My husband has had the opportunity to be involved in research with colleagues at Cardiff University and this has made it possible for both of us to leave Chicago where we live and visit Cardiff several times. When arrangements were made to come this time, we did not think about how important the timing would be. In fact, we were in Cardiff to greet the Olympic Flame and feel a part of the Queen’s Jubilee. I also had the chance to meet new people, observe some changes in the city, and visit places that I enjoyed previously.
One of the things that I like best is the part of the city near Cardiff Castle where all kinds of shopping is available and the extensive pedestrian area allows one to walk a long way outside and the large shopping centre allows one to get away from bad weather while walking some distance. Currently the Cardiff Central Library and several nearby restaurants are also accessed without concern of cars. The new things I noted: additional shopping, an extension of the Welsh National Museum (http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/cardiff/about/) the opening of a museum about Cardiff (http://www.cardiffmuseum.com/) and lots of activities at Cardiff Central Library. Looking for a loving spoon for my cousin, I spent time at Castle Welsh Crafts. Trying to find adult daytime classes in ballet, I found Rubicon (www.rubicondance.co.uk) and for a daytime Pilates class, I found Chapter and its Community Garden.
I had time to do lots of walking and often passed to and through Wales' newest and biggest fashion destination, St David’s – Dewi Sant. In addition to designer stores and big high street there was Eastside – the centre’s restaurant quarter, which is split onto 2 floors. St David's offers 1.4m sq ft of shopping, right in the heart of Cardiff. I noted that St David’s Two is anchored by John Lewis, the biggest store outside of London, and Debenhams and Marks & Spencers, also. The centre has ample car parking facilities and hosts regular events. Find out more about St David’s here. Walking along one day, I was surprised to see an Italian Festival taking place. But there was always some kind of activity.
Shortly after our arrival, we had the chance to experience a “happening” at Cardiff Central Library when we went to see Opera Unmasked, an insight into the world of Opera, which was introduced by Dennis O’Neill, director of the Wales International Academy of the Voice. The Academy provides an opportunity for singers to prepare for the world stage. It was a wonderful evening of opera and the library’s third floor proved to be a perfect venue. The cement ceiling focused the sound and the white piano provided the opportunity for accompaniment. The singers were excellent and the audience enthusiastic.It was a relaxed atmosphere with the audience sipping wine and other drinks, birds flying outside the windows and the sun setting. We enjoyed talking with Amanda and Kevin at our table. This event is one of many planned by a library committee which offer the community a wide range of experiences. The library has received awards for finding ways to arrange these events with little or no cost. (Cardiff Central Library Facebook)
About a week after this event, we had our first chance to see the Welsh National Opera in its performance La bohème at Wales Millennium Centre (wmc.org.uk)
The Cardiff Museum is housed in the building that was Cardiff's first library. I thought the displays were wonderful. I learned that the city expanded after the architect-engineer Brunel changed the course of the Taff River. I like the several short films in which residents were interviewed about their recollections of Cardiff's past.
Because my cousin asked me to bring a love spoon home with me, I made repeated visits to the Castle Welsh Crafts store and the very popular Lovespoon Gallery. Here I saw the world’s largest AND smallest hand-carved wooden lovespoons. (http://www.castlewelshcrafts.co.uk/loveSpoons.asp) With so many visits I had the chance to speak with Bob Keen, salesperson extraordinaire and Bob Rice, owner several times.
One Sunday my husband and I enjoyed a visit to the Welsh National Museum. The museum is even better than it was when I last visited. It has increased in size and more collections can be shown. In addition to the wonderful collection of Rodin sculptures and French Impressionist paintings, they have opened section for Modern Art. Their café downstairs has also been upgraded and we had a delicious lunch there. No one should miss this terrific museum, resident or visitor.
Rubicon was launched in 1976 as the Cardiff Community Dance Project and was one of the first of its kind. The website says: “By 1983 the organisation had grown sufficiently to move to its own dance centre in Adamsdown, Cardiff. The project was renamed Rubicon Dance, providing dance for people of all ages and abilities in a variety of community settings and whose aim is to provide consistent access to high quality dance activities within a policy of equal opportunity and open access.
Over the years the programme has continued to expand to include the full-time preliminary dance training course (1986), many international exchanges (1994), the first UK community dance apprenticeship scheme (1995), the Cardiff dance development programme (1996), the Young Dancer programme (1998) and the Newport Dance Development programme (2001). In 2006 attendance figures reached the highest ever with nearly 85,000 people engaged in dance practice at Rubicon and we celebrated our 30th Birthday.” (http://www.rubicondance.co.uk/about)
I found Chapter when I was looking for a day- time Pilates class and found one there. From the moment I stepped into its quarters I was enthralled. Everything happens there. I loved seeing the range of people in the café from moms and babies to pensioners. There is a gallery and gift shop, a café, a place to purchase tickets for all kinds of events and classes of all kinds. Abi Lawrence of Chapter offered this information below.
I was so impressed with the Community Garden that I decided to volunteer. Roger, a volunteer who is in charge of volunteers was knowledgeable and charming. Working in the garden I increased my own gardening skills which I plan to apply when I return home. I hope the community will take advantage of the produce from the garden that will be available for the taking at harvest time.
As I take these memories home with me, I will also remember the day when I stood in front of the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel & Spa www.mercure-hotels.co.uk (where we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves) to watch the Olympic Flame pass by.
Photos: Leon Keer, B. Keer
Abi Lawrence of Chapter shared this:
Chapter is a meeting place for art, audiences, innovation and ideas. We opened our doors in 1971 with a vision to bring performance, film and exhibitions together under one roof united by a dynamic social space. Over forty years later we are now recognised as one of the most successful multi-disciplinary arts venues in Europe. We're dedicated to developing contemporary culture, nurturing new talent and providing public access to the arts. We also play a central role in positioning Cardiff and Wales in the international cultural arena. Or in other words we're passionate about the arts and want to spread the word. Chapter’s activities include commissioning, production, presentation and support for all the art forms, including live performance, cinema and visual arts in its two theatres, two cinemas and gallery. Chapter also provides office and production space for artists and organisations in the cultural field. Chapter is known and loved for the open space that we create for all our diverse users and the combination of radical new work that coexists with our many community users. We have a strong social contract of diversity, openness, empowerment, informality, tolerance and acceptance. We welcome over 750,000 visitors every year and all our spaces are busy seven days a week from 8.30am until late, 362 days of the year and our arts programme is supplemented with a vibrant mix of activity from reading groups to social media surgeries and from parent and toddler groups to dance lessons. We are an independent charity, a company limited by guarantee and one of the largest social enterprises in Wales. Our caffi-bar is operated by a subsidiary trading company but is very much at the heart of our welcoming social space. So on the one hand we're about new, agenda-setting art in all its forms and on the other we're a friendly place where people can just sit and chat, feel at home and feel welcome. Chapter is full of people passionate about what we do, whether that's creating an extraordinary piece of work, making our audience's time here really special or serving the best cappuccino in the city.
The community garden project has been developed through partnership with Canton Community Gardens to transform a piece of wasteland at the front of the Chapter Arts Centre into a usable and sustainable urban garden which helps raise awareness of food production and allow local residents, volunteers and schools to learn practical gardening and recycling skills through participation. The local community is responsible for designing the area including edible plants - vegetables, fruit trees and flowers. Members of Canton Community Gardens have been developing the community garden at Chapter Arts Centre over the past two years. Volunteers make a vital contribution to our programme in offering their time and skills to help maintain and develop the garden.