For the last year, Katie Brown has been blogging on all things cultural in and around Cardiff.
Katie Brown: On Culture has taken the MA student to venues, performances, screenings and events right across the city.
But as she prepares to move to London at the end of the summer, she looks back over what she’s learned about Cardiff’s cultural scene over the last 12 months.
Here, in the first of four guest blogs for yourCardiff, she talks about how Cardiff’s university students contribute to its cultural life.
My time in Cardiff is coming to an end. It’s been short but very sweet. Since I moved here in late September I’ve discovered a world of arts and culture which often goes under the radar, so over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a little of what I’ve learnt in my time here. Given that it was Cardiff University which brought me here, it’s only fair that I start with just how much the students here have to offer.
Cardiff University is home to roughly 30,000 students, including over 3000 international students from more than 100 countries. It’s no surprise then that there is such a wide range of cultural activity at the University, but at first I had no idea how much. The Union is shamefully bad at promoting the events its students put on beyond campus, and even now I still miss things if I get lapse at checking Facebook and Twitter. It’s a shame because the passion and dedication students put in to their events makes them really worthwhile.
The Students’ Union is home to 24 performance and artistic societies and 18 cultural and international societies, on top of the University’s School of Music. This means that there is never a shortage of something to see or do. In terms of music, there is everything from bell-ringing to reggae. One of the highlights of last year was the world premier of Rambo: The Opera, created by undergraduate composition students Martin Humphries and David Roche. Bringing together two seemingly incompatible worlds, Cardiff University’s innovative musicians proved they’re ones to watch. Another highly successful and very large music group is the Jazz Society which holds many laid-back gigs throughout the year. As for dance, again there’s a huge range of societies catering for all interests with regular performances, from Funky Ass Dancers to Broadway Dance to Breakdance.
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! This summer Act One will be taking three productions to Edinburgh Fringe – King Lear, Wuthering Heights and a new piece called The Institute. Before they do, they’ll be testing them out in Cardiff so keep an eye on www.actonetheatre.org.uk for dates.
For something completely different, I highly recommend the annual showcases from the various cultural groups. The biggest and most prestigious is the Malaysian Society’s. Now in its ninth year, the Festival of Diversity combines traditional music and dance with a musical telling a story from Malaysian history. The spectacular event attracts Malaysians and their friends from all over the country and beyond. Following this success, both the Asian Society and the African & Caribbean Society hold their own showcases, which also bring in fashion, food and even poetry. Then there’s the Union’s annual Go Global event which brings together performances from artistic and cultural societies big and small. These events were real highlights of my year: not only full of energy, colour and excitement, but also a really great way to learn more about other cultures. It is this unique combination of cultures that makes Cardiff such a vibrant place to be and it makes me sad that more people don’t know about them.
I’d like to end with a date for your diaries. DiffFilms, the film-making branch of the University’s Film Society will showcase the short films it has made this year at Chapter Arts Centre at 6pm on June 12th (http://www.chapter.org/26987.html). DiffFilms provides students with all the equipment, training and guidance they need to write, film and edit their own shorts. With everything from magical realism to gritty crime, this is an event not to be missed.
This is just a tiny amount of what Cardiff University students work tirelessly on throughout the year. You can keep up-to-date with what’s going on through the Students’ Union calendar: http://groups.cardiffstudents.com/calendar