I have alluded to my love of Grimsby in previous blogs, along with other fishing towns, especially Brixham and Peterhead. (Please don’t get jealous Newlyn, I’ll visit you one day, I promise x)
However, I’m finding I spend more time heading to Grimsby or at least planning. It could be that it’s the closest of the fishing ports, after all it’s just over 3 hours to get to the hotel I stay in in Cleethorpes, so it’s not a bad drive. But it goes a lot further than that.
The Humber Seafood Summit on Wednesday 11th October, one of the many presentations which inspired me was given by Mr Simon Dwyer. His presentation was entitled “Made Great In Grimsby”. He was that passionate about advocating Grimsby, that even I couldn’t help but feel a little proud.
2015 was the first time I ever visited Grimsby and Cleethorpes as it was my first time entering the British Fish Craft Championships. I, along with the rest of the Tesco team, attended the The Seafood Training School for a day practising the competition categories and it was the first time I’d ever met Mr.Reece Stansfield, as he delivered the fish to the training school. The following day, I spent pretty much the whole day selling fish from the stall on Cleethorpes beach. I really liked the place.
Fast forward to 2016, I entered the British Fish Craft Championships as an independent fishmonger, and I had got to know the Flatfish family quite well through social media. I was given a guided tour of the Flatfish factory and I was like a child in a sweet shop.
I even visited them once more after that on my last holiday of 2016. Each time I visit there seems to be a closer connection.
During Mr. Dwyers presentation, he spoke about heritage, history and pride in the industry. I see that epitomized so much within Flatfish. “But you’re a friend of theirs, of course you’re going to extol their virtues”, you might say. Of course, that is true but I also have the pleasure of selling their Plaice, Lemon Sole and Monkfish from my counter too. But it’s more than that.
There is a strong family heritage within Flatfish. In the photo from left to right is Mr.Reece Stansfield, Mr.Steven Stansfield and Mr. Richard Stansfield, Stevens brother. In the black and white photo behind them is a photo of a young Prince Phillip walking on Grimsby Dock with Steven and Richards father as a young boy standing on the dock.
Another photo in the boardroom is of a young Steven Stansfield working hard on the dock.
I heard an experience, at the seafood fayre, this person was asked if he filleted fish much anymore. His reply was that he didn’t because due to the sheer amount of hard work he did as a young man, filleting on open docks and in all weather’s, it has caused painful arthritis in his fingers. Now, I’ve read accounts of fishermen and ones who worked on the dock. In fact my favourite book “Hidden Truth” by Dr Stephen Bloy, recounts an amazing story of two boys who ended up best of friends and fishermen and there are so many tales. But when you hear someone say it was like that for them, you then get to understand a little more that that’s what it was like for the lads of Grimsby growing up.
In fact, that’s what it was like for entire families. They would all have been involved. From the men and boys working on trawlers and smacks, to then bringing it on the dock side. Having to then clean, gut or fillet the fish and then get them to market. To the women and girls at home, cleaning, maybe even mending nets or even helping to get the fish cleaned. Great Grimsby was built on the fishing industry.
Even the map layout of Grimsby fascinates me. The old streets around the docks are long, straight blocks. Whilst many of the houses are long gone due to new residential areas or expansions, I can still well imagine the back to back houses, all with large families, or lodging houses where fishermen would get into Grimsby Dock and need somewhere to stay until the next trip, and everyone knowing everyone else. The photograph of the brick also belongs to Flatfish. The area the factory is built on is Stirling Street, which was originally Fishermens cottages. The brick was actually part of the foundations in which the Stansfields father was born! Literally a family connection all the way through and goes further than Grimsby, even to Brixham! Spooky connections are they not!
Mr Dwyer pointed out all the innovations and business still advancing for the industry, from the packaging to the processing. If you buy your Plaice, Lemon Sole or Monkfish from my counter, it has a GG label on the box it’s delivered in. That tells me it’s from Grimsby and I proudly tell my customers that.
Even on pre packaged fish from certain companies, you can check for the GG label. You see GG, it’s Great Grimsby. Yes it’s a little sad when you drive by the docks and it’s all fenced off, and all the signs of the old fish merchants still on the buildings which are no longer fit for purpose.
There is a whole long political debate about how and why the fishing side of the industry left Grimsby, but the fact remains that there is still a proud heritage and future around the fish industry.
That’s why I am very proud of Flatfish Ltd, their history and family heritage is rock solid and their innovations into maintaining quality and standards are second to none and not just into the fish they supply for my counter and ones around the country.
Mr Dwyer made mention of the strong current industrial community aswell, the off shore wind companies and energy companies, the still very busy ports with container ship traffic. By the end of the presentation, everyone was fired up to continue to make Grimsby great, including myself and I’m not even from there!
This year I have literally been all over the country with my fishmongering, from Scotland to Devon and everywhere in between, but I still feel that excitement when someone asks where I’m off to next and I reply “Grimsby because I absolutely love it.” And I mean that.
In fact, my next fish adventure I’ll have will take me back to Grimsby for The SeaFish Careers day in February.
My third blog, again taken from what I’ve learned from the Summit will be more technical, but definitely something which is becoming more and more prevalent in the food industry, and that is the subject of Food Fraud.
Many many thanks to all in Grimsby, especially to The Stansfield Family and to Richard for the fantastic amount of Flatfish photos and stories, I think I could write a book solely around Flatfish! Special thanks to my friend, Mr Anton Dietschel Buehler. A massive thank you to Mr David Laister, business editor of the Grimsby and Scunthorpe Telegraph for the top two photos of Grimsby Docks. And also Dr Stephen Bloy for additional photos of Grimsby and also the historical knowledge and insight into the area, which I always find fascinating.