Sharing the community's words in the Cardiff People's Paper
Have you seen the new Cardiff People's Paper?
The original Cardiff People's Paper was a community newspaper, published between 1969 and 1976 to shine a light on and campaign for tenant's right and fight back against development across that city that put profit - and traffic - before people. You can read some of the original editions of the paper here, and VCS did a fascinating interview with Alex Bird, part of the original People's Paper collective.
Now Alex has teamed up with Cat Lewis and Made in Roath to create a new edition of the paper to highlight the Save the Northern Meadows campaign and focussing on rights and planning issues affecting Cardiff residents today.
We wanted to contribute something to the new People's Paper to reflect the impact that planning decisions have had on the communities of Splott and Adamsdown, and in solidarity with the groups across the city fighting to have their voices heard and needs recognised. Our area is all too familiar with decisions made and developments given the go ahead without the community being heard - in a recent funding application we decided to pull some examples together (we know there are more we have missed)...
2013: Closure of historic Howard Gardens bowling green supporting visually impaired bowlers. Its closure was opposed by the local community. The site was sold for development and student flats now occupy the space.
2014: Closure of Splott pool. Its closure was opposed by the local community.
2014: Closure of Roath Library which was located on the border of Adamsdown and served Adamsdown residents. Its closure was opposed by the community.
2015: Closure of Adamsdown Play Centre (‘The Hut’) and associated public outdoor space with gym equipment. Its closure was opposed by the local community.
2016: Historic university settlement building, part of a movement to provide education and culture for working-class people, was demolished to build flats. The demolition was opposed by the local community.
2016: Closure of the STAR Centre on Splott Road. Many of the Centre’s facilities were transferred to the new STAR hub in Splott Park but in the new hub sports courts are not provided and the library was downsized. This change removed this facility from the high street, reducing access for Adamsdown residents
2018: Closure of the Communities First Programme, a Welsh Government anti-poverty programme.
2018: Closure of Adamsdown Resource Centre and the Edible Adamsdown Community Garden.
When it comes to the Railway Gardens site we know that it used to be a children's playground and that it closed sometime around 1997 due to problems with anti-social behaviour but we don't know the exact circumstances. Were local people asked how they felt about losing a park? Were any new facilities offered instead? If anyone has any further information about it we'd be really pleased to hear from you.
We do know that we are definitely not the first group to try and reclaim the site - one lady who took part in consultation in 2018 told us “I’ve been trying for years to get that park back to the public. I’ve spoken to mums with teenage kids who used to play in that park when they were toddlers.” In 2018, when Cardiff Council withdrew their offer to make the site available for community use it felt like another window of opportunity to access that land had closed. A brief email informed us that the land was to be sold for development and that was that.
We had already been in discussion with the council about it for two and a half years... give up or keep going? When pushing for something to change there's a constant battle with the narrative (and sometimes your own internal voice) that you're making a fuss about nothing, not being grateful enough for the facilities provided, wasting busy people's time, being naive, being loud, being 'difficult'. Did we really want to take on more of this and try and stop the land being sold off? But 'if not you, then who?' right?
We started a petition to try and show how deeply the community needed shared space, and instantly the signatures and comments began to flood in. That outpouring of feeling, and the wider attention it gained, was the key that unlocked new discussion with the council and ultimately led to the land being leased for residents to use. We decided to bring just a fraction of those comments together as a poem for the new Cardiff People's Paper. Perhaps you recognise some of your own words or feelings in there? Do let us know what you think, and check out the full paper here.