Chronicle Blog: Breaking Boundaries

The Chronicle’s Volunteer Blog features blog posts and articles about what it’s like to be a part of the Chronicle Project and is written by our volunteers.
This post is by Mike Hawkins, a retired volunteer who recently conducted a walking tour of Cardiff Bay for the project.


It’s the day of the final Chronicle walk and it’s pouring with rain. Will anyway turn up to hear about the rather esoteric topic of the contribution of volunteering to art in Cardiff Bay? Just time to check whether there are places to talk under cover and then see if anyone’s turned up. A couple of hardy souls have defied the elements, so we can start.

Fortunately there is cover at Cardiff Bay Station (Grade II* listed, 1840s), so a good place to talk about the chance discovery of a history of the Rainbow Club in the second Butetown Carnival programme, and the involvement of the Quakers and the Save the Children Fund.

Extract from the Butetown Carnival Programme concerning the Rainbow Club

Then off down Bute Street. A quick glance at the National Westminster Bank building (Grade II*, 1927). I knew BayArt Gallery (opposite, closed on Mondays) had a children’s educational event so we couldn’t blag our way in; the discussion of nearby [former] Butetown History and Arts Centre would have to be in the rain. Their website still has a “Help save BHAC” item – “0% Donated / £40,000 To Go”.

Butetown History and Arts Centre website

The tour exploring the Crafts in the Bay

Then off to the Craft in the Bay where the manager Simon gave us a rundown on the Makers Guild of Wales and the demolition and resurrection of “D” Shed as the framework for their building. Thanks also to Simon for the postcard of the “D” Shed as it was, and to Anne for drawing my attention to the work of Pauline Monkcom, who makes wonderful glazed ceramics based on Ordnance Survey maps. You can see these on her website, which is confusingly called Paulinemonkcom.com. Outside we looked at the tiles recording the costs for items shipped in or out of the sheds, and the iron mooring post.

The Norwegian Church

We avoided the rain by looking at Roald Dahl Plas from the Pierhead Building (Grade I, 1897) to talk about the SWICA carnival and the earlier Butetown carnival. Fortunately, when we did an oral history with Robert Davies, I asked him about the origin of the Butetown ‘Mardi Gras’. So I could tell about John Jones’s controversial article, the staged fight to get publicity, staying in a caravan to ensure the site was not damaged, the torrential rain and flooding that nearly spoiled the day and the fire. You can hear (and read) that here: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/583839.

Finally off to the Norwegian Church for a cup of tea and Klavdija’s obligatory forms.

The tour finishing with a coffee.