Brixham Chimes by Jim Funnell. A Review

Filmographer Jim Funnell is a passionate environmentalist who believes in the right to protest, democracy and the importance of defending the environment against powerful business lobbies.

You can pretty much guarantee that his views on Rishi Sunaks’ recent reversal of UK green targets would require a censorship bleep machine running at maximum!

Following the making of the Sky Arts documentary series, ‘Fish Town‘, Jim felt a need to clarify his impressions of Brixham as a fishing village and more importantly, the very sea itself.

The result is “Brixham Chimes”

It’s an ambitious project, long in the making, and emerging from a love of Brixham and of the sea.

I was lucky to obtain one of the limited edition of 100 hard back books published. The book is presented like a gift with layers to un-wrap whilst labels emphasise that we should take the overt message contained within, very seriously. The front cover of the hardback is deeply empbossed with “Life is Treasure. Life is Trash. Life is commodity.”

Author Jim Funnell
Author Jim Funnell

Opening the book reveals a combination of poetic prose and gorgeous imagery that reminds me of the graphic novels of Dave McKean who illustrated many Neil Gaiman books. The work heavily invokes the spirit of Dylan Thomas’ ‘Under Milk Wood’ and is written with the same lightness of touch, referencing the opening of the day with characters of the town. Jim is happy to invent his own words for the text which is presented as Seven songs. The first, an opening morning in the rugged seas off Berry Head and the second introducing the brutal nature of the Brixham fishery with crates of fish on glistening ice but not forgetting to mention their dead brethren that were spurned like litter, off the ship back out at sea.

The poetic nature of the text doesn’t dress-up or breadcrumb the truth behind the devastation of beam trawler fishing. I’ve tended to separate my view of fishing from the slaughterhouse but the sheer enormity of life taken out of the sea is the main issue here. This is central to the main message – The fish in the sea are treasure, the dead creatures thrown back become trash with the remaining sellable fish in crates being the commodity. The current methodology is so obviously unsustainable.

This isn’t a case of someone else’s problem

So the book is a beautiful signal to an ugly industry and closes, by imagining a fish-town in the not-so-distant future.

“Brixham Chimes” has also been  worked into theatrical performance with music and readings and there is an audiobook version that can be heard freely on his own website with fittingly atmospheric music created for the piece by musician Tim Harris. You can listen to this here.

Jim states: “This isn’t a case of someone else’s problem: this is an issue we need to discuss and debate, right here, right now, on our doorstep. If we turn a blind eye now, we’ll all suffer in the very near future.” From this it’s not hard to recognise that this is an issue that he would like to be much more widely known and would be pleased if readers joined in to save our much abused sea.


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