Review: Follow the Herring

Follow the Herring exhibitition at Berwick Gymnasium Gallery. Picture: Kimberley Powell
Follow the Herring exhibitition at Berwick Gymnasium Gallery. Picture: Kimberley Powell

Years of hard work and good and bad times were brought to the fore last week through a well-attended exhibition and much-acclaimed stage show.

The east coast is an area well known for its maritime connections and even though fishing isn’t the thriving industry it once was, those involved and those with ancestors who were clearly have a lot of pride.

Follow the Herring exhibit at Berwick Gymnasium Gallery.

Follow the Herring exhibit at Berwick Gymnasium Gallery.

Berwick’s Gymnasium Gallery was a hub of history as it hosted the ‘Follow The Herring’ exhibition, which opened last Tuesday.

At the centre of the showcase was a huge knitted boat which was first commissioned by the North East Maritime Trust in 2009 but has since had a lot of work added to it.

Although the boat had a dominating presence in the gallery it shared its space with an array of arts and crafts produced by local volunteers, each item with its own story.

The local effort was co-ordinated by Borders Textile and Berwick Arts & Crafts Group, who put out a rallying call in January for people to get involved and it was answered with real gusto.

Volunteers of all ages got on board with the project, with Eyemouth Herring Queen spearheading the knitting of a barrel full of 70 fish, one for each Herring Queen that’s been crowned as part of their festivities.

Local school children also contributed items, with pupils from Tweedmouth Middle School, Prior Park First School, Spittal First School and Wooler First School amongst others who’d taken part in craft workshops with artist Theresa Wilkinson.

She headed the local effort alongside fellow Berwick Arts and Crafts Group member Annie Robinson, with both women in agreement that the exhibition, as well as being something for the area to be proud of, was very poignant.

“It’s about looking back into the past, but at the same time moving forward,” Annie explained.

“A number of people who got involved with the project were related to people who were at the heart of the fishing industry in the past, or in the tragic Eyemouth Fishing Disaster.

“Some of the fish knitted for the Herring Queen barrel have names stitched onto the back of them.”

Theresa added: “We also wanted to showcase the talent we have here. There is a lot of it here with a real mixture of art produced.”

One of those present at last Tuesday’s launch was lead artist for the whole ‘Follow The Herring’ tour, Alison Ashton.

She was impressed with how Berwick and Berwickshire had engaged with the project.

“It’s great to see work from children who previously didn’t know anything about things like the fishing industry or the fishing disaster,” she said.

“I myself went to Spittal school and the pupils were absolutely fascinated by it all.

“I’ve been to a number of venues in the tour and what I love is that every space is different.

“The Gymnasium is a great place and the effort and the passion put into the art is amazing.”

Alison called into the gallery on her way up to Cockburnspath village hall which hosted two performances of ‘Get Up & Tie Your Fingers’ on Tuesday.

The hall committee were very persistent in their requests to have the show and their determination paid off as capacity audiences enjoyed both shows.

Written by Berwick author and playwright Ann Coburn, it was the turn of The Maltings to host the fantastic play on Friday.