2016 has been a bad year. According to the news, that is.
If you paid too much attention to the headlines, you might feel like our world is irreparably broken. Yet despite the sad stories and depressing stats, there’s also been a lot to smile about this year. We’re often so wrapped up in the global news agenda, we forget that good things happen every day, right on our doorsteps.
Cardiff is no exception. The Welsh capital is full of good people who are determined to make things better for their friends and neighbours.
From charitable acts to creative triumphs and the simple joy of visiting new cafés, restaurants and bars, here are a few of the things that made Cardiff great in 2016.
1. The Coal Exchange was saved
After years of uncertainty about what would happen to the Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay, development finally began to restore the historic building to its former glory. A £35m project is turning the iconic structure into a luxury hotel. The Coal Exchange’s original features are being preserved, and its heritage is being commemorated with an on-site museum.
2. Heads Above The Waves ran a successful pop-up shop
Awesome not-for-profit organisation Heads Above The Waves set up shop in High Street Arcade last February to spread awareness about mental health and provide support for those struggling with issues such as depression and self-harm. Great work, gang.
3. Lots of new places to drink good coffee opened
Coffee fiends in Cardiff already had some of the best independent cafés in Wales on their doorstep before 2016 rolled around, but this year the selection of top notch java joints has expanded further. Welcome to the city, Kin+Ilk, Brodies Coffee Co and Outpost!
4. Some of Cardiff’s best pop-ups got permanent homes
Cardiff’s street food scene smashed it this year. Along with the triumphant return of pop-up events like Street Food Circus and Picnic Penarth, some of the most popular vendors in the city settled down in permanent homes. You can now grab a delicious Dusty Knuckle pizza from their cosy home at Printhaus in Canton, or pig out on Hang Fire’s award-winning BBQ at their impressive Southern Kitchen in Barry.
5. Craft beer fans got to sample more microbrews than ever
If Cardiff’s cornucopia of cafés and street food wasn’t enough to keep your taste buds satisfied this year, how about some of the incredible new craft beer bars that have opened up? The likes of Small Bar, Society Standard and Kongs mean you’ll never have to settle for a warm pint of mass-produced lager in an overpriced St Mary Street bar again. Cheers to that.
6. City of the Unexpected turned Cardiff into a Roald Dahl-inspired wonderland
This year’s Roald Dahl centenary celebrations brought the weird-but-wonderful worlds of his stories to life with an epic takeover of the Welsh capital. A giant peach paraded down Westgate Street, Fantastic Mr Fox performed a tightrope walk at Cardiff Castle, City Hall was transformed into a chocolate factory, and Bute Park hosted the biggest pyjama party Wales has ever seen. Props to Wales Millennium Centre and National Theatre Wales for pulling it off.
7. Uber arrived in Cardiff
Need a ride across the ‘Diff? Now that Uber’s in town, your journey will cheap as Chippy Lane chips. Uber’s arrival also meant that local firm Dragon Taxis stepped up their game in 2016. They've released their own mobile app, featuring live arrival times and the option to pay online. No more fumbling around for change when you’ve got places to be.
8. Wriggle brought delicious deals to Cardiff's independent restaurants
If you’re a Cardiff-based foodie and don’t have Wriggle on your phone, you’re missing out. This new app has loads of bangin’ bargains for local food and drink: from Portuguese coffee (Nata & Co) to Welsh beer (Crafty Devil), vegan meals (Anna-Loka) and meaty feasts (Time & Beef).
9. Creative Cardiff turned one
In 2015, Creative Cardiff was formed to connect professionals within South Wales’ creative community and encourage collaboration. Over the course of the last year, the team behind the project has hosted networking events, workshops and discussions, uniting more than 800 local creatives and generally reminding everyone why creativity and culture are worth investing in.
10. Wales’ football team proved they’re worthy of international recognition
The Welsh football team delivered one of the biggest sporting upsets of the summer, reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016. A massive homecoming parade outside Cardiff Castle celebrated the team’s success, with a huge crowd of Wales supporters gathering to welcome their heroes home.
11. A Cardiff-based charity sent monthly shipping containers of supplies to Syria
Anaya Aid opened its first Cardiff depot earlier this year. Each month, it's been sending a 40ft shipping container to Syria, packed full of life-saving supplies such as clothing, food and medical items. With contacts on the ground in the war-torn country, the charity ensures that supplies are distributed to the people who need them most.
12. Local businesses teamed up to launch Cardiff Business Improvement District
Businesses in Cardiff will invest £7.5 million into city centre improvements, thanks to the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID). This project aims to enhance visitors’ impression of Cardiff and attract more investment for the city.
13. Get Lost in Cardiff created a free map of local independents
We have loads of amazing independent businesses here in Cardiff, but with many of them tucked away in side streets and Victorian arcades, people don’t always realise they exist. This inspired Kirsty Patrick (owner of Home byKirsty) to team up with other creative folk and produce Get Lost in Cardiff, a free map of the best local independents.
14. An ambitious ‘Box City’ was announced for Cardiff Bay
Plans to create a new, environmentally-friendly development built from shipping containers were unveiled earlier this year: Cardiff Bay’s very own ‘Box City’. It’ll be the largest of its kind in the UK, with street food venues, hotel apartments and an outdoor cinema all included in the proposals.
15. A bunch of brilliant co-working spaces opened
Freelancers and self-employed people in Cardiff now have a wealth of options when it comes to choosing a friendly, affordable place to work – Tramshed Tech, The Sustainable Studio and (my fave) Rabble Studio have already become thriving hubs for creativity and collaboration.
16. Cardiff residents showed their generosity with 25,000 meals donated to food banks
Between the 1st and 3rd of December, FareShare and Trussell Trust received enough food to distribute 25,000 meals to those in need over the festive period. It means that around 2,500 people will be provided with the sustenance they need to survive during difficult times. Lovely stuff.
What good things happened in your life this year? Let me know over on Twitter!