David Lloyd: Top Rank Gaiety Cardiff Sketches

A collection of preparatory drawings by the site’s creator David Lloyd.

These sketches were done as a youngster, around the Top Rank Gaiety on City Road in Cardiff. I worked there whilst doing a foundation level in art at the local college. Occasionally I would bring my drawing materials to work and do some sketching and drawing of the scenes around the place, as well as occasional photographs. I have to stress none of these pieces are meant to be finished, tidy pieces. They were all sketches done in situ to practice drawing and capturing what I saw. The images are rough and ready, but for me at least they capture some of the views and people I always remember from my time at the club.

The first few images were actually drawn whilst working, during the quieter sessions in the club. On floor walking duties during the main session we would carry around a clip board and pad to record winners details, which they’d sign for their winnings. There was always a blank bit of card in the pad to stop the carbon paper copy going through to pages below. Usually this piece of card was covered in graffiti and doodles from the other staff members, but when I got my hands on a clean one and was given a quiet session up on the balcony, I would put it to good use practicing my sketching.

All the below sketches would have been made between 1991 and 1992.

Balcony sketch 1

The above lady was a regular at the club, one of three who sat in the front row of the balcony in their usual seats. Her name was Hilda, I forget her surname but she features in a couple of the images. I always loved being up in the balcony, not least because I could sneak off for a fag in the stairwell when it was quiet, but because there was a friendly crowd up there, and these ladies were always a pleasure to work with.

Balcony sketch 2

Hilda again, this time with her regular bingo partner Helen. The third woman who sat with them always had a little table to herself, if I remember correctly her name was Pat.

Balcony sketch 3

The above image was drawn half way up the balcony. I’m not sure who this gentleman was, but I liked the angle and view down with a mysterious skewed angle. The pen would have been done at the club, but I worked back into this one back home with paint (for the worse.)

Eunice and Kevin playing Scrabble

The above picture was done in the quiet couple of hours between afternoon and evening session. It captures Eunice the cook having a game of Scrabble with the manager (Kevin Smith?) Coincidentally, Sunday afternoons at the club would be sausage, chips and gravy time, cooked to perfection by Eunice. It was the perfect pick me up as I’d usually call the afternoon session after having not eaten anything since the night before, and was usually hung-over from a heavy Saturday night out in Cardiff.

Balcony sketch 4

This would have been done around Christmas 1991, back up in the balcony. Wanted to give the impression of these players floating in space, as looking down on them over the balcony, they appeared to be. It doesn’t quite come-off, but Hilda once again features, and I’m reminded of my favourite spot between the bandit and the front row, where we dragged up prize envelopes on string with a bulldog clip.

The front doors of the Gaiety

This was done very roughly sat on the stairs up to the balcony, looking out from the ground floor onto City Road. The assistant manager looks out waiting for customers, I think his name was Jerry, but can’t recall his surname. I used to like this row of doors and they featured in a print I made once – you can see a photo I took at the same location here.

Player in back of club

This above image was done downstairs at the back of the hall, below the balcony. It was done on a large A2 size sheet and drawing board, with lots of speed, hence the rough grain in the charcoal. Another regular concentrating on her numbers.

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