Martin Parr

Capturing the glories of the Great British Seaside

A major new photography exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in London reveals the unique idiosyncrasies of the British seaside, via works by Martin Parr, David Hurn, Tony Ray-Jones and Simon Roberts.

As with all activities that might hinge on the weather, the British have a rather complex relationship with going to the seaside. On the rare occasion of an out-and-out sunny day, the beaches across the country will be packed to the gills, but even a forecast of mixed weather will be unlikely to put many off during the summer months.

There is a tenaciousness in the Brits’ determination to enjoy a day at the beach, and this was especially evident in the years before cheap package holidays made it possible to pop off to Spain for some genuinely sunny weather. Add in the distinctive UK seaside architecture of piers, arcades and funfairs, and a series of iconic images of a day at the beach spring easily to mind.

Many of these scenes will likely have been captured by the four photographers featured in the National Maritime Museum’s new exhibition. The British seaside has long proved a draw to photographers, offering the chance to capture the British in (often awkward) repose. And in turn, the images they have taken have helped shape our idea of what we want from the seaside, which in many parts of the UK has changed little over the past five decades.


Milton Keynes