Photographing Blackpool's Hens and Stags
Dougie Wallace spent three years photographing Blackpool's hens and stags.
Being naked and cling-filmed to a lamppost is probably every man's idea of hell – except when that man is on a stag weekend in Blackpool, I guess. Glaswegian photographer Dougie Wallace spent the past three years taking advantage of the lowered inhibitions that come with that "last day of freedom". Having travelled to and from Blackpool about thirty times, he's shot the town's stags and hens in various states of undress and drunkenness; revelling in bars, puking in the street, refuelling at chip shops.
Initially Dougie posted the images on Facebook but as friends of friends got to sharing them, the project took on its own momentum. Now it’s being published as a book called Stags, Hens and Bunnies.
I caught up with Dougie to talk Blackpool, booze and blow-up cocks.
VICE: When did the Blackpool stag and hen industry become such a big deal?
Dougie Wallace: I lived in Blackpool in the 1980s and I used to go out there with a football club from Glasgow. There weren’t many stag and hen dos happening then, but it was still pretty mental. It was a place to get wasted at weekends.
You know, 'hen' parties didn't assume their modern form until the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. Now everything's been turned into an excuse to get drunk.
Does that bother you? In the intro to your book you say: "Blackpool deserves better than to stagger into the sea with an inflatable cock."
I think it can be compared to how people talk about Shoreditch these days. It was great once upon a time, when there were only a couple of bars, and it’s great now too. It wouldn’t have been that great now if it had just stayed as it was – it would have been boring. Change is a good thing. Also, it’s not like it's a stag and hen convention. You can walk about for hours before seeing one.
Where are those hen and stag groups from?
There are a lot of Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh people but not so many Londoners. I think Blackpool is a little wild for southerners.
Who were the rowdiest stags or hens you met in Blackpool?
There's a photo of a nurse crowdsurfing – that's a pretty good group. They were all dressed as nurses. Dirty Dancing was playing on the screen behind her and she looks like her tits are about to fall out. She looks a bit like Tracey Emin, actually.
Does anyone actually misbehave?
Not really. There’s lots of drinking but not much sex. There’s this idea that it’s "one last night of freedom" but by the time they’ve got drunk, it’s all over. The girls go back in groups and the boys go back too. Their dads are there, their uncles, their bosses, somebody from the other side of the family. I'd get into more trouble photographing a group of boys in Manchester.
A couple of people in your photos look pissed off. Have you ever had people react badly to your pointing and shooting?
There’s the Bridezilla one – but she wasn’t pointing at me, it just looks like that. She was actually having a laugh, she was Scottish, you see. She’s probably just saying, "Who’s going in the taxi first?" But there’s one woman in a taxi wearing a rock and roll skirt, who’s having a wee tantrum.
The thing is, you’re playing with people’s boundaries. I always say, if you walked down Oxford Street handing out a tenner to everybody, someone would go, "Who do you think you are, do you think I’m poor?" Since Heat magazine was launched, everybody’s versed in what a model release form is and they all think they’re media lawyers now. So you get a bit of that too.
Does all the booze make your job easier or more difficult?
It can go either way. I’ve had groups of girls before where they kind of commandeer you, like you’re their official photographer for the night. If they get right drunk, they can get aggressive. But it's not really predictable. You’ve just got to use your intuition, check people's body language and not go near someone if they look like a bit of a nutter. But at the same you can’t be too scared. I’ve never been punched or anything.
Have you ever organised a stag do yourself?
Where would you like to go if you did?
Blackpool would be good. Or maybe somewhere a bit warmer.
You can see the rest of the series on Dougie’s website.
Stags, Hens and Bunnies will be published on the 17th of July by Dewi Lewis Media.
An exhibition of his work runs from the 25th of July until the 3rd of August at the Hoxton Gallery, 9 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AA – midday until 8pm every day.
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