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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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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Fred and Grace’s: if you’re not feeling broody before this post, you probably will be after

Fred and Grace’s was one of the shops I wanted to do from the start of this project. It’s probably a bit odd for a woman with no children to immediately know this shop, but what can I say, every time I walk past it I can’t help but do a head “awww” at the tiny little clothes in the window.

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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.






















Wide angle deliciousness from the Royal and Morgan Arcade.

One of my absolute tip-top favourite things about the arcades is the stunning architecture. When you look up something magical happens. It’s a real wow moment, and I still get it even after seeing them probably thousands of times. I took some photos in the Morgan Arcade a few months back when it was dark. They were pretty good, but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, a whole other dimension comes alive.

Just gorgeous.

I don’t need many words to introduce this post. Just enjoy the photos.

Feedback welcome!

And don’t forget to check out these other wide-angle photos:

High Street Arcade
Castle Arcade
Morgan Arcade









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.

















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!

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Jonathan David: Jewellery since 1896 (and its very own watchmaker and goldsmith)

A couple of weeks ago I had the absolute privilege of photographing Jonathan David, one of the oldest shops in the arcade. The store has been at the site since 1896, and is still selling jewellery today.

It hasn’t always been called Jonathan David though. Originally named Kaiser and Sons, it changed to Kingston Brothers amid anti German sentiment just before the first world war. It remained with that name until the 1980s when it was taken over by the current owner, David Hughes-Lewis.

Now named after the current owner’s son, it was Jonathan David himself I spoke to as I spent some time in the shop chatting with him and the fascinating people that work there. I was recently asked “When was the last time you met a traditional watchmaker?” as if they don’t exist any more. It was with such joy that I was able to say “just the other day, in the Morgan Arcade.”

Jonny the watchmaker is 72 and has been working in his craft since he was 15, a true craftsman. He works in the shop repairing watches at his bench, in roughly the same area he has worked all his life (he started in another jewellery shop just up the street). I asked him if he still enjoys the job after all these years, to which the answer was simple; “it’s addictive.”

If you happen to visit Jonathan David you will notice the fantastic traditional exterior, reflecting the traditional values you’ll find on the interior. Well according to Jonathan, this was covered up until as recently as the 1980s until they set about uncovering the beautiful details. What was it about hiding all that stuff behind ugly wood panels – I don’t know what they were thinking…

Anyway, putting all that aside, Jonathan showed me some of the old photos of the original store as it was in the Morgan Arcade all those years ago – it was great to see them, and really brought to the life the history of these arcades and was really fascinating. I’m hoping I’ll get to see more photos like this as the project continues – so if you have any / know of any please, please let me know!

Also in the shop was Pip, who reckoned she was the first female goldsmith in Wales when she started nearly 30 years ago. Incredibly, she had made a teeny tiny set of gold scissors because she had a “spare 25 minutes”. They could cut paper and everything and were probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen crafted from gold!

Chatting with Jonathan it’s clear to see that the changing nature of the area around him is a concern. He’s heard that they’re about to convert one of the empty premises nearby into a strip club, which along with gambling shops and takeaway restaurants, isn’t exactly in-keeping with the atmosphere of a 100 year old jewellery store. Not only that but there’s something like 30 jewellery shops in Cardiff – that’s quite a high level of saturation, but, how many can actually boast a traditional watchmaker and goldsmith right there, on site, working away downstairs? Not many.

While I was here I also got to have a sneaky peek underneath the arcades. This was a fantastic insight into how it might have looked when it was first built. Here there’s a giant safe (no longer) in use and gorgeous green walls and old paraphenalia that looked almost like torture equipment. Jonathan also brought out a box of old watches that he said were found in the underground area, and this was perhaps the most fascinating thing of all. They all contained addresses on, written in that beautiful (if slightly unreadable) old-fashioned writing. Now that I think about it, I wonder why the watches never got returned to their rightful owners.

That’s probably a debate for another day – for now, enjoy the photos, and if you like them, there’s even more over on Flickr. As usual, comments and feedback very, very much appreciated!

Jonathan David Jewellery is open Monday – Saturday and can be found in the Morgan Arcade. Visit the Jonathan David website for more information about the shop.

Some of the original Kingston Brothers signage