Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City

Peter Finch
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
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‘The Real Cardiff books have always been the locals’ best guide to the city’
– Cardiff Life​

Utterly compelling ambles around the Welsh capital, full of oddball nuggets and with a terrific sense of context and place.’ – The Rough Guide to Wales

Discover more of Cardiff in this latest volume by Peter Finch, Real Cardiff – The Flourishing City. In it the Cardiffian continues his vigorous exploration of the obvious and hidden vistas of the city, discovering new treasures and revisiting past haunts to find them drastically altered over just ten years. The pace of change has never been quicker, surpassing the booms of the city’s nineteenth century heyday, and the clearances and redevelopment of the 1960s and 1970s.

Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City is a characteristically eclectic mix. Finch walks through the city and through his memories, locating the odd and the outlandish and measuring them against the everyday. Here are the last days of Dic Penderyn, a litany of rock and roll on Queen Street, the battle for the Vulcan pub, the lost mansions of the east, the culinary odyssey of City Road, Roald Dahl in Radyr, the Lido at Llandaff, the Coast Path, and a journey round the city’s mosques, among many another strolls and diversions.

Jan Morris called Real Cardiff  “one of the very best books about a city I have ever read”, and in this latest book Peter Finch has captured the essence of Cardiff again. This is vintage Finch, rolling with the city in the way that makes him its most acute – and funniest – commentator.




Review by Ben Newman, We Are Cardiff

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


How well do you know Cardiff, really? For a city of only roughly 350,000 people, nestled between valleys and the sea, there is a surprising amount of history, tales, fables, and important spots that remain hidden to the majority of us. Thankfully, Peter Finch’s Real Cardiff The Flourishing City has been published and is, to date, one of the most readable yet comprehensive histories of Cardiff.

By splitting the book into five main parts – Central, East, North, West, and South – Finch interprets how the city’s linguistic, cultural, artistic, and economical heritage is preserved and built upon today, whilst contextualising how all these factors contribute to Cardiff’s booming trade. No matter which part of the ‘diff you live in, there will be some coverage of it in it here, and may make you approach your morning commute or next trip to the shops a little differently.

The book opens with a short discussion about Cardiff’s role as a boom city, before descending into an overview of the city’s history. Finch then muses on the cultural melding, or lack thereof, between Cardiff and the northern valleys, and how economic and population pressures may push Cardiffians out into the valleys. It is an interesting discussion to be had where Cardiff’s influence and parameters end, with Finch stating that “Cardiff finishes at the roundabout just south of Castell Coch.” This book attempts to discuss more than just Cardiff itself, but the degree of its wider influence in the fabric of south Wales.

Furthering on that, the author discusses how the city is changing architecturally, with our beloved skyline being threatened by all sorts of wider economic advancements. The book opens by providing a full framework of what has happened and what is to come, threading in loose descriptions of a multitude of factors. Whilst Finch does not go into impressive depth in this book, he does display an amazing breadth of knowledge; this book is not necessarily for those inclined to the nitty-gritty, but more for those who want a full understanding of what it means to be Cardiff.

Finch, already famous for being a wonderful writer, employs a direct and simple writing style, with the kind of preference for understatement you see from any old man telling a story. Even if he shies away from hyperbole, he still manages to capture the contradictory and idiosyncratic nature of Cardiff. His writing is underpinned by an implicit understanding of what makes us Cardiffians tick, allowing his writing to gravitate towards highlights that would naturally interest locals.

Without wanting to spoil too much, the book traverses through geographical spots throughout each part of Cardiff, focusing on those bits that appear relatively different or important. In a way, it is as if Finch is taking you on a tour – albeit a politicised one – throughout spots in Cardiff. He starts off with easy parts such as Queen Street, before slowly making his way through the nooks and crannies of central Cardiff, ending in the quieter streets of Tredegarville. This occurs throughout each section, beginning at a central hub, and slowly meandering out to the peripheries. Each street reveals something different and hidden away. To give them away here would ruin the experience, but the important point Finch takes away from each idiosyncrasy is that Cardiff deserves to be treasured. Underpinning his textual tour is an argument that we, like the rest of Wales, need a plan. Issues such as traffic concerns, architectural issues, and Cardiff’s disconnect from Welsh culture are all discussed, leading to a book that not only entrenches itself in the city, but in the city’s concerns, troubles, and future.

Real Cardiff is, at heart, a book for the people of Cardiff, half-love-letter, half-history.

Review by Brian Lee, The Cowbridge Gem

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cardiff author and expert Peter Finch continues his vigorous exploration of Wales’ capital city in his new book Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City (published by Seren at £9.99).
        He discovers new treasures and revisits past haunts to find them drastically altered over the past ten years. From lost rivers and vanished roads to what he calls the culinary odyssey of City Road, fro the ornate Mahogany Room above the Burger King to the new high rise city centre.
        The author of a number of books about Cardiff and a poet to boot, he proves himself to be the perfect guide through Cardiff ancient and modern in its everyday and outlandish glory. 
        Having been Peter’s guest on one of his walkabouts when we visited the site of the old Ely racecourse, home of the Welsh Grand National fro 1895-1939 and the site of the old Welsh White City Stadium in Grangetown where the famed Mick the Miller beat the world record when racing in the Welsh Derby, I can vouch for Peter’s love of his hometown.
        This book is an essential and entertaining insider’s guidebook by an author whose expertise on the city has been featured in Hidden Cardiff with Will Millard (the BBC’s popular documentary featured insight and appearances by Peter himself) and who is instrumental in sounding out the city’s cultural and artistic heartbeat.



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