The Alec Gill Hessle Road Photo Archive Book

You may be familiar with the work of alumnus Dr Alec Gill MBE (Psychology, 1977), especially if you caught his fantastic exhibition during the 2017 City of Culture Year. The Hessle Roaders featured 100 prints of photographs taken of the Hessle Road community in the 1970s and early 1980s and was shown at Hull History Centre.

Each of the photographs (including the ones Alec has shared for this article) shows a fascinating and beautiful snapshot of what life was like in Hull only forty years ago. Alec is brilliant at capturing the character of the people he photographs, whilst other pictures are a memento to a time and a way of life that has now passed.

In this article Alec shares with us some of the background of the photographs and the book that he is now in the process of producing – The Alec Gill Hessle Road Photo Archive Book. He is seeking corporate sponsorship to help get this book in as many hands as possible and to make his ambitious plans for the book a reality.

Should any individual also wish to pre-order our photobook, they can do so at: https://alecgillhessleroadphotoarchivebook.com/.

If you would like to explore the possibility of being a corporate sponsor, please contact Dr Alec Gill MBE at alec.gill@hotmail.co.uk


I was 27 in 1974 when I became a student at the University of Hull’s Psychology Department. I was very lucky to have Professor Alan Clarke as my personal supervisor. I think he wanted to ‘keep an eye on my progress’. Two years earlier he had accepted me to begin in the October of 1972 only on the basis of my IQ test results. I had left secondary-modern school in 1962 without any qualifications and started working life as a messenger boy cycling around Hull docks for a freight forwarding agency. Instead of taking up his wonderful offer, I chose to study for and obtained three “A” and five “O” level GCE qualifications.

My three years as a psychology undergrad were the best years of my life up to that point. I loved the world of academia. The 1974 intake had a high percentage of mature students. We formed our own clique. If parties were held, we also invited along certain lecturers – most were younger than us anyway.

I became Chair of the HU Photographic Society and produced shows for Telescope: student-based TV programmes. One show ended with my poem ‘Student Rat Race’ with the lines: “Rats in rages, prisoners of cages / Students and sages, prisoners of pages”.

The year 1974 was also when I really began an all-out photo documentary study of Hull’s Hessle Road Fishing Community and its Deep-sea Trawling Industry. My main subjects were people. I was keen to focus on ordinary people – their surroundings were colourful backdrop to their activities.

Between 1979 and the mid-1980s I held around 20 solo exhibitions (in the UK and USA); then became an author of six books and producer of five DVDs about Hull’s fishing culture.

When Hull became UK City of Culture (2017-21), I returned to exhibiting, thanks to curator Paul Berriff. The 100 large-scale framed prints – The Hessle Roaders – attracted thousands of visitors to the Hull History Centre and other venues.

One visitor was Hull-born, London-based archivist and writer Iranzu Baker. She made contact with me with the idea to produce a high-quality book with around 200 of my images. She will curate and edit the publication, and adopt a biographical approach to my work.

In October 2021, we succeeded with our Kickstarter campaign to fund an initial print-run of the photobook. Nevertheless, it is obvious that there will be a great demand and a larger number of books needed to be available for the wider public. Since January this year, therefore, we have been appealing to the world of business for corporate sponsorship of the book. That is where HU Alumni can help.

Another dimension is that this photobook is not just going to be any ordinary book. It will be a sensory experience for readers with close attention paid to every production detail; from the paper stock and photo sequencing, to the high-standard binding and offset-lithography printing. Since the inception of the project, we have been privileged to have the support of Hull-based G. F. Smith – makers and curators of the world’s finest papers.

The global appeal of the book was evident during our Kickstarter campaign. Backers came from Iceland to New Zealand, around Europe and across the UK. The visual images and story of Hull’s trawling culture will also strike a chord with fishing communities around the world.

This appeal, therefore, goes out to Hull University Alumni who are now entrepreneurs in their own right or work in international companies. Their help will enable us to produce the high-quality photobook in greater numbers. We wish to reach a global audience and so are seeking corporate sponsorship from the world of business. Their company logo / brand image will, of course, feature in the photobook.

Some firms are already on board and have been generous in their response to our request for funds. You are invited to join in our exciting venture.

Should any individual also wish to pre-order our photobook, they can do so at: https://alecgillhessleroadphotoarchivebook.com/.

Contact Dr Alec Gill MBE at alec.gill@hotmail.co.uk

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