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Mentioned Part 27

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 30/08/2001

Home > Features > Mentioned > Mentioned #27


"No disrespect to the likes of Grimsby..."

thursday 30th august


From the London Evening Standard

Reviewing Watford's prospects, the article lauds Vialli's high profile style and the signings of Hughes, Vega and Blondeau, and goes on to say:

"They are used to playing mainly in front of big crowds at top stadiums and the scheduled trips to Grimsby and Walsall are unlikely to hold much appeal"

Spotted by James Milne who adds "Especially, I would say, when they come away with nil points at BP!!!".

Grimsby Angles For Sea Change

From the Financial Times

Cod can be bought and sold electronically as easily as financial futures. But many of Grimsby's white-coated buyers are no keener to desert the bustling fish market for a new trading theatre than London futures traders were to leave the outcry pits.

That this coastal town still has a busy fish market - let alone one undergoing a Pounds 300,000 modernisation - surprises visitors who assume the first four letters of Grimsby describe its supposed economic condition.

But the north-east Lincolnshire port has undergone a transformation underpinned by growth in food processing, chemicals and docking.

According to Dun & Bradstreet, the business information group, Grimsby has the highest proportion of profitable businesses in Britain. Gross domestic product per head is well above the UK average, and GDP growth during the 1990s - of about 5 per cent a year - was ahead of that for the Yorkshire and Humber region into which Grimsby falls.

"....Grimsby people are still known as Codheads to their peers in Hull..."

Grimsby people are still known as Codheads to their peers in Hull. But these days it is because they process fish rather than catch it.

In the 1960s, 600 vessels operated from Grimsby, making it the world's biggest fishing port. Following the collapse of North Sea fish stocks, the number shrank to 30.

But 40,000 tonnes of fish, most of it landed in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, passes through Grimsby every year, putting it and Hull only marginally behind north-east Scotland as a trading centre.

Much of it is used locally, by processors that include market leader Youngs Bluecrest. The seafood specialist employs 2,000 of the 15,000 working in the sector in a town of just 92,000.

The legacy of trawling is a workforce specialising in high-speed fish filleting, many services businesses supporting food processors, and the biggest concentration of cold stores in Europe.

"....Most of the fish served by McDonald's in the UK was prepared in Grimsby..."

Most of the fish served by McDonald's in the UK was prepared in Grimsby. Many of the imported cars on the roads arrived there too, or at nearby Immingham. To-gether, they constitute the country's busiest port, handling 50m tonnes of goods last year. Dennis Dunne, port director, puts this down to flexibility, a central location and excellent transport links. These include the M180, which connects to the M1 via the M18.

Immingham supplies oil as well as cars, fuelling the sprawl of chemical plants on the south bank of the Humber. These sprang up in the days before environmental controls were tightened, when "no one cared if they dumped effluent in the river", according to one development official.

Salmon are back in the Humber, but Grimsby boasts few smart restaurants - often indicators of prosperity - to serve expensive wild-caught fish to the town's supposedly affluent inhabitants. Most of the profits, like the fish, are only passing through. They inflate GDP per head, but local incomes are low. Food processing is badly paid. The docks employ only a few hundred people to shift the vast yearly tonnage.

The complex of chemical factories does better, with 6,000 staff. But unemployment in Grimsby, at 6.3 per cent is high by national standards. Older men are most likely to be unemployed. Many younger people are getting out.

"....All the indicators show that this should be a boom town..."

"All the indicators show that this should be a boom town," says Jim Leivers, chief executive of North East Lincolnshire council. "But there are substantial pockets of deprivation. A quarter of wards are in the bottom 10 per cent for England," he adds.

"....The culture of the area is that you leave school at 16..."

Europarc, a new commercial centre and small business incubator on the outskirts of town, is working to try to redress an entrepreneurial deficit. Mr Leivers says: "The culture of the area is that you leave school at 16 and pick up a job."

With its call centre and ethnic food processor, Europarc is an outpost of mainland commerce in a town that remains an economic dependency of the ocean.

Steve Norton, chief executive of the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association, shows visitors the new fish trading theatre, with a mixture of pride and nervousness. "They've been doing it like this in Iceland for ages," he says, gesturing to the electronic prices board and bidding positions.

Persuading buyers they can operate without prodding and scrutinising potential purchases is a tough job. Mr Norton only smiles when he spots a huge halibut laid out on the dock.

"....better claim than Venice to be wedded to the sea..."

Local cheerleaders are beginning to extract the "grim", but they will never expunge the smell of fish from a town which has a better, if more prosaic, claim than Venice to be wedded to the sea.

Spotted by Louise Falconer.

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