Local Artists Create a New Film Documenting a Unique Solway Fishing Tradition

Local Artists Create a New Film Documenting a Unique Solway Fishing Tradition – haaf netting.

Join local artists and Haaf netters for an online film screening with Q&A on Thursday 26th November, 7pm – 8pm.

‘HAAF’ is a new short film that captures Solway’s unique fishing tradition. Haaf netting as we see it today is thought to have been developed by the Vikings over 1000 years ago. The way of fishing is unique to the Solway and involves the fisherman walking far out into the middle of the Solway Firth at low tide and standing with their Haaf net as the sea comes in. The width of the beam that supports the net is thought to have come from the 17th ore of a Viking longship. The aim of the Haaf netting is  to catch Salmon and Sea Trout. However a decline of fish stocks and new environmental laws mean the fishing method is no longer commercially viable  and its future is under threat.

Local artist and filmmaker Julia Parks and sound recordist Heather Andrews went out with the fisherman on both sides of the Solway to document their fishing method. Through recorded interviews, the Haaf netters share stories and re-call language that has developed around the fishing. There are over 39 terms to describe a Haaf netter with variations on the Scots and English side. ‘A marra’ for example refers to a person from the Environment Agency as opposed to a companion or friend. ‘Back-o-Men’ on the scots side refers to the men who stand in the line fishing net to net whereas on the English side it is known as a Bourke ‘a bourke of men’.

Julia Parks; “ I have always been interested in Haaf netting and this project was an ideal opportunity to find out a bit more. In August we contacted Haaf Netters Mark Messenger, John Warrick and Barry Turner who generously took Heather and I out to see what they did. Through a series of socially-distanced meetings we have created a new moving image portrait using black and white hand developed 16mm film.  The 16-minute work includes the sounds of Solway, and stories and thoughts about the future of fishing – it is a portrait of Haaf Netting in 2020.”

The project has been created as part of West Cumbrian Arts Council Funded project RE Drift – an artists led initiative who have been running events and activities in West Cumbria since August 2020.

Sign up for the FREE Online event via RE DRIFT on Facebook or type ‘HAAF’ into Eventbrite.