The Doers of Cardiff, part 2

11 Nov

“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.”
Antoine de Saint Exupery -

You may remember that I recently wrote a blog post about the “Doers of Cardiff”, people or groups that I happen to know, or know of, that do wonderful work in bringing their communities together for the love of it. There are countless charities, programmes and initiatives that deserve attention, and I couldn’t possibly list all those worthy of a mention. I’m thinking here more of those individuals and groups that make their community better just by being in it, and not for any apparent commercial gain.

Helia Phoenix

Hack Flash is a group that “wants to get everyday people involved with some fun and collaborative art projects”. Their highest profile project so far is the WeAreCardiff.co.uk website, which aims to tell the stories of Cardiff folk, and their associations with our city. I was privileged to be their first contributor. The group is run by Helia Phoenix, along with Adam Chard and Simon Bradwick. But Helia is notable for her involvement in other projects, such as setting up the @RoathCardiff Twitter feed, one of the first examples of hyper-local social media in our city, keeping people up to date with what’s going on in one of Cardiff’s most vibrant suburbs. She was also a key writer for the sadly now defunct Kruger magazine, and has written a biography of Lady GaGa!

Outside the empty shop

ARK are a social design group “from diverse backgrounds, who are interested in using design thinking to respond to social issues in our community”. Although it sounds lofty, they often approach problems with a huge sense of fun. Their Empty Shops project, which aimed to re-appropriate for positive use one of many empty spaces caused by the recession, saw short film showings, workshops, poetry readings, art and many, many laughs all take place over a weekend in an empty shop that would normally have been ignored by visitors to Castle Arcade. They’ve worked with the council on improving cycling safety within the city, run a mini-games festival, and I’m sure have many plans for future and ongoing projects. The fact that two of them, Lynsey and Laura, volunteered for TEDxCardiff and made it possible for us to run the event, just demonstrates the type of people that they are!

Marc Thomas is a journalism student in Cardiff, and runs the blog “Journal of Plastik” which focuses on the creative goings on in South Wales. It’s very quickly gone from a one-man project to having several contributors, and a great set of articles. And while it’s by no means the only blog about Cardiff, and what happens here, it stands apart from many others simply because of the quality of its content (which includes podcasts and mixtapes) and design. And I understand Marc has plans for even bigger things for the site.

Speaking of Marc’s site, they did a great job of covering the recent Swn festival in the city. And this brings me to a brief honorary mention for John Rostron. I’ve known John for many years now (nearly half my life!), and although putting on events is his “job”, and as such a commercial venture which I suppose disqualifies him from this “list”, the passion with which he approaches it, and the long, punishing hours that he puts into creating events for a city that he loves, mean that he deserves huge recognition for what he’s done. Cardiff would certainly have been a duller place without him all these years.

John Rostron

As with all the people and projects I’ve all-too-briefly covered over these two blog posts, I’m sure the thought often runs with them that it would be amazing to be able to make a living from what they’re doing. And indeed, it would be fantastic if they eventually could. But that’s not why they do them in the first place. It’s for the love of it, the joy of being involved in something that matters, even if only in a small way.

And this brings me back to the quote at the top of the page. It struck me as something profoundly true. And I read it again and again last night. In fact, I actually meant to post this blog yesterday evening, but i got distracted by some Dizzyjam work, which led me to checking out the site of Leeds band Hope and Social, and one post on their site in particular. It recounted one evening where they put on a gig in an old church crypt, but also cooked and waited on the 70 lucky people who were lucky enough to be able to squeeze into it. They also took the opportunity to ask the audience to help them record a live track for their album, having filled wine bottles on each table with perfect amounts of water to give them the required notes when tapped or blown by the diners.

It feels a bit odd to shoe-horn the exploits of a band from Yorkshire into a blog about “doers” from Cardiff, but I think these two videos (if you don’t have time to read the entire post as linked above), demonstrate the Antoine de Saint Exupery quote more perfectly than any of my ramblings. The undisguised joy on the band’s faces as it’s clear that everything is going perfectly to plan in the recording is all you need to see to understand their reasons for doing these things. I urge you to check out their music on Spotify, or you can buy their album (they operate a Pay What You Want policy, so it’s free if you don’t want to pay).

Anyway, take 10 minutes, put in your headphones, and check out these two videos in order. If you’re anything like me, you’ll become instant fans of these “doers”.

Hope you enjoyed those. As before, I will have inevitably missed out countless people who deserve recognition. Your nominations and recommendations in the comments, please!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Doers of Cardiff | Awesome - 25 November, 2011

    […] Brilliant. I logged onto Twitter yesterday to find that Neil Cocker has been writing about my journalistic endeavours. It’s really nice and quite an honour to be listed alongside John Rostron and Helia Phoenix as one of the Doers of Cardiff […]

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