WHO'S FOR A FUN KNEES-UP? Working Men's Clubs Were Once the Staple Entertainment Diet of Welsh Life in the Country's Cities and Town's. Sam Malone Looks at a Cardiff Exhibition Centred on These Great Institutions

Article excerpt

Byline: Sam Malone

THEY may be in decline as they struggle to recruit young members - but as these pictures show, working men's clubs still have plenty of life in them yet.

Establishments across South Wales are slowly closing their doors, but these images by photographer Martin Parr go some way to dispelling the theory that they are just for an older generation.

With vibrant colours and a real sense of drama the exhibition depicts the kind of Saturday night celebrations you would only expect to see in a nightclub.

Mr Parr said he is fascinated by the institutions and was attracted to the clubs in South Wales, which are bucking the trend and recruiting new blood.

He said: "It's the dancing that I really like. Regardless of age, when those familiar numbers are played, up we all get, shaking our bodies and waving our arms, singing along. Our mutual pop history is part of our DNA.

"Often bands bring their own lighting to dramatise the stage show. With whirling colours and flashing lights, the heady combination of four generations dancing together was, for me, the highlight of this project."

Canton Liberal Working Men's Club, one of the clubs which features in the exhibition, is one of the few in South Wales which is frequently seeing numbers rise. Ken Connolly, chairman of the club, said: "We class ourselves as a real community club and on Saturday nights we regularly get about 150 to 160 people.

"We put on a host of activities through the week, from bingo to indoor bowls and we always have a strong showing at the weekends."

Mr Connolly said the club had been lucky to recruit new members and that this was down to a number of nearby clubs closing.

Yet, while he said the club was in good health because of the young people involved, he said it still maintained a family feel. "There is a strong sense of family here," he said. "All my family have been members. My brother was a member before he died, as was my father. My brother kept up his membership, even though he moved to Australia."

Emma Price, co-curator of the exhibition, said Mr Parr had captured the essence off the workingmen's club as cultural institutions in delivering the Saturday night out. …