You’ve had to wait a while for the pictures from the final Spillers Saturday Session.
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!
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…
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
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!
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!