Supported By @CreativeCardiff
Laura Sorvala is what you might call a ‘doer.’ Cardiff, as a city and a community, is full of people like Laura. They love helping to build community and they’re always thinking of incredibly creative ways to do that.
If ever I’m asked about what Cardiff is like as a place by someone who has never been, I’ll always talk about the kind of projects that Sorvala is involved in. That’s partly why our city is so fresh and dynamic – the scenery is always changing.
“I do a lot of the sort of stuff where I work as a facilitator with people and help them visualise their ideas and business plans or things like that,” she explains while we sit in the beautifully warm Barker Coffee house. “If you go to an event, you might think ‘That was a really good thing that some person said but I can’t remember…’ That’s what I’ve been doing recently.”
Sorvala works a designer by day. However, she’s also a prolific freelancer doing illustration for clients in her time off or helping people to build their community projects.
“At the moment I work full time. I like design as a job but for my free time, it’s been changing a bit. I was involved in organising the PlayARK games festival and the bigger game Everwake and that’s been going on almost a year,” she explains when asked to summarise the things she does. “Now that that’s done, I’ve been involved with quite a few of these Come to Your Senses projects because of the Design Festival. That’s currently what I’ve been doing.”
Come To Your Senses is a project which looks at how people feel about spaces. The official description on the project’s website reads, “[Come To Your Senses] enables a way for people to express their feelings about the urban environment and share their ideas for improvements.”
The project has been around for a year and a half now, although Sorvala and her colleague Emily Wilkinson (who lives in London) are now finding that people are engaging with the project in a new way,
“We’ve found a way with engaging with people and presenting community, collaborative findings about what people say and how they feel about things. There are a lot of people who want to know about how people feel about places and areas,” she says. “One and a half years ago, that wasn’t interesting. People didn’t care about it. Now they do.”
This follows a trend in Cardiff – the community is beginning to think about the way that they use the city and how that affects their innate creativity.
Asked what she thought of this phenomenon, Sorvala replies,
“People are looking at what happens behind certain streets or people – what’s behind them, why does it work? That’s a question that designers have always asked but now people are saying that it’s not just about advertising or profits. There’s a lot of stuff that matters.”
One of the principal concerns for Sorvala is the way that people see the space around them.
Take a space like Milgi Lounge, for example. For several years, Milgi has been an amazing creative space where you could sit and write a novel in the presence of film makers, musicians or straightforward spectators. No-one would bat an eyelid at that in this Roath bar. They’ve showcased artwork, promoted life drawing classes and even hosted a regular burlesque evening in the past.
The desire for more places like Milgi lines up with the findings of Come To Your Senses so far,
“It seems that the thing people say the most is that people really value their local community. There’s a sense of ownership and belonging. Or if they don’t feel that enough, they want more of it. Also, coming from that, what people usually say the most is that they want to have community centres and community hubs. That’s the thing that people say the most. Overall, it’s the desire to have more local hubs where people can come and do things – usually linked to creativity. Or spaces that have multiple usage. Blending the boundaries between cafe, workshop, community centre and having places where you can do all of these things.”
It’s interesting that she mentions the blending of purposes that is beginning to occur in Cardiff. I mention to her that Made In Roath is ‘creating’ dozens of gallery spaces over the weekend of the 16 and 17 October by encouraging the community to open its doors and showcase their creativity.
“What I’m interested to see is whether they’ll showcase the work in their living space or is that also the space where they work as well? Do they blend the space where they live and work already or is it a temporary thing?” she asks without really waiting for a response, “Either way, it’s interesting – but I think the open house is an example of how people could work from home if they can’t afford space. The idea of a flexible space that can be for relaxing, doing everyday mundane stuff, working, socialising.”
I ask her if she could give some examples of places that she thinks are closest to the vision that she has for the blending of spaces. Interestingly, there’s only one similarity between her selection and my prediction – that’s probably a great sign!
“I live in Roath and I use the Pear Tree pub. Most of my meetings have been there and I’ve had my mapping sessions with people there because there it’s circular and when you go upstairs you can find a quiet spot with furniture that you don’t have to feel too careful with and it feels open,” she says. “You can find a corner where you can work. It’s fine if people are having meals, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s because part of their decor is a feeling of messiness: it’s OK to come and hang out. As a local, that would be my number one.”
As well as this family pub, she makes a suggestion that the Cardiff Story above the Old Library would be a brilliant space to use in the future,
“I was at the Cardiff Story on Friday and Saturday as part of the Design Festival setting up as a facilitator, there were quiet bits during the day where I could work in there. It’s nice because it’s a temporary space. It’s quiet and you can get lots done.”
Cardiff feels better than it has ever done. The way that we work as a city is changing and the findings of an employment survey earlier this year confirm it. We have the highest concentration of media jobs outside of London and with that comes a ‘portfolio’ lifestyle which frees up the employment of the individual.
Come To Your Senses illustrates that there’s a change in the way that people want to use their Cardiff community spaces.
That’s really exciting for us all!