Blackpool Promenade, Lancashire, 24 July 2008. From We English © Simon Roberts, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

Ah, the great British seaside. Fish and chips, screaming seagulls and whirling waltzers – could there possibly be a better setting for a weekend of frivolities? From Blackpool to Brighton, us Brits are spoilt for choice when it comes to a stroll by the sea, and it’s a tradition we’ve been enjoying for years.

In a new major exhibition, some of the world’s most celebrated photographers highlight the nation’s love affair with the seaside. Featuring over 100 works by Martin Parr, Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Simon Roberts – the show explores our changing relationship with our shores over the last six decades.

Documenting a “quintessentially British experience”, the traditions, customs and eccentricities associated with destinations including Essex, Kent and Dorset, are captured through archive collections, negative contact sheets and video footage.

As part of the exhibition, 20 new works by Martin Parr, arguably Britain’s favourite photographer, which were commissioned by the NMM for The Great British Seaside, focus on the thriving and diverse resorts of London’s ‘local beaches’. The commission includes photographs from Southend-on-Sea, Shoeburyness, Leigh-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.

Visitors will be taken on a nostalgic journey featuring the iconic beach huts, deck chairs, fish ‘n’ chips and donkey rides synonymous with a trip to the seaside. Whilst the fashions and styles of each era give tell-tale clues of the decade, the activities and traditions are amusingly consistent, reappearing throughout the six decades covered in the exhibition, alongside the familiar sight of Brits determined to enjoy their day out, whatever the weather.

From the 1960s, when documentary photography in Britain gained greater attention, through to the modern day, each photographer brings their own distinctive approach to capturing both the changing and unchanging nature of the British seaside experience. Through recurring themes of place, tradition and class, the exhibition holds up a critical, yet affectionate and often humorous, mirror to a great British tradition.

See the exhibition from 23 March – 30 September 2018. Plan your visit at www.rmg.co.uk.

Brighton Palace Pier, East Sussex, April 2013. From Pierdom  © Simon Roberts, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

Brighton Palace Pier, East Sussex, April 2013. From Pierdom © Simon Roberts, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York

Broadstairs, Kent c. 1968 © Tony Ray Jones - National Science and Media Museum - SSPL

Broadstairs, Kent c. 1968 © Tony Ray Jones – National Science and Media Museum – SSPL

Cleethorpes Pier, North East Lincolnshire, September 2012. From Pierdom © Simon Roberts, Courtesey of Flowers Gallery

Cleethorpes Pier, North East Lincolnshire, September 2012. From Pierdom © Simon Roberts, Courtesey of Flowers Gallery

LON5220 GB. England. Dorset. From West Bay. 1996. © Martin Parr - Magnum Photos

LON5220 GB. England. Dorset. From West Bay. 1996. © Martin Parr – Magnum Photos

LON81704 GB. England. Weymouth. 2005 © Martin Parr - Magnum Photos

LON81704 GB. England. Weymouth. 2005 © Martin Parr – Magnum Photos

LON99689 GB. England. Kent. Broadstairs. 1986.© Martin Parr-Magnum Photos

LON99689 GB. England. Kent. Broadstairs. 1986.© Martin Parr-Magnum Photos

Margate, Kent. c.1967 © Tony Ray Jones - National Science and Media Museum - SSPL

Margate, Kent. c.1967 © Tony Ray Jones – National Science and Media Museum – SSPL

NN11436408 GB. England. Herne Bay, Kent. 1963 © David Hurn - Magnum Photos

NN11436408 GB. England. Herne Bay, Kent. 1963 © David Hurn – Magnum Photos

Probably Jaywick Sands, Essex. c.1967 © Tony Ray Jones - National Science and Media Museum - SSPL

Probably Jaywick Sands, Essex. c.1967 © Tony Ray Jones – National Science and Media Museum – SSPL

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Author:

Laura Collinson

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