Hessle Roaders exhibition honours the magic and the tragic

Published: Monday 30th October 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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Following hugely popular runs at Hull History Centre and St John the Baptist Church, a selection of charming images by Alec Gill are to be displayed at Hull Truck Theatre.

Taken from his larger Hessle Roaders exhibition, the 24 photos coincide with Hull Truck Theatre and Hull UK City of Culture 2017’s production of The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca, which pays tribute to Hull’s famous trawler safety campaigner.

An unashamedly honest flashback to the golden age of Hull’s fishing community, the black and white photographs share visual snippets of everything from dockworkers and three-day millionaires, to the mothers and children that filled Hessle Road’s streets with working class character.

Over fifteen years during the 1970s and 1980s, Alec built up over 6,600 negatives to document the freedom that came so naturally to Hessle Road and its inhabitants. He also became an author and video producer during this time, changing his techniques as the technology developed.

The collection of images complemented and helped to shape Alec’s career as a historian and visual storyteller, eternalising a truly unique and pragmatic way of life.

Whilst the photographs show how the streets, buildings and skyline have transformed over the years, their main purpose is to highlight the inherent culture of Hull and its dynamic fishing heritage.

“Hessle Road is the spinal cord that ran through Hull’s deep-sea fishing community,” Alec tells us. “I see myself more as a psychologist with a camera than a photographer.”

Despite the hugeness of Alec’s portfolio, he never sought funding for his photographic work. However, for Hull’s year as UK City of Culture 2017, Hull-based global medical technology business Smith & Nephew sponsored the production of the exhibition. This is very fitting, with the company having been a Hessle Road employer since 1907.

“The people there lived both a magic and tragic life; magic in the sense that of all seafarers, none were more superstitious than fishermen. Tragic in that Arctic trawling was the most perilous job in the world.”

The 24 images on display relate to the essence of The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca, written by Maxine Peake, which runs at The Guildhall 3-18 November. The Hessle Roaders can be viewed on Hull Truck Theatre’s upper foyer for free until 18 November.

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Published: Monday 30th October 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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