“How well do you know Cathays Park, Cardiff?” A research study

The Civic Centre area of Cardiff known as Cathays Park is the subject of a new piece of research by Mari Lowe and Carrie Westwater. They teamed up with Nerys Lloyd-Pierce of Cardiff Civic Society to take a walk around the space. Nerys wrote her reflections after a slightly chilly but very peaceful walk…

“I recently read Rob Cowen’s Common Ground, a beautiful, reflective book in which the author becomes immersed in the minutiae of the natural environment of the ‘edge lands’ on the outskirts of his home town, Harrogate.

Cowen gets to know this relatively small patch of forgotten land intimately: he knows its moods, feels the vibrations of the past, fears for its future.

Last week’s walk around Cathays Park made me realise how little I really know an area I would consider to be familiar to me.  Take Alexandra Gardens. I have walked through them many times,  have sat on the grass on summer afternoons, but until last week, I hadn’t noticed the Wallenberg memorial stone and tree.  The story behind it was one of humanity and heroism.

Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat, posted to Budapest in 1944, with a mission to help the city’s Jews.

Wallenberg had the authority of the Swedish government – neutral in the Second World War – to issue certificates which protected named Jews from deportation. He had carefully designed the documents to look like Swedish passports. He issued far more than the number he’d agreed with Hungarian officials, and also forged documents to protect individuals at risk.

Thanks to Wallenberg and his associates, more than 100,000 Jews were still in Budapest when the city was liberated by Soviet forces in February 1945. Tragically however, Wallenberg himself disappeared in January 1945. He was arrested by Soviet personnel, possibly on suspicion of spying. One report claims he died in 1947 at the KGB’s Lubyanka prison.

I felt immensely moved by this story, and by the human capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice.  It also set me thinking – how many other corners of my home city have I overlooked, and how many more stories will unfold if I start looking properly…”

Mari and Carrie are interested to find out how people think and feel about the Civic Centre and how they use it on a day-to-day basis. The research is funded by the Cultural Participation Research Network (led by Eval Elliot, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University Ellie Byrne, Research Associate, Cardiff University) and supported by Cardiff Civic Society and Welsh Centre for International Affairs. To find out more or to share your thoughts on the Civic Centre email: marilouiselowe@gmail.com

Nerys is secretary of Cardiff Civic Society. To find out more or to join the society visit: http://www.cardiffcivicsociety.org/

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