Brixham Theatre call out to fishermen who have met or seen a legendary selkie

Joseph Bulmer

Calling all ocean dwellers, seafarers, working and retired fishermen... Brixham Theatre wants to hear from anyone who believes they may have met, or seen, a selkie or knows of somebody who has a selkie tale to tell.

The selkie, also called seal people, mermaids, or sea folk, are legendary individuals who have the ability to be therianthropic, creatures of folklore who are half human and half seal or fish.

On land, they can shed their skins or tails and take on human form. They are irresistible to ordinary humans who are apt fall in love with them.

Sightings and stories abound in the shared memories and culture of rural, coastal communities, particularly in Irish and Scottish locations.

However, virtually every seafaring country in the world has its own version of this wondrous mythology.

The basic plot is simple. If you come across a shed skin or tail on your coastal walk or fishing trip and secrete it away, hide it, the selkie cannot return to the sea.

They usually end up marrying the thief who stole their freedom.

Inevitably, often after many years of marriage and children, the forlorn selkie discovers the hidden skin, puts it back on and swims away.

They sometimes return on a regular basis to observe the children they abandoned, but from a safe distance as a seal or fish in the water.

One version tells of a female selkie who had seven children. She took two of them with her into the sea and turned the others into rocks. The message, do not mess with selkies.

It is believed that the legend may have come about through Irish and Scottish inhabitants coming into contact with Finnish or Sami travellers who sported sealskin coats and kayaks.

As they became waterlogged, the boats would start to submerge and therefore the mariners were obliged to stop, remove their sealskin clothing, and dry out the coats and boats.

If you have not, as yet, been fortunate enough to experience a close encounter with a selkie, a golden opportunity presents itself at Brixham Theatre tomorrow, October 15, in the form of a sea-themed, musical extravaganza entitled The Becoming.

This project has been funded by the Arts Council, England. They were keenly interested in reaching out to communities in the South West who know, understand, and feel the sea in their bones.

They liked the concept of creating some form of art or entertainment using the oceanic depths and they way in which such communities identify with the sea in all its forms and moods.

Nicola Harrison, the author, poet, and singer who directed the piece, developed it from a long, narrative poem she had crafted.

She has a deep love of the sea, a huge passion for saltwater, a joy of boats, in particular working vessels.

Nicola comes from a family of sailors, fishermen, smugglers, and pirates. She is descended from a saltwater dynasty.

The Becoming is a work about the sea and all its characters. Not only does it feature selkies but also pirate girls and seahorses. Crabs dance and starfish sing of outer space.

The band creates the music of the sea with dazzling percussion by Jo May, the virtuoso guitar playing of Gerard Cousins and the evocative, inventive soundscape of Pete Watson’s accordion. The accordion can produce multiple sounds, tones, and acoustics.

The oceanic music weaves around poetic words, and singing including sea shanties by the Brixham based group, Missin’ Tackle. Come and participate in this unique creation at Brixham Theatre.

There will be ample opportunity to join in with the dancing and songs.

The Becoming, Friday, October 15; 7.30pm with doors open at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £10 and are available at or via the box office on 01803 415987. They can also be purchased in person on the night.