Shellfishing Stories go on display at Salcombe Museum

Posted on: 23rd March 2018 No Comments

This week we have been at Salcombe Museum hanging the Shellfishing Stories exhibition which will be available to view from March 26th- October 31st 2018. This exhibition captures the dramatically changing face of shellfishing in South Devon through the stories of local shellfishermen and women, many of whose families have fished for generations.

The stories on show have been collected through a series of oral history interviews and collection events that enabled us to record memories and collect photographs from the shellfishing community. The stories are at times funny, breathtaking, moving and surprising… one thing’s for sue, the changes that people have witnessed within their lifetimes are staggering.


Our colourful installation involves a series of hanging buoys (or ‘dahns’) hanging from the ceiling, with illustrated stories hung down each rope. People are invited to delve into this fascinating world of shellfish by turning over the hanging pictures to reveal the stories behind them. There is also an opportunity to hear some of the fishermen and women we have spoken to by visiting the touch screen and to watch some of the digital stories created through the project.

This exhibition is part of the ‘Guardians of the Reef’ project which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and being delivered in partnership with the South Devon & Channel Shellfishermen‘s Association.

We’ve had lots of help getting to this point and would like to say a particular thanks to…

  • All the shellfishermen and women who shared their stories, objects and photographs with us
  • Beshlie Pool of the South Devon & Channel Shellfishermen’s Association for all her hard work on the project
  • Louise Scammell for the beautiful illustrations
  • Salcombe Museum for supporting the project and hosting this exhibition
  • Salcombe Fish Quay and The Cricket Inn, Beesands for hosting our collection events
  • Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum for archive photographs and artefacts
  • The Heritage Lottery Fund for funding the project

All the recordings captured throughout the project will later be archived in full through the Devon County Archives, Devon Rural Archives, Salcombe Museum and the Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum, preserving them for future generations.



10 things we didn’t know about shellfishing!

Posted on: 29th November 2017 No Comments

The Storylines team decamped to the Cricket Inn at Beesands, South Devon, to hear more stories and memories from shellfishermen past and present, working the coastal waters around Start Bay. We had visitors from Hallsands, Beesands, Dartmouth, Paignton and Salcombe with yet more tales of an ever changing industry.

Sharing stories & photographs at the Cricket Inn, Beesands Ken Browse, also pictured as a boy holding a crab pot Jim Trout and the medal his father was awarded aged 10 for saving a sailors life The Paignton Boys visit Beesands
Jim Trout and the medal his father was awarded aged 10 for saving a sailors life

One of the great privileges of sitting with someone and listening to their stories is the amount of knowledge you gradually acquire, whether it be about a place, an industry, a process, an item of clothing, a landscape or a period of time. It’s not that you become instant experts about such things, but your world suddenly opens up and expands and on a day to day level small things make sense and this world becomes a little bit more joined up each day. We found this when exploring the china clay industry around Carn Grey in Cornwall. Our newly found knowledge of the industry and its processes informed everyday life, as we recognised where china clay featured in our lives and how it had got there.

So the anticipation of increasing our meagre knowledge of all things ‘shellfishy’ was immense as we embarked on the ‘Guardians of the Reef’ Project. Here are 10 things that we have learnt which have have surprised us…

  • A crab pot can be traced back to the person and place, which it was created by looking at how it’s woven, almost like a signature.
  • A surprising amount of fishermen cannot swim… as one remarked, “If I planned on being in the water I wouldn’t be a very good fisherman!”
  • It’s not only shellfish that gets hauled up in the pots…. Many fishermen have similar stories of pulling up bombs, some which have yet to be detonated.
  • Launching and returning to a beach such as Beesands and Hallsands brings with it a number of challenges, especially when the sea is rough. Retired fisherfolk, both men and women would help bring the first boats back into shore, pulling them up the beach.
  • Crabs are social by nature and can often be found in groups.
  • In fishing families they start young… many people remember going to sea to bring in a few lobsters or crabs before going to school.
  • Most fishermen have nicknames… some repeatable, some not! All with a story.
  • Most adaptations to pots, fishing gear and techniques start with one individual trying something new… some inventions, though laughed at the start, stick and are soon adopted far and wide. The French way of ‘knicking’ crabs claws (to take away their ability to open and close their claws) was ridiculed at first, but now most fishermen French knick their claws.
  • Us English don’t eat much shellfish… with much of peoples catch going to Europe and now as far afield as China.
  • Shellfishing is arguably one of the most sustainable types of fishing; not only because animals that are too small to be caught are returned to the sea alive, but because the gear stays in one place and impacts on the sea bed are considered minimal.

If like us you are intrigued about this ever changing industry and want to find out more, then make sure to check our website for dates for the forthcoming screenings of our films and digital stories, which will take place at Beesands and Hope Cove in the spring of 2018 (dates tbc).

Our thanks goes to everyone who attended the collection day at Beesands earlier this month and to Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum who came to scan some incredible photos brought in by our guests and for the loan of artefacts for our display table. Thanks also goes to the Cricket Inn who provided phenomenal hospitality and the welcoming space for our visitors to share their stories.

This project was made possible due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is being delivered in partnership with the South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen Association.

Geoff Foall and Terry Cook share their memories

Stories in Salcombe- 3 days on the Quay

Posted on: 24th October 2017 No Comments

‘Guardians of the Reef’ our Heritage Lottery Funded project gathering and sharing stories of the ever changing shellfishing industry along the coastal villages of South Devon, got underway last week.

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We started off in Salcombe, nationally renowned for its superb crabs, and spent 3 days in our temporary recording studio (one of the fisherman’s stores on Fish Quay) surrounded by coils of ropes and hanging ‘dans’.

Beshlie Pool the Executive Officer of South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen Association, had invited shell fishermen of all ages to come along to the store over those 3 days to share their memories, but our door was left open for anyone on the quay who fancied dropping in for a quick yarn and a cup of tea and cake.


Exploring an old oyster dredge from Salcombe Museum

Salcombe Museum had kindly lent us objects pertaining to the industry from its collection and these quickly became the focus of much discussion and the prompt we needed to get people sharing. There was a beautiful withy (willow) crab pot complete with ‘skivvers’, a wire and sisal crab pot, some sand eel keeps or curge’s (much debate has been had over the spelling of this depending on where people are from… these include kurge and cooj!) and an old fashioned scallop dredge which would have originally been made for oysters and later used for scallops. The main puzzle over the 3 days was ‘who has made the withy crab pot?’ We still hadn’t got an answer by the time we left but it made for some fascinating banter.

We had a steady flow of visitors over the days, many from families who had fished for generations and they brought personal photographs of their ancestors in action. It was only then that we truly grasped the momentous changes that had taken place over the decades.

Geoff Foall and Terry Cook share their memories Sarah Cardew and her outside her store Beshlie Pool getting wired up for a recording Colin de la Mare sharing his stories Steve Cook shares his album of family photos Learning to tie knots Bill pops in for a cuppa Steve and Terry Cook Lesley Cook at sea with a variety of pots The Cook family loading crabs Catch of the day Tim Lynn shares his family story Dave Clark talking about Hope Cove
Geoff Foall and Terry Cook share their memories

Amongst our visitors was Steve who taught us how to splice rope and tie important knots; Terry and Geoff who talked about their early days of fishing as youngsters in the ‘50’s and explained the evolution of the crab pot from willow to plastic; Alan who explained about the processing of crab and Tim and Dave who talked about their experiences of growing up and fishing in the smaller coastal villages of Hallsands and Hope Cove. Sarah invited us into the fisherman’s store she shares with her husband Phil and we were able to see what a vital space these stores are for the repair and storage of fishing gear. She also explained how sustainable crab fishing was and how as the ‘Salcombe Fishwife’ she made it her mission to re educate the general public at local farmer’s markets. From all our visitors we got a sense of a thriving and supportive community down on Fish Quay. Thank you very much for your contributions.

As part of the project all of these recordings will be archived and some of them turned into digital stories and films we will now be making.

If you didn’t make it this time, there will be 3 further collection days at the Cricket Inn at Beesands on 13th, 14th and 15th November from 11 – 3 each day. It’s free so drop in for a yarn and a drink at any time. If you have any photographs or objects that you think we’d like to see, then bring them along too. We will also be joined by Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum who are lending us some archive photographs and artefacts for the 3 days and who will be scanning personal photographs on the Wednesday from 11-1pm.

There is also an opportunity for anyone interested in volunteering and/or doing some recordings for the project so we will be holding a free informal training session on the Monday 13th November from 3-5 pm. If you would like to find out more about this or to book a place then simply drop us an email or call us.

Sarah       07767382552

Ali         07511266140


My Body, My Story

Posted on: 20th October 2017 No Comments

Over the weekend of 13th – 15th October , Totnes in Devon did something that it is so good at doing… it held a grassroots, community event. You might think there is nothing unusual about that, but this event was the BODYKIND FESTIVAL… the world’s first ever festival of body acceptance!

And Storylines was there!

Bodykind was about honouring life in its various forms, rather than comparing oneself or anyone else to an external concept of beauty. So as a result over the weekend there were national and international speakers, inspiring workshops, film, art, drama and theatre – something for everyone regardless of age, size, shape, colour , gender, sexuality or physical ability.

We at Storylines know only too well that there are stories everywhere – in fact we are walking collections of stories, so it was only natural that we wanted to gather stories about bodies because

We all have bodies and they all have stories!

22405916_1562346310510988_4290561033342497382_nMy Body, My Story was the theme of our prowl along the high street of Totnes; to see if anyone would be willing to share personal stories of their bodies. It’s a highly sensitive issue to walk up to total strangers and ask them to divulge stories of their bodies that perhaps others have never heard. We thought it might help if we looked vaguely ridiculous so we hung frames around our necks framing our request and at least people could see us coming! We did wonder how people would react and if anyone would want to participate but we were totally overwhelmed with the response and were bowled over with stories of great honesty, bravery and resilience. People were prepared to talk about their personal body hang ups, their struggles and the journeys they have made with their bodies. We celebrated these incredible stories by asking participants to choose a frame to highlight their particular body part so we could honour them in a photograph.

Thank you everyone who shared stories about noses, hair, hands, legs, tattoos, scars, fingers, weight, breasts and piercings. You were incredible!

We will now be editing together the audio stories and images to make a digital story so you will be able to hear some of these inspiring and revealing stories soon. Watch this space!


‘Guardians of the Reef’ begins…

Posted on: 11th October 2017 No Comments

We are pleased to announce that thanks to a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), we will be spending the next year discovering and sharing stories of shellfishing as part of the ‘Guardians of the Reef’ project.

Guardians of the Reef 1As with many industries, shellfishing has changed dramatically within living memory and it is these changes that we are keen to capture through the project.

Those alive today still remember the days of horse and carts transporting crab; huers on clifftops; and tarring clothes before setting to sea. They remember men who went blind in the War but still managed, with a little help, to weave the crab pots. They remember transporting their crab catches by train packed in wooden tea chests and apple barrels. They remember the hard, hand to mouth days of life in rural Devon.

Guardians of the Reef tab-homepageWorking in partnership with the South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen Association, ‘Guardians of the Reef’ will be spending time recording the memories of fishermen, many whose families have fished for generations, and transforming these into a series of digital stories, films and displays. Needless to say we are looking forward to learning about this unique and largely unrecorded part of coastal heritage.

CGR-webommunity buildings such as a Fishermen’s Store, Reading Room and the local pub have acted as back-drops to these stories. For this reason we will be using these buildings as hubs for events, interviews, screenings, celebrations and displays. We will also need to find our sea legs as we will be taking to the sea in a tradit
ional crabbing boat, carrying small groups of retired fishermen around the coastline to identify undocumented fishing marks and share further memories.

To kick-start the project we will be holding a series of collection events in the South Hams area, which will be an opportunity for people to come and share their memories and photographs with us, learn about the project and of course have a bit of chat over tea and cake. We will also be joined by Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum and Salcombe Museum, who will be bringing along archive photographs and objects from their collections for everyone to explore and tell us about. These will take place in a Fishermens Store on Fish Quay in Salcombe on the 16th, 17th and 18th of October 2017 from 11-3pm each day and then at the Cricket Inn in Beesands on the 13th, 14th and 15th November 2017 from 11-3pm each day. Each event is free and you can drop in at anytime.

We are also looking for volunteers who would like to get involved with the project and holding an informal training session (booking required) on the 13th November at the Cricket Inn from 3-5pm. If you’d like to find out more about this or book a FREE place on the training, then simply drop us an email or call on either-

Sarah Chapman 07767382552

Ali Roscoe 07511266140


Devoran School get to know Rhoda Mary

Posted on: 20th July 2017 No Comments

Last Friday saw the turn of the younger members of the Devoran community to hear all about the iconic vessel, the Rhoda Mary, which was built close to their village.

Our Memory Day in the autumn in Devoran Village Hall had provided us with rich pickings in terms of people willing to share their stories and as a result we made 4 digital stories illuminating the vibrant history of Cornish merchant schooners and in particular the Rhoda Mary. As with all our work at Storylines, the stories we gather and make into films are exciting tools that we use to creatively inspire others and so these films came into Devoran Primary School to inspire a class of Year 6 children. This was a continuation of our involvement in the Rhoda Mary Project and we were delighted to have Anna Brunyee from the team join us on that day.

As expected of a school perched close to the Fal estuary, the children were familiar with boats. We opened with 2 films describing the work of schooners, the voyages they made, their importance in the wider context of day-to-day living and life aboard. There was frantic note taking as the children gathered as much information as they could about the iconic Rhoda Mary from the local Ferris family film. The Rhoda Mary was the focus of this day so learning as much as they could about her was vital. They learned about her creator William Foreman Ferris, how and when she was built, the cargo she carried, the crew who worked her and the circular journeys she made. They were to turn all this knowledge into a poem in honour of her. And what a poem it turned out to be… ‘The Life and Times of the Rhoda Mary’… an anthem in rhyming couplets charting her life from birth to her present resting place on the mudflats of the Medway in Kent.

Devoran-school8wA further film about Robbie and Maureen Tatlow and their joint creative passions for schooners delighted the children and they were astounded when the couple later walked into their classroom to spend the rest of the day with them. Robbie and Maureen had brought artefacts from the time of the Rhoda Mary with them and so the children were able to handle sail makers needles and tools. Of course the burning question from all the children to Robbie was…. ‘How did you get that ship into that bottle?’

The afternoon saw a flurry of activity for the creation of the Rhoda Mary canvas. The children worked in groups to collaborate on this piece, with some painting the background with the expert help of Maureen, some creating a crew and painted nautical symbols for the border of the canvas and another group patiently repairing the torn sails of the vessel. Meanwhile the class scribe, copied out the poem on a special scroll which was to hang underneath.

The final touches Sail repairing Patiently writing the Rhoda Mary's poem onto a scroll The Rhoda Mary in a bottle as made by Robbie Maureen's painting of the Rhoray Mary The captain
Patiently writing the Rhoda Mary's poem onto a scroll

While the finishing touches were made to the artwork the whole class joined Robbie and Maureen in singing the song they had written to celebrate the Rhoda Mary. To show their appreciation to Robbie and Maureen the children compiled a small ‘bottle’ book of drawings and messages.

The Rhoda Mary canvas will stay at Devoran school as a reminder of a very exciting and successful day and as a farewell gift from the Year 6 leavers. The children were excited to hear about the Rhoda Mary Project’s aim to rebuild the Rhoda Mary are now hoping to witness the return of this now familiar vessel to their village.

Robbie and Maureen holding up the finished artwork

Robbie and Maureen holding up the finished artwork

The Rhoda Mary Project is a charity which hopes to rebuild the Rhoda Mary; providing vocational training in the maritime trades to young people in Cornwall and across the UK through the reconstruction and operation of this legendary Cornish 19th century sailing vessel.

We would like to thank class teacher Katie Thurston for all her support, Robbie and Maureen Tatlow for bringing everything alive, Anna Brunyee from the Rhoda Mary Project for all her help and the Cornwall Heritage Trust for funding this workshop.


‘Revealing City Hall: One Building, 1265 Voices’

Posted on: 4th July 2017 No Comments

As we have learned through our recent project ‘Landmark Travels- Our Past in a Suitcase,’ buildings are often steeped in stories. Historic buildings are at the heart of many Cornish towns and villages, providing a backdrop to 21st Century life. For some these buildings go largely un-noticed, for others they have played a key part in their life; places of work, romance, recreation and drama.

The Hall for Cornwall, once City Hall, in Truro, has a rich and unique 350 year history. Over the years, the building has been many things to many people. A fire station, Courts of Justice, cinema, skating rink, food market, rifle range, jail, theatre and seat of political power. It has survived fire and economic downturn; provided a platform for civic unrest and played host to award-winning shows.

In September 2016, Hall for Cornwall received development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to work on a pilot project entitled Revealing City Hall: One Building, 1265 Voices . This initial funding was recognition of the building’s importance at the heart of Cornwall’s history and community and will help them to progress plans to apply for a full grant later on this year.

Storylines was delighted to contribute to this project, and we have enjoyed spending time with a number of people with stories connected to the building, recording their memories and exploring different ways of sharing these.

One person we had the pleasure of spending time with was John MacCoughlan, who spent years working in the building as the maintenance officer. We loved his memories of Truro Fatstock Show, which used to be held in City Hall, so have created both a collage and a digital story. Enjoy….

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Do you have a story to share about City Hall? 

Whatever your story or memory – whether historical or present day, funny or sad, personal or public – the Hall for Cornwall would love to hear about it. Come and be part of their unique journey as they look to unveil previously untold stories of the building and shape an exciting new chapter in Hall for Cornwall’s history.

To share your story, please send a brief outline (150 words max) to

A wonderful afternoon with the Tatlows

What a couple!

Posted on: 27th June 2017 No Comments

Recently we wrote about some of the recordings that we have been doing as part of a partnership project with the Rhoda Mary Project. One couple we had the pleasure of spending time with was Robbie and Maureen Tatlow- a couple with a passion for schooners that was infectious and inspiring. We learnt a lot from our visits, so instead of making 1 digital story as we had initially planned, we ended up making 2 short films.

The first helps to explain what a schooner is; their role, size, journeys, construction and importance to local communities in Cornwall. This will be perfect for us to use in our upcoming workshop with Devoran School, and provides a really great introduction to merchant schooners-

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The next film weaves together family stories of schooners, and captures how Robbie and Maureen’s interest in these vessels has shaped their lives, hobbies and indeed their front room (or should we say museum).

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We are very lucky to have Robbie and Maureen joining us for our workshop with Devoran School, especially as they plan to sing the song they have written about the Rhoda Mary to the class.

4 members of the Ferris Family

The Rhoda Mary and other Ferris boats

Posted on: 16th June 2017 2 Comments

We are delighted to share this film in which 4 members of the Ferris family discuss their family boatbuilding heritage, as well as present day links to the industry. Stories of the Rhoda Mary, a famed West Country schooner, as well as tales about it’s designer William ‘Foreman’ Ferris, have passed down the generations, and this film captures just some of these-

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This film was made by Storylines in partnership with the Rhoda Mary Project as part of a community heritage project made possible with funding from the Cornwall Heritage Trust.
For more on this brilliant project, please visit

Touch screen showing the digital stories

Tattoo Tales now at the National Maritime Museum

Posted on: 14th April 2017 No Comments

After all our hard work capturing people’s Tattoo Tales, it’s great to see the digital stories, images and quotes integrated into the ground-breaking exhibition now on at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, ‘TATTOO British Tattoo Art Revealed.’

Through capturing peoples tattoo stories, it’s been possible to explore how tattoos are entwined with people’s life stories, and also within the wider context of culture and Art. Every story we captured was so different, it was hard to select just 20 to turn into digital stories. Here’s a couple to give you a taster. First up is Trevor’s story, which was incredibly moving and personal-

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Here’s a very different story from student Daisy Pooley-Tolkien-

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Touch screen showing the digital stories

Touch screen showing the digital stories

These digital stories, alongside many others, can be found on a touch screen within the exhibition. Further extracts and images of everyone we recorded are featured on large exhibition panels.

The exhibition is truly fantastic, providing a fascinating incite into the history of British tattooing, with some incredible displays and exhibits. There’s still plenty of time left to go and see it for yourself, with the exhibition continuing to the 7th January 2018.

Tattoo Tales was run in partnership with the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, as part of the Collections Stories project with National Maritime Museum. The Collections Stories project is a national partnership project, led by the National Maritime Museum, to develop a shared understanding of audiences around the UK and their connection to maritime history. Collections Stories is part of the National Maritime Museum’s Endeavour Galleries project and the activities are made possible through an award of £4.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.