Spillers Saturday Sessions No.5: The Sunsets

Well it’s time for another set of photos from the latest Spillers Saturday Session – this time the Hayes was rockin’ and rollin’ with the Sunsets.

When was the last time you went to a gig and saw a pensioner climb on top of a double bass and play it at the same time? Well that’s the kind of crazyness that goes down with a gig by the Sunsets.

Stretching beyond the original 30 minutes promised as the crowd quite literally screamed for more (see the pics), we were treated to old classics such as Johnny B Goode, Runaway and Shakin’ All Over.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people have such a good time in a museum before.

Without further ado, I present the Sunsets, big thanks once again to Spillers Records for these marvellous sessions, see you next week!















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Cardiff Arcades Project: 15,000 hits, 100GB of photos and a million thankyous

Well, we’re just over 4 months into the Cardiff Arcades Project now and an important milestone has been reached, so I thought now a more prudent time than ever to do a “where we’re at” post and share with you some of the most popular posts, some interesting stats and other fun facts. Not only that but I’m going to be exhibited as part of the Big Little City exhibition in Cardiff City Centre, something I’m so excited about after a relatively short time after undertaking the project!

When I started out on this project (read more about how that started here) I never expected the response to be so phenomenal. The love and affection for our arcades was probably obvious to many people, but the kind words and encouragement people have given me as this site has grown, developed and expanded has been truly wonderful.

It’s fair enough to say that without the support of my fantastic readers, including those that  go out of their way to tell shops about me, then this project wouldn’t be where it is today. Blogging for free is a fun, if demanding task. There’s no financial incentive to keep going, just the knowledge that people are enjoying your words and pictures, and that people are appreciating what you’re doing. I should also mention the fantastic support from the (now defunct) Guardian Cardiff which gave me the opportunity to host a regular column on the project’s progress. I’m pleased to say that this will be continuing over on YourCardiff, who have also shown huge support for the project.

So, even though I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to imagine working on this project, staying up late nights and working through the weekend to update the site and look for new stories to tell you, it’s been worth every single minute.

I’ve met some truly marvellous people along the way, people who have inspired me, educated me, made me laugh and given me lots of cups of tea. I’m so proud to have featured all of the beautiful shops that I’ve photographed so far on this site, and without their help this project would also still just be an idea, rather than a reality.

As I write this, the official stats stand at over 15,000. In reality the project has had slightly more than that as I started the website over on a Tumblr blog, but decided to move the project over here within a couple of weeks as I felt the WordPress platform gave more scope for change and layout.

I’ve taken around 10,000 photos since starting the project, and now have a folder on my hard drive that is over 100GB in size (yes, I shoot in raw). The top 10 posts are listed below, as in those that have had the most hits. It might be a little unfair to compare some of the older posts with newer posts that have had longer to accumulate hits, so don’t take it as a direct correlation of the popularity of a shop. It’s no surprise to see arcade stalwarts such as the New York Deli, Spillers and Wally’s up there but it’s also interesting to note that new shop Folk Farm is at number two, while wide-angle shots of the Morgan Arcade also come pretty highly.

So what’s next for the project? I don’t intend to stop now while the going’s good, but it is becoming harder to complete this project than it was in the early days. It’s difficult to find shops willing to be photographed. I’m not really sure why this, and I’m sure every shop has its reasons. As a commuter to Bath my time in Cardiff during the day is limited. I like to warn shops that I’m coming first so that they know what to expect. I’ve been known to spend up to 3 hours in a shop talking and photographing (although that’s by no means the average time, it’s probably more like 45 minutes). So this is another plea, if you’re a shop, a business owner, a shopper, someone with a tale to tell, please please do get in touch so we can talk about me coming in to take some photographs and share your wonderful story.

It also seems like an opportune time to mention the Donations page. Ultimately I do believe it is a fantastic service for the arcade shops, the arcades and Cardiff itself. The amount of times people have told me that they didn’t know a shop existed until they’d seen it on my blog, well let’s just say if every person that told me that gave me some money I’d be pretty well off by now. I’m hoping to take the project further with the potential for exhibitions and books. It costs money to do that. Money, which I, unfortunately, don’t have (it all goes on lenses which also cost a lot of money ;-)). Crowdsourcing is a fantastic way to share the burden of doing something like this, and I’m so grateful to anybody that has so far given just a few pounds to the project. You might think it doesn’t make a difference, but it honestly means so much to me. Just imagine if every one of those 15,000 hits had brought in just one pence in donations.

Update: since writing this post, I’ve found out that I will be exhibiting as part of the Big Little City exhibition in Cardiff city centre. Printing out photos is expensive and I want to print out as many as I possibly can. For our wonderful shops this is a fantastic bit of exposure, so every penny that comes into the donations pit will be used to put towards the exhibition for the moment. Other random costs include mounting boards, business cards, blu-tack and all the energy drinks I’ll need to consume to get the project ready for printing on time!

But, not to dwell on the money side of things, here I present to you the top 10 posts of the Cardiff Arcades Project 2011. Click on any of the photos to read the original post (opens in a new window). Here’s to the next 15,000 hits!

No. 1: 888 hits

It will come as no surprise to anyone that has been following this blog from the start that the New York Deli is the number one post. That was when the project exploded because of a teensy weensy claim that was made in the post about St David’s, by the NY Deli owner Harriett, which may or may not be true. Terrifying at the time, but undoubtedly a great boost for hits… February 14th 2011 is still my biggest day on the blog so far…

No. 2: 866 hits

Following close behind the New York Deli is the incredible post on Folk Farm. I really, really don’t like to play favourites but I can’t deny the sheer joy I felt when shooting these photos and subsequently sharing them with everyone out there. Royal Wedding fever was shaking the nation, but in my little world, April 29th 2011 was my second biggest day – and this time for a positive reason, people just couldn’t enough of these fantastic photos and the crazy tale of Folk Farm, Chris Brick.

No. 3: 595 hits

I got my wide-angle lens back in February, heading straight for the Morgan Arcade after hours to test it out. With its gorgous ceilings, fantastic architectural detail and those skylights, it was no surprise that these turned out to be popular, opening up a world never before seen to many people – make sure you look up next time you’re walking through!

No. 4: 595 hits

With a couple of gorgeous ladies, fantastic vintage finery and a cracking shop to take photos of, this one couldn’t really go wrong could it? This one’s proved to be perenially popular and pretty much every day someone out there is looking at it. And why wouldn’t you, it’s beautiful!

No. 5: 519 hits

The arcades are not just about individual shops, they’re about so much more than that. Record Store Day was one of the best days of the year for me. Exhausting, yes, but exhilariting. I flitted between Catapult and Spillers (above) to capture the queues, the DJ sets, the customers, the excitement and flurry of activity as record store day took over on Saturday April 16th, 2011.

No. 6: 459 hits

As more and more people wanted to know what had happened in the John Lewis/St David’s debacle, I collected it all together in one timeline. It’s all worked out well in the end, but it makes for interesting reading now there’s a bit of distance between now and the events happening.

No. 7: 356 hits

Catapult is a wonderful place to take photos, the underground decks basement, the regulars, and of course the records themselves. While I was photographing this place, a customer came in to chat with the manager, Simon (pictured). Out came the revelation that music is better under a Conservative government, and that was enough to capture the imagination, and was retweeted by BBC Wales Music and Radio One DJ, Huw Stephens.

No. 8: 297 hits

Fairly early on in the project, I was told about an art show taking place in one of the empty shops in the arcades (this shop is soon to become one of Liam Gallagher’s ‘Pretty Green’ shops). It’s always a shame to see an empty shop in the arcade, but when they’re used for temporary exhibitions, shows and pop-up shops it’s wonderful to see the space being used in a creative and dynamic way. This was such fun to shoot, with all the students posing with their artwork (some reluctantly so!) and having a laugh as I tried my hardest to direct them…

No. 9: 288 hits

Of course, of course, of course Wally’s was going to be one of the biggest hitters – that much is pretty obvious. With beautiful food to look at and an interesting story behind one of the most popular shops in Cardiff I had to get there pretty early to get these empty shop shots. I could have spent probably another day photographing in this shop, have a look at the photos yourself to get a feel for this wonderful deli.

No. 10: 277 hits

It might be a little surprising that Spillers isn’t a little bit higher in the chart than this, as the world’s oldest record shop is one of the most popular shops in the world, let alone Cardiff. But if you add together all the related posts that have come out of Spillers (from Record Store Day and from the Saturday Sessions) then it probably would actually be at number one. As it is, these shots show the interior of the shop that only moved into the arcade just over a year ago from its old location on The Hayes. Pretty good timing for the project eh?

A Vintage Affair: Cornucopia of retro delights in the Morgan Arcade

Unless you’re living under a pretty hefty rock, it can’t really have failed to escape your notice that vintage is BIG right now. Heard of little show called Mad Men, anyone? Anyway, I digress… A Vintage Affair in Morgan Arcade caters to those looking for their fill of lovely clothes, pretty teacups, gorgeous jewellery and pretty much everything else in between. There’s only one rule, ‘I usually only accept items from before the 1980s’, says owner Melanie King. So if you’re looking to offload any of your own items, bear that in mind.

The shop itself has been there only around a year or so, taking up the empty shop Rouge left behind (recognise the wallpaper?) and was originally run by 3 different sellers. Now the only Mel from the original trio is left, she is joined by Edwin Dyson, well-known in the city as the creator of the Blind Lemon Vintage Fair who supplies the line of men’s clothing which can be found upstairs.

It’s important to note the presence of menswear in the shop, undercatered as the sartorially sophisticated males of the city seem to be, especially in the vintage market. It’s nice to know that there are certain hotspots which they can find something to pick up (others include Looby Loos and Hobo’s, both in High Street Arcade).

Setting up the shop, owner Mel wanted it to be a little different from a traditional shop, with something to look at in every corner. Resulting in a pleasing ‘wow’ as you enter the door, I wager you could probably spend days in here and see something new with every glance. In short, a haven for those who like to rummage to find a hidden treasure or two.

Since its launch, Mel tells me its been popular. Indeed, when I visited it was pretty tricky to get any empty shop photos, having to sneak them in wherever possible. Obviously its wares are a popular subject, but it’s also helpful It’s situated in a pretty neat spot, next to the famous Plan and within a few metres of the infamous Spillers Records. It also benefits from being not too far from the regenerated Hayes/St David’s area, and is surely a welcome diversion from the more sterile environment of the bigger chain shops that surround it.

Way back when (that’s what people say when they don’t know the exact date, right?), Mel tells me it was a Sarsaparilla Bar. Still she gets older people popping their head round the door to tell her all about its former days selling it to the locals.

Sourcing her goods from a myriad of places including vintage fairs and customers bringing stuff in to sell, Mel tells me of the time she visited an Aladdin’s-cave of an old house packed to the rafters with (very) old magazines, clothes, accessories and crockery. Heaven for her shop, and my mind instantly wonders exactly how many photos I’d take in a place like that (rough estimate: 12 billion).

To me, the three (four if you count Folk Farm) vintage shops in the arcades complement each other perfectly, because they’re not really competing with each other. Looby Loo’s is the place to go for clothes, with its rails of elegant finery, whereas A Vintage Affair, although selling a few clothes, is probably more about the accessories, the jewellery, the ‘bits’ and Hobo’s, well that’s just a world of its own that really has nothing like it.

So next time you’re picking up a rare vinyl from Spillers, or treating yourself to a delicious brunch in The Plan, why not pop across to A Vintage Affair and see what you can find. Warning – I take no responsibility for any hours lost as you wander the rails/shelves/floor in amazement.

See below for some more pictures from A Vintage Affair. Predictably, the shutter button didn’t get much rest during this shoot so you can see a whole heap more over on this Vintage Affair Flickr set. Enjoy, share, tell me what you think in the comments box.

















Cardiff Arcades Project in Cross Stitcher Magazine!

If only I could go back in time to my early teenage years and tell the dorky girl that one day her project would be featured in Cross Stitcher. She’d probably do a little squeal with excitement, before casting a disbelieving glare.

But it would be true because this month, the premiere mag for all things crafty and cross-stitchy has been kind enough to highlight the arcades project, in particular the wonderful Claire Grove Buttons.

I’m always incredibly grateful when I receive press attention for the project, as it helps boost its profile, as well as highlighting to new audiences the fantastic arcades themselves. Here’s hoping the nation’s crafters will be winging their way over to Claire Grove for a slice of button action!

This issue of Cross Stitcher will be on sale from June 14th in all good newsagents, check out the Cross Stitcher website (part of the ever fabulous Making Spot network) for more information.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss press coverage (or anything else for that matter!)

Spillers Saturday Sessions No. 4: Soft Hearted Scientists

Today saw the 4th in the summer’s line-up of free music performances hosted by Spillers Records as part of the Saturday Sessions at the Big Little City exhibition in the centre of Cardiff.

This week, Soft Hearted Scientists took to the stage, playing a mixture of existing material and new songs from their forthcoming album due out in August (head to Spillers to get your hands on a copy naturally!).

So without further ado, I’ll let you enjoy a few of the photos I took – I must admit I didn’t take that many as I was too busy enjoying the music this week 🙂

Cardiff Arcades Project featured on Radio Cardiff

This morning, I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed and get myself over to Radio Cardiff in time to be a guest on the breakfast show at 8.30am.

I for one was not even aware that 8.30 existed on a Saturday morning so it was quite a shock to find myself sitting in a radio station and talking about the project.

It was great fun, well worth the early morning and presenter Jeremy Rees was great to chat to, so a big thankyou to him for inviting me on the show and asking great questions.

The good news for all your sleeplovers is that the interview has been turned into a podcast in lightning quick speed by Jeremy, which you can access in the following link, or download via iTunes.

Cardiff Arcades Project on RadioCardiff podcast.

Enjoy!

‘Being’ at The Wardrobe, High Street Arcade: Opening night photos

Last night I popped along to the opening of a new art show taking place in one of the empty shops of the High Street Arcade. It’s fantastic to see the empty units being used for something positive, and it always brings a new sense of excitement to the arcades when this kind of thing happens.

Taking place at the site of The Wardrobe, the men’s clothes shop that closed down last year after nearly 20 years of trading in the arcade, the art exhibition is hosted by December Lab the same people who organise Vertical Cinema over at Gwdihw.

I spoke to one of the organisers, Lee, last night about why they chose to exhibit in the arcades. He told me that originally they’d originally tried to exhibit in the Morgan Arcade but were met with costs that weren’t there for the High Street Arcade. Although the space in the Morgan Arcade is bigger, it’s fair to say that The Wardrobe has a great amount of character, especially upstairs.

I met two of the artists who are exhibiting, Jonathan Thomas and Garrett Lynch. Also on display is Henrik Hedinge, Freeman & Fine, Daniel Jeczalik and Liam O’Conner. Unfortunately exhibitor Inga Burrows has pulled out. The show focuses on the idea of ‘Being’ and uses video installation and other artforms.

One of the organisers of the exhibition, Lee, who told me he was delighted to see so many people at the opening.

Speaking to Garrett about his work was fascinating. A lecturer at the University of Glamorgan, he puts on ‘performances’ through Second Life, the virtual reality online world. As you’ll see in his portrait, he wears a sandwich board, with the phrase “I AM GARRETT LYNCH (IRL)” on it. This is the same as his virtual avatar wears, a play on both his nationality (Irish) and the abbreviation for “In Real Life.” It would probably take me far too long to explain in this post exactly what the performances involve, so the best thing you can do is go along to the exhibition to see it for yourself! And you can find more information on Garrett Lynch’s website.

Jonathan, who wasn’t so keen on having his photo taken but let me anyway, is displaying a video projection upstairs and is, according to the information leaflet, ‘An investigation into/with/through frames (aesthetic, spatial, temporal, epistemological, ontological, ideological…), offscreen space and the imaginary object. Again, it’s probably better if you just pop along to see the show.

You can see more pictures from the show in this post, and it runs until the 28th May. For more information, you can visit the Facebook event page – or just call into the shop the next time you’re in the city centre!

Jonathan Thomas' projection, upstairs in the exhibition

Liam O'Conner's piece, an 11 minute film, watch as the ice melts to reveal the picture behind it - every time I walked past it was different.

Freeman and Fine's work, single frame animation.


Art show ‘Being’ at The Wardrobe, High Street Arcade

It’s always a shame to see empty shops in the arcades, so when those spaces are filled, even temporarily, with art it’s fantastic news. The Wardrobe, which was for a long time a men’s clothes shop in The High Street Arcade will open its doors again starting from tomorrow (private view – 19th May) for an art exhibition by DecemberLab.

The exhibition is hosted by the same people who organise VerticalCinema and is a show loosely based upon the theme of ‘Being’, bringing together various artists working in the moving image (and related fields).

Those artists on display will include:

Garrett Lynch
Daniel Jaczalik
Jonathan Thomas
Freeman & Fine
Inga Burrows
Henrik Hendinge
Liam O’Conner

Private view and drinks starts on Thursday 19th May from 7pm, you are encouraged to bring a bottle. The exhibition runs until 28th May. If you are in town over the next few days I urge you to stop by and take a look, even if just to check out the beautiful unit that is The Wardrobe. I love the curvy shape and art-deco finishing so it’s nice to see it put to some good use.

I’ll be there tomorrow night, hoping to meet some of the artists involved with the show, and taking some pictures and portraits, which I’ll report back on as soon as I can.

More information on ‘Being’ can be found on the Facebook event page.

Cardiff Arcades: fantastic backdrop for portraits

This week I had the pleasure of shooting a portrait of Helen for the We Are Cardiff project. As the story only allows for one photo, I thought I’d share the rest of the photos from the session.

The Arcades make a wonderful backdrop for portraits and there’s lots of little nooks and crannies you can explore.

So enjoy the photos, and more importantly, enjoy Helen’s story over on We Are Cardiff – it’s wonderful.

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Look out for me at The Cardiff Story!

Me! At the Little Big City exhibition, The Cardiff Story

It’s quite a strange thing, seeing yourself on the wall of an exhibition space. And I can’t deny I have been known to hang back slightly and watch to see if anyone stops to have a look at the picture and read of my story.

I’m on the wall as part of the We Are Cardiff section of the Big Little City exhibition, upstairs at the Cardiff Story, the new museum dedicated to our wonderful city.

This part of the exhibition changes, with different portraits added every so often. Interestingly enough, the portrait was taken before I had even thought of doing the arcades project. It’s a different story now of course… and perhaps one day I’ll even be able to get the organisational skill together to put on a show too…. perhaps.

Anyway – you really should visit Big Little City soon, because it’s fabulous – and I’m not just saying that as someone who’s on the wall. You have until July 22nd to have a look around – my personal recommendations are the portraits of Mrs Cardiff taken by BLC organiser Dan Green.

Just watch out for the strange girl hanging about to see if you’re reading my story…