Roadside Britain, which opens at Bank Street Arts on Tuesday 7th August, was a four year labour of love that saw photographer Sam Mellish roaming Britain’s trunk roads documenting life in and around the cafes, burger vans and independent eateries that provide the nation’s commuters, truckers, travellers and tourists with a very British sort of sustenance. A modern counterpart to Paul Graham’s classic A1 – The Great North Road that also evokes the work of Robert Frank, Roadside Britain’s world is a long haul away from the slick, corporate efficiency that typifies the UK’s motorway service stations. Sam says of the project:
‘Roadside Britain is inspired by Route 66 culture. Some of it’s tongue in cheek, some of it’s quite funny, but my main reason for doing it is to document the social changes that have taken place on the road in the UK. I think it’s generally viewed that these places are genuinely run down and a little bit shabby and a little bit backward. And looking at some of the photos, there are a lot of places that are like that. But once you go to them, and immerse yourself, you’ll see there’s a real community there. They’ll have a lot of local people and workers going in there. They’ll rely on that trade and also the outsiders who will come in and share a story – truckers talking about life on the road and being away from their families. I feel there’s a strong sense of community and these people are holding onto their independence.’
The exhibition, which is based on Sam’s independently produced book of the same name, comes to Bank Street Arts on the back of a hectic touring schedule for the project, including stop-offs at the Format International Photography Festival in Derby, Hereford Photo Festival fringe, and the Sony World Photography Awards.
Roadside Britain gets underway on Tuesday 7th August, and we’re delighted that Sam’s agreed to be around from 3pm-5 for an open afternoon where he’ll chat about the project and share a pot of tea with anyone who’s interested in coming along.
See also: The Story Institute