Christmas in the Arcades: Magical lights in the Castle and Morgan Quarter

For many people, Christmas means presents, turkeys, Father Christmas and maybe even Jesus. For me, my favourite part has always been the lights. And maybe Mariah Carey’s all-time best song (no, not Dream Lover).

This year, the Arcades are looking as gorgeous as ever, with an array of lights to really heighten the festive cheer of the shoppers inside. I think the Morgan and Royal Arcades have really gone all out this year, and a visit to Cardiff this December wouldn’t be complete without a wander through the arcades to check them out.

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Morgan Arcade Studios: creativity and spark, hidden away upstairs in beautiful surroundings

In the middle of October, the Morgan Arcade Studios in the, er, Morgan Arcade, threw open their doors for curious passers-by to come and have a look at the workspace as part of Cardiff Design Festival.

The studio is the first place in the arcade that I’ve featured which isn’t a shop that is open to the public. Instead, it’s a place where people can have some office space without having to rent out a whole building.

I have a couple of friends who work in here, and I had always imagined that it was more like a co-working space where people can come and go as they please (such as Indycube, in the Castle Arcade). Therefore, I expected it to be a little blank and impersonal. Not to say that that’s a bad thing, but I hadn’t quite realised that the people occupying this space were pretty much permanent fixtures.

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Cardiff Arcades from a totally different perspective…

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of borrowing a Nikon D4 and an 8mm fisheye lens.

What better subject for such a combination than the beautiful arcade architecture?

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Ushi’s: Papier mache mannekins, beautiful clothes and chairs on walls

It seems odd to think of it now, but Ushi’s was actually the shop that inspired the whole project. Quite the accolade you might think – but it was an interesting display in the window that caught my eye way back when and set the ball rolling.

So when I got the chance to photograph Ushi’s properly I was very excited at finally filling the gaps in. Ushi’s is one of the bigger shops in the Morgan Arcade and is owned by Lynne Beresford who I met with when I was photographing the shop.

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Seren Boutique – fabulous clothes and a hidden gem upstairs…

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the lovely Seren Boutique over in the Morgan Arcade.

A beautiful shop run by Linda, the business originally started over in Tenby but was brought over to Cardiff a few years ago as the trade in Tenby was a little bit too seasonal. Before starting her clothing shop, Linda had been a myriad of things including teacher – something she shares in common with fellow clothes-shop owner Frederique from Rouge, who just so happened to be in the shop having a chat when I popped in – it’s a real sense of community round here.

The clothes themselves are sourced from all over the place but you’ll generally only find one or two of each design in the shop, and, pleasingly, it’s not as expensive as you might think for a small boutique like this. They do a good trade at this kind of year for things like wedding outfits and prom dresses, but there’s lots of gorgeous little bits and pieces that I reckon it’s well worth a visit no matter what the weather.

I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to jewellery, and this was no exception, I loved some of the gorgeous trinkets on display – I’m only sad I don’t have more money to splash out on this kind of stuff more often. Still, it’s a great place to pop in for something small even if you’re a bit short of cash for a whole outfit.

Whenever I see a set of stairs in an arcade shop, I tend to dash up there pretty quick to try and get an aerial shot of the shop. But upstairs in this shop is something rather special. Linda told me that I had to check it out, and what I found was fascinating. Basically, the upstairs (which is sometimes used as a – giant – changing room if the main one is in use) has been left untouched for over 100 years. What does that leave you with, original peeling paint and what must make for a fantastic portrait backdrop. Indeed it seems lots of art students and photographers like to use the space for their work – I’ll be tempted to pop back one day myself for just such a purpose.

So next time you’re in town, probably shopping at St David’s, why not have a quick diversion to Seren, it’s pretty close to the Hayes entrance of the Morgan Arcade, you never know what special little find you might discover… enjoy the pics, as always, feedback, comments etc very much welcome.






















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.

















Spillers Saturday Sessions No. 1: Goldie Lookin’ Chain

I don’t need many words to introduce this piece. Quite simply, for the first gig in a 12-week long stretch of Saturday sessions hosted by the wonderful Spillers Records, Goldie Lookin’ Chain performed a small set at the Big Little City exhibition at The Cardiff Story.

Safe to say, it was an intimate gig, but the exhibition was packed, and in their own words, it was a bit of a Health and Safety nightmare with cables everywhere and ‘Keith’ on the decks not really knowing what he was doing.

But hey ho, that’s just how they roll.

Enjoy the pictures, and remember, guns don’t kill people – rappers do.

Next week: Huw M
















Free music courtesy of Spillers Records!

Fresh from the magnificent excitement of Record Store Day, Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, which can be found in the Morgan Arcade, will be hosting live music Saturday sessions in the Big Little City exhibition just round the corner in the Cardiff Story every week for the next 12 weeks!

The events, which will be free (the best kind!) feature some of the best music in Wales, and will kick off at 3pm every Saturday.

I’ll try  my best to go to as many as possible and take photos, hope to see some of you there!

The line-up is as follows:

30th April: Goldie Lookin’ Chain – pictures now online
7th May: Huw M – pictures now online
14th May: Llywybr Llaethog (didn’t attend)
21st May: Soft Hearted Scientists – pictures now online
28th May: The Sunsets – pictures now online
4th June: Martyn Joseph – pictures now online
11th June: H.Hawkline – pictures now online
18th June: Meilir (no pictures)
25th June: Houdini Dax (didn’t attend)
2nd July: Sweet Baboo – pictures now online
9th July: Richard James
16th July: Christopher Rees

For more information, the best place is probably the Spillers Saturday Sessions Facebook event. Looking forward to it already!

Happy Easter from Cardiff Arcades

Just a quick post with a few of the Easter displays in the arcades… most of the arcade shops will be closed today, so enjoy looking at these displays instead!

In the window of Jonathan David, Morgan Arcade

Display at Fred and Grace's, Royal Arcade

Pen and Paper, Royal Arcade

Pen and Paper, Royal Arcade

Pen and Paper, Royal Arcade

Saswa, Royal Arcade

Health with Herbs, Royal Arcade

Health with Herbs, Royal Arcade