FISH! is a new exhibition on display at Hull Independent Photography Gallery, Prospect Centre, Hull. Here is Nigel Walker who talks about the team of photographers and what it was like to work on the project and reveal stories from Hull's fishing industry.
Once the photographers in The People - an experienced, informal, not-for-profit group based in Hull and East Yorkshire - had finished their exhibition Human Impact they wanted another story to tell. That exhibition had concentrated on the lives of people in HU postcodes during the pandemic and provided a compelling archive of resilience in the face of unexpected challenges. What other story might be told with a similar impact?
It wasn’t long before the story of Hull fisherfolk emerged as a front runner. Most people were very familiar with the Triple Trawler Tragedy, the sinking of the Gaul and the determination of the Headscarf Revolutionaries but what was it like to live through the demise of the industry and its proud traditions? Many of the people involved in the industry were now well into retirement and their stories, it was felt, needed to be told now.
The five photographers took themselves to the Hull Fishing Heritage Centre and worked with them and their members to identify people who might take part. They attended memorial services as well as the opening of the new premises for the Centre and met many people who had links with the industry. Not everyone wished to take part but soon a rich tapestry of tales began to reveal themselves. There were the trawlermen themselves of course and those who worked on the docks and in associated industries. Families were a rich source of memories too and some of the researchers who had helped record the history contributed as well.
By the time the exhibition was ready to open forty one portraits had been taken, many in places that had significance in the memories of those involved, and the sixty word stories accompanying each were printed and ready for display.
We were grateful to receive sponsorship from both North Sea Fishing Company and match funding from Hull Maritime which made it easier to get good prints made and to publicise the event as well as produce a book that celebrated the exhibition and those who took part. The exhibition opened to the public on Saturday 8 July at the Hull Independent Photography Gallery on Prospect Street, just behind the Amy Johnson statue. Seventy five people attended that day and there have been many visitors since with up to thirty people a day passing through.
It has been lovely to see those involved coming with their families as well as meeting people who have just popped by because they have heard about it. We have received support with publicity from Hull Maritime of course, the PR company working with North Atlantic Fishing have visited to write about the show and BBC Radio Humberside did a live show from the gallery. We still have to look forward to the launch of the paperbook edition of “Beyond Trawlertown”, a book about the industry by Jo Byrne, daughter herself of a trawlerman and skipper.
The people we have met have been fantastic. We have learnt much ourselves and visitors have been amazed at the breadth of stories told from life on the trawlers to life on shore and the memories (and myths) associated with that. Our book of comments confirms this with comments such as :-
“So interesting to read all the stories and an account of how people’s lives were.”
“Nice to see the heritage of the trawler industry being preserved.”
“I hadn’t realised how many different jobs there were --- I’ve learned something interesting.”
“Great selection of portraits.”
The gallery is open every Wednesday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm until the end of August. So do visit and leave a comment for us. We love to know what people think!
The People are Nigel Walker, Julie Shakesby, David Drasdo, Carmina Ripolles and Rob Bentley.