PUTTING THE GRIT BACK INTO LOWESTOFT…
A community-driven words, film and music project about Lowestoft’s almost forgotten fishing village – devised by Poetry People, in partnership with the Lowestoft & East Suffolk Maritime Museum – has just been awarded a £55,000 National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Led by Lowestoft-born poet and writer Dean Parkin, ‘The Grit’ project will deliver workshops in eight primary schools, a Grit Celebration Day in Sparrows Nest Park, a local history teaching resource, a permanent Maritime Museum installation, and a new live touring show. Working across the generations, the project will involve 240 children and residents from care homes and sheltered housing.
In 1900 Lowestoft was one of the country’s leading tourist resorts and a top fishing port with a population of 23,000. The town’s fishing village — known as ‘The Grit’ or the ‘Beach Village’ to locals — was the most easterly point in the country, right next to the North Sea. There was a spirit of independence amongst the often poor ‘Gritsters’ and they built a self-sufficient community, home to 2,500 people, 13 pubs, three schools, two churches, shops and cafés. The decline of the fishing industry, coupled with World War Two and the 1953 flood, resulted in its demise. By the early 1970s, few houses remained and Birds Eye and other new industries made use of the site in subsequent decades.
A book celebrating the fishing village and the people who lived there was published in 1997. Also titled The Grit, it was co-written by Jack Rose – fisherman, lifeboatman and local legend known as ‘Mr Lowestoft’ – and Dean Parkin. The book took them nearly three years to write and involved many interviews with Gritsters who’d grown up in the early 20th century. It became an immediate bestseller but has been out of print for many years. A new revised edition will be published next summer to coincide with The Grit community project and Dean is keen to include new stories and photos.
Dean says: “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share the story of The Grit with Lowestoft’s younger generation and to create a new live show celebrating some of the remarkable characters who lived and worked there. We can all learn from the spirit of The Gritsters who stuck together in hard times with resilience and humour.”
On Saturday 27 January, 10.30am – 4pm, there will be a chance to learn more about what the project entails and help with new material, photographs and stories. Grit Gathering day takes place at Christ Church Centre, Whapload Road (entrance on Herring Fishery Score) Lowestoft NR32 1XD.
If you’d like to contribute to ‘The Grit’, get in touch by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Poetry People, The Cut, 9 New Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8BY.