Moving Stories: Made in Roath Bookmobile

When I was young I learned the hard way that I am not the most handy person. Growing up on a farm this shortcoming grew tiresome – building fences, stacking hay bales, and carrying water buckets often left me bruised, itchy, and damp. In spite of this though, I still decided to build a bookmobile for this year’s Made in Roath festival. Luckily – with help from volunteers and the community – I came away with minimal injuries and an even stronger love of Roath.

Hosted inside the Milkfloat caravan, the Moving Stories bookmobile offered free books in exchange for a story about any experience – big or small – in Roath. These experiences have now been turned into a collective community poem by the talented Mab Jones. To celebrate the end of the festival, her poem was shared on the Nocturnal Walk this evening and will soon be posted on the Made in Roath blog.

Operating on good will and enthusiasm, the bookmobile volunteers spread the message: Take a book, leave a story. In just two days we gave away over 80 books and collected more than 60 stories! The response was fantastic.

However, no one achieves anything alone. I can only thank everyone who volunteered* to wallpaper, decorate, collect books, and take shifts for making this project such a success! Also, for those of you who performed outside on the first day – you were very brave and your words were wonderful.

I would also love to thank the Salvation Army in Splott for loaning us some trolleys, pillows, and other bits and bobs. A very special thanks also goes out to Gail Howard who not only entrusted me with her amazing caravan but also made some beautiful Jane Austen bunting!

I adored this project and only hope that I’ll have an opportunity to run it again next year, perhaps for the length of the festival. For now though, please enjoy this selection of photographs and stories from the very first Made in Roath bookmobile:


I once sat in Coffee #1 for about an hour. I read a book – I wish I could remember what it was. But what I do remember, in that hour I spent cradling the cup, was how amazing it was to look out the window and watch the school drop-off and the commuter rush and be safe amid the business and mayhem and bustle. I’d never been to Roath before, or since, but I loved the movement outside, safely inside with my book. I was calm.


As ‘Mrs. Rainbow’ I have been a Puppeteer, based in the Roath/Penylan area for many years. My marionettes have danced at many venues, especially in Cardiff and Penarth. I also have a booth for ‘Judy and Punch’. Things have been quiet for the last few years though but I hope people will have happy memories of the puppets.


My mother took me to the kitchen. She told me that my friend Sam had died. The ice lolly in my hand slid to the floor. We walked round a furniture store and the mirrors confronted me with my bloodshot eyes. The next day I was crying in y bed when the sun filled my room. I believed it was him.


Cafes, charity shops, independent shops, craft and food markets – that’s what I like about Roath. Vibrant mix of people. I do miss woolies though! Great project, good luck.


I love Roath – particularly the little-known or seasonal amenities like the extensive ice rink. When it snows the council deliberately don’t clear the roads or paths so we can ‘throw our shapes’ even without skates! Love live the Roath Republic.


I need community. Community gives you one of those feel-good charges of positive energy that is rarely found outside 80s movies starring Tom Cruise. Everyone working towards a common good, supporting, encouraging, sometimes just being. I loves it


Roath is my studenthood, my coming of age, the way I found myself. Sparsely furnished houses with half starved cupboards and showerheads from a forgotten era. Hide and seek on midnight’s doorstep in Roath Park playground, bell-busting take out-athons after sucking in lungfuls of spliff. Amongst the labyrinths of dated cars and endless street, I’m home.


Once upon a time in a land above the clouds in the land of Dragonville there lived a small Dragon named Luke. He was a blue Dragon who blew bubbles and was not accepted in the Dragon world so lived in a secret cellar behind some bins in the human world – in Roath.


Once I lived next to the YMCA in Oakfield Street. I often found unusual things stashed in the garden. The weirdest thing was a pair of white trainers left outside the front door as if someone had walked up to the door and evaporated, leaving only their shoes.


As someone who is alien to the area of Roath I found that people can be very helpful when you need someone. It was definitely a great place to experience first hand during university.


I remember all the changes to the main part of Roath Park. In the 1970s the main slide had a ‘bump’ halfway down. About 10 years ago there were yellow duck-shaped paddle boats for children and 10 years before that there were small blue, wooden boats.


I used to live right next to a massive park in Berlin. It was massive because it used to be an airport. Nazis built it I think. The people of Berling fly kites and have picnics on the strips. The park is called Tempelhof. I like Roath Park too.


Even though you could hardly call Swansea far flung, I still get homesick. I miss the sea, the beach and the long walks along the prom. Roath is such a treat for the sense, the smells of spices, the tastes, the colourful people – but now there’s the taste of Joe’s ice cream in my adopted city and I can finally taste the beach and feel at home.


My friends and I planned a surprise party in Roath Park for a friend of ours. We hid in the trees with cake and sandwiches and jumped out at him when he came running past. I also spent the night before A level results sitting on the bank of Roath Park lake in the dark, contemplating the future. It had a really calming effect and I felt really energized when collecting them the next day.

Umaru wanted to go to school in the UK. So he decided to apply for funding in all sorts of ways. He lived in Nigeria and didn’t have enough money to pay the school fees. So when he wrote to the Welsh Black Society asking them to give him the grant he received a reply saying: ‘Dear Umaru, Thank you for your letter. I regret to inform you that the Welsh Black Society has nothing to do with race or colour but a certain breed of cow. However, I’ve spoken to the trustees and we were so touched by your letter that we’ve decided to sell our prize heffer and fund your school fees!”


I went for a walk around Roath Lake and saw a dog walker who had got his lead tangled around the neck of a goose! Obviously, the goose was trying to bite him and flapping its wings and the dog was yapping and he managed to take the lead off in the end with the dog wedged under his arm! I was walking the whole time and wandering if I should do something but didn’t really know how to help.


Sometimes when it gets too loud and noisy I stroll through Roath gardens on my own, thinking of Wordsworth and his daffodils. Once I saw a woman fall into the pond. It was unpleasant.


Once upon a time I saw an orange feather I did not know it was magic. It sent me to the land of fairies and we had a wonderful time. I got home fast, in time for tea.








*Sara, Tom, Renn, Jamie, Ollie, Valerie, Rachel S., Hannah, Rachel C, Jill, Helen and Rich – you are my heroes!

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