Arcades 2011: Farewell to some greats and big hopes for 2012

Well… what a year it has been! This time last year, the project didn’t exist at all, so it’s pretty cool to look back at all the photos I’ve taken. In that time I’ve photographed some of the best shops in Cardiff, probably the entire of Britain if not the world, so it’s been, on a personal note a really fantastic experience for me.

However, it’s also tinged with sadness, as we’ve also seen some of these beautiful shops get beaten by the world economic state and close down. Of course it’s the nature of things that shops come and go, and it’s certainly not the first year we’ve lost some fantastic businesses, and if we’re being realistic, also not the last.

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Cardiff Arcades Project at Big Little City – preview!


Well well well, after four months of work on the project and two weeks of organising the exhibition, I’m pleased to say it is now finally, finally up on display.

I wildly understimated how long it would take me to finish the display, thinking I’d be out of Big Little City by lunchtime. No problem, I thought foolishly. So extreme panic started to set in when Dan Green shouted there was only an hour left until we had to be out of there. What? But I’ve only done half my board… uh oh.

But it turns out he was giving us all false deadlines to make sure we got on with things and I just about managed to finish on time. I can’t wait for people to see it when the exhibition opens. Official launch is on Wednesday 22nd June, when everyone is free to visit between 5-7pm for the launch event. I’m going to try and bring cupcakes (not that that should entice you at all, of course…) so I do hope you can make it.

Not to worry if not, as the exhibition runs until July 22nd so you’ve got a whole month to see it. Let me know what you think, either in the guestbook you’ll hopefully find near my display or in the comments box below, by email or via Twitter. Check out the slideshow below to see images from today, starting with the old exhibition that was in my spot, finishing with the final product.

The exhibition runs at Big Little City, upstairs at the Cardiff Story, the new museum for Cardiff on the Hayes, Cardiff city centre. The postcode is CF10 1BH. Opening hours are 10am-5pm Monday-Saturday and 11am-4pm Sunday.

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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?

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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Cardiff Arcades Bargains: April 2011

The last time I posted a round-up of great little Arcade bargains I had a positive response, so, with that in mind I’ve decided to make it a (semi) regular feature.

I rounded these up in about an hour, so imagine how much more you could find if you devoted your Saturday afternoon spending trip to it?

I’ll be posting any bargains I find as often as I can muster the energy, and promise to do a full-round up at least once a month.

In the meantime, if you see any bargains that you want to share, please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment!

Prices in this post range from £1 to £1100. If you’re thinking £1100 and bargain don’t really go very well together, when you consider that the item in question should be worth around £5000, you might begin to think differently.

In this issue you’ll find accessories, jewellery, shoes and clothing and crockery – enjoy!

Vintage Bag, Looby Loos, High Street Arcade, £6

Hand-made earrings, Looby Loos, High Street Arcade, £5

Purses, Bejewelled, High Street Arcade, £10

Converse trainers, Buzz Shoes, High Street Arcade, £25

Army shirt, Hobos, High Street Arcade, £12

Green belt with star detail, Hobos, High Street Arcade, £5

Butterfly trinket box, Rossiters, Royal Arcade, £5

Owl ring (also available in other colours), Rossiters, Royal Arcade, £7.50

Various singles, Folk Farm, Castle Arcade, £1

Engagement ring, Jonathan David, Morgan Arcade, £1100 .... its supposed to be £5000!

Mix n match teacups and saucers, A Vintage Affair, Morgan Arcade, £2

Teapot, A Vintage Affair, Morgan Arcade, £8

Record Store Day at Catapult & Spillers – Preview

There’s now less than a week to go until Record Store Day kicks off nationally on Saturday 16th April. Here in Cardiff there will be several shops around the city joining in the celebrations.

Personally, I’ll be flitting between Catapult 100% Vinyl and Spillers Records in the High Street Arcade and Morgan Arcade (respectively) trying to get some awesome shots of both events without getting in anyone’s day. I think it’ll be a tiring but fun day.

If you’ve never heard of the event, here’s a little preview of what you can expect at either store – please do let me know if you’ll be going along too and do say “hi!” if you see me… I’ll probably be the one awkwardly pointing my lens at people.

At Spillers:

Customers will be playing DJ sets all day when the shop takes over the empty shop opposite the store.

There’s a couple of live sets from Meilir & Y Niwl (who are also taking part in Record Store Day all the way up in Bangor) and in the evening Future of the Left are performing at a special Record Store Day gig in Clwb Ifor Bach.

For more information on everything that’s happening at Spillers, you can visit the event page they’ve set up on Facebook… or you could watch this video of the lovely Ashli explaining everything that’s happening.

At Catapult:

There will be live instore sets from Hospital Records brothers in arms Nu:Tone and Logistics and there will also be a series of local talent DJing in the stores record basement including Lung and future garage outfit CRST.

Record Store Day is also when Catapult will be launching it’s very own record label showcasing regional talent in South Wales.

Look out for promotional offers across the store and on the Catapult Website, and of course there’s also a Facebook event with a load of details too! Also… check out the awesome Catapult poster below – I love the designs in the shop!

This is one of the biggest annual events the arcades get the chance to participate in and I can’t wait – hope to see some of you there!


Share your views on the future of Cardiff’s Arcades

The heritage lottery fund wants to hear from the good people of Cardiff on what they would like to see lottery money invested in from 2013. During the past 13 years, the fund has spent money on more than 130 projects in Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys.

Members of the public can express their opinions until the 26th April 2011 at the Heritage Lottery Fund website.

So far projects like the Museum of Welsh Cricket in Sophia Gardens have benefited, but perhaps we could help the arcades by expressing how much we love them. They are all Grade II listed buildings so they will be around for a while yet, but that doesn’t mean that funding couldn’t help and I’m sure would be appreciated.

Join me in telling the Heritage Lottery Fund what you love about the arcades and help keep them a part of Cardiff’s future, as well as its past.

Money off in Arcade Shops with the all-new Plastik Pass

Today sees the launch of a new venture in Cardiff, the Plastik Pass. Set up by the founder of Plastik Magazine, an alternative Cardiff arts and culture webzine, the pass offers you a great range of discounts in a number of independent shops and venues around our fair city.

The Plastik Pass (picture courtesy of Marc Thomas)

The card costs £5 and lasts for 6 months. Arcade shops included in the scheme are Hobo’s Vintage (15% off), Looby Loo’s Boutique (10% off) and Garland’s Eatery (25% off breakfasts before 11.30). There’s lots of other fantastic places around Cardiff too where you can claim money off.

Marc Thomas, the obscenely talented and all-round lovely person behind the scheme, told me how he hopes the card will help out arcade stores:

Let’s face it, the Arcades aren’t going anywhere – they’re great for the city and the city is great for them. However, when it’s cheap to shop in a chain store, there’s not as much incentive to pop in.

We want to change that.

For the Arcades, the Plastik Pass is an opportunity to attract the right crowd and a good new demographic to their stores. Plastik Magazine does the promotion of their store for them – all they need to do is offer Passholders an excellent discount and service.

Hopefully more Arcade shops will soon sign up to the scheme, it’s free for them and they can offer any kind of discount or reward that they like – so if you are one (or know one) get in touch with Marc to sort something out.

For all the rest of us regular punters, visit the Plastik Pass website to get your grubby mitts on your very own card – they only cost £5.

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 Project in South Wales Echo and Wales Online

A big, big thankyou to Ed Walker from Media Wales/Your Cardiff for writing a story for the South Wales Echo today.

The feature, which includes some recent photos and some quotes from me, can be bought today (Wednesday 16th February) and seen on pages 16 & 17.

There’s also a slideshow of images and some quotes from The Royal and Morgan Arcade over on Your Cardiff/Wales Online. Check it out.

Really hoping the Arcade Owners/Business Owners like the spread! Get in touch if you’re one of them and would like to help out…