Archive for October, 2012

Our latest GO Wales work taster student is Laura Watkins, who has been with us every Tuesday for the past few weeks! Here’s her blog about her experience so far…

Work taster graduate Laura Watkins

My name is Laura and I’m a recent graduate from Cardiff University’s school of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

Being a very focused individual, I started the job search immediately after my last lecture at Cardiff.   The process was fairly monotonous, (as many job hunters my age will only be too aware of!): getting up early, searching job websites, emailing employers, sending my CV around etc.  I had been used to getting ‘yeses’ prior to the job search so receiving rejection emails was new and, if I’m honest, a bit scary!  Finally little bits and pieces began coming through for me: I started presenting my own radio show at Neville Hall Hospital and began volunteering at the Cardiff Story Museum.  However, the world of PR was something I was yet to experience so I decided to extend my job search to include ‘PR and marketing’.  I was searching the Go Wales website and an advert from Petersens popped up looking for a graduate interested in PR.  I had applied for many jobs, some that I didn’t even really fancy, but something about Petersen’s advert really stood out to me.  After doing a bit of background research, I knew straight away that Petersens was a company that was not only highly thought of, but could offer me what I was looking for.  The fact that Petersens is a relatively small company also attracted me; personally I enjoy working as part of a smaller group of people and felt they could offer me that kind of working environment.  I applied for the post, and a few weeks later I received an email from Sally, saying I had been shortlisted for an interview!

This was my first job interview so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I arrived at Petersens on the day, feeling a little nervous, but keeping my mantra in mind: “if it’s not meant to be, then it won’t happen,” a saying that has got me through a lot of challenges in the job hunt!  I was invited into the office by Sally who introduced me to Rob and Louise.  They were all very nice and I immediately felt at ease, which was great.  I felt the interview went well, and was pleased that I hadn’t been asked any tough questions I hadn’t prepared for!

I had a phone call the next day from Rob who told me that unfortunately I wasn’t successful in gaining the work placement, however would I be interested in having a ‘work taster’ with Petersens, spread out over a few weeks.  Rob explained that he felt I would benefit from gaining experience in PR and believed a work taster would be a good way for me to do this.  This was great news and just shows the level of care that Petersens have for its employees, confirming my pre-conceived ideas about the company.  The following day Helen from Go Wales contacted me to set up a meeting to discuss dates and times of the work taster, which brings us to today!  This is my fourth week at the company, and I’m gaining a valuable insight into the world of PR.  I’ve written press releases, created media lists, conducted research, the list is endless.  I really feel that I am gaining priceless experience in a small company that is committed to providing an excellent service in a big way.  I would definitely recommend work experience at Petersens to anyone looking into pursuing a career in PR, and for all those job hunters out there: just try your best and something positive will come from all your hard work, or as my mother says, “You reap what you sow!”

Descent from the summit of Toubkal

Rob talks about his recent ascent of Toubkal,  Africa’s second highest mountain, and the significance of this achievement in light of the health problems he’s faced this year…

After a routine x-ray following a persistent cough in May of this year, some detailed scans were called for which resulted in Helen Davies, the lung specialist at Llandough Hospital, arranging for an operation via keyhole to check on a ‘shadow’ on my left lung. I was warned by Helen that if it proved cancerous, it would be removed, and that tests would be undertaken on various tissues to ensure that cancer had not spread to other parts of my body.  After the operation, brilliantly performed by Margaret Kornaszewska and her team at University Hospital of Wales in July during which the tumour was removed along with the bottom lobe of my left lung, I, along with my family, awaited the test results with obvious anxiety. Having been a Trustee of Cancer Charity Tenovus for many years, I had some knowledge of the consequences of any positive results and so had prepared myself, although I remained positive throughout the period. Luckily for me the tests were all negative so Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy were not required.

Due to reasonable fitness, I recovered quickly from my hospital stay and was soon looking forward (with my consultant’s blessing!) to two trips planned in January this year. Firstly, to Spain for my yoga retreat organised by Ray at rayoga.co.uk, which went off perfectly in the mountains of Andalucía, near Ronda, just a week before the rain came!  A most relaxing and calming six days in the company of my great yoga class mates from David Lloyd Leisure, Cardiff.

Riad Samsara

Then, secondly, a more daunting week’s trekking in the High Atlas of Morocco with my wife Delyth whose support over the past months has been very significant together with family, friends and specialist lung nurses Kay and Naomi from Llandough Hospital. We stayed at Jacqueline Brandt’s delightful Douar Samra in the village of Tamatert, some two hours from Marrakech where we had started our holiday at Jacqueline’s Riad Samsara, www.riadsamsara.com. Jacqueline’s hospitality and comfort is to be highly recommended to any visitor to Morocco by the way.

My challenge was to summit Mount Toubkal, the second highest mountain in Africa at 4200m!!  People said I was mad, irresponsible and selfish to attempt this trek, even if I was 100% fit. However as my icon Marilyn Monroe once said, “We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid, so are regrets.”  I needed to prove to myself, more than anyone else that this disease called cancer can actually bring out the very best in people. I felt that if I could achieve this small challenge, others in ward C5 of the University Hospital in the Heath, Cardiff might be inspired to push themselves a little more to achieve their own goals, however small; maybe just to climb the stairs from ward C5 to the next level and prove that they were on the mend and could leave hospital themselves!

So on Saturday 13th October, having set off at 4am, along with my guide Ephraim, I summitted Toubhkal at 7am, exhausted but elated.   It took me another 10 hours to descend and get back to the comfort of Doura Samra where, very stiff and weary, I must have consumed a full bottle of that magical ‘vin rouge’ President, so deliciously produced and bottled by excellent Moroccan wine producers.

A memorable journey and personal challenge fulfilled, which I do hope will inspire a few more sufferers of cancer to undertake their own particular challenges in the future. Cancer can be beaten, as can Toubkal, by many more people with the right positive frame of mind. To repeat Marilyn’s wonderful words, “We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid, so are regrets.”

Ben Borthwick from Artes Mundi mixed business with art at this morning’s Cardiff Breakfast Club as our guest speaker

Ben promised not to pummel our business brains with too much culture as he provided an engaging overview of the organisation’s current contemporary arts prize, Artes Mundi 5 and outlined how this prize helps position Wales on a global stage.

Artes Mundi is a biennial contemporary arts initiative and is the UK’s largest visual arts prize.   The prize is proud of its non-exclusive nature; welcoming nominations from art experts to grandmothers who once admired their grandsons’ drawings. It consequently registers entries from over 100 different countries. The prize is now in its 5th cycle, and Ben joined as Artistic Director in 2010, having previously been a curator at internationally recognized institutions such as the Tate Modern.

Although many may feel that Cardiff can’t compete with the likes of the Tate Modern when it comes to contemporary art, Ben explained how Artes Mundi‘s collaboration with the National Museum entices art aficionados (and us commoners alike!) to our capital city from all over the globe.   Over 66,000 people have flocked to see each cycle’s exhibition to date and Artes Mundi 5 is likely to achieve similar figures.

The National Museum has recently invested in its West Wing – a suite of galleries dedicated to contemporary art.  Ben described art exhibitions as ‘negotiations with architecture’ and therefore these galleries not only increase, but also improve Cardiff’s capacity to display contemporary art.  This, coupled with Artes Mundi’s belief in commissioning new work, results in a unique initiative and incentive to visit Cardiff over alternative exhibitions.

But how does Artes Mundi and contemporary art really ‘benefit’ Wales?

The prize’s international nature and ambitions help the global recognition of Wales in both the arts and business spheres. The prize boasts impressive sponsorship from American bank Merrill Lynch, a major global player with whom the international ambitions of Artes Mundi resonate. Ben feels connections such as this could be used as a future building block for development.

Art also helps encourage international cultural exchange that could be put to great use in the business world.  Contemporary art often engages with wider, sociopolitical agendas and many of the artists in this exhibition address issues of international importance, such as Cuban born Tania Bruguera’s and her long-term art project Immigrant Movement International.  The fact that these issues are being brought to the fore in Wales, places us on a global stage.  Ben also explained that visual arts link local histories to the international, which is precisely what Slovenian Apolonija Šušteršič’s Tiger Bay project does by focusing on development in the Cardiff Bay area

Finally, Artes Mundi is dedicated to building relationships at a local level and establishing a legacy within Wales.  Artes Mundi is showing strong commitment to education by training a large number of teachers during each cycle, and as a consequence is introducing conceptual art into schools. It is also collaborating with arts organisations all over Wales, such as Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno, in order to help spread the benefit of this international prize throughout the nation.

Having recorded the highest attendance figures for a National Museum exhibition to date (apart from the dinosaurs!), it seems we are slowly starting to open our minds to the previously foreign concept of contemporary art, and to show pride in the international profile that Artes Mundi provides us with.