Exhibition celebrates fish heroes

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A pioneering new arts project inspired by the herring lassies and their traditions will tour the county this year.

Follow the Herring is inspired by the stories of the women of the 19th century who followed the herring fleets from Scotland down the east coast, gutting, barrelling and salting the fish.

The exhibition retells their stories through a play in May, which will embark on a three-month tour of east coast towns – following the route of the herring fleets.

For almost 100 years, women from fishing communities in the north east and Scotland followed the herring fleets down the coast.

Now, the back-breaking work of the ‘herring lassies’ and the traditions which grew up around them, are to be commemorated with a nation-wide project of performance, song and visual arts.

Follow the Herring is a collaboration between The Customs House Arts Centre in South Shields and the north east-based Guild of Lillians Theatre Company, and it is supported by Arts Council England.

The project will retrace the women’s journey, from Scotland down to Great Yarmouth, in a three-month tour of 12 coastal towns starting off in May.

It is comprised of a play by Ann Coburn called Get Up and Tie Your Fingers, and a professional exhibition, Coat for A Boat, a critically acclaimed knitted art exhibition, which will be supplemented by items knitted locally for each venue.

Teams of knitters from across the north east have already decorated a full scale fishing boat and organisers hope as many people as possible will now knit a herring to join the boat on its journey down the coast, where it will be exhibited in each town visited by the tour.

The tour will begin at Musselburgh near Edinburgh – where, historically, the herring arrived in UK waters.

It will then follow the route of the herring to Cockburnspath and Berwick.

To find out more, or for further information about the project, visit www.customshouse.co.uk/followtheherring