Cardiff Character: Ben Thomas

Six years ago, Ben Thomas started heading out of his native Barry into Cardiff, in search of alternative nightlife. 

Results were disappointing. “I was told there was Metros, and that was it,” recalls the 24-year-old, and not without a faint hint of regret. Later he would take matters into his own hands and start up the Cardiff based nightlife brand Blue Honey, who this month opened up a store in High Street Arcade to complement their regular parties.

Selling vintage clothes, vinyl and books, the store is driven by the same love of classic disco and funk that fuels their club nights. But what lures a team of DJs out of the booth and behind the till?

Blue Honey, Cardiff

The recent house-music renaissance has prompted a renewed interest in the original disco sound

Dancefloor to Shopfloor

Blue Honey began climbing the ranks when they moved to local club Gwdihw, where they were offered a Thursday residency. Before long they were running the Saturday night slot, and succeeded in bringing a host of DJing talent to the capital. Names included California deportee Kutmah, former Mixmag editor Bill Brewster, and the legendary Dj Kon, considered by many to be king of the disco edit. With clear interest being generated, they felt the time was right to expand their operations.

“It was Josh, our third member, who initially put the idea forward,” says Ben. “We realised we’d put together this great scene, full of people who wanted to get involved. Ultimately we wanted to take a chance and try to umbrella the brand, to merge the clothing side with the parties, to put everything we enjoy under a single roof.”

They set up shop in the Cardiff Fashion Quarter, a pop-up emporium, and home to a wide range of vintage clothing and fashion startups. This was a formative experience for Ben. “We moved in with some fantastic people,” he says, “people who sculpted us, people who gave us the confidence to do all this.”

DIY or Don’t

A year later, and they’ve made the move to something more permanent. “It hasn’t even been a week,” remarks Ben wearily, still sleep-deprived from the nightlong rush of last minute preparations before opening.

It shows. As it stands, Blue Honey has a decidedly haphazard, do-it-yourself vibe, characterized by bare walls and stark lighting.

What’s great is that it works, reflecting the keen spirit of adventure that made it possible. The young Blue Honey have joined the ranks of the many brave independents trying to forge their own way in Cardiff, many of whom also populate the city’s arcades. 

Ben suggests that more people need to take similar risks in celebrating their individuality. These risks are what will help Cardiff, a city so often overshadowed by Bristol and London, to mature culturally. In fact, he adds, it’s already happening in some spheres, notably nightlife.

“People are grafting, putting their own money into what they love, and incredible things are happening as a result. You’ve venues like Teak opening up under Jacob’s market, places with that underground edge, that Berlin feel.”