Documenting Club Culture

As a child growing up in Leicester, photographer Chris Coekin went to numerous working men’s clubs with his parents, in both his hometown and across England when on family holidays. Fascinated by what he calls “the working class work ethic”, Coekin turned to photography in his early twenties (having worked in a factory and as an apprentice painter and decorator). His most recent collection of work looks at the Acomb WMC in York, where he has been taking pictures since 1996.

In Knock Three Times Coekin has brought together 60 images of the place and its people, a small proportion of which are archival photographs of some of the club’s current members taken many years ago. Treating his subjects with an intriguing mix of intimacy and detachment Coekin has a sharp eye for capturing the subtlest of gestures: a woman sat deep in thought over a text message, a man carefully placing a tray laden with bitter onto a table. Older men heave their coats and jackets on while teenagers play pool and drink lager. This all happens within the confines of an institution originally designed to help educate the working man (through the provision of newspapers and books) and act as a social environment somewhere between work and home where people could drink, play games and enjoy the odd spot of musical or comedic entertainment.

But it’s now a culture that is slowly disappearing and, while club membership across the country remains a hefty six million strong, Coekin’s book is ultimately an historical document of the working men’s club – the future of which remains uncertain. Introduced by the writer David Campany, who also conducts a revealing interview with Coekin, Knock Three Times is available from Dewi Lewis Publishing priced at £16.99.

 

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