Cardiff Arcades Project – the book

You may have noticed the frequency of the posts on this website are a lot slower than when it first started.

That’s obviously a natural consequence of progressing with work, but I’ve also been working on putting together a book of the project, and didn’t want to have *too* much to go into it (the first edition at least).

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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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Spillers Saturday Sessions: The Highlights

So it’s been a few weeks since the Spillers Saturday Sessions ended, and what a summer it was!

Every Saturday, folk gathered in the Big Little City exhibition to celebrate some of the finest music Wales has to offer from one of its beloved institutions, Spillers Records.

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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 at Big Little City – few days to go…

Well there’s only a few days to go until the project is exhibited at Big Little City and the nerves are starting to kick in. Fortunately I think I’m pretty much all prepared and ready to go with almost all of my prints ready and a rough idea of what I want to do with my space (which I’m not sure how big or exactly where it’ll be yet just to add to the nerves!).

I picked up the bigger prints today from the wonderful Gallery 66 in the Royal Arcade, a shop I heartily recommend to anyone looking to get some prints or artwork made up – really friendly too!

You may have come across my leaflet in the city centre today as I distributed it to quite a few shops and places, if you’d like a bunch of them (I do have rather a lot) drop me a line and I’ll arrange for you to get some.

If you’re a member of the press you can come to the changeover day on Sunday (19th June) when all the artists will be taking down the old work and putting the new stuff up. I’m aiming to get there from pretty early on (10ish) so if you want to come and have a chat I’m pretty friendly so stop by!

Other than that there’s a launch night on Wednesday (22nd June) from 5pm-7pm which everyone is welcome to come along to.

Can’t wait to see you all there, see how the prints look on the wall and hear what people have to say! Have a look at some of the pictures below to see some of the preparations 🙂

Just a reminder: head on over to the press section of the website to download some resources to help you cover the project/exhibition for your publication.

One of the small sets of prints, featuring macro close-ups of watches from Jonathan David

The stacks of small prints, there's about 350 of them! Not sure how many will make it into the final exhibition....

The bigger prints, portraits in A4 and some of the architecture shots in A5

Box of leaflets which arrived this morning...

Beautiful Moo cards..... although it's incredibly hard to part with these!


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?

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…

Cardiff Arcades in macro: antique watches from Jonathan David Jewellers

I’m very fortunate this week to be in the posession of a macro lens. My first thought as soon as I received it was that I knew exactly where to find the perfect subjects to test it out on.

When I photographed Jonathan David in the Morgan Arcade a few weeks ago, I was shown a box of antique watches. My interest was piqued right away, but I didn’t really have the equipment on me to show their full beauty.

Well no more, here, in what I hope will be the first of many macro posts I present these beautiful, gorgeous, antique watches from Jonathan David Jewellers. Which is your favourite?

If you like nothing more than looking at antique watches, there’s a few more pictures over in this Flickr set

See the name Edith etched into the metal?

Cardiff Arcades Project on S4C

Yesterday I got a little touch of fame as the project appeared on Welsh TV channel S4C on their Wedi 7 programme.

The show, a bit like the One Show but for Wales, is a daily magazine show of things going on in Wales. The segment I was in focused on in the arcades and my project got a very kindly mention.

Very exciting and surreal – especially as a non-Welsh speaker!

You can watch the entire episode of Wedi 7 on demand – follow this link: Cardiff Arcades project on Wedi 7, S4C. . The arcades bit starts at around 14 minutes 30 and click on the “owl” symbol to the right to turn on English subtitles.

If you watch the whole segment you’ll also see the owners of Spillers Records and Michelle from Garland’s and Rules of Play, as well as references to the New York Deli.

Thankyou to Nia from S4C for sorting this all out!