Tag Archives: portrait photography

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


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



“I’ve embraced all the opportunities Cardiff has offered me” – Anna


You never really stop to think about what you like about the place you live, do you? You just, sort of, live there. You go through the motions, ride out the bad times and enjoy the good times; but you never really stop to think what it is about that place that you love or just what it is that keeps you there, do you?

Well, that’s how Cardiff’s always been for me, anyway. The seven years I’ve lived here have definitely been mixed, and it’s only during the latter few that I’ve truly settled and stopped gazing at the Severn Bridge!

In fact, when I was first asked to do a We Are Cardiff entry I remember stalling for ages before telling Helia (founder of WAC), “to be honest, I’m not sure I really like living here.”

I can’t really pretend that my ending up here was the result of informed, well thought-out ‘life choices’ like you’re encouraged to make by teachers at school. My decision to move here seven years ago from Pembrokeshire, for university, was shaped largely by circumstance really, and my decision to stay here after university was, at first, a reluctant one.

I certainly loved university; I enjoyed my course and made some great friends. But as soon as I graduated I was desperate to join the rat race and get to London, so I was secretly a bit disappointed when my boyfriend moved to Cardiff and suggested I stuck around and moved in with him, but it did make sense.

I remember having a conversation with my mum who said everyone should ‘do London’ at some point; I felt sure she was right. Despite having a job in Cardiff, I remember trawling the London job sites looking for my ticket out of Wales and I even secured a job there and was ready to make the move. Something stopped me from taking it and I carried on as I was, albeit unenthusiastically.

So the first few years after university in Cardiff were reluctant, to say the least. I watched my friends fly high in London and elsewhere and I resented staying here. I started to pave my own path – but at the back of my mind I always felt the Cardiff chapter was one I was simply skating over.

I’m not quite sure exactly when things changed; but I remember around two years ago driving across the barrage back into Cardiff Bay after netball training and feeling a real sense of contentment. It was a gorgeous sunset and I remember feeling really at ease.

Since then I’ve really changed my view of where I live. I’ve realised how much control you can have over your own fate and I’ve embraced all of the opportunities Cardiff has offered me. My roots have been firmly planted here now and I can’t imagine started afresh anywhere else. I’ve also realised the value of being relatively close to family in West Wales.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that this is THE place for me or that I’m ‘meant’ to be here, but what was an initial reluctant acceptance has morphed into a ever-growing appreciation. Cardiff really is a great place to live, it’s become my home and I’m here to stay.

Anna Milewski works for the Federation of Small Businesses in Cardiff. Away from the office, she is an avid netball player (for MJM), an occasional horse rider and an average jewellery-maker. She loves the countryside and says there’s nowhere she’d rather be than on a deserted Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire. Failing that, she’s happy wandering around Splott market on a Saturday morning picking up all sorts of tat for the flat – or having lunch in Cowbridge on a sunny Sunday. She currently lives in Cardiff Bay.

Anna was photographed in a field at Culverhouse Cross by Adam Chard

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


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




“Music – Culture – Politics – Parties – Great Outdoors” – Maka

Ode to Cardiff

The million pound deals in the biggest docks, where our black gold was swept out to sea to fuel the rest of the empire. That was just a memory, a memory dredged up by Gran as we took the thrill of the double decker bus to town.

Those docks became Tiger Bay as we became the washed up dock town at the end of the line. Bringing people of the world to a corner of Wales, changing the face of the place as town turned hesitatingly to city to Capital City. As a pride in a nation a language and an idea was formed around this new title.

In school we studied the docks as History, the mix of cultures that brought injera, plantain and pickled herring to our shore. The sailors, the dockers, the chancers, the old hopes of new lives. We were told of an idea to redevelop ‘the bay’, we went to Butetown, to see the tower blocks marked for demolition, to see change set-in as a glitter of steel and glass descended. In the new bay, we were told, the water was supposed to be clean enough to swim in; we looked at the black-running Taff and laughed.

As the bay was building we forgot to care. We were making music and music had changed. Squirrel and G-Man showed us how we could take our guitars and drums and play like 24 hour party people. Chapter Arts front bar meant a different world now for us, teenagers getting to play psychedelic dance jams to rooms full of grown ups. Now gigs, now girls, now long hair and baggies, then bleeps and fleeces.

The Indie Chart on the Chart Show was full of rave, the hills around Cardiff were alive to the sound of this music. Adventures planned from service station to station, forest to forestry. New best friends made and lost in forgotten nights as we danced imagining the world would have to change now.

Music had its hooks in, and Cardiff was the place to be pulled about. In the face of poor promoters DIY was the answer. Clwb Ifor Bach let us try, and the Toucan, and Dempsy’s, and we found Rajah’s, a busted up pool-hall in Riverside that let us play and DJ and dance all night.

That set the tone, music was all: Oval Sky, Dark Bazaar. Kah Buut Sounds, Optimas Prime, Pink Pussy, Tiger Bay warehouse raves, SOUNDWAVE, Adi Boomtown, Secret Garden. Twenty years of making and taking music in and out of Cardiff.

Been all over the world, but keep coming back. As well as friends, family, work and opportunities, Cardiff has great open space at its heart, stretching from the Castle all the way up the Taff. And escape is all around, places so near it’s amazing you feel so far away: west to the beaches of Monknash, east to the top of Machen mountain, north to the Garth, south to Flatholm island. Walking, climbing, surfing, taking in the views, getting out of our little city.
The smallness leaves us equally cursed and blessed. Sometimes you can’t escape, and everybody knows your name, your business. Sometimes it’s hard to get stuff going, to build up a scene, to get bars and clubs busy and bubbling. Sometimes it feels like the city planners don’t listen to us, and are throwing away everything that makes the city special and individual for the sake of massive mall clone-culture.

But there are chances here to get involved in anything you want, from intellectual flights of fancy to making a fool of yourself. I’ve enjoyed drumming at the SWICCA Carnivals; performing at Blysh; reflecting on the future of the city at the Nutopia Symposium; dancing as a righteous pineapple at Chapter; and more, and more.

As well as being a place to party, Cardiff is now the political centre of Wales. Social justice has an illustrious history across our country, and it still has echoes in our modern capital – the Senedd attempting an openness and accessibility of government that other nations envy. I’ve been fortunate to work for organisations that have successfully lobbied and pushed for changes to policy and governance, realising that people and organisations can shape legislation here. This gives a sense of ownership and accountability missing in Westminster.

We’re still finding our feet as a nation, and a capital city, still struggling with the dual identities that come from seeking to embrace Welsh and English; heritage and modernity, fairness and conservatism, the past and the future, hedonism and responsibility… but this is a great place to be while we try.

Music – Culture – Politics – Parties – Great Outdoors – Family and Friends – All I need to get by.

Now my work, will and wanderlust takes me away from here for the next few years, which is odd, unsettling and exciting; but Cardiff, my adopted city, will always be my base, my place, my home.

Mark Maka Chapple grew up in a little village outside Caerphilly and started promoting discos in the local village hall when he was 14. Llanishen High brought drums and the first band of many. Years of playing and promoting led to seven years lecturing on music and performing arts, then onto a career with Save the Children, eventually managing the Wales Programme – working across Wales and the west of England. A deployment to Zimbabwe ignited a passion for humanitarian work, one that’s led to him now leaving Cardiff to pursue an international career in South Sudan. He has lived in Roath for the last nine years, and still DJs, drums and performs in various venues and festivals in Cardiff and across the country when he gets the chance.

Maka’s tips for a good time in Cardiff are: Milgi’s, Gwdihw, WMC, Roath Park and Madhavs. For the best view of the city head up the lane past the Ty Mawr pub in Lisvane to the top of Caerphilly Mountain, hop in to the field and soak it up.

Maka was photographed in Bute Park by Ffion Matthews




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Behind the camera: Ffion Matthews

You may have noticed that the We Are Cardiff website features some rather wonderful photography. We’ve decided to run a series of posts introducing you to our photographers, who volunteer their time to keep this website looking as amazing as possible. For our first post, please meet the lovely Ffion Matthews!

Give us one reason why Cardiff is an ace place to live

There are so many reasons Cardiff is great, but the one thing everyone always tells me, and I completely agree, is that it is such a friendly city!

Favourite place to eat out in Cardiff

Oh gosh! There’s so many to choose from Mezza Luna on City Road to Bayside Brasserie. But one food that I just can’t resist is Mexican, and thanks to Las Iguanas (Centre and Bay) I can feed my addiction at any point! But Cardiff has so many great places to eat, I hope to go to Patagonia (Canton) soon as I hear such fantastic things about it.

Favourite shop in Cardiff

I don’t often go shopping, but when I do, I head straight to our historic arcades, losing myself in all it offers, and can’t resist visiting and playing dress-up in A Vintage Affair. Upstairs there is a whole playground of hats, shoes and other amazing vintage clothes, I could spend all day there!

Favourite Cardiff venue

I have a couple of favourite venues for different reasons. Gwdihw is great for an intimate (and sometimes crazy) gig, which also offers board games, comedy nights and great beer. Ten Feet Tall offer a mean cocktail. And Undertone right next to it for a long night of dancing – great things come in small packages!

Best Cardiff memory

I think one of my fondest memories is before I moved to Cardiff. For my 16th birthday, my brother bought us tickets to see Incubus at the then called CIA, he lived in Splott at the time so I stayed for the weekend and loved ever minute of it!

Book/s you’re reading at the moment

At the moment I am swamped in research for a piece I’m writing, all regarding the phases of postmodernism, feminism and female artists. I think you’d all rather me not bombard you with my readings 😉 Go Girl Power!

Film/s you’ve recently seen

I’m usually a bit of a film buff, but I haven’t watched many recently (now with all my feminism books taking over), and certainly not many good ones. I have Sin Nombre lined up though, which I have high hoped for!

Some of my fav/recommended films:
The Orphanage
This Is England
Let the right one in
City Of God
Mulholland Drive
Pan’s Labyrinth
Spirited Away

Band/s you’re into atm

After going to a gig at 10 Feet Tall to see Golden Fable, a friend of mine who performs as Elephant and Soldier was supporting them. Having never seen him perform before, I was absolutely blown away by his voice. So if you are into acousticy, gruffly voice that you can lose yourself in, check him out.

What’s your one Cardiff secret you’ll let us into?

I’m still searching for my secret spot. Having lived her for about three and a half years now, I’m actually still finding my feet to an extent. Every new place I go feels like a hidden gem, I always ask myself “How did I not know of this place before?” and then often it becomes a favourite; like Gwdihw, Undertone, the arcades, the beautiful surrounding villages and towns. I adore the fact that I can go from the busy city centre, to a fantastic quiet country walk around Garth Woods, stopping off at Gwaelod Y Garth Inn for a cheeky pit stop. So I think there is more to Cardiff than I know, I’m still learning, and loving this place more and more as I go along.

Any projects you’re working on at the mo you want to big up…?

At the moment most of my time and focus is being put into my degree, which leaves little time to manage my own work. But I will be displaying my latest project at an Exhibition at the Riverfront, Newport from the 23-25th of May.

What camera do you use? Any favoured lenses for portrait photoshoots like the We Are Cardiff shoots?

At the moment I have a Canon 450D which I mainly use, but looking to upgrade it soon. I also have a beautiful Mamiya RB67, and Nikon FG-20 that I don’t use as often for the simple reason of that in this digital world it takes precious time to develop/print/scan nowadays. Although I do still love using them, but more for personal projects than anything else.

Most memorable We Are Cardiff photoshoot

I have enjoyed every single shoot I have done for We Are Cardiff; it is always so interesting to meet such a variety of different people. But I think my most memorable has to be photographing the lovely burlesque dancer, Cherrie Pips at 10 Feet Tall. Never had I shot a burlesque dancer before, and she was such a pleasure to be around, and made even more interesting with my lighting equipment failing and having to think on my feet. Luckily for me she was fantastic about the whole thing and I don’t think we stopped laughing the whole way through!

Thanks Ffion! More about Ffion here: website / blog / twitter




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