The Thrive Archive project – empowering community
Posted on November 18, 2015
I dreamed up The Thrive Archive project 18 months ago following an amazing 2 weeks of collaborative arts training with XO Sco. After a year of fantastic opportunities including a residency at St Margaret’s House with Edinburgh Palette The Thrive Archive is literally doing what it says on the tin!
The Thrive Archive was set up to empower diverse communities to use their local creatives to produce innovative arts events and on our recent project Caller-Ou! at The National Library of Scotland the local community choir of Newhaven empowered me right back.
Not long after moving to Newhaven I was walking back from the supermarket one Saturday morning and heard The Newhaven Community Choir singing in the playground of the local primary school. It was Gala Day, the young King and Queen from Victoria Primary School had arrived by boat in the harbour and the children had processed through Fishmarket Square and down Main Street to the school playground dressed as fishwives and fishermen. They got the audience singing along and I joined in, I hadn’t sung in about 20 years and it was fun! There and then I joined the choir – a great bunch of people and a real mixture of blow-ins and Bow-Tows.
So what, or who is a Bow-Tow? If you were born in Newhaven you are a Bow-Tow. It is said that the term represents married life, the Bow is the buoy – the man bobbing around on the water, the Tow is the rope – holding the buoy in place, taking the strain and doing all the hard work – the woman. These strong women were famous in Edinburgh Fish-markets for their sales cry Caller-Ou! and, whilst there was still fishing, Newhaven boasted two famous choirs – The Fisher-lassies and the Fishwives.
Starting to carry the creel at 15 the fisher-lassies were given another girl as a ‘chum’. Their chum walked with them into town, helped them sell their fish and went on to be their bridesmaid and helped them through thick and thin. I approached local storyteller Marie Louise Cochrane to chum her on this culinary journey who is well known in storytelling circles in Scotland as Mrs Mash.
Caller-Ou! was also part of The International Scottish Storytelling Festival 2015 and one hundred free tickets flew out of the box office. This was the first gig for the choir at a National Institution and ably led by musician Jed Milroy they were determined to get the audience singing along. It was a great afternoon of song and story and the choir is keen to sing at coastal festivals next summer.
The Thrive Archive project is now planning to follow the herring and discover more stories of strong women in industry. I am now starting to bid for funding for a research project ‘Come Awa’ inspired by the Song of the Fish-gutter’s and the story of one feisty Bow-Tow, Chatty Eadie who joined the annual migration of herring girls in 1918. Chatty’s daughter Sophia is in the choir and shared her story with us. Looking back to look forward, after collecting the stories of the herring lassies and women working in the fishing industry today, I plan to work with young people in coastal towns throughout Scotland to raise aspirations and build community…watch this space!