Focusing on Cardiff, the capital city of Wales in the UK, this book reflects on a contemporary small European city – its development, characteristics, and present struggles. Following a century in which it was dubbed the world’s ‘coaltropolis’, the decline in demand for coal meant that Cardiff endured an acute process of de-industrialisation. In seeking to address this and the related high levels of unemployment, it has experienced a process of cultural and social reinvention since the 1980s, and more significantly after Wales turned into a devolved nation in the late 1990s. Cardiff’s development from a small port into a capital city is examined and special attention is paid to the city’s cultural and social transformation in recent decades that has relied on the expansion of specific cultural clusters and tourism, which have been decisive for the transformation of its cultural identity and in shaping the city’s individual and collective memories and identities.
Cardiff epitomises a quintessential case of urban reinvention, cultural regeneration, and social transformation, lying between two apparently contradictory paradigms: the need to respond to global demands and the effort to maintain its cultural distinctiveness and Welsh roots. Therefore, it sets the scene for a wider reflection on small cities, especially in the European setting, and what generally characterises these cities: their liveability, cultural creativity and community empowerment, as well as the fact that they facilitate mobility and social interaction. These worldly cities, the book contends, present interesting opportunities and challenges at the urban, economic, social and cultural levels that rely on more human-scale, people-based approaches to cities, thus defying existing urban hierarchies and categorisations.
Small cities have been neglected in urban discourses, overshadowed by the glamour of world cities, the problems of mega-cities, and the allure of smart cities. But small cities retain a sense of material space, compactness, and local character which is engaging. Cardiff, examined here through qualitative research and incisive argument, is both a small city and – no contradiction – an emerging national capital. It also has a multi-ethnic cultural sphere. While there are tensions between the pressures of global consumerism and local liveability, Cardiff retains local distinctiveness. Through her study of Cardiff, Ana Gonçalves adds significantly to contemporary debates in urban cultures and development, balancing evidence and critique in a clear and highly readable narrative.
Malcolm Miles, Professor of Cultural Theory, University of Plymouth
Introduction, 1. Small Cities and Cultures, 2. Cardiff: The Making of a City, 3. A City in the Making: Culture and Society, Conclusion