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Cromer versus Sheringham? Not for me, says Keith Skipper

PUBLISHED: 16:28 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:28 27 September 2019

Sheringham Shantymen add a touch of glamour for a home-town fixture at carnival time

Sheringham Shantymen add a touch of glamour for a home-town fixture at carnival time

Archant

The age old rivalry between Cromer and Sheringham is being overlooked by Keith Skipper at the moment. Here, he explains why

I've always been partial to a few rounds of intensive but cheerful rivalry close to home.

A reasonable legacy, no doubt, of childhood challenges in a packed rural household, lively village school and a mid-Norfolk area full of traditional sporting passions.

Parish pumps were particularly well primed for pouring cold water over close neighbours' hopes in cricket and football fixtures. My Beeston brigade floated on extra gallons of elation or floundered in barrels of despair after annual jousts against Longham, Litcham, Fransham, Wendling and a few more country cousins.

Local competition stretched well beyond boundary ropes and penalty spots by the time I started my 1960s seasons as a Norfolk press reporter.

There were constant claims on my home beat from Dereham, Fakenham and Wells that the other two received preferential treatment from councils further up the local government ladder.

That sort of "pecking order" argument seemed to intensify when I worked at Yarmouth and comparisons with Lowestoft tended to be odious for some. A predictable path to new chapters in Norfolk-Suffolk rivalry crystallised for many in fluctuating fortunes for Norwich City and Ipswich Town.

Yarmouth also had the occasional spat with next-door Gorleston, the pair billed in those days as "The Resorts That Have Everything". I lived in Gorleston and worked in Yarmouth, tuning in to markedly different versions of the same borough council debate or decision at either end of Southtown Road.

I mulled over some of these observations during a recent trip across the Waveney to hold friendly court on a Sunday afternoon at Beccles Public Hall. We agreed to embrace what we have in common and protect any special differences setting us apart.

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A tactful and meaningful compromise summed up in my customary contention that while it may be possible to Suffolkate, no way has yet been found for those who might feel disposed towards the chance to Norfolkate. One up to the other side.

I have spent over 30 years trying to make sense of that special relationship between Crafty Cromer Crabs and Shifty Sheringham Shannocks. Listening, watching, smiling, frowning and choking occasionally on little bones of contention in efforts to be relatively impartial.

Perhaps the most telling markers were put down when I pulled on the mantle of Honorary Crab in 1988. An old fisherman on Cromer seafront fixed me with a glare born out of a lifetime of parochial passion when I dared to express an opinion on a relatively insignificant local topic.

"Cors, yew wunt born here, wuz yer?" It wasn't a question, just a warning to stay out of business I couldn't possibly understand. "Cors, yew dunt live here, dew yer?" served as another useful reminder when I claimed diplomatic immunity to spend a day in Sheringham to compare prices, temperatures and humour levels.

Well, self-respect just about intact, I have been involved in clandestine meetings with respectable Sheringham stalwarts for the fifth successive year to help smooth a path towards another cross-border raid in the names of coastal camaraderie and important fundraising at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier.

Crux of the deal is that I organise safe passage for Sheringham Shantymen in exchange for the right to rib them constantly on stage with reminders of how to behave in North Norfolk's real premier resort and to laugh heartily at all alleged jokes at their expense.

It's worked a treat four times before, mainly because musical director Brian Farrow insists on treating the occasion as much more than a chance to swig a few more drops of refreshing entente cordiale from the battle once labelled "Crab Wars".

Brian enthuses: "It's another chance to underline how we strive to keep up to date with our musical style. We constantly look to improve and attract fresh blood. We need to bring on the younger generation to give them and the Shantymen an entertaining future".

The Shantymen celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2015 with a special show at the end of Cromer Pier - a gesture bound to encourage calls for more coastal harmony if support was forthcoming. An excellent house followed by three more pointed inevitably to this year's eagerly-anticipated return on Thursday, October 17 (7.30pm).

Tickets are £15 from the Pier Box Office on 01263 512495 or www.cromerpier.co.uk All proceeds to Nelson's Journey, a Norfolk charity supporting children and young people who have lost a special person in their life, and Cromer and Sheringham RNLI.

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