Salmon fishing on the Tweed: Past. Present. Future Sustaining the intangible heritage of net fishing takes an in depth look at sustaining the heritage of net fishing in Berwick-upon-Tweed and the in-shore Northumberland fishing villages.
Working alongside Berwick 900, we have been collecting impressions of the salmon fishing industry through a series of ‘pop-up’ citizen-led story-telling events. When a story-telling booth was installed in the Town Hall over a long weekend in July 2015, conversations became more animated whenever net fish-ing was immediately visible at Gardo, licensed for a short summer season to co-incide with the town celebrating 900 years of history.
Archives and family histories provided one measure of local historical signifi-cance. Popular memories included the vicar of Norham “blessing the salmon” at the opening of the netting season, midnight on 14th February, a custom that ended in 1987 when the local fishery closed. Modern traditions have been kept alive and 2016 will mark the 70th annual crowning of a new Salmon Queen. As well as recording personal memories we wanted to stimulate a wider-ranging conversation about the potential to revive and sustain net fishing on the Tweed.
This publication offers a record of this process. It allows local citizens, whose voices are rarely heard in major decision-making, to share their knowledge and experience. It sheds light on a deeply-felt public attachment and sense of be-longing to net and coble fishing and the Tweed. We heard competing points of view and multiple claims to the ‘truth’. We also witnessed frustration among the non-angling public that inherited oral accounts can be dismissed as outmoded or mythical. To help make sense of these different perspectives we drew inspiration from Berwick’s established ‘slow food’ and ‘slow living’ civic organisations which promote local cultural heritage, notably intangible factors of local distinctiveness and well-being, emphasising community organising that empowers local citizens.