Seafood theme to East Lothian’s 3 Harbours Arts Festival 2010

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Seafood theme to East Lothian’s 3 Harbours Arts Festival 2010

Kirstin Innes finds out why East Lothian’s 3 Harbours Arts Festival has a whole new fishy wing

‘When people from the cities think of visiting East Lothian, it’s always Gullane or North Berwick they go for,’ observes Adele Conn. ‘What we wanted to do was give them reasons to visit the three harbours on the way: Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton. But there was always that question: how do we get them to stop?’

What Conn and her colleagues managed to do, five years ago now, was create one of Scotland’s most original and appealing community-based arts festivals. The 3 Harbours Arts Festival has matured into a major date in the Scottish festival calendar, thanks to the organisers’ unique idea to celebrate the creativity of the local communities by hiding works by local artists in and around the three harbours. This year over 250 visual artists will be exhibiting work in a variety of venues turned temporarily into galleries (including the huge industrial public space of Cockenzie Power Station, where the biggest names in the programme traditionally host their exhibitions), and the programme has swollen to include street theatre, live music, workshops and an ‘origami outreach programme’. We’re not making that up: one of the traditions to have sprung up over the last few years is that the festival is opened by the launching of a giant paper boat. However, this year there’s an additional attraction: the 3 Harbours Seafood Festival.

‘We ran the seafood festival as a pilot scheme last year: it started out as just one tent, in a field, as part of the Arts Festival programme,’ explains Conn, ‘and it attracted over 3000 people over one weekend!’ The 3 Harbours team have wisely decided to trade in on that appeal this year: Conn has take charge of the seafood side of things, so to speak, and they’re stretching to 20 tasting stalls, mostly manned by local fishermen and chefs, and offering tastes of everything from traditional local fish dishes to sushi, as well as a number of arts and crafts ventures, sea-themed craft workshops for kids, and The List’s own music tent providing a soundtrack to your mussel-munching.

‘The idea at first was that all the bands were going to have some connection to the sea – we were hoping to get Fish to headline the tent – eventually, we settled for all of the bands, even those from Edinburgh, having some connection to the area.’

Conn is keen to stress that, although visitors are hugely welcome, this festival is primarily about the people of those three harbours.

‘Ninety-nine percent of the seafood caught here is exported immediately. We want to raise awareness of our community, of the creativity and amazing food stemming from this little bit of coastline, of the heritage and culture of the fishing industry on our doorstep.’

Three Harbours Seafood Festival, The Greenbelt, Edinburgh Road, Prestonpans, Fri 28–Sun 30 May. Three Harbours Arts Festival, various venues, East Lothian, Sat 29 May–Sun 6 Jun. For full details see www.3harbours.co.uk

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