Jack Clarke of Soleshare talks Fish and Beards

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May 12, 2014



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Real fishermen have beards – or so the saying goes – and Jack Clarke’s certainly doesn’t disappoint. As Co-Founder/Director of Soleshare, a community supported fishery, this man is changing the way we think about and buy our fish. With the help of co-founder, Theresa Douthwright, Soleshare is supporting responsible fishing whilst bringing a broader range of fish to public attention. An honourable mission indeed.

Beardrevered was thrilled to get a chance to talk to Jack about life, fish and facial hair. Here’s what he had to say:

Many thanks for taking the time to talk to Beardrevered. What is Soleshare?

SoleShare’s a Community Supported Fishery. It’s a bit like a vegbox, but with fish. You sign up as a member, choose how much fish you want and how often you want it. We buy all our fish straight from a handful of dayboat fisherman who use environmentally responsible methods – static nets and handlines. There’s no choice in what you get – it depends what they’re catching that day – but we give you recipes each week and run free filleting workshops. It’s a great way of getting your hands on spanking fresh fish and trying things you might not normally get the chance to.

How and when did you set it up and what is your role?

I’m the Co-Founder and Co-Director. I set it up last year with my friend and business partner Theresa. We found it hard to find good, fresh, responsibly sourced fish in London, so we set about changing that with SoleShare.


Have you always been involved in the fishing industry – what was the original lure?

For many years I campaigned about the evils of overfishing and illegal fishing. Before that I worked as a marine biologist in various tropical paradises and had seen first hand the havoc unregulated fishing can wreak on an ecosystem and the people that rely on it. All the doom-mongering got a bit much for me though, so I decided to champion the good fishermen, support their way of life and help develop a market for their catch.

What have been your biggest obstacles, if any?

Weather’s always a problem and almost every week we’re in a panic as to whether our guys will be able to get out to sea. They work on small boats and if the wind’s blowing the wrong way, or it’s too strong, or the tides are wrong, they can’t get out. We now work with three different fishermen, Ken in Kent, Martin in Sussex and Kev in Cornwall, so the weather’s usually good for one of them!

What have been your biggest triumphs?

We didn’t really know whether people in London would be into the idea, but we expanded this spring to cover three locations in East London and now have ninety members on board. I’m proud that we managed that in just 6 months. There are small triumphs every day, just getting the fish off the boat and into town in three hours is a minor miracle! SoleShare’s still very young though and we’ve got big ideas for the future.


So, is it true? Do “Real Fishermen have beards”?

No, real fishermen look like plumbers. I look more like a ‘real fisherman’ than any I’ve met. The stereotype of a wrinkled, bearded, old man in a rollneck, smoking a pipe exists only in adverts. Real fishermen do have giant, leathery, bear hands though. Just by shaking a fisherman’s hand, they make you feel like a preening ninny boy who’s never done a day’s work in his life.

Do you feel more authentic with a beard then?

The beard came first; the rest just fell into plaice. My wardrobe is getting more nautical every day. I’m not paying myself much money, so the only clothing expenditure I can justify is if I can wear it for work, which normally means smock, Breton or oilskin. I’m rapidly turning into the stereotype I mentioned earlier. Maybe I’m trying to make up for my girlish, city boy hands with an overt display of butch outerwear.

What’s your grooming routine?

As every man with a beard will know, it’s like a comfort blanket that you stroke and play with constantly. When your hands are constantly covered in fish guts, this can pose a problem. I’m sure all the Omega-3 adds a certain lustre though.

I wash it with soap every day. A good friend bought me some First Olympian, Zeus beard oil too, which gets slapped on for special occasions to mask the smell of fish.

What is the best thing about having a beard?

It hides a weak chin well.

Who is your bearded hero and why?

In the revolutionary army in Cuba, the length of your beard signified how long you had been ‘in the shit’. Camilo Cienfuegos had the best beard of the bunch and he really knew how to rock a cowboy hat. He started a baseball team composed entirely of revolutionaries called ‘Los Barbudos’ (The Bearded Ones). He was the Michelangelo to Castro’s Leonardo (yes, that’s a Turtles analogy) and I’m pretty sure Fidel was jealous of his easy going charm, as well as his spectacular facial hair. His death is shrouded in mystery – his plane went missing in 1959, with many saying that Fidel ordered it shot down. Classic beard envy.


Get involved and spread the word : soleshare.net


Camilo Cienfuegos image: radiotrinidad.cu


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