A few years ago after a night out I took a calculated risk with my health and bought a shish kebab from Caroline Street. It was one of those warm summer nights where no one wants the night to end. Finding no where else to sit, I plonked myself down to share the kebab with my then-girlfriend on the kerb in the middle of St Mary Street.
About halfway through, over the shouts, screams and songs around us, I heard some clicking. I looked up to see a man, wearing a tight black t-shirt and jeans, taking our picture. The camera he was holding looked like it would max both mine and my girlfriend’s overdrafts. I didn’t know it at the time, but the man taking our picture was Maciej Dakowicz.
I still remember the exact words we exchanged. ‘It’s OK,’ he said, in an accent I didn’t quite recognise. ‘I just want to take your picture. Can I take your picture?’
‘Carry on,’ I said, slightly bemused. ‘I couldn’t care less.’
He smiled as he said, ‘OK, thank you. Just do what you were doing. Pretend like I am not here.’
So I did what he asked, and munched on my kebab, battling my girlfriend for control of the lamb as Mr Dakowicz clicked away at us surrounded by empty polystyrene boxes. After less than a minute, he said thank you with a big smile, and swiftly moved on to the next scene he could find; he was lost in the crowd within twenty quick paces.
I tell you this little story to put things in context. We were relatively sober, my girlfriend and I, when Mr Dakowicz took our picture. Such was the crowd due to the warm night weather, we didn’t have the chance to sit anywhere except where we were. I imagine that the scene would have made a good picture; pardon my pretentiousness, but themes of sharing or gluttony spring to mind here. However in the wrong hands this picture could push an agenda showing our beloved city to be no better than the biblical Gomorrah.
It is this type of negative press coverage that has spurned some amongst us to action. Helia Phoenix and Adam Chard run the wearecardiff blog, and together with Simon Bradwick they are making a feature length documentary that will offer a more balanced view than the one portrayed in the national press. Over the bank holiday weekend, Roath fundraiser Wayne Courtney put on an event in the Gower Pub called Roath Rocks to raise funds for this film.
Before we go on, I just need to address what is going on in your head. I know that this is a blog about Cathays – so why cover an event called Roath Rocks? The thing is with Cardiff is that the borders are fluid. Brains Brewery themselves say that the pub is in Cathays – but if you can show me where Roath ends and Cathays begins down there, I would be eternally grateful.
The old-school vibe in the large first-floor events room couldn’t have been better for such an event. Unlike the boozy shenanigans often taken out of context on St Mary Street, the Gower’s patrons were too busy dancing and having a good time to fall over or puke on each other’s shoes.
‘The whole weekend was a massive success,’ Wayne Courtney said about the event. ‘And the feedback has been amazing. People came from as far as Weston Super Mare, Swansea and Bridgend. And of course the pub took amazing profits.’
The whole building was the heart and soul of Cardiff that night – warm both in heat and atmosphere, and good natured too, with people dancing on chairs and tables as if the morning would never come. Little could stop the fun of listening to the sped up Cab Calloway and Ray Charles covers from the band playing at the time.
Not only did this gig raise money for a group of dedicated local bloggers and promoters but the pub did very well out of this venture as well – but not to the detriment of the surrounding community.
‘The Landlord said that the Friday night was the first night since he’s managed the pub that all three areas (the pool room, the lounge and the function room upstairs) have all been full at the same time,’ Helia Phoenix said. ‘It was packed, and how great is it that we are managing to increase their business like that too?’
I wish the filmmakers all the best in this venture. You can tell that everyone involved in this film is a committed individual who knows that action leads to success. But just as their film will not conform to the Daily Mail ‘Booze Britain’ view of our city, it may not change everyone’s attitude. But seeing the other side to that out-of-context debauchery in the Gower over the weekend has certainly changed mine.
(If you like the sound of this project, you may want to consider donating to make sure it happens – even if you’ve only got a pound to spare. Head here: http://www.indiegogo.com/We-Are-Cardiff-the-film-Phase-2?c=home&a=332021)