Arcade Bargains: February 2011

I thought I’d do a very quick post to share a few of the bargains I picked up yesterday on my arcades birthday.

Now that I’ve done it though I’m wondering if this would be good as a regular feature? Obviously I won’t always have the cash to buy all of the bargains I find, but a post every couple of weeks or so with a round-up of some great finds might be a welcome addition for Cardiff shoppers out there – let me know what you think!

Doing this project has certainly made me stop and think twice about visiting a high street chain for something, as Ben from Hobo’s pointed out when I interviewed him – in his shop you can pick up a whole outfit for £35. Even though we’re in a recession, we’re never going to stop shopping, but if we can think of ways to still treat ourselves while saving a few quid (and helping out independents!) then all the better.

There are obviously some expensive things in the arcades, but these bargains that I picked up show you that you can get something for a few pounds that not only are you likely to pay more for elsewhere, but they are also more likely to be a bit special.

Enjoy the pictures and any feedback welcome!

Thick shiny black belt from Hobo's Vintage, High Street Arcade: £5

Retro sunglasses from Hobo's Vinage: High Street Arcade: £10

Flower ring from Bejewelled, High Street Arcade: £5

Bracelet from Bejewelled, High Street Arcade: £7.50

Teaset, including teapot, cup and saucer, sugar bowl and milk jug from A Vintage Affair, Morgan Arcade: £8

Silver evening bag from A Vintage Affair: £6

Butterfly ring from Rossiter's, Royal Arcade: £4.75


Arcades Birthday – taking the project too far?

So today is my birthday – hooray for me.

To celebrate I’ve decided to have an arcades birthday, not only because I think it’ll be great fun… but also because I’ll be able to blog about it…. taking the project too far? You decide…

So what’s in the itinerary?

First up… breakfast at Garlands Eatery. Then shopping, various places including Looby Loo’s, Hobo’s, Rules of Play, Spillers and more (I visited Jonathan David Jewellers yesterday because it’s closed on Sundays). Then it’ll be lunch… haven’t fully decided this yet, it’ll either be New York Deli or The Plan. A bit more shopping, Buzz Shoes, Vintage Affair, Bejewelled, Rossiter’s and Wally’s… before finishing off with a bit of afternoon tea and a cupcake in Madame Fromage…

I’ll be taking pics along the way naturally… so watch this space! Oh and here’s to another great year…. wonder where this project will be this time next year!

Official: I’m a photography wizard

Any minute now I’ll be receiving my special photography wizarding hat from the great photography wizardry council.

No, I haven’t been tripping, this is what the lovely people over at Cardiff Life described me as in their little mention of me in the Spotlight section of this month’s mag.

It’s so lovely to be highlighted in the mag as their favourite blog for the month, especially given how young the project is and how many fantastic bloggers I’m proud to say hail from this city too.

I promise to use my newly-bestowed wizarding prowess only for good!

On a side note, there’s some fantastic products in the shopping section, many of which hail from our fabulous arcades – so I’m not the only one who is shouting about them 🙂

You can pick up a copy of Cardiff Life in lots of pubs, bars, shops and various other places around the city, pick one up if you can!

P.S You’ll see that it says the blog has had 1,946 hits so far. I’m so excited to report that since whenever the magazine was sent to press that has more than doubled and I’m now only a whisker away from 5,000. Thank you so much to all you lovely people who have visited so far, I hope I can keep you entertained!

Hobo’s: Down and dirty vintage in the High Street Arcade

Well where to start with this post? I’ve wanted to shoot from the very start of the project. I interviewed Ben, who set up the shop, a few years ago while I was a student and I knew the shop, being the cave of wonders that it is, would make for fantastic photographs – much like Looby Loo’s only down the road.

I mentioned to Ben that I think of Hobo’s as one of the iconic arcade shops, and his smile said it all. When I put it in the same sentence as Spillers, he couldn’t have been happier.

Hobo’s was established in 1991, but only came to Cardiff in 1994, and has been going pretty much strong ever since. Ben says that this current recession matches the one in the early 1990s, and, having a background in economics (he studied third world economics at Uni) he’s not optimistic that things are going to get much better – recession wise anyway – for a long time yet.

As you might imagine, Hobo’s is popular with the student community, so Ben worries that any change in the student finance system will have a knock on effect on his business. When he went to Uni, education was free and there were more grants available. Even when I was at Uni, it was relatively inexpensive, now it’s going to be £9,000 a year, more students might to become a bit more frugal and a new outfit might be furthest from their mind.

On the other hand, Ben reckons you can pick up a whole new outfit for around £35 in the shop – which is what you might pay for a single shirt in somewhere like Topshop, so it’s definitely a good alternative for those feeling pinch.

You could be forgiven for thinking that a place like Hobo’s would fit the trend for all things vintage right now, but Ben reckons that what’s actually in trend right now is a much more sanitised version of vintage. Think pretty teacups, 50s cocktail dresses, Mad Men, you get the picture. You won’t really find any of this stuff in Hobo’s, it’s a much more down and dirty version of vintage, where you might find a 70s teapot (sans flowers) rather than a dainty little china teacup.

In recent times, Ben says there has been much less footfall through the High Street Arcade, but isn’t too concerned. When Primark first opened on Queen Street a few years ago, the sales in Hobo’s plummeted, almost overnight, apparently, but eventually people came back. He reckons the same will happen after St David’s has been open for a bit longer – right now everything is new, shiny and exciting. He’s happy that so many people think of Hobo’s as a destination though. He recounts stories to me of teenagers from the Valleys, Newport and pretty much everywhere telling him they come to Cardiff with Hobo’s their first calling point.

For now at least, Hobo’s is sticking around. It’s clear Ben loves his job, who wouldn’t enjoy chilling out in their own shop being surrounded by what is essentially one big hobby (and listening to some amazing music along the way)? Long may it continue, and let’s hope for a big Hobo’s party for 20 years in 2014…

This was another shoot where I probably outstayed my welcome chatting away… so there’s probably a cavalcade of information that I’ve forgotten to include here… I’ll update if any flashes of inspiration come to me!

Enjoy the photos, don’t worry there’s more over on Flickr if you can’t get enough. As always, feedback very, very much appreciated!

The very well, if a little chaotic, stocked upstairs. I asked Ben if it was OK to take a photo of it to which he very enthusiastically replied that he though it'd make an interesting photo (woo-hoo!). I'm told there's also more in the loft and the basement...

Ben who set up Hobos seems most at home among the piles (and piles) of stock...

Pete, who works in the shop can talk for hours about his big passion - music - so if you've got a couple of hours free, pop in for a chat!

Attempting the staff stairs is very precarious....

Spillers Records: The Oldest Record Shop in the World (probably)

Update: click here to see some portraits of Ashli, one of the owners of Spillers Records.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of shooting probably one of the most well-known and well-respected shops in Cardiff, Spillers – the oldest record shop in the world.

I’ll give you a brief history (mainly for non-Cardiffians – hopefully I’m getting all this right, please, feel free to correct me if you know!). Established in 1894 by the Spiller family, the shop was originally in the Queens Arcade up until the 1940s when it moved to the Hayes. At some point after that the ownership of the shop passed into the hands of a collective and some time after that Nick Todd bought the shop. In 2010, after rents went too astronomical in the Hayes store, it moved to its current home in the Morgan Arcade and was bought by Nick’s daughters (including Ashli who was working today) who own it now.

Spillers is pretty much a must-see, not only for most Cardiff residents, but for lots of people around the world. Ashli told me that Japanese tourists in particular love to come in and be photographed in the shop and ask for the red plastic bags to take away as souveniers (there’s a reference to the same bags in a Manics song).

If you’re a music fan then there’s really nowhere better you can go to find your next hit. Upstairs you’ll find vinyl and listening posts (there’s also one downstairs) where you can check out some recent releases, and you’re allowed to listen to any of the albums you like before you buy. What’s more, if there’s something you can’t find, the staff at Spillers will do their best to track it down for you. Ashli said that she knows many of her customers so well that when something new comes in she often knows exactly who will want a copy – can you imagine any of this in any of the high-street music chains? I can’t.

A lot of people were upset when it was announced that Spillers was moving into the Morgan Arcade, after all, it had been there since the 1940s so many of the regulars wouldn’t know it being anywhere else. Ashli however thinks the new shop is much better than the old one. While St David’s 2 was being developed, the Hayes was disrupted by the works that was going on and now it’s a plush shopping destination, Ashli equates the site to being the equivalent of Queen Street (generic high street). “We certainly wouldn’t have been on Queen Street in the 1990s, so it makes sense that we’re no longer in the Hayes now,” she said.

Spillers has its fair share of celebrity (for want of a better word there) fans, only last week Phil Jupitus, a regular customer popped in while he’s in South Wales on tour with Spamalot. Phil recently said in an interview for local magazine, Buzz, that Spillers was one of his favourite destinations. Watch this video by the Cardiffian for a run-down on exactly why.

This is the first Spillers post, but it certainly won’t be the last. The shop regularly hosts events and in April will be taking over the empty unit just opposite from it for record store day, something which I’ll be keen to photograph as well.

For now, I hope you enjoy these pictures – as always, feedback very, very much appreciated!

What’s that I hear you cry? You want MORE pictures of Spillers? Well! You’re in luck because there’s a whole Spillers set over on Flickr… you lucky people!




Hipstamatic coolness from Royal and Morgan Arcades

The phrase goes that the best camera is the one you’ve got with you. The iPhone 3GS is not known for its photographic prowess, but there’s no denying it’s pretty much always with me.

Like millions of other people I’m addicted to the Hipstamatic app. While I know some people are fed of it, I think for this project the photos work well because the subject matter matches the treatment, as in it’s old-looking, just like the arcades.

I quite often find myself wandering around the Royal and Morgan arcades on my way back from the train station in the evening looking for ideas and enjoying the solitude of it – since I’ve stopped taking my DSLR in with me every day (it was killing my back and I wasn’t always using it) – most of the time I only have my iPhone with me.

I feel like it frees me up and allows me to look for unusual shapes, quirky window displays and other things that I might not spot while I’m obsessing over the DSLR’s settings. Not only do I love the snaps that come out of it, I can use these as a visual notebook so I can return at a later date with my “proper” camera.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the ones I took the other night, they’re taken with various settings on the app, so if you’re a Hipsta-lover and want to know which particular settings, please do let me know and I will furnish you with the appropriate information.

What do you think about using a phone for this kind of photography? Good or bad? Let me know in the comments below – as always I’m very keen for feedback!

New lens excitement!

I’m very happy to report that a new lens has arrived today. It’s not really that exciting an announcement because I’ve had the exact same one on loan for a couple of weeks now, but the big difference is, this one is mine, and I don’t have to give it back!

The lens is question is the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6, a super-wide, super-cool lens that allowed me take photos such as this, this and this. Not only is it fantastic at shooting the beautiful architecture of the arcades but it’s also great at showing context in portraits – something that is obviously a huge bonus in a project like this. I had toyed with the idea of getting a 35mm prime lens, but felt that while the extra width would be good, it would just be that little bit too similar to my beloved 50mm f/1.4.

Not saying that I won’t get the 35mm as well at some point, but for now, the 10-20mm will be coming with me on pretty much every shoot for those awesomely cool perspective shots – look out for more soon, this week I’ve got Spillers, Catapult, Price’s Sweet Shop and Jonathan David Jewellery all lined up!

Arcades Project on PhotoRadar

On Friday, a news story with a slideshow of images appeared on PhotoRadar.

PhotoRadar is the photography website I work for, so I must admit it wasn’t exactly a stretch to convince them to cover it… but none the less it was good to see the project photos in a clickable slideshow format, and to be able to share them with some of the members of the PhotoRadar community.

To have a look through the clickable gallery, click on the screenshot below.

Nothing to Declare: MA Art Practice, University of Glamorgan show, 22-24 Morgan Arcade

Christine Marfleet, with her piece exploring the fragmented manufacture of a coat in a closed-down factory in the Valleys

A couple of weeks ago I had the fortune of photographing UWIC students who were putting on a degree show in an empty shop in the Morgan Arcade.

As part of a guided tour I was giving to a visiting friend (people be warned, if you visit me I will no doubt enforce a walking tour of the arcades on you) I noticed that a new show had started this week!

I can’t emphasise enough how important I think it is for the empty shops to be used for something, and art exhibitions are a particularly brilliant way to make use of them.

We wandered into the shop and I got chatting to one of the artists exhibiting, Christine Marfleet, who very kindly took some time out to explain more about her piece and the others on show and encouraged me to take photos. A photoshoot like this is always a lot of fun as just 5 minutes before I didn’t know I’d be doing one!

Her piece, one of the most striking in the show, thanks to its size, tells the story of coat manufacture in a recently closed factory in Pontypridd. Each of the pieces represents the different person that was required to make it, with nobody ever having the knowledge to make an entire coat.

This exhibition is over 3 floors, with both the basement and the upper level of the shop available for exploration. The show feels particularly suited to an empty shop as its aim is to critique aspects of consumer culture.

Chris was extremely excited about the space and is hoping to use the space again in the future for more shows, and further, would love to be the curator of it should it be a permanent exhibition space – something that would surely be a very welcome addition to the arcades, adding “exhibition venue” to fantastic architectural interest, independent niche shops, boutiques and fantastic coffee house would be, to my mind, another great tick in the box.

You can read more about the show on the University of Glamorgan website. Nothing to Declare runs until Saturday 26th February 2011, and is open between 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock. A few more photos of the exhibition can be found in the Nothing to Declare set on Flickr.

More pictures can be seen from the exhibition in the Nothing to Declare Flickr set, as usual, any feedback very gratefully received in the comments box.

Graham Wilkins - Side Effect (if you visit the show, look out for a bag with your first name on it, if you find one, take it!) I'll be popping back later in the week to see how many are left!

Graham Wilkins - Side Effect (click to see bigger)

Graham Wilkins - Side Effect (click to see bigger) Unfortunately my bag had nothing in it... maybe somebody had already taken the drug... maybe there never was one...

Wendy Batey - Triptych

Laura Sealey - 99 Strangers and I - Laura asked 99 strangers to send her their cigarette butts and asking for each to have a story behind it. It's amazing how the piece can look so beautiful, considering its content - certainly a head-scratcher.

Another of Laura Sealey's pieces hanging in the window (click to view larger)

Matthew Britton, Tiff Oben, Sebastian du Mont - In the Loop (this piece takes up one of the rooms in the basement - you might need to ask to be taken down to see it)

Matthew Britton, Tiff Oben, Sebastian du Mont - In the Loop

Matthew Britton, Tiff Oben, Sebastian du Mont - In the Loop