Made in Roath: Part 3

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As part of Made in Roath, The Closed Road provided an eclectic mix of activites in a relatively small space.

There was music…

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arts and crafts…

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yet more artwork…

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chickens…

(they provide educational workshops on where chickens and eggs come from. The owners of the chickens that is, not the actual chickens themselves)

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And my personal favourite, the Milkwood caravan. Milkwood is a gallery a short walk from my home. They use the caravan as a mobile venue. For the festival, they asked people to tell them their story, and in return you got a free book. I chose a Lonely Planet guide to Germany. It’s a few years out of date, but I’m sure some of it is still relevant 🙂

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Made in Roath: Part 2

One of the great things about the Made in Roath festival is that it brings the community together. You find yourself talking to strangers that you have probably walked past hundreds of times and sharing stories with them. Some of the conversations are triggered naturally whilst admiring the same piece of artwork or asking others for directions to your next stop. Some, on the other hand, are slightly more engineered by exhibits that are designed to get people talking.

‘Shelternet’ by Francesc Serra Vila was installed in the community garden to encourage people to come together and get involved. Various activites took place there, including a skills swap. I really like standing in the structure, it felt secure and it reminded me of being in a tent.

Francesc's model for Shelternet
Francesc’s model for Shelternet

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‘The World in Roath’ was a simple, yet brilliant, idea from Johan Hilditch and Linda Hilditch. They put a giant map of the world on a board in the street, and invited everyone to pin their connections to different parts of the planet onto it.

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Clive Ward asked people to contribute to his piece ‘Interacting with our Natural Environment’ by coming along to the conservatory and adding some plastic to it, highlighting the effects of our interaction with the environment.

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Made in Roath: Part 1

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There are many reasons I love my neighbourhood. There’s always something to do here, exciting projects to get involved in and new friends to meet. It’s hard to define exactly where ‘Roath’ is. Officially, Roath doesn’t exist. Cardiff Council will tell you that the area known as Roath is an amalgamation of Plasnewydd, Pen-y-lan and Cathays. Locally, however, I think it will always be known as Roath.

Five years ago, a small group of local artists set up some exhibitions that enouraged new artists to show their work alongside established ones. Flyers were dropped through the doors of neighbourhood houses, inviting people to open up their homes as mini galleries.

One of the Made in Roath numbers that are given out to guide people around the exhibits
One of the Made in Roath numbers that are given out to guide people around the exhibits

Today, the Made in Roath arts festival takes over the entire neighbourhood for a whole week and includes film, music, performance, demonstrations and some things that just can’t be categorised. There’s an amazing buzz around Roath when the festival is on, and the great atmosphere makes it impossible not to leave the house and join the hundreds of people wandering around with festival programmes in their hands.

And the best thing about Made in Roath? It’s free! Oh, and wherever you go, there’s always lots and lots of cake.

It’s impossible to visit all of the events during the festival. There are over sixty inlcuded in the art maps given out to visitors to help them find their way around, and that’s not including the people who just decide to randomly set up on their own. I tried my best to get around as much as I could, though, even when the weather turned against us and it poured down with rain. I’d like to share with you what I experienced during the festival, but even with the limited time I had free I managed to cram in a lot, so I’ve decided to split it up into different posts over the week.

I thought I’d start at the beginning, the reason the festival exists – art.

A record number of people decided to hold open houses this year, and the work ranged from traditional paintings and sculpture to canvases made from melted wax crayons, weaving and textiles, poetry displayed in windows and robots. There was more than enough to fill a day just on my street.

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Jacob Whittaker covered the path to his front door with records to show how the recording format has virtually disappeared in recent years. He also placed pieces of broken record around Roath with QR codes that led to various videos including the first published birdsong recording on a 1920s grampohone.

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‘Facing the Park’ by Betina Skovbro showed a series of individual portraits, placed in the front windows of a row of houses, revealing the people who live there.

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There was also a bigger diversity of locations this year, including pubs, shops, restaurants and even the local laundarette.

Unfortunately, some of the venues were not up to defending themselves against the British weather. New artists having a go at painting as part of ‘Paint the Park’ found their canvases got more than a bit wet.

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My friend Paddy, a professional photographer, included some of his work. My favourite is the first photo 🙂

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All the photos from the 2013 Cardiff Photomarathon were displayed outside one of the community centres. And, as I entered the Photomarathon, I can technically say that I was a contributing artist to Made in Roath. OK, it’s a tenuous link I know, but let me have my moment.

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And, just in case you lost your map or couldn’t decide what you wanted to see, Gerogina Fineman helpfully doodled recommendations of the best things to do every day on the window of my favourite restaurant, Milgi.

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Architecture, Two Ways

I’m mixing my challenges this week. Ailsa’s travel theme is Architecture, and the weekly photo challenge is One Shot, Two Ways.

My first photo is a portrait of some of the new architecture in Cardiff, Central Library and John Lewis department store. When I first moved to Cardiff twelve years ago, this was a main road.

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The second shot I took from exactly the same spot, but I focused in on some of the detail on the library building.

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It being a Sunday, the city centre was very quiet. The library is usually bustling with people, and the hoop sculpture full of kids competing with each other to see who can climb the highest.

Click here to see other entries from the weekly photo challenge, and here to check out the architecture entries on Where’s my backpack?.

Cardiff Bay

After telling you about the Cardiff Bay Barrage, I thought I’d better show you all some of the things that it was built for, as well as some of the older buildings in the area that are important parts of the local history and culture.

Wales Millennium Centre
Wales Millennium Centre

The Wales Millennium Centre is famous as the home of the Welsh National Opera, but there are actually a lot more events and activities that go on there. The carvings on the front of the building, which are also the windows, reads ‘In these stones horizons sing’.

The Pierhead Building
The Pierhead Building

Probably the most noticeable building due to it’s bright red colour, the Pierhead Building was built in 1897 and is the former headquarters of the Bute Dock Company.

The Senedd
The Senedd

The Senedd is where it all happens. It’s the building of the National Assembly for Wales and houses the debating chamber and committee rooms.

Norwegian Church
Norwegian Church

As the name suggests, the Norwegian Church was built as a place of worship for the Norwegian community that once supported the docks. Cardiff’s most famous Norwegian resident was the author Roald Dahl.

The Water Tower
The Water Tower, with the water switched off
Merchant Seafarers' War Memorial
Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial and St David’s Hotel and Spa in the background
Scott Antarctic Memorial
Scott Antarctic Memorial

One of my favourite facts about Cardiff is that this is where Captain Scott departed from on his last voyage in the SS Terra Nova on 15th June 1910.

Cardiff Bay Barrage

When I moved to South Wales fifteen years ago, my first experience of Cardiff was on a day excursion with my university. We were loaded onto a coach, dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere and told to meet our lecturers in the city centre a couple of hours later. Luckily for me, other people in my group had actually visited Cardiff before and knew where the city centre was. Who knows where I would have ended up if it hadn’t been for them.

I soon learnt that the building site in which we had been abandoned was to become Cardiff Bay, a huge development of shops, homes and businesses with a grand opera house as it’s centrepiece. As I listened to the Welsh students telling me about how one day the area would be the place to be seen in Cardiff, and how it was going to attract thousands of tourists, I looked around me and to be honest wasn’t convinced.

Fifteen years on, the Bay is exactly what all it’s supporters said it would be. We have our very own opera house in the Wales Millennium Centre, we are governed by the newly-formed Welsh Assembly that has made it’s home in the Bay and there’s even a Doctor Who Experience.

None of the development in the Bay would have been possible without building the Cardiff Bay Barrage. The Barrage, which stretches all the way over to Penarth, has caused a lot of controversy since the idea was first thought of. Opponents felt that creating a freshwater lake purely for aesthetic reasons was impractical, could cause damage to surrounding properties and would certainly prove to affect local wildlife in the long term. It didn’t just cause arguments here in Wales, either. Apparently even the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got involved (she was against the barrage, and in a rare event was actually beaten down by another politician).

Looking over to Penarth from the Cardiff side
Looking over to Penarth from the Cardiff side

Whatever your opinion of the building of the barrage, it’s here now. With a typical Welsh can-do attitude, the people of Cardiff have made it their own and use the barrage positively. In 2008, after yet more problems, the barrage path opened to pedestrians and cyclists (and skateboarders, rollerbladers and kids renting go-karts – watch where you walk!). The dream of this scenic route was to provide an alternative commute between Cardiff and Penarth that would cut out sitting in two miles of rush-hour traffic. Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable winds and the delayed opening of the path, not many people seem to use it for that purpose.

Enjoying the sun on the barrage, with the copper roof of the Wales Millennium Centre in the background
Enjoying the sun on the barrage, with the copper roof of the Wales Millennium Centre in the background

Take a stroll along the barrage on a sunny weekend, however, and you will find it bustling with locals and tourists. Starting behind the Doctor Who Experience, the path includes childrens playgrounds, a skate park, cafe and visitor centre. My favourite part, though, is definitely the locks that let the boats in and out from the sea to the Bay. I could stand there for hours watching the whole process again and again.

Lock number 1
Lock number 1
You can just see the masts of the boats waiting to come in above the massive gates of the locks
You can just see the masts of the boats waiting to come in above the massive gates of the locks
Lock 2, ready to go
Lock 2, ready to go
Up it goes...
Up it goes…
... and the boats sail through
… and the boats sail through

Cardiff Photomarathon 2013

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Cardiff was bathed in glorious sunshine yesterday. It was the perfect day for the 9th annual photomarathon.

12 photos. 12 topics. 12 hours.

The Rules of Photomarathon

1. Photomarathon is an entirely digital event. You can take part with a digital camera or mobile phone. You must provide your own memory card, which must be empty of images at the beginning of the day.

2.You must capture 12 images on 12 given topics, in the same order that the topics appear on the list given to you. You may delete and re-shoot images as you go, but once you have moved on to the next topic there’s no going back, unless you choose to delete multiple images.

3. You are not permitted to edit the images.

4. You must collect the topics at 10am, 2pm and 6pm, in person, from the Photomarathon HQ.

5. To cross the finish line and receive your certificate of completion, you must return your memory card for downloading by the 10pm deadline.

I wanted to take part in the photomarathon last year, but I didn’t realise there are only 400 places and I missed the registration window. This year, I made sure I got in. You’ve got to be quick, though. Registration opened at 9am, I was online about 3pm and I was entry number 334.

Rather than just turn up on the day with my camera and hope for the best, I tried to have a plan of attack. Although the photomarathon provides entrants with free bus and train travel on the day, I gave myself more flexibility by taking my push bike along as well.

From 8.30am onwards the entrants began to congregate on the start line at the Wales Millennium Centre. You don’t really need an excuse to visit this impressive building.

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At 10am, we were off. And I went for a coffee. Don’t worry, I hadn’t given up yet. Part of my plan was to sit down and brainstorm ideas before I took any photos. Hopefully this forward planning would save me time later on. Well, that was the idea anyway.

I looked at the scrap of paper that a volunteer had handed me with the first four topics on.

Aaaaaarrrrgggggh! was the first thought that went through my mind. This was so stressful already! What on earth was I going to take photos of? My mind had gone completely blank.

OK. Deep breath. Another deep breath. Think.

Here goes…

Topic Number 1: Entry Number/Who Am I?

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It is traditional in the photomarathon for the first topic to be a literal picture of your entry number (to help the judges and organisers) combined with another theme. I found my first prop, a book about family trees, at Cardiff Central Library.

Topic Number 2: Poetry

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Poetry was never one of my strong points at school. I thought about what I find poetic, and song lyrics came to mind.

Topic Number 3: Asymmetrical

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I really liked the idea of biting a chunk out of something symmetrical to make it asymmetrical. The only symmetrical foods I could think of that I can eat, however, were citrus fruits. Not something you would take a bite out of really. A cookie, cake or doughnut would be perfect, but due to my gluten allergy I’d have to find someone to bite into it. Fortunately, my musical friend who helped me with the sheet music for topic 2 was only too happy to oblige.

Topic Number 4: Space

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Should I go for outer space? Maybe planets, the moon or stars. Should I go for relative space? That didn’t seem to fit with my close-cropped style of photography. So I chose the type of space that is like gold dust in Cardiff – a parking space.

Topic Number 5: Out and About

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Seeing as I was out and about myself for the day, I basically just took a photo of the stuff I was using. You can’t tell from the photograph, but I was on the Taff Trail, a popular weekend escape for the inhabitants of Cardiff.

Topic Number 6: Behind the Scenes

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I had to think hard for this one. What images come to mind when I think ‘behind the scenes’? Theatre, shop, television production, bars. Bars! That’s it! I phoned another good friend who manages a bar and asked for a favour.

Topic Number 7: Animated

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Unless they’re the reason I’m taking the shot in the first place, I don’t usually take photos of people. It was really difficult to think of something else in Cardiff that could represent animated. I really wanted to find some lively animals, such as lambs, but we don’t even have a petting zoo here. My friend at the bar suggested going out to the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, where they usually have live animals at the farm, but it seemed a long way to go on the off chance they would be there. The only other thing I could think of were windmills. The big windmill that generates electricity is too big, the rest of my photos were taken close-in. I had, however, seen lots of childrens toy windmills al over the city. Do you think I could find any of them now, though? Of course not. Just as I was giving up hope, I passed a street seller selling some very colourful examples. I settled for just buying one and sticking it in one of the flowerbeds in the park myself.

Topic Number 8: A bit on the side

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To be honest, by this point I was exhausted. My subject matter is probably a bit obvious, but I was just happy to take photo number 8 before I had to go and collect the final set of topics at 6pm.

Topic Number 9: Shadow

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I thought it clever of the organisers to choose this as topic number 9. At 6pm the sun was just going down and the shadows in the city were at their greatest. I wanted to do something different, though, so I raced home and took a photo of my eye shadow.

Topic Number 10: Mixed Message

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The Magic Roundabout, as it is known locally, is famous here in Cardiff. I thought it was the perfect subject matter for this topic.

Topic Number 11: Elegant

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My intention had been to take a shot of the roses in the rose garden, but due to my lack of knowledge about flowers I didn’t realise that the roses are still just stems at the moment. Luckily, I found these beauties next to the conservatory instead.

Topic Number 12: A Different Viewpoint

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My idea was to show the world, or at least going down a slide, from a child’s viewpoint. I wanted to use the big slide, but even at 7pm it was still busy. So I settled for the baby slide instead.

The full Cardiff Photomarathon Exhibition 2013 will be at Cardiff Story, The Hayes 22nd June – 7th July.

Cardiff and the Live Music Scene

One thing that South Wales is passionate about is music. Since I first moved here almost fifteen years ago, I’ve been fortunate to attend many gigs, concerts and impromtu jams. There are fantastic live music venues all over the place, from hidden corners of the city to country lanes in the valleys. They all have their own legends to tell, about now famous bands that were discovered playing in a back room and rock stars who still choose to hang out in a local pub when they’re in Wales.

A handy 20 minute walk from where I currently live in Cardiff is the Royal Oak pub on Broadway. Sunday night at the Royal Oak is Open Mic Night, when this traditional British boozer plays host to a talented bunch of singers and musicians consisting of all ages and different musical tastes.

Not only a great live music venue, the Royal Oak is also famous for it’s boxing gym on one of the upper floors. Whereas most pubs and clubs cover their walls with photos of musicians who have played there, the Oak is wallpapered with images of iconic boxers who trained above the bar whilst the locals supped their pints below.

What I love most about the Royal Oak is the atmosphere. You make friends from when you first walk in the door, and before you know it you’re singing along with everyone else. You might even find yourself with a tambourine in your hand.

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For those of you that want to see some of Cardiff’s musical talent in action, but are unable to make it to South Wales, check out the video below which was shot in another local pub, The Roath Park:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=V0Ef4g8WFbY

Cardiff’s Arcades

Every so often I like to have a rave about some of the great things there are to do here in Cardiff, my adopted home town.

Whether you are a fan of shopping or not, the Cardiff Arcades are a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours. Just like most town and city centres in the UK, Cardiff has all the usual high street stores on the main streets and in the newer shopping centres, but the arcades are something unique.

There are five arcades – Castle Arcade, High Street Arcade, Duke Street Arcade, Morgan Arcade and Royal Arcade. Hair salons jostle for attention next to fancy dress shops, and the amazing smells from a French restaurant will distract you while on the way to a surf shop or travel agents. If you’re looking for something to wear that no-one else has, or a gift that no-one else has thought of, the arcades are the place to come. Alternatively, just sit back and relax with a coffee or a nice meal (many different cuisines available) and gaze at the impressive architecture.

I could give you a detailed description of all the shops, past and present, in the arcades, but I don’t need to because someone has already done it for me.

Even if you’ve never been to Cardiff, or you have no intention of visiting, the Cardiff Arcades Project is worth checking out. It’s a beautiful collection of photographs and stories about boutique shops and unusual, independent businesses.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

I think this week’s photo challenge is brilliant. I’m always trying to remind myself to look up, especially when I’m in the city, so the photo challenge gave me the perfect opportunity. There are so many things you miss when you don’t look any further than straight ahead.

I took advantage of the sunshine we’ve had in Cardiff this weekend to go into the city and see what was above me. Here’s what I saw:

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Click here to see more entries in the photo challenge.