We’ve recently started a new series of posts on the We Are Cardiff blog called Street seen. It’s basically – you’ve guessed it – people we’ve seen on the streets of Cardiff. Or in parks. Or just around generally, you know what I mean.
Asking people to write stories about the city can be quite daunting, as evidenced by the number of people who ask about taking part in the site and then freeze as soon as they’re asked to write something, retreating slowly from my persistent emails like Peter Griffin backing slowly out of a room where he’s just accidentally set something on fire. I should know, I’ve been trying (and failing) to write my own Cardiff story for the past five months!
Anyway. To try and combat this and also vary things up a bit on the blog we’re doing these shorter posts that are more focused on the photography and the small but tasty morsels of information we find out about people while taking their pictures.
It’s been great motivation to take my camera out and start talking to random people (not that I ever need any encouragement to do that, but anyway). People do share the most unexpected information with you in passing. Also up until now I’ve just been doing mostly admin type things for We Are Cardiff – the ‘office’ backend stuff, so it’s nice to get into it and do something practical for the project. I do help out on photoshoots and I have been producing the We Are Cardiff film, but again that’s mostly admin or runner-type tasks. It’s nice to be doing something creative for it.
The first ‘Street seen’ post went up on Sunday and featured someone I actually know – Lia Moutselou, who runs the Lia’s Kitchen blog and was holding a stall at the Made In Roath Spring Fiesta. Most of the posts will be anonymous unless those photographed specifically want their details shared. I kind of like the different style of post compared with our usual ‘We Are Cardiff’ posts, which are intensely personal and packed with details. Variety is good, eh?
To read Lia’s post, click on her photograph below.
I went for a wander into town yesterday and popped into my local library, which happens to be Cardiff Central Library. It’s such an improvement from the old library (the horrible red brick monster on the edge of the Hayes, if any of you remember that). This one is big and airy and futuristic – all angles and open space and wood and glass and steel. I love it.
Libraries are cool! I especially like ours. It still feels shiney and new, even though it’s a couple of years old now. You should make a point of popping in on your next trip into Cardiff city centre. They have loads of info about events going on in the city.
Another one I somehow managed to miss from before Christmas – the lovely Gwion Thorpe cornered me outside the We Are Cardiff Roath Stories exhibition and managed to get a snap of me enjoying some beer in between sorting out the event. Phew! He also wrote a very nice article which accompanies the photo, which you can read here: Inspiring Cardiff – Helia Phoenix. Have a click through his site. There’s a lot of nice stuff on there!
I mentioned before that a piece of my writing is on display alongside a photo on Banksy at MShed in Bristol. A couple of people weren’t able to make the exhibition, so asked if I could put the writing online somewhere for them to read. Well, my mum asked. So here you go ma! My friend Pam and I went to the exhibition for the launch party – pictures are below.
Of course you know me. We’ve met before. But you don’t remember.
You try desperately to remember. But my face is a greasy penny, slipping between your fingers into the cracks of the pavement, escaping into Bristol beyond.
We met on Park Street. I had my high visibility vest and my stepladder. We passed in the street. You turned as I passed, but the harder you looked for me, the less you could see.
You followed the paint drips down the street and thought that you caught me, red handed – paint brush in hand, stencilling the wall. You shouted, angry. Vandal! Trickster! You rushed me. Knocked the ladder. I fell, and shattered into a thousand pieces.
You panicked. Swept me up, and threw me away. But as you looked into the bin, you saw every tiny shard start sprouting arms, and legs, paint brushes, and stepladders. A tiny army of teachers, nurses, ambulance drivers. Wearing monkey masks. Dreaming of revolution.
I was seeds on fertile earth. From a two-armed man to a seven nation octopus, swaying around with dangerous ideas, minds of their own, and spraycans attached to their tentacles.
Of course you know me. We’ve met, remember? You shook my hand.
The nice folks at RoathCardiff asked me to write a short piece about Roath for their ‘Roath People’ series. I don’t live there any more, but lived there for many years of my Cardiff career (including some years as a wee one, between being born and the age of about five). I’ve always loved the place.
A piece of my writing is being shown as part of the Real and Imagined Lives exhibition being held at M Shed in Bristol this autumn/winter. I’m very excited about it! Details about the exhibition are below. It’s there from 20 October 2012 to 6 January 2013. My writing will be displayed alongside one of the photographs. But I can’t tell you which one. It’s a secret….
On loan from the National Portrait Gallery, London this exhibition looks at identity through fame and anonymity, reality and fiction and how people will be remembered.
The mysterious 16th and 17th century portraits in Imagined Lives have inspired internationally renowned authors to create fantasy character sketches and fictional biographies. Bringing to life the sitters whose identities have been lost or misattributed. Who are these people? What do the paintings unveil about the anonymous?
In Real Lives, local writers offer their alternative insight into the people we think we know through contemporary photographic portraits of people with a Bristol connection, including Damien Hirst, JK Rowling, Stephen Merchant and Iris Murdoch.
UPDATE. Due to circumstances out of my control, I’ll no longer be manning the poetry booth at Made In Roath. Maybe next year…
Well, this is a little bit exciting, isn’t it? As part of Made In Roath 2012 festival, I’ll be installed in the hack flash poetry booth in Queens Arcade. Pick a subject, pick a price, and I’ll write you a poem! All proceeds going to Llamau and the We Are Cardiff documentary film. More detailed info will be posted on this page as soon as I have it.
Got a problem? Want some advice? Or just fancy a poem that was written just for you, about any subject of your choosing? Writer and community artist Helia Phoenix will be installed in the hack flash poetry booth to write you a personalised poem, solving your riddles through the medium of words. Yes – words.
How does it work? Pick a subject, pick your price, and Helia will serve you with some scribed poetic wisdom all of your own.
All proceeds are being donated to a href=”http://www.llamau.org.uk/”Llamau/a, a charity working to improve the lives of homeless young people and vulnerable women in south Wales, and also to the a href=”http://wearecardiffportraitofacity.wordpress.com”We Are Cardiff film/a, a documentary about alternative culture in Cardiff – arts, sports, sustainability and community.
Yes, that is right – We Are Cardiff shortlisted for Best Community Blog for the third year running! (always the bridesmaid, never the bride). Also shortlisted for new category, Best Multimedia Blog, thanks in no small part to the small and growing army of photographers who take snaps for the website.
I wrote a review of Green Man 2012 for Plastik Magazine. You can read the full review here (with embedded videos/images) or see below for text.
Green Man 2012 – festival review
Disclaimer. You’ll see by the photographs, this was a fairly muddy festival. It didn’t rain all weekend long (in fact Saturday and Sunday afternoons were blazing hot). But there was enough rain to make it pretty squishy underfoot. I’ll try and keep the mud and rain descriptions to a minimum and concentrate on the “festival experience”. Mkay?
You all know how the weeks leading up to any UK festival go these days. Every morning, you check the weather. Before you go to bed, you check the weather. The week before, you check the weather at least three times a day, and usually on at least three different websites before assuring yourself – no, it’s not going to be a mudbath this year…
In the week leading up to Green Man, there were no such happy thoughts. I’m a 100 per cent fair weather festival fan – I’ve never relished the idea of wading around through mud soup for three days. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at the festival site on Friday afternoon, right in the middle of a three hour downpour, to go and fetch tickets and then park my campervan in the live in vehicle field. (See? Told you I was a fair weather festival goer. No tent for me).
After managing to dodge various caravans and horse boxes that had got stuck in the mud around the live in vehicle area, my companion and I parked up next to some friends, who were having their first weekend away from their two young kids since before the first one was born (around four years ago). (Their family situation will become relevant later, so read on).
They had already put away the best part of a bottle of rum by the time we got there, so we hurried on with the wellies and ponchos, packed away some bladders of cider in a rucksack and headed into the festival.
For those of you who’ve never been before, Green Man festival is situated in the beautiful Black Mountains near the River Usk. The site is in the middle of beautiful rolling countryside, mountains and hills. Even with a touch of light drizzle, it’s blimming beautiful.
Friday was spent doing that first exciting ‘let’s explore the festival!’ for a couple of hours. This consisted of hiding from the rain in every bar tent we came across, before making it up the slippery hill to the Far Out! tent, where the Friday night line up was a breathy, electronic indiepop affair, with Errors, Lower Dens, Cass McCombs and Junior Boys providing the warm up for psychedelic rock headliners, The Bees. Highlight of this tent was definitely Glasgow band Errors – a pleasingly noisy start to Friday night.
We then headed to Chai Wallahs for some of New York’s finest, rapper and beatboxer Joe Driscoll.
After we’d got a bit funky to that, we thought we’d investigate some comedy, as Robin Ince was on in the Comedy Stage. Unfortunately, due to usual amounts of ‘buying drinks/buying food/need to roll a fag/need to buy some chewing gum/can I just eat a pie’ faffing, we got to the stage just as the throngs were leaving as Robin Ince had just finished.
We made the journey back up the hill to Chai Wallahs to see Bristol funk band Yes Sir Boss. I had so many plans – going to see main stage headliners Mogwai, going to listen to the sweet sweet voice of Cate le Bon. But no. Without the responsibility of their children for the weekend, my friends (remember them?) went a bit nuts. They drank their cider, downed a bottle of rum, drank every warm drink on offer in Chai Wallahs (chai brandy, whiskey coffee, rum hot chocolate … mmm …). They wanted beats, dammit! So the sludgy ground and orange candle glow of Chai Wallahs became our home for the next six hours.
I’ll run you briefly through the excellent acts we saw: after Yes Sir Boss was Solid Steel new school talent, DJ Cheeba, who played an excellent DJ/AV set. All your standard big party tunes with accompanying visuals and effects. After Cheeba was Hackney live hip hop band, Lazy Habits, followed by a dark and bass heavy set from DJ Switch – electro, house, classic hip hop, dubstep – it was all there, plus a tent full of friendly people who were fairly mud free – apart from one girl who was trying to do some rock and roll dancing with a guy she’d just pulled, and ended up instead doing a face plant into the mud. Ouch.
At five am, we dragged ourselves round the entire perimeter of the festival trying to find our way back to where we were camped, to try and sleep and get ready for round two.
There aren’t many mornings where you can lie in bed and listen to the sounds of Cardiff’s Sweet Baboo playing his first set with a full live band as the songs waft up the hill towards you. Saturday was one of those mornings. Sweet Baboo must have been the busiest musician on the Green Man roster for 2012, with five appearances in total (by himself and also in other bands). When he plays solo, his tunes are quirky and intimate. With a full band behind him, they’re warm and inviting, and wrap themselves around you like an off kilter cuddle at 3am. In short, it was very good. If you get the chance to see him play like that, I’d recommend it.
Given the epic Friday night session we had had, Saturday was a much more relaxed affair. Highlights were beatboxer and guitarist Philip Henry with violin player Hannah Martin (truly amazing), experimental electro-rock duo Rocketnumbernine who scared the crap out of everyone with their stage show (that consisted of a young boy wearing a tiger mask and doing weird movements to the music), lovely American folk from Dark Dark Dark, and upbeat Senegalese rhythms from Nuru Kane.
I’m pretty ashamed to say that by about seven pm on the Saturday, my resolve to see everything on that night was starting to fade. We headed back to the campervan for some booze and food, but got distracted by the prospect of a warm, log fire-heated shower. We were, of course, absolutely stinking with mud by this point. So we fetched towels and headed to the Buddha Field where I enjoyed the best festival shower ever. Best two pounds I spent all weekend.
After getting back to the campervan and getting clean clothes on, I realised there was no way back out for me. So I got a cup of hot chocolate, got into bed, opened the windows and listened to Yann Tiersen and Metronomy as their sets rolled up the hill and into my van. It was most, most agreeable.
One of my favourite parts of any festival is the festival radio. Lying around in your tent on a Sunday morning, trying to muster the energy to get up and eat a Mars Bar or at least drink some Lucozade. Unfortunately there was no festival radio at Green Man this year, so Sunday morning’s soundtrack was the plinky plonky folk of Seamus Fogarty followed by a walk around Einstein’s Garden.
Einstein’s Garden is one of my favourite parts of Green Man, where there are stalls and stands around with learning activities for kids. When I say ‘learning activity’, you think – ‘boring’. But actually there were stands called things like ‘The Egg and Sperm race’, and Cardiff and Bristol Universities teaching kids about the solar system and about how molecules in corn flour and water work. There were also enormous hula hoops to play with. It was awesome. My friend Matt compered at the solar stage there, and did some freestyle poetry about Higgs Boson. I’m not even kidding.
Einstein’s Garden was followed up by some time spent sitting on a wall listening to the wonderful rhythms of Ghostpoet and then some serious headnodding to Alt-J, Cardiff band Islet, and Three Trapped Tigers all up at the Far Out Tent (and it was, truly, far out).
This was my first festival experience with kids in tow, and although the line up for this year’s Green Man wasn’t as strong as previous years, it’s still for my money the best UK festival of its size, in no small part down to all the extra little bits that you can do if you’re there with family. We spent ages in the Future Generations area playing massive Hungry Hungry Hippos and listening to a samba drum workshop – but the festival is small enough to walk across in about ten minutes. A great time at Green Man, as expected – let’s just pray for less mud next year!
I’ve been nominated as one of Project Cardiff’s 50 individuals from the local creative community who are contributing to the life and soul of Cardiff in some way. Thank you, Project Cardiff!
As part of the nomination I’ll have my photo taken (in a ‘proper in-door sit down’ shoot with photographer Lann Niziblian, who is a great photographer and has done some lovely shots for We Are Cardiff). You can read Lann’s thoughts about this insane attempt to take portrait photographs of 50 people and print the images in time for the exhibition in October on the Project Cardiff blog here.
More about Project Cardiff take from their website (I have nothing to do with the organisation of this project, by the way…!):
The cultural identity of Cardiff makes the city a great place to live. Project Cardiff seeks to celebrate this cultural identity by profiling those who are making a positive contribution to the life of the city and highlighting their endeavours. The project intends to provide a starting point for conversations about the way in which Cardiff’s identity has been developed through local innovators and activists.
Project Cardiff: will be a portfolio of 50 portraits of people who have been identified as those who make a contribution to the community of Wales’ capital city. For this inaugural instance of Project Cardiff we have cast our focus upon the city’s creative community.
Project Cardiff will be launched with a two week exhibition at The Senedd in Cardiff Bay from the 13 October – 2 November 2012 and then followed up with a month long exhibition at Milkwood Gallery in Roath during February 2012
Make sure you head down there to see it. It’ll have my mush in it, somewhere!
Episode Four of the hack/flash podcast is now online, for your listening pleasure. Myself and Lee Underpass talk to the lovely Ashli Todd, owner and proprietor of the legendary Spillers Records, oldest record store in the country. We talk about VAT loopholes, Kindles, computer games, and Batman’s bulge. (that last thing is more me talking about it. and it’s more Spiderman that Batman. but anyway).
I’m glad we’ve got some Olympic games here in Cardiff. I’m supportive of the games and like the atmosphere they’ve brought to the city, although I’m not so sure that Trading Standards have handled the whole brand enforcement thing very sensitively with small businesses around the city centre.
My friend Simon who runs Catapult Records in town was on the local news with the Trading Standards guy giving him a rollocking about using the word ‘Olympic’ on their info board outside the shop. What you didn’t see was Simon explaning very patiently to the man that Catapult runs a very successful online mail order business, and while the Olympics are on, all the roads around the city centre are closed and he can’t get deliveries into his shop, which means the business is affected. There’s no compensation or special consideration for him – and yet when he tries to enter into the spirit of the games, he’s told he can’t use the word ‘Olympic’ on a little board outside his shop? Where’s the spirit in that? Do Trading Standards seriously think that anyone is actually going to be persuaded to buy something from a small independent Cardiff shop just because they use the word Olympic in the name of a sandwich?
Of course not. It’s brand policing gone completely insane.
The Olympics have also brought out the nastier side of one member of the Cardiff Retail Partnership, a Mr David Hughes-Lewis who runs a jeweller in Cardiff and has demanded that Cardiff police jail all the homeless people in Cardiff for the duration of the Olympics so that visitors to the city don’t get the wrong impression. Too insane to be true? Yes, but read the news story here.
The story, unfortunately, is typical of the Western Mail’s shoddy reporting: completely one sided, with no alternative view sought from any homeless charities. After the story was published, other members of the Cardiff Retail Partnership (like Boots and John Lewis) distanced themselves from Mr Hughes-Lewis’ comments and Shelter Cymru responded with this comment:
“We are talking about people here, not inconvenient rubbish to be cleared away. There are any number of reasons why people end up living on the streets and our casework has shown time and time again how easily people can find themselves in a crisis and facing homelessness.”
Even the BBC Wales reporting on the story was pretty slack – they filmed two homeless people for comment, one of whom was ex-army and appeared to have suffered some kind of post traumatic stress (and who was so out of it you couldn’t understand a word he said).
I was really saddened by the comments initially made by David Hughes-Lewis. His complaints were relevant – he’d had people leaving rubbish outside his shop, weeing on his shop’s doorstep. But surely even he realises that just jailing them for a couple of months while the games are on won’t achieve anything. Shutting them away for the duration of the games will achieve nothing. There are a lot of reasons why people end up on the street. Aren’t we better off trying to find ways to keep them off it for good rather than filling up our cells with people who are in desperate need of help?
My other gripe is with his presumption that Cardiff needs ‘cleaning up’ so people don’t get the wrong impression when they visit. Unfortunately, we have people who live on the street here. Just moving them around while the games are on doesn’t change anything. In fact, it gives a false impression of the city. As someone who works hard to improve Cardiff’s reputation, I don’t say that lightly. But this city is everyone that lives in it: the homed, the homeless, and all the people in between, and I don’t buy into the idea that we need to hide any single ‘group’ to prove what a great place Cardiff is. The fact is, it’s a great place, with all those groups included.
If we’re really serious about helping people get off the streets, it should be a long term aim and an aspiration, not just short term and ‘under the carpet’. What happens when they’re back on the street? They’re still going to need to wee somewhere, aren’t they? And if I knew who had put me away, I’d know exactly which doorstep I’d head to first to relieve myself.
Dic Mortimer has written far more eloquently on this subject on his blog, I’d suggest you go over there and read that.
One of my good friends in Cardiff is a designer called Adam. We met at work a few years ago. Now Adam is taking the leap from a 9-5 into a world of freelance, and he’s giving himself a creative reboot by heading off to Toronto for a few months (though potentially forever, who knows these things).
For those who don’t know him, this is Adam in his most frequently adopted photography pose. I don’t know why, but he always seems to end up on the floor when he’s taking pictures of things…
Adam is a brilliant designer and photographer and was one of the co-founders of hack/flash and the We Are Cardiff project. He also makes beautiful music and is lead screamer in the band Last Partisan, so I wanted to do a quick blog post about his work to lush him up and wish him well on his travels.
The posters for the Flux=Rad nights
Cover for Andrew Paul Regan’s album ‘The Silence and the Noise’
(Comes with three interchangeable inserts to change the cover – visit Andy’s bandcamp to order)
Had to put this one in – album cover design for Body Fossil (who is also my boyfriend and wrote me this album for my birthday last year)
One of a series of posters done for Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff…
I especially love this poster for Please Mind Your Head, which was made by filling a mask with water and paint, freezing it, and then photographing it as it defrosted in his sink.
Gruff Rhys at the BBC Club, Cardiff
Drains at Buffalo in Cardiff
Kutosis photoshoot in Bute Park, Cardiff
Cadence Weapon at Clwb Ifor Bach
Strange News from Another Star at Clwb Ifor Bach
Breakin’ The Bay
Bethan Elfyn We Are Cardiff photoshoot
Samoans at Clwb Ifor Bach
Goodtime Boys at Undertone
Los Campesinos at The Globe
Inhalite video shoot
Photoshoot for We Are Cardiff documentary filming
Adam’s also an honorary member of the Tiger Bay Brawlers roller derby team – he’s a regular fixture at away matches, and has photographed most of their bouts over the past year
Not a bad portfolio, eh? I’m really excited for Adam to be setting off onto a new adventure, though obviously I’m sad he’ll be leaving work, where I get to see him everyday. I can’t wait to see what he gets up to over there. Have an amazing time, mate!
This evening, a community project that I run called We Are Cardiff is having the launch party for its first ever hyperlocal exhibition, taking place in Roath in Cardiff. It’s where I was born, in fact.
Been a while since I did one of these. A mixtape for the spring. Right click on the image or this link and save to download.
Ronny Jordan – The Jackal
Radiohead – Lotus Flower
Django Django – Hail Bop
Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen
Martha and the Vandellas – Nowhere to Run
The Jam – Town Called Malice
Azealia Banks – 212
Queens of the Stone Age – Go With The Flow
Talking Heads – Burning Down The House
The super lovely Emily Bater from Lights Camera Cardiff interviewed me a few weeks back about the We Are Cardiff film I’m making and about my life generally … and then wrote this really nice article. Thank you Emily!
We’ve done a bunch of filming for the We Are Cardiff documentary since I last posted on here. You should check out the film blog for full updates on progress… but in the meantime, here’s the mini trailer that the lovely Dangerous Doug Films have made for it. Enjoy