Photographer Bex Day heads to the Welsh coast to capture the die hard Elvis fans that are still keeping the King alive
Ever since I documented Lakeside Darts in January 2016, where I met a man dressed as Elvis in a Hawaiian shirt that told me about the annual Porthcawl Elvis Festival, I couldn’t quite contain my excitement. Finally, those eight painfully slow months passed by, and I was able to drive up and stay in a caravan in the Welsh town of Porthcawl. Located on the beachfront, it reminded me of Britain’s alternative to Coney Island.
The festival hosts a variety of Elvis acts over a weekend in late September, and plays host to attractions including a shooting range This is where I met Callum, a young ginger haired boy who looks like a porcelain doll; I waited patiently whilst he shot tin cans with his father.
There were vintage clothes shops, Elvis memorabilia stands and Mangas Colaradas, who sells Native American gear and does snake shows across the world (unfortunately, his pet snake died, so he decided to attach it to his hat).
Ranging from three year old to over 70s, the weekend presented a variety of unusual and unique individuals. A favourite of mine was Mason Wilcox’s costume, dressed in a red and white metallic panelled jumpsuit complete with aviators. The mother of eight-year-old Wilcox told me he wants to work in Morrison’s supermarket when he grows up, and his favourite thing about the festival is “having my photo taken”; he sure knew how to pose.
Paul Rogers, 67, used to work as a caretaker in a local school is his hometown of Pontypool, and is now retired. His son, Kieron, owns a caravan in Porthcawl, and it was their second time at the festival. “I think Elvis is still alive and he will always be the King,” says Rogers, who sourced his Elvis costume locally. His love for Elvis began in his teenage years, when he started listening to ‘the King’s’ music at age 15: “I heard him on the radio and started watching his films, and after that I started buying his records more and more.”
Amiee Davis, 28, is another huge Elvis fan, and even has him tattooed on her arm. She lives in Hengoed, south Wales, and comes to the festival every year: “The thing I like most about the festival is the like-minded people — who love Elvis — all gathering together to sing and dance all weekend,” she adds, clothed in a striking polka dot dress. “I have a wardrobe full of ’50s dresses, it’s my favourite era.”
As the sun began to set there was a distinct change in energy; drunk teens roused as the darkness descended, chips were scattered on the tarmac and empty cider cans dominated the walkway. “Give us a kiss, love,” my final subject retorted. I decided it was time to leave.
Photography Bex Day