Singing for fish suppers

Picture Martin Bostock'A fisherman's wife from Essex, is setting up a national fish wives choir in support of fishermen's mission. The Rev George Ayoma is keen to get this off the ground in Fleetwood among wives and daughters of fishing families and in the hope of a boost from Alfie Boe too

Picture Martin Bostock'A fisherman's wife from Essex, is setting up a national fish wives choir in support of fishermen's mission. The Rev George Ayoma is keen to get this off the ground in Fleetwood among wives and daughters of fishing families and in the hope of a boost from Alfie Boe too

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We’ve all heard of the Military Wives, who took the charts by storm with their single and have just released a hit debut album.

But the singing Fishwives?

One fisherman’s widow aims to change all that – with the help of Fleetwood’s Fishermen’s Mission.

Communal choirs are the new rock ‘n’ roll, bringing the glee factor to downtrodden communities in need of something upbeat and inspirational.

Music can lift spirits even in the darkest times, says Jane Dolby. Her fisherman husband Colin went missing in bad weather off the Essex coast in 2008. He was 47. His body was found a year later.

Jane was familiar with the risks all trawlermen take, but had no idea of the problems that could follow, in the absence of her husband’s body being found.

“Colin died at sea when his fishing boat got caught in a freak storm three years ago,” she explains.

She now hopes to establish The Fishwives Choir to record a single – in order to thank the Fishermen’s Mission for their work in all fishing communities.

“They stayed central to our lives for the whole time. They supported us spiritually and financially,” she admits.

“Now I want to involve women from fishing communities around the UK – including Fleetwood – to say thank you.”

Jane adds: “Because Colin’s body was missing, I couldn’t get a death certificate to prove he was dead, so I couldn’t claim any benefits, and had no income.

“The Fishermen’s Mission provided us with money and food. They helped us survive.”

Jane works in music promotion, so has a foot in both worlds. “Potentially it’s a massive project,” she added

Her phone’s rung off the hook since she floated the idea on social network sites.

But since turning to The Gazette, one of the warmest welcomes has come from Rev George Ayoma – Fleetwood Fishermen’s Mission superintendent.

“I would like to take this even further,” George admits. “Most of our former fishermen’s wives are elderly and quite frail. Fishing has been relatively dormant here since the 1980s.

“Perhaps we should be turning to their daughters, as well as the wives and girlfriends of men involved in what’s left of the trade today. It would be good to get the core of a choir established here – rather than have them travel to the Albert Hall, or wherever.

“I would also like to suggest that Fleetwood’s famous son Alfie Boe gets involved.

“His voice has universal appeal – and I know he is very proud of his Fleetwood roots.”

Almost 300 people have expressed an interest nationally, but Jane is keen to recruit on the Fylde coast where fishing still figures large in the local economy.

“It’s not about how well you can sing, it’s all about heart,” she adds.

George agrees. “I always say I can’t sing, but the ability to sing is deep inside us all, and just has to be unlocked. Choral music really touches the heart and lifts the spirits. I think it’s a fantastic idea. It strikes a chord.

“It’s a great idea for uniting the community here. It’s already a very close-knit town.”

As well as being superintendent at the port mission, George is the minister at Trinity Church, Poulton Road, which has hosted the mission offices for several years and has a long association with the charity.

George adds: “I have lived in many places, but I think Fleetwood is really something. The element of community engagement is very much part of my brief – you only have to look at the success of the football club to see how much it matters. The fundraising element will help raise the profile of the Fishermen’s Mission, too.

“I have been based in Fleetwood since 2007, but cover the North West coast.

“I worked in a small town on the Moray Firth coast – Nairn before coming here.

“Coming from Kenya, I was something of a novelty. I had a brilliant time, but this is more challenging.

“I found the social deprivation quite shocking at first, but that’s no slur on the people, or the dignity of the community.

“I’ve also had far more fun here than I ever had in Nairn, which was more individualistic and isolated. Here people tell stories of their families and like to get involved – and if you step on one – you step on all.

“I get a real chance to make a difference to people’s lives.”

To join, email fishwiveschoir@live.co.uk, join the group at www.facebook.com/theFishwives, or follow the tweets @fishwiveschoir.