The Caravan Gallery

Broadway, Norris Green

Reviewed by Tom Bottle 23/11/2010

What a little gem! The tiny mustard caravan that is The Caravan Gallery plastered with photographs of Britain the advertising boys swerve like the plague. The bits they can’t airbrush and blag that is - the quirky, nutty, strangeness of the real Britain. Parked between Bet Fred and the One Stop Shop outside Broady Market I spring in, landing in the middle of the gallery floor.

“OH! HELLO. No one ever does that! They usually hover outside and peer in”, smiles Jan, then instantly welcomes me like a lost dog. Seconds later the place is packed! Someone else has nudged in.

Jan and Chris(topher) have trekked everywhere, grotty and nice, for the la,st ten years “recording all the stuff that gets ignored”. Grumpy café owners (‘We don’t sell mushrooms. Never have done. So don’t bother asking.’) empty bingo halls at the ‘height’ of the season, locked gates no one would look at twice until they spot the sign: ‘Leave the ENTRANCE clear and DON’T PISS!’
Someone’s hovering.

“Come in”, says Jan, with a smile - “People are great! You never know what they are going to say”.
“Any pictures of Prescot, love?” says the new arrival.
“No, we haven’t been there”, says Jan.
“Its only for the brother-in-law, like. He says to keep an eye out for any, y’know.”
“Do you live in Prescot?”
“No, round here, but I’ve had enough. We’re going to the Isle of Wight. Her uncle has a place there”.

He looks around the photographs, spying one of Asda.

“I’d be lost without an Asda. They haven’t got one in the Isle of Wight, y’know. They better get one before we sell the house”. And then he’s gone.

“What made you start this, Jan?” I ask.
“Being nosey and curious”.

Before I can get any further two coppers come in. No, hang on, two women community bobbies. You could tell they weren’t real when one of them saw the photograph of the last house on an estate in Birkenhead defiantly flying a union jack on a giant pole.

“Why doesn’t he move?” she says.
“Why should he?” demands her mate, “He’s probably sick of being pushed around by councils and governments.”

Blimey! Here comes the revolution. Maybe not…

“If my daughter went out like that, I’d kill her!” A pic showing the craze for wannabe WAGS with monster rollers in their hair.
“Blame Coleen”, laughs Jan, “She started it”.
Others might say it began with seventeenth century individualism, but that’s just a crowd I used to run around with.

A lot of the photographs are about people doing their own thing. People going over the top with the Christmas lights, wearing that muffin top come what may, scrawling all over their own homes in protest at failed regeneration schemes. Fed up with corporate, rose-tinted bull, and frustrated by their “yawning omissions”, Jan and Chris’s pictures show their idea of the real Britain.

“Everywhere is interesting” says Chris, “It’s a record of everyday life and how it’s changing”.
“What interesting place do you come from?” I ask.
“Portsmouth”, says Jan, “A northern city in the south”. Anyone confirm this?
And so the ‘Bobble’ (a Bluebird Europe 1969) trundles on. Another town, another place, another wacky picture.

A couple of months ago I was dragged off screaming to Blackpool and all the grim absurdity of a prize bingo hall with just an ancient mother and son combo lost among the empty seats. Playing the same board they can’t lose but, in the six games I saw they had to be told every time they had won. ‘BLACKPOOL! THE THRILLS! THE SPILLS!’, and the reality.

To see the photographs for yourself check out

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