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New heritage project will put The Grit back into Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 11:12 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:16 12 January 2018

The Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village. Christ Church and Whapload Road, Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry People

The Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village. Christ Church and Whapload Road, Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry People

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A new project which delves into the past and features Lowestoft’s historic beach village has received a funding boost.

Dean Parkin, author, who is involved in The Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village, Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry PeopleDean Parkin, author, who is involved in The Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village, Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry People

More than £50,000 has been awarded to a community-driven words, film and music project about Lowestoft’s fishing village.

Devised by Poetry People, in partnership with the Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Museum and Lowestoft Rising, the scheme has just been awarded a £55,000 National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Led by Lowestoft-born poet and writer Dean Parkin, The Grit project will deliver workshops in eight primary schools, as well as GRITFEST – a Grit Celebration Day in Sparrows Nest park. There will also be a local history teaching resource, new displays about The Grit in the Lowestoft Maritime Museum, and a new live touring show bringing to life the characters and stories of The Grit.

Working across the generations, the project will involve 240 children and residents from care homes and sheltered housing.

The Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village. Mariners School, class one in 1924. Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry PeopleThe Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village. Mariners School, class one in 1924. Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry People

In 1900 Lowestoft was one of the country’s leading tourist resorts and a top fishing port with a population of 23,000. The town’s fishing village — known as The Grit or the Beach Village — included a self-sufficient community, which was home to 2,500 people, 13 pubs, three schools, two churches, shops and cafés.

The decline of the fishing industry, coupled with the Second World War and the 1953 floods, resulted in its demise. By the early 1970s, few houses remained as Birds Eye and other new industries took over the site.

A book celebrating the fishing village and the people who lived there was published in 1997. Also titled The Grit, it was co-written by Jack Rose – fisherman, lifeboatman and popular historian – and Dean Parkin. The book took them nearly three years to write and involved numerous interviews with Gritsters who had grown up in the early 20th century. It became a bestseller but has been out of print for many years.

A new revised edition will be published next summer to coincide with The Grit community project and Mr Parkin is keen to include new stories and photos.

The Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village. Strand Cottages as it used to be in the beach village, Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry PeopleThe Grit, a new project looking at the history of Lowestoft's beach village. Strand Cottages as it used to be in the beach village, Picture: Courtesy of the Poetry People

Mr Parkin said: “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share the story of The Grit with Lowestoft’s younger generation and to create a new live show celebrating some of the remarkable characters who lived and worked there. We can all learn from the spirit of The Gritsters who stuck together in hard times with resilience and humour.”

Grit Gathering Day

There will be a chance to learn more about what The Grit project entails and help with new material, photographs and stories at a special event.

A Grit Gathering day will be held at Christ Church Centre in Whapload Road, Lowestoft, on Saturday, January 27, between 10am and 4pm. This will be a chance to meet friends, exchange stories and shed light on old photographs as the project is launched.

A spokesman for the scheme said: “What do you know about The Grit? Did you or your family ever live there? Please come and share your memories of Lowestoft’s forgotten fishing village and find out more about this exciting project.”

There will also be an exhibition of photographs, archive film and audio, plus a short slideshow presented by Mr Parkin.

Entry is free all day and everyone is invited along.

Anyone who would like to contribute to The Grit project can email info@poetrypeople.co.uk or write to Poetry People, The Cut, 9 New Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8BY.

Extracts from The Grit

Extracts from the The Grit book, originally published in 1997, stated:

Rose Sansom said: “There were three cottages in Spurgeon Score which had 70 young children between three houses. All the men were fishermen. The man in the middle was lost at sea, and between the three houses they brought up these 70 children.

“This will tell you what the Beach people were like. Generous and kind-hearted.”

Sheila May recalled: “Our house in Coleman Square was tiny, two up, two down with an outside lavatory. There was the luxury of gas light in the downstairs front room – the rest of the stone-floored house was lit by candles and paraffin lamps. The small kitchen had an open fire, with an oven set in the wall beside it. All the family cooking was done there, including the twice-weekly bread making.”

Ronnie James said: “On our way to school we would run and kick the herring barrels so the brine would go all over the boy running behind us! And after that, if you got to school at Mariners Score, sat near the stoves and got hot, you would really stink of fish!”

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