A tale of herring-do
Nostalgia surrounds the herring. In Australia it reminds us of being a kid and fishing with our dad. In northern Europe, it signifies hard times, often when there was nothing else to eat, but also good times, when for centuries the herring industry provided employment for thousands along the coastlines of northern Europe and Britain.
Playing such a central role in the livelihood of so many, herring naturally began to be celebrated in folklore, art, literature and song.
Such rituals survive in places such as Floro on the west coast of Norway, north of Bergen, where on the Friday closest to midsummer’s eve the people of the village and surrounding islands come together for the Sildebordet, or the herring table, to celebrate the history.
It is mid-afternoon as we wander into Floro and, in the main street, long trestle tables have been set with white plastic cloths embellished with the name of the local fish co-operative. A few people are about and a funfair is operating at the other end of town. School is just out for the summer holidays and kids are everywhere eating blue fairy floss. The claim to fame at the festival is the longest herring table in the world — about 400m, we are told.
We go into the tourist office to inquire when we should take a seat. This results in much excitement; the tourist office people have heard about us from the staff at the museum we visited this morning. We are expected. A quick photo and then we appear on the festival’s Face-