The Locals

‘Culture’ is a fascinating, complex concept. It is described as ‘The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.’ (Oxford English Dictionary, 2013).

I wanted to photograph ‘culture’ – but not just any culture – English culture. I wanted to use my camera to document and record (much like the Mass Observation Project) and portray the vast culture of this little country. The real definition of English culture is a very personal one and differs from person to person. When I began to formulate my idea of English culture, many things came to mind; afternoon tea, Yorkshire puddings, the Queen (God save her), but the traditional public house was the one that really stood out. Perhaps it’s to do with my upbringing in a small rural community, where drinking and eating in local country pubs was a regular occurrence, or perhaps it’s a link to weekend waitressing and bar jobs as a teenager – but for me, the traditional English pub is a strong symbol of our culture.

And what better topic for a photographic project than a pub? I couldn’t think of any better way to combine my love of documentary photography, people watching and drinking. Sitting at the bar of a cosy pub with a Guinness and a camera sounded perfect, and so it was lucky that I stumbled upon the perfect place to do just that.

The Glebe in Stoke-on-Trent was built in 1934 as a hotel and has, in the past few years, been returned to its former glory through careful renovation. The interior is beautifully warm, and is perfectly in keeping with the original features, some of which still remain. This pub was not one I had previously visited, however I had walked past many times and peered through the windows into the warm depths of the bar, thinking that it looked rather welcoming. As it turns out, I was right. I have spent the past few months sitting on the same stool at the bar, drinking copious amounts of Guinness, watching some of the best live music I’ve ever seen, listening to fascinating conversations and photographing some very interesting people. I’ve learnt new things, made new friends and observed some questionable dancing. And although I almost always went in alone, I never felt lonely. 

Finding a pub in the middle of a city that has the atmosphere of a welcoming countryside local is unusual, and speaks volumes of the people of Stoke-on-Trent – The Locals.

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