Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends return to the stage after tragedy
PORT Isaac singing group the Fisherman's Friends have performed live on a national stage for the first time since the death of one of their members.
The group performed at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London last night and received a standing ovation from the audience after performing a medley of shanty songs.
Group member Trevor Grills, 54, died after he was critically injured by a falling metal door at a venue in Surrey last year.
Their second album, One And All, was dedicated to Mr Grills and tour manager Paul McMullen, who also died in the accident at G Live in Guildford on 9 February 2013.
Padstow fisherman Jason Nicholas said his group was “overwhelmed” by the reaction of the audience.
“It was absolutely fantastic, it was really amazing to get such a standing ovation in front of a sell-out crowd,” Mr Nicholas said. “The support was brilliant and we were overwhelmed.”
A loose collection of friends since school - many of them fishermen – the group had often entertained themselves and locals in and around Port Isaac with a capella renditions of sea shanties.
By the mid-Nineties the group had consolidated into nine core singers, including brothers Julian, John and Jeremy Brown and Peter Rowe, all men of the sea; Jon Cleave, local shopkeeper and author of a series of children’s books featuring a mischievous seagull; potter and guitarist Billy Hawkins; engineer and smallholder John Lethbridge, who is known to everyone as Lefty; and two builders, John McDonnell and Trevor Grills.
It wasn’t until 2009 that they were joined by Mr Nicholas, taken in to the group as much for his accordion-playing skills as his singing.
Their big break came when they were discovered by BBC Radio 2 presenter Johnnie Walker, who was holidaying in Port Isaac when he was given a couple of self-produced Fisherman’s Friends CDs.
Mr Walker handed the CDs to his manager, Ian Brown, who came to hear the group sing in a local hotel, leading to the offer of a £1m recording contract.
Their eponymous first album, released in 2010, went gold, selling more than 150,000 copies and life quickly went into overdrive for the Fisherman’s Friends with an ITV documentary and a book.
The group sang at the Queen’s Jubilee and on the main stage at Glastonbury and a feature film inspired by their story is currently in production.
Last year the group turned down the offer to tour the United States, amongst many other gigs.
“After what happened with Trevor and Paul none of us felt like singing or playing gigs and we turned down quite a lot last year,” Mr Nicholas said.
“This performance at the Royal Albert Hall was our first performance since the tragedy but it was a great success and we are overwhelmed by the support.”