Putting the role of the chippy into focus during the pandemic

Photography project looks at the community spirit of fish and chip shops in Lancashire

Date posted

9 June 2021


The role of the humble fish and chip shop during the Covid-19 pandemic in helping bring the Lancastrian community together has come into focus as part of a unique photography project.

Edinburgh Napier University photography student Duncan Thompson photographed several fish and chip shops in his hometown areas of Burnley and Pendle as part of his final year project at the University. 

Entitled ‘Fish out of Water’, the photographic series examines the wider role of the fish and chip shop and how it served and supported its community during lockdown last year. 

Alongside serving food, the fish and chip shop provided respite for many over the last year, with people taking the chance to catch-up with each other while they queued outside the premises for their order. 

Duncan’s project captures the immediate community within a mile radius of each chip shop photographed and features photos and reflections from staff, customers and others from the surrounding neighbourhood. 

Presented in a tabloid newspaper format, a reference to the working-class roots of the fish and chip shop and the wrapping paper regularly used to serve chips, the project features photographs both in colour and in black and white. 

People portraits and photos of the chip shops are presented in colour to represent warmth and openness. Community services which have stopped as a result of the pandemic such as youth centres, sports events and places to religious worship, are featured in black and white. 

Duncan’s work will be shown this week as part of Edinburgh Napier’s online Degree Show. The annual event is a showcase of the best and brightest work from the University’s School of Arts and Creative Industries.

He said: “Last year, Burnley and Pendle were two of the hardest hit areas with coronavirus restrictions in England. As a result, lots of community services such as youth centres, sports clubs and events and places of religious worship were stopped for a considerable amount of time. 

“During this period, apart from the supermarket, fish and chip shops were really the only place that people could meet each other and have a socially-distanced chat while queuing for their order. 

“Fish out of Water aims to examine the role that fish and chip shops played during the pandemic and it cemented itself as a vital part of any community not just in Lancashire, but across the UK.

“Meeting staff and customers at various shops in the area was a real privilege and I’m delighted to have been able to use a time which was so tough for many to create a document that can be used to look back on the pandemic and its impact for years to come.”

The Edinburgh Napier Degree Show runs from 2 June. More information and to view this year’s work, visit below.

Fish out of Water

Edinburgh Napier Degree Show 2021