Creative Cities is a regular feature where I focus on local creative scenes throughout the UK, giving a general overview of what's happening in each city and an insight into its creative industries and the people who work there. Next up, I'm looking at Cardiff…
So what's Cardiff all about?
Beautiful Cardiff has everything a creative could possibly want from a growing, liveable city. It's by the sea. It's very friendly. And there's an incredible amount of creativity going on everywhere you look. The capital and largest city in Wales, it's the 10th largest city in the whole of the UK and is part of the historic county of Glamorgan.
A small town until the 19th century, it became a major port for the transport of coal following the arrival of the industry in the area, which led to its status as a major city today. Since the 1990s there has been significant investment and development in Cardiff. There's a stunning new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay where the Senedd building proudly sits - home of the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Millennium Centre. And further developments are underway throughout Cardiff, including the Cardiff International Sports Village and a new business district in the city centre.
Speaking of the creative industries, Cardiff is the UK's largest media centre outside of London and is home to BBC Wales, S4C and ITV Wales. There is also an independent TV production industry of over 600 firms, employing around 6,000 people and contributing £350million to the local economy. Did you know Doctor Who and Casualty are filmed here! It's all because of the BBC's purpose-built drama village called Roath Lock.
Then you have the new £6million Centre for the Creative Industries, a 40,000 sq ft centre which will create a hub for Wales' creative industries once its built. Exciting!
On doing my research, I've discovered that although Cardiff has a beating heart of creativity at its very core and there's a real passion and sense of local pride from its creative community - there is some way to go before it reaches its full potential. This isn't the fault of local creatives or businesses... and the city is doing everything it possibly can to thrive and grow.
Yes, the local media sector is booming, there's definitely a strong mixture of freelancers and, I'm glad to report, a growing startup scene. But from talking to local creatives I get the sense that the creative industries could do with a little more support from the powers that be. But we'll come to that in a minute. For now beautiful Cardiff, it's over to you…
What Cardiff creatives say
"Cardiff is a great place to live, it's near the sea, it's near the mountains, it's a (small) capital city. There are a large number of creative people including artists, musicians and people who invest a lot of their own time and energy in getting things done. Art wise, G39 and Chapter provide support and exhibitions, with lots of other successful and not so successful initiatives popping up on a regular basis. The Cardiff Art Map features most of them. It's a little bit insular at times, and needs to get out there and be a bit more confident and brassy, but hey, who doesn't!"
Gordon Dalton, artist at Mermaid & Monster
"As a local born and bred, I've seen a lot of changes for the better over the years. Cardiff is creative, welcoming and friendly, and displays a drive to do things well and do things differently, reflecting Cardiff's own uniqueness, and the fact it's a young city, and a small one, with big ideas. It's an exciting place to be with a dynamism and momentum of a youthful city on a big adventure thanks to its unique position as the capital and first city of Wales. This is reflected in its politics and the discussions underway to plan for its physical and economic growth over the next 50 years, and likewise it's represented by a growing creative scene."
Christian Amodeo, founder of - I Loves The 'Diff
"Cardiff's music scene has undergone some massive changes in the past five years. Some great venues, like the Millennium Music Hall, have closed down. Clwb ifor Bach, one of Cardiff's top venues, was rumoured to be going under. The live music scene seemed to be getting smaller and smaller - more elitist, more hidden and more expensive. But somehow Cardiff has managed to keep a few gems. Venues like Gwdi Hw, Buffalo Bar and Moon Club continue to put on a huge array of fantastic local talent and some familiar non-local names too. These nights come courtesy of Jealous Lovers Club, Negative Panda, Full Fat and Bluebox. The hardworking promotion companies seem to be keeping Cardiffs music scene and its venues alive. As a Cardiff based band, we owe them an arm and a leg."
Michael Nash, from the local band Wicket
"Cardiff is a great place to work and live, but it does seem to be currently lacking in tech startups especially when compared with nearby places like Bristol. One thing it does have is some great people who are passionate and creative, hopefully over the next year or so we will start to see more small startups being either funded or bootstrapped around the area."
Scott Sherwood, startup founder of www.testlodge.com
Where to study in Cardiff
Cardiff is spoilt for choice when it comes to higher education with over 43,000 students calling the city home. It has four major universities, including Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of South Wales and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
The University of Glamorgan's Cardiff campus, known as Atrium, is where the Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries is located in the city centre. And Cardiff Met is home to the Cardiff School of Art & Design. Cardiff also has two further education colleges: Cardiff and Vale College and St. David's College.
Cardiff's startup scene
There's some debate that Cardiff hasn't reached its full potential when it comes to creating a startup culture here. Lack of investors, not enough supportive nurturing and the digital stronghold of nearby Bristol (and London) probably all play a part, taking local talent away. But things are starting to happen.
Neil Cocker, founder of DizzyJam, an e-commerce and merchandising platform for the music industry, is one passionate local creative who is doing a lot to champion local startups. He recently went to 10 Downing Street to meet Joanna Shields, CEO of Tech City, to discuss the state of the regional start-up scene.
Neil has also just launched Cardiff Start - a group for entrepreneurs, startup founders, creatives, students and investors who believe that Cardiff is a great place to work and live. The group offers regular meetups and events, so be sure to keep an eye on its calendar.
Neil said: "We already have a tech startup community in Cardiff that is contributing millions of pounds to the local economy. Now is the time to harness it, support it, and make Cardiff a city that is recognised worldwide as a city of innovation, and one that is worth investing in."
Other notable startups to mention include SubHub, which provides the tools for people to profit from their passion by creating easy and affordable membership websites. Event Rater is where feedback from consumers is used to drive quality within the events industry. And there's Lexable, which develops assistive software for people with dyslexia and literacy issues. Their products are used in universities, schools and workspaces across the globe. There's also Bipsync, a Silicon Valley startup who have recently located in Cardiff. And last but not least, Matchalabs.com, a group of well regarded developers / project managers who recently started their own company to produce some popular mobile apps.
For social events, check out UnifiedDiff which is focused towards the developer community and they tend to do a series of talks at each meetup. Or follow @CardiffDevWorks on Twitter. They share workshops aimed at developers and improving skills.
If you're actually thinking about starting a new business that will depend on computer technology for success, you might qualify for funding, business advice or training. Find out more from Communities 2.0.
Where to network in Cardiff
For all-round creativity, you can't go far wrong with Think Ark and their monthly events. Taking place on the last Wednesday of every month, they include workshops, discussions and general networking opportunities.
Ignite Cardiff is a cool, regular event where presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides to talk for just five minutes. It's also a good place to meet other local creatives. The next one is happening on 15 May 2013.
For those in the arts who want to know how social media and technology can help them engage with audiences, then ArtsTechCymru is ideal.
If you're a startup or digital lover and you'd like to keep informed of relevant, local events - Startup Digest is a great local resource that lists everything that's happening in Cardiff. Fancy making a few new creative friends? Have a look at Cardiff Read, a thriving local book club that's been around for three years.
Where to work in Cardiff
There currently isn't much in the way of co-working spaces here in Cardiff, but you do have IndyCube, a growing community of co-workers that offers several different workspaces. They're dotted around at various locations throughout south Wales, including one at Cardiff's Castle Quarter and another at Cardiff Bay. Check them out!
Elsewhere, get in touch with Michelle Davis on Twitter - she's a local creative who is currently working hard to bring more co-working space to Cardiff. Follow her @michelledavis.
Where to hangout in Cardiff
For some essential energy recharging or a chance to meet clients or work remotely away from home, you can't beat the humble coffee shop. Cardiff has got plenty of them. Personally, I'd head over to Coffee 1. They started off in Wood Street back in 2001 and have since branched out all over the place. I'd recommend the venue where it all began, as the coffee is superb. Waterloo Gardens Teahouse is a real gem hidden away over in Waterloo Gardens and recommended by The Independent in its 'Top 50 Coffee Shops in the UK'. The Plan Cafe is also worth a visit.
For some lunch and client entertaining, Cardiff has plenty on its menu. The Brewery Quarter, Mill Lane, St Mary Street and Eastside in St David's all offer a range of cuisines. The Social at the Parc Hotel by Thistle has been awarded 2 AA rosettes. The Corner House is another recommended place to eat. They cook a mean Thai fish curry. For something a little less formal, check out Ed's Easy Diner, all American themed and how we all wish cafes looked when we were teenagers. Or you've got the new Iguanas, a chain Latin American type restaurant but definitely one to consider.
And to enjoy the end of each week, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to pubs, bars and evening entertainment. For a nice traditional pint, skip over to The Goat Major or The Rummer Tavern. For something a bit more wine bar-esque, try Henry's - it's a 'cafe/bar' with an extensive wine and cocktail menu.
What to do in Cardiff
Cardiff is a wonderful cultural city with plenty to keep you entertained and creatively satisfied. First up, if you want entertainment - you simply must visit the iconic Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. It's the city's most lively performing arts venue and also home to the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. There's always some free lunchtime concerts in the foyer.
The stately old venue of the New Theatre stages musicals, plays and the city's annual panto. St Davids Hall has a regular programme of music, children's events, dance, comedy and special shows. It's also home to the Welsh Proms. Sherman Cymru is another theatre worth a mention.
The Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay is always hosting live music, mainly in the realm of folk and acoustic. For big arena action with world renowned artists and musicians, then it's either the Millennium Stadium or Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.
For some art, you have the wonderful National Museum Cardiff and the Martin Tinney Gallery just across the road. Both are free to enjoy. There's also The Albany Gallery showcasing lots of local artists. For photography lovers, just on the outskirts of Cardiff you'll find Ffotogallery at Turner House, Penarth - the national development agency for photography and lens based media in Wales where they've always got a varied exhibition programme.
To enjoy some greenery and break away from Cardiff's hustle and bustle, visit Bute Park & Arboretum - it's an extensive area of beautiful parkland easily accessible from the city centre.
A little video about Cardiff
Video Credit: Creative Cardiff, who are aiming to showcase Cardiff's immense creativity