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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Folk Farm: the most incredibly insane (in the best possible way) shop in Cardiff’s Arcades

Knowing where to start on this post is incredibly difficult. If you know anything about the shop, Folk Farm, or its charismatic owner, Chris Brick you’ll know why. If you don’t… well… prepare for something like you’ve probably never seen before.

Folk Farm is like no other arcade shop. In fact, it’s like no other shop. Certainly I’ve never witnessed anything like this before. Based around the theme of an old country farm, with sprinklings of the American mid-West liberally dashed around the place, this is a clothes-cum-record-cum-god-knows-what shop nestled away in the Castle Arcade.

If you’ve walked past it you’ve probably not really had any idea what’s going on in there. And if you’ve been brave enough to venture in, you’ve probably come out none-the-wiser.

It actually boasts Britain’s, if not Europe or the World’s largest collection of folk vinyl. Put simply there is a LOT here. It doesn’t seem to be in any order, so you will really need to root around if you’re looking for something in particular. There’s incredibly rare stuff here too, I’m not exactly in the know about this kind of thing, but you would hope a £100 record is £100 for a good reason.

On the other end of the spectrum, the clothes are amazing value. You’ll find mountains of t-shirts for £5. Or even £1 in some of the baskets. You’ll find random bits of clothing in the window that you could probably even haggle on the price of. You’ll also find random bits of whatever from all over the place floating around.

This isn’t the first time the owner, Chris Brick, has owned a shop of course. Oh no, far from it. Go in and ask if you want more details, honestly it’s really worth the chat. According to Chris, every 7-10 years he thinks up a new random idea, always based around a certain theme, and goes with it. He’s taken his shops to the US, notably in New York and San Francisco, but now, in what he thinks will be his last venture, he’s back in his homeland of Wales for Folk Farm.

Anyone familiar with his past might know of his previous ventures, Demob in London, Smylon Nylon in New York, Center for the Dull, also in New York and Teenage Millionnaire in LA. If you’re not familiar, now is a good time to get acquainted with the latest project. But even they weren’t his first ventures, he tells me, in his Welsh-American lilt that his initial business projects all collapsed, losing hundreds of thousands in the process. But he always picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got on with the next one. Until people started to cotton on and the shops became successful, a bit weird, a bit different, somewhere people just want to hang out.

He lives up by Abergavenny, the surrounding counties being the places he sources his crazy collection of goods from.  He tells me a lot of things in the shop are designed to evoke memories in customers. The tin bath for example, which you’ll find hanging off the ceiling as you come in the door (of course), reminds him of fireside baths as child.

Unbelievably, Chris says that not that many people have come to photograph the shop before for the press and so on. What?! I ask, probably 10 times during the course of our 2 hour chat. This can’t be possible. Why wouldn’t people want to photograph this? This is the most incredible place I’ve been in for a long time. Stand on one spot in the store and you can take 50, no 100 pictures and they will all be completely different. Honestly, try it out for yourself. Chris won’t mind, he just goes with the flow.

After leaving the States behind to come back, New York was the hardest market to crack apparently, Chris is less bothered about making money these days, so long as there’s enough to pay the rent and the bills and get by. This is clearly just about him doing what he wants to do and not worrying about what anyone else thinks – the best way to be.

His children, having grown up in America had to swap Malibu for the Welsh Valleys, love it all. They probably get their attitude from their father – it’s only his wife who would rather be back Stateside (on a rainy day would you blame her?).

You’ll see that I’ve taken a lot of portraits of Chris – all his idea. What can I say other than this guy’s a natural in front of the camera. He says he picked it up from watching the film extras that used to visit his American shops, but it’s obvious this isn’t the first time he’s been photographed. He asked to see one of the photographs I’d taken. “Look how old and fat I look!” he remarked. “Uh-oh…” went through my mind. “Isn’t it great!” was his next sentence.

Chris Brick and Folk Farm. Incredible guy, incredible shop. Go and check it out, now.

As you can imagine, I took hundreds of photos in this shop, of which I narrowed it down significantly. You can see a selection in this post, but there’s even more over on this Flickr set.

On this post, comments are, more than welcome, please share your thoughts, notes and insanity at the bottom.

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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Spillers Records: The Oldest Record Shop in the World (probably)

Update: click here to see some portraits of Ashli, one of the owners of Spillers Records.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of shooting probably one of the most well-known and well-respected shops in Cardiff, Spillers – the oldest record shop in the world.

I’ll give you a brief history (mainly for non-Cardiffians – hopefully I’m getting all this right, please, feel free to correct me if you know!). Established in 1894 by the Spiller family, the shop was originally in the Queens Arcade up until the 1940s when it moved to the Hayes. At some point after that the ownership of the shop passed into the hands of a collective and some time after that Nick Todd bought the shop. In 2010, after rents went too astronomical in the Hayes store, it moved to its current home in the Morgan Arcade and was bought by Nick’s daughters (including Ashli who was working today) who own it now.

Spillers is pretty much a must-see, not only for most Cardiff residents, but for lots of people around the world. Ashli told me that Japanese tourists in particular love to come in and be photographed in the shop and ask for the red plastic bags to take away as souveniers (there’s a reference to the same bags in a Manics song).

If you’re a music fan then there’s really nowhere better you can go to find your next hit. Upstairs you’ll find vinyl and listening posts (there’s also one downstairs) where you can check out some recent releases, and you’re allowed to listen to any of the albums you like before you buy. What’s more, if there’s something you can’t find, the staff at Spillers will do their best to track it down for you. Ashli said that she knows many of her customers so well that when something new comes in she often knows exactly who will want a copy – can you imagine any of this in any of the high-street music chains? I can’t.

A lot of people were upset when it was announced that Spillers was moving into the Morgan Arcade, after all, it had been there since the 1940s so many of the regulars wouldn’t know it being anywhere else. Ashli however thinks the new shop is much better than the old one. While St David’s 2 was being developed, the Hayes was disrupted by the works that was going on and now it’s a plush shopping destination, Ashli equates the site to being the equivalent of Queen Street (generic high street). “We certainly wouldn’t have been on Queen Street in the 1990s, so it makes sense that we’re no longer in the Hayes now,” she said.

Spillers has its fair share of celebrity (for want of a better word there) fans, only last week Phil Jupitus, a regular customer popped in while he’s in South Wales on tour with Spamalot. Phil recently said in an interview for local magazine, Buzz, that Spillers was one of his favourite destinations. Watch this video by the Cardiffian for a run-down on exactly why.

This is the first Spillers post, but it certainly won’t be the last. The shop regularly hosts events and in April will be taking over the empty unit just opposite from it for record store day, something which I’ll be keen to photograph as well.

For now, I hope you enjoy these pictures – as always, feedback very, very much appreciated!

What’s that I hear you cry? You want MORE pictures of Spillers? Well! You’re in luck because there’s a whole Spillers set over on Flickr… you lucky people!