Spit & Sawdust is one of those establishments where words fall short of doing what justice this institution does for not only it’s own scene, but neighbouring skate and creative collectives. The skatepark is ideal, spacious with the right obstacles. The hospitality incomparable and the food is worth travelling for alone. Combine this with skate lessons, creative focus groups and workshops and you’ll find yourself visiting this indoor location on the sunniest of days. To Christian, Nia and the gang, utmost respect and thanks for keeping the stoke burning beyond bright.
Yes Christian, could you give us a bit of background on the origins of the fine establishment that is Spit & Sawdust please? Weren’t you a support worker before hand? I guess running a skatepark isn’t that far off.
Hello Vague mag! It all started stirring around 6 ½ years back, strangely enough by the bloke with the twirly ‘tache off the GO Compare adverts, he phoned City Surf asking if there were skateboard lessons available in Cardiff, which there wasn’t at the time, and it made my partner Nia and myself start thinking of a space that could not only cater for this, but be of multi use. There can definitely be similarities drawn between support work and dealing with the general public, but tis the nature of the beast. Our customers are the best though!
Who’s currently involved with the park and was it always your intention to have such a strong food aspect?
There’s 4 of us as directors that run the space on a day to day basis, Nia, Becca, Thom and myself with Jim (CSC fame) and Sam on our board too. We’ve got Stu Miller as staff, and he also joins Guto on for coaching our ‘Shreducation’ sessions…as well as young Tom who aides our ‘tips & tricks’ session every Saturday. Staffing goes up too when we do events etc. so we’ve got a pool of folk we pester. The cafe was always planned to be at the heart of Spit & Sawdust, over 20 years of eating poor grub within indoor facilities, it inspired us to provide as best we could in terms of quality, variety and price.
There’s a banging variety on the menu and with the bridge from Bristol toll now a thing of the past many people travel down just for a scran. Where do you source the ingredients?
We’ve built up a strong relationship with suppliers over the years which has allowed us to source as much as we can, as local as possible. Our beef / bacon / eggs are organic and from nearby Caerphilly, brioche / buns / bread from a local bakery in Cardiff, coffee’s roasted just outside the ‘diff, other ingredients for our pizzas and veggie / vegan dishes are picked up from suppliers in / around Cardiff with all our food prepped by us at S&S… and fizzy pop and spuds from cash and carry. We’ve catered weddings, arts festivals, food festivals, biker festivals etc. which allow us to tweak our menu and try out different dishes accordingly.
Could you give us a run down of the team and who is part of the crew? Definitely the soundest and most happy employees I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
When Nia and I set up Spit, we always wanted it to be run as a sort of collective, rather than us run it from the top down. We have had different staff over the years, but about 2 years ago we realised that we needed some help, so we asked two friends, Becca and Thom on board as co-directors, and since then they’ve run the park along with us. We asked them as they’re artists who were always around the place anyway, in their studios or hanging about by the counter, so they really got what Spit was about – plus they’re not scared of a bit of hard graft! Since then Spit has gone from strength to strength.
Spit & Sawdust actually got a really good review in The Guardian didn’t it? Has this provoked a surge in middle class theatre critics making the travel from London to Cardiff?
(Laughs), to be honest I don’t recall the review, we just keep our heads down and focus on what we do… there hasn’t been an increase of top hats and monocles either so not sure we’ve cracked the London aristocracy yet.
Why are Hi-Tec the best shoes to skate in and what’s the wildest pair of footwear you’ve exposed to the useless wooden toy?
4 main reasons really. Suede upper, gum rubber sole, overall fashionable aesthetic, Hi-Tec are well in to saving the rhino! Simple. I had a pair of Lonsdales once with a fat velcro wrap around strap that made my feet look size 4 hoofs… from the future, they were particularly stinking.
Wallie-ing a barrier in the rain resulted in some broken ribs in Leeds scene video ‘Yorkshire Puddings’ but are the rumours true you landed it after this horrendous slam?
(Laughs) Yeah that ruined me! It had rained so Rory Mckenzie, Dave Walker, Will Collins and I sheltered in the nearest pub, few pints later with a gap in the weather, the time seemed right. Didn’t lean back at all, hit it and pretty much teddy bear rolled the thing without touching it, to the flat… into a puddle (laughs), the noise I make is hilarious, Rory has the raw footage somewhere. I got it the next try before I seized up for the next 3 weeks.
In regard to in house, the team are obviously all incredible, but in terms of getting food out there don’t you Deliveroo it as well (the Deliverad sketch was so good!). Have you witnessed the food go full cycle to the recipient?
I’m a ‘cuisine courier’ for Deliveroo during those lesser fruitful indoor skatepark Summer months, which conjured the idea for the Deliverad edit. We don’t actually use Deliveroo to ship out our food, we feel it’s all about getting people to Spit & Sawdust instead of receiving a sweaty mashed up mess in a greasy bag (depending on riding style) also after they take their 30% we’d make next to nothing as we keep our prices as affordable as possible.
You host brilliant skate lessons and enthusiastic mums have told me how instead of charging some of the youngsters to skate, they can exchange work for a sesh, such as sweep up for a skate.
Yeah some of the regular younger, keener skateboarding generation do litter picking and sweeping for time in the skatepark, there’s a great crew of shredders coming up through the ranks too, 1 solid hour with no chatting, checking Instagram likes or taking selfies is a tough one for most but it does get ‘em 2 hours for free. Even the non-skating mountain bike wheelie crew will often do a round for a Monster sticker or 3 in between scratching their nuts and spitting.
What’s great about the Welsh capital and the land of the dragons in general?
The skate scene in Cardiff has been very street based for decades thanks to older generation of legends, but aside the wheelie boarding the city is nice and small for a capital, plenty of parks, rivers, the beauty of the valleys and coast only a short journey away and the local ales are good.
Spit & Sawdust do the splendid ‘you’re cordially invited’ where you invite a skater owned store to a lock in down the park. Absolutely amazing and the hospitality is next level (40 pizzas was it you made us?). What’s the purpose of this and is it going to be a regular do?
We’ve done 3 ‘you’re cordially invited’ in total now, 1st was Blade clothing which is a rollerblading clothing company in Cardiff, 2nd was the mighty Fifty Fifty in Bristol and most recent is Lost Art / Useless Wooden Toys Society in Liverpool. The whole idea in a nutshell was to give recognition to independents out there supporting a scene, being at the core and doing what they do for the love of it. We twang out an invite on a scroll, inviting an organisation, shop, group, whoever for use of the skatepark, food for all, and drink, entirely on us. Keep an eye on the postbox… next one’s going out soon…
Being so charismatic obviously wins you popularity points but how does it work with mates rates?
We often swap skills for entry, as with any indoor space there’s often a wide range of handy people coming through which helps us out a lot. Apart from that everyone pays, people understand like anywhere we too have to pay our big overheads, as well as pay ourselves!
How are the cowboy boots doing? I saw them live at the Blips premiere. Are they resigned to special occasions now?
My dog chewed the toe off one of ‘em, which enabled Kevin Barry to swig a can through it like a leather funnel. Mainly for best wear, the Cover Version premiere definitely warranted ‘em.
When was the last time you got naked in a club?
(Laughs) Erm… Nicky Howells’ birthday about 6 years back. T’was a freezing cold night in July if i recall the photo (laughs).
I heard through a grapevine that you are going to get involved in the brewing game, which would make the building near impossible to leave, are these rumours true and if so where did this urge come from? Taste match to the meals etc. Also will you still have a crate of Carlsbergs for the boyos?
We’re going be opening a cafe / bar in Cardiff city centre as part of CSC’s new premises which we’re super stoked on! More plans and details will be sorted soon, but it has a nod towards Useless Wooden Toys / The Merchant setup in Liverpool, as far as Spit & Sawdust grog… there has been some chat also, so we’ll see where that takes us.
What’s one of the gnarliest things to go down in the park?
Dylan Hughes’ signature ‘Huge’ burger was pretty intense! 2 organic beef patties, homemade slaw, bacon, cheddar and 4 beer battered onion rings… alongside a portion of handcut double fried chips. One’s impossible, so here’s 9. A blader tried the handrail going up to the office once, slammed and took out the bench. Billy Trick’s front nosegrind on the mid block to front 5-0 down the wooden bank going up to it! Lloyd Houston everything. Habgood’s nosepick. Jess Young’s taildrop, Dylan’s switch Pupecki pop on the back wall curbs, Nick Remon 360 flip into the steep bank, Sam Pulley double manny pad flatbank configuration (see WASH3R). Caradog’s switch back lip on the inside. Too much to list!
The space goes above and beyond one of the finest skateparks I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, not only do you have an excellent cafe, but the chilling area makes it ideal for parents and lurkers to spend their free time. Couches, magazines and VHS combi all present. As if this isn’t enough does it not also have areas for creatives to use? Could you please tell us a bit about that?
We do! Spit has always been a multi aspect space, and with 3 out of 4 of us who run Spit being artists, the art element of what we do is as important to us as the skate park and cafe. We have studios upstairs, which are for experimental artists, and we have a programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year, including a huge billboard we had built especially in our car park. There’s a commission on there at the moment by artist from Glasgow called Jasleen Kaur. You’ll have seen the tree sculpture that hangs from the ceiling in the park – by a Cardiff artist Alan Goulbourne – we like to think that art fits in throughout the whole of Spit & Sawdust and helps make it the unique place it is.
Any other words of wisdom for the general public?
“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain”
– Dolly Parton
SPIT CLIP by Harry Deane