Cardiff is known for many things. It’s the youngest capital city in Europe; it’s home to the Welsh assembly, Welsh rugby and Charlotte Church. At a push, you would associate it with surfing, given that it’s not far from surfing hotspots like Porthcawl. But skateboarding?

Sure, every city has it’s skateboarders. You’ll always be able to find some be-hoodied child shuffling around on a street corner, sheepishly avoiding the glare of disapproving onlookers while stealthily popping an ollie, or using a nearby park bench as a ramp.

But skateboarding in Cardiff goes a lot deeper than this. I bet you didn’t know that Cardiff had a skateboard club – CSC, which, as of November 2009, had over 200 members. Then there’s Crayon Skateboards, a Cardiff based skateboard company headed by a guy called Matthew Ryan (also known as Dykie). His videos and documentation of the Cardiff skateboard scene over the past 10-15 years launched the careers of Matthew Pritchard and Lee Dainton in the TV series Dirty Sanchez. Then there’s City Surf in the Castle Arcade – the hub at the heart of this sprawling four-wheeled network – and Cardiff’s top skate shop, which, having just reasserted itself at the centre of things with a new online presence, provides the perfect opportunity to explore a lesser known side of the city…

The Early Days

The Welsh Office on King Edward VII Avenue - a popular place for skateboarders. (Click for a map link)

There’s been a skateboarding scene in Cardiff ever since anyone can remember. Well, according to Guto Williams anyway, a sales assistant in City Surf and avid Cardiff skateboarder: “People have been skating at the Welsh Office for years. Some of the older guys who work here remember skating there when they were kids, so that’s like early ’80s.”

City Surf was then established in 1986, but was a mere shadow of its present incarnation – a basement shop selling just skateboards and surfboards in the unit next door to the one it’s currently in. Now, however, it’s a veritable Aladdin’s cave covering three floors of skateboards, longboards, surfboards, snowboards, gear, clothing and accessories. As a shop, it also arranges events, contests and scene-video premier nights.

Cardiff Skateboard Club (CSC)

An actual skateboard club was a much later addition to the scene, and was only really formalised a couple of years ago. It started with James Owen, another Cardiff skateboarder and CSC website creator, who took Cardiff skateboarding online.

“It’s a pretty lose arrangement,” says Guto again. “There’s a bunch of us who are all about the same age, like 30-odd, who have always skated together. One day James decided to put a Facebook group together so that it was easier for people to communicate with each other about when they were going skating. So it started from that really. Then James made a proper website for it.”

Even now there are no formal meets as a club as such – they just “skateboard regularly.” But anyone can join and come along (as long as you have a skateboard, though). According to James, “there’s no official membership routine, just join the Facebook group or turn up at an event. If you join in with the fun, you’re in the club.”

About those films…

“The barriers to video making are virtually nil these days,” says James. “I think it’s more fun to arrange an event if everyone knows there will be footage of it.”

In fact, so prolific are the films coming out of CSC, that UK skateboard magazine Sidewalk have featured a few on their website.

Enter The Dragon (above) was shot and edited by Matthew Ryan – long time Cardiff skate scene documentary maker. But some younger club members are starting to make their mark too – take a look at the video below, Hologram, which was shot by 21-year-old Nick Richards:

How many places did you recognise in Cardiff?

The places to go

Callaghan Square, Cardiff (click for a map link)

As has already been mentioned, The Welsh Office on King Edward VII avenue is a favourite, but security can be pretty tight. Callaghan Square (formally Bute Square) is often used, as is Cardiff Bay. CSC also has a spot guide on their website here.

And here, in my opinion, is the most interesting element of skateboarding – the ability to turn an everyday place designed for something completely normal, into something totally different.

“It’s like seeing a new potential for a space which wasn’t originally designed for that,” says Guto. “It’s quite funny going around and interpreting spaces in your own way because it allows you to be quite creative in that respect.”

But nobody really knows why this mindset is particularly prevalent in Cardiff. What we do know however, is that it provides another interesting, if somewhat unexpected dimension to an already thriving and continually growing city. So, long let it continue.

Want to get into skateboarding? Here’s what you’ll need to get started, according to Guto (excuse the “mmhmms” and “yups” on my part, but I was interested…):

If you Tweet, follow this lot:

Cardiff Skateboard Club: @iwantmycsc

City Surf: @citysurfskate

If you prefer Facebook, join this lot:

CSC Facebook group

Computer Assisted Reporting (or CAR) will probably turn most wordy types like myself off at the very first acronym. But actually, as much as some of us might loathe the thought of it, it’s another skill we should be adding to out kit belt.

Simply, CAR is the process of using raw data to get stories. Computer software such as Excel and other database managers are used to analyse it, from which the journalist can extract a story.

Such data can be requested via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for example, and sites like What Do They Know are making this easier to do (data can be requested by anyone, not just journalists)

Examples of where data from a FOIA has been used as a main source for an article is this one from The Times…

…And this one from The Guardian:

A good recent example would be The Telegraph’s MP’s expenses revelations.

But, as you can imagine, this sort of journalism will take time and effort. You need to know what you’re doing, and most importantly, you need to feel comfortable working with numbers and statistics. But it seems to me that the results will be some of the most rewarding and hard-hitting journalism – why?

Well, the material you’re working with hasn’t yet been interpreted by anyone else, it is pure – unadulterated by other sources and unaffected by opinion. There is a real chance to create a truly original piece of journalism.

Working with hard data, and collecting proper conclusions from it, will also give your story authority and a grounding in something real that cannot be disputed. Surely this is what many, if not every journalist strives for?

Sadly the trend for CAR isn’t as common in the UK as it is in the US, but hopefully the British media will begin to recognise and tap into the fact that there’s a whole new resource out there for good, quality journalism – something that right now, we couldn’t need more of.

So a while back I posted about Daniel Meadows, the photographer who went around in a bus taking pictures of people, and who kick started Capture Wales – a digital story telling initiative. Well, as promised, here is my own attempt at just that. Let me know what you think (even though it’s a bit rough around the edges)…

Which side of the pay wall are you on?

The issue over paying for news content online is a big right now – you can ask anyone, not just those from the industry, and they will have an opinion. But rather unnervingly, the opinion is mostly negative. In other words, the general news-consuming public don’t want to pay for news content when they read it online.

For an assignment a few weeks ago, I was asking the people on Cardiff’s Queen Street whether they would pay for the news they read online. Every single person, before answering, looked at me like I was mad woman. “No, why would I want to do that?” followed most of the answers.

But someone’s got to pay somewhere along the line. News online is still news and it uses up resources like any other print newspaper, which can cost anything from 20p – £1.00.

However, are there certain “types” of content that people would pay for? Rob Andrews, editor of the UK branch of PaidContent raised an interesting idea last week in a guest lecture. Perhaps, some news outlets that write to a certain specialised market, can get away with charging for the content they put online.

For example, consider some business titles like  The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, both of which charge for some of their online content. This has worked because, according to Rob, their readers are probably quite wealthy (so can afford to do so) and they may need the information for work.

The same could be said for specialist business magazines like Farmers Weekly or Motor Transport – publications that deliver industry news and information that can be found no where else, that the readers will need.

It’s a nice idea, and for a brief minute gives the industry just a glimmer of hope. But what about general consumer news? Could we charge for the non-specialist everyday news that we read on the front page of The Sun website? Probably not, given the opinions of the general public mentioned previously, who have been used to accessing free content since time began (well, since the internet. Nothing counts before then, right?)

It would be like putting the genie back into the bottle, and nobody hates massive change more than the general public do.

… Was the question I found myself asking last week.  

It came to mind after a very interesting guest lecture by Joanna Geary, a web development editor for the business section of The Times. A pretty good job, no? But what struck me was how Joanna had got so far without a formal education in journalism (like a university postgraduate diploma or masters). I don’t mean that to sound like I’m surprised, if anything I’m in awe.

For me, the thought of trying to get a job in journalism without any formal training terrified me – I didn’t know how to be a journalist when I finished my undergraduate degree (it was a degree in philosophy for goodness sakes, not entirely practical). I didn’t know where to begin when looking for news stories, I didn’t know how to properly craft headlines or intros and loads of other practical skills that a journalist needs.

But perhaps, if the miracle of me getting a job in journalism had occurred when I graduated the first time round, these would have been things I would have learnt on the job. I’d done quite a bit of work experience which was extremely valuable, but still didn’t feel prepared to say that I was qualified enough to have a proper job.

However, work experience was something that Joanna had done a lot of. She’d also worked outside of journalism for a while after graduating, as well putting in a lot blood, sweat, tears and phone calls in the quest to find someone who would employ her on a newspaper.

Perhaps then, general life experience has a lot to do with it as well. As a 21-year-old graduate my life experience was, and probably still is relatively little. And also, perhaps some people “get it” sooner than others.

…So I’m not sure what my conclusion is, but whatever the case Joanna is an example of just what hard work and determination can achieve – with or without formal journalism training. Surely a valuable lesson for everyone to take to heart.

Err, the value of print?

Found in the Co-op on Crwys Road, Cardiff.

The awards lunch inside Vinopolis, Bankside, London 20/11/09

Before the awards ceremony on Friday (20/11, winners here), five industry bigwigs were asked to give short presentations to students with the aim of enlightening us with insider tips and career advice. The speakers were:

Sara Cremer began the session with a positive message: it is a scary time to be a journalist, but it’s also an exciting one.

Julian Linley was a man with brilliant stories. Not that he let much slip, but I imagine he has a couple of good ones after being editor of Heat. He knows how to work people, how to make them talk and how to get stories. Hell, he’d get a stone to bleed. These were the top 10 things he’d learnt during his career so far:

  • Reach for the stars – there’s nothing wrong with aiming high – be focused and don’t be intimidated to just do it. If you aspire to be editor of Heat, then, well, get on with it.
  • Know your reader – they are the people who buy your magazine, they won’t buy it if they don’t like what’s in it.
  • Don’t take no for an answer and be persistent – producing one of the the biggest selling celebrity magazines was not the result of being lazy.
  • We’re really old fashioned – women still, and always will like reading about fashion and how to lose weight (hmm, perhaps a few will disagree).
  • Trust your instinct
  • Learn from your boss
  • Be confident and sensitive – confident is good up to a point, but sometimes you have be sensitive to the people you’re talking to. You’ll draw more out of them and in the end get a fuller story because of it.
  • The paranoid survive – read everything and don’t let anything pass you by.
  • … But have a life – it’s essential that we have a life outside of journalism, because ultimately that’s what our readers are doing and it’s them we need to know.

Steve Barrett’s Media Week was itself the subject of journalism news last week, after it was revealed that the print edition would no longer run with the online version taking its place. His advice today however, was to realise that journalistic basics will always hold strong:

  • Journalism is a craft, it has a process. Thinking that there is room for total creativity is the wrong attitude to take initially.
  • Work experience is essential – that’s where you’ll do most of your learning.
  • Accuracy is key.
  • Don’t be an email journalist – talk to people, you’ll get more from them and better quotes.
  • Maintain good contacts.
  • Be enthusiastic.

Mark Jones gave one of the most entertaining presentations of the day, with his Devil’s Guide To Journalism: Sell Your Soul…. (I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not)

  • When faced with cutting either a fact or a joke, keep the joke. Writing needs personality.
  • Decide if you’re a man or a woman…
  • Writing features is like a mating ritual – you need to entice your readers in and keep them there.
  • Write like an Iranian taxi driver – be a bit reckless and take a few risks.
  • Get into Private Eye…
  • Insult the Welsh – it’s all about getting a reaction, cause a little chaos.
  • Be a pest.

Andy Cowles was definitely standing up for print today as he gave us 10 tips for making a killer front cover (but only got to number seven as he enthusiastically rambled on after every point).

  1. Know your reader (a popular point being made today).
  2. Control colour – less is often far more effective.
  3. Own a news event – get the best story and make your reader believe that this your story and no one else’s.
  4. Use great photographs, and take your own.
  5. Illustrate if you can’t take your own (he used this Mojo cover as an example).
  6. Write the memorable line.
  7. Create promises – readers love promises.

Other good points Andy Cowles made:

  • Covers are unique because they stand outside of a magazine and are the only way to get your message across to potential readers.
  • Magazines are a brand but with packaging that changes – keeping an identity is crucial.
  • Magazines also give readers an identity – the guy who reads Wallpaper* is going to be different from the guy who reads Nuts.
  • This is why magazines are extraordinary – they are a fashion accessory.

So Sara Cremer couldn’t have been more right when she said it’s a scary but exciting time to be working as journalist. Even though this is a point that has been battered into us so many times from guest speakers, lecturers and tutors alike that it wears thin, today put it into the context of real life.

The industry is exciting. It’s only made scarier by the Iranian taxi drivers among us.










So this doesn’t have much to do with journalism or anything we’ve learnt in lectures, but I think from now on I’m going to use this blog to post other things too. Consider them some extra-curricular activities.

There are people who play instruments who love a song so much that they want to learn how to play that song. Nothing unusual there. I play the guitar, and the first song that I loved and learnt to play was Come As You Are by Nirvana (stereotypical teenager or what?) Then I learnt to play the drums, on which I mastered Coldplay’s Clocks (an odd phase that I was going through), and every other simple 4/4 beat that consists of bass drum, hi-hat and snare. I’m really bad at the drums, and therefore really bad at the songs I profess to know how to play.

However, there are some really AWESOME drummers out there, who are AWESOME at playing along to the songs they love. They’re so awesome, in fact, that they like to film themselves doing it – and you’d be surprised at how many of these videos are on Youtube.

So in no particular order, here are some of the best ones I’ve come across so far (or, songs I love but am too shabby at the drums to learn how to play):

Like dubstep? Never heard of dubstep? Well it’s a genre with lots of bass stretched across a two-step rhythm. Not exactly easy listening, but this guy is amazing. Dubstep made human:

System of A Down are a band of some of the most accomplished rock musicians around right now. I remember being in awe of the drumming going on in Toxicity, from their first album. This guy nails it (and just look at his drum kit):

Rage Against The Machine, Bulls On Parade… (Note this guy’s symbols):

This is Blink 182’s Anthem Part II covered by the guy above who did SOAD. Wait for the verse:

I don’t spend all my spare time watching middle-aged men play the drums, promise…


Every post that has gone before this one has been, largely, in support of technology and its role in journalism. But for one minute, if you don’t mind, I’d like to complain.

When technology works, it’s amazing. But when it doesn’t, it totally sucks.

For instance, my Blackberry = awesome. I can connect to wi-fi networks on it, read my emails, find where I am using its in-built GPS mapping system (I once navigated myself and a friend to and around London in a car using only my phone), take high quality pictures and video plus a whole load of other things. I think I can even make calls on it.

But all of this takes up a lot of battery, so much so that I have to charge it at least every other night – something which is a bit of a pain, and to be honest, something I forget to do quite regularly. Inevitably, my phone dies, and so does my access to the wider world. NIGHTMARE.

And the most annoying thing is that when it is low on battery, it insists on telling me by flashing it’s little LED light thing constantly. Do you not think, Mr Blackberry, that you save more battery by NOT DOING THAT?

Secondly, my house has the worst internet connection ever. Even being able to write this post is nothing short of a miracle. All of a sudden we can be thrown off the network, lose signal and be painfully slow for no reason. This results in work being lost, blog posts going missing and not being able to watch last week’s One Tree Hill on 4OD (DISASTER). Even now I’m trying to download something from BBC iPlayer that has been stuck on 12 minutes for the past 30. ARGH.

This results in either me or one of my housemates having to restart our router by unplugging it for 5 seconds and plugging it back in again (those are the actual instructions it gives us). None of us can ever really be bothered because we have to do it about 4733393000 times a day. And even when it is working, it’s right outside my door RIGHT in the way of my door and gets knocked out of the socket whenever I open my door.

Maybe we need a new router, or I need to be more careful when opening my door, or one of my housemates is downloading acceptionally big files (I dare not ask…) but either way, it’s really very, very annoying,

… But when it works it works really well. And I can catch up on last week’s One Tree Hill, yesterday’s Hollyoaks and last Friday’s Any Questions (thought I’d better throw that one in there).

Swings and roundabouts, eh.

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