Culture in Cardiff
Cardiff is a hotbed of culture, but many residents and visitors barely get beyond the New Theatre and the Wales Millennium Centre. I do love a big budget production, with a glamorous cast and glitzy costumes, but as a student, it can only be an occasional treat. Plus, although everyone needs some escapism now and then, Cardiff has so much more to offer in terms of theatre that can open your mind to new ideas and experiences. I’m sadly soon to leave Cardiff, but before I do I want to share some of my favourite sources of culture in the city.
We are extremely lucky here in Cardiff to have such a vibrant cultural community. If you’re interested in the arts, you really will never be bored here. My favourite things about the city though are the cultural centres at the heart of the community, like Sherman Cymru and Chapter Arts Centre, which have become second homes for me. In the last few months since reopening, the Sherman has welcomed an incredibly diverse array of productions from French street dance to nineteenth century drama, as well as supporting local talent with unique in-house productions. Along with more conventional plays, they have brought in genre-busting, experimental, and challenging works like the Shock ‘N’ Awe Company’s production Muscle, which brought the stories of ordinary man from across Wales to life through nothing but some very talented performers, or Grid Iron’s Barflies, based on Charles Bukowski’s work, which was performed in a pub and featured simulated sex inches from the audience’s faces. This dedication to thought-provoking theatre is taken even further by Chapter, which offers an equally varied array of works. Theatre at Chapter not only often blends several genres or media together, but also never shies away from tough questions. Recent performances have asked questions about gender, equality, politics, morality and more. On 1 and 2 June 2012, for example, Fragments of Ash will ask what turns a loving mother into a serial bomber. If you’re looking for work that makes you think, look no further. Theatre is just a small part of what Chapter offers, as well as art, literature, dance, meeting spaces, and a cinema showing blockbusters, indie, classics and world cinema. Well worth a trip into Canton. What I love most about Sherman Cymru and Chapter though is that both centres share a commitment to bringing arts into the heart of the community, creating spaces not just to watch performances, but to come together, discuss and get involved.
Beyond the cultural centres, another great source of art and entertainment that is often overlooked is the contribution of local students. Of course, we are very lucky to have the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama here and I can’t praise their Richard Burton Company (made up of drama students) enough. As clichéd as it may sound, going to their performances feels like watching the stars of the future. But as a Cardiff University student, I have to highlight just how much our 30,000 students, including many international students, have to offer. We have twenty-four performing arts societies and eighteen cultural societies, who between them ensure you’re never short of something to see. It’s a real shame that people outside of the university know so little about what’s going on here. One of my favourite societies is Act One, the drama society. I’ve only ever known of drama societies putting on a few shows a year, but Act One work tirelessly to ensure we are never short of plays, putting on one almost every week throughout second semester. Their productions range from Shakespeare and musicals to original works by the students. Obviously, as they are amateurs, you can’t expect everything to be perfect, but I’ve been very impressed by the high standard of their productions, especially in terms of new writing. And for only a few pounds a time, it’s great value for money!
As well as the many music and dance societies, some of the university’s cultural societies hold annual showcases celebrating their traditions. These have been some of the highlights of my year; as well as being great fun, they offer a fascinating insight into different cultures. These events are the highlight of the year for these societies, so incredible amounts of effort are put in to preparing them. Sadly these events never get enough promotion, but you can keep up-to-date with what’s going on through the Students’ Union calendar: http://groups.cardiffstudents.com/calendar
Obviously, it’s impossible to fit all of the great cultural events, groups and activities Cardiff has to offer into one post. What I’ve learnt from my time here is the more you look, the more you’ll find.
Guest post by Katie Brown, you can see much more from Katie on some of the many publications that she writes for as well as her private blog at katiebrownonculture.blogspot.co.uk