In this single-screen 14-minute film work, the image of Grimsby’s now derelict former Ice Factory is used as symbol of the town’s radical changing social and economic history, including exploitation, dangerous work, sea and ice and cold, the importance of and potential for loss of fingers, limbs or life. The ice was essential to fish preservation, it had to be bought by the skipper (as did everything) from the fleet owners, and (instead of towing icebergs from the Baltic) the factory was built to supply crushed ice. The Ice Factory’s early ‘fishocracy’ ownership history is typical of that era’s hierarchical economic control, a feudal-like oppression of the poorest and hardest working.
The fishermen experience the extra-ordinary; most of us will never experience anything like it, and those encounters inevitably mould a person. Their lives are dependent on, and subject to the immensity and force of one of the most powerful elements on earth, and there exists in them a form of synergy with the sea. They ultimately become, as Arthur, one ex-fisherman interviewed for the film noted, ‘a breed apart’, one that knows the value of the realm of the sea, of life and of the union and camaraderie between other fishermen, often committing unselfish acts of bravery. The work features audio of the participants recounting their stories about the incidents that caused scars left behind on their hands, and distills what it was that kept them fishing at sea when it was such a dangerous and ill-paid occupation.
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