The original buoy band blessed with hearts of oak, nerves of steel and salt in their veins, The Fisherman's Friends are Cornwall's cultural ambassadors to the world, crossing the seven seas to spread their genre-defining brand of shanty singing.
But home is where their heart is and The Fisherman's Friends are at their most hale on Cornish soil in sight of the sea.
They first played the historic Minack Theatre in 2010 and have been back many times since, selling out every time.
"We love it," says MC Jon Cleave. "Perched up there on the cliff with the sea at our backs, it’s just an honour to perform in such a wonderful venue”
To make sure nobody misses out, this year The Fisherman's Friends are playing an unprecedented six dates at the Minack, two shows a day from 11 to 13 May.
Having got together more than 30 years ago to sing sea shanties on the Platt in their native Port Isaac, The Fisherman's Friends gatecrashed the charts with a Top 10 album in 2010 and went on to sing at the late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, play Glastonbury and land the Good Tradition Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Their story has been the subject of an ITV documentary and best-selling book, as well as an acclaimed stage musical. Not to mention the hit movie from 2019 that last year saw them become the first British band since The Beatles to have a second feature film made about them.
The Fisherman’s Friends are: writer/shopkeeper Jon Cleave; lobster fisherman Jeremy Brown; smallholder and marine engineer John ‘Lefty’ Lethbridge; builder John McDonnell (a Yorkshireman who visited Port Isaac more than 40 years ago and never left); potter Bill Hawkins; accordion playing Padstow fisherman Jason Nicholas and film maker Toby Lobb.
Review by Jenni Balow
The Fisherman's Friends are riding high on a long wave of success - hooray and up they rises - even stringing together six sellout shows in a row at the open air Minack Theatre, a real record for this rainy spring season.
The sun simply continues to shine on this Port Isaac based band of brothers, or whatever, who are evolving superbly, singing in harmony to Jason Nicholas's accordion as always, enhanced by the guitar playing of Toby Lobb and now the sounds created by multi-instrumentalist and latest recruit, Marcus Bonfanti.
He might be a Londoner, but he can be forgiven for that, seizing the shanty sound on guitar, with jolly banjo and sweet folk mandolin sounds by turn, and with an award-winning background as blues singer and songwriter, who has opened shows for the likes of Chuck Berry, Jack Bruce, John Mayall and Eric Burdon.
"He thought he was joining the Foo Fighters" joked the show's frontman Jeremy Brown at the weekend.
In the absence of the resounding bass-voiced presence of Jon Cleave, who is needed at home with his family for the moment, the laid back fisherman Jeremy made the introductions and also welcomed Simon Johnson, who has joined the line-up for the time being, alongside John Lethbridge, Johnny Mac and Bill Hawkins.
Here in the Duchy, we know the Fishies songs so well, many have been listening to their traditional seafaring choruses for the 30 years or more since they originally got together to sing on the harbour of their north Cornwall village for a handful of summer tourists.
The boys were launched into shanty stardom when they signed up to a £1m recording contract in 2010, and found themselves top of the pops, for what is still the best selling folk album in the UK.
The group is the only band since the Beatles, to have two films made featuring their story in Britain, and a hit stage musical, which made its world debut at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro, is on tour.
For the Minack shows, they paid tribute to Harry Glasson from nearby Marazion, with a beautiful version of his song, Cornwall My Home, and included another local anthem, Cousin Jack, by Show of Hands, with gorgeous instrumental introduction, the words slow, clear and thoughtful.
That's why the tickets sell out every time they appear at the cliff theatre and the 'buoys' like it too - "there is nowhere like this in the world" said Jeremy.
There were many highlights including Bruce Springsteen's Pay Me My Money Down, the growly Randy Dandy O, the deep South slide guitar accompaniment to Sitting On The Levy, from Marcus, and the punch of Pirate, and No Hopers, of course.
The Fisherman's Friends, who will appear again at Glastonbury this year, will also be performing at the Fowey Festival, Royal Cornwall Show, Falmouth Shanty Festival and Penlee Park, Penzance this summer.
A donation from the Minack ticket sales was made to the PZ Foodbank.