Tag Archives: local

On living la vida local – in Canton

I love living in Canton, and right at this point there is nowhere in Cardiff that I would rather live. I mean, sure, I would love a more spacious house, with a slightly bigger garden and not on the main road, but I would not want to move outside about 100 metre radius from where we are. I’ve had a few surprised faces when I’ve said this to people in the past, and it’s true that if I try to look with someone else’s eyes, I see Canton as a nondescript and traffic choked high street, populated with the usual suspects – charity shops, pawn shops, fast food outlets and pubs, not to mention the ubiquitous supermarkets. It’s scruffy, down and heel, and for many folk I suspect it’s just somewhere they have to pass through on the way to somewhere else.

But there is so much more to our little patch of Cardiff. For a start, we have an an impressive range of thriving independent shops tucked in between the ‘usual suspects’. Two greengrocers plus a fruit and veg stall; three (or possibly four?) butchers; a stationery shop with a sub post office, a launderette and dry cleaner, an electrical retailer, an exotic spider shop, a cobblers, two hardware shops (though one’s just about to close due to retirement), several opticians, various newsagents – my favourite one also serves home cooked pakora at the weekend, a wool shop, a couple of bakers. Lots of indie eateries – from the posh and expensive Purple Poppadom to the down to earth and mouth watering Falafel Wales; plus two independent gyms, a busy Community Centre, a library (currently being renovated), an arts centre/cinema, and a community garden which grows herbs and veg – which we get to pick and eat when there’s a surplus. All that and two parks, and then Pontcanna Fields just 5 mins away, makes this a pretty ideal place to live, I’d say.



Picking purple sprouting broccoli for Sunday lunch from the Canton Community Garden, outside Chapter Arts Centre




Fruit and veg on display at Laura’s, 158 Cowbridge Road East

It’s not just about the amenities though – what makes Canton special for me is the fact that it has a proper community feel about it. I haven’t come across this anywhere else I have lived, or perhaps I have come to a stage in my life where I notice and value it more. Either way, I like it. I like the fact that this morning, I’ve exchanged smiles with the regular early morning street cleaner whilst out running; I’ve waved at my optician and the guy in the carpet shop; I’ve had a chat with the site manager on the building site across the road from me; caught up with progress on the renovations on our local post office; had a laugh with the lady in the greengrocer about a game her other half bought from OUR shop a couple of weeks ago – and it’s not even 10.30am. Last week, without being asked, our postie broke probably about a million Royal Mail rules and dropped a parcel into my workplace for me, because he knew I wouldn’t be home to sign for it – and when my eldest wrote him a thank you note (it was his long awaited Skylanders game) – he wrote a note back! Which feels wonderfully old fashioned, and kind, and above all, local.

I don’t think you can put a price on this feeling of community, and I am not sure what makes it happen. I guess being in the same place for a while helps – I have lived in Canton for nearly 14 years now. As I mentioned before, there are probably stages in your life when you value the community around you more, and putting down roots and having kids would seem to be one of those stages – so perhaps it is that I am simply more aware of what’s around me, and that it could be found anywhere, if you look hard enough. Who knows.

But here’s what I do know – which is that I feel immensely lucky to have stumbled upon and settled in this scruffy, down at heel little corner of Cardiff. Canton, you rock.


On the Cardiff Pound being in the news!

Just a very quick post – feels like I’ve hardly seen my kids this week and want to spend some quality Friday night time with them – but here’s some coverage of the Cardiff Pound from the South Wales Echo today! 

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me offering support and ideas – I have been overwhelmed by the welcome this idea has received. I’ll be in touch very shortly!

On CardiffStart – a different sort of baby!

Here’s a story about a different sort of baby…

About 18 months ago, I was working on a plan to bring coworking to the centre of Cardiff.* As part of the project, I was contacting and speaking to as many new businesses as I could find – which, I discovered, was actually quite a few – particularly in terms of creative and tech startups. That was the first eye opener – I’d not thought that there was such a thriving startup scene in Cardiff. The second eye opener was that incredibly busy people would, without fail, take the time to sit and have a coffee with me and share their ideas about coworking, and how it could benefit their businesses and Cardiff in general. I am really grateful for those folk who took the time to do this – I’ve met some amazing people over the last year, and I’ve learnt – and continue to learn – a huge amount. Thank you! The third eye opener was that there wasn’t a startup scene at all. Yes, I know, I just said there was – but bear with me, I’m not going mad (der) – the thing was, it became evident that actually there were an awful lot of startups here in Cardiff, but unless you went looking for them, you’d never know they were there. Not only that, but the support available for creative and tech startups was impossible to find and not that much use when you found it; despite the millions of pounds of government support supposedly available, the best help and advice was to be found on the CardiffStart Facebook group, curated by Neil Cocker, MD and founder of DizzyJam.

It was partly as a result of this that the Startup Social was born – a cunning plan by Gareth Jones to find all the creative and tech business startups hidden away in our city, and bring them together over beer, so they could make connections and  offer mutual support to each other, as well as work out what Cardiff needed to make it more attractive to founders and investors. And it was at one of those Startup Socials that CardiffStart was properly born.  A bunch of people, sitting around a table, lamenting the fact that Cardiff was not anywhere near living up to its potential as a startup hub – and DECIDING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I remember the feeling of excitement as we talked about what we thought CardiffStart could offer, what it could become, and how we could get it going. The pictures below – they’re my notes from that first night!

Since then, there’ve been hackdays, brainstorms, steering group meetings, more hackdays – and a whole bunch of people and businesses sharing their time, space, expertise and contacts for free. The end result is that CardiffStart is now an officially incorporated Community Interest Company; it’s secured some funding; it’s been picked up by the national press; it’s got a website at CardiffStart.com, and it’s also the home of Cardiff Collective, a fab tool for connecting people who can offer, or who are looking for, advice on just about any aspect of business.

Today saw the first proper CardiffStart event in City Hall – a day of workshops, speedpitching and networking, attended by a couple of hundred people. I was jealously following on #cdfstartlaunch for most of the day because of work commitments – I did manage to make the official launch speechy bit though – and looking around the room, listening to everyone there absolutely buzzing with potential and excitement, was just brilliant. The best bit is, this is only the beginning for CardiffStart – it will go on to offer real support and engagement, and ultimately, I am convinced, will help Cardiff fulfil its economic potential over the next generation.

I have to say, I felt really, really proud to be in at the conception of this baby 🙂


*the result of this particular project was a partnership with Indycube, which now has 3 coworking spaces in Cardiff, as well as Newport and Swansea – get in touch @indycube for a free day pass!