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Capturing Cardiff – The B-boy Scene at Cathays Community Centre 14 January 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in b-boy, Capturing Cardiff, Cathays Community Centre.
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Breakdancing can draw huge crowds and is an amazing spectacle to see in Cardiff

Breakdancing can draw huge crowds and is an amazing spectacle to see in Cardiff

This year is a special year for breakdancing (b-boying) and its traditional home in Cardiff, Cathays Community Centre. Not only is it 25 years since b-boying first arrived at the under-18 discos once held at the centre, but 2009 sees the 30th anniversary of the opening of Cathays, one of Cardiff’s few surviving independent community centres.

The next breakdancing wave came about again largely because of the popularity of a video, in particular a recording of the 1998 Battle of the Year final between The Family (France) and Rock Force (America). In mainland Europe breakdancing remained as popular as ever during the 1990s, while crews such as Second to None kept a low flame alight in England.

There had been attempts to set up practice sessions for b-boys at Cathays in the 1980s, but nothing materialised because breakdancing was poorly organised in the past. Even with today’s modern communication tools the Sunday afternoon training session at Cathays is formally run by the centre itself. It is a reflection of the fact that even though breakdancing is more organised now the scene still operates on a basis of controlled anarchy.

Cardiff b-boy 4Dee

Cardiff b-boy 4Dee outside Cathays Community Centre

Although breakdancing has come back in a big way since 1998, b-boys around in the 1980s like Smurf (40 years old and still breaking) say, “The vibe was a lot stronger back in the day when you’d have 500 people meeting on a Saturday in town.” 4Dee agrees and points out that rather than becoming more mainstream over time breakdancing has in fact been pushed further underground. One thing is for sure though, time has led to a massive improvement in the variety and quality of a b-boy’s vocabulary (moves). See the video below for proof of this.

Cathays Project Manager Jon Wilson

Cathays Community Centre manager Jon Wilson

In December Cathays held its first major b-boy event, Cardiff City Kings, which attracted b-boys, DJs and graffiti artists from all over the UK. B-boy Tom Porridge explains the purpose behind the event, “Within hip-hop culture there’s an emphasis on contributing, on doing something to help the local scene…so [Cardiff City Kings] was run with the express intent of giving something back to the Cardiff and South Wales b-boy community.” Jon Wilson, project manager at Cathays Community Centre adds, “I was privileged to be there, it was one of the top events we’ve had for the last few years. After an event like that it vindicates the member led approach we take.”

All activities at Cathays are member led and Mr Wilson sees a huge benefit in this, “There’s a need for young people to find something to express themselves, this way gives them that opportunity and they can take ownership of a project. Indirectly the community also benefits from having its youth usefully engaged.”

Mr Wilson is a strong advocate of informal education and peer led learning and both approaches are adopted by b-boys at Cathays, “Young people are mostly influenced by young people, so in order to take advantage of that it’s mostly learning from each other in an informal setting. The more we can get young people skilled up, the more of a role model they can be and the less intimidating it is for people to participate.”


Age and money are not barriers to becoming a b-boy, “There are guys pushing 50 still active in the scene,” says Tom Porridge, “All you need are a pair of trainers, a flat floor, music, enthusiasm and a willingness to test your boundaries.” Although outwardly macho apparent aggressiveness in breakdancing is entirely ritualised and helps youngsters at a volatile age tap energies that might otherwise be expressed in less positive ways. Racial and gender issues are non-existent while b-boy Stefan goes as far as to say, “There is nothing bad in b-boying, it keeps you away from problems like drugs.” This was clear at Cardiff City Kings where a no alcohol policy helped keep the evening trouble free.

“I look at the Welsh and we’re right up there…we’ve got some b-boys who could be world champions”

The future looks bright for b-boying and Cathays. There are plans to host an event like Cardiff City Kings for the centre’s 30th anniversary, while Mr Wilson says, “There’s potential support for us to take it into schools, so there are ways of developing breakdancing, taking it out of this building and into the community.” B-boying, says Tom Porridge, “Could go one of two ways: either it will be over exposed to the point where people lose interest or we’ll get more events where people can win money and live their lives as professionals, working to develop the dance still further.”

Whatever the turnout 4Dee is optimistic about the current generation, “I look at the Welsh and we’re right up there…we’ve got some b-boys who could be world champions.” Cathays Community Centre has been the home of breakdancing in Cardiff for 25 years and based on current prospects there is no reason why it can’t go on as such for another 25.

[If you would like to get involved in breakdancing the training sessions are open to all at Cathays Community Centre every Sunday from 3:30pm to 6:30pm where they will be able to tell you how to get started.]



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