Cardiff Half Marathon – a first-timer’s experience


I ran the Cardiff Half Marathon for the first time this year, and wrote this article for We Are Cardiff on it. Anyone got any spare legs I can borrow??

Originally posted on We Are Cardiff:

Cardiff Half Marathon 2015

(photo by Marc on Flickr)

Hello! My name is Helia. We may not have met before, but I write most of the stuff on this site. When there’s no author given on an article, then it’s me. I ran the Cardiff Half Marathon this year. I was a first timer. It was amazing, and hard, but mostly amazing.

So I wanted to give you a peek into my first half marathon experience.

Also, a warning – this race was hard. Like, really hard. There were a lot of swear words that came into my head or out of my mouth at various points. I try and keep swearing off this site as much as possible, but in order to keep true to my experience, fruity language is ahead. If you’re of a sensitive disposition, or get grossed out easily (because there’s some gross stuff too), better go read something else. I…

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We Are Cardiff Press is launched!

I’m very (VERY) excited to announce the launch of a new small press in Cardiff, run by my pal Hana Johnson under the We Are Cardiff umbrella. She’s worked super hard on sorting everything out and is publishing the FIRST BOOK this November!

we are cardiff press 42b

It’s an anthology of short stories called The 42b, based around a fictional Cardiff bus route. We Are Cardiff Press is a non-profit social enterprise, where any profits made will be put back into making new books or running  writing workshops, encouraging local citizens to find their creative voice – through fiction or non-fiction. Books or blogs: stories are stories.

There are many reasons to be excited about this:

  1. It means We Are Cardiff moving from digital products to super lovely, high quality physical products
  2. It extends the project’s interest in stories from the realm of reality to creative fiction
  3. It opens up a whole new world of storytelling that can encompass long form writing, illustration and photography in a way that just isn’t possible online (and I say this as someone who works in digital pretty much seven days a week)
  4. (side note: what is reality other than a series of stories we tell ourselves, anyway?)
  5. The first story in the book is one that I wrote!
  6. Pretty much all the other stories are wonderful
  7. Pretty much all the illustrations are fabulous.

I feel like that’s probably enough reasons. But I can do more, if you really want.

You can PRE-ORDER copies of the book through The 42b Indiegogo Campaign, where you can also opt for extra rewards like limited edition prints AND spaces on forthcoming writing workshops!


We’re having a launch party for the book on Thursday 5 November, at a secret Cardiff location (don’t want to reveal EVERYTHING all in one go!) – more details will be released closer to the time, but if you want to keep an eye on what’s happening, there’s:

The launch party is taking place as part of the Swn Festival “fringe” this year. More information about the full music festival here: Swn Festival.

I’ll post more about that soon. But in case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been the past few months, this is one of the many places and projects I’ve had my nose in …



It’s been awful quiet around these parts …

But I’ve had a really good excuse! Honestly!

pile of paper on a table


So, that massive headache of paper on the desk (yes I was having breakfast in Wetherspoons, what about it?) is MY NOVEL. Or something like a novel. It’s a really freaking long story.

THAT’S what I’ve been doing.


In case I haven’t mentioned it on here, and I don’t think I have, I am a MASSIVE Parks and Recreation fan. Leslie Knope is the greatest character ever created. Also I massively identify with parts of her personality, in particular her inability to focus on doing one thing at a time (I refer you to Season 4 Episode 16. ‘Sweet Sixteen’, where Leslie tries to run her campaign, work in the Parks department and arrange Jerry’s sweet sixteen birthday party, and ends up messing everything up because she’s spreading herself too thin).

I took some good advice from that episode, and also from my Editor-In-Chief, who told me I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING ELSE – NOT EVEN PLAN ANYTHING ELSE – UNTIL THIS WAS FINISHED.

Ron Swanson is not my Ed-In-Chief (although CAN YOU IMAGINE), but his advice is sage, and good for everyone.

Don’t half ass two things (in my case, fifty things). Whole ass one thing.

That is what I am attempting to do. And hence, the radio silence.

The novel, or “the long thing” as I’ve been describing it to people, was spawned from a creative writing exercise I took in a novel writing class, last March, run by Cardiff University’s Lifelong Learning Centre, and tutored by the AMAZING Lynne Barrett-Lee.

If you’re based in Cardiff, and thinking about maybe taking a writing class, I would definitely recommend hers. As well as being a great writer, she is a really, REALLY good teacher. Those two things don’t always go hand in hand, but she’s brilliant. There are details about all Cardiff Uni’s writing courses here: Creative Writing and Media classes.

I had no idea about what I would write before I took the class. I didn’t even think I would write anything. I just wanted to take a class to try and get myself into the habit of writing regularly, and picked this one purely at random, because it fit my work schedule. I had not planned to write this story all my life, or anything like that. It literally (ha! literally) came from an exercise in that class, and then grew and grew, and here it is. One hundred thousand words later.

papers and post in notes on a bed

Apparently, NOW the hard work starts?? wtf.

More updates soon…

6 reasons Cardiff is the best city in the UK


Got myself a wee byline in the Metro this week. Read and enjoy!

Originally posted on Metro:

(Picture: Flickr/Geraint Rowland) (Picture: Flickr/Geraint Rowland)

Cardiff is frequently to be found at the top of lists of best cities in the UK to live in. Don’t believe me? Take that, and then that!

Don’t just take their word for it though. Here’s why this big little city by the sea is so great – in the words of a local.

1. Location

On the basis of the three Ls (location, location, location) Cardiff’s got to be the best situated city in the UK.

Drive for 30 minutes and you can be in the middle of the Brecon Beacons, add a little on to that time and you’ll reach the beautiful, unspoiled beaches of the Gower, and a little further to get to Pembrokeshire.

Also, we’re only 40 miles from Bristol and 150 miles from London, so if you want a big night out or weekend away in one of our…

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Music writings


I’ve been a professional journalist writing mostly about music for far longer than I’d actually care to remember (since 2001, if you must know…). I’ve written for Rolling Stone, NME, CRACK magazine, as well as various titles that have come and gone in that time (Sound Nation, Plan B, Kruger). I also wrote the first unofficial biography about Lady Gaga, published by Orion in 2010.

For examples of my music writing, click here.

The urbanist’s guide to Cardiff – blogger of the week on the Guardian!

Originally posted on We Are Cardiff:

Well well, eh? I pack my bags and head off to Glastonbury for a couple of days and what happens? BLOGGER OF THE WEEK ON THE GUARDIAN HAPPENS, that’s what!

helia guardian cities featured blogger june 2014

click the picture or this link to go read the article: The urbanist’s guide to Cardiff: ‘the UK’s most sociable city’

I got a bit of shit in the comments for being too generic and not listing enough specific independent bars / cafes / shops etc etc in the city – also there were comments saying that there actually aren’t many independents, which I know to be A LIE. There are OODLES of amazing independent businesses in the city, many that I frequent, and I wanted to give a list of my favourites below. This is by no means exhaustive, and if you’re reading this and think I’ve missed one out in your area, PLEASE ADD IT IN THE COMMENTS!

Also I…

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writing, music, web stuff, Cardiff, sometimes


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