Cardiff – The Big Little City

Cardiff Bay at night

I grew up in Essex, but as we lived just outside of Zone 6, I might as well have lived in London. The big smoke, where everything you could possibly want was just a few minutes away on the tube.

When I first moved to Cardiff for university in the early 2000′s, I was struck by how familiar parts of the city seemed. Much like London, you had everything you could ever need just minutes away, only this time you could make that short journey by foot. It’s the size of Cardiff that lured me into staying long after my university days were behind me, finding my way into a career in marketing and now relaying my story to you through this blog.

Cardiff Characters at TheBigLittleCity Exhibition

Seemingly, everyone sees this in Cardiff, as evident from reading the We Are Cardiff blog, a new entry each week from a different resident of the Welsh capital. Indeed, it’s not just the convenience of city that lends it its depth but also the rich and varied hotbed of creative talent – this is a university town, after all – with several universities and colleges in and around the city vying for the attendance of students from near and far.

From all this creative expertise, many projects have arisen that focus on the city. In 2008, local photographer Dan Green launched a small exhibition called Cardiff Characters; photos of people that anyone familiar with Cardiff would recognise immediately. From the bin-tapping Ninjah to the chap in the hi-vis jacket who can be found on Queen Street, rain or shine, inviting passersby to join the RAC.

These are people that many of us see day-in, day-out. This familiarity lead to increased popularity which, earlier this year allowed Dan, along with other Cardiff artists, to expand the exhibition into TheBigLittleCity:Cardiff, a continually evolving installation upstairs at The Old Library.

Along with photos, art and graphic design work from many contributing parties, they encouraged members of the public to contribute anything that signified Cardiff to them, even listing ways to get involved if you have no idea what you can contribute personally.

Spillers Records featured in the Cardiff Arcades Project

Today, the exhibition launches into it’s third and final phase with the addition of photos and stories from Amy Davies’s Cardiff Arcade Project. The shopping arcades of Cardiff have long been seen as a huge selling point of Cardiff as a shopping destination. Whilst the multinational chains can be found in the St David’s Shopping Centre and on Cardiff’s pedestrianised highstreets, the arcades are a haven of independently run businesses and offer refreshing change of scene.

Evidently a passion of Amy’s, she started the project earlier this year entirely on her own steam. A freelance photographer and journalist, it goes without saying that the photos and blogs that accompany them are a joy to see and read, not to mention that the coverage afforded by the shops within the arcades is invaluable, especially following the drop in trade due to the ongoing roadworks as the city council pedestrianise what will become known as the Castle Quarter.

The exhibition will run upstairs in the Old Library building in the Hayes, minutes away from the new St David’s Shopping Centre, until the 22nd of July. If you’re in the city to do some shopping check it out, you might be surprised at what you see!

This entry was originally posted to the Visit Wales blog on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 at 5:27pm

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