Exhibition: Sam Mellish, Roadside Britain

Posted on November 8, 2012 by Ben Sherman There have been 0 comments

We are pleased to announce that we are hosting a photography exhibition within our London Portobello store. Roadside Britain by Sam Mellish shows the traditional and quintessential aspects of British trunk-roadside culture, with emphasis on location and environment. Depicting the people and places of a threatened livelihood, the images are warm, nostalgic, quirky and melancholic, giving immediate appeal to anyone who has ever driven any distance along the country’s A and B roads.


BS: How did roadside Britain come about?
SM: The project began when I was studying for my Masters at the University of Westminster. We had a long-term project brief, which was to be UK based and having done a lot of projects overseas doing something solely in the UK was quite welcoming. I was driving back to my parents’ house in Suffolk and I drove past the burger van I used to work at washing pots as a teenager. It had everything, the location, the people, and a following from the Route 66 culture. Three months worth of work turned into four years with a little help from the Arts Council.

BS: You mention that the project took four years to complete, were you doing it full time or working on in between other work?
SM: When I was studying I worked on it solidly for 3 months, after that I fitted it in when I could. It was really great to get the funding to work in East Anglia, which then meant I could work on the project in between my freelance career. If I had a week off from work, I would just pack my car and go, it was an organic project that just grew unconsciously. I knew I wanted to keep going and finish the project by collating everything in a book.

BS: A lot of work took place in East Anglia initially, where else did the project take you?
SM: It happened in three stages. Whilst I was studying I looked mainly at London to Land’s End, which is the A30. After that I returned to Suffolk and covered Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, and a little bit in Essex. After that I returned to London to take on the challenge of Wales, Scotland, a small part of Ireland and covered the A1 that Paul Graham took photographs of in the 1980s.

BS:  Have you measured how many miles you have covered?
SM: I haven’t measured it but I did a rough calculation. It is kind of in the region of 6000 miles, there’s been a lot of tea and cake eaten, so I am surprised I’ve not put on a considerable amount of weight.

BS: What’s a favourite place you have found?
SM There are so many. Highlights include Smokey Jo’s restaurant in Cornwall which is a very nice place, and the staff are really friendly. Then in East Anglia there is The Blue Sky Cafe, which has a really nice eclectic mix of people from all walks of life. One day you might have a truck driver, and then the next you have a minor celebrity.  There is a lot of banter and I really get off on that.

BS: How did you decide where to visit next?
SM:  My main research source was communication, if a trucker told me to go to a certain place, I would jump in the car and go. What was really nice was in the winter of 09/10 it was really cold and bleak, there wasn’t a lot of transport on the roads, but I thrived on that. People were around with farmers and their sons etc. I really relied on communication from people and their stories.

BS: Did you complete the project in the same car?
SM: I had two cars from start to end, a Rover 106 which I filled up with sleeping bags, water etc. Then I had a Toyota, which was a bit bigger so I could fit more equipment in. It was just really exciting loading the car; the whole process was really enjoyable.

BS:  What was the longest you were out on the road for?
SM: I think the longest was two and a half weeks, it was along the A40 out of London and to Bangor in Wales, then back down the A5. Wales was magical and it was a real boost for the project.

BS: What are your top 3 road trip tips?
SM:The top three things are figure out whether you want to listen to radio or tapes, an iTrip is a really good investment. Take provisions with you for a long trip such as sleeping bags etc. Be prepared, don’t be scared to fill up your car with stuff – you never know when you might need it.

BS: Did you get lost a few times?
SM: It’s quite hard to get lost in the UK as I focussed on the main trunk roads. I had some funny experiences as it’s self-funded project. As I couldn’t throw money as it I would camp on a campsite, or on the side of a road I had some hairy moments of adventure camping. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger...


Sam's exhibition can be found on display at our Portobello branch at the below address:

115 Portobello Road
W11 2DY
United Kingdom

This post was posted in UK, Ben Sherman, Site Headlines, Exhibitions, Ben Sherman Recommends and was tagged with 115 Portobello Road, Portobello Road, Sam Mellish, Roadside Britain

TRUSTe European Safe Harbor certification
Accept Credit Cards