Brighton's Last Fisherman's Grotto
Brighton Beach east of the Palace Pier
THIS GROTTO HAS BEEN UNDER THREAT OF DEMOLITION - NOW IT COULD BECOME THE STAR ATTRACTION ON THE RESTORED VOLK'S BEACH RAILWAY (see 2017 update below).
Visitors to Brighton will be amazed this summer with the latest creation on the beach. It celebrates the long tradition of commercial sea fishing in a locality that was once known as the coastal fishing village of Brighthelmstone. This creation is not a major funded tourism initiative or a scheme by coastal enthusiasts to embellish the natural environment. This is all down to Rory McCormack, a creative artistic fisherman who has turned his attention to building a spectacular beach grotto within his fishing enclosure on the shingle beach at one of England's iconic and avant garde resorts. Brighton is often noted for its unorthodox inhabitants but this solitary fisherman has upstaged everyone with his masterful creation.
Sequencing pictures above:
1. The conch shells arch and internal decor.
2. Wall figure decoration.
3. The figure head that stares at tourists on the Volk's Railway.
4. Giant earrings add to the mystery of the creations.
5. The giant seated figure gazing out to sea; its creator can be seen under the arms putting the finishing touches to the stonework.
6. Rory contemplates the future for his latest then part finished creation.
7. In October 2015 Rory sits amongst his summer creations.
The fisherman's enclosure on the beach by the Volk's Railway now houses what promises to be Britain's premier shell grotto of the 21st century. Rory can just be seen centre while pedestrians watch with amazement.
This now famous 21st-century shell grotto is still being constructed! In 2013 this local fisherman found that there was little to do in the winter months so he started to collect bits and pieces off the beach: mostly shells and hunks of flint. The flints he's cemented together in extraordinary shapes - one of a seated figure with its head in its hands. It's almost twice the height of a man. Another is a seated figure playing a harp.
Surrounded by fisherman's gear this figure (left) wistfully looks out to sea with flint binoculars.
These superbly crafted flint figures are not whimsical creations however. They are modelled on ancient statuary from the bronze and iron ages. Some are inspired by Minoan culture and others by figures in the National Museum of Athens. Rory explains his initiative as follows: I was confronted with a dying beach and a dying fishing industry, my impetus was based on injecting a new life and character on Brighton beach using natural beach materials."
As well as the eight main figures there are other creations however. There is a bronze age grave with skeleton and an ornamental throne type seat. Some of the shapes have been decorated with evenly-shaped and sized pebbles and beach shells. The unusual entrance arch, though, has conch shells inset - shells that Brighton aquarium thought surplus to requirements. The flint work that Rory has developed in of very high quality and he has mastered the problems of building in curves superbly. Ironically the foundations for many of the figures are the concrete winch bases set on the beach for winching fishing boats out the sea in former times.
Picture above - the excavated bronze age burial in print and in flint.
In mid-February 2015 our fisherman went fishing, and caught not a thing.
It was the beginning of the plaice season, but alas no luck. Often Rory would catch sea bass, but not in the winter. What better way to while away those profitless hours every day than make a grotto of statuary from local stone and beach debris? The photographs reproduced here were all taken in 2015. Our fisherman is busy at work. Next time you're in Brighton, go and see how he's getting on.
Picture left - Rory at work on the grotto in the shadow of the giant figure.
This novel beach feature should now be included in the Brighton Festival attractions in conjunction with the Arts and Recreation Department of the Brighton Council. The beach inspector has fortuitously kept an eye on it's safety and security having checked the beach an estimated 2000 times since the grotto was commenced. In a proper enclosure it warrants becoming one of Brighton's artistic treasures commemorating the once thriving beach fishing industry. Let's hope that the Brighton Planning Department appreciate this initiative and endeavour to make it a permanent artistic feature. Well done!
CLICK LEFT TO SIGN THE PETITION TO SAVE THIS ARTISTIC MASTERPIECE BY A LOCAL FISHERMAN.
CLICK RIGHT TO READ WHAT THE BRIGHTON AND HOVE NEWS SAYS ABOUT THE FISHERMAN'S GROTTO.
CLICK LEFT OR THE PICTURE BELOW TO SEE WHAT THE LOCAL TV SAYS ABOUT RORY'S CREATIONS.
Picture above - Room for expansion? The grotto seen in the left background would benefit from the use of more abandoned fishing winch foundations to extend the ever increasing range of unique statuary.
Picture above - Work progresses and this image is a quick update taken in November 2016.
Whilst creative work on the grotto continues by Rory, two occurrences are likely to have long term repercussions on the future of the Last Brighton Fisherman's Grotto. The first is the featuring of the amazing sculptures in Rawvision, a publication dedicated to artistic works worldwide. With colourful illustrations, the history of Rory's creations is recorded in text. (RV 93 spring 2017)
The second occurrence is the announced restoration of the Volk's Electric Railway that runs alongside the grotto. This 1.85 million pound project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will bring visitors in vast numbers past Rory's enclosure. What a splendid opportunity to establish the Last Fisherman's Grotto as an integral part of the major tourism attraction of Brighton beach. Can Rory be persuaded to open up the boundaries of his grotto for all to see? Perhaps it could be turned into a protected leisure garden for the train passengers to embark to and from? For more details see below.
For more information on the world oldest electric railway go to http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/volks
2019 - Determined not to be upstaged by the Volks Railway that runs alongside Rory's patch, Rory has gone into overdrive with more creations. He is seen here showing a visitor what lurks in his grotto extraordinaire.
2021 - Life does not stand still in spite of lock-down and in the spring of 2021 we discover Rory's creations continue to multiply. When will the powers that be recognise the historic and artistic significance of these statues and ensure that they are protected for further generations to enjoy as well as presenting a unique attraction to Brighton's beach?
GREAT BRITISH GROTTO GRADING
Click to go to Grotto.Directory home page
CLICK THE FISH BELOW TO EXTEND YOUR EXPLORATION OF BRIGHTON
Brighton's Past on Shifting Sands Part ONE.
Brighton's Past on Shifting Sands Part TWO.
Brighton's Past on Shifting Sands Part THREE.
Brighton's Crimean Cannon.
The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.
The Last Fisherman - Rory's Grotto.
Tourism and the Sussex Downs - South Downs National Park.
Crystal Palace - a key tourist location between London and Brighton.
Not open to the public
PEOPLE, PLACES, PRESENT DAY
Access on Foot, Grotto - just one, Part of a larger tourism attraction
England - Southern
THE FEATURES PRESENT
+A created provenance that links it to ancient mythology or legend, +Cared for and maintained in good condition, +External rock structures, either real or simulated, +Fossils and/or shells incorporated into the decor, +Stunning setting and location, +Viewing points from within to an intriguing landscape outside, GRADED SIX