Eyemouth Project is a fitting tribute to Kevin's new home

IT'S been a year in the making but Kevin O'Brien is now ready to unveil the fruits of his labour which he hopes will be a fitting tribute to a town he now calls his home.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 11:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 11:47 am

Kevin started work on 'The Eyemouth Project' - a collection of photos from around the town accompanied by views of its residents - not really knowing what to expect and on the other side of the coin, the people of the Berwickshire fishing port didn't know what to make of him either.

"I've just taken things week by week," Kevin stated.

"When I started people were quite abrupt with me and a bit wary as they didn't know what I was doing and why I was taking photographs of certain places and wanting to know more about certain things.

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"But once I'd explained what my goal was and word had got around about the project, the easier it became.

"I'm actually quite surprised by just how forthcoming people have been - I've had to be quite careful in some cases and leave certain bits out or made sure people remained anonymous!"

Kevin moved up to Eyemouth after meeting his partner Liz, and he said doing the project has enabled him to really get to know the town and feel more at home.

He continued: "I used to live in the middle of a small farming community in Somerset so I know how close-knit places like Eyemouth are.

"But I didn't realise the wealth of problems people were facing and the strong views they had on certain issues.

"One thing that was clear right from the start is that a lot of people in Eyemouth are concerned about the dwindling fishing industry in the town.

"It's clear to all concerned that while diving and the pleasure boat side of things are both doing really well, fishing isn't enjoying the same good fortune.

"Over the past year I've photographed and spoken to generations of the same families who have been involved with fishing all their lives - I just hope they survive the hard times.

"There seems to be a massive groundswell of support for the fish market to be brought back to Eyemouth, having that taken away was clearly a big blow to many people.

"I also photographed the ice plant which is also facing something of an uncertain future as more and more fishermen are going to companies who make ice themselves."

As well as getting right into the heart of Eyemouth's fishing fraternity, Kevin also spoke to a number of local businesses in the town's high streets, from butcher to bakers to publicans.

And he said that they too had common concerns and things they wanted to get off their chests.

He continued: "A lot of people had something to say about how untidy they think the town has become and how they were really keen for the beach to be cleaned up a bit so it could achieve green flag status.

"To get myself known around the town I started to take photos of people who were out enjoying themselves in pubs on a Friday and Saturday night and that worked as I soon became a familiar face and people started sharing stories with me."

When he wasn't taking snaps of locals and running Eyemouth's Fineart Gallery, Kevin took his project one step further by heading out onto the high seas with the local RNLI crew and fishermen to capture them in action.

And he said these trips helped him to fully appreciate the hard work these men do.

"I went out one Saturday morning with the guys from the RNLI and had a brilliant time- the lifeboats really are big boys' toys- I was very impressed.

"And then I went out early one morning with Bruce Marshall and it was then that I really understood just how tough things can be for these guys. Hauling the nets is bad enough, but then it takes hours to sort the fish out and then they're straight back out for the next haul.

"Some of the fishermen do this for a month at a time and I don't envy them. It certainly looked like a lot of hard work. Fortunately I was out in fine weather but they go out in all conditions!"

Eyemouth Museum are hosting Kevin's 'Eyemouth Project' exhibition, which opens on Friday, April 2 and Kevin said he felt a real sense of achievement that he was now able to present to residents what's he'd been talking to them about for the past 12 months.

"It's taken a year and I perhaps would have liked to have had it finished a bit sooner but i definitely think all the hard work has been worth it.

"I'm really pleased that the museum were so keen to stage the exhibition and since I've put the poster advertising it up in the front window of the gallery I've noticed a lot of people stopping to look and some have come in to find out more.

"I wouldn't say I'm nervous about the exhibition as a whole but I'm quite nervous about the pre-opening night as I've invited a lot of local dignitaries along!

"I really hope people enjoy the project and if it does upset people, I've tried hard to express both myself and the views of locals, while trying to keep it as balanced as possible.

"I'm aiming to sell the whole exhibition for around 2500 and then that can fund my next project.

"I've got two ideas at the moment, one is to do a similar project but focus it on Holy Island and the other is centered arond lobster fishing on the Northumberland and Berwickshire coast.

"I may even try and join the two together, I'm just not sure at the moment. "

'The Eyemouth Project' exhibition will run in Eyemouth Museum from Friday, April 2- Sunday June 13 and then in the Fishermen's Mission from July 5-July 30.