Last summer photographer Robin Mellor was visiting a psychedelics conference in Greenwich, London. By chance, on the same day in another part of the venue, a very different kind of event was happening: a Cliff Richard concert. Robin has come along with “my camera and a couple of films on the off chance I bumped into some sort of psychedelic wizard,” he tells It’s Nice That, “but the Cliff fans were far more intriguing.”
Anyone watching the news yesterday (18 July) will know that Cliff Richard has won his privacy case against the BBC in a court case which has raised several questions surrounding media law. Outside court Cliff fans were there in full force, one woman even travelled with her dog in tow, giving you a sense of how dedicated Cliff fans – human or canine – are.
It was this fascination with him that Robin experienced too last year, admitting he was hardly a fan himself before his chance encounter: “Prior to taking these pictures, and obviously meeting a lot of his super fans, I think my view of him was on the extreme end of a washed up pop-star, the place where someone couldn’t get any lamer, edging out his days, microphone in hand at Wimbledon singing insipid songs to soggy old ladies,” says Robin. “At best, a sexless rubber-faced old man, maybe worse.”
However when faced with “so many hardcore looking Cliff fans,” Robin had a moment of “I have to photograph this”. Assisted by Anna Murray, some Cliff Richard talent spotting chats ensued, “hearing stories about Cliff and their passion for not just his music but more so him as a man, it really changed my perspective on him,” he continues. “They were all such lovely, warm, genuine people that something just rubbed off on me and I have to say my opinion of him is completely different now. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m a born-again Cliff fan.”
A small collection of photographs, Robin’s pictures are candid shots of Cliff’s mega fans and their brilliant Cliff-focused attire. Taken of people he “grabbed out of the heaving queue as they waited to see the man himself,” each portrait shows the eager excitement of those waiting to meet a hero. Cliff’s fans have the same gleaming smiles, with slight nervousness, that you see of One Direction teenage fans. “Talking to them about Cliff was almost like talking to someone about a religious figure,” says Robin. They wouldn’t talk so much about the music, but more of him as a person, they really loved him (and I think I might a bit now too), telling me stories of things he’s done for people. I think it’s also the fact they’ve grown up with him and to see him still doing his ‘thing’, strutting around on stage at the age of 77, gives them energy too.”
PS. Please note the woman who’s tote bag is a printed photograph of her and Cliff.
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