This is a community website for Grangetown in Cardiff, highlighting people, business, community activities, local news and things to do in the area and linking other websites and blogs.

We live locally; this is a voluntary project - in connection with Grangetown Community Action - free and independent. We are the online presence of the long-running Grange News community paper, which has been distributed to 6,000 local homes every four months for more than 35 years.

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30 years of Grange News and carnival

Grange Community News – and the Grangetown Festival – celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2008. A glance through the 120 editions and you can find Grangetown is an area which has witnessed quite a few changes since 1978. But above all, there is plenty thankfully much the same!

The paper began locally as the Grange News and Advertiser, not long after Grangetown Community Concern (GCC) was formed. By 1980, it was taken over by GCC and was printed in those days by Ron Phipps, out of Stafford Road and then Blaenclydach Street. The early editions set the template for what followed – bringing together the activities of local groups, schools and sporting clubs, with news of local developments – and stories of Grangetown in times past. It was edited in those days by Butetown community tutor John Winslade, before an editorial board of four took over, with editor Joan Gallagher a constant across the three decades. The sporting successes of Grangetown Boys Club are still filling the pages today, while some will remember groups like the St Samson’s Young Wives Group. Slightly older wives in 2008!

There was also the Grangetown Luncheon Club, which met monthly and brought together representatives of local groups, schools and churches, with a guest speaker.

There are always plenty of snippets – 1980 brought the story of 12-year-old football and rugby nut Vince Camilleri, whose sister’s prowess lay in karate, and she managed to break his arm in seven places during a “playful demonstration.”

The paper wouldn’t have survived without the support of local advertisers. It’s interesting to see businesses which have disappeared or changed hands – do you remember the Leisurama Bingo, Bogey’s Pool and CK Coaches running trips to London for £4 return? Small ads for sewing and secretGeorgia services became computer repairs and phone shops. GCC in the 1980s was responsible for helping to set up a PHAB club for the disabled and abled bodied, as well as helping groups for toddlers to pensioners. By 1981, it was registered as a charity and two years later had a new base at the Clydach Street centre and supported services like the “meals on legs” deliveries to pensioners. Under the indefatigable chairmanship of Linda Quinn, GCC also organised public meetings, aimed at improving facilities for the young. In her 1981 report she also noticed that Grange News and Advertiser was going from strength to strength, and had become an “essential community link.”

The Grangetown Festival’s history runs parallel with the newspaper’s. It started off as a Saturday fete and carnival day in 1978, but by 1983 was running as a full week of events. Baseball matches, tug-of-war and fun runs were among events in early years. While these have fallen by the wayside, others have taken their place. The carnival day was held alternately at local school fields and occasionally the Marl, before settling at Grange Gardens in 2001 (“a proper village fete”, as one carnival-goer remarked, positively). GCC and other groups also organised floats for the annual Lord Mayor’s parade (The Good Old Days was the theme in 1982), while another event which has fallen flat these days is the annual pancake race in Pentre Gardens.

Grangetown also had a couple of “adopted” creatures from the deep – Oscar the Octopus was the symbol of GCC for many years and looked down from the top of the newspaper’s masthead. His tentacles represented the intertwining of different groups and different ways GCC could help people. Then there was the Grangetown Whale – not just the Frank Hennessy song about the fishy local legend, but the volunteer bureau which operated alongside GCC in Clydach Street.

You can’t help but notice the changing face of Grangetown by looking over 30 years of old issues – mostly for the good. The day classes at the Clydach Street centre started in 1983 with dressmaking and upholstery, but classes at the Buzz and Enterprise Centre by the 90s were aimed at tomorrow’s computer whizz-kids. The paper noted in the mid-80s, Grangetown’s “good community spirit,” although there were problems in housing and more crucially jobs. The paper followed developments big and small – as well as Cardiff Bay and the Barrage, there was the building of Channel View Leisure Centre (1883-86), City and Carlton Gardens housing estates (1986, homes priced from just under £33,000!) and improvements to Grange Gardens (1995). Later the Gardens saw the bandstand in the park (1998) replaced after nearly 40 years and repairs to the much-loved wooden bus shelter outside (1994).

A fitting start to the Millennium, with a nod to a greener future, was the opening of the new Grangemore Park and sculpture on the site of the old Ferry Road tip (2000).

Artist Ian Randall, whose Silent Links ironwork (pictured right) is the centrepiece told the paper it reflected residents’ fears that Grangetown was being “nibbled at” by overdevelopment but also that they wanted to re-state the area’s strong identity –the sculpture’s links like the people were “firm and interlocked with a sense of strength and unity.”

Like Grangetown itself, the newspaper changed – although a little more slowly. It dropped the “Advertiser” part of its name by 1984 and got a makeover in 1993, with new design and typefaces. For many years it was printed by Billy Dadd of Koda Press. We’ve also been grateful for the production help from Steve Tear for a long period and in recent years from Peter Cronin of the enterprise centre in Clare Road. Our current printers have helped improve reproduction of photographs over the last couple of years. And we’ve not stood still. By 2003-2004, we were developing our own website, which included a community directory and updated news between the editions of the printed paper.

Although Grange News promotes positive activities in the community, it has not been afraid to report controversies and the changing local landscape. We followed the demise of the Empire Pool (1998), although widely welcomed were plans to demolish the Elizabeth Flats (2000). Other disappearing buildings included the Crystal Laundry building in Redlaver Street (2002), followed by Avana bakery in Pendyris Street (2004). There was also the unsuccessful campaign to save the Red House pub (2004), although the old library building was saved (2007). Keeping a close eye and not afraid to criticise was the Grangetown History Society, which was formed in 1995. It has regularly contributed articles and interesting stories about the area’s past ever since. Stories ranged from local landmarks to Cardiff City’s cup winning captain of 1927, Fred Keenor, who lived at Merches Gardens.

We have also run regular news from the local police and crime prevention advice. There were days too when the police station at Dorset Street was open, starting with four constables in 1991, rising to 16 by 1993 – although the police said they couldn’t guarantee to man it all the time, as they were out on the beat. That local station was short lived, much to the disappointment of many. As this is GCC’s own paper, we can be forgiven for dwelling a little on our own activities from time to time. We were forced to move from Clydach Street in 2003 to a temporary home at the Buzz, but were delighted to move into Grangetown’s new £1m library in 2006. GCC also had a double celebration when we became the first city winner of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award in 2003, while there was another trip to the Palace in early 2004 when GCC secretary Joan Gallagher was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s honours.

It’s hard to sum up three decades of a community newspaper in a short space. But we still need your news, as we all surely still need our community. Looking through the old and new copies, Grangetown has retained a healthy number of organisations and its own strong identity; something which seems lacking in some more soulless places.

In 2001, GCC committee member Brian Drew asked the question, “is community spirit dead in Grangetown?” He noted in the paper that community facilities, especially for young people, had not kept pace with the expansion of modern Grangetown. Community facilities were also on the mind of the committee 20 years before. And now in 2008, local people working with Communities First are raising it again – we like where we live, there is a sense of community but we want more places to go and “commune” in.

Here’s hoping it won’t be another 30 years.