Amy Davies, queen of shops

March 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

Cardiff Arcades Project

Amy Davies © gwionthorpe

Amy Davies is the perfect person to kick off this blog.  She sums up exactly what it’s all about – she had an idea and acted on it.  Simple.   She has started the Cardiff Arcades Project, which aims to “document the Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades in Cardiff, home to some of the quirkiest, individual and independent retailers in the city”. It’s an idea that has really captured people’s attention and Amy has been “overwhelmed by the positive response (she has) received so far”.  It basically involves Amy going in to the shops, taking photos and chatting to the owners and recording it all on her website.  Again, it sounds simple but it just hasn’t been done before and that’s what makes it so bloody good.

The idea came on her way home from work one evening. “I was wandering through Morgan Arcade, taking a few snaps for my Project 365 and on a whim I thought, maybe I should do a project on the Arcades, that would be pretty cool”.  With the help of a few tweets “the project went from a thought to a full-blown project in about 12 hours”.

What started out as photography project, however, has become so much more than that.  “One of the main reasons for doing the project was to take more portrait photos but I found that all sort of stories naturally come out through talking to people.  The photos may be good but they’re made even better by knowing a bit about the person behind the face – the story adds to it”.

Although she clearly loves the arcades, Amy is keen to point out that she is no activist and doesn’t want the project to be seen as anti-big brands. “This project is meant to be something positive, about celebrating the arcades not focusing on the negative impact of St. David’s 2”.  She has nothing against the big stores – “everyone needs an H&M, we can’t all be independent, but it’s important people know they’ve got the option. It’s about having the choice”.  Amy is from Birmingham and compares St. David’s 2 to The Bullring and similarly the Trafford Centre in Manchester.  “It’s nice to have your big John Lewis and other big brands, but when you stand in St. David’s you could be in any big City in the UK.  But when you shop in the old arcades you could only be in one place: Cardiff.  They are such a big attraction; I don’t understand why we aren’t screaming about them?”

I have a feeling that Amy’s project will go a long way to restoring people’s interest (and spending) in the Arcades and raise their profile once again, although Amy is quick to play this down, “maybe a few people have found out about them through my blog, I don’t know.  I have had a few messages from people who hadn’t discovered or heard about a particular shop before. That makes me feel really happy.  It’s also nice to know that people are actually reading my blog and that it may be having a positive effect on people”.  You can say that again.

After spending some time with Amy it is quite obvious that the project is also having a very positive impact on her too.  “I’m quite a shy person but this project has made me so much less shy. I’ve met so many fantastic people, done so many things and had an unbelievable time in just a few short weeks”.  She is now making new friends, good contacts and even gaining some paid work from the people she’s meeting in the arcades.  How cool is that?

I really enjoyed meeting Amy (in New York Deli, High St arcade by the way).  I’m really chuffed that she had the guts to turn her idea into reality and I’m sure there are a lot of shopkeepers who’d agree with me!  Check out her website and, more importantly, check out the shops and the arcades – they’re wicked.

Amy Davies is a journalist and photographer living in Cardiff.  Having moved to Cardiff 5-and-a-bit years ago for University, and never having the decency to leave, she now calls it home.  During the day she boards the train for her daily commute to Bath working on a photography website, and most of the rest of the time she’s either taking photos, writing things, baking cakes or a combination of all three.

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