Follow the Herring is a co-production by The Customs House and Guild of Lillians.
Get Up and Tie Your Fingers
During the 19th century, women from fishing communities along the east coast of Scotland and England, the ‘herring lassies’ as they were known,
would follow the herring fishing fleets down the coast to meet the catch at each port of call. With knives at the ready and strips of cloths tied
around their thumbs and forefingers to protect form the blades, they gutted, salted, and barreled the ‘silver darlings’, the bountiful herring that
were destined for markets across the world.
The 1881 Eyemouth Fishing Disaster was - and still is - the worst fishing disaster Britain has ever seen. With the loss of almost twenty ships and 189 men,
entire families and communities were destroyed as the herring lassies could only stand onshore and watch. Against the backdrop of this disaster,
Get Up And Tie Your Fingers, gives a fictional account of Jean, Janet and young Molly as they go about their daily lives, tell us their hopes and dreams
and deal with their devastating losses. Beyond the grim toll of the sea, there lies a remarkable tale of endurance, survival and courage of the east coast
herring fishing communities.
Echoing their journey, through story and song, the Follow the Herring tour takes this tale back to the communities from which it sprang; and gives members
of those communities the opportunity to create and participate in a piece of theatre alongside a professional production team. Contact your local venue for
details of Follow the Herring community choirs.
Coat for a Boat!
How do you knit a coat for a boat? That question was first answered in 2009 when, led by acclaimed textile artist, Ingrid Wagner, a group of knitters in South Shields
came together (with additional pieces sent in from around the world) to design and knit enough sails, and maritime equipment to swathe a 20ft coble from fore to aft,
before being launched on the River Tyne. The Coat for a Boat! exhibition is now being cast off again and sails into towns as part of Follow the Herring.
The coble boat, made by the North East Maritime Trust and
The ‘Materialistics’, will be the centrepiece of each exhibition with the scene being set and brought to life by additional knitted, crafted and pieces of art created by each town.
“The style of performance was innovative, not least in the fact that a new category of modern ‘choral theatre’ was forged... The music element stretched
everyone involved artistically because of the ambition and intricacy of Karen Wimhurst‘s composition... The design was on an epic scale...and gave the piece a
timeless quality that helped it transcend the narrow category of heritage drama... The Guild of Lillian‘sâ€™ intentions of empowering women to tell a story
principally about the female experience of a particular moment, from the women‘s point of view were achieved.”