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“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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BAG YOURSELF SOME WE ARE CARDIFF SWAG! Visit our online shop

We Are Cardiff on Facebook / Twitter @wearecardiff / We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City documentary

You are invited to: ‘We Are Cardiff: a Roath state of mind’ exhibition, 29 May – 2 July, Waterloo Teahouse

Friends, Cardiffians – it is our pleasure to invite you to our first localised exhibition, which is taking place in the heartland of Roath.

The boundaries of Roath spread further and run deeper than the thin lines on the map that separate it from surrounding Penylan, Cathays, Adamsdown, or even Splott. Roath is more than a place – it’s a state of mind, and we invite you to celebrate that with our first localised exhibition, featuring stories and photography of local residents who have been featured in the We Are Cardiff project.

You are invited to the launch party, on 1 June 2012. Come have a peek at the exhibition, and learn more about the film that we’re currently making about our fair city of Cardiff.

‘We Are Cardiff: a Roath state of mind’ exhibition
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse
Launch party: Friday 1 June 2012, from 6.15pm-8pm
Exhibition 29 May – 2 July 2012

www.wearecardiff.co.uk
www.waterlootea.com

RAFFLE PRIZES – UPDATE

A four-ball round of golf at St Pierre Golf Club in Chepstow (donated by Acorn Recruitment and Training

A speedboat trip for two around Cardiff Bay (donated by CAVRA)

A meal for two from the set menu at Ffresh (donated by Ffresh)

A luxury haircut (donated by the Constantinou salon)

A pair of trapeze taster session tickets (donated by NoFitState circus)

A meal for two in the Gallery Restaurant at the Grosvenor G Cardiff (donated by the Grosvenor G Casino)

A Fairtrade chocolate hamper (donated by Fairtrade Wales)

A print of Roath Park artwork (donated by Gayle Rogers)

A hand crocheted blanket (donated by Andrew Williams)

A framed print (donated by Jo Whitby)

A screenprinted t shirt (donated by Droneboy Laundry)

A bottle of champagne (donated by EstatesDirect Cardiff)

A screenprinted Shewolf t-shirt (donated by Spike Dennis)

A limited edition We Are Cardiff t-shirt

We’d like to say a very large thank you to ALL the sponsors who have donated prizes for this draw – you’re helping us out with a worthwhile project and we really appreciate your support.

So … more info on our lovely sponsors…

FFRESH. With stunning views of Cardiff Bay, a stylish and contemporary feel, and a wonderful seasonal menu showcasing the best of Welsh produce, ffresh Bar and Restaurant is catered to enhance your culinary dining experience.Excellent quality food and service is led by Executive Chef Kurt Fleming, along with consultancy expertise from Shaun Hill, Executive Chef at The Walnut Tree Inn at Abergavenny. The ffresh team have a great deal of experience to help you choose a menu that suits tastes and budget. All our menus have wonderful vegetarian options, and our Chefs are more than happy to cater for any special dietary requirements…
ffresh Restaurant is open Tuesday-Saturday 12 noon- 2.30pm; 5-9.30pm and Sundays 12 noon – 4pm. Please note that on Mondays, ffresh Restaurant is only open for pre-show dining. Whether you are visiting Cardiff bay for an afternoon, seeing a production at the Centre, or looking for a special evening dining experience book your table at the restaurant on 029 2063 6465 or ffresh@wmc.org.uk.

FAIRTRADE WALES. Did you know Wales is a fair trade country and Cardiff was the world’s first Fairtrade capital city? Fair trade is about creating opportunities for producers in the developing world to receive a fair price for their goods and to work their way out of poverty. Put simply, it is an opportunity for them to improve their lives and the lives of their families, and is as simple as the choices you make on your weekly shop.

ESTATES DIRECT – the 0% Commission Agent. At EstatesDirect we charge a fair fixed fee to sell or let your property.  To see how much you could save and find out more please visit our website. EstatesDirect Cardiff is owned and run by Paul and Helen Walters. We pride ourselves on offering excellent customer service throughout your property sale or let, from the initial FREE valuation, through to viewings and finally the sale or let of your property. We are local to Cardiff, and will offer expert advice on marketing your property to its greatest potential and to as many targeted buyers and tenants as possible.

JO WHITBY. Jo Whitby is an all-round creative type who likes to cram her days with as much arty/music/culture stuff as possible. I Know Jojo is where she freelances as an illustrator and artist doing all sorts of works from depicting classic Welsh myths to crowd surfing a Smart Car. You can also find Jo making music as Laurence Made Me Cry and sporadically updating a music and culture blog called Cat On The Wall.

SPIKE DENNIS. Spike is  a maker, an imaginator, a unicorn farmer & a Romanticist with a burning desire to understand that which lies beyond the stars but you can call him an artist for want of a better word. He has lived in Cardiff for five years and recently launched ProjectCardiff with co-conspirator Lann Niziblian. Spike will be exhibiting some collaborative work inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales at St Donats Art Centre in the Vale of Glamorgan throughout June this year (full details available shortly)
More info at: www.spikeworld.co.uk / www.unicorn-porn.com

ANDREW WILLIAMS. Andy is a knitwear designer that has been knitting since 2004 and crocheting since 2009. He has free patterns available on his blog and Ravelry page, and some of his patterns are available to buy from Calon Yarns on Cowbridge Road East. Making blankets is an obsession he has. Blankets of all shapes, sizes and colours. “I’ve loved blankets since I was little. They make me feel safe and warm. A handmade blanket is even better, because not only are you getting a lovely handmade thing, you’re getting someone’s time – that’s a really precious thing to give. The blanket I’m making for We Are Cardiff is a giant granny square, which I will embellish with some appliquéd bits and bobs. It’s super colourful, hope someone colourful wins it!” See also: Ravelry

NOFITSTATE CIRCUS. No Fit State was founded in 1986 by five friends. During a politically charged time, in a recession, and as a creative reaction to the world around them, the circus was born. Twenty-five years later NoFit State still believes that the total outweighs the sum of the parts. The company lives together, works together, eats together, laughs and cries together – travelling in trucks, trailers and caravans and loving and breathing as one community. This is what creates the spirit that is NoFit State and gives the work its heart and soul. Contemporary circus combines live music, dance, stage design, text, and film with traditional circus skills. It is rooted in the travelling community who turn up, pitch a tent, drum up an audience, and then leave with only flattened grass and a memory to show they were ever there. The circus are the strangers who live amongst us – and if we run away to join them we are throwing off our inhibitions, our conventions, the rules of settled society. We are taking to the road knowing that there is no destination – only a journey.
Today, NoFit State is the UK’s leading large-scale contemporary circus company, producing professional touring productions and a wide variety of community, training, and education projects for people of all ages.

“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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“It’s a genuine community” – Zoe

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I came to Cardiff in 2005 – I’d lived in Newport since 2003, being at university there. True to its name as the little capitol city, the first house I lived in was the same one that Dirty Sanchez used to film their first series in. One night we all went into the basement to find their names burnt into the floor beams surrounded by pentagons. But that’s just one of the many crazy Cardiff stories that you’ll find all Cardiffians have, about the famous people and places we encounter on a daily basis.

For me Cardiff is a place where you can be who you really are, no judgement, no fear. It’s a massive pleasure to see Cardiff bloom creatively, to see what has always been a small but diverse community, now recognised further afield for the potential it has, and it’s down to this zeitgeist Cardiff offers artists.

Personally, Cardiff has helped me evolve as an artist in innumerable ways. I knew I loved film and I knew I loved making clothes but I’d never put the two together until I moved to Cardiff. It was Cardiff that brought these things in my life together, like some mystical force – and I realised that I wanted to work on costumes in films. I’d see Doctor Who out on location, would recognise  various Cardiff locations on screen and like most people, it seemed magical that I could make the fictional world real. Working here for five years now, I’d say I’ve become part of the Cardiff independent filmmaking circuit.

I guess most people see costume as two things: superhero outfits and big period dresses with wigs and fans. It’s so much more than that and the industry in Cardiff definitely recognises that. I’ve met people here who believe in the same things as me: living here and working here. I work all over Cardiff and the surrounding areas, and take great pleasure in contributing to the creative output Cardiff is so well known for.

I’ve shot all over Cardiff – in an abandoned quarry in Fairwater for the digital short “Magpie”, in the carpark underneath the Coal Exchange for the Iris Prize film “Boys Village” and even in City Hall, in the upstairs marble hall with Rutger Hauer, over one night in May for “The Reverend”. Some cynics might say that most films made in Cardiff come from elsewhere: big companies with money looking to film somewhere cheaper than London. Those cynics are wrong. Yes, we welcome the big productions, they bring the chance for us to prove Wales has so much to offer. But I’ve also worked with some amazing local talent that want to make films about Wales, about their lives, and about Cardiff.

I’ve lived almost always in, or adjacent to Roath, and six years later, live around the corner from that first student house, affectionately titled “the dirty sanchez house”. It’s a wonderful area to be young, have children, or grow old. It’s the memory I often return to, of my first summer amble around Roath Park, to the boating lake with friends that made me realise this was the place for me.

I love Roath for Wellfield Road’s Christmas lights, for walking my dog in Waterloo Gardens, and watching him chase (or rather attempt to) squirrels, I love Roath for the fabric shops which in my line of business being a walkable distance away is impossibly helpful. I love Roath for the multicultural mix that never seems cliche, pretentious, or threatening: just open and welcoming. On City Road you can walk ten paces and go from Mexican to Lebanese to traditional or super modern interpretations of tandoori classics.

Testament to Cardiff’s “big little city” tag, you can shoot a city landscape, drive fifteen minutes and be in the rolling countryside – but, as I often need to pop off set to grab something, like a pair of socks, or a cup of coffee, its nice to know you’re not far from civilisation and in Roath’s case, about 100 paces from any given Tesco!

I read recently that Roath was the new Pontcanna. My friends from Pontcanna weren’t convinced, but thanks to Made In Roath, The Gate, and Milgi there’s a really strong creative cultural atmosphere beginning to settle here. There’s always been an artistic atmosphere, but little output for creatives to showcase their work. Now, with Milkwood and Sho galleries which are literally around the corner from many of its patrons, it feels like our art is on show. It’s a genuine community, and you walk into Milgi knowing you’re likely to see someone you know within five minutes. Made In Roath festival gives people the chance to visit locals and see their art in their houses: a new and inventive exhibition style. I urge anyone who hasn’t been to the open houses before, to come along this year and see for yourself what Roath has to offer.

As for the big screen – keep your eyes peeled, you’re more likely than ever to see a part of Cardiff you might recognise.

Zoe is a costume designer living and working in Cardiff. Originally from Yorkshire she came to Wales for university and stayed for love. Last year she worked with people from all walks of life –  from Jean Claude Van Damme to Denise Welch (you can watch this in “Loserville” – one of Zoe’s projects – very soon on BBC Wales). In her spare time, Zoe likes to pamper her dog, George, and runs a small dog clothing company called dogtailor.

Zoe was photographed on Albany Road in Roath by Simon Ayre

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“To me, it’s my passion and I am proud to have done it all in Cardiff” – Terry

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1996 was a good year. I got my A levels, “Cool Britannia” was in full swing, and the British were making the best music in the world again and London where I am from, was the centre of the world.

It was also the year I came to University in Cardiff and the year I discovered my great passion, Korfball.

Despite playing several typical sports at school, and being pretty good at one or two, I was determined to do something different, and it doesn’t get much more different than Korfball, and mixed sex hybrid of basketball and netball (the one with the tall yellow posts).

Throughout my five University years, (I had nothing better to do) I played a lot of Korfball in Cardiff and met numerous friends whom are still that today.

The centre of this Korfball Universe was Lys Talybont, an identikit sports hall to everyone you have ever seen before.

To me, it’s special. To me, it’s where I won the British University Sports Association (BUSA) National Championships in 2001, the finest moment of my life.

I had qualified as a Korfball coach in 1998, and started where all coaches deserve to start, at the bottom, finishing last in the 1999 Nationals. The following year, we did somewhat better coming 9th. However, it was 2001 Cardiff made their indelible mark on British Korfball.

A strong season with strong British Student squad players had made Cardiff dark horses, but we remained un-fancied, because we had no pedigree, no experience of doing well. However, several close knock out games put us in the final against the run away favourites Sheffield.

I don’t remember my team talk (and sure this is a good thing!), I don’t remember most of the game, but I do remember in slow motion the winning move and goal; which, for added excitement, was in (the first and only to date) Golden Goal period after normal time finished level. Cardiff won 8-7 and was crowned the best in the UK for the first time in their history. They were also crowned the Cardiff University Athletic Union Club of the Year, and picked up no less than seven individual colours awards.

Since that inspirational day, I have worked constantly to promote the sport and develop the players in Cardiff.

I have co-founded a city team, and took them to the regional league title, established Wales, and taken them to the European B level Gold medal, and having won the local league last year with the University, I am now going to coach my own team Cardiff Dragons KC.

Korfball maybe a minority sport in Cardiff, played in sports halls you have never been in, but to me, it’s my passion and I am proud to have done it all in Cardiff.

Terry D Matthews works as an office manager for an equality charity in Cardiff, where he has been living since 1996 when he came for University to study Chemistry. He was awarded the British Korfball Association Certificate of Merit for Outstanding achievement in 2006 and is the only person to have achieved this for achievements based in Wales. He also watches foreign films and wishes he could take better photos. He currently lives in Roath.

Terry was photographed outside Cathays Library by Adam Chard

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“The stranger arrives to a city, alone” – Wayne

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The stranger arrives to a city, alone,
In search of himself, in search for a home,
He stands in the street, the buildings are tall,
The stranger is big, at that moment he’s small,
So many faces, go rushing by,
The stranger don’t know if he’ll smile or he’ll cry,
But filled with excitement the stranger persists,
And wonders if true happiness really exists,
As days turns to weeks, and months into years,
There’s moments of fun there’s moments of tears
But the stranger works hard and the stranger fits in
And to his surprise things start to begin
His friends and his work and a place to call home
The stranger’s content and never alone,
He socially climbs and reaches the top,
He’s busy enjoying the stranger don’t stop
His life’s been a journey a beautiful ride
To a wonderful place with great friends by his side
The stranger is happy the stranger feels free,
I’m ever so glad that stranger is me!

Originally from Pontarddulais in Swansea, where he worked as a gravedigger, Wayne Courtney moved to Cardiff in 2007 and is now a full-time nurse and part-time events organiser. Wayne now calls Roath his home, and he is a regular in the pubs, clubs and coffee houses there, where he has been christened Roath’s Premiere Socialite.

Wayne was photographed in the beer garden of The Albany pub by Adam Chard

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“In Cardiff, if you do well you’re celebrated” – Jo

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I don’t have any Welsh roots as such. I’m a West Country girl born and bred although my Dad is a Londoner via Yorkshire… it’s complicated. Anyway, my Grandfathers last partner Frances was a full on Welsh wonder woman from mid-Wales who did the best burnt cooked breakfast ever and had a large collection of brass things in the living room of their London terraced house. She had a huge family who we visited a few times. I remember them being very rowdy and a good laugh. I’d also been on numerous holidays to Wales and once ran away from a man conversing to me in Welsh at the Eisteddfod. I was eight at the time and not prepared for a well-meaning Welsh man talking to me in a scary foreign language. It never occurred to me that I’d one day be calling the Welsh capital my home.

When I first started visiting Cardiff I was rather nonplussed about the city. At the time my best friend had moved away from Bristol and I was visiting her where she was living in Cathays in early 2008. St Mary Street did nothing for me and I was very quick to base my whole impression of the city on one street – that and my best friend’s dodgy live-in landlord who was keen to show us his metallically enhanced todger. Everything changed when she moved to her own flat in Roath several months later and I saw a side of Cardiff that didn’t involve drunk scantily clad girls and genital piercings.

After spending some wonderful weekends checking out the local area in Roath, the fantastic choice of cafes and restaurants, a huge beautiful park and an overall happy relaxed feeling about the place it suddenly occurred to me that I was missing out in Bristol, big time. It was then that I came up with a cunning plan to finally go to university which allowed me to avoid the issue of finding a new job and enabling me to move to Cardiff with a porpoise, I mean purpose. As a keen artist and musician I decided that a Media Studies degree would be a good idea. I still don’t understand my logic and spent many a night sobbing into the never ending pages of media theory. Putting on my best puppy eyes my friend took me in and I’ve been living in her compact flat near Albany Road ever since.

In the short space of time living in Cardiff I don’t think I’ve ever had so many fantastic opportunities. I get asked – asked! – to show my artwork. I get asked to play paid gigs. My blog even made it to the final of the Wales Blog Awards in 2010. Things like that don’t happen in Bristol. You’re either part of the scene or you’re an outsider. If you’re an outsider you have to work 200% to get involved with anything. In Cardiff if you do well you’re celebrated. In Bristol if you do well you’re criticized. I am an incredibly shy person and in a cold, hostile environment I can’t get out of myself. There’s a friendly feeling about Cardiff which has really had an effect on me. I feel comfortable which means I can take steps into areas unimaginable before.

Last year I decided that Cardiff was where I wanted to be indefinitely. Have I changed my mind this year? Of course not! It’s Cardiff all the way for me!

Jo Whitby started making music in 1995, admittedly her first song was about Christmas trees but she’s grown a lot since then. Teaching drums for a few years in Bristol Jo then wandered over the second Severn crossing (not the first one) in 2008 and started a new musical project called Laurence Made Me Cry. She gave birth in 2009 to an illustration business called I Know Jojo which she saw as a good excuse to draw characters from Doctor Who. Jo is also co-founder of the music and culture webzine Cat On The Wall. She currently lives in Roath.

Jo was photographed outside The Gate by Adam Chard

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“Cardiff, city of new height. Capital of Wales. Darling of the valleys. Principal shopping magnet for all of western Britain – opened a year too late” – Peter

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I’m in the lozenge-shaped city again. It’s the one I come from. Where I was born and where I still live. Water south, hills north. A city of rhomboid sprawl. Where else would I be? I’m standing on the B4487 in bright early-morning sunlight. Traffic low. Birds in inner-city twitter. This was the Via Julia Maritima once, the paved Roman route west. A thousand years on it was the stage coach route to London. Full of ruts and mud. Then it was the hard-topped A48, when A roads meant something. Newport Road when I was a kid. Still is. The Africans are walking down it now. The endless displaced. Heading up beyond Roath Court for the Refugee Council at Phoenix House. Fewer now that the recession has hit. Polski Sklep having a hard time. The Czech shop already closed.

We always wondered why in this place there was so much new housing. Apartments rising like corn right across the boom city. Concrete mixers. Deliveries of brick. Tower cranes like locusts. Men in hard hats in every bar. What drew them to this capital? What were we doing that made them come? Nothing, it turns out. Investors are blind. Invest where walls rise and your money will climb in step. No need to sell what you’ve built. Let the vacant towers glitter. Let their apartments stand empty, value accumulating as prices soar. Manage a let if a visitor asks. Sell one to an executive needing a town centre toehold. Rooms with a water view for singles. Wasp territory. Audi in the undercroft. Wine in the rack. Families not needed. No toy cupboards. No gardens. No schools.

Now that boom has bust these investments stand barren. For Sale. To Let. To Let. Those not yet completed stay so. A city half-finished. For now.

Yet the centre flourishes. Come here on a match-day to see it at its peak. Street theatre, music, men on tightropes playing violins, Roma bands with clarinet and double bass, student duos with bright guitars, the Red Choir – some of them sitting now – still ushering in freedom outside the covered market, Chinese selling me my name bent in wire, Ninjah in bling and Sgt Pepper Jacket beating rhythm on the street furniture. The Big Issue seller with his dog in costume. The Coptic Christians. The Gaza protestors. The shaved heads of the Hari Krishnas weaving through the crowd. More vibrant life on Queen Street than at any previous time in its history.

St David’s 2 – the comprehensive redevelopment of those parts of the centre unscathed by previous interventions – hit the concrete mixers in 2004. Not only were the broken wrecks beyond Hills Street and all final centre traces of Victorian Cardiff wiped but much of Cardiff’s seventies restructuring along Bridge Street and the Hayes went too. Twenty-five years was as long as Iceland and the new library lasted. St David’s, because he is our patron saint and a Welsh symbol the world will recognise. Cardiff, city of new height. Capital of Wales. Darling of the valleys. Principal shopping magnet for all of western Britain. And in terms of the boom, opened a year too late. Vacant lots waiting for the fall to bottom. The recession has taken the gilt. I went through yesterday. Brave faces. Glass and just that little bit of echo. Promise not yet completely fulfilled.

Back on Newport Road it is as if the fifties are still with us. Victorian three-storey housing still in need of a repaint. Bed and breakfast vacancies. Hopeful signs saying that Construction Workers are Welcome. En-suite at no extra charge. Chip shop at the end of Broadway selling Clarks pies. Someone removing their front wall so that they can park their car in their front garden. Couple of kids on skateboards. Nigerian with an iPod. Man on a bike, no helmet. Cardiff as it was, still is.

That’s why I live here. Because Cardiff is. This piece is adapted, cut, spliced and mashed from Real Cardiff Three (Seren Books) – part of my on-going obsession with the city in which I was born. Check http://www.peterfinch.co.uk/cardiff.htm for more.

Peter Finch is a poet and psychogeographer who lives in east Cardiff. His latest collection of poetry, Zen Cymru, was published by Seren this year. He runs Academi, the Literature Development Agency for Wales.

Peter was photographed in Cardiff Bay by Adam Chard

***

“it’s funny to remember world famous American DJ David Morales arriving for a four hour set at the Coal Exchange and demanding a Burger King before he went on stage, which meant heading back in to town” – Henry

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In many ways this is where it all began for me in Cardiff – the magnificent Coal Exchange building in Butetown Cardiff. I arrived in the city from Manchester in September 1992 to work in the University Union Entertainments department and within months was co-promoting a dance music night called Spice of Life with Gareth Evans and local DJ and house music pioneer Dave Jones. In January 1994 we secured the Coal Exchange to launch a brand new night.

We scratched our heads as to what to call the new project – it had to be something bloody good as the venue was out of this world for a clubbing event. If you look closely at the clock above my head in the photo there is a gold inscription, the motto of the Coal Exchange, that reads TEMPUS FUGIT. So there it was. Tempus Fugit was launched on Saturday 22nd January 1994 with Dave Jones and Craig Bartlett as resident DJs.

And the parties there took off overnight, so much so that we had to move after just three events to the bigger, equally impressive and more centrally located City Hall building. It was here that we changed the name of the night to the English translation of Tempus Fugit……….Time Flies – a name that has lasted the test of time, and still pulls in the crowds in Wales today. There were a few different reasons for the name change, the best one being that Pete Tong could never pronounce Tempus Fugit correctly on his Friday evening BBC Radio 1 Essential Selection show.

Looking back it’s funny to remember world famous American DJ David Morales arriving for a four hour set at the Coal Exchange and demanding a Burger King before he went on stage, which meant heading back in to town. The area of the city where the venue is has since undergone a complete transformation with the creation of Cardiff Bay and now boasts an array of fantastic restaurants and bars in the fashionable Mermaid Quay that Morales could choose from today. Plus the iconic Wales Millennium Centre is there now too.

Certainly in the two decades I have known Cardiff I have seen the city change beyond all recognition. The building of the Millennium Stadium put the Welsh capital on the global map permanently, particularly as the English Football Association contrived to make a complete balls-up of the redevelopment of Wembley and so handed Cardiff such prestigious sporting events as the FA Cup, the League Cup and Play-off finals for six years that were beamed around the world to massive audiences and so attracted visitors who would never have thought of coming here. Liverpool made so many appearances at the Stadium it’s rumoured the players and fans bought properties in the Bay.

Thirty minutes from gorgeous beaches, 30 minutes from the Brecon Beacons and 30 minutes from the nearest airport, Cardiff is in many ways unique and a fantastic city to be a part of.

Henry Blunt lives in Roath, has a 4 year old daughter and has been running Time Flies and staging shows in Wales for 18 years. You can find out more about his up-and-coming events by visiting the Time Flies website, and you can find both Henry and Time Flies on Facebook. Contact him here: henry@timefliesuk.com. Henry currently lives in Roath.

Henry was photographed outside the Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay by Adam Chard

***

“far, far away of the forgotten welsh woods” – Steve

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so you think you’ve had goose

bumps

all up your arms

or

the hairs stood tall and straight

like gunless young soldiers

maybe

your neck

the one you stuck out

when you held your perhaps

baby looking into those eyes or

life in your buttery hands

maybe

when the soft robes

of death brushed against you

like a black speeding motorcar

skidding

careering

tearing

across your out-of-control-heart

only then may you ask of the voice in the darkness:

have you

ever one (little) bird heard

wretch in the far, far away

of the forgotten welsh woods

and now those butterflies

that flapped in your middle turn

back, back to wing

less worms

crawling

blindly

mad larvae

through the star starved auto

mobile world of our city

yearning to writhe

and die in the bay.


Steve Lucas is a musician, writer and poet living in Cardiff. He is the creator of the underground rock icon Samba Lucas. You can listen to his music at: www.myspace.com/sambalucas

Steve was photographed in Cardiff Bay by Simon Ayre

***

“I lost all dignity in front of that aesthetically pleasing boy” – Ellen

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Cardiff is six years’ worth of moves and kettles and fudge covered non stick pans, six years of house parties and Neighbours into Radio 4 into “I’m blossoming into a middle class liberal,” and six years’ worth of heartbreak, back scratching kisses and instant intimacy gone wrong then filed under “but that’s what you do at university”.

One of my earliest memories is being in Talybont halls of residence, and taking photos of a hedgehog with its head stuck in a crisp packet instead of helping it out, and one of my most recent memories is watching the kids from next door laying their plastic toys out in the road to die and nearly causing a car accident. I remember the days of post-house-party tears caused by student-targeting thieves who snuck in and took your phone and your laptop, and how I lost all dignity in front of that aesthetically pleasing boy when I threw up in a hedge after the summer ball.

I remember stumbling upon the wooden sculptures in Bute Park and decisively considering a move to Pontcanna before backtracking back to Roath, I remember thinking more about going to the Riverside Market then going and I remember the dairy induced stomach ache after the Cardiff Castle Cheese Festival.

I regret the places I had to avoid post-boy breakup and the restaurants I still haven’t been to, and I maintain at some point I will go to the bingo, play air hockey and visit Techniquest all on the same day. I rejoice in Chapter for the Shakespeare Reading Group which helped inspire a hint of confidence in my own voice, and the owner of the now shut La Casca, who always remembered what type of coffee I wanted and made me feel strangely relevant for five minutes on lonely days. Your backdrop is always important in terms of development and Cardiff has borne witness to and helped me transcend from insecure confused teenager to indecisive slightly befuddled woman, and I thank it.

Ellen Waddell has lived in Cardiff since she was 19. She enjoys the theatre though never goes and her turn-ons include greek yoghurt, doc martins and writing about herself in the third person. She often laments at the lack of places to play table football in this fair city and is sure if she hadn’t become a musician she would have made a top rate life model. She thinks being paid to sit naked and get stared at by artists seems alright. Her favourite childhood film is Willow and one day she hopes to give Warwick Davies a high five and a home made award for services to humanity. Follow her twitter: @ellenstarbuck. She currently lives in Roath.

Ellen was photographed on City Road by Simon Ayre

“One thing I love about being here is the squirrels” – Lily Mae

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I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia and how I came to live in Cardiff was a matter of chance.

I had never before been overseas and my life was beginning to stagnate in Melbourne. I had worked an amazing job at a gallery and attended a fantastic art college, but as that degree was drawing to an end I just couldn’t really see what I was going to do afterward. At the end of the school year there are always a few scholarships going and I found one that was for travelling. I applied for it and won.

My partner Gene and I got married, packed our bags and left Australia. We didn’t really know what to expect from our travels, but I think we just both felt that it was something we needed to do.

A lot of people tell me they think that is romantic.

We arrived in Berlin at the tail end of winter, from a very hot Australian summer (there had been bad bush fires that year) and wore every piece of clothing we had packed to try and adjust.

Berlin was amazing. We did so much and had so much happen to us in just six months … I met so many great artists, and had a solo exhibition; but there is little work there and we were running out of money so we had to look at our options. These were: move to somewhere we could find work and try our luck, or go home.

They say “you can never go home again”.

We knew there was work in the UK, and Cardiff is known to have lots of film and TV work (plus Doctor Who). So we took our chances and for the second time, blindly moved to another country.

I’d also been interested in Wales before, as a lot of my family came from here. I still haven’t had the chance to track them down as all I have is a tentative surname, Tibbet-Jones. That’s a bit frustrating. I always wanted to know more about my family and where this crazy drawing of mine comes from.

Before we knew it, Gene was working for some pretty cool companies and even did work on Doctor Who! Still when I think about Doctor Who, I think of Tom Baker, his hair, his awesome scarf (I gave Gene a scarf much like it once) and being frightened by the dodgy special effects.

I was working a lot on my art when I first arrived here, then I got a bit underwhelmed by the struggle to find my own employment. Minimum wage here is tough. In Australia, we have more of a selection of pay. Here, it really gets me down to see how many jobs pay so poorly.

I did eventually get some casual work at Chapter, which I was very excited about. However shortly after that I became pregnant and pretty unwell. I had to give up my job as I needed bed rest. It’s taken me a few months, but I am able to separate my association between Chapter and morning sickness, which is really good as it is such a great space to go and visit and I really enjoy their food.

Winter here was interesting. It was apparently colder and snowier than usual. I thought I couldn’t cope at first, but in January we went back to visit Berlin where it was minus seventeen degrees. When we arrived back in Wales to a measly minus two degrees, that amazingly seemed warm to us.

Cardiff was new, morning sickness was relentless and winter was isolating. I came to hate my bedroom and think of it as a prison. It was a pretty rough time, but when the end of winter was approaching Gene and I moved to a new house and left all of that behind us.

One thing I love about being here is the squirrels. Whenever walking past the university I’d watch the squirrels for a little while. My presence there confused passers by. But I’m confused that people can be so blase about squirrels. They’re the best thing ever, in animal form.

We began to see more of Cardiff and I finally got to know it as a city. I really like the parks here and like to catch the train out to random places and just walk for hours and hours.

What has surprised me the most is the culture shock I experienced. Every city is different, but I didn’t go through nearly the same struggle to adjust in Berlin as I did here. And the more history I read about this place the more confused I get; I recently found out about the trams they used to have here, and then tore up which, I assume, was to make way for the Queen Street we know today. I just think shopping centre after shopping centre kills any kind of culture or city atmosphere.

I’m not sure how long we are going to stay here. I’m never really sure of anything like that.

Lily Mae Martin is an artist. You can visit her website at http://www.lilymaemartin.com/. She currently lives in Roath.

Lily Mae was photographed at her studio by Simon Ayre