Next stop City Road, Roath to pick up Gillian, Cerbyd’s driver and Briaan’s sister. We arrive at Charter Van Hire and within the half-hour, drive away in our 17 seater companion for the coming eight days. Fresh from some light hearted banter with a rather nicely suited car salesmen called Geoff who it seems doesn’t take kindly to jokes made about crashing the van somewhere in North Wales.

It is now bang on 12:00, leaving just under an hour to get across town to my flat in Canton, pack the gear into the van and load up on artists at g39. Last night in my dream around this time I was drinking my second cup of coffee leafing through g2. All was calm. This is standard for my dreams they are always without exception variations of my waking hours but to different timescales and/or with dissimilar outcomes. In real time there are three pairs of hands all moving camping stoves, tents, rucksacks, gas cyclinders, pots, pans, boxes of food onto our bus. Our once tardis like bus that now grows small as we pack her.

In my wisdom at the beginning of the week I asked the combined creative masses of Twitter and Facebook to compile CDs for Cerbyd to listen to, during the trip. I am considering this as I stare at my wall of CDs that take up the corner of the living room. Usually I am extremely anal and annoyingly particular with which CDs to take on a trip. I take into consideration such factors as the time of day and season, route, destination and passengers as inspiration and reasons for choosing certain styles of music or artists and albums. Today we have just finished loading what already looks a relatively full van minus 10 artists so I just grab CDs at random. Luckily or divinely Johnny Cash magicked his way into my grasp and back on the bus in the cold light of day the selection looks a good one. I don’t own bad CDs it’s just some of the artists I like make bad albums from time to time.

Parked up on St Mary’s Street now and the driver needs feeding. Briaan and I get large chips from Caroline Street deposit them back at the van and head on through Wyndham arcade to g39. It is all quite real now but in my dream last night I arrive at g39 and none of the artists have turned up. It is just Sean commiserating and we decide to do the trip anyway, just the four of us.

Back to reality and unless someone is playing a cruel and rather elaborate joke by strewing varying brightly coloured rucksacks across g39’s floors then the artists are here and the waiting is over. No introductions needed, well not yet anyway. I have decided to tell the artists only what I deem necessary or vital. The idea is that their local knowledge of places, roads will inform the rest of the group at different times.


Up at 6am, pick Briaan up at 7.15 and we are at the Cash and Carry, which coincidentally isn’t where we thought it was, by 8am. I walk in through the sliding doors brandishing g39’s Cash and Carry members card. I am expecting all types of things to go wrong, even sensors to go off. Large hooded security guards will take Briaan and I into a small room after our fingerprints don’t match Chris and Anthony’s. There will be two cops. Both of them will be bad. Five minutes into the interrogation Briaan will squeal that I once had a Mohican or some other criminal misdemeanour that I am less than proud of and I will be locked up in the Cash and Carry’s underground cell.

Cerbyd will go ahead without me but there will be a horrific accident and only Briaan will survive to tell me the harrowing tale. Of course, I am over anxious and none of this will happen. Probably.

We swing around the aisles filling our two industrial trolleys to the brim. There is plenty of carbohydrates on offer and that means energy for doing Cerbyd stuff. As we head towards the fresh veg section, I start to worry. I can see only bags of onions. Big bloody bags of onions but sod all else. Cold sweat and panic sets in. I know Briaan doesn’t eat vegetables apart from when I forced him so I could make a film called Briaan doesn’t about 7 years ago. He shrugs his shoulders as if said big bag of onions is substantial enough on the veg front for an eight day camping trip.

We step through what I hope is an Aladdin’s cave chiller area that will contain one of the finest selections of vegetables known to man. It doesn’t. There are spring onions, peppers and a lot of yogurt. It is 9.50am the bus is ready to be picked up for 11.30am. We need to pack the bus and collect the artists at 1pm. There is no time for this. I have never eaten tinned mushrooms or come to think of it any tinned vegetable apart from sweetcorn. Call me a snob but I just haven’t. We grabbed a variety of vegetables in tins and pushed our way toward the checkout. We needn’t have rushed.

The Cash and Carry checkouts have not taken the lead from the express tills of local supermarkets. Our two industrial trolleys full with at least 250 items generates no response from our hapless bar code scanner man. He is bored out of his mind. I don’t blame him I just need to go and buy some vegetables. Real vegetables so our meals don’t taste of brine. Is that so much to ask for?

It seems one of our purchases doesn’t have a barcode. This means 25 minutes of waiting at the checkout and my paranoia is back. I am convinced they have realised we are not the g39 boys and have sent for the cavalry. For those of you who have not visited a Cash and Carry the procedure is that you pay for your goods then take your receipt to a cashier set back from you in a wall behind bullet-proof glass. Cerbyd’s receipt reaches down and tickles the floor.

The shop assistant returns with the missing barcoded iteam. We rejoice. I hand g39’s card and Cerbyd’s receipt to a smart and smiling man in a suit. He reiterates the amount of our bill and I pay with Cerbyd’s card. The addresses on Cerbyd’s card and g39’s card do not match.

Now if I were the man behind the bullet-proof glass, I would be depressing the red button which would in turn be alerting the necessary authorities of our fraudulent status as owners of g39. The smart and smiling man does none of this instead he asks me whether Pentyrch (where my card is registered to) is near Castell Coch. I reply ‘yes’ and he informs me that Castell Coch is his favourite castle in all of Wales. It is mine too. Brian and I split from this Cash and Carry and we get the hell out of dodge.


The difference between the list and the listmaker

From conception to realisation the project has taken 18 months. I am compiling the final list of things to do before we go. I am a list maker and this is my 100th list associated with Cerbyd. I have a tried and tested system for my lists. Sections are drawn to divide each project that I have on at any one time. Each project has said amount of jobs ranging from the exciting – call Alison George Formby or the mundane complete and send press release. Each job is highlighted by its urgency.

Yellow for within a month so plenty of time

Green for next week so get going

Pink for ‘Tom, Why are you making a list? You should be doing this now?’

I know I am not alone as a list maker and this brings me considerable comfort but I believe all of us have our individual reasons and systems when making our lists.

I have made so many lists for Cerbyd that it has itself become part of my system. After a decade and more of making lists they have become the foundation and often starting point for anything that I do. They enable me to cross from one project to another with a clear understanding of the different problems and goals required by each.

I have found during this time that my lists have repeatedly become dog-eared. Although in this state they can be more aesthetically pleasing. For example, in 2005 Briaan suggested that I should exhibit my lists. Producing the opposite effect on my list making and has since meant that each completed list has been confined to the endless possibilities of recycling rather than the turgid guff of an art gallery. The fact of the matter is that dog-eared lists are useless to me. So the system took this into account and has dealt with it by refining each list after the first six items are completed and crossed off. Effectively the list lives for six items. The creation of the new list also works as a reward scheme for the completion of the first six items. Six items did not come about randomly either. I calculated that six was my average completion rate for my to-do list in the winter of 2008 and have stuck to it ever since.

And so to the list I am writing now, there are five items down and one left before I would normally start a new. In fact there are over 16 items on this list. Nothing is normal as there are two days till Cerbyd. The time has come to pick up Briaan and head to Newport Road for some last minute camping necessities.

I will not go over the many differences in opinion myself and Briaan had about the size and type of equipment we purchased but it would be fair to say we disagreed more than we agreed. In hindsight, I was right on 90% of the decisions. I am still to take back the large canister of gas that I plumped for but needless to say it is on my list of things to do. The disagreements were forgotten as broad smiles came over our faces as we lumbered increasingly more difficult to carry items across the go out doors car park and packed them into my tiny car. This would turn out to be extremely good practice for the Cerbyd trip.

Fast forward through our unloading and repacking to my back garden. Two men stand over two flaming barbeque grills, the smell of bacon wafting under their nostrils. The sun is out and I am tucking into the bacon sarnie, safe in the knowledge that today has seen 11 things ticked off the Cerbyd list with no need for an upgrade.


From the Cerbyd diaries

I am sitting at my desk at the Glynn Viv eating my lunch. Having completed another successful animation session with the drugs project. My lunch consists of pre-cooked tortellini mixed with olives, pine nuts and Parmesan. I am particularly enjoying my lunch when my mind wanders and becomes pregnant with thoughts of Cerbyd.

Cerbyd will set off in three days, I consider potential problems – arguments escalating into violence – sculptors with their beautiful hands round the throats of performance artists who throw their heads dramatically back and fore, our ominous welsh weather, car sickness even mutiny.

My thoughts return to the present as my blackberry jigs and flashes alerting me that Briaan is calling. Now Briaan doesn’t call, he sporadically sends text messages in BLOCK CAPITALS that however well meaning always make me feel as though I am being shouted at. On any other day I would be shocked to be receiving a call from Briaan but not today. Three days before the beginning of Cerbyd and Julian Barrett from the Cardiff Humanists left a message on my phone yesterday morning in response to my ‘Just checking everything is ready for Monday, Julian’ message which I left two days previous. Disappointingly Julian’s message stated that the Humanists were not going to be able to take part in Cerbyd. His reason being that their regular meeting place, The Model Inn, was closed for refurbishment.

I had left a few messages for Julian but with no response. Each of my messages asked whether the Humanists could still take part in Cerbyd if we booked another venue?

Julian hadn’t replied, the conversations were played out in a shrewd game of answer phone tennis. But Briaan was on his case or so I hoped. I answered my phone and got this:

“I’ve spoken to Julian”

“Hurrah” I say

“I told him we have the Tair Pluen booked but he has still limped out and won’t be taking part.”

“Shit” I grunt

Why had Julian done this? I had first spoken to him thirteen months back, uniquely both Briaan and I had spoken to him about the project, emails were sent back and fore. All was fine two weeks ago, I’d even joined their bloody facebook group!

“I think the Humanists are going on holiday. The last thing they want is to be hanging about explaining themselves to a bunch of artists when they could be topping up their tans in Marbella.”

I’m guessing Humanists holiday in Marbella. Briaan agreed.

The Humanists pulling out so late really rocked me. Made me think-What else can go wrong?

Briaan reminded me of the Cardiff Humanists dodgy track record. In the midst of the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten’s Muhammad cartoons scandal. The Cardiff Humanists had organised a draw Muhammad competition and their general perspective seemed to be more why not organised religion rather than why Humanism. I suppose, they are the lose canon of the groups and maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

“Time to call in the favours” I say

“We have the venue booked”

Briaan chips in “It’s a pub – let’s get them drunk. It would be a good bonding exercise.”

“Let’s give them the option to get drunk but there needs to be an activity. Look I’ll call you back mate.”

After a quick chat with Sean then Gordon, the wheels were back on. Cerbyd presents an evening of short informal talks by artists about things they’re into using the format of speed dating. Not revolutionary but hopefully nor would the Humanists have been. Eight hours later we had our speakers –

Tiff Oben and Helene Roberts on the town of Newport

Tom Porridge on break-dancing and street culture

Gordon Dalton on the considerable myth and legend of Evel Knievel

Sean Edwards on the Boss – Bruce Springsteen

And Richard Higlett on football messiah Jimmy Hill.

We should have sold tickets. No one would have bought them but still what a line up! I stay up late putting the finishing touches to the Cerbyd posters.


I thought I’d wait a while before I shared this

I am still finding it difficult to clearly describe the Cerbyd experience without something going off in my head and entirely loosing my grip on reality. Each morning as I drive to work my mind takes me on a detour North, preparing food is no longer the delightful collaborative experience it once was and at lights out I dream of my time under canvas… WHY THE HELL CAN’T EVERYDAY BE LIKE CERBYD?

It is clear to me that although my plans for the 8 days were rigorous to the point of being obsessional and possibly bordering on anally retentive. I was not prepared however, in any way for the massive hole that would appear in my life after we got off the bus. I am disappointed with myself for not being able to forsee this. I should have devised an aftercare plan that would have kicked in as soon as we all arrived home. The exhilaration of such an all consuming and intensive experience could leave the artists drained requiring emotional support and if this was not administered could lead to trauma! Well, this is certainly the experience I have been through post-Cerbyd. Thinking and questioning everything that once made me comfortable has knocked me for six. Was Cerbyd akin to doing my MA?

Everyone involved in Cerbyd made the last 18 months of administration worth it. Eight days solid with 11 artists is, I’m sure/i know, many artists idea of hell. Without sounding sentimental we were blessed with a fantastic gang that made the whole experience. The gang galvinised one another in every action – from putting up tents (which wildly varied in size), inventing and playing Creative frisbee and the simple enjoyment you can have when packed in like sardines between bags, tents, kettles, pots, pans, lentils and strangers in a bus that sometimes wound its way through small roads with a few choice U turns thrown in for good measure but always accompanied by a backing track of laughter, singing and smiles.