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Last Orders at the Bar

25 January 10 words: Frances Ashton
The Demise of the Great British Pub. "Just because something is broken does not mean it’s not beautiful"

The Ship, Salford, photograph by Chris Etchell

 ‘Just because something is broken does not mean it’s not beautiful’ 

A phrase captured beautifully in Christopher Etchell's 6th solo exhibition Last Orders at the Bar: The Demise of the Great British Pub - documentary photography highlighting the alarming number of traditional pub closures across Britain. Cherished by Etchell as ‘Architectural gems sodden with memories of times past…a lost charm ravaged by twenty- first century life’

Etchell conveys his message well. In this world of globalistion we often forget what’s on our doorstep can be just as beautiful. Each photographic scene is subtle and effortlessly unique, yet carefully
composed. A clever cross of art and realism, leaving the story telling to the subject and its surroundings. The influence of Henri Cartier Bresson’s street photography and ‘moment capturing’ are definitely apparent.
Tapping into the social question, this exhibition explores the loss of sense of community which the local pub represented. These abandoned time capsules bring sentiment to the viewer, everyone can relate to these photos, which conjure memories of our own 'local' or 'regular' now being usurped by generic chain pubs.

The Shipperies, Kensington, Liverpool, photograph by Chris Etchell

Finding myself drawn to the aesthetic beauty of the French Horn, Worksop, capturing the opulent feel in rich deep green, gold and burgundy; glossed tiled walls imposed upon by industrial steel barricaded doors and windows of present day.

Eerie symbolism stirs The Kings Arms, Holbeck photo, a shadowed cemetery in the foreground, nameless crestfallen headstones, a path meandering down to the pub; foretelling the viewer the outcome of said path.

I became acquainted with each pub, through a roller coaster of sadness and happy retrospect. Reaching the end, I found myself hit with two piles of bricks, (not literally of course), to my shock the last two images were but the poignant remnants; piles of bricks of all that was left, carefully instigated to cause such a reaction. Etchell’s point all along was to celebrate this British Institution, urging us to act now rather than in hindsight, bearing in mind the statistic of 52 pubs closing each week the first half of 2009. This photographic documentation is still an ongoing cause for Etchell who continue to seek additional public houses to add to his work.

The exhibition at the Surface Gallery, ending Saturday 30th January, is definitely worth a trip before last orders. 


I dedicate this review to the memory of the Leaking Boot, Cleethorpes and Harworth Miners Welfare, Harworth (aka the two piles of bricks).

Surface Gallery

16 Southwell Road

Nottingham NG1 1DL

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