The pebble beaches of Brighton are now a tourist mecca for Londoners seeking a boozy weekend beside the sea. Little remains to suggest that the now-thriving city was once an impoverished fishing village; of course there’s the small fishing museum surrounded by the plethora of seafood snack huts but what was left of Brighton’s fishing fleet migrated along the coast long ago.
However, a few hardy souls still set to sea off Brighton beach, dragging their small boats across the pebbles when the mood, or rather the tide, suits them. To accommodate the remaining fishermen, the council has afforded them small, fenced-off plots along the beach where they can store their boats, nets, lobster pots and whatever takes their fancy.
Rory McCormack began fishing off Brighton Beach as a child has held his fisherman’s plot for fifteen years. He became fed up cutting up fish and repairing his nets on the floor, so naturally decided to build himself a workbench. Originally a drywaller by trade, instead of building a work bench out of wood, Rory simply used the free building material available all along the beach: the flint pebbles.
The project quickly snowballed and soon the work bench was decorated with nautilus and conch shells that Rory had gathered over the years; “I thought it was a good way to make use of some of the stuff that I had just lying about at home,” he reasons.
Two years on and Rory’s original workbench is now just a small part of a much larger collection of ornate flint sculptures crammed into the tiny spaces in between his fishing equipment and vegetable patch. The creations are mainly based around prehistoric statues and armed with a set of 1960s History of Art encyclopaedias, Rory has recently completed his ode to the fertility goddess, The Venus of Willendorf, and is now working on a replica of the Venus of Vespugue.
Unfortunately in an almost Kafkaesque bureaucratic move, the council have decreed that Rory’s sculptures constitute a “health and safety risk” and have asked him to demolish his creations. You have to be a pretty determined character to drag your boat in and out of the water across pebbles in all weathers and we’re pleased to report that Rory’s determination extends to fighting the council albeit in his own unique way; he has drawn up a petition for you to sign… on the blank pages at the back of his art encyclopaedias.
Know Before You Go
About half-way between Brighton Pier and Concorde 2 music venue. Cross over the railway tracks via the crossing onto the beach.
The compound can easily be seen from Marine Drive, although to see the sculptures close up requires negotiating a flight of steps and a walk over the pebbles.