Inspiration is a bit like a two-year-old you are babysitting. You wave goodbye to the parents as they get into the car, grinning at the thought of a night of freedom from their bundle of joy. As you close the door and turn around to ask little Tommy what he wants to do, he’s gone. You hear a giggle from the next room. You follow the sound while saying ‘Tommy? Tommy?’ in your sweetest voice possible, I mean, you don’t want to scare the little blighter now, do you?

You enter the lounge. Toys are scattered across the floor. You step over a plastic fire truck and navigate a labyrinth of stuffed toys, action men and playmobil, all the while following the giggling sound to behind the arm of the faded yellow sofa. A smile crosses your face.

            “Got you now!” You grin as you pounce on the sofa, looking over the arm at… a teddy bear. Its cheeks flash red as it makes a repetitive giggling sound.

            Huh. That probably isn’t a good sign. You search the house up and down, kitchen, bathroom, you even look out in the garden, though it is raining and your socks absorb all the water from the patio. But no: no toddler, no Tommy. You know you’re in trouble.

            You sit on the couch, giving up and sinking into a pit of despair. You curse yourself at your foolishness. Who loses a toddler really? You’ll be the laughing stock of the babysitting community, that’s for sure.

            Then, slowly, the door to the lounge opens. With a raised eyebrow, you watch a small lump in power ranger pyjamas wander in and curl up on the sofa next to you. He stuffs his thumb firmly in his mouth and mumbles something which sounds like ‘bed’. He flops quite easily over your shoulder as you carry him upstairs and place him in his bedroom, pulling the cover up to his neck. As he snuggles down against his pillow, you silently congratulate yourself for being the best babysitter ever. You hear the parent’s car pulling up outside.

            Now, why did I write that story? Well, I have a lot of time on my hands. Also, I was trying to metaphorically represent the fact that whenever I want inspiration, I can never seem to find it. If someone says, ‘Hey Richard! Come up with an idea for a story right now!’ you can pretty much guarantee my mind will go blank. In fact, my mind did pretty much go blank when I was sat in the cafe on my residency. I spent most of my time desperately trying to write a story about the tomato plant that I was sat underneath. But by the third attempt at writing The Tomato Plant that came alive and ate everyone only to realise it had no one to water it and died, I realised that inspiration is something that can’t be forced. You have to sit back and let it come to you.   

            Yesterday, while drinking a cup of tea, I came up with an idea. Inspired by my time in the cafe, it just leapt up out of nowhere. I spent a lot of time writing furiously and am now pleased to say that I have the first completed story inspired by my time at MADE. Sometimes, that little toddler of inspiration is hard to find, but if you don’t try and force it, it will eventually come back to you and you can put the whole thing to bed.

On Community

cardiff MADE, Julie

On Thursday night, I attended the opening of the MADE From The Museum exhibition at cardiff MADE (the exhibition will run until August 26th, and is worth having a look at! Find out more at

I sipped a delicious glass of Pimm’s as I wandered around and looked at the amazing art that the National Museum of Wales had inspired, and later I sat in the small garden area listening to other visitors. It got me wondering, perhaps unsurprisingly, about community.

Because I’m a writer, I looked up the word. Here’s what my dictionary said:


a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

And when I kept scrolling down:

a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants.

And even further down:

the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.

Interesting, I thought. Because if someone had asked me to describe what I felt, sitting in that garden, listening to artists and locals conversing, that’s the word I would have used. Community. And yet, I’m new to the café; I don’t live in Roath; although I’m a writer, the kind of art that was displayed that night (painting, sculpture, a short film) is well out of my depth.

What exactly do I have in common with the people who were there?

I suppose an interest in art is the obvious answer. Everyone who came to the opening certainly had their own reasons to, but art was the force bringing them together. And yet: I have toured a good number of museums in my life, and I didn’t feel any particular connection to the other visitors. Just because we were looking at the same paintings didn’t mean we had anything in common.

The art may be a part of it, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it also had something to do with the space. cardiff MADE has such a homey feel to it. Zoë and Josh have made it into a warm, welcoming place, the polar opposite of corporate chains. You only need to walk into the café to be smiled at, recognised, embraced. I think all the people who came to the opening on Thursday night had already experienced this for themselves. Knowing they were in a safe place, a place where no judgement would be made on them, they were relaxed, friendly, and open in a way that our society doesn’t always allow for.

Sitting in this busy, buzzing garden, I felt I was in the heart of things, witnessing the seeds of collaboration and friendship being planted. A nursery for art and magic. Zoë and Josh can be proud of what they’ve created.

A writer in action

A writer in action

The best combination: writing, art and conversation

The best combination: writing, art and conversation

A striking piece

A striking piece

Vintage Clothes and Accessories Fair


Mel and I had a lovely time at cardiff MADE yesterday: we browsed through the ongoing Vintage Clothes and Accessories Fair and bought scarves, ate some delicious cake, and even did some work! We also had the pleasure of meeting the artist behind the Vintage Fair, Rhian Rushton, whose work can be found here:

She and her partner Ingo Hans used to work as animators, and have lived in Germany and Sweden before returning to Wales. My little writer’s heart quivers with excitement when I think of all the wonderful stories they must have accumulated!

Amazing outfits collected by Rhian over the years!

Amazing outfits collected by Rhian over the years



cardiff MADE during the Vintage Fair

cardiff MADE during the Vintage Fair

C2 can also stand for collaboration!

C2 can also stand for collaboration!

The artists enjoying their cream tea at cardiff MADE!

The artists enjoying their cream tea at cardiff MADE

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Writer in Residence


Writer in Residence. It sounds fancy. So fancy, in fact, that I have been introducing myself to everyone as ‘Richard Axtell, Writer in Residence’. Even to people I know. They thought it was cute the first few times, but now we are into the low hundreds I have a feeling it is starting to grate a little.

But what am I, Richard Axtell, Writer in Residence, supposed to do while in residence as a writer? Good question. A bit wordy, but good.

My answer narrows down to this: Er… Well… Erm. Oh, look someone’s calling me. *makes phone ringing sound through side of mouth* I’ll be back in a sec.

Honestly, I am not sure. And that both terrifies and excites me at the same time. What am I going to see and experience in my time at cardiff MADE? What is that, in turn, going to inspire me to write? I have NO idea! Which is awesome! So many possibilities!

There is a tiny part of me which likes order. It likes to know where I am going, why I am going and what will happen when I get there. The thought of this much freedom makes that little part of me squeal and want to hide under the stairs. What if I can’t get inspired? What if I get the worst case of writer’s block ever and it makes my hands physically swell and I can’t hold a pen and then I get rushed to hospital because… because… *starts hyperventilating*.

But that is what it is to be an artist, is it not? You can’t know when or how you will be inspired. If we did, there would be long lines of artists queuing next to ‘that branch which guarantees artistic enlightenment next to the M5’. So quiet down little part of me! I am ready to face this residency head on, see what who I can meet and what stories I can tell. I don’t think it will be anything less than awesome.

My First Collision


June 23, 2015


I had my first official stop-in at the cardiff MADE cafe yesterday and found it difficult not to fall head-over-heels in love.  The cafe itself is beautiful, much bigger than it looks from the outside, and the huge front windows invite the sun to make itself at home among the patrons.  Artwork, jewellery, clothing and crafts line the back wall alongside artisan honeys and jams.  With each glance, the eye catches something new and interesting.

The back garden is small, but full of life and movement.  Various plants and flowers sit in rows along white shelves.  New strawberries hang over the edge of one of the potted plants available for purchase, the fruit still green but beginning to take on a ripening blush.  Colorful lines of cloth banners crisscross the overhead, casting triangles of shadow across the tables and stone-tiled floor.

Suffice it to say, after spending the morning at cardiff MADE I am excited to go back for another fresh-made Detox juice and cranberry brie sandwich.  I’ve had a taste of both the atmosphere and the menu, and I can unabashedly say that I am hooked.

Photo 18-06-2015 12 40 15 pm

Day at Shelley Gardens Community Food Festival


June 21, 2015


Like most days in Wales, I dressed inappropriately for the weather on Sunday. By the time I got to Shelley Gardens, I immediately disrobed (took off my jumper) and went straight for the cardiff MADE tent to buy a jasmine iced tea. That did the trick. 


The obvious next step was to buy a spinach and ricotta calzone from Frankie’s Italian and sit on the grass to watch a ukulele band.

IMG_0074 Post-ukulele, Mel and I tasted the various cheeses from Penylan Pantry, and huddled up in the tent to listen to a talk about bees. Bees, as it turns out, are very important. So much so that should they become extinct, humans would follow suit in a mere four years. So little time!

The whole event was great. Children were playing, adults were eating, and the green power ranger even made an appearance.  



Mel Kirk came to Wales in pursuit of a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Cardiff University.  She attended California State University Fullerton for her BA, where she learned to combine her three greatest passions–writing, art, and community outreach.  She is published in the graphic novel anthology Herakles, where she acted as an illustrator, writer, and editor and has provided both artwork and stories for various charities including the Make a Wish Foundation. She is currently trying to expand her writing horizons though experimental microfiction.



Richard Axtell started writing one day to avoid working on his undergraduate dissertation. After winning The London Magazine’s short story competition, he decided that maybe he should avoid work more often. He is now studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Cardiff University, where he hardly does any work at all, and loves every minute of it.



Julie Primon is a French native who has lived in Canada, Scotland, and India. She completed a degree in English Literature in Paris, and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Cardiff University. She loves discovering new places and learning about communities and their traditions, and is looking forward to immersing herself in the cardiff MADE atmosphere.