overdrive about what language they would sing in that night, and the band I stalked the most throughout this time were Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. Sadly, I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen them, but it’s awkward!

The music has changed unrecognizably from the few sweaty venues we used to frequent back in the 90s, but then as now we make our own fun here, it’s a small city with a big creative heart and a tight social community. My friends now, are an amazing crazy bunch of brilliantly talented people, and help me dream the same dream I had on coming here in the first place. Keep finding the adventures in the everyday, live with the wide eyed wonder towards the new, changing and evolving cityscape, and clap my thankful hands at the beautiful sounds* that keep emanating from this small city.

Footnotes

*Astoria = Venue on Queen’s Street where Oasis famously also played in 1994, supported by 60ft dolls. Used to be a massive club, not particularly nice, so this isn’t particularly nostalgic footnote!

*Sounds of Cardiff now. Do check out…
Cate Le Bon, H Hawkline, Sweet Baboo, Islet, Future of the Left, Strange News From Another Star, Samoans, Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs, Jonny, Richard James, The Gentle Good, Hail! the Planes, Le B, Jemma Roper, Saturday’s Kids, Harbour, Hunters, Truckers of Husk, Man Without Country, Houdini Dax, The Method, The Keys, Friends Electric and many many more.

Bethan Elfyn has been broadcasting and reporting across Welsh radio and TV since the late 90s. She started with BBC Radio Cymru in North Wales, working across the board from politics to music; interviewing millionaires, farmers, millionaire farmers, lots of musicians, comedians, drama ‘lovies’, and the highlight of the whole lot a record breaking “human mole”. In 1999, she was chosen to front BBC Radio One’s exclusive new music show for Wales, the Session in Wales, presenting the late night show on BBC Radio One till 2010. The decade was spent firmly ensconed in the UK’s music scene, hosting main stages at festivals across the land from Reading to Greenman, and DJing clubs, student balls, festivals and fashion events. She’s been TV host to The Pop Factory on BBC Wales, Popcorn and Dechrau Canu on S4C, and currently presents on BBC Radio Wales every Saturday night from 5 till 8pm – a show which has seen the cream of the Welsh music crop come in to co-host, from Sir Tom Jones, to James Dean Bradfield, to Cerys Matthews. She currently lives in Riverside.

Bethan was photographed at Kelly’s Records by Adam Chard

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