The Big Book of Cardiff


Big Book of Cardiff - Finch & Davies

 

Contributors:

Dannie Abse
Ifor ap Glyn
Trezza Azzopardi
Leonora Brito
J. Brookes
Sean Burke
Duncan Bush
Gillian Clarke
Grahame Davies
Lewis Davies
Tom Davies
Anna Davis
Sonia Edwards
Mari Emlyn
Peter Finch
Mari George
Niall Griffiths
Tessa Hadley
Graham Hartill
James Hawes
Viki Holmes
Mererid Hopwood
Anthony Howell
Bill James
T. James Jones
Emyr Lewis
Geraint Lewis
Phil Maillard
Owen Martell
Owain Meredith
Twm Miall
Gareth Miles
Tôpher Mills
Sheenagh Pugh
Elinor Wyn Reynolds
Lloyd Robson
Penny Simpson
Iain Sinclair
Ifor Thomas
Chris Torrance
Anna Wigley
Andrew Craig Williams
Herbert Williams
John Williams
Nia Williams

 

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An exciting anthology of new writing from Europe's newest Capital.
The modern, the post-modern, the urban, the post-industrial city
that has come into being since the 1980s.
Editors Peter Finch and Grahame Davies
select the best from the city's writers.

Seren Books. ISBN: 1854113984; 9.99

 

How do you imagine Cardiff to be? If you are middle-aged and have never been here maybe you think the hills run right to the shore-line and there's coal in the streets. If you are young then it's a Faliraki or Ag Nik. From north-west Wales it's a colonial outpost of the English empire - governmental, stern, alien, nothing to do with them. From America where knowledge of the Principality barely exists it's the town that gave the world Shirley Bassey. In Cardiff, New South Wales, they know it's the city that steel once came from. For a number of the local population it's still a place they imagine to be part of the west country. Served originally by television companies based as much in Bristol as they were here and with reception problems best solved by pointing your aerial at the Mendips it's little wonder locals suffered from geographic schizophrenia. Cardiff, the most important place in Wales. English-speaking Cardiff. Cardiff, city of darkness, drizzle and smoke.

Cardiff is all of these things and none of them. It's changed enormously since most of them stuck in the post-War world consciousness. Cardiff is now post-industrial (one rolling mill, couple of scrap yards, factory that makes television screens), re-structured, re-built and re-marketed. Shops, clubs, bars, waterfronts, opera houses, seats of Welsh government, best rugby stadium in the known universe. The youngest of European capitals and with the energy to match.

The writing collected in this anthology reflects that place. The new Cardiff, the one that's arrived since the 1980s when the decision to redevelop the docklands and rebuild Cardiff's shopping heart were taken. St David's Hall, Cardiff's purpose-built concert hall, opened in 1982; the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation to regenerate the city's collapsed docklands opened for business in 1986; South Glamorgan County Council re-located themselves to a brand-new pagoda-like headquarters at the south end of the abandoned Bute East Dock in 1987. These were the first signs of the boom to come. Things hit full stride when devolution, thanks to a wafer-thin referendum majority - and no thanks to Cardiff's own 'No' vote - became a reality and the National Assembly for Wales was established in 1999.

The work you'll find here needs to stand on its own literary merits but The Big Book of Cardiff is no inclusive and certainly no historical anthology of writers from the Capital. Here contemporanity and content lead. As editors we wanted an anthology which would reflect the city as it is now, in all its stumbling and gaudy glory. To do that we've searched among the poets and the novelists and the fictioneers in both English and Welsh, most of them Cardiff natives of some sort - either still living here or moved away. Now and again we've selected pieces from informed visitors - Chris Torrance who writes about his famous Adventures In Creative Writing at the University; Ifor ap Glyn, who opens up the thriving Welsh-language evening-class subculture; Gareth Miles with his sceptical take on the Welsh-speaking middle classes; Niall Griffiths who contextualises Cardiff, Welsh capital of the south with Liverpool, Welsh capital of the north; and Anthony Howell who writes so brilliantly about the flatlands that lie between this city and its eastern rival, Newport. We've let a couple of historical pieces through, simply to place the roaring present on the solid arms of the past. John Williams has extended his piece about the growth of Cardiff Docks, which originally appeared as part of Bloody Valentine his book on the Lynette White murder, to include the present day. Tom Davies hilariously fills in on paddle steaming in the Bristol Channel and Dannie Abse goes back to his old days in Roath

We've scooped stuff up and extracted it from the great new rush of Cardiff-based novels that London publishers have been producing during the past ten years. Sean Burke, Trezza Azzopardi, James Hawes, Bill James, and Duncan Bush can all be read at greater length elsewhere. Theirs is often a fictionalised Cardiff, although the pieces we've used in the Big Book have been selected for their veracity. You can read material written in Cardiff's notorious can-opening accent, check Tôpher Mills and Lloyd Robson. The Welsh-language community - 11% of the city's population and growing faster than anywhere else in Wales - is represented by novelists like the hell-raising Owain Meredith and the thought-provoking Owen Martell, by poets like the compelling Emyr Lewis and the irreverent Elinor Wyn Reynolds. Apposite new poetry in English comes from Gillian Clarke, Jonathan Brookes, Viki Holmes and others. And you can read new Cardiff fiction specially commissioned for this anthology from some of Wales' best writers: Tessa Hadley, Penny Simpson, Anna Davis, Nia Williams.

Old Cardiff - the Victorian and Edwardian city of coal and ships and steel - written about by some of the best of twentieth century authors - Jack Jones, Bernice Rubens, Alexander Cordell, Glyn Jones, Emyr Humphreys, and John Tripp among them - gets a perfect encapsulation in the predecessor to the present anthology, Meic Stephens's 1987 A Cardiff Anthology. For the complete picture that book is worth searching out. But the future is in the other direction. Already St David's Two, the flattening of great swathes of the central city in the name of shopping, is under way. The Bay spawns an increasing number of apartment towers. Nearness to water is vital. Buildings crowd like Serengeti wildebeest. The city moves out to the north and to the east. Sucks in wealth. Replicates, grows. The Even Bigger Book of Cardiff, that's next.


Peter Finch
Grahame Davies


"This book will probably appeal to the younger generation of Cardiffians and not old codgers like me!"
- Brian Lee in the Cardif Post (October, 2005)

"Among the less predictable products of Cardiff's transformation from a decaying coal port on the fringes of Western Europe to the expanding capital of an increasingly self-confident and self-governing nation is the boost it has given to the city's creative writers....The Big Book of Cardiff is an anthology full of lively writing about the city. The almost 60 items include poems, snatches of biography and history as well as extracts from novels. Around a quarter of them have been translated from the original Welsh....The Big Book of Cardiff is a tribute to the strength of creative writing in and about the city."
- Mario Basini in the Western Mail (December, 2005)

 

The Big Book of Cardiff is available from good bookstores at £9.95, online from the Peter Finch Archive (bigbook@peterfinch.co.uk) or from Seren Books 57 Nolton Street, Bridgend CF31 3AE Wales, UK Tel: 01656 663018 Fax: 01656 649226 bk @seren-books.com


 

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