“Hostel” – a ‘Week in the Life’

INTRODUCTION: There are hostels all over London. They typically cater for travellers from Canada, America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia: people working and studying in the UK for short periods of time, adventurers on a budget. However ‘The Cricketers’, in Elephant and Castle, seems to attract another, more motley bunch. UK residents, older than the average student or traveller, co-exist with the flow of internationals and tend to be billeted in seven-bed dormitories. Belying the stereotype of the transient; some of these people have stayed for years. For them, the very cheapest accommodation is a priority. The sporadic shift work undertaken by these chefs, postal workers and security guards results in a nightly traffic of weary bodies collapsing into, and heaving out of, creaking metal bunk beds. The Cricketers is a beaten, crooked building nestled between a parking bay and a pizza delivery outlet. There is no receptionist, no student bar, no breakfast, not much sleep and never, ever any privacy.

Separation from relationships and estrangement from children, the need to pay divorce maintenance coupled with the severe lack of affordable housing, has led these longer-term residents here. I moved in and became part of the hostel. After living there for a time I pinned up a notice asking if anyone might let me to take their portrait and interview them about their lives, about how they had come to be in ‘The Cricketers’ and what their future plans were. Their stories, interesting, sad, hopeful, funny and true, were as fascinatingly varied as the people themselves.

The hostel has three floors, several dormitories (the larger, the cheaper) two bathrooms and three toilets. Life centres on the kitchen, a hub of activity at whatever time of day or night, or in the television lounge downstairs, residents chipping in to a weekly ‘food pot’ fund evening meals, cooked by one of the resident chefs.

A tension was evident between the needs of a group of disparate, mainly transient, people. There was the need to co-exist and the desire to form closer friendships and lasting bonds. Definite hierarchies had formed between the residents in the hostel but there was always the sense that newcomers were welcome. Consistently though, the search for a piece of personal privacy was difficult in such a limited social space.

After being accepted as ‘one of them’ I was able to photograph moments of fun, reflection, sadness and community. Their stories were shared with me, along with the opportunity to take formal portraits. Thanks goes to all who participated and made me feel very welcome. It was quite an experience!

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. reem says:

    Nice to see the famous hostel shots 🙂 I like the ones of the hostel from the outside at night, and the portraits of Monique. Looks like a world of its own.

    1. Thanks Reem. A world of it’s own is a good description. Hope your project is going well and see you soon.

  2. Aymeric says:

    Excellent ! It’s such a good moment for me to bring back my memory of the time spent in the Cricketers ! Thank you Mr photograph.
    I don’t remember the names of old-stayers but I recognized most of them, like Derek, Ward the old-timer back-packer, the guy from Cameroon, the british chef, and many more who are left now.
    But where’s Fernando ? Isn’t he still the supervisor of the place ?

    1. Hi Aymeric, good to hear from you. Yes, one or two of them are still there. Dennis and Del feature in a lot of the photos because they were always in the kitchen! And John the scottish chef was a good subject. Fernando had an appointment with me so I could take his portrait but it never happened. However he bumped into me at the Cuming Museum in London when the photographs were exhibited and he saw them then. Take Care, Steve

      1. Aymeric says:

        I was there in 2010, between July and October. Did I meet you one time ? Did you know me ?

      2. No, I was there for a short time in June 2011.

  3. Carlos says:

    The Cricketersss!!! It´s a really nice place…. I remember lots of things, lots of parties, always in the kitchen, during the winter, and in the summer the barbecues outside….without showers, without plates, without heating, without keys, without hot-water, 2 washing-machines, both of them broken…..aaaahh old times….old good times…. I remember Derek, Fernando of course (maybe now he is stronger than Schwarzenegger hahaha), Michaela, Alex, John, Clive, Ward (cooking broccoli since 23 pm to 4 am hahahahah), Sergiu (mojito´s partyyy yeahhh), Maximiliano, Andrea, Massimo (maybe he is in thailand or wherever around the world), Julia, Andrew, Aymeric…. all of them good guys. I was at cricketers, since October 2010 to April 2011. It was a pleasure to be there, and met all of them….., and i hope to see you again guys…. A big hug por everybody!!

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