10 Nov 2017

Spotlight On: Alec Gill’s Hessle Roaders

A flashback to the golden age of Hull’s fishing communities.

In 1971, local historian Alec Gill spent time on Hessle Road capturing its residents with his Rolleicord camera. Hessle Road had a strong, working-class identity, as an area where Hull’s trawlermen and their families lived, in addition to many warehouse and factory workers. It was also the home of the famous trawler safety campaigner, Lillian Bilocca.

In 2017, Alec’s black and white photographs transport us back in time to the period where Hessle Road was the heart of Hull’s fishing community. These snapshots touch upon the everyday lives of the road’s inhabitants, with children playing on the streets, neighbours gossiping in the terraces, dock workers going about their business and Three-Day Millionaires having a ball.

Washing woman and kids in Derwent Avenue, Westbourne Street (27 March 1978) by Alec Gill

Over the course of 15 years, Alec built up an impressive portfolio of over 6,600 negatives, capturing the spirit of the close-knit neighbourhood during a time of dramatic social change.

He said: “I see myself more as a psychologist with a camera than a photographer. 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.”

24 photographs from Alec Gill’s Hessle Roaders series is on display at Hull Truck until 18 November. The exhibition coincides with the theatre’s latest production, The Last Testament Of Lillian Bilocca, written by Maxine Peak.


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