Search for sweaters that can help rediscover fishing history

PUBLISHED: 11:00 22 February 2015

Zeeland fishermen from around 1900

Zeeland fishermen from around 1900

Archant

Fishermen in bygone days sported sweaters to identify them if their bodies were washed ashore – a morbid necessity organisers want to pay homage to when Sidmouth Sea Fest returns on May 1 and 2.

Zeeland fishermen from around 1910Zeeland fishermen from around 1910

Coastal communities in Britain and across northern Europe adopted unique knitting patterns, but many have been lost to the ages.

The Dutch town of Arnemuiden has resurrected the patterns from villages across the Zeeland region and Matt Booth, the brains behind Sidmouth’s festival, is keen to follow suit.

He is appealing for photos to work out the town’s unique stitches.

Matt said: “This is a fascinating project that connects fishing communities across northern Europe, explores the heritage, and compares similarities in practice, hardship, challenges and more that all fishing communities had to face.

“The story lies in the patterns.

“It lies in the sweaters.”

The Arnemuiden team is convinced Sidmouth will have a pattern of its own, and after two years working in Zeeland, is confident it can reverse-engineer it.

The knitters will need photos from the early 1900s and Matt hopes people will dig into their attics and archives to help.

“It would be brilliant to find the pattern, recreate it, and knit Sidmouth fishermen’s sweaters in time for Sea Fest,” he added.

The results, together with an exhibition of the Arnemuiden sweaters, will be on display at the festival from 7pm on May 1.

It will be followed by a catwalk parade of the sweaters, along with a performance from a specially-formed shanty choir.

The exhibition will remain on the Ham the following day before it moves to a fixed location in Sidmouth for a fortnight.

Matt is also reaching out for 14-to 18-year-olds keen to gain experience as apprentices, volunteers who can help out, and singers for the sea shanty choir to perform at the festival.

The event will celebrate all things in and on the sea with stalls, community activities, live music, demonstrations and fun for all the family.

Anyone with photos or who is interested in getting involved, can email matt@templestreet.net or call 01395 576850.

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