Last week I spent five wonderful days in Peel, Isle of Man, photographing all the shops, businesses, organisations and their workers. The criteria for inclusion was simply that there was a “shop front” that is visible to the public, and that it lay within the town of Peel. I did this ten years ago too, so now we have a ten years on comparison and can see which businesses have closed or left, which are new, and who has simply moved along the street or around the corner (a surprising number!). I’ve yet to count the businesses I captured, but in 2011 there were over 130 and it will be similar this time. Although I’d allowed five days for the photography, compared to only three in 2011, I knew at the beginning of the week that stormy weather was on its way and so I made maximum use of the daylight hours on the first two days, capturing around 80 premises. Many high street shops were closed on Monday, some also on the next two days, and I walked up to 10 miles a day until I captured them all during opening hours. Many restaurants, and one or two others, were unfortunately closed the whole week for refurbishment and staff holidays, but I’m happy to say the whole town was captured in its true state, just as it was in the last week of October 2021, and complete with Hop tu Naa displays in many cases, which really brightened up an otherwise dark autumnal week.
So what’s changed in the ten years? I’m grateful to more than a handful of brave people who allowed me to photograph them again ten years older! Many other businesses remained the same, but with new staff members, and many businesses were new to the town. There has a been a notable shift towards service-related businesses: there are around five new beauty salons since 2011, and two new gyms and a Pilates venue. Other new leisure facilities included an art studio and two bicycle repair shops. Notable businesses to disappear however from the high street were two banks, and an opticians, pet shop, a dressmaker, and a launderette amongst others.
I now continue the big task of selecting, tweaking, and uploading over 300 photographs to the website manxshopfronts.com, and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you in a few weeks’ time. I am indebted to the generosity of Culture Vannin, Corlett Bolton & Co., and Peel Heritage Trust for supporting the work, and to the good humour of over 100 Peel workers who stood, often in the rain, and nearly always in the wind, to be photographed. Thank you!