Benidorm – Age 7

The sun, the sea, the sand and the ultimate resort of time past. Benidorm. Here you can go abroad as an Englishman and be greeted with a pint of beer and absolutely nothing foreign, except for the warm glow of sunshine.

At seven years old, it was the first holiday I ever went on. Surrounded by inflatables, hit playlists, and hoards of families just like my own scheduling the day’s fun activities

I immediately felt sick. It’s true that the colorama of stolen ice lollies swirling inside me had not created a good feeling. But the artificial colours weren’t just inside, they were everywhere. It was the kind of indulgence that should have made anybody feel ill and even as a child, I hated it.

But there must be something more to the place with an Elvis every night of the week. Maybe, I had got Benidorm all wrong. So I decided to embark on a photography project to transform a memory.

Visiting off-season I would get to encounter the sun-worshippers that had turned the holiday of a lifetime into just that, settling into deckchairs forever. In Benidorm all you had to do was burn your skin to a tangerine crisp and, like wearing a football shirt, you could say I belong here, I am on holiday. Maybe that could be me too. So I loaded my Olympus LT point and shoot with Kodak Gold 200, the holiday film of my childhood, and I went back. Walking down the corridor to the hotel room was exactly the same, the hotel noise, the paper thin walls, the thud of Eastenders streaming from TV’s across the hotel. Time had stood still in Benidorm. Even my room was the same, I already knew where the sink was, I already knew the smell and I hated it all, all over again.

At night I had wanted to capture nice portraits of kitsch singers and magical, timeless holidays, some kind of British Vegas. I thought it must be great to get up there every night and perform. But even the best performers were there to sing to a half-filled room and what had somehow found its way onto the stage alongside wannabe stardom and even genuine talent, was the rhetoric of racist clichés.

Day after day and night after night I walked the empty November streets, lined with union jacks, casual racism, a fry up, and a fight. Benidorm was an escape from England that celebrates every aspect of being English. A place designed on laziness and the familiar, a holiday from thinking. I had decided to shoot it all from the waist, capturing it through the eyes of my seven-year-old self, seeing the same things all over again but really, that’s all Benidorm has ever been.