Archivist’s updates

SEAS Photography archivist Nigel Breadman will give occasional updates. Much of Nigel’s time is spent archiving the current collection and working closely with our growing team of volunteers. Do note that these snippets will inevitably be occasional as Nigel is rightly busy tending the various collections. His views are his own – and all the more pithy for that… Nigel's more distilled and regular postings can be found on our Twitter site @seasphotography

Members of the Bolshoi Ballet disembarking from Russian plane diverted to Manston airport. Manston, Kent. October 1st 1956

Bolshoi Ballet star ballet dancer Galina Ulanova aboard East Kent Coach leaving Manston airbase for London. October 1956

Newly arrived members of the Bolshoi ballet company standing on the tarmac at Manston airbase waiting for star ballet dancer Galina Ulanova to disembark from their plane. October 1st 1956.

Jan 22

Tales from the archive

Occasional stories discovered from photographs contained in our archive.

In 1956 with the Cold War raging the word famous Bolshoi Ballet, after much diplomatic activity, agreed to perform at Covent Garden in London. 

The company included Galina Ulanova described by composer Prokofiev as “the genius of Russian ballet, its elusive soul and its inspired poetry”. Rudolf Nureyev considered her to be, “the world's Number One Ballerina".

The Bolshoi Company’s visit did not go smoothly. A dock strike delayed the landing of their scenery and their USSR state plane was prevented from landing at Heathrow and had to be diverted to Manston airport, then an American airbase,  touching down on October 1st.

The performers along with some KGB minders no doubt disembarked onto Thanet soil by means of a hastily constructed platform and ladder. All except Ulanova who refused to get off until she had received official permission from Moscow. 

Then, from Manston under the gaze of the press, ITN news, excited public and American airport police the company left on a hastily hired East Kent coach bound for London. The season was a great success, sold out before a single performance was performed.

Photos in the archive show the company members disembarking with some trepidation and standing on the runway looking up waiting for Ulanova to appear.  She is also seen sitting in the front of the coach awaiting departure.

You can read more about the visit here

Three young women with rucksacks boarding an East Kent bus at Margate Harbour, Margate, Kent.

Jan 19

SEAS Photography & the Sunbeam Collection

Nigel the SEAS Photography Archivist has kindly allowed me to infiltatre his space to write some concluding notes and thanks as we draw Phase 1 at SEAS' to a close.

Our project 'SEAS Photography & the Sunbeam Collection' ended on the last day of November 2014 and in December the digitised archive was returned to our project partners at Margate Museum and Thanet District Council.

This significant archiving was made possible through support from the Heritage Lottery Fund who like us, believed in the significance of these images, reflecting back as they do ordinary lives - often made strange - and where the ordinary is shown in all its extraordinary beauty.  This archiving of the Sunbeam Collection has of course benefited from the contributions of many people and the success in delivery would not have been possible without the extraordinary SEAS volunteers, who gave their time and expertise so generously. Generosity also came from the public, who contributed their own precious images to the Collection and many of these family photographs were exhibited at the 'Beyond the View: Reframing the Sunbeam Collection' at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury in July-August 2014.

But our final thanks and acknowledgement must go to the Sunbeam workers and photographers, without whom this rich and revealling seam of imagery just would not exist.

We hope you enjoy looking at as much as we have enjoyed working with this wonderful Collection.

As we move into 2015 we begin a new archive project, cataloguing and digitisng the Dreamland Collection. In addition we continue to research aspects of the Sunbeam Collection as in Autumn 2014, it came to light that many images boxed as 'Sunbeam' are actually those of local press photographers. It is proving a delightfully tricky process to disentangle, but such challenges are what the Archive thrives upon.

Various research projects are also developing from the Archive, including examining the role of women seaside photographers and uncovering the earliest of itinerant tintype photographers working the main sands on the Isle of Thanet. In addition we are organising an event: 'SEABATHERS: Reflections and Responses'  to be held at Turner Contemporary on the May Bank Holiday weekend of 2015. Tickets for this event will be available online shortly.

For now, we hope you continue to enjoy this website and thank you for your contributions thus far to the South East Archive of Seaside Photography.

Karen Shepherdson, Director of SEAS Photography




Portrait of postman from Thanet, Kent,

Jul 29

Post Conference Post

It has been nearly three weeks since the opening of our exhibition and our SEAS photography conference Beyond the View at the Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury.  During this interval the SEAS team has been in recovery mode and the welcome downtime has given me the opportunity to reflect and review.




The conference and private view passed like a dream, a good dream, not the sort when you wake up thinking, what was that all about, but the one where you turn over and try to get back into it again. It went without a hitch, hitchless (if that is a word) would be a very good description. We had great attendance, brilliant speakers and some good publicity – I even got my mug on the TV courtesy of BBC South East Today AND before the 9pm watershed, has OFCOM been notified yet?

Even the weather came onside with a dreary grey canopy and some unseasonable temperatures to keep the delegates cool and attentive at the Sidney Cooper and Turner Contemporary. Yes, we do like to be beside the seaside.




Our success built on meticulous planning would have counted for nothing without our wonderful student volunteers who were just brilliant  helping, guiding, explaining, serving, photographing, fetching, carrying and being so enthusiastic from the off. Thanks (in no particular order) goes to Alice, Natalie, Hayley, Jason and Steve.  Furthermore our intern Alice has kept a blog detailing how the exhibition was put together and you can read her observations here




The foundation of what went into the exhibition was the Stirling work done by our community volunteers – too many to name – who have attended the archive room at the Broadstairs campus of Canterbury Christ Church University on a regular basis to assist with the scanning of the Sunbeam material.  

They have made a massive contribution getting the job done , we are indebted to them and are uplifted weekly by the warmth of their dedication and enthusiasm.

Likewise we have to thank the many members of the public who have showered us with Sunbeam walkies from their personal collections. Without these our exhibition would be much the poorer, as put together they provided a magnificent focal point and a beautiful tribute to the work of the Sunbeam photographers for over 50 years.




Lastly we would like to thank everybody who attended and gave us such warm and generous feedback.

Remember that the exhibition is still on until the 23rd August , and if you cannot get to Canterbury or have missed it altogether you can purchase the exhibition publication online here.




So long for now. Happy viewing.

1970 World Cup football promotion event at Thanet, Kent.

Jun 03

Our cup, it runneth over.

Sandwiched between the second semi-final and the final of the football World Cup will be our two-day exhibition and conference Beyond the View

By then it could be all over for Roy’s lads and one could argue that even if Margate isn’t exactly Rio, for us at SEAS this event is going to be our Maracanã

Yes we've made it through the qualifying stages of the HLF bid, we’ve selected our highly trained squad and we have been scouting out the best we could find to represent SEAS at the Sidney Cooper Gallery from the 11th of July.

Roy, he had it easy having to choose 23 from less than 100 we have had to select 36 from about 7000!
A heavy but enjoyable task with many decisions to make. With these images do we go for a 4-4-2 on the back wall or a 4-5-1, and what goes up front?
I’ve been busy scanning, printing and then passing onwards for framing. Alice, our intern keeping it between the woodwork where clean tackle (no dribbling allowed) is essential.
We are nearly ready for kick off and a little bit ahead of the game, no Fergie-time needed for us.
So, if you are looking for a distraction to calm the nerves should England make it all the way, or if you need an escape from the beautiful game come along and see some beautiful frames - (back of the net!).
We’ll be ‘over the moon’ if you do!
For more information, follow the link below.

Dalek and children at carnival parade, Thanet, Kent. 1965

Person in Dalek costume outside polling station at Thanet, Kent. 1965

Dec 20

I’m still here.

Whaddya mean ‘Where have you been?’ I’ve been scanning for Britain me, well maybe not Britain but SEAS, but it certainly feels like it.

Since our return in September scanning of the Sunbeam archive has continued apace with the help of our volunteers old and new and we have made significant progress into the glass negative collection and I am starting to delve into more recent material, when I say recent I mean 1960s negatives.

Interestingly all of the smaller format negatives after 1961 are on film as photographing on glass started to become obsolete. There is a further transition as the decade progresses starting in the early sixties on 5x4inch film then moving onto 6x6cm medium format and then by 1969 onwards  most if not all photography was done on 35mm.

In all we have scanned a total of 6055 Sunbeam images  so I thought I would break some of that down for you  - so here goes.

Walkies donated by the public 709

Daleks 5 (See Left)

Cowboys 21

Clowns 13

Robots 1

Beauty Queens  185

Elephants  3 (including one fake)

Crashes 63

France 15

Ex Prime Ministers 2 (Attlee and Heath)

Actors 97 ( including  John Mills, Jack Warner, Jack Hawkins, Margaret Rutherford and Diana Dors)

Pop idols  8 ( all Adam Faith)

Surface to air missiles 1

Me 2 

(Yes Me! I stumbled across a photograph of myself taken at my primary school prize giving in 1965 – what’s the chances of that happening!)

The next step is to get more of this material onto the website so I am preparing for a big push in the New Year.

So from all at SEAS Photography may I wish you a very Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year.

2014 is going to be a busy and exciting year for us with our big exhibition coming up. Watch this space.

Until the next time, happy viewing.