Arcades Portraits: Lucy from Catapult Vinyl

Catapult was one of the first shops that I photographed for the project. Since then, Lucy the owner, and Simon, the manager have been incredibly supportive of the project and always been very enthusiastic about the work.

They’re always good to pop round and say hello to, and recently you may remember they moved premises just round the corner to the Duke Street Arcade.

However, a massive oversight has always been that I haven’t photographed the beautiful and wonderful Lucy for the project. That had to change, and so, when I had the pleasure of helping to review a Nikon D800, I jumped at the chance to shoot some portraits at the new shop.

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Catapult: a look inside the new shop, just round the corner in the Duke Street Arcade

My original post about Catapult Records remains one of my most popular to date, so when I found out it was moving to a shiny new premises I was very excited.

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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?

In-store DJ session at Catapult: Bonobo

Here’s another post that doesn’t need too much of an introduction.

Yesterday was another fantastic in-store session hosted by Catapult, this time with Bonobo who had played in the Millennium Music Hall on Friday night.

The in-store days are a great opportunity to hear free music in a great intimate gig, get up close and personal with the act playing (I’m sure he can’t have been too fond of my lens intrusion) and for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it to gigs to hear their favourite music.

I had a great time, but I didn’t get to stick around afterwards as I had to run off to photograph Goldie Lookin’ Chain for the first Spillers Saturday Session – a fantastic day for free music in our city!

Enjoy the photos, let me know what you think in the comments box below.

Catapult Records: “music’s better under the Tories.”

It was actually a few weeks ago that I photographed Catapult Vinyl in the High Street Arcade and got chatting with the owner, Simon.  Sadly, life got in the way and I’m only just getting around to blog about it – hopefully you will think it is worth the wait.

It’s fair to say that Catapult is one of the cooler shops in the arcades, fitting in very well with many of the other great shops in the High Street Arcade (including New York Deli, Looby Loo’s, Hobo’s…). In case you hadn’t guessed from its name, it’s a record shop specialising in hip-hop, dance, dubstep etc vinyl. They also sell accessories like T-shirts upstairs.

I spent the majority of my time however in the basement, which was converted especially for the shop. Previously it was all mud that has been dug out. I’m not exactly an expert on these things, but the acoustics in there are great, and amazingly you can still get phone signal.

To tell you a little bit about the history of the shop, Catapult is one of the oldest arcade businesses, having been set up in 1992 by Lucy (Simon’s wife) and their business partner, Simon joined around 8 years later. It was previously in another one of the shops but switched around at the same time as the New York Deli moved premises.

While I was there, a customer from Manchester was also in and Simon and he spent a lot of time chatting about “the glory days” and times gone by. It would seem, for the shop at least, the best times were the late 90s, just after New Labour had got into power. Indeed, if you look at pictures on the wall from that time you’ll see well-known DJs playing to so many kids that they can’t all fit in the shops.

Nowadays, Simon says that there’s not so much of a “youth identity” and he is concerned about the homogenisation of clubs and bars, especially in the Cardiff area. Before the 24-hour licensing laws  came into play a few years ago, Catapult was a destination once the pubs had kicked out, now not so.

Fortunately, the business is doing quite well at the moment, thanks in part to what Simon calls a resurgence in hip-hop and a love of vinyl, along with all things retro and nostalgic. He also says that people are starting to come in asking for magazines that went out of print years ago and there’s a keen-ness for fanzines at the moment, even though it might look like the publishing world is in decline and the internet is taking over.

Eavesdropping on the conversation between Simon and the customer was fascinating as it gave me a better insight into the ‘scene’ – so to speak. I’m the first to admit that this kind of music isn’t really my cup of tea but it’s always fantastic to hear people talking about their passions, and it was clear from listening to these two that that’s exactly what I was hearing. One interesting point that came up though was the effect politics has on music.

The pair suggested that the best punk music came about during the last Tory government, as a rebellious ‘fuck you’ to those in power. He thinks that perhaps this could happen again under the current administration. In the commercial world however, like Hobo’s, Catapult relies quite a lot on students for a lot of their trade and of course with increasing tuition fees and less money available for loans, it is of course a worry that business will be affected in the long run, even if the music is better.

Anyway, enough of the rambling, you probably didn’t come here for that – you came to look at pictures – quite rightly too. Enjoy the photos, Simon is keen to include the “Singles” sign as much as possible as apparently it cost quite a packet and he wants to get his money’s worth … look out for it.

It’s also worth noting the exterior of Catapult. It’s one of my favourites in all the arcades. I love the colour, the leading on the windows and the art deco styling – plus it looks great in wide angle pictures. I’ve put one in the post below, but you can see more in the High Street Wide Angle post.

Catapult will also be taking part in Record Store Day where I’m hoping to capture some great scenes from “behind the counter”. If you’re there, look out for me and come and say hi!

As always, comments, suggestions, ramblings, thoughts and more always very much welcome. There’s more photos from Catapult if you really can’t wait over in this Flickr set.

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