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2018

A £1.1m donation to Cardiff University from eminent Welsh businessman and philanthropist Sir Stanley Thomas OBE (Hon 2011) will fund a state of the art 550-seat auditorium within the University’s flagship new Centre for Student Life.

The building, now being developed in partnership with the Students’ Union, will provide a heart to the Cathays Campus and a new home for student support services. It will include new social study spaces, consultation rooms and quiet contemplation spaces along with the 550-seat auditorium which will bear Sir Stanley’s name. The building will ensure Cardiff University’s award-winning support services for students are even more inclusive, accessible and convenient.

Sir Stanley’s landmark gift is the largest single lifetime donation made to the University by an individual to date.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “All of us at Cardiff University are delighted by Sir Stanley’s inspirational and generous gift. We can’t overstate the transformational impact Sir Stanley’s support will have for students, for the University and indeed for Cardiff and Wales.”

Sir Stanley said: “Cardiff University is an important institution for Cardiff, for Wales and the world. This iconic building for students at the University is not a nice-to-have, but a must. The new Centre for Student Life will help to ensure that every student, whatever their background, can flourish during their studies. I hope other donors will follow suit in making similar gifts to my own.”

Sir Stanley’s long-time friend, Cardiff University Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, said: “I would like to thank Sir Stanley on behalf of the students I have taught, and the people of Merthyr where we grew up together. Further to the momentous commitments he has made to our hometown and the people of Wales over the years, this latest step-change donation will directly impact the health, happiness and wellbeing of Cardiff students for many generations.”

TJ Rawlinson, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, said: “Sir Stanley’s gift marks a transformational philanthropic moment for Cardiff University. It is marvellous to be able to celebrate this generosity from a Welshman who has contributed to many important Welsh and UK organisations over the years. We are deeply grateful to Sir Stanley for his longstanding support of Cardiff research, and now of Cardiff students. We look forward to celebrating the impact of this gift whilst the building is under construction, when it is opened in the 2020-21 academic year, and for many years to come.”

Scientists have developed a computer tool that can spot if somebody has filed a fake police statement based purely on the text included in the document.

Using a combination of automatic text analysis and advanced machine learning techniques, the tool has been able to successfully identify false robbery reports with over 80 per cent accuracy.

The tool has now been rolled out across all of Spain to help support police officers and indicate where further investigations are necessary.

Known as VeriPol, the tool is specific to reports of robbery and can recognise patterns that are more common with false claims, such as the types of items reported stolen, finer details of incidents and descriptions of a perpetrator.

The research team, which included computer science experts from Cardiff University and Charles III University of Madrid, believe the tool could save the police both time and effort by complementing traditional investigative techniques, whilst also deterring people from filing fake statements in the first place.

The results of the study have been published in the academic journal Knowledge-Based Systems.

In many parts of the world the filing of false police statement is a crime that carries serious consequences, such as jail terms and heavy fines.

False statements not only contaminate police databases and damage the outcomes of criminal investigations, but also waste significant amounts of public resources that could be dedicated to pursuing other crimes.

Yet false reports are very common, especially in the reporting of low level crimes such as robbery.

VeriPol is partly based on a process known as natural language processing – a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language. For example, the computer tool uses algorithms to identify and quantify various features in text, such as adjectives, acronyms, verbs, nouns, punctuation marks and numbers and figures.

Historical police reports that were known to be false have been fed through VeriPol so that it could code each one and begin to ‘learn’ the specific patterns.

An initial study of more than 1000 police reports from the Spanish National Police showed that VeriPol was ‘extremely effective in discriminating between false and true reports’, with a success rate of more than 80 per cent.

VeriPol identified a number of themes that were common amongst false robbery reports, including: shorter statements that were more focussed on the stolen property than the incident; a lack of precise detail about the incident itself; limited details of the attacker; and a lack of witnesses or other hard evidence, such as contacting a police officer or doctor straight after the incident.

“As an example, our model began to identify false statements where it was reported that incidents happened from behind or where the aggressors were wearing helmets,” co-author of the study Dr Jose Camacho-Collados, from Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, said.

VeriPol was put to task on a real-life pilot study in the urban areas of Murcia and Malaga in Spain in June 2017. In just one week, 25 cases of false robbery reports were detected in Murcia, resulting in the cases being closed, and a further 39 were detected and closed in Malaga.

In comparison, over the course of eight years between 2008 and 2016, the average number of false reports detected and cases closed by police officers in the month of June was 3.33 for Murcia and 12.14 for Malaga.

After VeriPol had assigned a high probability of falsehood to the reports and the claimants were further interrogated, around 83 per cent of cases were subsequently closed.

“Our study has given us a fascinating insight into how people lie to the police, and a tool that can be used to deter people from doing so in the future,” continued Dr Camacho-Collados.

“Police officers across Spain are now using VeriPol and integrating it into their working practices. Ultimately we hope that by showing that automatic detection is possible it will deter people from lying to the police in the first instance.”

Eight-month old Archie might be the youngest person to take a university course.

He has been coming along with his mum, Rebecca Davies, to the Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely, a free course run by Cardiff University’s Live Local Learn Local programme in collaboration with the CAER Heritage Project.

The two were among a cohort of students who have been developing the skills needed to curate an exhibition, with their specially chosen artefacts going on show at the Cardiff Story Museum from today (October 26-November 4).

As part of their studies, they got to visit the vaults of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, poring through the many interesting artefacts that have been either excavated or discovered from around Caerau and Ely. This area of Cardiff has a rich hidden history dating back 6,000 years which in recent years has been uncovered by the CAER Heritage Project (CAER). CAER is a partnership project between Cardiff University, community development organisation Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE) local schools and residents. It involves local people of all ages in creating new knowledge about their shared history while helping to challenge some significant social and economic challenges faced by their communities in the present.

“It’s been great fun,” said Rebecca. “Archie only got grumpy once, when he was hungry. It was pretty surreal feeding him in the vaults of the museum. But he’s received lots of cuddles from the other people on my course and everyone has been really supportive of me bringing him along.”

Rebecca, single mum to Archie and Henry, aged five, relocated to Caerau earlier this year.

She was keen to find out more about her new home, so not long after the move, they took a trip to the Caerau Iron Age Hillfort, which in turn ignited her passion for history. The hillfort is one of Cardiff’s most important but little known historical sites.

“I didn’t know anybody here and wanted to get out,” said the 31-year-old. “I went along to a half-term event with the children at the hillfort and I got talking to people. They mentioned there was a course coming up that I might be interested in.”

Hidden Histories group

During the lessons, each of the five students were tasked with choosing an artefact that they wanted to focus on and showcase to the public.

Rebecca chose a glass bead from the Iron Age, which was dug up from Caerau Hillfort in 2013 during one of CAER Heritage’s community excavations there.

“It’s a beautiful bead with yellow running through it,” she said. “I chose it because it’s something that’s been found around the corner from my house; it’s fascinating thinking this was something that was used by our ancestors.”

The experience has been a huge source of support for Rebecca, during what has been a challenging year.

Course Tutor Melissa Julian-Jones said: “I've loved getting to know the group and helping them put together this exhibition. It’s been a great way of bringing together research and teaching while also breaking down barriers to education and building confidence. It was really important to us that we were as inclusive as possible and having Archie along made the sessions a lot more fun! Everyone pitched in to help with his buggy on the field trips too. The exhibition is really exciting as a testimony to the group's hard work.”

Cardiff University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “We are very clear on our commitment to the local community and this programme has brought people into the very heart of our academic life, learning new skills and knowledge. The students who have worked on this exhibition should be commended for their efforts to showcase some of the incredible history found in Caerau and Ely.”

Cardiff Council Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Peter Bradbury said: “Cardiff Story Museum does an excellent job of collaborating with different organisations in order to provide an exciting range of exhibitions and diverse activities which engage and inspire our local communities.

“As Caerau’s local councillor I find the CAER Heritage Project particularly interesting, highlighting the importance of this historical site.  As well as making history and archaeology accessible to everyone, this project allows participants to learn new skills and develop their knowledge of their local area.”

The exhibition is running at Cardiff Story Museum from Friday October 26 - Sunday November 4.

This year, Cardiff University is continuing to run community outreach courses in partnership with First Campus, the South East Wales Reaching Wider Partnership. If you are interested in finding out more, contact Helena Fern on firstcampus@cardiff.ac.uk

A Cardiff University campaign which aims to give black and minority ethnic (BME) students a voice has reached the Welsh Assembly as part of Black History Month.

The #ITooAmCardiff exhibition features huge freestanding images of BME students accompanied by their own inspiring words.

It has been modelled on a social media campaign created by students at Harvard University.

The exhibition, sponsored by Vaughan Gething AM, can be viewed at the Welsh Assembly’s Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay from 26 October to 30 November 2018.

Mr Gething said: “I am proud to be sponsoring the #ITooAmCardiff exhibition as part of Black History Month. The exhibition showcases the equality, diversity and inclusion of students at Cardiff University.

“In following the journey of BME students the exhibition gives a powerful voice to and helps to raise awareness of some of the issues faced by BME students on campus.

“I wish the exhibition every success as it continues on its journey.”

The display is part of Black History Month 2018 which runs during October.

Cardiff University’s Equality and Diversity Project Officer, Susan Cousins, is behind the #ITooAmCardiff campaign.

She came up with the idea of using images and quotes from BME students to provide them with a platform and raise awareness of diverse aspects of the BME student journey.

The quotes are in the words of the students themselves.

The exhibition has already been on display at the University and the Students’ Union but this is its first time on the road.

Mark BME

Susan is keen to take the campaign outside the University and hopes it will inspire a wider audience at the Pierhead Building.

Susan said: “People love the exhibition because it’s such a powerful representation of differing perspectives. BME students and staff within the University have reacted positively, welcoming its thought-provoking messages.

“We had quite a few BME young people who were not Cardiff University students who came along when it was on display at the University. They thought it was amazing and that Cardiff had done something unusual in reaching and giving voice to BME students.

“I want the exhibition to be seen in as many places as possible and would like people to contact me if they would like to host it.”

The exhibition includes an event on 9 November with Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen Holford, Vaughan Gething AM, Joyce Watson AM, the National Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for equalities issues, and Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales.

A new £20m research centre aimed at finding effective treatments for dementia was officially opened at Cardiff University today.

More than 70 scientists from around the world have been recruited to the centre with the aim of expanding the group to 100 in the near future.

The Cardiff centre is one of six that together make up the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) which has been established across Britain with a total £290m investment.

UK DRI at Cardiff will build upon research strengths in dementia genetics; immunology; computational analytics; cellular and whole system modelling; and neuroimaging to identify disease mechanisms and therapies for a range of dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.

In recent years, more than 40 genes which contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease have been discovered and the team at Cardiff will use that knowledge to work on new theories and discoveries.

Focusing on clear evidence that indicates answers can be found within the brain’s immune system, they will work on several separate but aligned research programmes that will model Alzheimer’s disease in various ways, including through stem cells which can be transformed into neurons, immune and other cells.  They will even be able to combine these cells to create mini brains or organoids (3D cell cultures that incorporate some of the key features of an organ).

Professor Julie Williams, Director of the UK DRI at Cardiff University, said: “With a new case of dementia diagnosed somewhere in the world every four seconds we aim to bring about a step change in the way we study this set of diseases.

“Here at the UK DRI at Cardiff University we are combining novel techniques to unveil the mechanisms of dementia so that we can transform the outlook for people living with dementia today and in the future.

The creation of the UK DRI at Cardiff is being seen as an accolade for Wales and indicates the growing strength of ground breaking scientific research in the country. It is funded by the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, with the Welsh Government giving significant support to the Cardiff centre.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said: “This represents a substantial, UK-wide investment into dementia research in Wales. The Welsh Government’s investment in this world class facility demonstrates our commitment to tackling this devastating disease and forms part of our plan to make Wales a dementia friendly nation, as set out in our Dementia Action Plan.”

Welsh Government funding has enabled the Cardiff team to install a £1m robotic Opera Phenix microscope which is able to scan and analyse thousands of individual cells at high speed. This state-of-the-art microscope was made in Wales and is an example of the latest technology being utilised by the team.

Although the principal research will focus on Alzheimer’s disease there will also be relevant findings for Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Professor Bart De Strooper, UK DRI Director, said: “The shared vision between our UK DRI centres is at the heart of the institute’s success, and creativity at the borders will lead us to truly understand dementia and how to tackle it. We selected our six centres based on innovative, excellent science; evidence of strong leadership; the alignment of goals with the UK DRI as a whole; and the ability to grow and collaborate as the institute gathers pace.

Sue Phelps, Country Director of Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, a founding funder of the UK Dementia Research Institute added: “This unique collaboration bringing together the brains of six universities across the UK, including the great team of world-leading researchers at Cardiff University who are working tirelessly to beat dementia, offers people affected by dementia hope for a better future and for a world without dementia.

“Research will beat dementia.”

https://youtu.be/-FSM8u8aZGE

Experts from Cardiff University are leading on a major new research project which will assess how new technologies are influencing transnational organised crime (Cyber-TNOC).

Professor Mike Levi, Dr Luca Giommoni and Professor Matthew Williams, criminologists at the School of Social Sciences, along with Professor Pete Burnap from the School of Computer Science and Informatics, have secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to investigate the ways in which criminals are making use of cyber and allied technologies. 

Their work will focus on modern slavery, the sale of illicit drugs, the propagation of malware and money laundering, including ‘money muling’. These crimes generate substantial online data resulting from the use of communications and social media technologies used by traffickers, software coders and financial transactions.

By collecting this new data, as well as harvesting interviews and administrative records, the team will produce the clearest picture yet of how online technologies are reshaping transnational organised crime.

The study also brings together academics from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan, University of Surrey and the University of Montreal.

The team will work closely with private and public sector bodies, including fraud prevention organisation CIFAS, professional services firm Deloitte, South Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Professor Levi, who is also an advisor to Europol’s Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, said: “As societies across the world are becoming increasingly more interconnected and digital, organised crime is adapting to this new landscape and integrating new technologies into the ways they operate. Europol data show significant increases in international groups operating within the EU in 2017 compared with 2013, and in their use of online methods to facilitate their activities.

“In April 2018, the National Crime Agency arrested a criminal group selling illicit drugs to the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Argentina and Singapore via a site on the dark web. The Russian gang behind the Koobface botnet, which propagated via social networks, infected up to 800,000 machines around the world and made $2M dollars annually.

Co-investigator Dr Luca Giommoni, said: “Organised crime is changing rapidly. Researchers and practitioners need innovative methods to better respond to organised crime groups exploiting online technologies.  

“This project will be the first one to build up a strong evidence base to inform policy development. The research will demonstrate how traditional and new forms of data, when analysed with social network analysis and artificial intelligence, has the potential to transform how governments, criminal justice and the private sector can work to address crimes that have a huge impact globally.”

The team begin their research in January 2019 with their first findings expected to be published in 2020-21.

Life as a stand-up might seem like a bit of a laugh, but working conditions on the comedy circuit are no joke, according to researchers at Cardiff and Stockholm Universities.

Feelings of worry, anxiety and frustration are commonplace and arise from unpredictable working conditions and financial insecurity, the study found.

Over a period of two years, Drs Dimitrinka Stoyanova Russell and Nick Butler interviewed 64 full-time UK-based stand-up comedians about their experiences.

The findings reveal that performers don’t just put on an act while on stage. Many admitted to projecting an image of positivity, showing they were willing to work for little or no pay in order to curry favour with comedy club promoters.

Researchers discovered comedians commonly hid feelings of anxiety and frustration arising from this financial insecurity in order to keep their relationships with promotors on an even keel. Few were willing to confront their employers about inadequate wages or late payments.

These strategies of “emotion management” only serve to exacerbate the prevalence of unfair employment practices, it was concluded. But there was a recognition among comedians that maintaining a wide network of relationships within the industry was vital to success.

Dr Russell, Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Cardiff Business School, said: “Freelance creative work is a labour of love where opportunities for self-expression are combined with exploitative working conditions."

“As a result, comedians find themselves accepting gigs without proper remuneration well into their careers.”

While the study focuses on work in the creative industries, the team argues that their findings might inform further research on wider employment practices.

Dr Butler, Assistant Professor at Stockholm Business School, said: “This task is all the more necessary since employment conditions in the creative industries are mimicked beyond the performing arts, with casual labour in the fledgling ‘gig economy’ and other occupational fields where informality is the norm.

“Research like this might show how freelance workers in these economies use forms of emotion management in order to establish relationships with multiple employers. And, as it has in our study, describe what happens when workers feel compelled to endure uncertainty with a smile.”

The study ‘No funny business: Precarious work and emotional labour in stand-up comedy’ was funded by the British Academy and published in Human Relations.

Governments and police forces around the world need to give greater consideration to the potential harm caused by mass and social media following terror events, a report concludes.

Academics at Cardiff University’s Crime and Security Research Institute (CSRI) lead an international team of analysts from the University of New South Wales, Michigan State University and the Canadian Society of Evidence Based Policing to learn the lessons from researching recent terror attacks in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. By reviewing all the published research on the role of media and social media in the wake of terror attacks, together with detailed case studies of specific incidents, the study has produced new evidence and insights about how media and social media coverage can increase the public harms of terrorism, and what works in mitigating such effects.

The research team found such attacks continue to have an adverse impact long after the initial incident, as a wide range of voices compete through mainstream and social media.

Led by Professor Martin Innes Director of the CSRI, the team of academics have developed a Minutes to Months (M2M) framework, to help authorities formulate robust strategies for managing the resulting online reactions after a major incident. The work was commissioned by the Five Country Ministerial (FCM) Countering Extremism Working Group – which includes the governments of the UK, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Communications after a terrorist incident often lead to a spike in hate crimes, incite and fuel extremism and prompt damaging disinformation and rumours. Governments, police and others involved in public safety need to be ready to offer accurate, regular information to minimise negative fallout, researchers say.

The report states: “Terrorist violence is intended as a provocation to elicit intense and vivid reactions; the relative neglect of how to manage post-event situations… is a current weak point in many governmental counter-terrorism frameworks.”

It adds: “The increasing volume of communication enables different groups to develop alternative interpretations and framings of the same event. As a consequence, there are typically multiple narratives and accounts circulating in the post-event environment.

“Terrorist violence is purposively designed to ‘terrorise, polarise and mobilise’ different public audiences, therefore understanding and managing the dynamics of public reaction to these provocations is vital.”

Last year, Professor Innes and his team issued a report which identified the systematic use of fake social media accounts deliberately spreading disinformation, linked to Russia, amplifying the public impacts of the four terrorist attacks that took place in the UK in 2017 - at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

Professor Innes said: “Over the past five years or so, both the mechanics and dynamics of terrorism and how it is reported via media sources, have altered dramatically. There has been a diversification in terms of ideological motivations, and a shift to a full-spectrum of attack methodologies, ranging from bombings to knife and vehicle-based attacks. Over the same period, the logics of media and the information environment have been fundamentally transformed.

The report was funded by the Federal Government’s Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (Canada Centre) on behalf of the Five Country R&D Network (5RD), in support of the Five Country Ministerial Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. The Canada Centre is working with international partners to help identify knowledge gaps in countering radicalization to violence.

From Minutes to Months: A rapid evidence assessment of the impact of media and social media during and after terror events, is available here: www.crimeandsecurity.org/publications

Cardiff University is joining forces with five other research-intensive universities to help small and medium-sized businesses innovate in Wales.

Cardiff will participate in the SETSquared Scale-Up Programme, thanks to a £1m investment from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and a further £437k from the University.

The Programme will help high-growth SMEs to develop their Research and Development (R&D) capabilities and exploit the University’s cutting-edge facilities and academic talent.

The University’s future Innovation Central building on the Cardiff Innovation Campus will be the local hub for Programme activities.

The SETsquared Scale-Up Programme is an enterprise collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey which is supported by Research England.

It offers a portfolio of targeted and tailored resources to help high growth SMEs increase their competitiveness and productivity, with access to investment, corporates, potential employees and collaborative R&D grant funding.

Participation in the Scale-Up Programme supports Cardiff’s aim to increase the number of its strategic partnerships, providing a pipeline of organisations intent on intensifying their R&D activities, generating economic growth for Wales and the UK.

It also extends the reach of Cardiff’s knowledge exchange activities and impact into the South West and beyond. This builds on opportunities identified in the South West England and South East Wales Science and Innovation Audit, delivered for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

Funding will contribute to an SME-focused stimulus fund to help support the development of collaborations with HEIs, with potential to leverage additional support from public innovation agencies and enhance relationships with industry innovation leaders and Welsh anchor companies.  

SETsquared, ranked as the World’s Top Business Incubator (managed by a university), has supported over 2,500 hi-tech start-ups to develop and raise more than £1.5bn of investment, and has contributed over £3.8bn to the UK economy.

Simon Bond, Innovation Director from SETsquared said: “The Scale-Up Programme brings benefits to academics through SME collaboration, providing a rapid route to impact and funding. Cardiff will be working with a select group of universities who are passionate about the creation of knowledge and its impact. Working collaboratively with small agile companies allows us to apply our knowledge rapidly to real-world challenges.”

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said: “We were pleased to be able to award Cardiff University £1 million of our Capital Funding for Research and Innovation to allow them to further build on their collaborative work with external partners and join this successful programme that has already built a presence around England. Through Innovation Central, in line with Welsh Government strategic aims, the University will provide welcome access to its research expertise to SMEs and other organisations who want to further boost their competitiveness.”

Innovation Central, currently under construction, will be the University’s front door to business. It will help turn academic research into products, processes, spinouts and start-ups. The 12,000sq.m innovation hub will be a purpose-built ‘Home of Innovation’ for around 800 researchers, entrepreneurs, innovation practitioners, business and partners at the heart of the University’s £300m Innovation Campus.

Lack of awareness of the full services that dentists offer and an expectation of long waiting times for appointments are among the reasons that 380,000 people in the UK visited their doctor with a dental problem last year, needlessly adding to GP appointment waiting times.

A new study, by Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, which interviewed adults across the UK, found several common reasons why people make GP appointments instead of seeing a dentist. These included:

  • dissatisfaction with previous dental care
  • a lack of knowledge on how to find a dentist
  • previous bad experiences of dental treatment
  • concerns about how much dental treatment might cost
  • worries about waiting times
  • And a lack of knowledge that dentists deal with problems of the gums or other soft tissues of the mouth

Dr Anwen Cope, from Cardiff University’s School of Dentistry, said: “It is often assumed that patients visit their doctor when experiencing a dental problem because they can’t find a dentist. Whilst this is true for some patients, it’s not the whole picture. Our research revealed various reasons patients may go to the doctor including not knowing who best to see or finding it easier or more convenient to go to the GP.

The findings of the study suggest there is a need to overcome barriers preventing access to dental care, and to increase access to urgent dental care services for patients without a regular dental care provider.

Dr Anwen Cope added: “Just as there is no single reason patients consult GPs with dental problems, there is no single solution to ensure they use a dental practitioner instead. However, our research suggests that maintaining timely access to urgent care for patients and providing accessible and reliable patient-facing information about where to seek care for common oral conditions, together with the costs associated, would be a good start.”

The study ‘Patients’ reasons for consulting a GP when experiencing a dental problem: a qualitative study’ is published in the British Journal of General Practice and was funded by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

https://youtu.be/e3z8f5MZ5eA