'Last' cockle man: Nottingham legend's life caught on film

Dave Bartram
Image caption Cockle man Dave Bartram works seven days a week in the pubs of Nottingham

Ever fancied a prawn with your pint or a crabstick instead of the usual end-of-night kebab?

That is the luxury "Dave the cockle man" has been serving to Nottingham pub-goers for the past 50 years, with barely a day off.

Despite being 60 miles from the sea, Dave Bartram - thought to be the only trader of his kind left in the UK - tours the pubs of the city on foot, clad in his trademark whites.

Serving up prawns, cockles, mussels - and even the occasional Pepperami stick - from his basket, he is instantly recognisable to Nottingham folk.

'An institution'

Mr Bartram, 67, is a "legend", they will tell you. He is a little more modest.

"If I wasn't doing it I'd pull my hair out because I'm that used to it," he said.

Now, his five decades in the seafood trade have led father and son filmmakers Mark and Matt Daunt to create a short film about how the cockle man came to be.

The film, which is being premiered at Screen 22 in Hockley on Thursday evening, will form part of a series planned on other Nottingham "legends", the Daunts say.

Image copyright Lace Market Media
Image caption The Cockle Man premieres at Screen 22, Nottingham

They spent months following Mr Bartram on his nightly trawls of pubs and bars to create the 15-minute film.

Matt, 22, said: "Everyone who's been drinking in pubs in Nottingham for the last 50 years knows who he is. He's a legend. People shout at him in the street.

"But, in a nice way."

The cockle man is held in such high esteem in Nottingham that he even has his has own parody Twitter account - usually the reserve of national celebrities - and more than 1,600 people have joined a Facebook campaign calling for him to be given the Freedom of the City.

Despite the clamour Graham Chapman, deputy leader of Nottingham City Council, said Mr Bartram's "enormous contribution" to Nottingham life may not be significant enough to merit such an honour, but he is open to suggestions.

Mr Bartram sells his wares seven days a week - and has done since he started aged 17 in 1964, when he worked for a local fishmonger.

When his boss emigrated to Spain, he formed D&S Seafoods with wife Shirley.

Image caption Father and son filmmakers Matt Daunt and Mark Daunt think Dave is the only cockle man in the country.

When Mrs Bartram died 18 years ago, he thought about closing the lid on his basket for good. But, he was convinced to carry on by Nottingham's supportive landlords.

"There's an awful lot of support out there for me," he said.

Exploding firework

Mark Daunt, 51, said: "There's a line in the film where someone says to Dave, 'You are an institution', and that's exactly what he is."

There were so many stories to tell that one used in the film's trailer did not make the final cut but was too good to edit out, the filmmakers said, especially because of how rare he has become.

"We did a bit of research and couldn't find any other cockle men. The ones we did find had long since died," said Mark.

Jonathan Adams, president of the National Federation of Fishmongers, also said he knows of no-one else who does what Dave does.

"It's certainly possible that he's the only cockle man left," he explained.

"It's true that 15 or 20 years ago there used to be a lot of people who went around selling cockles and mussels but you just don't see them any more."

Perhaps one reason the cockle man's ilk is in short supply these days is the various workplace hazards one can encounter working the streets of a city, often late at night.

Mr Bartram's trusty basket once saved him from a serious injury when a drunken reveller plunged a pair of scissors into it, puncturing his prawn sauce - and he even had a close shave with a lit firework.

He explained: "I had a firework in my basket. It was in the Hand and Heart pub. I just started to feel warm and suddenly - boof! I see one in my basket.

"I would have had to go home, I'd lost my stock. I said to the landlord, I'm not coming back no more. He said, 'No, you're coming back tomorrow'.

"He locked the doors, wouldn't let anybody out. He said 'we're going to have a collection' and bought me a new coat.

"The police don't worry about me. I'm not violent but if I get into bother, I've got my basket to push them over with."

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