Peel 2011
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Three days in the life of Peel by Chris Littler

The 26th to 28th July 2011 were three ordinary days in Peel. There were no special events, no carnival, no boat festival, no concerts or theatre, no fireworks… just people and businesses going about their daily lives. The big events tend to be photographed and remembered, they may written about in blogs, and reviewed in newspapers, but ordinary days just pass and are forgotten. And, as times change, people and businesses come and go, and with them we lose important parts of our social history. With this in mind, and with inspiration from a handful of old photos of “ordinary” Peel in days gone by I began to develop an idea to record a snapshot of contemporary Peel, which, in the future, would become an important record of society in 2011. I was aware even during the time I lived in Peel in the early 2000s that the face of Peel was changing fast with a number of traditional independent family shops closing down, and again, since then, change has continued apace. 2011, being Census year, seemed an ideal time to approach people with my idea and see if I could generate interest in the project.
I decided to approach Peel Heritage Trust initially to get support for the project and was delighted to find they had a similar enthusiasm, though coupled with some pragmatism and a hint of scepticism that people might just not want to be involved. Their support made the project viable on significant scale enabling me to include the main shopping area from Atholl Place along Michael Street to Market Place. Eager to make the project as big as possible however, I then also approached Charles Guard at the Manx Heritage Foundation and further support from them enabled me to double the size of the project and include businesses along the Promenade, East Quay, Ballawattleworth, and the industrial areas of the Fish Yards and surrounding area.
I set aside three days in late July for the photography, by which time I had developed the website ready to be populated with the images and information I was to collect.
With the addition of Sharon Sim as a second photographer we were also able to take many shop interior photographs and some excellent candid street photographs. Bright, rain-free, days would have been ideal. In the event there was some of the sunniest weather of the season. With the weather being so good, the crowds were also out enjoying the sun on the beach and the promenade was bustling with activity. The sunshine wasn’t always so welcome however, casting shadows across shop fronts, which made the photography more challenging. A couple of businesses were closed for renovation or concealed by scaffolding, but we thought it more important to capture the town exactly as it was during the three days. Just a few exceptions were made to this and I am grateful to Peel photographer John Bennett for supplying some photographs of businesses taken on days earlier in July when they were not obscured by parked cars and the reflections from the strong sunlight were not so prominent. A couple of businesses asked us to return the next day after a little TLC had been carried out, but on the whole, what you see is what you get, an authenticity that I think is very valuable.
We made excellent progress in the course of two days and so were able to also approach some civic organisations as well as commercial businesses and were thrilled to encounter supportive participants from the likes of the local police station, medical centre, campsite, swimming pool, town hall, library, museums, post office and the coastguards, and to exceed our target of 120.
A few people were a little hesitant to be photographed and unfortunately shyness overcame one or two, but most required little persuasion beyond the mention of Peel Heritage Trust and a chance to be preserved for posterity in the museum! Others, such as Cookie the Clown, didn’t need asking twice, and even put on an impromptu performance of magic and juggling. And it wasn’t unknown for us to be stopped in the street by people demanding to have their photograph taken. It certainly helped too that I already knew so many people around the town having lived in Peel for 3 years, and several businesses were also existing website clients.
A few people were too busy with customers to leave their premises for a photo, but allowed us to photograph them working, which was just as welcome and a nice variation for the project. Alan Ray, owner of a Saturday-only business was also accommodating in opening his shop especially for us, a great example of the Peel community spirit.
On completion of the photography the hard work began with sifting and processing over 1000 images, and to archive all the material. Please contact me with any further information you think will be useful, or with suggestions for future developments to the project or if you know of other communities that would be interested in something similar!

Chris Littler
August 2011


Chris Littler
Chris Littler
Copyright © Peel Heritage Trust, The Manx Heritage Foundation, and Chris Littler Webdesign 2011
All photography by Chris Littler, except where stated