A remarkable sight greeted shoppers at Cardiff Market this weekend as a small choir demonstrating against the pending demolition of Gwdihw sang a seminal cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”.
As you may know, there is currently a campaign in the city to stop the demolition of Guildford Crescent, an old row of terraced houses sitting between the gleaming metropolis of the new Queen Street station and USW Atrium campus, a stone’s throw from the St David’s 2 shopping centre and Cineworld. The owners, M.A. Rapport and Co., whose city centre office faces the crescent, have declared the buildings decrepit and in need of demolition. This would mean at the very least the relocation, if not the outright end, of two of Cardiff’s best restaurants, Thai House and Madeira, and one of the few small live music venues left- Gwdihw.
The protesters are calling on Cardiff Council to step in and protect the buildings as a site of cultural interest- but it seems the developers are attempting to pre-empt this.
It is at this point I should mention that The Sprout is itself funded by Cardiff Council’s Families First programme and therefore has tried to stay out of the dispute. However, we have spoken about the issue on episode two of the Strangetown podcast.
Whether you support the protesters or not, however, it can’t be denied that this is a fantastic cover of a well-loved song. Here’s the lyrics, and a look at what they might mean.
PAVED PARADISE apologies to Joni Mitchell
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.
With a student hostel, and a wi-fi hotspot.
Chorus: Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you got til its gone
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.
2) Hey everybody call your local politician
Save Gwdihw from the threat of demolition!
3) Hey people , people, write yourself a memo:
Make sure you turn up Saturday at the demo.
The original song, released by Canadian Joni Mitchell in 1970, decried the building over natural beauty. The singer was staying at a hotel, looking at some far-off hills, then looked down to see a car park stretching over the valley. This is a noted problem in America, where minimum parking regulations mean that in some cases a building can take up three or four times as much space just for car parking than it actually has of indoor floor space. Mitchell’s native Canada is home to the largest car park in the world. Many residents of Cardiff’s city and larger urban area drive into the city centre, owing to poor public transport links in many areas- this creates demand for car parks. And a car park is what became of the nearby Vulcan pub in 2012, also on land owned by Rapport, as reported by WalesOnline. Thus, the protesters have outlined their fears for the terrace: Guildford Crescent will become either a car park or a “student hostel.”
It’s not yet a done deal though. With Buffalo closing just last week, people are once again realising how easily a venue can close. Gwdihw has been the home of many events for a long time, including the open mic night where many music and comedy acts get their first innings. As the song alludes to, there is to be a march on Saturday at 2pm, starting at Womanby Street- itself the focus of a campaign to be “saved” not so long ago. If you want to see the Crescent stick around, attend the march, sign the petition and let your friends know what you think.