The inspiration for Filey’s ‘Fishtive’ Tree came when a Filey resident saw the Creel Tree at Ullapool on the west coast of Scotland. Made from 340 prawn creels, the tree is nearly thirty feet high. It was first erected in 2016 and it has gone on to become the focal point of the town’s Winter Festival that runs across a weekend in late November/early December. Highlights have included a Christmas market, torch light parades, a pop-up ice skating rink, a ‘northern lights’ concert featuring the Finnish composer Sibelius and, of course, the tree switch on. The winter festival is organised by the Ullapool community group ‘Fire and Light’.
The idea for Ullapool’s tree came when one of the member’s of Ullapool’s Fire and Light group visited Rockland, Maine, on the east coast of the United States. They hold an annual Festival of Lights in late November, the centrepiece of which is a ‘lobster trap tree’. Lobster trap trees in front gardens have apparently been appearing along the New England coast for quite some time. However, the first large scale tree is thought to have been at Gloucester, Massachusetts, where in 2001 they built a 40 feet high tree. Many communities have followed suit and there is now a tree trail people can follow along the coastline.
Another inspiration was Mousehole, a fishing village in Cornwall which draws in thousands of visitors every year for its own winter lights displays. The event began in 1963 when a Mousehole artist put up a string of coloured lights alongside the harbour. It captured the imagination of the local community and a wooden sea serpent appeared in the waters of the harbour. Today the display features 10,000 bulbs and costs around £20,000 per annum to run, the money is raised via public donations and fund raising events. It is certainly money well spent, the fishing village receives around 30,000 visitors during the four weeks the lights are lit. The village even has to set up a one way traffic system to deal with the traffic!
The Ullapool tree also inspired a whisky tree on the tiny Isle of Raasay off the coast of Skye. It is built from fifty former sherry and bourbon casks and is constructed by the Raasay Distillery. They described themselves as ‘the first legal distillery on the Isle of Raasay’, they began distilling in 2017. The Raasay Distillery aims to produce the finest Hebridean single malt Scotch whisky and a unique whisky destination with arguably the best view from any distillery in Scotland. Quite a challenge! The first bottle will be released in 2020.