Earlier this week I was asked by a friend, the photographer Sarah Barnes if I’d write a foreword for her upcoming photography book. It’s a great book, a great concept and something relatively close to my heart (not least because I feature in it), so of course, I’m delighted to do so.

The book, and accompanying exhibition, is a series of portraits of Rhiwbina residents – photos to capture the faces that make up modern Rhiwbina, whilst, in its use of old camera technology, paying homage to its past in this, the centenary of the Garden Village.

The project, the pictures within the project, attempt (and indeed succeed) in showing how photos capture a moment while conjuring a memory. Much as we do a with a song or even a fragrance – to see a certain photo of a certain time, a certain place or indeed a certain face can evoke a memory, can dig into the nostalgic core of the brain and stand you still in your tracks, awash with spine-shivered thoughts of a past brought suddenly into sharp focus.

Then again, maybe that’s just me.

Tomorrow (Saturday 15th June) I’m going to be playing in a football match. A proper, 11 vs 11 football match. On a football pitch in my football boots with a football, erm, football. There’ll be a referee and proper kits and everything.

The reason I’ll be taking to the pitch is because it’s the 3rd annual football match in memorial of an old friend whose life was cut tragically short back in 1996. His name was Matthew Holtham – known, to most, as Mattie.

He played football, much, much better than me. He signed for Luton Town upon leaving school, played at Cardiff, Merthyr and Barry Town. And he represented Wales at youth level. So yes, he was footballer – a bloody good one. Mattie lived in Rhiwbina, like me and Sam Warburton. He went to Whitchurch High School, like me and Sam Warburton.

Tomorrow, when Sam Warburton is captaining the Lions Rugby Team in Australia there’ll be a bunch of ex-Whitchurch High School boys, as well as a host of other old friends from all over, paying tribute to a mate. Paying homage to a past that we all remember fondly.

So what’s that got to do with my writing a foreword for a photography book? Well, nothing really – except that, as the day has drawn nearer, more and more old photos have emerged, popped up on our favourite social sites. And one in particular – a shot of Mattie, in a blazing red kit, an outstretched finger, a hard smile on his face – symbols of joy from a goal just scored. It’s a shot so encapsulating, so redolent of his character. A picture soaked in memory, carrying all who know him back in time.

The Mattie Holtham Memorial Football Match is at the Uni South Wales playing fields Treforest, k/o 12pm then at the Pantmawr Pub, Rhiwbina on Saturday 15th June.

Sarah’s Exhibition, Portraits of Rhiwbina opens on 22nd June and runs until 12th July at The Art Workshop.

GJ Hill

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