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Peanut boats, Fish Dock races and a royal visit will all feature in St James Square artwork

12:04 pm, Tuesday, 1st December 2020

YOUNGSTERS swimming out to ‘peanut’ boats to pinch the cargo, 1pm Friday Fish Dock races and the day Queen Victoria visited  – just some of Grimsby’s history that is reflected in a unique pathway being installed in St James’ Square.

Remembering the town’s past whilst looking forward to the things that are contributing to a successful future will be found in words, sayings, poetry, and phrases being etched into two new stone pathways. 

The walkways in which the artwork will be displayed run either side of the new central labyrinth from St James’ Hotel to Grimsby Minster. Every step reveals something for the walker to look at and think about, with a hopscotch of historic dates encouraging children to engage with the town’s heritage and history.

From the goods that were shipped through the docks years ago, to its growth as the world’s busiest fishing port and today’s burgeoning offshore wind sector, the industrial ebbs and flows are represented. Then there’s key dates in the town’s calendar and the myth surrounding Havelok the Dane and Grimsby’s founding.

A section of pathway is also devoted to the role that the Grade I listed Grimsby Minster has played in the town’s life – one feature reflects the time it was a temporary ‘garage’ for fire engines whilst continuing to function as a church. Another reminds people of a wartime bombing raid that damaged the building.

Over many weeks, artist Adrian Riley has explored a myriad of words and phrases to form his #LettersFromGrimsby creation. During that time Adrian, a talented creative with a background in artistic signage and wayfinding, has immersed himself in the culture of the town to gain an insight into its past, present and future.

Working within the continued coronavirus restrictions for most of the year, Adrian was supported by a local steering group and the team at Our Big Picture Ltd, the social enterprise that has engaged both he and fellow artist Annabel McCourt for the Our Haven St James’ work.

More than 100 Grimsby people were engaged with, and a myriad of stories told. Adrian also worked with word artists and creative writers, young people, amateur and professional historian – using on and offline workshops. On social media #lettersfromGrimsby had 1,200 engagements.

“I wanted to create something that people found interesting, that was puzzling to them so they did not just look once and not return, but something that would intrigue them and encourage them to explore further. It will also become part of the Square’s fabric,” explained Adrian.

“The design blends people’s memories, often from childhood or stories passed on through the generations, with information gleaned from history books, public records and myths. This is a people’s history of Grimsby with personal memories recorded in stone for posterity, running alongside the tales that everyone knows,” he said.

As his work continued, Grimsby’s diverse history became increasingly evident to Adrian.

“The fortunes of places can change so quickly, particularly in coastal towns and we see that in Grimsby’s history. It is easy to think that the industrial heritage of the town is all about fishing but that is not the case and this is reflected in some of the words used, which represent goods that were imported and exported as you go through the years,” he said.

Work is now starting by a specialist company, etching Adrian’s designs into Scoutmoor Yorkstone. The pathway will be laid in the new year.

Meanwhile artist Annabel McCourt continues to work on her ‘Murmuration’ art piece, which will be displayed in the Square. Hundreds of Grimsby people have been photographed with their images used to create copper statuettes to represent the true people of the town.

As reported, the Square, part of the Heritage Action Zone, is undergoing a £1.8m overhaul to create a family-friendly space with new furniture, planting, lighting and CCTV. Managed by North East Lincolnshire Council’s regeneration partner ENGIE, the main funding was secured by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (Humber LEP) as part of the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

The two artists were commissioned by Our Big Picture, which is working on cultural projects in the Square as part of ‘Grimsby Creates’ – an umbrella brand for cultural activity over the next three years. The art project money comes from the Cultural Development Fund, (CDF), which is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and administered by Arts Council England.

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