As Fisherman’s Friends hits cinemas, meet the real RNLI lifesavers

Lifeboats News Release

With the British feel good film of the year hitting cinemas nationwide on Friday 15 March, audiences will laugh, gasp and cry as they follow the heart-warming true story of a group of Cornish fishermen – the Fisherman’s Friends – who are signed to a major record label against all the odds.

Tom and George in the boathouse, leaning against the inshore lifeboat

RNLI/Amy Caldwell

Tom Brown and George Cleave, volunteer crew at Port Isaac RNLI

And, as the film shows, many of the sea shanty-singing group were volunteer lifeboat crew members at the RNLI’s Port Isaac Lifeboat Station where the film is set.

In fact, in a key scene from the film, several of the band get called away from one of the most important gigs of their lives as their pagers beep and they drop everything to launch the lifeboat and go to the aid of people in danger in the sea – just like the RNLI’s real crew members across the coasts of the UK and Ireland do every single day.

In total, five members of the real Fisherman’s Friends band were RNLI volunteers, with sons of three of the band members following in their folk-singing fathers’ footsteps by volunteering as lifeboat crew members. George Cleave and Tom Brown, whose fathers are Fisherman’s Friends singers, Jon Cleave and Jeremy Brown, are both proud lifeboat crew members at Port Isaac Lifeboat Station.

George, who is 28 years old and runs his own business out of the Cornish town’s fish cellars, said: ‘As a young person in a small community like Port Isaac, there comes a point when, if you’re going to stay in the village, it’s time to join the lifeboat crew. Especially working and living so close to the station it is expected that you will be part of the team.

‘But I love it. I love giving something back to our community and helping people. Most of the crew grew up in or around Port Isaac and we spent our weekends and holidays fishing or exploring the coastline, so we know it like the back of our hands. To be able to use this knowledge and the RNLI training to help people is why we do it.

‘It was great to see the filming taking place over the summer and we’re looking forward to seeing our dads’ story come to life and how their role on the lifeboat features.’

Fisherman Tom, 30, said: ‘We’re a small station covering one of the biggest patches along the exposed North Cornwall coast where there is no shelter from the elements. The types of incidents we go to are varied, we have a lot of holiday makers who get into trouble, coasteerers, anglers and dog walkers. We are often someone’s last lifeline and its amazing to know that we’ve played a part in that.

‘We get called out at all times, often in the middle of the night. It’s a huge adrenaline rush when you get woken up by the pager. As well as training and launching together, we’re often at the same events or weddings and its just part of what comes with being on the crew that we might have to leave when the pager beeps.

‘It’s great to see our dads enjoying success with the Fisherman’s Friends. They’ve always been singing, so it can be quite strange at times to hear them on the radio or see them on the TV, but when they get back to the village they are just the same, nagging us about the boat or something or other.’

Over the years, the Fisherman’s Friends have raised significant funds for Port Isaac RNLI. In 2004 they released a CD called Home from the Sea with proceeds being raised in aid of the charity. On Friday evenings in the summer, locals and visitors gather to hear the band sing on the village platt, with a collection for Port Isaac RNLI.

Port Isaac lifeboat station on the North Cornwall coast has a fine record of gallantry. The volunteer lifeboat crews have undertaken many rescues during more than 100 years of RNLI lifesaving service.

Founded in 1839, the station was served by rowing lifeboats which were launched across the beach. The operation involved pulling the lifeboats on their carriage through the narrow streets of the village, and often saw hundreds of people, both locals and visitors, help haul the ropes.

Nowadays, 16 volunteer lifeboat crew are ready to respond to the sound of the pager to launch to those in trouble in the station’s D class inshore lifeboat the Copeland Bell.

About the film

A fast-living, cynical London music executive (Daniel Mays) heads to a remote Cornish village on a stag weekend where he’s pranked by his boss (Noel Clarke) into trying to sign a group of shanty-singing fishermen (led by James Purefoy). He becomes the ultimate ‘fish out of water’ as he struggles to gain the respect or enthusiasm of the unlikely boy band and their families (including Tuppence Middleton) who value friendship and community over fame and fortune. As he’s drawn deeper into the traditional way of life he’s forced to re-evaluate his own integrity and ultimately question what success really means.

About the band

Bound together by lifelong friendship and shared experience, for more than 25 years the Fisherman’s Friends have met on the harbour in their native Port Isaac, to raise money for charity by singing traditional songs of the sea (Sea Shanties) handed down to them by their forefathers.

Their 2010 album “Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends” was certified Gold as they became the first traditional folk act to land a UK top ten album. They sang for Her Majesty the Queen at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, released an additional two hit albums, played for hundreds of thousands of fans including a performance at Glastonbury Festival in 2011 and were honoured with the Good Tradition Award at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Notes to editors

  • Port Isaac RNLI crew members George Cleave and Tom Brown, whose fathers are Fisherman’s Friends singers John Cleave and Jeremy Brown, are available for media interviews.
  • Images of George and Tom, taken at Port Isaac Lifeboat Station, are available.
  • The Fisherman’s Friends trailer link is available here

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Luke Blissett, RNLI National Media Manager, on 01202 336497/ Alternatively, call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email

Cast members of the Fisherman's Friends film stood together with the coast in the background
Fisherman's Friends official film poster
George in his crew kit holding his helmet at the station

RNLI/Amy Caldwell

George Cleave, Port Isaac RNLI volunteer crew member
Tom in his crew kit smiling at the camera at the station

RNLI/Amy Caldwell

Tom Brown, Port Isaac RNLI volunteer crew member
Tom and George in full crew kit stood with the station in the background

RNLI/Amy Caldwell

om Brown and George Cleave, volunteer crew at Port Isaac RNLI

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.