This article was published in February 2017 in the South Wales Echo. There’s a list of articles from our monthly column by yer. When WalesOnline occasionally fails to post them as well, we’ve put them on the blog just in case they are of some use to someone someday. This month, we received a tenner in the post…
You probably saw that Irish-themed pub Dempseys on the corner of Womanby Street called time for the last time on the 11 February. As that increasingly rare species – a proper boozer – Dempseys was often great fun, a great place for all kinds of live music (as well as the venue of Twisted By Design, Cardiff’s longest running indie disco from Gary Anderson), and beloved of thousands of Cardiffians.
There was an outcry on social media when its closure was announced, all to no avail. Many of us will miss the place. Echoing the thoughts (and tweets) of many of us, Mark (@23marley1) tweeted me this earlier. “[Dempseys had] the best beer, staff, clientele, music and the view of the Castle…Very sad loss.” He also inserted a tearful emoji, such are the times we live in. As the much-used hashtag states: #SadTimes
As an irrelevant aside, until it shut I didn’t fully appreciate the plaque outside Dempseys’ claiming that it was the oldest pub in Cardiff, first opening as the Globe in 1731. (I believe my mum celebrated her 21st at the steak restaurant upstairs shortly after opening.) However, I thought the nearby Rummer Tavern was older, having opened in 1713. (That said, Brian Lee states that the Rummer, formerly known as Hallinans dates only to 1813, so who is to be believed, eh?)
In a world of constant change, it’s fairly mind blowing to imagine that when you’re stood in the Rummer Tavern enjoying a pint of beer, someone once stood in that very spot doing exactly the same thing, 200 or maybe 300 years ago – probably moaning about the weather and how “these new bars aren’t as good as the old ones”.
The Rummer is independent, haunted, and has the kind of made-in-the-’90s, creaky unslick website that in my book usualy suggests a brilliant traditional pub. And it makes no claim to even being old, let alone possibly the oldest in Cardiff, which is either incredibly modest (which I like to think) or perhaps it is only 204 years old.
Anyway, back to the future: Brains is being tight-lipped about what will become of Dempseys. “We won’t be releasing any information about the Dempseys redevelopment until next month,” spokesperson Tim Lewis told me. “Just to avoid further speculation, I can tell you that it’s not going to be a tapas restaurant.” That puts paid to any fanning the flames of speculation I was about to do then, because I had a bet with Paddy Power about it becoming a tapas bar.
After all, Spain is very much flavour of the moment. Down on Quay Street, replacing SA Brain’s Greenwood and Brown steakhouse venture that opened in late 2011, replacing the much missed Model Inn (are you keeping up?) will be a new Spanish restaurant. The unit is now being let to the owners of Bar44, brothers Owen and Tom Morgan, to create Asador44, which will feature northern Spanish cuisine, chargrilling with charcoal and wood, and a cheese cave. They claim that it’s the first restaurant of its kind in Wales, “introducing a style of communal Spanish dining not experienced here before”. (You had me at ‘cheese cave’, lads.)
What with well established (and very good) sister site Bar 44, and newcomer and instant hit Curado – a deli and pintxos bar also on Westgate Street – it seems this part of Cardiff is quickly becoming the city’s Latin Quarter. (Yet another Quarter!) And it’s great news for us, the hungry people of Cardiff who have forgotten – or never learned – how to work an oven.
The other day, we received a ten pound note in the post with a note to say that we weren’t to spend it on ourselves and we had to do some good with it, such as buy a homeless person a pair of gloves or treat an elderly person to lunch.
It’s not often that you get money by mail, especially when it’s not your birthday, so I was fairly excited and honoured to be chosen by Matt Callahan, a local videographer (he runs Callapro Films) and all round nice guy who has founded something called We Make Good Happen.
In addition to sending a few by mail, Matt also left 20 envelopes each containing a tenner hidden around Cardiff. You probably saw or heard him talking on national news and radio at the start of the month.
“The response to the idea was way better than I imagined it would be,” says Matt. “I would have been happy with Welsh coverage but it seemed to capture people’s imagination and went national. What was really interesting was that we’ve learned of people around the UK and a few abroad using their own tenners to some good.”
I have to say, I felt a bit of pressure. I mean, £10 may change someone’s day but it doesn’t go very far in 2017, does it? How to make an impact? So I thought I’d try to grow it in order to do even more good.
I spent the morning of the 1st February taking photographs – of Grangetown railway stop, the view from Grangemoor Park, of the graffiti wall in Sevenoaks Park, and the steelworks from Splott Park among other things. In the afternoon I edited the photos to become ten postcards showing “atleternative Cardiff” scenes, and sent them to Touch Graphics on Crwys Road. Nice people that they are, they agreed to print 200 for just a tenner, which on 2 February – the day that the 20 ten pound notes were distributed around Cardiff – I sold online in packs of five and ten for £5 and £10 respectively, with all the cashola going to The Wallich homeless charity.
Such was people’s generous response that we sold out of the postcards fairly quickly, so Touch agreed to print another batch. In all, we turned that original tenner (and a second one) into £404.89, all of which went directly into the coffers of The Wallich to be spent in Cardiff.
So thanks very much to everyone who bought some cards. One person, Anne, even sent us one back in the post: “I’ve sent the other nine postcards up and down the country spreading some ‘Diff love,” she wrote on the back. “Just making sure you get some too.” How nice is that?
It was great to hear people on social media describe what they did with their ten pounds. “One girl bought some flowers for an elderly lady, who turned out to be recovering from a heart attack,” says Matt. “A family put together homeless packs of hats, gloves and dogs treats and gave them to the homeless. And one lady took a Big Issue seller and her two kids for an afternoon treat of coffee and cakes.”
Matt, whose favourite Tenner4Good story is pictured, also did one. He bought a LEGO car for a five-year-old Syrian refugee after hearing that he didn’t have many toys and that he loved cars and LEGO. “I’m also going to make that little boy’s dream come true by building him a big LEGO house,” he tells me.
What Matt’s initiative shows is how a small gesture can make a big difference, and in a world that seems increasingly divided it’s also a timely reminder that we can all do something to make our communities a better, friendlier and more welcoming place.
An edited version of this article was published in February 2017 in the South Wales Echo.