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In the business improvement district world we talk a lot about place identity, place branding, place unique-ness although I tend to avoid that last one because it’s pretty hard to say. Some places have it easy: draw a three second sketch of the Eiffel Tower and you’ve summoned the image of Paris, if you’ve ever spent any time in or around Derbyshire you’ll know that a crooked spire instantly means Chesterfield, it only really takes a red brick to make me think of Manchester but what about Cardiff? What gives us our identity? What in particular makes this place unique?
It’s Welsh, but then so’s the rest of Wales; perhaps it’s the best place in the world to be in on a match day but most days aren’t match days; there’s a huge an beautiful park right in the heart of the city but to the untrained eye one green space looks much like another – Cardiff needs something unique that’s also something that you can easily see.
The fact is we’ve got it, we’ve had it all along, or since 1885 at least – Cardiff is the City of Arcades. Of course it is, if you hadn’t realised that before now I’m sorry but you simply haven’t been paying attention. The arcades are beautiful, they’re chock full of history and secret hideaways and they’re home to all sorts of absolutely Cardiff institutions whether its Spillers Records (aka the oldest record shop in the world) or swanky new reminders of how far Cardiff’s come in recent years the city’s first vegan ‘junk food’ restaurant is hopefully opening in the Castle Arcade by the end of the month.
We can overlook all of this quite easily in all the excitement about the rapid rate of change all across the city, even as someone who first came to Cardiff in 2010 I can see we’ve moved on in a big way since then, but we’d be fools to let these arcades get forgotten.