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Eastbourne Wetherspoon's, June 2023
Photography Rae Martins Ashton

These photos capture the charm of the classic British night out

Photographer Rae Martins Ashton heads to a Wetherspoons in Eastbourne to find out if high street nightlife is really dying out

Introducing Horror Nation?, a new season from Dazed about the current state of the UK from the perspective of the young people who live here.

For many of us, high street clubs and pubs provide our first encounter with the world of nightlife, but the small-town night out is in a state of crisis, with changing attitudes and the cost of living forcing many venues to shut down. Photographer Rae Martins Ashton headed back to her hometown of Eastbourne to capture the enduring and timeless allure of a British staple – a night out at Wetherspoons. Here, they describe the experience.

“Eastbourne is a small town on the south coast of East Sussex, and has quite a lack of nightlife in comparison to London, or surrounding towns and cities like Brighton. When I lived there we had one club and some pubs – two of which were Wetherspoons.

Cornfield Garage Wetherspoons has always been known as the go-to venue, seeing hundreds of young people across the weekends. Not having been in almost four years, it was as busy as I’d remembered but the crowd felt younger, with the majority of people aged between 18 and 20, all coming from the local area or Brighton University. A smaller portion of the pub were older men who were around for the football.

Each group was having a good night, but it felt really different to the inner city crowds I’m usually around – they were more timid. Being a little younger than me, and the majority having only lived in the town, they were shy to have their photo taken, and not many were familiar with Dazed (it’s hard to get a hold of around the area). But still, everyone was eventually super up for taking part, and by the end, the last ones standing were requesting photoshoots.

I shot the photographs across a couple of weekends and am still shocked at how audibly quiet it was – though it was busy in the venue, we’d be walking into the town centre at midnight and would see no people or cars the whole journey, which felt weird after being in London. It was a reminder of why I was so keen to leave. It did feel like the town was somewhat more diverse than when I’d lived there though, or at least slowly moving towards that, and I met some people I imagine I’ll be friends with for a long time.

In terms of the beauty looks, there were two common aesthetics with the girls across the nights. The first was the out-out girls in full beat and dresses, and the second was the more casual look, made up of sportswear and lighter make-up. I think my favourite beauty look was the first person I shot: I went to the toilets before starting and there was a girl in there with the most gorgeous haircut and outfit, we ended up chatting about the project and taking a quick photo. She had a full fringe and slightly longer blunt cut pieces round the front, but the rest was down to her hips. She had fine line tattoos dotted across her chest and arms, and was wearing a long blue dress with separate white sleeves and a chunky diamond Pokémon necklace. Her look stood out and was one of the most unique, and a fun start to the project.”

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