CIVIC dignitaries joined the Icelandic Ambassador, and business and charity heads to launch two unique new exhibitions at Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre.
On a day of celebration of Grimsby’s seafood sector – past and present – the audience heard of the lasting bond and relationship between Iceland and our town, the importance of ensuring that remained, and how challenges can be overcome, and future opportunities taken.
The event marked the official opening of the exhibitions, which commemorate the town’s connections between Iceland, The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers and Billingsgate Fish Market.
The Icelandic Ambassador, Sturla Sigurjónsson, and Embassy representatives were there to see their selection of cartoons from the era of the “Cod Wars”, go on display. On grateful loan from the Embassy, ‘Fish ‘n’ Quips’ explores the events of the First and Second Cod Wars with a display of more than 40 satirical newspaper cartoons. It features many original pieces from some of Britain’s best newspaper cartoonists, collected by Niels P. Sigurðsson, Ambassador of Iceland between 1972 and 1976.
Delighted to be in Grimsby and thanking the Centre and North East Lincolnshire Council for hosting the event, Sturla Sigurjónsson, said: “It is a pleasure to be here in Grimsby particularly on such a beautiful day, and here in the Fishing Heritage Centre.”
Of the Cod Wars and the years after, he added: “For the UK, the longstanding way of life of whole communities, not least in Grimsby, were at stake. However, strong feelings at the time never diminished the mutual respect and affinity felt on both sides. This is reflected in the contemporary drawings and in the relationship between the two countries today.”
The second exhibition, ‘Sea to Sale’, saw representatives from London’s Worshipful Company of Fishmongers officially present a copy of the oldest surviving Company Charter from 1547, to the Centre.
The Fishmongers Company will this year celebrate their 750th anniversary. Billingsgate Fish Market, Britain’s largest inland fish market, has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Great Grimsby and its fishing and processing sectors.
As part of the exhibition, there is also a copy of Her Majesty The Queen’s first official portrait on display. The original portrait hangs in the Fishmonger’s Hall in London. Only two copies of the original portrait have been made for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre is fortunate enough to be one of the venues receiving a copy. The copy is displayed in the Muriel Barker Gallery in the centre.
Welcoming everyone to the opening was The Worshipful the Mayor of the Borough of North East Lincolnshire, Cllr Steve Beasant, who thanked guests including the Ambassador and Fred Stroyan, Fourth Warden of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers.
Mr Stroyan highlighted his organisation’s unique partnership with Grimsby and its support of the local charity CatZero, which offers positive new opportunities for young people and families across the Humber. The charity has been involved in the build-up to the event, which coincided with a ‘life-changing’ sail for its young Grimsby participants on its yacht. This included a visit to London’s Fishmonger’s Hall.
With both the Grimsby and Icelandic communities very much at the heart of the event, North East Lincolnshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Safer and Stronger Communities, Cllr Ron Shepherd said: “The relationship between our two communities must remain as strong as ever. We are reliant on working with each other and that is something that is so very important as we move forward, remaining at the forefront of the seafood processing sector. This is a fantastic exhibition.”
Councillor Tom Furneaux, portfolio holder for culture, heritage and the visitor economy, added: “It is wonderful to reinforce the historic connections and friendships between Great Grimsby, the Icelandic Community, the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers and Billingsgate Fish Market. This exhibition brings us together again, in different times, to reflect upon our shared heritage. It is our pleasure to host this exhibition, opened with Icelandic Ambassador Sturla Sigurjónsson, representatives from the Fishmongers Company in their 750th year and Billingsgate Fish Market.”
David Ornsby, operations manager at Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre, said it was a privilege to welcome the Ambassador of Iceland and Embassy representatives to the centre, which remembers Great Grimsby’s fishermen and the vital role they played for the town.
“We promote our rich local heritage, but equally important is to acknowledge and celebrate the connections and friendships that we enjoy today as a result of our past”, said David.
Louise Bowen, collections officer at the centre, who has helped put the exhibition together, said: “We are delighted to have secured generous loans from the Fishmongers Company and the Embassy of Iceland for these exhibitions. The replica of the 1272 Royal Charter and copy of the famous Pietro Annigoni of Queen Elizabeth II from the Fishmongers Company are stunning objects which tell a very important story. The collection of over 40 Cod War cartoons from the Embassy of Iceland provide a unique insight into a significant part of our mutual history. We are grateful to both organisations for loaning these objects to be enjoyed by our visitors. They will sit alongside objects from our fantastic collection of ship models and artwork.”
The exhibition will run until the end of December between 10am and 4pm, except on Mondays. Admission is free.
The exhibition launch also coincided with a visit to the town by a number of the UK’s top seafood chefs including Rick Stein, who all attended a gala dinner at the Grimsby Institute ahead of their judging at the National Seafood Chef of the Year competition.