Capturing Cardiff

Cardiff’s Hope for Welsh Independence

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A report published by the National Assembly Commission last October revealed a fifth of young people aged between 18 and 24 years of age were for a fully independent Wales. Surprisingly popularity for the movement was least apparent in South East Wales – including Cardiff – where only eight percent of the general population considered Welsh independence a priority.

As a capital city, Cardiff should be a patriotic representative of the Welsh people, their beliefs, their morals and their pride as a nation. Instead many young people making up Cardiff’s population feel not enough is being done to promote the real Wales, the Wales behind the the buzz of the capital. External influences are increasingly seen to be overtaking the traditional values of the Welsh people – as is Cardiff’s close proximity to the English border. These factors are now being blamed for a lack of support for independence apparent in Cardiff’s younger generation. 

Wales’s first movement towards independence came in 1997 with the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales, followed by the Government of Wales Act in 1998. The Government of Wales Act allowed legal separation between the National Assembly for Wales as a legislature with powers to pass Welsh laws and the Welsh Assembly Government as the executive body. These political milestones were seen as huge successes for the people of Wales who had frequently campaigned for such independent movements during the latter part of the 20th Century. The youth of today appear to hold none of the concerns their previous generation fought for so passionately. It is now up to those who did, and still do, campaign to ask why the young people of Cardiff appear to be so reluctant. 

“It has always been a challenge trying to get young people involved in politics,” says Assembly Member for Plaid Cymru – the Welsh National Party – Chris Franks, “there are too many other attractions for them.”

When the question of Welsh independence was posed to two youngsters shopping in Cardiff’s Queen Street the answer was immediate, “I think Wales should stay the way it is,” said 13-year-old Olivia Chinnock from Pontypridd, 12-year-old Shannon Gerry agreed, “I think it’s fine the way it is. I don’t think Wales should separate from England.”

Cardiff's iconic structures attract thousands of Welsh people but aren't seen to reflect the true heart of Wales

Cardiff's iconic structures attract thousands of Welsh people but aren't seen to reflect the true heart of Wales

“It is not the same in Cardiff”

Caryl Wyn Jones is a 22-year-old student from North Wales. She moved to Cardiff to study Law and Politics at Cardiff University and whilst there founded the university’s first Cymru X society – Cymru X is the youth wing of Plaid Cymru. Caryl believes a loss of basic Welsh values in the capital are to blame for a reluctance among young people to support Welsh independence, “I was brought up in North Wales where everyone speaks Welsh. It is not the same in Cardiff.

Young demonstrators gather in Cardiff to promote the Welsh Language

Rhys Jones is just one young demonstrator gathering in Cardiff to promote the Welsh language

“Children are not brought up speaking Welsh because their parents don’t speak Welsh and they don’t have that same sense of Welsh heritage as people from North Wales have. Plus we are so close to the border here in Cardiff, I think people forget they are in Wales.” 

Caryl’s feelings are echoed by other young members of Welsh societies based in and around Cardiff. Rhys Jones, 18, a sixth form student from Merthyftudful is a keen member of the Welsh Language Society. Rhys blames the university culture for a loss of  Welsh traditions in Cardiff, “The students who come here are not Welsh and do not speak Welsh. They influence Cardiff too much.” 

Even Cardiff’s modern landmarks are felt to misrepresent the true heart of Wales. Iconic structures such as the Millennium Stadium and the Assembly building stand as passionate reminders of a proud Welsh nation but both Chris Franks and Caryl Wyn Jones agree they do not represent the real Wales, “They’re great – they attract thousands of Welsh people,” says Caryl, “but they’re not Welsh in nature and heart.”

The Future

Both Plaid Cymru representatives feel a recent surge in bilingual prominence within the city will help promote Welsh tradition and hopefully feed a desire for independence in the future, “Give it five or ten years and Cardiff should be where we want it to be,” says Caryl. Chris Franks has no doubt Wales will see independence, “I don’t know how long it will take – but it will happen.

“Independence has not traditionally been on the agenda for Cardiff but there has been vast improvement over recent years and we will achieve independence in the future.”

Though arguments that Cardiff is not holding on to traditional Welsh values are abundant no one can truly doubt the sincerity and patriotism of the Welsh people wherever they might reside and whatever age they may be. Whether or not a nation once so set on independence will achieve what so many hope for remains to be seen. In the meantime Cardiff will continue to grow as a city set on modernities. But if the young people of Cardiff’s surroundings could say one thing to those living in their capital it would be – remember you are living in the capital of Wales. 

Proud to be Welsh?

Cardiff Google Map

Several of the interviewees I spoke to were asked to decide what part of Cardiff made them feel most proud to be Welsh. The answers are displayed below.

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