Today the street I live on in Canton is preparing to host a Big Lunch event. The pavement is being swept, the bunting is going up, and the bouncy castle is on its way! If you don’t know, the Big Lunch is a UK-wide initiative which aims to get millions of people to have lunch with their neighbors sometime in June in an effort to help build communities and secure friendships. I cannot wait to meet my own neighbors properly today!
I have always thought the people in Cardiff were friendly and engaging and that the different areas of the city uniquely reflect the communities which built them. This is why a few weeks ago I was delighted to run the last of my City Writing workshop series on ‘People and Place’. First, Emma and I asked the participants to write about the places which spoke to them. For inspiration they read profiles from We are Cardiff along with a poem by Janna Liggan, a former Cardiff University MA student who wrote lovingly about her student house in Cathays. After an absorbing discussion and plenty of writing time they had produced some wonderful pieces, covering everything from a hidden Welsh estuary to the bright lights of Soho in London.
Later in the day we had lunch in Bute Park and wrote an alphabet of the city. We walked along the castle and sat down among the daisies to write our final ode to Cardiff. It was a gorgeous sunny day and Emma and I could not have asked for a better group. They were warm, enthusiastic, and produced some exciting work.
Two of the participants, Gordon and Clare, were kind enough to send me the pieces they wrote in the session to be included in this post. Please enjoy these as well as a photo from the day below.
Now that the series is over I only hope that everyone who attended has discovered something more to love, and write, about the cities which mean something to them. I know I have.
They don’t love you like I love you
With jigsaw puzzles, they say to start with the edges. With a city, does the rest follow? What edges can I construct out of muddied map memories to form straight lines?
There is one edge I know well, though. Let me tell you a secret. Well, not really a secret. It has a sign and a public footpath, which surely rule it out, but still. You too can become part of the map, if you breathe
and lie flat, staring at the sky.
It’s often how I can be found.
But head out towards Newport and take a right at the church, past
past fields undyed and bristling, the narrow roads bordered by reens, dull with ditchwater, and right again.
At the old church, take the path through the trees, past bulging blackberries and bumbling bees, past horses drinking from a tin bath, climb the grassy slope beyond and
see the world flat as a coin, the water stretching out around you, wide as winter. They call this the sea wall. Does it stop things from coming in, or getting out?
From the heart, blood is pumped around the roads and alleyways and fields inside of you. This, I feel, is where it comes to rest.
Cardiff City Writing: People and Place
C-ardiff’s creative citizens gather to share the city:
A-arcades, alleys and buildings,
R-egeneration, rivers and reputation.
D-evoid of digital distraction we write it all. Words spill across the page.
I-deas and imagination ignite. Our urban love affair endures.
F-ollowing friends to the fulcrum: Bute Park. Sunlight dapples the grass. A tennis ball hits the sweet spot. A childhood memory emerges.
F-iction flows in a fever of excitement, then poetry, memoir, reportage and an ode to Cardiff, cariad.