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Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy: VIDEO- How The Visitor covered the story

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Then-Visitor editor Glen Cooper was woken up by a call at 5am on Friday, February 6 2004.

“It was a colleague who had heard something on the radio,” said Glen.

“It was clear from the 24-hour news channels on the TV that something big was happening. We didn’t have twitter or text alerts then. I called Nigel Slater, our photographer, and Ingrid Kent, our news editor, to make sure we could get reporters and photographers to the scene.”

Glen rushed to The Visitor office where the phone was ringing off the hook from worried members of the public, quizzing him for information.

“My former colleague Derek Quinn was working for the police then, so I was on the phone to him. He was letting me know what the procedures would be for getting press statements, and there followed a series of press conferences at Lancaster.

“Over the coming hours and days, we were getting people’s experiences and words, we spoke to Harry Roberts from the lifeboat crew, Geraldine Smith the then-MP, and the story was the tragedy itself, and the fact that the eyes of the world were on Morecambe for a tragic reason.

“But then I began to receive calls from the national and international media, who wanted more background on cockling in the bay. I did interviews with the BBC World Service, the TV news and Sky, and the issue very quickly switched to gangmasters.

“For the previous two or three years, Geraldine and The Visitor had campaigned to protect our loc al cockling industry, asking for restrictions on the bay. But to be absolutely honest, this wasn’t for safety reasons, it was for economic ones. For the first time, we’d had these huge cockling ships mooring themselves in the bay, with teams of cocklers coming in from the Dee Estuary and Solway Firth, and more recently there had been some Chinese people seen, but we knew nothing about how they were brought here, and nothing about the issue of gangmasters.”

Later Glen, Ingrid and The Visitor team campaigned on behalf of the Morecambe lifeboat crew to raise money to build the hovercraft station on the seafront, which they called ‘A Home for the Hover’.

“There is more of an awareness of the dangers in the bay now,” he said. “It’s less likely that an incident like this would happen again, but it’s important to keep it in people’s minds.”

 

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