Features

A town on the brink of change with Simon Martin

On the outskirts of London, small towns and villages are undergoing big changes. With the cost of living spiralling above your average salary and rented properties having their price hiked up, new housing developments are being built around the edges of London, known now as ‘commuter towns’. One such town is Sittinbourne, hometown of photographer Simon Martin and the focus point for his ongoing project Bearing Fruit.

Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin

“The project started with a deeply personal response to the plans, I felt a lot of my childhood and identity was being taken away. As I’ve grown older I’ve realised that I have those memories and that is fine, I don’t need a walk in time capsule to have them.”

With development going ahead in Sittingbourne, Martin explores not only the change of the physical landscape, but the changes in the people who live there too. Change is something we are all going through in the UK, from Brexit to life in lockdown. But change isn’t always for the best, even if it is inevitable. The development of Sittingbourne has split its community, a tension that can be found within Martin’s portraits. 

“Opinions vary depending on who you speak to, a lot of the wealthier parts of town are frustrated and don’t want their lives changed by busier roads and large housing estates; others just want a Primark and a new bingo hall.” 

Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin
Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin
Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin

Although the expansion of towns and small cities can be a positive thing for jobs and attracting new visitors, the loss of identity is something that has been seen across the UK. Small independent businesses can’t compete with the big chains when they set up shop close to new residential builds for new residents convenience. Bearing Fruit brings this to the forefront, there’s an emptiness to scenes depicted and a level of anxious anticipation on the faces of local residents. The photographs have this quiet patience about them, a sleepy town with industrial roots, waiting for this change to be sprung upon them. There is a strong sense of community and how spaces are used by local residents, a sense of hanging on to identity comes across. This sense of hanging on is felt by Martin himself;

Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin
Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin
Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin

“The project started with a deeply personal response to the plans, I felt a lot of my childhood and identity was being taken away. As I’ve grown older I’ve realised that I have those memories and that is fine, I don’t need a walk in time capsule to have them.”

With the memory of what a town once was and being documented as it begins to change, Bearing Fruit holds a unique place as a transitional moment in the town’s history. A place where the community carve out the traditions and future of the town, clinging on to the past whilst looking into the future.

Bearing Fruit – Simon Martin

You can find more of Simon’s work here: https://www.simon-martin.org/

Want to feature on Darwin Magazine? Submit your work to submit@darwinmagazine.co.uk

Join our community and stay tuned for updates and opportunities here – www.instagram.com/darwinmagazine/