Volunteering at the Abacus; Cardiff’s ‘Pride of Place project’ by The Caravan Gallery – 7th & 14th of October

At the moment, I am sitting in the abacus whilst volunteering at the Diffusion Festival. The ‘Pride of Place’ festival is headed by the Caravan Gallery, a duo of artists that travel around the country making exhibitions about the ‘nature’ of a town. The exhibition is crafted from the thoughts and memories of those who live in the town. Much like a ‘reverse tourist information’ centre, it showcases a ‘map’ of a city made from the minds of the residents, instead of the map makers or those who have just come to visit. It crafts a truly interesting and unique exhibition; prompting reflection and artworks by the visitors to be the main focus of the exhibition, instead of the artists themselves.

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The map of Cardiff (albeit missing a few key areas)

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A close-up of a Cardiff love story

Two of the defining pieces within the ‘exhibition’ are a duo of two large maps; one featuring the centre of the city (which is quite bare at the moment), and a second, larger map featuring the majority of the Cardiff area (missing a few key areas). The larger map is certainly the more interesting visually and contextually, as it has so much more room for others to fill in their storied from around the different provinces within the City. I have filled in particular areas of interest around the city during my time volunteering here, as well as having my friends come in and fill in their own stories and memories from around the city. This is all well and good, but it is also incredibly interesting to read the stories of people that I do not know, and who appear to be strangers to me. To have a brief peek into people’s lives; their heartbreaks, their happiness, their loss, their excitement, their relationships with themselves, the people around them and their city…it’s compelling, to say the least. Reading the words on the wall, I feel a closeness to these people. I share in these times and memories with them; I smile, or I sadden, depending on the context. But, through this exhibition, we share.

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The second room is as fun as the first, consisting of a variety of different creative activities and small ‘sections’ of the ‘Tourist information centre’. The ‘creative space’ houses the materials to make your own Cardiff inspired postcards, badges, collages, souvenirs, and much more. Providing a platform for those who have not brought in their own artworks or objects to the exhibition, to create an artwork for the exhibition within.

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Two of my proud creations; Tom Jones’ ‘Bell-end’, as well as an original, bona-fide ‘Iron Age Toothpick’, from the old iron age fort on the outskirts of the city

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‘The wall of Dave’

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A photography installation by the Cardiff based Photographer ‘Dan Green’, known for creating works celebrating his immediate vicinity and area, as well as the wider outreaches of Cardiff. This piece, entitled; ‘The Wall of Dave’, is somewhat of a shrine to a rather eccentric character who would reside around Roath and Albany Road around 3 years ago. Dave was well known for his many ‘disguises’, in which he would travel from his home in Pontypridd and come into Cardiff, dressed up as one of these characters he had created for himself. I was lucky enough to see him a few times when I used to go to college in Roath; prompting me to respect and look out for him. Alas, no-one has seen him in a long time now, and we are wondering where he could possibly be. Nevertheless, he always brought a smile to the face of those who saw and interacted with him, and was a jolly man whatever the weather.

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I have also loaned this skull the exhibition, on the grounds that I found it a few doors down from my house, within a Prada bag. Cardiff is a strange place; that’s for sure.

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