Sitting on the floor of the Cardiff Arts Institute with a French woman called Matilda and discussing how we can make train station’s more accessible and less cold is not how I would normally spend a Wednesday evening, but this is the ‘Wednesday Club’.
The group is part of the ARK and meets every Wednesday at 7 PM to consider how social design can help public spaces in Wales. At the moment they are working on a project to give feedback to a Welsh Assembly consultation on the accessibility of the nation’s railway stations.
Simon O’Rafferty, one of the organisers of the meet-ups, explained what the idea was behind ARK.
He said: “We wanted to explore the idea of accessibility in stations and respond to the Welsh Assembly consultation, and perhaps provide a different viewpoint.
“We want to submit a report to the Assembly that considers the social aspects of accessibility, not just to do with disabilities and disabled access. It’s important that our public spaces, like train stations, are bright, welcoming and useable to everyone.”
ARK brings together designers, architects, interior designers, fashionatas and anyone else who is interested in making sure public spaces are friendlier.
Laura Howe, a set designer, has been coming along to ARK and is working on another of their projects – using the empty spaces in the Victorian Arcades.
She said: “I would like to see those empty shop spaces being used and having all kinds of events in them. We wanted to link it in with the Cardiff Design Festival and have some quirky events happening in the shops, like for example having some artists who would recreate great Welsh sporting moments.
“We want creative workshops to be happening in the Arcades and if those shops aren’t going to be used, wouldn’t it be great if they were made available for artists, musicians, and other creative types for at least some of the year?”
Lynsey Jackson who has been coming to ARK meet-ups for sometime explained that it was an open and accessible forum for anyone with ideas.
She said: “We didn’t want it to feel forced. There were three of us at the start but that’s starting to grow. People can come along when they have time and share their ideas, we meet every Wednesday without fail.”
ARK has a blog where they document their ideas, ask for ideas and keep people informed of what they are up to.