Harry Belafonte and the Herring Girls

- by Dan Scott

Harry Belafonte and the Herring Girls is an audio-walk through the town of Siglufjörður, taking in the Herring Museum as well as the town harbour. The piece explores the hidden links between Siglufjörður, the herring girls who used to work there, and the music and heritage of calypso pioneer Harry Belafonte, it explores the many parallels between Belafonte and Siglufjörður, the link between his success and the herring stocks, and the line in the ocean between Iceland and Jamaica.


Dan and Trish Scott, artists from the UK came to Siglufjörður in 2009 seeking the herring; the king of the sea. They stayed here for 4 weeks, and had this to say about their time in Siglufjörður:

In guidebooks and on websites Siglufjörður is referred to as the herring capital of Iceland, perhaps even the world, but upon arriving we discovered the herring had gone. We were too late. We found only memories and signposts; the herring disappeared in 1969.

We soon discovered the history is well-documented. There was no deception here. The Herring Era Museum presented it beautifully, but what about us? We had travelled 1000 miles, our mission was to find the herring. So, we created a list of summons; various methods and strategies to re-animate the silver of the ocean. We sought meaning in traces, colouring in history from photos and objects, summoning up silver fish from sardine tins and hand creams. We sought guidance in characters from the herring's past: Harry Belafonte, the herring girls. We asked the residents of Siglufjörður to draw herring from memory; drawing the shoals back to the Greenland Sea. We immersed ourselves in fish, following every lead, visiting Fish Festivals, angling in the Fjord, consuming herring everyday for lunch. We looked beyond the fish, to the mountains, to the tunnels, looking for clues, symptoms, wisdom; anything that could help us.
In the end our project became a quest, to summon the herring, to bring them back somehow.

To see more about the work of Dan and Trish, go to their websites - Trish Scott and Dan Scott.