King’s Lynn to host the Herrings

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Lynn’s Arts Centre will welcome a unique exhibition in May which will celebrate the unsung heroines of the fishing industry and highlight the the heritage of Britain’s East Coast.

For almost a century, women from fishing communities in the North East followed the herring fleets down the east coast, gutting, salting and barrelling the fish.

Lynn was one of the most important towns on their route and now it has been chosen to host a project of performance, song and visual arts, to commemorate the lives of the “herring lassies” and the traditions which grew up around them.

The three-month Follow the Herring tour will take in 12 coastal towns, arriving at Lynn Arts Centre in the last week of May with a display celebrating the heyday of the herring industry and stage performances of a show about the women.

Tour manager Heather Walton said: “This project is pioneering because it explores the binding themes of sea, community and survival in towns which may be miles apart but which are linked by the sea - and reminds new generations of their heritage.

“Not only is Lynn playing a key part in hosting this ground-breaking project, but it is putting its mark on it though its choir, its knitters and the part played by its fishing communities over the decades.”

Get Up and Tie Your Fingers, written by Ann Coburn, is set against the background of the Eyemouth fishing disaster of 1881, when 189 fishermen died in a severe storm and 20 boats were lost.

Local choirs will join the cast on stage to perform songs based on traditional shanties sung by the herring lassies.

Meanwhile, knitters from across the county will play their part in creating the exhibition, which will also be on show at the Arts Centre.

They have joined knitters from across the UK to craft herrings and other fishing-related items to accompany the centrepiece of the Follow the Herring exhibition - a full scale fishing boat swathed in a knitted coat.

The aim is that, by the end of the tour, in August, the boat will have a full, woollen “catch” of the fish, known by the women as “silver darlings.”

In the run up to the exhibition, King’s Lynn Arts Centre will host a series of knitting-related events and Follow the Herring workshops in its Red Barn Gallery.

For more information, call 01553 779095 or go to